Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dyslexic Evangelicals

Ok, I haven't written anything in a while, but I felt the urgent need to share this pie chart with you.  Maybe this will tide you over till' I write something real.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

On Our New President

Everyone is freaking out about Obama having won the presidency.  Some people are "yayy!!!" freaking out, and some people are "apocolypse" freaking out.  But everyone I know has some kind of very strong emotion about it.  Except me... I didn't get emotionally invested in this election, and I didn't fully decide to vote for McCain until a few weeks ago, so today is mostly another day.  I'm not a political person.

So if you voted for Obama, congratulations!  You may bathe in the glow of your victory.  Mostly I'm not talking to you, though.  Just try not to be too mean to those of us who didn't vote for him.

And if you voted for McCain, mourn for just a little while, wallow in your disappointment for a short time, and....  get over it.  Life goes on, and if you are a believer like I am, than you ought to know that God can use whoever He wants to.  You should also know that while you may live in America, you should consider yourself a citizen of another world, and that's where your treasure is, not here.

Start today by harnessing the power of your tongue that the Bible talks so abundantly about and speak life, not death.  Speak encouragement and blessing.  The power of life and death is in your tongue, so use it to do something other than complaining.  Plus, it will make you feel a lot better.  Really!  It will!

I heard someone say once that Christians in this country think they're being persecuted if they don't get "their president" elected.  I'd really like to believe we're not that selfish.  I, for one, am going to move in the opposite spirit and praying for abundant life in Barack Obama's household.  Join me!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

After reading about how Annalyse checks blogs compulsively, I've decided to post something tonight even though I wasn't originally planning on it.

So some of you were asking about the firefighter song.  Last week was fire prevention week at the preschool, so we talked about fires and firefighters.  We even had a visit from a firetruck, which we had been hyping up as the typical red fire engine, and turned out to be white with blue stripes.  Lame.  Quite lame.

Anyway, a little girl from the other 3 year olds class came up to me last Friday and stated, "Ms. Rachel, I know a firefighter song and you don't know it."

"Would you sing it to me, Brooke?  Please?" I asked.  She obliged.  I caught all but one line.  "I really like it.  If you sing it again, maybe I can try to sing along," I offered.  She obliged again, and I did my best to learn it and copy the hand motions.

Still, I couldn't get that one line.  I asked her to sing the first part again, and still didn't understand it.  She finally got on the tips of her toes and, hanging onto my shoulder, sang it directly into my ear.  I still have no idea what that line was... I'm pretty sure she doesn't know it either and just makes up something different every time.

I just pretended to understand her so she wouldn't feel frustrated and thanked her for teaching me the song.

"Ms. Rachel, now you know it," she said, "and you have to teach it to your mom."  Leaving it at that, Brooke danced away to play with the other kids.  I called after her that I would in fact teach it to my mom, but I don't think she heard me.  So that evening, I called my mom, and I taught it to her.  And now I feel I should teach it to you all, so you can teach it to your moms.

The Firefighter Song (to the tune of I'm a Little Teapot)

I'm a little firefighter, mumble mumble mumble*
here is my helmet (point to head), here is my hose (pretend to hold a hose)
When I see a fire, hear me shout (cup hands around mouth)
Turn on the water and put the fire out! (pretend to spray hose)

*this is the part I kept missing.  Stephen says it should be "strong and brave", but that doesn't rhyme.  Then again, neither does the rest of it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Red or Blue Classroom

My second week at work has been a lot better than my first.  One of the other teachers unexpectedly left, and they asked me to fill in on Monday in her classroom.  I told them I loved it so much I wanted to stay, thus, I am the new teacher for twelve wonderful 3 year olds.  This is the age group I have had the most experience with in the past and it's my favorite age group to work with.  I have had a phenomenal time getting to know them each individually and spending my days hanging out with them.  And, I haven't been bitten even once.

In the midst of a political discussion last night in which I was a slightly reluctant participant, Stephen jokingly wondered aloud, "Do you talk about politics with your kids?"

"It's generally my policy not to talk about politics with anyone, if I can help it," I remarked.  But when I thought about it, I realized our classroom, if I had to define it, would be pretty blue.

For the record, I myself am neither republican nor democrat.  Anyway, here's one example:  This happens in my classroom every day.  Two children are doing a puzzle together.  One child has a pile of puzzle pieces in front of him, the other has only one.  They are having a decidedly uncivil disagreement about the purported "sharing" of said puzzle.

