Monday, September 26, 2011

A Mopey Morning

Our lives have been so busy lately that it seems to me to be a miracle when I have the chance to sit down and write a blog.

Today I woke up in a bad mood. I was tired from a fitful night’s sleep, and I was not looking forward to a day of work at the library. My co-worker and I had planned a Fancy Nancy party for girls and their moms and a Father-Son Marble Amusement Park Building party. Both events, of course, turned out to be lots of fun.

On days like today, I have to remind myself how much I would have loved to get dressed up with my mom and go to a tea party to play games and eat dainty food. And I have to remember the fun of seeing a dad and his son constructing a ‘ride’ for a marble together. Usually the boys want to take all the toilet paper tubes, plastic containers, egg cartons, and PVC pipe home with them when they are done so they can reconstruct their masterpiece at home. Do we let them take our toilet paper tubes? Oh, yes.

Before I left for the library, however, I was feeling mopey. Mopey about not having many friends in this new town yet. Mopey because of college friendships that are changing because of being long-distance. Mopey about our erratic work schedules and how that affects Mopey Item Number 1. Mopey about family being so far away. Mopey about the clutter around our house. And about a scrapbook that will  never be completed because I don’t own scrapbooking tools and am far away from my mom, whom I used to always scrapbook with. Oh, there was so very much to be mopey about.

Now, since arriving home from the two parties at the library, I am feeling much better about life as I know it. As was mentioned, sitting down to write a blog with spare time feels like a miracle, so I am trying to treasure it as such by burning a delicious smelling candle next to me and creating some creativity ambiance.

Please no comments as to whether creativity ambiance was achieved.

Part of my discontent, I’m sure, is rooted in the fact that I am overly ambitious on starting projects. Because I have so many projects going at once, I never seem to finish any of them very quickly.

Here’s a complete list of ‘project piles’ sitting around the house, physically or symbolically:

  • ESL lesson materials for our ESL class
  • Spanish materials for my Spanish class
  • Letters to respond to
  • Prayer notebook I started to create (see picture below)
  • Blogs
  • Plastic bag holder (from a dish towel)
  • New afghan pattern, yarn, and hook
  • Piano and music
  • Books to read
 Here's the prayer notebook I spent spare minutes on this week:

Just writing the list of projects I am trying to work on makes me want to go do something. But for tonight, I am enjoying a few moments of unhurried blog writing while basking in candle perfume.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Walking to Church in a Small Town

I enjoy walking to church.

When the weather is nice, like it is today, forty degrees outside is not a trial at all. As I started my walk this morning, the air was chill but utterly calm. The sun had risen just far enough to brush the tops of trees with gold, and even blades of grass were casting long shadows. The stillness made it possible for me to listen to birdsong, and I was even pleasantly surprised by seeing a turkey vulture rise up from a tree as I walked by.

A beautiful morning to walk, think, and pray.

However, as I have mentioned before, we live in a small town.

And we live just far enough from church to make walking to church seem like a trial-- to some people, not to us. And because we live in a small town, the likelihood of someone we know driving by is very high. Very, very high. And because it is Sunday morning and this is a 'nice' town, stopping, rolling down the window, and offering a ride to the perceived weary walkers is the norm.

Another norm is showing the utmost politeness and reserve, so quite often my husband and I can brush off the polite reserved offer of a ride with a wave and a smile.

But this morning, a dear lady who does not possess the normal Dutch reserve pulled up next to me and said, "Hillary, do you want a ride to church?"

"No thank you, I enjoy the walk." I give a big smile and wave.

This woman paused, smiled, and answered decidedly, "Hillary, your hair is wet. Get in the car!"

So, because I am the polite reserved person mentioned above, I complied.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Language Beauty and an Amendment

Because my husband and I decided that we weren’t busy enough, juggling two jobs each, we decided that we would like to teach an ESL (English as a Second Language) class. I also decided that, in order to increase my effectiveness as a Spanish translator and interpreter at the library, I should take a Spanish class.

