Tuesday, April 30, 2013

burnt toast

I burnt the toast Saturday morning., and it made me smile.

Some the oddest memories link us to people we love, and burnt toast is one of those for me. According to my Great Grandma Hoffman, you make toast by burning it and then scraping off the black parts.

This weekend falls right in the middle of finals for me, exams wrapping up my first year of grad school. I'm sure there will be lots of current things for me to write about when our grades are posted for the semester, but for now my burnt toast has triggered a trip down memory lane...so here are a few of the ones that make me smile!

~I can remember a time in elementary school when I was walking home with Pop. One of us had a candy bar, though I can't remember whose it was, and offered the last bite to the other. We ended up passing a tiny bit of chocolate back and forth, each of us biting off a tiny bit so as not to take the last bite. I'm pretty sure it got down to about a 1mm in diameter dot of chocolate!

~Michael and I were always under foot when Mom was working in the kitchen, usually trading punches (he told me it was his job to toughen me up). When I say under foot, i really mean it--our kitchen in Bonner was basically a hallway with kitchen appliances built in, so the two of us rough housing definitely didn't make cooking an easy task for her. She would tell one of us to let Sarah know when supper was ready, so whoever she asked would then yell at Sarah to come down for supper. The kitchen was downstairs, at the back of the house. Sarah's bedroom was upstairs at the front. Needless to say, yelling would not be what Mom had in mind. She would usually then tell the other one of us to get Sarah, then proceed to swat each of us with whatever cooking utensil she had in her hand after we both yelled for Sarah to come down for supper.

~By best friend from about 7th grade on was Erin. We were incredibly competitive, with everything from academics to sports. One summer I had spent the night at her house and we were battling for the title of the most front flips done in the pool without coming up for air. We even roped her mom, Liz, into counting for us while we spun in circles in about 2 feet of water.

~My family went camping (actually in a tent, none of that camper stuff for us!) in Colorado for a week the summer I turned 14. It seemed like it rained every night, but it would be pretty each day. Our tent didn't leak--unless something was touching it. With 5 of us in the tent, our pillows and the foot of each sleeping bag was usually touching the wall of the tent. That meant each morning when we woke up, our blankets and pillows would all be soaked. We would spread everything out on the giant rocks around our campsite to dry while we went to do whatever hiking or climbing we had in mind for the day, then tuck everything back into the tent for another wet night. One evening it was pouring so we couldn't cook out on the grill, so our dinner was an odd assortment of fruits and veggies that we could eat raw. For some reason, everything that happened that night--from the strange tasting fruits we had never tasted to the water dripping on our heads--was hilarious to my mom. I can still hear her laughing hysterically while we all teased that she had finally lost it.

~Pop and Mom were in the milk barn and I was out in the tank room. I heard a thud, Pop grunt, and Mom yelling all at once, and went running to see what was going on. My mom yelled at me not to come in, which needless to say freaked me out even more than I already was. i had no idea what had happened--so also needless to say if you know me, I didn't stay out of the room for long. When I went in Pop was bending over cradling his face in his hands, Mom was shaking and telling me to stay back while trying to check on Pop at the same time, and one of the cows had her leg stuck over the bar that kept the cows out of the center pit of the barn. When I finally got the story of what happened out of them, the cow had managed to kick Pop at least twice in the face. He was fine, though his face was incredibly swollen for a while...and he didn't much appreciate us telling him he had a striking resemblance to a Klingon. (I guess I should add that it definitely isn't Pop getting kicked that makes me smile...but the Klingon part does--sorry Pop!)

Monday, April 29, 2013

what's wrong with this picture?

I've been working on a "memories" post, but that's gonna have to wait a while. Instead, I have to rant a little...

It started this morning when I opened the coat closet to get Raiden's pink crocheted capelet for her to wear to school. It was in the mid 50's here this morning, so she didn't really need a coat and she loves wearing the capelets I've made her, so it was a no-brainer.

I thought so, anyways, until Raiden told me that her teacher said she can't wear those to school anymore.