In a democratic classroom, the teacher says that there's plenty of puzzle pieces to go around and tells the child with the pile of pieces to please give some to the child with one piece so it's more fair.  This is how I run my classroom (with some exception).  I'm trying to teach our kids to be kind to others, but in the adult world we might call it redistribution of wealth.

In a republican classroom the teacher might suggest that the child with the pile of pieces has worked hard to get his share of the puzzle, and if you only have 1 piece, well, tough luck.  Hopefully some of the other pieces will eventually trickle down to you through the natural process of preschool classroom economics.

I know, an oversimplification.  I still think it's funny.  And please, if you have some caustic, fiery rhetoric about one party or the other, write it on your own blog, not in the comments.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

First Week!

The prompts over at Three Word Wednesday are deliberate, intervene, and nourish.  And since I don't feel like writing writing today, here's a regular post into which the prompts happened to fit quite conveniently:

My first week of work at my new job has been great.  I share a classroom of toddlers (1 year olds) with another teacher; we have 3 girls and 5 boys.  I have to get up a lot earlier than I usually do, and I work a lot more hours than I used to when I was at the Lutheran Church.  But I come home feeling happy and energized, instead of drained and bored.  I have fun all day and the hours fly by.

The only thing is that I don't know nearly enough about 1 year olds.  I used to work with 3 year olds, and those 2 years in between means a world of difference.  For example, one boy (I call him Bruiser) tugged on one of the girls arms (I call her Lovebug) and made her fall down.  Now, I'm sure he didn't do it deliberately.  Bruiser was trying to pull himself up- he's still learning to walk- but it started a pinching match between the two of them into which I had to intervene.

If it happened between a couple of 3 year olds, I would know how to handle the situation.  I would know how to discipline Bruiser and I would assist reconciliation between them.  But they're 1 year olds- they don't respond to or understand the same language that an older child would.  I'm still not sure how to nourish and love all the kids in my class while keeping them all from hurting each other and crying all day.  But I'm getting there.

I absolutely love watching the kids as they learn.  One boy started stacking foam blocks one on top of the other yesterday, while all the others still revel in knocking them down.  His eyes lit up when he saw what he had done.  Another one doesn't like coloring, but sits at the table absolutely fascinated with the way the cap fits onto the marker.  Another will repeat, or try to repeat, just about any word you ask him to.  So I can't have two days alike- every day is a new and fresh experience for my kids, so every day is a new and fresh experience for me- even if I have to get up two hours earlier than I want.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Last Day!

Today is my last day working for the Lutheran Church! That's right, folks, no more pulling my hair out all day because the pastor's kids won't stop screaming and wailing and he won't pay attention to them. No more awkward people divulging random and/or irrelevant information to me completely unprovoked. No more bored Lutherans complaining because I forgot to capitalize some word in the liturgy this week. No more spending my days in a hundred year old building that smells just slightly of mold. And I'd like to be able to say no more ignorant people spelling my name "Rachael", even after being repeatedly corrected, but I know better than that.

Starting Monday, I'm going to be working at a childcare center. I wasn't actually looking for a new job, but God literally dropped the opportunity into my lap, and I got hired on the spot. I'm not sure if they've decided what age group to put me with, or what my days are going to look like, or even exactly how much I'm going to be paid... come to think of it, I'm not sure of a lot of things. But I am sure that the Lord arranged this, so it's hard to be worried about it.

The Pastor brought me a going away present. A bottle of Great Divide IPA, which I don't really like (I'm more of a Guinness girl), but it was a very nice gesture. Stephen says I should put some food coloring in it when I drink it, and make comments like, "This chocolate stout tastes suspiciously like a pale ale."

Oh, the excitement!


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Three Word Wednesday

The prompts at Three Word Wednesday are:



Judy used to be a passionate woman, full of joy and life. Everything was right, everything was sunny, and Judy felt it always would be. When Richard died, all of that changed. Her passion waned. Her once boundless enthusiasm dissolved slowly like some long lost trinket at the bottom of the sea, amidst the wreckage of a forgotten ship. The reality of the loss of her husband battered her like innumerable waves, and she felt that she would never love again. Eight years went by, and Judy kept mourning Richard, kept living life but not really living it, kept feeling sorry for herself.

Judy's fifty-sixth birthday found her standing alone in the self-help section at Barnes and Noble, wondering if any of the books could really help her find herself again. Judy began to feel eyes on her. Looking to her right, she saw him. A tall man of about 60, with more gray in his hair than brown, and well dressed. He was in the cooking section, holding open a cookbook. He noticed her looking back at him, and smiled.

