Friday, December 31, 2010

Just Thinking...

Well, the room is quiet and I am alone for the first time in almost two weeks. My parents came to my house for Christmas, which makes the first time ever that I should host our family celebrations of the Blessed Event. I feel strangely grown-up and established.

I think what I enjoyed most from this particular vacation is the time we had to talk to each other, and I mean really talk about deep and important stuff. Like ogres, and onions--and cake, and parfait--each of my parents is a layered and multifaceted personage. These last two weeks gave me time to get to know them and appreciate them in a way that few of my contemporaries, I suspect, get to know their own parents. How many times does a girl get her parents all to herself when she is old enough to talk to them as a grown-up and an equal?

Also, I have a new tv and all of the laundry has been washed. La dolce vida.

Friday, November 26, 2010

in honor of C.S. Lewis' 112th birthday...

Because I go to one of the coolest (read: nerdiest) churches ever, my pastor has organized a little quasi-'Inklings' gathering at a local pub and asked me to write something (!) about one of Lewis' most famous articles "the Weight of Glory." So I wrote the following (Warning: It's a little thick, and if you haven't read the article it might not make much sense):

“You have a twinkle in your eye!” says my friend, Teresa, as we meet on the sidewalk in front of my house, “Is there anything you should be telling me?” she asks with a grin. I know what she’s talking about. She and I share a common malady: singleness. She’s wondering if I’ve met someone, or been called out of the blue by a long-lost sweetheart, or if Prince Charming has stepped out of man-land and into my living room. “No,” I say, with a grin of my own, “I’ve just been writing.” And it’s true. I’ve been working on this very paper. But the funny thing is, I didn’t even realize I was so happy. The more I think about this, the more I see that C.S. Lewis got it right in his great sermon “the Weight of Glory.” Although Lewis’ words are more eloquent and incisive, the over-riding message is that all of the happiness implied by our most lavish ‘happily ever after’ stories is but a hint of the Real Joy that Christ offers us. This is a Joy so expansive that we literally cannot imagine it as we are in this present world, except as the stuff of which our seemingly bottomless need is but an inside-out reflection. It is a Joy so beyond our understanding that we must be taught to let go of the paper doll replicas we have fashioned for ourselves so that we can reach out and touch the living hands of Love Himself.

Lewis begins his sermon by arguing against the “negative” virtue of unselfishness (negative because it is defined by abstinence rather than substance, not necessarily bad) in favor of the positive virtue of “Love” (again, positive as in substantive rather than vaguely good) in order to bring to light the subtle but powerful difference between a devotional life characterized by rejected desires and one that abandons lesser goods in pursuit of greater ones. After all, what makes Christianity different from eastern religions and altruistic humanism, if not its explicit, almost ludicrous, appeals to our deepest desires—heaven, an intimate and personal relationship with God, miracles, forgiveness, etc? Our insatiable desire, then, is not a blight of the human condition, but its most precious asset. It is the first hint that our tawdry souls are meant for more than the richest pleasures our collective imaginations can make of this world, meant for divine communion with the One who literally sustains the universe with His very breath, the Mind who invented minds. “[I]f we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels,” Lewis writes, “it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak…We are far too easily pleased.”

But if the promises are true, then why do we insist on “fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us”? In my heart, I long for adventure. I don’t want merely to shine; I want to blaze across the sky like an exploding star, to overwhelm this dark world with a searing and breath-taking brilliance! So why don’t I? Why don’t I live like my deepest dreams have come true? Well…I just don’t know how. I don’t yet know how to desire the greatest good because I have only just begun to scratch the surface of what goodness means. I suspect that this is why we populate our fictions with so many fascinating scoundrels and boring heroes. As long as we conceive of Good as simply the absence of Bad, we are bound to find the Phantom of the Opera far more interesting than that soppy Raoul fellow (am I right, ladies?). In our worldly culture, the human animal, with all its frailties and destructive tendencies, is the noblest creature imaginable, and a fictional character without these limitations, who does not deal with them, is not noble, he is strangely deficient. We do not yet have the imagination to become experts on the positively Good. Nevertheless, even in our limited and dingy materialism, the stories that mean the most to us are those that tap into our “inconsolable secret,” the yawning ache in our hearts for Goodness that is real, and true, and solid—the desire, in fact, to be more than we know, to be more than human.