We have been busy, and I have felt positively immersed in language ever since our ESL class and my Spanish class began. I don’t think that it was wise for us to take on so many responsibilities at one time, but I am blessed, and I am learning.

Learning to budget my time wisely so that everything gets done without tears.

Learning that it’s harder to teach my own language than I thought it would be.

Learning the intricacies of Spanish grammar.          

Learning to appreciate the diversity that God has nurtured in languages.

Really, re-learning Spanish and spending time communicating in it on a regular basis, while teaching native Spanish-speakers to appreciate and feel confident in English has made me feel passionate about the beauty of language, especially the beauty of being able to communicate in another person’s heart language.

Learning another person’s language is a powerful way to love that person. You are, in essence, saying, “I want to meet you where you are at. I want to know you. I want to help you if I can but also learn from you. You are important enough to me that I am willing to be the first to reach out.”

This is what I see in our ESL class. I feel honored that our students are learning English, and I can see in their faces that they feel honored when I am not afraid to re-explain something in Spanish when the English explanations just don’t do the trick.

I realize that not everyone has the time or the resources to spend on learning another language. But most of us can learn a few important phrases in the language of a people we meet constantly:

Hello, how are you?

My name is….

So nice to meet you.

Most of the immigrant community in our town is Spanish-speaking, so the highest language need here is Spanish. There are also a few Chinese families, but not many. If I ever feel ‘done’ learning Spanish, I might tackle something Chinese, or something less applicable like Swahili. But we’ll see.

And an amendment is in order.

In my last post, I listed the rules that I was implementing for myself to tackle the challenge of reading all the books my husband and I own. What I forgot was that I am a part of a book club.

I love my book club, and I love the ladies in my book club.

In order to participate, I need to read the same book that they do.

Because the book club meets only once a month, I don’t think that reading the one book that the book club does will affect my book-reading challenge too much.

Therefore, I am making Amendment # 1:

I may deviate from my own collection to read my book club’s book of the month.

Hopefully those of you who are planning on holding me accountable will be merciful about my amendment.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Few New Projects

A few days ago I looked down at my hands and said, “How did that happen? When am I going to have time to cut my fingernails?!”

That about summed up how busy I have been for the last three weeks. As most of you reading this know, I work part-time as a children’s librarian and part-time as a children’s program director at a church. Sunday school started today.

On Friday my husband and I were driving up to the Twin Cities for a friend’s wedding. I was calling everyone I could think of in our church congregation, stopping about every three phone calls to cry with frustration over all the “No thank you. Teaching Sunday school is not my gift” answers I was receiving.

Recruiting Sunday school teachers is a whole other blog, though.

Now I am savoring some free time on Sunday afternoon and because my personality is beginning come down from ‘frenzied’ to ‘normal,’ I can share some projects with you all that I anticipate starting soon.

First, my husband and I have begun this morning to use a more natural form of hair care: baking soda and apple cider vinegar. I got the idea from Tsh Oxenreider, and her blog on this same form of hair care can be found here.

Because Tsh goes into such detail on her hair cleansing method and makes it so clear and understandable, I won’t repeat everything she has to say. If you want to try it at home, check out her site.

Here’s the scoop on the baking soda and apple cider vinegar hair cleansing method that we’re starting out with:

Baking Soda Hair Cleanser

1 c. water
1 T. baking soda

Mix the ingredients together in a water bottle. We are using the kind of bottle with a squirt top (like the top on a bottle of dish soap). About three times a week, squirt this mixture all over your scalp and rub gently to lather. You only need to rub this mixture around on your scalp, not on the rest of your hair. Rinse hair. Follow with hair clarifier.

Apple Cider Vinegar Hair Clarifier

1 c. water
1 T. apple cider vinegar

Mix the ingredients together in another squirt-top water bottle. After washing your hair with the baking soda mixture, squirt apple cider vinegar mixture onto hair length (this time not onto your scalp). Let the mixture sit in your hair for a few seconds and then rinse. Your hair will not smell like vinegar when it dries.