"Maybe you can help me," he said open-endedly. Judy noticed his bare ring finger. She walked over to him, trying to appear casual. Her heart was fluttering, and she told herself that she was being silly and girlish.
"What are you making?"
"I thought I'd try my hand at a cheesecake. But I'm afraid I'm feeling a little overwhelmed." And he sounded overwhelmed. Judy glanced down at the recipe he held the book open to. New York Style.
"Any special occasion?" she searched, hoping against hope.
"No. I just needed to... well, I wanted to try something new. I've never baked anything," he half-muttered, and looked away.
After a moment, Judy said, "I happen to consider myself somewhat of an expert cheesecake baker, if you don't mind me saying so."
He grinned, and her eyes twinkled back at him. "I'd be honored to have the expert assist me. How about it?" he offered playfully.
"Well, come on, then," she laughed back as they made their way to the exit. "I like to add a little lemon zest in my cheesecake. Got any lemons?"

Friday, September 19, 2008


Since James recently did a post about Kiwiology (not kiwiology... since kiwi's can't talk, of course), I have decided to follow in a similar vein. I present: Southernisms. Admittedly South Carolina is not quite as exotic as New Zealand, and we definitely don't have any hobbits or belrogs or rings of infinite power, nonetheless, it is where I live. So here are some words and phrases I have heard used in regular conversation since moving here.

Bless Your/Her/His Heart: Usually said in a pitiful or condescending way. "The poor thing just ain't pretty, bless her heart."

Ya'll: You All. A Quintessential Southernism.

Ain't: Are Not. Another Southern classic which has spread nation wide.

Fixin' to: Preparing to. "I'm fixin' to make me some fried chicken."

Over/Down Yonder: Over there, wherever. "We're goin' down yonder to the Bob Evans."

Whenever: Used in place of "when", referring to a specific incident or day. "I was so proud whenever my boy graduated from college."

A Whole Mess Of: A LOT. "I've got myself a whole mess a' fried chicken, I tell you what."

Up Under: This phrase is utterly nonsensical. "I'm gonna hafta get up under the house to do some work."

Cute As A Bug's Ear: Cute. Really cute. Adorable, even. I didn't know bug's had ears, I thought they had sonar or vibration sense or something, but whatever. "Cute as a bug's sonar sense mechanism" doesn't roll off the tongue quite as nicely.

Useful As A Trap Door In A Canoe: If you can't figure this one out, I'm not explaining.

Slipperier Than Snot On A Doorknob: A lovely, refined way to describe something which is slippery, be it figurative or otherwise.

Bo': Dude. Bro. Man. Our friend Scott uses this one a lot and it still sounds weird to me.

I Done...: Used in place of the pronoun "I". "I done told ya, woman." One time I was grocery shopping and was buying a single can of beer to put in chili. The woman behind me in line shouted, "That ain't my beer! I done quit drinkin!"

Smack-Dab in the Middle: Another one that just doesn't make sense to me. What the crap is a smack-dab?

Hanker: I want. "I've got a hankerin for some fried chicken."

Dadgum: Damn.

Dagnabbit: Damnit.

Plumb: Completely. "I'm plumb wore out from workin up under the house and eatin all that there fried chicken."

That'll Learn Me (or Learn You): That'll teach me. "That'll learn you not to eat a whole mess a' fried chicken and then work up under the house, bo'."

In the Woodshed: You are in trouble and you're gonna get beat. You even get to pick your own switch, according to my friend Kristen.

Double Negatives (didn't nobody go, hadn't ought): "Didn't nobody learn nothin from this here dadgum post?".


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Three Word Wednesday

Thomg will be picking the 3 weekly words over at Three Word Wednesday, and I've decided to give it a shot. The word prompts are Agree, Execute, and Providence.

A Self-Made Man

A young man sits on the steps leading up to the yawning mouth of Robinson Hall. In this building, his fate awaits him. The economics department of Brown University is housed here, and Ahmed has classes soon. But still, he sits on the steps, unmoving. It’s a beautiful early fall day in Providence, Rhode Island, but the sun is dark in Ahmed’s eyes.

“Ahmed, Brown is a good school,” Father had told him.

“I’m just not sure it’s where I want to go, sir.” he replied, trying hard to keep his voice from trembling.

“Son, I did not have these opportunities,” Father said forcefully. “Allah blessed me, and I was able to come to this great country as a young man, and make myself what I am today. You will follow in my footsteps.”