If her teacher had a valid reason, I would understand, but there isn't one. She didn't say it goes against the school dress code or anything like that--her reason was that it is too hard for Raiden to play in on the playground. I asked if that was true, and Raiden said no. She tried telling her teacher that, saying, "Thank you for being worried, but it isn't hard to play in." Her teacher also told her it was too hard for Raiden to put her backpack on while wearing it, to which Raiden again said it wasn't. I mean, come on--it's a circle sweater with a neck hole in the middle; how can that be hard to put on with a backpack? Apparently that doesn't matter, though, because her teacher told her not to wear it again.

Raiden wore a cross necklace to school last week, and it came home in her backpack because her teacher told her she couldn't wear jewelry to school (something that isn't in the dress code).

So, that already had me aggravated, but then I picked up Raiden's backpack. We had forgotten to take all the papers out of Friday, so I did that really quickly and flipped through everything to make sure there wasn't anything Raiden needed to take back to school today.

That's when I came across this:


Okay, so I could understand if Raiden were trying to do her assignments in cursive (this is ignoring the fact that she simply linked her letters to make her name look pretty. I'm also ignoring the glaring "cursive in not allowed..."). But her name? She can't write that how she wants to?

What I don't understand is why this is what her teacher chooses to correct. See, Raiden writes every number from 3 to 7 backwards. I've asked her teacher about it before, and the answer I got was, "All kids do that at this age."

I'm sorry, but that's not true. 

Yes, all kids occasionally reverse letters/numbers when they are learning to write. The thing is, Raiden could write all her letters and numbers before she started pre-school, so her reversing them now, 2 years later, is not a normal thing. Why not focus on correcting that, something that is actually wrong, instead of correcting how she writes her name, something she's doing to express herself in a classroom and school where everyone is pushed to be just the same as everyone else?

I guess that's where this post is headed--I'm bothered beyond anything I can express by the fact that our schools are trying to fit all of our kids into the same mold.

Kids are different, which is an amazing thing. With those differences come different talents, abilities, and skill sets. Yet for some reason, our school system in the U.S. is trying to create an environment in which all kids are to strive for the same goals and accomplish the same things.

I'm sorry, and I'm sure I'll step on some toes, but that just isn't possible.

When I taught school last year, my 8th graders were the perfect example of this. Science is an "inclusion subject," because apparently education specialists feel like all students can take the same science class regardless of ability. I had the entire 8th grade class together in my classroom at one time, so I had a huge range of abilities, everything from a student who could barely write his name to a girl who kept me on my toes because of her skills in and love for science.

Yet, these students were all supposed to be taught the same material and "master" it all in the same way. If you are friends with any teachers on facebook, you've probably seen this cartoon:
Just like it is idiotic to expect all those animals to climb a tree, it is beyond belief that we expect all our kids to have the same skills, abilities, and interests so they can be spit out of the cookie cutter machine (this is especially true of the "Common Core" curriculum that is coming to schools across the nation, but I'm not going to open that can of worms right now).

I fully believe that every child should be given the chance to learn, but I don't agree with the idea that they should all be expected to do that in the same way, with no chance for self-expression. School should be a place for kids to figure out who they are, what they're interested in, and what they can excel in, not a place where they are told they should strive to be just like everyone else, that success is only good if you don't outshine someone else in the process.

They wear uniforms so no one will be made fun of for how they dress, but they miss out on self-expression and learning that it's okay to be different, and that sometimes you need to stand up for the kid who doesn't have the same clothes as everybody else.

The bar is lowered so everyone can reach it, so the kids who have the ability to soar above that bar are taught to settle, to underachieve, so that no one feels bad.

Teachers are told not to fail students (because no kid is a failure at anything), so kids learn that you don't have to work hard--things are just handed to you, so what's the point?

Kids are taught not to excel simply by the fact that excellence is neither required nor encouraged.

That's not what I want my children to learn.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. 
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. 
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. 
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? 
Actually, who are you not to be? 
You are a child of God. 
Your playing small does not serve the world. 
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. 
We are all meant to shine, as children do. 
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. 
It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. 
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. 
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." ~Marianne Williamson

This is what I want my children to learn.

****This is most definitely NOT an attack on teachers. There are some amazing teachers in schools all over the country, and some of my favorite people are teachers--and most of them are just as appalled by the state of our educational system as I am.

End of rant!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

not knowing

Have you ever wanted something so bad you could taste it?

I've felt that way a few times in my life, probably few enough that I could count those wants on one hand.