As a Christian, I ought to rejoice in the promise of Christ’s redemption, and be content that although I am not whole today, I will be in eternity. But it’s hard not to wonder why the transformation from miserable sinner to glorified saint does not happen instantaneously. After all, is anything too hard for God? I think Lewis would say that on one level, and as far as eternity is concerned, the transformation is instantaneous. Certain parts of the Great Divorce seem to argue that redemption, once accepted, runs both forward and backward through time, so that the ugliness of the past is made beautiful in light of the eternal. Is it possible that our future glory might also reach back through time to transform us now? It might, and indeed does transform us now, or it begins to, for nothing is too hard for God. A great many things are too hard for us, however, and enduring in our present frailty the full power of our future glory is one of them. It seems to be God’s pleasure that we grow into our promised glory as we learn to desire Love for Love’s sake and see ourselves as He sees us. Perhaps He wants our love to grow naturally, like a seed grows into a tree. Perhaps, in this way, the willfulness and frailty that characterizes our humanity can be transformed into something incorruptibly beautiful, instead of being blown apart like shrapnel, in the face of instantaneous holiness. Is it possible that God refuses to force His will upon us, but instead waits, with a lover’s patience, for the gradual unfolding of His beloved’s heart? There can be no doubt that His patience is costly, both to Him and to all of us who must live with each other’s incompleteness, but the survival of the human race up to this point seems to argue that God believes that the glory of our ultimate completion is worth the struggle and the wait.

This is why, even though I am no closer to my childhood dream of playing first mate to the captain of my heart (jam jar opening, oil changing, philosophizing renaissance man that he is), I can still be seen grinning like a fool, humming to myself, and waving to strangers like the soprano lead in a broadway musical. I am convinced today that, regardless of my circumstances, I have something better than my dreams, certainly something more real. And then, as if it were not enough for Lewis to whisper in our ears: Courage, friends; someday, you will be more magnificent than you could possibly imagine, he has to go and give us something to turn our present dreariness into gold. I will not ruin the effect by paraphrasing. Just let me point out that the extent to which we understand and apply the following words to the people around us is the extent to which we actually live in the weight of glory which is to come, the glory we truly long for.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations…There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours…Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”

Monday, September 13, 2010

Another Poem

11:55 p.m.
Cinderella sits down hard on the Palace steps, her body slumping forward in fashion most unladylike. Her feet ache from too much dancing, her face from too much smiling, her stomach from the richness of the food, and her back from the intense pressure of corsetry that smothers in whalebone a beauty that rags could never completely hide. But there is an ache in her soul that swallows them all up.
She absently removes a shoe, inspecting it by the light of the moon. It is beautiful, clear as light and graceful in the crystalline artistry of its curves. The pungent and vaguely sweet smell of sweat wafts upward.
"Glass slippers," she mutters, shaking her head. "Under all these yards of dress, who would notice?" she asks, "Who would care?" she demands of the darkness.
What was it all for? The dreaming, the longing, so many hours that would have been better spent sleeping--all the work so faithfully completed--all the abuse so meekly endured--all for three minutes of awkward waltzing with a Prince who only knows what he doesn't want and several hours of polite association with women whose words drip with refinement but whose exchanges amount to the same thing as dogs peeing over a contested bush.
Wiping away tears, Cinderella can just make out the shape of distant mountains reflected in her empty shoe. Somewhere, a door opens, releasing faint strains of fashionable music and vacuous conversation.
An exhausted steward has seen something moving in the garden near the Royal Stables. He steps outside to investigate. At the top of the steps, his foot brushes against clinking glass--doubtless some carelessly abandoned champagne flutes. Kneeling down, he discovers two delicate slippers made entirely of glass, cold and hard as stone, shining like diamonds in the moonlight.

Okay, I just have to write a small disclaimer...two small disclaimers, actually:
1--It doesn't rhyme and it isn't supposed to. It's a 'word art' sort of thing, and in my mind, that constitutes poetry. Most of the time, I am too lazy to rhyme.*
2--Any similarity to real life people or situations (i.e. Sarah complaining about boys, etc.) is purely coincidental. Okay, that's not entirely accurate. But it is true that God and I are working out the whole 'Prince' thing as far as my personal life is concerned. I started writing this when I was feeling particularly discouraged, but got pulled out of 'the depths of despair' by the beguiling process of hunting for the right words to precisely capture the poignant (if slightly dramatic) analogy that had occurred to me as I stared at my empty living room and moped. Besides, the more I read it, the less sad it becomes. In the end, it smells more like adventure...with maybe just a small but satisfying dash of defiance.

Oh, and if you can think of a good title, I am open to suggestion.

*Of course, sometimes they just fall into my lap.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

I saw some fallen leaves today. They rattled in a matter most satisfying across the sun-drenched sidewalk of downtown Mount Vernon. That, along with the cool breeze and already westering sun, tells me we've crossed the invisible boundary between Summer and Fall. It's like when you catch a glimpse of your face in the mirror or a window reflection and realize you're not a kid any more. You don't know it's happening until it's already happened.