“Insha’Allah, Father. But…” Ahmed swallowed hard. “I’ve been accepted to the School of American Ballet, and-”

“I will not hear of it!” his father roared. “You shame me, Ahmed. I have allowed this hobby, this deviation long enough. You are going to have a real education. You are going to have a respectable education.”

“Yes, father.” And so he had agreed, and something inside of him had died.

Ahmed still sat, an island of indifference in the sea of activity around him. He remembers the day of his audition. He and Mother had gone behind Father's back to the school; how nervous he had been, but he had dazzled them. They told him he was the most brilliant dancer they had seen that year. They told him his pas brisé and tours l’air were executed perfectly. They told him they hadn’t seen a more elegant arabesque yet. They told him his passion shone when he danced.

Now Ahmed drops his head into his hands and takes a deep breath. He raises his head and looks up at the sun drifting from behind a wisp of clouds. He grabs his book bag, slowly stands up, and strides away from Robinson Hall.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ninth Grade is Over

I just saw a clip of the first interview Sarah Palin has done since being chosen as McCain's running mate. Everything I've been hearing about how inexperienced she is... this interview didn't really help to settle those questions. There were a couple times when you could tell she has absolutely no idea what the interviewer was talking about. I felt awkward for her.

One time in high school (ok, let's be honest... LOTS of times), I hadn't finished an assignment... I think I was supposed to have read a book for class. I remember the teacher called on me and asked a question about the title character of the book. I remember how intensely embarrassed I was; I remember stammering and stuttering and finally mumbling some BS that I had read on the back cover synopsis of the book. I remember how obvious it was that I hadn't read it. All those feelings came rushing back to me as I listened to Palin stumble her way through this interview.

Charlie Gibson of ABC News: Do you agree with the Bush Doctrine?
Sarah Palin: (long pause, fidgeting, etc.)... In what respect, Charlie?
Gibson: Well, what do you interpret it to be?
Palin: .... .....His worldview.
Gibson: The Bush Doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.
Palin: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism. Terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation…
Gibson: The Bush Doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?
Palin: Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country.

You know her handlers are backstage freaking out the whole time.
"Crap, crap crap! Didn't anyone explain our foreign policy to this woman?"
"NO, we thought you did!"
"Well, I thought YOU were going to!"
"Epic Crap."


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Friday, September 05, 2008

I hate to categorize people. I'm very careful about the things I choose to define myself by and I try to be just as careful when identifying others.

Recently I was having a conversation with my psychologist friend and she used a term which I've found myself mentally referencing a lot lately: "black-and-white people", and conversely, "grey people". It's pretty self-explanatory. Black-and-white people tend to view the world in absolutes and (in my mind) also tend to be somewhat closed-minded. Grey people tend to take situations on a case by case basis and to see the grey areas. These are general terms- slippery terms- and I don't mean to say that one is better than the other. They're just rough appellations for part of the infinitely complex conditions of human relationship. With that in mind...

I'm a grey person (can you tell? no? the above paragraph took me half an hour). I believe in grey areas. I believe nothing is ever as simple as it seems; in my mind there's always more than one side to a story. I don't think opinions and experiences that differ with my own are any less valid. But there are a few black-and-white people in my life that I find endlessly frustrating. These people have a worldview that simply does not allow for the possibility on any opinion besides theirs. There are two ways with them: their way, and the wrong way. They are dogmatic in their convictions to the extent that they alienate others, making sweeping generalities and oversimplifications. There's no discussion with them, no free exchange of ideas, no civil agreement to disagree.

For example: I've known lots of non-Christians and for the most part we've been able to understand each other and respect each other. But I've known a few black-and-whites who will ask me about my faith, not for the purpose of gaining my perspective, or learning more about what we believe, but for the purpose of railing on me for being wrong or foolish or misguided or whatever they believe about Christianity because they've never given themselves the chance to hear one of us out. Maybe they saw a group of Christians (here, I'm using the term loosely) on the news, holding signs that say "god hates gays", and assumed that we're all that ignorant. We're not. Maybe they met a black-and-white Christian (haven't we all?) and assumed that we're all that imperious. We're not.

Anyway. I know I can't be the only one who has engaged in a "conversation" with a black-and-white type who happens to be very passionate about politics. So in this election season when tensions run high and November is on every one's mind and I still haven't decided for whom to cast my vote, I have decided to swear off of discussing the matter with that handful of people. I'm happy to listen to you with an open mind, and you ought to listen to me. If that's not going to happen, why should I bother with you?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

"I feel fun about it"

Stephen and I took our nephews Liam (3) and Colin (2) to the zoo on Saturday. They're remarkable children (perhaps I'm a bit biased), and both of them emit a constant stream of hilarious one-liners and unexpectedly profound observations. I loved just listening to them talk to each other in the back seat of the car.