I want to write, and I've known that for a while. It wasn't something I grew up wanting--I always wrote, whether it was a journal or a story, but writing wasn't something I thought I would want to do.

Partly because writing isn't the steady, dependable, respectable job I figured I would have. It is flighty...artsy...basically everything my analytical mind told me was a bad choice for a career. Here I am, though, getting ever closer to what is definitely a good career choice, and more and more I find myself wanting to write.

I write during my lunch break, tucking myself away in a corner with a good cup of coffee, a pen, and my notebook (yes, the paper kind. For some reason I'm still not a computer person for the most part), and I forget about the real world and lose myself in a dream world of good versus evil in the clearest sense.

Despite that, I hadn't really realized just how much that dream means to me.

Until today, when I got yet another form rejection letter.

This one came from DAW Books, and it was the first answer I got from someone who actually had the chance to read my story and not just a query letter. That made it different from the email ones I've gotten, though I'm not sure why.

I'll be honest--it hurt. Their words were kind, assuring me that they had turned down manuscripts from people who went on to be published by other houses and that some of their top authors had been rejected by other publishers before landing a contract with DAW.

But really, that didn't ease the blow for me. And in that moment I realized just how much I want this...so much more than I can put into words. I'm trying to put it into words here because I'm nothing if not a words person, yet I can't for the life of me find the words for this. There's an ache deep down, somewhere between my heart and my gut, something I can't ignore, but I can't wrap my brain around it tho come up with anything even half way intelligible.

Yet I've heard so many times that sometimes God closes a door, and I'm wondering if that's what this is--a closed door. I've begged and cried and pleaded with God to show me if I'm wasting my time, to let me know if this is something I'm just supposed to let go and move on from. To tell you the truth, I have no idea.

Right now the hurt is fresh and the wound is raw.

...so I default to writing, because I don't know what else to do.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

she gets that from me

Raiden's school had a 2-hour delay this morning (something I really don't get--wouldn't it make more sense to send a bunch of rowdy kids home 2 hours early instead of having them come to school 2 hours late?) and surprisingly we got around early today. So after we dropped Conan off at daycare, we had a few minutes before I could drop Raiden off at school at 10:45. I thought it would be nice to take Raiden through the Dunkin Donuts drive-thru to get her a doughnut. Because nothing beats a fresh doughnut before school.

She thought it was a great suggestion. Whe had black uniform pants and a crochet capelet with a black background, so she didn't want anything messy. No problem--a plain glazed doughnut would be the perfect choice, right?

Wrong, apparently.

She immediately started complaining that that wasn't the kind of doughnut she wanted, which led to me pulling out of the drive-thru line (actually backing out, much to the surprise of the man in the vehicle behind me who looked at me as if I were crazy), which led to her pouting and heaving this huge, dramatic sigh that makes me nuts, which in turn led to her earning a lecture on the way to school about how she should be thankful that someone is doing something nice for her instead of griping that it wasn't exactly what she wanted, and how she chooses how she reacts to things.

And in the middle of my lecture, I heard myself: my voice too sharp and too loud for the car, overreacting to her reaction and getting on to her for responding in the wrong way by doing the exact same thing.

I wish I could say it was a one-time thing, but to be honest as she gets older
 and more opinionated 
and determined 
and hard-headed 
and confident 
and stubborn 
and like her mother
I find that happening more and more othen.

Yes, I was right to correct her, but I was wrong in how I did it.

I get on to her for using a specific tone of voice with her brother, then later hear the same ugly tone coming from my mouth. I snap at her for snapping out in anger or frustration at somebody else. I hear something come out of her mouth and cringe because I know she heard it from me.

My daughter is learning so much from me, but unfortunately she learns the bad stuff right along with the good. So when we get home this evening, I'm going to apologize for doing the very thing I was getting on to her about. I'm going to do my best to explain that we have to work our whole life to get rid of the bad parts of our attitude that we don't like, and ask her forgiveness for my hypocrisy (and I'll probably even use that word, because a love of words is one of the good things she has inherited from her mother).
5 years ago...*sigh*


And I'll say a prayer that she learns something good from me today to follow up the bad lesson from this morning.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

meant for more

Yesterday was one of those days.