My husband and I are not perfect, and we do not claim that this form of hair care is the only way to be friendly to your body and friendly to the environment, but we do believe that these are some good reasons for trying this. Here are our reasons broken down:

1) This form of hair care is more cost effective than purchasing bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Most of what you put in your hair this way is water.

2) Using this form of hair care we will be putting fewer strange chemicals on our skin and into the environment via the water system.

3) This form of hair care is not harsh on a person’s hair like the strong detergents in most shampoos.

4) We will not be using as many bottles. Even though in most places plastic bottles are recyclable, energy is still required to process an old bottle at a recycling facility. This form of hair care does not require that energy usage.

So, we started this regimen this morning, and I’ll update you in a few weeks to let you know how our hair is fairing under this treatment.

Another project that I’m undertaking currently involves my books.

I love books, and my husband and I own quite a few. A book is one of the best gifts a person could give me, and yet I struggle to read the books that people actually do give me.

The reason, you may ask?

I am a compulsive library patron.

I am almost never without library books in the house.

When I work at the circulation desk, I don’t generally intend to check books out; it happens almost outside of my control, I’m sure of it.

There I am, busily helping library patrons behind the desk. In a moment of quiet between helping patrons, I lean over the drop box, scoop up an armful of books, and begin checking them in.

Suddenly, my hand stops. I’m staring at the title of the book in my hand. I quickly flip the book over, check the back, read the inside flap.

All thoughts of, “You have enough to read at home. You’ve already got eight library books checked out, and you haven’t even touched the book mom and dad gave you for Christmas last year,” weaken and die, only to be replaced with thoughts of, “I could read the books I own anytime.”

Before I even realize what’s happening, my hands have moved of their own accord to pull my name up on the computer, scan the barcode on the book, and press the “Check out” button.

It’s really amazing how I end up with library books at home.

In January I decided that I was being ridiculous and as a New Year’s resolution, I would catch up on the books I own and read them. All of them. I returned all of my library books to their true home and settled down to read my own books.

Three days later I had one library book out.

A week later I had eight.

Now, 9 months later I’m ready to tackle the project again, hoping that the accountability of telling you all about my project will encourage me to stick to it.

I have provided below pictures of the bookshelves with all of the books my husband and I own. All of the books I have already read have been blacked out. The books you can see are the books I still need to read.

This is the fiction bookshelf. I’m doing pretty good here.

These two are the science, sociology, marriage, and general reference shelves. (The bookcase is at the foot of our bed, so I couldn’t get it all in one picture.) These don’t look too bad.

This is our Christian and spiritual living bookcase. I have a lot of work to do here. Because even though my walk with Christ is incredibly important to me, I just do not read these books as quickly. And I do not discipline myself to read these thought-provoking books like I think I should.

This is the stack I borrowed from my dad. I should really read these and return them.

These are books I got when the church library weeded through its collection, as well as a few books my brother loaned me.

These are the new books I got from Borders in it’s second-to-last day of operation. This was the most fun book shopping experience I have had in a looooong time. All-around ninety percent off is always acceptable in my book.

So, the rules of my book-reading challenge for myself are simple:

1) I may not check out any library books or read any library books while completing this challenge. *

2) I will update this blog with my progress every two months.

*Exceptions will be made if a friend or family member wishes to loan me a book. I may accept the book and read it.

That’s really it. I don’t want to make it complicated. I just want to read the books that I own.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Second Hand Bookstore: Antidote

Occasionally, especially over the summer, the task lists I have at the two jobs I divide my time between take on a life of their own, seeming to yank on my arms and whine in my ears like overly tired, badly behaved children. When the inevitable fatigue follows, I begin to imagine myself tucked away in a small nook with a blanket, a mug of high-quality loose leaf tea, and a book, or I see myself browsing among the dusty cat-offs of a second-hand bookstore.