In the morning, we had just gotten in the car and were discussing which animals we were excited about seeing at the zoo, when the following exchange took place:

Liam: I want to see the lions.
Colin: I wanna see the... giraffes!
Rachel: Ooh! Boys, remember last time when we got to feed the giraffes?
Both: Yeah!
Stephen: Maybe we'll get to feed them today.
Rachel: Liam, how would you feel about getting to feed the giraffes?
Liam: (matter-of-factly) I would feel fun about it.
Rachel and Stephen: !!!!!

The phrase is genius. But even better was the way he said it perfectly clearly, casually, and without missing a beat. It's my new favorite expression.

Friday, August 29, 2008

6 Random Things

Melissa tagged me and that just always makes me feel so special! Here are the rules:

Post the rules on your blog
Write 6 random things about yourself
Tag 6 people at the end of your post
If you're tagged, DO IT and pass on the tag

1. I'm just a little bit OCD (aren't we all?). I've written about this before. One way my OCD manifests is in the consumption of colored candy. Because, unlike most people, I can't just eat a bag of skittles. I must organize the skittles as I go along. If I have a handful of colored candy, I try to pick off the superfluous candies of each color till' I have the same amount of each color. Or, I will eat them so that I end up with an ascending number of each color (1 orange, 2 red, 3 green, 4 yellow... etc). This makes it very difficult for me to enjoy candy in dark movie theatres.

2. Some people like to put on soothing music if they're trying to nap (like Enya or something). I, on the other hand, think the perfect napping music is Metallica. Nothing helps me to relax better than the Black Album. During high school my parents would sometimes find me asleep (while purportedly studying) on top of my books with thrash metal playing loudly in the background.

3. I love to bellydance.

4. My dear dear sister Amy and I have a lot of really strange expressions that are really just inside jokes but we often use them in regular conversation with other people. I wonder... do they think I just used a real word that they don't know the definition of but they're too embarrassed to ask because they want to look intelligent? Or do we just look crazy? Regardless, our favorite word is ZONINO, an expression of celebration or happiness. Best used in conjunction with some kind of wild hand gesture. Well... I feel that everything is best used with some kind of wild hand gesture.

5. I eat Kashi cereal every single morning. I bring a few servings in a zip-lock bag with me whenever we go for a weekend roadtrip, and the first thing I do whenever we visit Denver is go straight to Whole Foods and buy a box or two. I'm like an old lady who just can't handle breaking from her routine.

6. On stereo systems that have a numeric volume display, I insist on setting the volume on a multiple of 5. I usually have the volume in my car at 10, and sometimes when Stephen drives he will casually reach over and turn it up to 12 or 13. I then sit in the passenger seat slowly descending into madness until I simply cannot bear it anymore, and turn it up to 15. Ahh... that's better.

Sadly, I can't think of 6 people who read my blog regularly enough to get this, but here are my 4 tags:


Share your idiosyncrasies with us!

Thursday, August 21, 2008


There are some people at the church doing construction work on the roof due to some hail damage we incurred recently. I should be more specific about what kind of people are here: men. Construction men. Construction men who were inexplicably given a key to my office. So I sit here in my isolated office which doesn't offer a view of the door, usually all alone, while a number of strange men have free access to my building.

Yesterday morning, one of them came in the the offices to use the restroom. He must not have realized I was here because he didn't bother to close the bathroom door. I had called out, "Good morning," because I thought it was the pastor, but Mr. Construction Man didn't hear me.

I heard him, though.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Welcome to Beijing!

Obama Pictures and McCain Pictures

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

"Old Man"

I promised to post some artwork, and as I've been lazy lately and haven't done a whole lot of new work, I thought I should post an older piece. This is an 18'' x 24'' pencil study I did (I spent a little over an hour) on a photograph from National Geographic. I actually had to take a picture of it with my digital camera because it was so big. It was a sort of liberating piece for me. I tend to be a perfectionist so working on something so big was a challenge: I could either obsess over details, or I could interpret the photograph and have fun with it. This ended up being one of my favorite drawings I've done.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Judah Ben-Hur

Allow me to engage in a little well-intentioned nepotism. My dear cousin Annalyse is working on a very cool project which I am now going to shamelessly plug.

Lysie works for YWAM (Youth With A Mission) in Tampa, FL. She is the assistant to the couple who head up the Tampa missions base, Art and Ellen Sanborn. In 2002, they produced a play called Judah Ben-Hur which opened in Singapore to great reviews. Now they are working to get Judah Ben-Hur on Broadway.