I'm having a hard time believing that my life will ever be different than it is now, and deep down I am definitely not OK with that. But I guess I just have to trust that the next phase will come--as the last phase did--like the subtle progression of seasons.

So carpe diem! 'Cause this 'diem' will be gone soon enough.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

That's all.

Hello friends.

Have you ever noticed how the 'Man in the Moon' always seems to be gaping off into space somewhere above your left shoulder? I've been staring at him through my living room window for the last fifteen minutes, and I've decided that, on the whole, I'd rather he gaped at space than at me. I feel the same way about actors in a theater. That's why I don't like to sit in the front row of the audience.

Now you know.

Wanna know something else? I am seriously considering getting a tattoo. Now, I'm not telling you what the design will be until I'm ready to commit, and that may not be for weeks or months yet, but I think I may have found something I feel strongly enough about to merit permanent markage. It's not a picture per se, because it has to have more significance than mere aesthetic enjoyment in order to justify its existence. I am not fool enough to think I could improve on God's handiwork. And anyway, bodies change over time, as well they should.

It's an idea, more than anything else--something I want to remember every time I look at myself*--something I'm fairly confident will be important to me for the rest of my life, whether I go the way of the adventurous and eccentric maiden aunt or find someone fantastic enough to inspire me to chuck it all and settle down. (So do not fear, Concerned Relatives, I will immortalize no man's name on my buttocks--or any other personal territory, for that matter--nor will there be anything resembling fat cupid babies or skulls of any kind. Skulls. Blech.)

Of course, I could come to my senses at any moment, so don't go calling any newspapers.

I just thought I'd throw some thoughts out there because you and I, dear Reader, haven't talked in a while. Which is a shame. Because I like you.

That's all.

*and no, it has nothing to do with StrongBad's "Awesome Song"** which is now stuck in my head.

**basically just one refrain repeated over and over: "Every time I look at myseeeelf, I can't believe how awesome I aaaaaam" in StrongBad's grainy and slightly tone-deaf baritone.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

How I spent my (spring break and) summer vacation, pt. 1

I know that we're only just getting to the end of July, but I feel the impending doom of the school year with every tick of my Snoopy clock (a happy new addition to my kitchen, it plays the Linus and Lucy song on the hour). So let me tell you a little bit about my summer adventures and, because I love my brother, I will begin with spring break.

Loyal readers will recall that, during the months of March and April I suffered under the burden of the Paper to End All Papers and the wrapping up of my master's degree coursework. It was arduous and painstaking, as I spent countless hours sitting in an old lawn chair in my tiny kitchen surrounded by books with horrid titles like Curriculum Development: Theory into Practice and Sociology for Music Educators. The mere mention of them makes me shudder--ugh! There, in the very midst of this scholastic purgatory, the memory of one marvelous week in Florida shines, like a firefly in the gloaming.

At the behest of my newly acquired sister-in-law (who is a capital person!) I spent my week's worth of spring break with her and my brother at their house in Pensacola, FL. From the moment they picked me up in Jake's ferocious black truck to our last picture pose by the fountain in front of the old Pensacola Museum, I gave myself over to opulent rest and relaxation with no thought for the half-finished monster-paper I left behind me. It was marvelous. I got a tan! We took several small trips to various museums (I sat in a real cockpit at the Museum of Flight and had Jacob explain all the buttons and levers and other doohickies to me) and to the beach (where I laid down across exquisitely white sand and read books just like a native--except for the blindingly white legs) and to the Gulfarium (where we watched a trained seal feed a trained dolphin). But my favorite part of the whole trip, although watching Thomas the Train with my adorable niece-in-law Emily comes in a close second, the very favoritest of favorites was the time when Jake and Sara and I just hung out around the house...playing darts, washing the car, eating amazing home-made breadsticks. It was simultaneously weird and wonderful to see my little brother being a husband and the man of his own house. He was the same and yet not the same...more purposeful, maybe? Definitely better. And I loved getting to know my sister better. She's wonderful--vivacious and smart and equal to just about anything. You chose wisely, Boy.

It was a glorious week, and just what I needed to remind me that there's life outside of school, and that it can be a heckuva lot of fun living it.

And that's just part one of my (spring and) summer vacation report. Tune in next time to read about my adventures in Sunny California.

Right now I am going to bask in the hedonism of a summer vacation that isn't quite over yet by starting a movie at 9:30 at night!