My favorite second-hand book store is located in the downtown strip of an old river town near my parents’ house. Nestled snuggly between other specialty shops, one might easily miss this bookstore.  A faded sign is the only faint whisper of advertisement that the store makes. Nothing lighted at night, no gaudy posters screaming “30% Off!”

A bell above the door tinkles when I walk in. A silent unmanned register is at my left, and the shelves of books and stacks of books crowd in on me from all sides. The books are crammed into narrow aisles, which are labeled discretely: Fiction. History. Science Fiction. Poetry. Classics.  I’ve never shared the store with more than one or two other customers at a time, which is fortunate, as there is barely room enough for one person between rows of books, let alone two.

As I make my way to the back of the store, where the light from the window and the more modern fluorescent lights doesn’t reach, I must take responsibility for lighting my search. I reach up to the pull string connected to a bare bulb above my head in each aisle, and I am responsible for extinguishing the light when I am ready to move on.

I am always on the lookout for Hamlet, the portly long-haired tabby cat that haunts the store. As with most cats, Hamlet may or may not make time for me in his meanderings, so I’m delighted when he stops to arch is back against my calf and snakes himself around my ankles.

As I continue my search, floorboards squeak and slope comfortably, evidence of a building old enough to have relaxed and grown comfortable with itself.

The store owners themselves—a man and a woman—are an attraction to the bookstore. The man, thin and balding is friendly but moves silently around the store. He speaks in a whisper when he rings up my purchases, and he remembers me from the last time I visited, even what I purchased. The woman is heavy-set, platinum blonde hair wisping around her face. More boisterous, her words and movements in the shop clash alarmingly with the hushed atmosphere I come expecting.

They’ve put up signs on each aisle in the back of the store, just plain white computer paper signs that have printed on them, “We appreciate your business. All shoplifters will be cursed. Thanks.” Based on the little bit I’ve gotten to know this odd couple, I can’t decide if these signs are a stab at dry humor or if they’re in earnest. Either way, I’ve never had the courage to ask.

My husband and I don’t live by my parents now, and visits home are so crammed with catching up, hiking, and eating, that I haven’t been back to the bookstore in a while. But busy times like these bring it back to my mind’s eye.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Movie Choices and the Fading Honeymoon Effect

After two years of marriage, my husband and I are slowly exiting the honeymoon stage. In our courtship, I could pick out any movie to watch of an evening and my husband wouldn't bat an eye. He's gradually becoming more particular, however. I've noticed the change happening for some time, but it was not until I brought home the movie Sabrina that I fully registered what is to come.

Because I didn't just bring home the 1954 version of Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn, but I also brought home the 1995 version of Sabrina with Harrison Ford. I thought it would be fun to watch them back to back and compare the two. I just couldn't imagine Audrey Hepburn and Harrison Ford in a movie together, so I assumed the two versions of the movie would be pretty different.

But when I presented the two copies of Sabrina for my husband's inspection, his face didn't register even the smallest hint of excitement. Throughout our courtship and first years of marriage, I could tell when my husband was genuinely pleased with one of my movie choices and when he was trying to feign some excitement for my sake. His counterfeit interest, however unconvincing, softened the realization that he didn’t want to watch something I had picked out. I was not prepared for a full disclosure of his feelings toward this movie choice, as they played across his face, without the gentling attempt at enthusiasm.

No, he did not want to watch Sabrina. Especially not the version with Audrey Hepburn.

Apparently we have not completely left the honeymoon stage behind us, though, because he did eventually watch Sabrina with me. The one with Harrison Ford.  The Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn went back to the library unwatched. I think he was mostly just curious to see how the rogue pilot and adventurous archeologist would fare in a fully-fledged supremely sappy romance.

Selfishly, I do not feel ready to leave the honeymoon stage of our marriage. Selfishly, I enjoy the fact that my husband will watch movies that I enjoy when we have an evening to ourselves.

But maybe leaving those sentimental selfless days behind us are a good development.

Maybe we’ll watch fewer movies.