Halloween? No thanks.

It’s official:  I’m as boring as can be.

This is the first October 31st I haven’t celebrated my favorite October holiday!  Every year it’s the same thing:  I wait until October 29th or 30th and then rush to get my costume made.  For the last three years (I think), my sister and I have had a party.  I have some great memories at our Halloween parties!  Throughout the years, it’s been such a big deal; I always make a list so that I won’t ever be a repeater.  Here’s 20+ years in a few lines:

  • Kindergarten     Minnie Mouse
  • First Grade   Daisy Duck
  • Second Grade   Laura Ingles Wilder
  • Third Grade   An Indian girl
  • Fourth Grade   A Karate Kid
  • Fifth Grade  A Party meant no costume this year
  • Sixth Grade
  • Seventh Grade
  • Eighth Grade
  • Ninth Grade   A Hippie
  • Tenth Grade
  • Eleventh Grade
  • Twelveth Grade  A Pirate Princess
  • 19
  • 20  A Nerd
  • 21  A Ladybug
  • 22
  • 23
  • 24   A Bad Witch
  • 25   Max (Where the Wild Things Are)
  • 26   (How come I can’t remember what I was LAST YEAR???)
  • 27  Myself, and I am pretty scary these days.

Wow.  Did you see that? I guess I am older than I thought.  It seems that this is the first time I haven’t been able to remember all my costumes!!  This is a sad day for me.  I expect it to be a sad day for you too…  Highlight of my day: Playing with the kiddos who FINALLY know my name.  Cutest trick-or-treaters ever.

This is also the first year I’ve dreaded my other favorite holiday: Thanksgiving.   Last year’s Christmas was the best of my whole life too.  Is this what the next few months are going to be like?  Me making plans to hide away from everyone on the holidays??  I’m pulling all the stops to figure out how I will see the world as a diversion.  Lucky for me, I have friends in far away places.  Sadly, I don’t have the cha-ching to travel in style.

My Room

Yesterday I was telling my Mama’s counselor friend about my generation. We’re pretty weird it seems:
1. We have commitment issues. Few of us married young, and few are married even now.

2. Most of us went to school, but few have professional jobs.

3. Many are idealistic–choosing poverty over working for “the man.” Quiet a few serve in organizations like the Peace Corps. or AmeriCorps.

4. Many live with their parents.

That’s me. Last night was the first night I told someone about my generation and it actually applied to me as well! Ugh. Normally I can inform my audience with an air of superiority.

No more… because today I set up my room at my Mama’s house. I put my bed together. I washed my duvet. I even hung my framed photos on the wall–that’s something I didn’t do at my last two apartments. I picked the biggest room at Mama’s house–the only room that was without a bed. That allows me for a lot of closet space too. It’s sad when you have your choice because you’re the only one of six kids living at home.

So, here I am: 27 years old, jobless, and living at my parent’s house. I guess now is a good time to remember what Mamaw used to say: someone somewhere is always worse off then you are.

Time to buck up, Jania… Counting of blessings starts now!

Lessons From THE Teacher

When one door of happiness closes, another opens. But often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.

Helen Keller is credited with that quote, which seems oddly ironic (being that she can’t actually “look so long” at anything). Her teacher, Anne, is a bit of a hero for me. Not surprisingly, she was overlooked most often (although she attracted the praise of Alexander Graham Bell).

Today I found out that she had troubling views on the state of education. They were troubling because they were voiced a century ago…and our education system still has the same problems!! Anne Sullivan laments about the natural curiosity of a child being snuffed out as they are trained to perform for grades. She mentions the success that she had with Helen, a deaf and blind child, was due largely in part to her allowing Helen to explore her interests rather than adopting a strict schedule of reading instruction at this time, and arithmetic at that time. Our system could stand to learn a thing or two from stubborn women in their twenties…Ahem!

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about opportunity and how often it is just as confusing as the lack thereof. Currently there are too many options for what direction I can head with my life. I mean, those options become limited as I apply for jobs that are filled by others. Even when I consider travel I become confused. Where to go? Where to go?

I’m becoming interested in Puerto Rico after reading that Anne Sullivan spent several months there. She was interrupted by war, and said, “…alas, who remembers the battlefield of education?” Indeed! I feel like a recovering soldier in that sense: every once in a while, my PTSD rears its ugly head, and I want to curl up on the floor in the fetal position. I still get night sweats when I think of having my own classroom, but fortunately, I’m getting better! I hope to start volunteering soon. (I’m only prone to rocking and crying softly to myself when I think of the report cards and conferences my friends are preparing for as we speak).

