Breaking Routine

Christmas break has me celebrating inside and out. I’ve found, though, that it is slightly weird not having a million things school-related circling in my mind. In fact, other than my Nonprofit Leadership Alliance conference in Kansas City coming up in early January, school isn’t occupying my thoughts at all (as it should be). This has occasionally led me to wander throughout my house, not necessarily in boredom, but rather befuddlement that I have this much free time. I’m not complaining, as I really enjoy wrapping presents and I’m beginning to get more into cooking and baking. I also am able to spend much time with Thomas, which is great because we get to make up for lost time during the semester (Not great because we could sit and watch Dexter for hours).

I don’t always make the most fluid transitions into breaks and vacations, but I sure do appreciate them. To those of you still working this week (special shout-outs to Dad, Mark and Gina), know that I am thinking of you. At least you have something to look forward to, as you anticipate these delicious sugar-coated pecans that Mom and I made last night!

(Get the super-easy recipe here : http://allrecipes.com/recipe/sugar-coated-pecans/)

Keep the season merry!

Imaginations

We all know that kids have imaginations. I don’t just mean the make-believe friends (such as Beatrice and Ollie…don’t judge me), but the ability to play and make silly voices. This afternoon I watched my nephews Aiden and Owen for a while and it was just Aid and I playing with cars (with faces) on the floor. I started talking for them, and he looked at me with bright eyes, surprised, like he thought it was kind of silly. He almost seemed bashful at first when he talked for the cars. Truthfully, if any other adult had been there, I would have been a little more reserved, but I was playing with a three year old. I could do anything and he’d think it was cool. So then he began taking the cars to Grammy’s house to play ping pong and get in the hot pool (the hot tub, duh). His cars visited fruit stands to eat strawberries and peanut butter gummies (his idea, not mine). It was just fun to see him play.

I was also inspired by his innocent honesty. In playing hide and seek, he was nestled in a corner of his room behind a train table. Leaving the room and acting totally unaware, I heard a little cough and said, “What was that?” Aiden immediately stood up and said, “That was me. That was my cough.” So sweet.

And then there’s this little guy, who is more than enough to make your heart sing.

Did I mention that I love being an aunt?

Lessons of the Tao

For my last birthday, I asked for a subscription to Whole Living magazine, which is a Martha Stewart publication with the subtitle “Body + Soul in Balance.” Reading it makes me feel like a marathon-running, yoga-practicing mom of 3 with a passion for vegan recipes and regular facial treatments. And though I’m not always thrilled about articles discussing the many uses of kale or tumeric, I came across one story that I appreciated called “The Gift of the Tao.” Written by a guy named Andrew Leonard, he talks about the Tao-te Ching, a centuries-old Chinese text that gives thoughts on living in this nutty universe.

So this Andrew tells readers about his constant striving in life, be it with his cycling, writing or relationships. He always felt like he had to beat his previous cycle time or constantly write something innovative, creative and perfect. Basically, he worked under his own pressure and ignored the words of the Tao: “Temper a sword edge to its very sharpest…you will find it soon grows dull.”

And I think I enjoyed this article because much of it resonated with my own life. Though I do consider myself somewhat of a dreamer, I’m very much a doer. I have my methods of getting things done and done just so. Because of this, I rarely go outside my box. That’s frustrating.

“The five colors blind the eye/ The five tones deafen the ear/ The five flavors dull the taste/ Racing and hunting madden the mind/ Precious things lead one astray/ Therefore the sage is guided by what he feels/ and not by what he sees/ He let’s go of that and chooses this.”

Though this could definitely be interpreted in a million in a half ways, to me it says to go outside of routine and to let go a bit. There has to be more to my life than only 5 colors, 5 tones and 5 flavors. So how does one balance this sense of adventure and newness with duty and responsibility?

This is the time where you respond.

 

The couple who cooks together…

I just returned to school from a beyond-lovely Thanksgiving break. It was so nice to be with the people who mean the most to me and eat way too much home-cooked food by mothers who dash around like little food fairies in the kitchen. But as it turned out, I spent some time cooking as well. NOT  like a little food fairy. And here’s where the story begins.

Thomas likes waffles. I like to make him waffles. So at one in the afternoon, he came over to the house and after putting the first  cup of batter in the iron, I waited. And waited. And waited some more. Something was wrong, so I opened the iron and there was a white, still-mushy waffle. The 20 year old iron didn’t get  hot enough, so in dismay, I had a giant bowl of waffle batter and no where to put it. Thom was still set on breakfast food, so he recommended french toast instead (saying if I mixed it up, he’d make it). I had all the ingredients together except the six eggs. Upon looking in the fridge, I found two. That called for a Dollar General run, then we were finally able to make us some toast!