Monday, June 28, 2010

In which Sarah and her mother narrowly avoid death by snakebite

First, let me begin with a disclaimer: in eighteen years of living in the desert and almost ten years of visiting and vacationing here, this is the first poisonous snake I have ever encountered in the wild--and I've spent quite a bit of time tromping around in this arid and uncharted wilderness. I don't want the follwing account to dissuade any visitors from experiencing the unique adventure that is Ridgecrest. As long as you don't wander outside barefoot in the dead of night, stick your hand in any holes in the ground, drive off without water, a map, and a full tank of gas, or call Ronald Reagan a poo-head, you'll be fine. Everybody got it? Good. Now, on we go.

So mom and I have been waking up at 5am most mornings to go jogging in the desert. A crazy way to vacation, I know, but it makes sense if you think about it. If we're going to feel good about eating out as often as we have been, we have to exercize somehow, but it's too hot to be outside for any extended amount of time during the middle of the day. Since we are on vacation, there's nothing to keep us from indulging in long and luxurious naps during the heat of the day* to make up for lost sleep. Plus, a desert sunrise is a visual delicacy not to be missed. Mom is a relatively new edition to the strange and wonderful world of the jogger, and so she was running a few paces behind me along the right side of the slender dirt road that constituted our chosen route.** This turned out to be a Good Thing because, as I ran ahead, I happened to spy a snake, not four feet ahead of me, on her side of the path. It was light brown, the color of the sand in which it sat, curved like a reptilian 'S', in a frozen--yet menacing--position. Recalling some zoological training I received in elementary school, I noted that the creature's head was not round (like the friendly and harmless gopher snake), but angular (which means 'poison'). It was about a foot and a half long, roughly as thick as a beerbrat, and there were some dark diamond-shaped blotches running down its back.*** I don't remember the exact warning I shouted to my mother, but I do recall backing away slowly and sticking my arm out, fingers spread, like you do when you're trying to protect someone in the passenger's seat of your car, so as to stop her from running past me and getting bitten. The very end of the snake's tail looked red and raw, as if part of it--the rattle(!)--had been ripped off. Standing at a cautious distance, I took a picture of the dreaded serpent with Mom's phone, but I suspect the quality of the image will require me to point the snake out, like a UFO enthusiast distinguishing the unexplainable blurry lights from the explainable ones . We decided to turn around and leave the rest of the trail to the snake. It looked like a Sidewinder, and Sidewinders are notoriously fast.

The rest of our run was free of incident. However, I could not shake the unpleasantness of having come so very close to death (or severe discomfort). How easy would it have been for me to glance up at the glorious desert mountains, bathed in early sunlight, instead of spotting the snake in front of me? What if I had missed it altogether and thus allowed my mother to step on it and get bitten? I am very grateful that God protected us, and all we got was a cool story to share. But anyone who has lived at all knows that protection from physical harm and even death is not a guarantee. Mom, always the pragmatist, points out to me that we are always surrounded by danger. We could get run-over crossing the street, suddenly discover a deadly allergy, develop a terminal illness, get mistaken for CIA operatives and be assassinated by enemy spies. I guess it's just too easy to forget that our lives on Earth are fragile, and will eventually end.

The moral of my story? Actually, there are several: enjoy every moment you get in this life, tell people you love that you love them--often, don't pass up opportunities for doing Awesome, and finally, when jogging in the desert LOOK WHERE YOU'RE GOING!

P.S. Since I lack the l33t skillz to work even basic internet magic, I can only encourage you to google 'Mojave Sidewinder Snake' for pictures of our early morning menace.

*'heat of the day': 7am to 7pm, give or take.
** Our chosen route was one of those random dirt roads created by local marksmen who drive their trucks out to empty places to shoot junk (i.e. coffee cans with rocks in them, old pumpkins, broken down appliances, etc.). We're not worried about meeting any gun enthusiasts out there because anyone who is dedicated and disciplined enough to be out at 5:30 on a Monday morning undoubtedly drives out to the official shooting range, which is impossible to mistake for empty desert on account of being full of shot-up metal deer and bunnies, and in any case, it's fenced off.
***A quick internet search has confirmed our suspicions that it was a Mojave Sidewinder--"rarely fatal," but your leg might swell up and fall off.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Wear sunscreen...

I went shopping today at Fred Meyer--shopping for a new pair of jeans, actually. I don't know how it is for you gentlemen readers, but any lady will sympathize with the drawn out mental, emotional, and physical anguish involved in shopping for jeans. In fact, I had a short commiserating conversation with a woman at the store who saw me wrestle six pairs of jeans out of my dressing room and hang all but one of them on the 'somebody else put it away cause I'm not buying it' rack. It was the second batch of jeans that I had gone through, too. Trying on clothes is always a draining experience. Altogether too much time is spent looking at oneself in one's underclothes--flat and poochy in all the wrong places. Only in movies do people look nicer with fewer clothes on, and then we really shouldn't be looking, should we.

