Beautifully Different

•December 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different – you’ll find they’re what make you beautiful.

I am on the short side and have wide Scandinavian hips. I also have broad cheeks and larger features which used to make me feel like an ape. I see Liv Ullmann in me now. On a good day, I look half like her and half like Jamie Oliver. My last partner liked my butt.

Sometimes I can be strongly sarcastic while also being the kind of person who cries during commercials and definitely during the solstice service at church (All those candles! All that talk about forgiveness and letting go and new beginnings!) I used to find it odd that I had such a split personality. Now I’m starting to embrace how unique and wonderful it is. How awesome it is that I can laugh, make people, cry, and hold people when they are crying.

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Community

•December 7, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

I’m having trouble with this one, because there isn’t a particular community I would like to join. I just like community. I’d just like to have it somewhere. I have a community at work, but a work environment tends to limit our understanding of each other to certain roles. I know Ruth as a math teacher. I’ve known here for over two years now, though, and only just recently discovered what a wonderful writer she is. I teach Computer Science, but taught English for 12 years. Ruth and I can talk math, but now we can talk words too. Why did it take so long?

Community is more of a mindset than a specific group of people. It entails a willingness to actively seek to permeate the boundaries that separate us.

Make

•December 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

I made this blog.

I made a photo series that explored that blurry boundary between clothed and naked…it used images from the news of airport body scans. That was the last really cool thing I made.

I make things for my teaching. I make examples of our projects for class. The best time to make these is Friday afternoon when it’s really quiet and no one interrupts me. It is Friday now, the last Friday before winter break and it is supremely quiet. I am sitting at my desk and will ‘make’ the reverb posts I haven’t made for the last ten days. Then I will ‘make’ them have the correct date and time, to ‘make’ them look like they were written on the days they were supposed to be written.

I always want to make more things. I want to make photographs. I want to make art. I want to make essays and poems. I want to make more friends. I want to make a relationship work. Maybe I want to make babies. I want to make more time.

Let Go

•December 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

What (or whom) did you let go of this year?

I turned 40 this year. I swear, on they day that I turned 40, I got smile lines on my left cheek. I think make me look wise and like I have a good sense of humor.

What didn’t happen as quickly was my ability to stop listening to others’ voices. But I did make progress–definitely–in this area over the course of the year. I spent the first two years of my job trying to please everyone. Consequently, I wasn’t confident in my own voice and really wasn’t doing a very good job.

This year, I’ve been making more calls on my own, drawing my bottoms lines, establishing my boundaries. At work, it’s working better.

In my personal life, I’m not so sure. I am trying to let go of outcomes–that I can’t do everything to please everyone. As soon as I let go of the need to find approval in this way, as soon as I can become more comfortable with the discomfort of saying now or being firm, I think my life will improve even more than it already has.

Wonder

•December 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

This year, I volunteered to teach the 1st-3rd grade class at Sunday School. When I put my name on the clipboard for this endeavor, I was still feeling on the outskirts of my new church community. I had been attending for a couple of months, but didn’t know that many people. I knew that at some point I was going to have to get more involved if I wanted to expand my social circle to include some true, deeper friends. But I worried that I would chicken out, or that I wouldn’t follow through on my commitment. I’ve had tendency in the past to drop undertakings once I feel uncomfortable. I am starting to redefine myself so that that personality quirk is no longer true.

I teach high school, so taking on the younger students was intentional. With teenagers, it’s easy to forget that they are young because many of their bodies aren’t. But with the little ones, there would be no doubt about their developmental immaturity. I welcomed this.

The 1st-3rd graders I’ve met this year have amazed me and filled me with a sense of wonder. Every Sunday, we follow a little ritual called “Joys and Concerns.” During this portion of class, each child comes up to the main table and drops a stone into a glass of water for each joy and concern they would like to share. My favorite Sunday was the one when Dakota came up to the glass, took seven stones, and proceeded to proclaim–with every single stone–“I love my family… and I love my family… and… I love my family.”

Moment

•December 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

“Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors)”

I keep coming back to the same moment, the fleeting few seconds I first walked by that dilapidated tree house in the alleyway on my way to work. The first time I turned down that alleyway, I was transported. I had been walking to work for a few weeks and never taken that route before. I strolled down a little hill and the skinny, pot-holed road curved to the right. Suddenly, my view seemed overcome by green vines and lush, autumn reds and oranges spilling everywhere. It was the kind of road that conjures up the word “country amble” and there I was, in the middle of downtown Baltimore. The sensation of being completely removed from my urban surroundings was heightened by the appearance of a rumpled pick-up truck (a truck that never changed its parking spot from that day forward), broken linoleum chairs behind someone’s leaning-tower-of-Pisa garage, and that treehouse. The truck and chairs made me start humming a Ryan Bingham song, the jangly Bread and Water.

The treehouse made me think of To Kill a Mockingbird. There was something innocent about it, something so removed from the bus stop half a block away that would take people to work downtown in the hospital.

Television

•December 2, 2010 • Leave a Comment

“What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?”

I wonder how many of us named the boob tube for this one. My knee jerk response was indeed television. I don’t spend that much time watching tv–at least, not compared to the bulk of the American population. Maybe an hour or two each day, depending on what’s on. I justify my tv watching, like most of us, by talking to myself: “You’ve worked hard. You need to relax.”

But personal energy is a funny thing. I’ve been discovering that I get energy back from the energy I put in. I noticed this when I starting walking to work. The morning route has a particularly beastly hill and I really thought it was an inappropriate amount of vigor to undertake before a full day’s work. But once I started, the opposite happened. I had more energy and a better mood on the days I walked. I became a better teacher, a more cheerful person. I handle stress much better. I lost 55 pounds.

What would it feel like to write for that hour or two of television every night? Would I miss the “relaxation”? I’m starting to see that it might be an illusory, unstable kind of relaxation, one that relates more to numbing than the alive, electric relaxation I feel after a good sweat.

Yeah, I should write for that hour every night. I should work up a sweat.