What was so fun was I had never seen my guy cook like that. He was flipping that toast like nobody’s business and was really enjoying himself, as you can see.

We then decided to keep going and make pancakes with the leftover waffle batter.   AND we heated up some bacon and brought out nuts, cool whip and powdered sugar. By 2:30 we were done. What started as a disappointed Mal over a broken waffle iron turned into a beautiful, sugary feast with my man that we both were proud of.

He’s so go with the flow. I admire him.

Cellist Nostalgia

This whole post is about a whim. An urge. A spontaneous notion in which I’m unsure if I should actually commit to.

I think I want to re-learn how to play the cello. And while some of you may be expressing a genuine “Ha!” the other half is in disbelief that I’ve played before…does fifth grade “strings” count? I did really enjoy it for that one school year, but I knew I wanted to take choir in middle school. So I returned the cello and off I went to sing second soprano.

So this whole re-learning idea came up about a month ago when I saw a concert at Purdue with the band Gungor. They had the most beautiful sound and the cello’s mellow hum lulled me into thinking, “I wish I didn’t quit.”

I think it would be so nice to be able to play with Thomas on guitar. What I’m trying to guard against is the expectation that I could pick it up fast (and cheaply). I often find myself in the habit of thinking things will be easier to handle than they actually are, and I know it would be a test of patience…a characteristic that needs a boost. I would need to not give up on a song after the first line, but have the willingness to sit down, buck up and just learn it.

Some whims are to be pursued. Is this one of them?

My friend Paul thinks I could be as awesome as Joe Kwon, cellist for The Avett Brothers…

Ha. One day at a time.

Show me the money, Honey.

It’s kind of crazy to think about the importance of money in our culture. Possibly most cultures (I’m not cultured enough to know for sure). It makes things happen. It allows you to call an actual structure home and can provide the textbook education, complete with all the information you’ll ever need to know to “succeed” in your career, and then some. I remember a few months ago asking my brother (who is kick-butt financial advisor, mind you. Need money advice? He’s your man.) about what if money disappeared from the country. What if we got back to a trade and barter system. You know, give me your rake and I’ll give you my skillet. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it’s funny (ironic funny, not haha funny) to think that money is manufactured right here in America, so ideally we could produce enough to wipe out poverty, but no. Inflation. Just a weird concept to me. And that is why, my friends, I am a liberal arts major.

I’ve also been thinking this week about this tension of opposite appeals in life, i.e. wanting new adventures and taking risks versus the knowledge that if I eventually want to buy a house and have some babes of my own one day, I better be willing to save.

Regardless of what I end up doing and how much I make or where I decide to spend what I earn, I hope that I never become complacent in how I’m living. I don’t want to get in the habit of tithing simply because it’s a command. I want to know why I’m tithing. I want to be willing to have some fun and buy a new pair of shoes, but be equally as eager to give generously if I see a need.

It sounds so idealistic. But maybe that’s what I am. A stinkin’ idealist.

A Hat for Boyfriend

So I just learned to crochet about a year ago. Thus far, I’ve made 1 and half scarves (haha…never finished that one), a baby blanket, and now…DRUMROLL PLEASE! A beanie hat! Two actually. Here’s the first.

Thomas has been asking for one for a while, and I put it off simply because it was outside the realm of straight rows and the thought of following a pattern freaked me out. So I searched Youtube for videos and found one that looked simple enough, and it turned out to be so. I made the one in the picture, all the while feeling doubtful that it would fit. I was right. It was a little loose on me, and my dome is much bigger than Thomas’. Though I experienced about ten minutes of agitation, I started in on another hat.

About 2/3 through, I needed to redo some of it because it was still too wide for his head! But the third time was the charm. It fits, and he’s happy. Good thing too. Because not only did I make my guy happy and his ears warm, I expanded my crochet possibilities (though they’re still extremely limited). I find it therapeutic. It’s nice to have something to look at other than a computer screen in my free time.

Maybe if I get REALLY crazy, I’ll try socks.

Stress. And the rest of the weekend

I kind of internally freaked out on Saturday morning.

Ok. If I’m being completely honest here, I completely freaked out.