This play is a unique way to bring the gospel to countries that do not allow religious groups to come in and work, because Christianity is discouraged or illegal (like China or many countries in the middle east). Normally, they couldn't just go into some of these places and talk about Jesus. But if they come in to produce a play that's been on Broadway (even a very Christian one), well then... that's American entertainment! When they did Judah Ben-Hur in Singapore (I think) some rather important people received Christ as a result of seeing it.

In order to get it on Broadway, the Sanborns have to show possible investors that there is sufficient interest. So here's a clip of the play... there are more on youtube. The more views they get, the better it looks when they present to investors, so please view the clips and forward on to people who would be interested. Also, pray that the team would have favor as they work to get funding. For more info check out their website.

I can't say I'm a big fan of Broadway plays, but I'm a big fan of bringing the gospel to people who have never had the chance to hear it. I'm an excited supporter of what Lysie has been working so hard on for many months, and hope to post updates on their coming successes!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Am I Good Enough?

I've mentioned that I'm working on my business, but I don't think I've written about what I'm doing. My hope is to develop a business doing commissioned portraits. You give me a photograph, and I draw it, essentially. It's something I've always been good at and something I've always been passionate about. It's pretty wild to think that in high school I spent an unsettling majority of my time drawing, and now people would pay me money (real money!) for my work.

My first step is to build my portfolio, partly to have something to show off to potential customers, and partly to figure out how long it takes me to complete a piece. As I'm working on my portfolio, I'm realizing I need to challenge myself to do much more detailed work than I have before. My audience is no longer myself and whoever I might show my sketchbook to. Now I'm drawing for people who know the subject intimately- a mother, a husband, whatever. In other words, I'm going to be doing work that will be subject to a much more critical and discerning eye. Right now, my drawing is probably good enough to impress most people. But is it good enough that a mother will look at it and see her child? Or will she see a face that looks nice but just isn't quite right?

Honestly, I have doubts from time to time if I'm good enough to produce art for that audience. And it's scary to put so much of yourself on a piece of paper and then "put it out there" to be criticized and possibly rejected. This is so new for me and I just don't know what to expect. But the more time I spend on a piece, the better it gets. The more hours I spend working every week, the better my work gets. I'm looking at this as an opportunity to develop my skills and bring them to a new level of maturity.

Monday, June 30, 2008

A New Desk

Wow. I haven't posted anything since February. That is ridiculous. Probably most of the people who used to read my blog stopped hoping for a new post a long time ago.

We've been in South Carolina since September of 2007, and I finally feel settled in.  Getting involved with some groups and finally making some real friends has been the major factor in making this a home, but it was my new desk that made me realize it.

When we first saw the house, before we moved in, I was all excited about having my own room.  It has a built-in bookshelf, lots of space for an easel and a desk and my art supplies, and great natural light during the whole day.  When we moved in and Stephen began to work from home, the little studio we had envisioned for me became his office.  Theoretically I could have used the space as well, but I'd have to do it around his schedule and share his space, and his desk is always covered with financial pamphlets and sticky notes.  It was the most sensible place for Stephen's office, but I felt let down nonetheless.  So if I want to sketch, I've been having to go sit at Starbucks to do it.

Recently the Lord spoke to us about my business and challenged me to devote myself more seriously to it.  Stephen suggested getting a desk and setting it up in our "music room" (read: guest room with a drumset in the corner), so off we went to Office Depot.  Now my desk is set up my office and it rocks.  I didn't realize how badly I needed my OWN space- somewhere I could go and shut the door and keep it organized however I want and not worry if someone else is in there using the computer.  Suddenly- I mean the second I sat down at my new desk- I realized I'm at home.  Something in my soul just settled.

The other day I was reading a post from last July I had written about having to move down here.  I wrote, "I believe intellectually in the joy I'll experience eventually, but I feel nothing but sorrow. I'm confused like I've been adrift at sea for weeks and I can't tell what's right or left or up or down anymore."  I gave up so much to leave Denver and come here.  The Lord directed us, and I was obedient, but I sacrificed a lot and went through a lot of pain.  Having my studio turn into an office was an event that told me: "Living here is going to be even more complicated and disappointing than you thought."  I eventually got over that feeling but a little tinge of disappointment remained.  Getting my own desk in my own space ameliorated that disappointment and lifted a weight off my shoulders that I didn't entirely realize was there.  Stephen even caught me using the h-word this morning: "I'm happy."