In any case, the experience reminded me of one of the speeches that was made at my school's recent eighth grade 'graduation' ceremony. It was a list, really, given by a former Conway student now high school senior, of all the things she wished somebody would have told her when she was a freshman. I was thinking today, as I struggled with the zipper of a pair of jeans that would turn out to be too tight or too long or both, that if I had made such a list to pass on my hard-earned wisdom to fresh minds just starting out on a new life adventure, I would have started with "When you find a comfortable pair of jeans that also makes you look good, buy them. Buy two pair, if you can. And then go and buy yourself a lottery ticket, because it is clearly your lucky day."

And then of course, once I started I had to compile the whole list. So here it is, my personal message to graduates* of any level:

1. When you find a good pair of jeans, buy them.

2. The same goes for comfortable shoes. Buy them. Buy two pair of them, because you never know when you'll find another good pair of shoes again.

3. If you have to choose between looking stupid and not having any fun, choose to look stupid. (You're going to end up looking stupid to someone somewhere along the line anyway, so why worry about it?)

4. When someone wants to talk to you, close your book, turn off the t.v., stop playing the video game, stop texting, look that person in the eye, and pay attention.

5. Tell the truth. Always tell the truth. A lie might seem easier, but it will bite you in the butt every time.

6. You can't give what isn't yours. If you can't discipline yourself, you will never truly belong to yourself, so if you want to make any difference whatsoever, take every opportunity to develop personal discipline.

7. Sometimes this means following the stupid rules simply because the person in charge asked you to.

8. There are some mistakes that you can't learn from...because you're dead.

9. Sometimes loving someone means letting them do something for you for which you can't pay them back. Always, loving someone means doing things for them without expecting to be paid back.

10. Don't let the fact that you can't feed all the starving orphans in India keep you from investing time and energy into the emotionally, spiritually, and (possibly) physically starving children down the street.

And finally, my best piece of advice:

11. Ask for help. If you don't understand something, ask for help. If you don't get it the first time, ask again. If you were meant to do everything on your own, you would have been born a grown up--and even the most brilliant and effective grown ups ask for help, so there's really no getting around it. Ask for help. And then of course, you have to listen to the answer.

Congratulations graduating classes of 2010. (Now we all throw our hats in the air.)

*and speaking of graduates: guess who got her diploma in the mail today? Me! That's who! And boy does it look impressive: scarlet casing, Latin words on the cover, my full name in schmancy font. I think it's even bigger than my other ones, too!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


I wrote this in October, 2009.

(Warning: entry contains possibly pretentious verbiage along with quite definite third-person brooding. Proceed at your own risk.)

Once upon a time there was a girl on a crowded ferry sailing into the night. Surrounded by kaleidoscoping muted conversation, she found herself profoundly alone, extravagantly lavishing words like “profoundly” and “kaleidoscoping” on what ought to have been an unremarkable Friday night. Perhaps she knew, deep down, that this was no ordinary Friday night. It was a night of significance, if only because this particular night found her able to write exactly what she felt. She felt detached from the world, like an introverted window reflection, like one of those amazing illustrations that create whole scenes with a few lines and some carefully placed smudges. How strange to be trapped in this bobbing bubble of light with so many amiable strangers. How surreal to relish this nothing-time, this transition. But this is life, isn’t it? It’s so easy to see where you’ve been and plan where you’re going. Infinitesimally small is the point of intersection where you actually are. So delicate and short-lived is the present. Why, oh why does it seem to last forever? Do we move? Or do we, like trees, just sit and grow and mistake the wind that breathes through our branches for our own walking?

---The girl sitting across from me is sketching in a sketchbook. She looks like a regular commuter. But she and I share a secret, a divine inheritance when we create, even if all our scratching ultimately yields handfuls of nothing. I must grasp at this image, scaffold it with my words, and carry it with me: a humble little sketch of a present now passing, like light through a bottle.

(Don't say I didn't warn you. This just goes to show that referring to yourself in the third person almost always elicits weirdness. Amateur writers and professional athletes take note.)

Monday, May 31, 2010

Thoughts from a Friendly Friday

I've just had the loveliest weekend. I'm sorry to see it go. On Friday, I went down to Seattle to visit the old stomping grounds of 'dear old SPU'. I dropped in on my good friend Adrienne who, being possibly the most considerate person on Earth, promptly invited me to lunch with her at ye olde Gwinn Commons (a.k.a. SPU's relatively posh cafeteria). After a long-overdue reunion with some legendary cookies (which were every bit as good as I remembered), I meandered down to the School of Music to have coffee with my old professor and friend, Dr. Hanson. Over the course of our conversation, I experienced several medium sized* epiphanies.