You know, one that had me questioning what I'm doing trying to survive in this insanely rational and analytical world of physics...
a world so different from any I would have ever pictured myself in...
a world light-years away from where I thought I would be...
and most of all, a world not really conducive to this dream of writing that still tugs at my heart on a daily basis.

It started when I sat down to write out my Quantum homework problems--and didn't get any further than copying them out of the book because then I just stared at them with no idea how to get started.

It went on with Electrodynamics and talk of dielectrics and electric fields, and how when you are trying to find the electric field you need epsilon to be the same in both regions, but the permittivity of a dielectric is definitely not the same as the permittivity of empty space but that's okay because we can simply "imagine" the substitution of a new dielectric material with the same epsilon and stick it in place of the old material and place an image charge that isn't really there across from the point charge in the region in which we are interested and do all the calculations as if this imaginary charge is really there...and if you're lost right now, you know how I felt!

The one saving grace on the physics side of things was that for once I actually understood what Dr. Gao was talking about in Quantum when he went over the periodic table and electronic configuration of elements and how to figure out how many states correspond to their ground state energy level...yes, sometimes I do realize that I'm a nerd.

I was going to get away from everything for a while and write, but when I tried to get a hold of Nathan to let him know so he wouldn't worry when I didn't come home he didn't have his phone, so needless to say that by the time I walked in the door at home and Conan spotted me, mommy wasn't going to get to leave.

By that time, I was overwhelmed with everything and just couldn't really do anything about any of it.

Nathan was amazing and did everything in his power to make the night easy for me. He took care of the kids and then watched Castle and The Voice with me and rubbed my feet and made me a cup of coffee and just basically let me have a weepy girl kind of night.

But sometimes you get lost so deep in your own head that it doesn't really matter what anybody else does to get you out of the funk--you're just stuck.

I fell asleep on the couch around 11, but didn't actually go to bed until about 12:30 because Nathan was watching DS9 (Star Trek: Deep Space 9 for all you non-Trekkies out there) and I had told him I would stay up with him...even though by "stay up" I obviously meant "stay in the same room but sleep."

Before I fell asleep, the last thing I remember thinking was a prayer: "God, I need some time in the morning to focus on You before I get caught up in the craziness of the day. Please help me wake up early in the morning." Well, to be honest it was probably more like, "God, today-bad, tomorrow-need better. Wake me up," but I didn't think that sounded very eloquent so I decided not to tell that part.

Well, apparently God listened even to my unintelligible prayer. I woke up first at 5, then again at 5:15 and at 5:30 and again just before 6. See, God even gave me a snooze button pattern! I got up and read the short devotional from church and rode the exercise bike for a little while and then got in the shower. That's where a lot of my blog posts are started, and this one was no different.

I started writing it in my head, thinking about all the posts I've read about "God-sized dreams" and how yesterday felt as far from the dream as it could be. I was figuring out how I would say that sometimes you feel like you're stuck in a life-season you weren't meant for, that it's hard to look ahead to the time when you'll be in the place you were meant to be. Sometimes you look around and think, "I was meant for so much more than this."

And then a thought hit me (I've told you before that apparently I'm a 2x4 kind of girl when it comes to life lessons). Where I am right now and what I think I am or am not meant for isn't what matters. What matters is the One I am meant for, the One who is more than I could ever imagine or want or need, the One who will use me wherever I am for what I was truly meant for if I just get out of His way. No matter what I may think my "God-sized dream" is, it will be meaningless if I chase after it for the wrong reasons, for me instead of for Him.

So today, I'm going to try to get out of the way. I'm going to try to start focusing on Him and His plan instead of reminding Him all the time about what I think His plan should be. Yes, I'll still chase dreams, but I'm going to try to remember that He is the reason for those dreams instead of getting caught up in what I want out of them.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

an Easter message (a bit delayed...)

I mentioned in my last post that I had an Easter post all written out and ready to post...but then got a bit sidetracked by an email I read. Well, since then that Easter post has gotten changed a bit. I wonder how long it's going to take for me to start remembering that God's timing is way better than my own? So, this isn't really the post I meant to write, but maybe it is the one I was meant to write...

"What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" asked the governor.
They all answered, "Crucify Him!"
"Why? What crime has He committed?" asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify Him!"
(Matthew 27: 22 & 23)

When Jesus was brought before Pilate, the governor had a decision to make--what would he do with Christ?