So, anyway, Puerto Rico is appealing because of something Teacher said about it. She said they spent their days lying around in self-indulgence. Sigh. What I wouldn’t give for therapy in the form of a little umbrella and the sunshine?! I also had this amazing Puerto Rican student my first year teaching that spent her days telling me how beautiful I was. I mean, who wouldn’t recover after that?

Getting Back In the Saddle

20111026-163241.jpg

That’s what they say you should do when you get thrown, right? Well, here is my version at the moment: life with my nephew and niece (the Mexicans) in East Tennessee. I came down earlier today to be with Mamaw, and while that is a roller coaster ride of ups and downs–it still is good for me.

Fuva (my sister) brought the Mexicans by to play. They’ve grown so much in three weeks!! Orlando walks over and starts digging in the fridge, and what does he pull out?

20111026-163624.jpg

20111026-163653.jpg

20111026-163706.jpg
In case you’re asking yourself, “Is that butter?” I’ll go ahead and let you know you’re right: MY NEPHEW EATS BUTTER?!?!

Dee-dee on the other hand is more of my kind of girl. She prefers the finer chocolate.

20111026-164007.jpg

She has a mouth full of teeth now, and smiles the biggest smile–even when her brother grits his teeth and slings her around.

Mountain Mama Style Living

This weekend was the annual Seneca Rocks, WV camping trip. On the way there, it dawned on me that really I can live/work anywhere. I tried to tell Lisa and Nate that I could live there (“there” being wherever we were at the moment…) But they didn’t seem impressed with my fickleness. There were lots of adorable towns, with (I imagine) adorable little schools. The towns lost their luster when we headed back through in the daylight.

Turns out, West Virginia was a super cool place to be! No, no–not cool like all the “cool kids” were there. It was down right COLD. All weekend I had to bum the warmer necessities from my friends: hoodies, scarves, gloves, a coat. We spent the day hiking, eating, and sitting around a campfire. As always, there was an abundance of food–my favorite being my “famous” dip: Frank’s Hot Sauce, cream cheese, mozzarella, Ranch dressing, and canned chicken. Yes, I did say canned chicken. Who knew you could buy chicken with a tuna-complex?!

The mountain nights were another story: They were cold and sleepless. I slept poorly waking up to Nate squawking at me to zip my sleeping bag, to put on booties (sleeping bags for my feet), or to settle down. I have a bad habit of thrashing around in my sleep–much to the dismay of my tent family. Nate said, “We should put a gallon of milk in the bottom of the sleeping bag, and we’d wake up to fresh butter!”

Fall In My Mouth

I am making cupcakes for the camping trip this weekend. Needless to say, these are amazing! I decided to go with a fall cupcake rather than something totally normal. I’m just inspired by the leaves and crisp air today! I searched for a recipe that was appealing, but just ended up making my own in the end:

Carrot Pumpkin Cupcakes

4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 c oil
1 c brown sugar
3/4 c white sugar
3 cups flour
2 cups shredded carrot
1 cup coconut
3/4 cup chopped glazed walnuts
1 cup cranberry
1 can pumpkin

Whisk the eggs, vanilla, and oil together. Add sugars and continue to mix. Stir flour in. Mix until just incorporated. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Cook for about 35 minutes on 375–cakes a tad longer. (You know how to check and make sure they’re ready–right?)

I’m making a cream cheese icing to go on the tops. I use:

One stick butter
One 8oz Cream Cheese
About 2-4 cups Powdered sugar (depending on how sweet you like it!)
A tad of milk if Necessary (I didn’t use any).

So delicious! Not that nutritious… Remember that you can substitute applesauce for oil!

Old-Lady Style Living

20111018-225336.jpg

I did it! I folded a fitted sheet! I remember Mamaw trying to teach me. The secret is all in matching up the corners and tucking them inside each other.

What am I doing? Oh! Folding sheets!

20111018-225626.jpg

This is the other thing I learned to do: knit! Last night I watched videos on YouTube on how to knit. I tried to buy a book yesterday, but turns out that knitters think they can teach it based on diagrams. Not. True. Also not true that you can watch any video out there. Knitters are equally awful showing/explaining how to knit on video. This is the only lady that explains worthwhile:
http://www.knittingtipsbyjudy.com/

Look what you can do when you learn to live Old-Lady-Style?!

How To Avoid Questions You Don’t Want To Answer

Sunday was the day I dreaded this last week.  (It was also the day I looked most forward to.)  I knew that I was going to be put in the awkward position of having to answer questions for which I don’t really have an answer.  This is because I was around a lot of people who care a lot about me, and they have interest in my life.  Sure enough, right off the bat, someone says, “So, what are you doing now?”  Sigh.  There it was.  I hated that question in high school, and still hate it for the same reason:  I. Have. No. Idea.  Luckily, my reply, “I don’t really want to talk about it.  Am I allowed to say that?” was well-received.