Epiphany no. 1: I am not a failure/disappointment to my parents, mentors, sunday school teachers, or college professors. Now I can see the incredulous looks on the faces of some of my beloved readers, but let me just remind you all that deep in the heart of every perfectionist lurks an irrational, yet terribly compelling, suspicion that the world requires us to be flawless (just us--other people are allowed to make mistakes). This is what fuels our perfectionism. Along with that comes the much more realistic suspicion that we are always mucking things up somehow. This is what makes us irritable and neurotic. Lucky us. In any case, I learned that even though I have not written any symphonies, published any research papers, or filled any posts as conductor of some impressive philharmonic orchestra, Dr. Hanson is still proud of me. I heard him say so. Coming from him, it makes a big difference.

Epiphany no. 2: I have a mind that was built for scholarship, and I am not referring to the kind of scholarship where people give you money to go to school (although, if you think about it, I am getting paid to go to school--just not to learn). In the words of the inimitable Steve Urkel "I simply crave academic nourishment." For a while, I thought I was done with taking classes and writing papers and all that stuff. And it is possible that I am. But I am certainly not done with learning and thinking, and it is a distinct possibility that some of this learning and thinking will eventually land me back in school (as a student), barring some sort of social breakdown in which all of civilization is compelled to return to subsistence farming. Although, with my future, your guess is as good as mine.

Epiphany no. 3: I am, and probably always will be, hopelessly weird. Maybe someday that will be cool. Today, it mostly means that while big concepts like the progression of Western Civilization from medievalism to rationalism to romanticism to modernism and postmodernism and post-postmodernism make perfect sense to me, practical things like how to date someone remain hopelessly out of reach.

Epiphany no. 4: If I want adventure, I had better just go out and have it. What's the point of all this freedom and independence if I'm going to just sit around and whine about where I am? Also, If I really do want adventure, then I shall have to let go of any expectations as to how my life ought to turn out. I feel like that's a really big idea, although I can't really explain it any better.

...And that was just my Friday afternoon. I got to spend the evening watching Dr. Who with the aforementioned Adrienne and her husband Josh (fun!), and the next day featured such refreshment of the soul as only a Lazy Afternoon at casa Walter can provide.
Like I said, it was a really great weekend.

*A medium sized epiphany is somewhere between "Oh, now I get it!" and "I will now sell everything I have, move to Guatemala, and spend the rest of my life contemplating the innate artistry of a single fern frond."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

summer Vacation in April--epilogue

Remember my second-to-last blog entry?--You know, the one about finishing my master's degree and facing the prospect of an additional field of study? Well, here's what happened with that.

The good news is that I have a job next year, and it looks like it will be a full-time one. Of course, who knows what we'll have to do the year after that to stay afloat, but one thing at a time. I am incredibly grateful to God and my school community for doing what they can to keep music in their children's curriculum (and to keep me gainfully employed in facilitating that curriculum).

The bad news, and the impetus behind most of this post, is that I have a bad case of the summertime blues. Summertime blues?! you say, incredulously. Isn't that some sort of oxymoron? you ask. Yes. Yes it is. Nevertheless, I, who, as a teacher, have probably one of the best work schedules ever (it sort of makes up for having one of the lowest paying jobs that require college education--and perpetual college education at that) I, even I, am officially complaining about having a summer vacation. Actually, it would be more descriptive to say that the prospect of two months of unstructured self-indulgence has me feeling as discouraged and lethargic as a person might feel who is facing a recurring two month diet that consists exclusively of chocolate cake. I know that just because the time is unstructured, that it doesn't have to be squandered in self-indulgence. There's no rule that says I have to sleep in every day and spend all my time watching tv shows, reading books, and hopping from friend's house to friend's house in a perpetual orbit around my own empty apartment. I know all that very well. The problem is that right now, I have little hope that it will amount to much else. But I simply can not bear the thought of coming to the other side of this time, this precious gift I have that may never come again, with nothing to look back on but a wasteland of botched resolutions and mental escapes. I can not. I will not. Heaven help me, I've got to find some way to spend my life that truly matters!

(Bet you didn't expect all this drama when you started reading today. Well, sometimes that's all I've got.)

I hate being weak. But you know, I was not meant to stay that way. I was meant to grow, and I am growing, and I will continue to grow, God-willing, until the day I die (and maybe even after that).

So here's to a summer that's unlike any other. Bring it on.

Monday, May 10, 2010

giving my two cents

Hello. I had a thought I wanted to what was it...