Upon reading that post from a year ago, I realized that the impossible has happened.  God turned my ashes into gold.  He took what seemed to me like death, and He made life out of it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

If the Pastor isn't here with his kids and his bad attitude, I'm usually all alone, which is fine with me. Every so often, though, one of the church members will stop by for one reason or another and our conversations are always so special (like, short-bus-special).

This church has been here for almost a century, and most of its members live on land that's been passed down through generations and only recently has been engulfed by the expansion of the city. Many of them live on streets that were named after their families, next to their brothers and sisters and parents and whoever. Apparently there's another Lutheran church here on land that the King of England once gave them, and they've been there longer than we've had a country. This isn't really important to my point, I just think it's just amazing.

Anyway, most of the people I've met are very nice, very Southern, and very slightly awkward. But there's one couple who are SUPER awkward. On the first day I met them, the wife introduced herself and explained that they were there to clean the church. I said, "Ok, great. I'm Rachel, it's nice to meet you." She responded, "I know who you are!" (like a teenage girl that's telling her parents something so obvious) and turned and walked away. Her husband just grinned, waved at me, and followed her. So. Wierd.

The husband has a strange quality that I can't describe. He has the unfortunate habit of standing and waiting for you to address him first, even if all he's saying is "I'm leaving now." I'm thinking of testing this out by not saying ANYTHING to him next time i see him, and timing how long it takes him to speak. He'll just stand there and grin until I ask him what he needs. This drives me crazy because I have a polite but very no-nonsense, right-to-the-point style of conversation while multi-tasking. His wife is exactly the opposite. She'll offer up all manner of information without so much as a word on my part.

Later that day, before they left, they came in to get a photocopy of something.
Her: So, are you from around here, Rachel?
Me: No, actually, I'm a Denver native. My husband's family is here.
Her: Where do you live?
Me: Oh, off of XXXXXXXX street.
Her: What developement?
Me: (why is she asking me this?) Honestly, I can't remember the name.
Her: My son lives in a different developement. On XXXXX street. You know, it's in between this developement and... no, what's the other one called? You know, it's accross from another developement... (she rattled on for at least a minute as if this was a matter of life and death if she doens't tell me what developement her son and his family live in.)
Me: (totally bored with the conversation) Yeah, um, I think I've driven past it.
Her: Of course, him and his wife, now, they've been there for XX years, and they like it, you know. Ok. You have a nice day, now. (she walks away)

A different day, she stopped by for some reason and popped into my office. No "beautiful day, isn't it?", no "good morning". She begins as if we're already in the midst of a verbal exchange, and ends it as abruptly as she began it.
Her: Now, name and name -well, that's my daughter, of course, and her husband. Have you met daughter yet?
Me: No, I haven't. (so confused)
Her: Well, her and her husband have child and other child. Have you met them?
Me: No, but I've seen the names.
Her: I'm going to take
daughter to a concert. You know, I think it would just be real nice for her to go out. Kenny... Kenny... What's his last name?

Me: ... uhh... (shrugs shoulders)
Her: Anyway, he's playing with another guy, and that girl, you know her? And Kenny... Chesney. Kenny Chesney, you know him?
Me: Actually, I hate country music. (I do not mince words.)
Her: Oh, well I'm not such a big fan myself, but it's so nice to get out of the house from time to time, you know, but he's pretty good, and I can really get into the music, you know. I really think you would like him! And...
Me: No, I mean I really, really can't tolerate country music at all.
Her: Well, I just think it's real nice just to get out the house sometimes, you know, and she really likes Kenny Chesney, and this other girl... now what is her name? You know her, the blond girl. Real cute.
Me: .... (at a total loss) That sounds nice.
Awkward silence. She absentmindedly runs her hand through her sensible, short gray hair.
Her: Yeah, I didn't do much with my hair today, I just ran a brush through it...... alright, then, Rachel, I suppose I may be speakin' to you later. (and she's gone)

I sat in stunned silence for a few moments. I wasn't sure what had just happened. I'm still not sure.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Ladies

I work part-time as the secretary for a small church. It's a nice job- I've got flexible hours, only work 4 days a week, and it allows me to be autonomous and creative. Sometimes I get the chance to write or edit material for church publications, which I love doing. It may not be the most stimulating job I've ever had, but it's not something I dread every morning. (Plus, I get to wear jeans!)