I was at home, and this wave of panic suddenly overtook me, and I felt like I had a bajillion things to do between school and church responsibilities. My heart started to race and I got horribly edgy. I could only think about what needed to get done and how I was going to do it. But over the course of 3 and half hours, I completed three small papers, studied for a test and wrote a devotion for the church Advent booklet. The day turned out to be incredibly productive, but emotionally damaging and unnecessary. That’s the thing about stress though. In the moment, you can’t see the big picture, and frankly, you don’t want to. I had just never experienced that level of anxiety before…or in a long time, at least.

The weekend improved, as yesterday the youth group carved pumpkins and then hosted a trunk at the trunk-or-treat. All of them dressed in costume and played their character, which cracked me up. I’m still new to the position of youth director, and I now understand so much more the preparation that goes into the meetings, but there’s so much reward when you see them having fun. Here’s some pictures from the night.

Yep. It’s a good job.

Happy Halloween!

Mourning

On Monday I went to my great uncle Bill’s funeral. I really only saw Bill at family reunions, and we might have chatted over lukewarm pasta salad, but I was primarily going to support my family. Not that I was unsympathetic at all, but I definitely lacked some empathy because I’ve never experienced a personal loss to death like some of my cousins at the funeral who had just lost their grandpa.

Interruption: Why do we say ‘lost’ anyway? People aren’t chapstick. Just a thought.

At the cemetery where he was buried, we looked around at other stones and found the one belonging to my great-grandparents and also my Grandpa Adrian, who died long before I was even born. But it was like seeing that stone stirred something up in me…like I suddenly recognized for the first time that Grandpa Ade was a real person. We watched a slideshow of Bill’s life (Ade’s brother) and a saw this stud of man in a navy uniform who looked like my dad and uncle. He had wavy hair and ears that stuck out a little. “Oh look, there’s Adrian!” people said. I heard all these stories about him and his fiery personality (so that’s where I get it from…) and how he was full of humor and the center of attention.

I was hit with sadness because I realized I was mourning for the grandpa I never met. And I finally had a very slight understanding of what it’s like to miss someone in that way. I wonder if we would like the same things…like peaches and chocolate and rocking chairs and sass. One of these days I’ll find out. Until then, I’ll just assume we would have been best friends.

Life on the Rez

There’s so much to say. So much I learned from 4 days on a Navajo reservation and only so long to keep a reader’s attention. I know I need to keep this at a sane length, but I’m tempted to not. This trip to Arizona (read why I went here) certainly made me aware of another kind of poverty within the United States and how fortunate I am to live where I live, but it also gave me tons of insight about a rich culture I knew nothing about. Here are a few bits that I walked away with.

Pinon is dry. It’s brown. And dusty green. And faded red. Everything is spread out, distanced by long dirt roads that stretch for miles and miles.

Cows and sheep hang out on the side of the road. One grocery store named Basha’s, a Subway and Pizza Edge fill the only strip mall. A Conoco receives business right next door. Some houses are round hogans without electricity and running water, while others are a bit more modern (depending on how traditional the family is). Dogs meander down the road and lay in the sun in front of Basha’s. They are rez dogs, and they have no home.

The unemployment rate in Pinon is 80%. It’s like a deadly cycle because the Navajos want to preserve their heritage, so they don’t allow many businesses to come on the reservation. So people don’t have anywhere to work. Alcoholism is a problem on the rez, even though it’s considered dry. People get drunk outside the reservation and come back home (which leads to domestic violence), or they mix water and hairspray to get drunk. Toxic. We learned the Navajo word for “drunk man,” and surprisingly enough, used it many times in conversation throughout the trip. I remember writing on my notepad that “it’s a quiet poverty, not one of police sirens and urbanism. Every building, every animal and every person looks in need of a little love.”

Yet in the midst of the poverty, there are brilliant students at Pinon High School. Students who are confident they have something to offer and know that their life has options. These students are thoughtful, kind, so endearing and wise beyond their years. We had the chance to talk to the juniors and seniors at a question and answer panel, where they asked us about everything college-related. They’re curious. And they’re faced with this internal struggle because they want to honor their families and their Navajo culture, but strive to dream outside the scope of the reservation. They’re torn between tradition and limitless possibility.

Some highlights…

We learned how to make fry bread.


We stopped at the Chinle Flea Market and EVERY jewelry stand we could find alongside the road.

We painted a water tank.

Witnessed Monument Valley.

Stood atop Cedar Mesa.

Saw a BEAUTIFUL sunrise.

And were downright inspired.

This trip got me outside of my comfort zone, which I’m confident is a great thing for my control freak personality :)  Feel free to click here for more of my photos on Facebook, or visit the ISU gallery here.

And thanks for reading. I sure do appreciate it.