Oh yes, now I remember!

Anyone who has spent any amount of time in Sunday School knows the story of the widow's mite. That's the one where Jesus is hanging out with his disciples and they're all watching people put their monetary offerings in the Bible-times equivalent of the offering plate. First a couple of rich guys throw in some bags of money, and then a poor widow puts two little copper coins in after them. And Jesus says to his disciples "That widow gave more than the rich dudes because they gave out of their wealth, but she gave out of her poverty all she had left."

Now, the lesson I've always taken away from this anecdote is that, with God, it's the thought that counts. Of course, this is true. In fact, Jesus is the one who moved the boundaries of accountability inward from actions to the thoughts behind the actions (lusting=adultery, anger=murder and so forth). But it never occurred to me until recently that Jesus was not just being magnanimous to the widow, but stern to the wealthy guys as well, that he was not lowering the bar, he was raising it. Can you imagine how full the ancient offering plate would have been if the wealthy men had followed the widow's example and given all that they had? Hearing this story, I always wondered whether I, if I were ever destitute, would have the moral courage or the faith to give God all that I had left. Now I realize that I have the opportunity to show such moral courage every day of my life. (Oh snap!) I don't have to be poor to give everything to God--I can do that right now. And if I want my life to be as full and rich and effective as possible, that's what I have to do, isn't it? No more invented barriers, no more pushing the inner struggle off to another place or time or circumstance. This is a decision that has to be made now, and again tomorrow, and every day for as long as I breathe. That's what it means to follow Christ. Everyone has a chance to put their all in the metaphorical offering plate (which often includes putting something substantial in the literal offering plate every now and then as well), and every 'all' is appreciated by God, be it a gazillion denarii or two cents.

By the way, that widow's tiny little two-cent life-savings has already affected the lives of millions (billions?) of people, if you think of all the people over the last two thousand years (give or take) who have been touched by her story. Cool.

I didn't mean to get preachy, but every once in a while, I have these 'aha' moments that are either very obvious or very profound (or both), and I can't move on until I've shared them.

So thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Summer Vacation in April!

That's right! You are reading the blog of a free woman. Well, mostly free. Exactly one week ago, come 8:53 tonight, I turned in my Paper of Doom, a.k.a Curriculum Project, a.k.a the music educator's equivalent to a Master's Thesis. So, assuming I get at least a B on it, I am now a 'Master' of music education (thank you, Boston University and Sallie Mae). Yippee! I really do feel like summer break has come two months early. Fun times are here to stay.

Or are they?

It was a week ago this afternoon that a conversation* took place between my superintendent and me that went something like this:

Sup: Nobody has any money, least of all the State, so we're looking at some potential program cuts for next year.
Me: "Program" means me, right?
Sup: Yes. Yes it does.
Me: I thought so.

...awkward pause...

Sup: You don't happen to have any additional endorsements,** you know, like in another subject, do you?
Me: no.
Sup: Did you take any classes in college that might, in a pinch, be equivalent to one?
Me: Well, sir, I took a year of German when I was a freshman.

It is more than a little ironic that I, who have accumulated something like 230 credits over my four-and-a-quarter years at SPU, really took relatively few classes outside of the core curriculum and my chosen field. I sort of double majored in music education and music composition. You might say that I minored, majored, and now (hopefully) mastered in music. All so that on the day I turn in my last paper, a paper that would mark the completion of an educational journey some twenty-odd years in the making, I could learn that if I want to keep teaching (without having to move back in with my parents) I will have to take more classes. (By the way, props to my dad: a lesser man would have said 'I told you so!' a long time ago.)

One week ago, I called my mom and had a good cry. Today, I have made peace with the fact that I will probably be taking classes of some sort or other until the day I die. I've decided that if I have to branch out, the most interesting area in which to branch would be linguistics (as in 'teaching English as a Second Language'). I've always liked thinking about grammar and semantics and such. And we're still concerned with making and interpreting sounds, so it's bound to have some element of fun to it, right? Maybe I'll finally pin down the ever-elusive logic behind proper comma usage. The only real problem is that more schooling=more school debt, and I've had just about as much of that as a girl can stand. I don't know how anyone could consider it at all fair that ++edited for content: excessive petulance++ Oh well, as Roy O'Bannon says in Shanghai Noon "The justice system's all screwed up."

So that's what's been happening around here. In other news, now that I'm not spending every waking moment researching and writing papers of doom, I have come to realize that if I actually washed all the clothes that I own (most of which have been 'handed down' to me), the combined space available in my dresser and my closet would be insufficient to hold them all. For a person who usually wears the same thing every week, this is ridiculous. Something must be done. Also, my 'recycling' pile is beginning to eat the rest of my kitchen. And I haven't talked to some of my friends in ages.