You know I'm not the complaining type (pause as laughter subsides...), but there is one facet of my job which makes it very stressful. The pastor of the church brings his 3 small daughters to work with him. Evidently, childcare is not something within his family's budget, but I'm getting to the point that I'd almost offer to pay for it myself. When I interviewed for the job, I was asked if I like kids, to which I responded that I do, very much (a true statement). She told me that the pastor brings his kids to the office "every once in a while" (a true but very misleading statement).

In reality, he brings 3 or his 4 kids to the office probably 2 or 3 days every week. He has twin girls, a year and a half old- we'll call them red fish and blue fish. He also has a 3 year old girl- we'll call her the tornado. He also has a son who is school-aged and who, on the one occasion I met him, showed me his transformer toy and spoke elaborately about it as he manipulated it, and then tossed it on my desk and ran off. Both the older children have noticeable speech impediments, and from what I've seen, all three of the girls are well behind where they ought to be for their age, developmentally speaking.

They tear around the office, dig through the trash, put things in the toilets, put things in their mouths, and make a general mess, yelling and screaming and crying all the while. I was wholly unprepared for what was about to happen the first time he brought them in. By the time they were gone, I had glue and marker all over my desk, parts of my printer were dismantled, there was probably a whole muffins' worth of crumbs distributed evenly over my floor, a ripped up kids book on the floor, and colored on paper glued onto my other desk. Probably every 2 or 3 minutes (throughout the whole day), one of the twins will erupt spontaneously into a kind of shrieking/crying that... there's just a quality to this crying that cannot be put into words... it's unthinkable, indescribable. It HURTS to listen to. The tornado is constantly pushing the twins, taking things from them, of locking them out of rooms. Every afternoon, when it's time to go, the tornado throws herself on the ground and throws a dramatic-full-on-losing-her-little-three-year-old-mind-fit.

I believe I'm certainly warranted a level of displeasure in having to tolerate this at work, but surprisingly, I really do like these kids. Their behavior is simply a manifestly obvious result of the very bad parenting that they receive, and every day I like the pastor I work for less and less. I'm agitated by the crying, the screaming, the mess every day and often go home with headaches, but it's worse for me to have to listen to the way dad talks to his little girls all day. It really disturbs me. I speak more kindly to my dog that this guy does to his own flesh and blood.

Just today, he was sweeping the hallway. Red Fish stood unmoving in front of him, smiling and pointing and him. Does he kindly ask her to move, or tenderly scoot her out of the way, or (gasp!) take this opportunity to love on his child? Of course not. "Move," he says (she does not). "Red Fish, move!" Suddenly another issue presents itself. Blue Fish has wandered into the men's room and is playing with the toilet brush. Does he issue a gentle admonishment? Does he laugh it off and explain that the bathrooms are not for playing in, helping her wash her hands? Not our guy. "NO!" he shouts, snatching the toilet brush from little blue, and stalks from the hallway, leaving her standing in the bathroom and staring after his retreating figure. In fact, he barely ever uses their names, referring to them collectively as "ladies", if he even refers to them at all. Just now one the babies knocked something off his desk. He'll responds with "No, no, no, no, no, blue fish!"

Seriously, I'm so mad just after proof reading this post that I don't know what to do with myself. Every day I come in with a fresh resolution that I'll find something, anything positive in this man's demeanor towards his children, and every day I go home frustrated because there's nothing.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Reality Check

It has been 3 months since I've posted anything. You can see how my blogging has slowly tapered off since April when I got married, then got a new job, then moved to South Carolina. It's not like I've been too busy- I work 20 hours a week at a small church, and Stephen works the same or less in an average week. It's just that I haven't had anything to write about that didn't make me feel more depressed. Somehow, not blogging about my life for the past 3 months has helped me to avoid the reality that life is still here to live, in South Carolina just as in Colorado, whether I like it or not.

I was touched by the comments I've gotten on my last post wondering where I am and wishing me Merry Christmas. I'm still alive, and still, as always, in transition.

I spent several months anticipating our trip to Denver for Christmas, so a part of me felt that we were only living in our new house in a new city temporarily, and we would be getting back home soon. We were in Denver for 2 weeks over Christmas, which was sweet but surreal. Driving back to SC was like moving away all over again. Now that we're back, I can't escape the fact that THIS is supposed to be my home now.

And now I'm faced with two distinct options: I can either keep wasting my time and energy on missing everything I left behind, or I can embrace and make the most of what I have available to me here. The choice seems obvious to a rational person, but I'm still vacillating between the two.

I'm working another boring part time job which allows me copious amounts of time on the internet, and I had forgotten how cathartic this is for me, so hopefully I'll be back on here soon to tell you which of two options I'm going to go with.