A couple of years ago I took this training about how we think.  It was taught by Dr. Derek Cabrera, a teacher at Cornell.  I remember him making a comment about how Americans often ask, “So, what do you do?”  We let that identify us–and make us who we are, rather than really allowing people to know the REAL us.  Well, I don’t really do much (by American standards), so I have come up with a solution:

The next time someone says, “Hey, Jania!  What are you up to right now?”  I am going to reply as honestly as I can, without guilt“Oh, well, right now I am learning to knit.”  Or  “I am really interested in making artisan breads.”  Why should I feel like someone has punched me in the stomach when they ask me about my life?  I am LIVING!  That’s what I am doing!

Other possible replies I might use:

  • I’m learning how to talk to a two-year old.
  • I’m singing songs to my Mamaw.
  • I’m organizing my Mom’s house.
  • I’m getting rid of things that clutter my life.
  • I’m checking travel sites daily.
  • I’m considering my next move.
  • I’m forming lasting relationships.
  • I’m spending time getting healthy.
  • I’m learning to let go.
  • I’m waking up early.
  • I’m going to bed late.
  • I’m reading and praying a lot.
  • I’m planning the next few months.
  • I’m listening to music.
  • I’m slobbering on harmonicas.
  • I’m looking for contentment.
  • I’m blogging…

The Itsy-Bitsy Spider

Today I was talking to my sweet niece. I was talking. She didn’t say a word. In order to really entertain her, I sang out with my best little kid song that jumped into my head: The Itsy-Bitsy Spider

The itsy-bitsy spider went up the water spout.
Down came the rain, and washed the spider out.
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain,
And the itsy-bitsy spider went up the spout again.

This little spider was on a journey. She was heading up, because she knew that up was the way to go. Up was where she could see the world–and then she would know what to do with her little life.  She would be able to choose the best place for a home.  A place far away from the threat of her enemies.  She would be able to feed on healthy things there.  Things that didn’t just make her body healthy, but they would keep her mind healthy too.  And eventually, she would be able to send her own little spiders out into the wind to find their own way.

Unfortunately for this little spider, the rain came before she could ever make it to the top. Oh! Did that rain come down! She didn’t think it would ever stop, because after all, when it rains–it pours! Before she knew it, she couldn’t hold on any longer! Whoosh! There she went!  It was scary!  There was nothing to hold onto, and she was pushed further away from the one place that she wanted to be.  Everything she had worked for was gone.  She was right back at square one–AND it was raining.  How miserable.  Normally she loved the rain, but this time it was so hard.

Just when Itsy-bitsy thought that her luck had run out–the sun returned!  It spread its gorgeous light, and dried up every little bit of her worries in the process.  She could see it from the bottom of the spout, but it was just a tiny light.  As the light began to grow, she hatched a plan (She had to have a plan, after all…)  Soon, it was dry enough for her to begin her journey again.  And this time, she went up the spout–but she stayed on the OUTSIDE.  That way, if the rain returned, she would be safe enough from the downpour.

To be continued when the sun comes out, and this little tenacious spider makes it to the top…

Delicious Autumn!

20111012-134430.jpg

Autumn is here and beautiful as ever! (the season, not my friend–although she is beautiful too!). I love the crisp morning air, the colors of the leaves, and the promise of campfires! Mamaw loved the fall too. She used to comment on the beauty of the leaves, and would quote this:

“Come,” said the wind to the leaves one day. “Come over the meadow with me and play. Put on your garments of red and gold–Summer is gone and the days grow cold.”

Whirling and dancing the little leaves went. Winter had called them and they were content. Soon fast asleep in their earthen beds, Snow put a blanket over their heads.

I was just reminded this morning how beautiful dying can be! Even dying to self allows God to glory in us and through us. When there is death, work can be done—and what grows back is full of life. (Mamaw always loved spring too, and would talk about the Red Buds and Dogwoods like it was the first time she’d seen them! Really, I don’t know much she didn’t like. She said one time in testimony that this is God’s world: He made it and created it.)

On another note: I’m back on my feet! I’ve enjoyed walks through the leaves, and saw four deer yesterday! I’m so happy to be healthy and moving again. My ankle is responding nicely to what I asking of it, so I’m hoping for a bit of jogging today. The shoes have a little drying to do–seeing as how they spent the night in my truck bed. Little did I know it would rain…