I wonder if there's anything interesting on hulu.

*This is not verbatim. It has been creatively altered for dramatic effect. My superintendent is a good and kind man who has been saddled with the difficult job of making decisions that no one wants to make, but that everyone is sure they could make better.

**endorsement: teacherspeak for 'little piece of paper that testifies to one's having taken enough of the right classes to be considered sufficiently competent in a subject to get paid for teaching said subject in school'.

Monday, March 8, 2010


Having reached a personal goal for the Paper of Doom by which I have been held captive the last few weeks (and will be held captive for another month, at least...Seriously, this is the biggest paper I've ever had to write. Blurg.), I decided to treat myself to an old Stargate Atlantis episode on hulu. It was "the Prodigal," for those of you in the know--the one where Michael comes back and tries to blow up Atlantis, or, as I like to think of it, the one where Ronon stops being a putz, finds love, and writes his first and only mission report. In any case, watching the show brought back fond memories of when I used to drive down to Seattle for Stargate Fridays.

I remember jetting out of Mount Vernon in my little red shoe,* singing along with whatever cd happened to be playing in the car, feeling the cares of teacher-hood peal away with every mile. I would park in the same old patch of grass along one of Seattle's impossibly slender side roads, experience the same momentary panic as I tried to remember which buzzer was Adrienne and Josh's apartment and which was their neighbor's, and hear the same joyous cries of "Sarahdunn!" as I climbed up the stairs. And then, oh joy! Oh rapture! How sweet it was to be in the company of friends, to exchange greetings with people who knew what you were like at 2 in the morning--but liked you anyway, to have impossibly long and intricate conversations about nothing of consequence, to share things of very great consequence and be understood (or at least to have the effort made). Those times were like water to my parched little soul after a dreary week spent all alone in my thin-walled cat-box of an apartment in Marysville.
Now we're spread out a little farther than before. Our lives are growing out like tree branches, and it makes me wistful. I really don't call or write half as much as I wish I did. I just read your blogs and smile when I think of you. Sometimes I tell the friends I've made here stories about you (good ones). But I'm so grateful to know you, and to have such a rich store of memories made with you that watching sci-fi reruns becomes like looking through a picture album in my heart.

I look forward to seeing you again, and adding more pictures.

Thanks, friends.

*'Little Red Shoe' is the name of my car. It was a gift from my Grandma (the name, not the car).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I probably should have just gone to bed.

They never tell you that having an adventure involves a whole heck of a lot of discomfort, that you'll be cold and wet and hungry, that you'll see unbelievable sights and do incredible things and nobody else will understand. They never talk about the singular difficulty of caring about personal hygiene when one has been battling monsters all day and sleeping in the woods at night. There's no mention of bug bites, blisters, sore backs, ungrateful villagers, ambivalent princes, and hours upon hours of trudging here and there and everywhere in between. Alone.

Of course they never put that stuff in stories.

Who would want to hear it?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Time Warp!

Let's pretend that it's still November.

I wrote this entry over the Thanksgiving holiday, but since I was at my uncle's house (where internet moves at a glacial pace) I wrote it in Word and forgot about it.  I just found it today when I was poking around on my computer.  So here you are.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  My very favoritest is Easter.  I love the rush of celebrating the resurrection, and all the busy newness of spring.  Everything is growing.  Everything is so full of potential, like the breathless pause before the symphony begins, or the boundless possibilities of a blank page.  I guess you could say that Thanksgiving is the other end of that thought.  It’s the time when things come to completion, when crops have been harvested, when nature lays down to rest after all the fun and frenzy of greener days.  I like that feeling of exhausted satisfaction, as at the end of a productive day, when you look around and take stock of all that you have.  You can’t help feeling grateful.  I like gratefulness because it involves seeing the value of what you’ve been given, and because it means that you are not alone.  When you appreciate something or someone, you are acknowledging that the object of your appreciation somehow makes your life better, and that means that you are not a complete universe unto yourself, but a small piece of an interconnected world.  Now it is possible that only a few of you, dear readers, have ever lost sleep because you were worried that you really were entirely self-sufficient, but those of us who worry about everything are all mighty grateful for our own finiteness.  I'm glad for my neediness, for my loneliness, because it means I was meant for relationship, for adventure and completion.  And if God means for me to be complete (and I believe He does), then who knows what marvelous things will happen to bring it about?

So thanks, everyone, for being part of the adventure that is my life.  I am grateful for you.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Enjoy gorging yourself on Turkey and football.


...and now we return you to your regularly scheduled program.