Pilate had listened to the chief priests and elders question Jesus. He watched as accusations were hurled at this man, a man who "had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him" (Isaiah 53:2), a man who simply stood and said nothing in response to their accusations. Mathew tells us that Pilate was amazed, and I can see why. This man was being accused of crimes punishable by death, yet He wasn't pleading His case.

As the governor of Judea, Pilate had a decision to make. In John we are told that Pilate tried at least three times to tell the Jews that Jesus was innocent. It seems he was trying to do the right thing with Jesus

Then, something changed.

Pilate, as the governor of Judea, was charged with keeping the peace between the Roman government he was part of and the Jews he was governing. Faced with a crowd demanding Jesus be crucified, Pilate gave in.

He tried to act like it wasn't his choice. He told the Jews that they could do what they wanted with this man called Christ, but he was going to wash his hands of the whole matter. The Jewish leaders could kill a man Pilate knew was innocent, but Pilate said he wouldn't be responsible for it.

Pilate was faced with a choice, and he chose to do nothing.

Each one of us faces that same question: "What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?"

This is where this post gets a little harder for me to write.

The other day I was grading papers with the professor I grade for and another grad student. The conversation somehow turned to one student, a young man who signs his emails with a different Bible verse each week and who passed out cards with messages of God's love to all his professors and classmates as Valentines. They were talking about how strange they thought it was that he would do something like that, talking about how they wondered if he realized others who didn't share his faith might find his forwardness offensive.

I should have spoken up. I should have stood up for a young man brave enough to stand up and speak out, a young man so desperate for others to know the God he serves that he is willing to face the ridicule of those same people he is trying to reach. I should have told them that I thought it was amazing this young man could walk into a college physics department and not be afraid of how they might react to his message of love.

Instead, I sat silently.

"What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?"

In that moment, I made the same choice as Pilate. I chose to wash my hands of the matter, pretending that not standing up wasn't the same as condoning their criticism.

You see, choosing to do nothing, to say nothing, is choosing to go along with the crowd demanding Jesus be crucified.

I know I'll be faced with this question many more times throughout my life, just like everyone else will be. It isn't a one time decision we make; it is a daily question we need to ask ourselves, a choice we get to make over and over again. This time I made the wrong choice, but lucky for me my God is the God of second...and third...and 1,593,827th chances.

And He forgives me when i fail and He gives me the gentle prompting to answer that question again, daily, with no regard for how I answered it in the past:
"What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?"

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

sink or swim...or something else

I had a rather delayed yet I thought pretty decent Easter post planned out for today. I had written it out before hand and everything, even spending a couple of days working on it.

Then, I checked my emails and came across one from this guy that I actually got a few days ago but hadn't opened up until today while I was putting off school work...but I digress. There was a line towards the end of his email that stuck out for me:

"The really hard part isn't stepping off the boat; it's learning how to swim."

When I started this blog last year, it was based on the word faithful and the story of Peter stepping out of the boat on faith, doing it just because Jesus told him, "Come." At the time, I was fully convinced that taking that first step out of the boat was the hard part. 

After all, when you're standing in the boat 
looking out at the waves 
and you know that if you just stay there, 
safe
you won't be in the middle of the storm in quite so dramatic a way--
that's the hard part, right?

So, last year I sucked up what little courage I had and listened to Jesus say, "Come."

I stepped out of the boat, leaving the comfort and safety of the known behind...

And that's when things got harder.

See, when you're on the boat you can see when the waves are going to crash down. You are above the trials and struggles, so there's a little bit of warning before they hit and sometimes you even have time to prepare.

When you're out of the boat, though, you're down in the water and you can't see the waves coming until they are towering over you, ready to crash down. You are suddenly thrust into the midst of things you never imagined and you find yourself struggling to learn how to swim.

The thing is, though, Peter didn't need to swim through the wind and the waves.
He stepped out of the boat--and started sinking.
The important thing, though, is how he reacted to the sinking.
Instead of struggling to swim, watching the waves crash down over him, Peter called out to Jesus.

"Lord, save me!" (Matthew 14:30)

And you know what the amazing thing is?

"Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him." (vs. 31a)