Saturday, December 6, 2008

Ah, Twizzlers.

Has anyone else ever eaten an entire bag of Twizzlers in one day? Or drank a can of Dr. Pepper (or R.C. Cola - nod to Neely) through a red licorice straw to stay awake when studying? Well, I have, and at last I have a little bit of backup. Psychology Today recommends Twizzlers as a stress-reducing snack! Yippee! Hand me a bag of red, chewy strips of yumminess!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Shadow of a mighty rock

Today I got out of work early, around 3 pm. It was a beautiful day - a high of 60 degrees, and I felt like a little exploring. I wasn't exactly sure where I would end up but I just started driving through Winter Park toward downtown. Near Rollins College I stumbled upon the Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens, a place I had never been and never heard of. Perfect. One U-turn and I was there. They were closing up the indoor museum but said the grounds were free and didn't close at any certain time. The light was just perfect and I happened to have my little digital camera with me.

Have you ever had a "place" that you returned to again and again at certain times in your life? A little spot outdoors where it is peaceful and inspiring, and all your own? Well, maybe I have found a new one.

I have been feeling quite distant from God, not really able to pray, not motivated to even go to church. My dad is quite sick with stage 4 cancer, and I feel that I am watching him die before my very eyes. I find myself angry, bitter, sad, and confused much of the time.

Today I found a stone table to sit at near the lake. In view was a strange orange sculpture which I didn't like at first. But then I remembered that I have a thing for the color orange (ask me why sometime if you are curious) and noticed that the figure was dancing. It seemed hopeful to me, and as I sat down I felt like reading my Bible. Having been inspired by a sculpture of "The Risen Christ," in which there is basically a pile of rocks to symbolize the empty tomb, I read the story of the resurrection. Tears welled up in my eyes as I recalled the power that Jesus exerted over death, and remembered that one day all of this pain will be over. I then turned to the end of John 11, after Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. Jesus asks Mary if she believes He is who He says He is, and if he keeps his promises. She answers yes. I prayed a renewed prayer of belief. It didn't take my pain away, but it felt good to pray it.

Then I went and sat under a large sculpture of a crucifix. It was a powerful thing to sit on that bench, underneath the cross, and to accept forgiveness for my bitterness and pride at thinking I have any control over my life. More tears.

I hadn't planned on that time with the Lord. But it was real, and it was beautiful, and I feel more peaceful than I have in a long time. Last night was a sleepless night. Maybe tonight will be different.

I am reminded of the words to a favorite song I haven't heard in awhile:

Beneath the cross of Jesus, I fain would take my stand
A shadow of a mighty rock, within a weary land
A hope within the wilderness, a rest along the way
From the burning of the noontide heat and the burden of the day

Friday, October 24, 2008

From Wilderness to Wildcat

Just last week (which seems like a long time ago) I was leaving a parking lot after an exhausting day of interviews. I began to think that job searching was a lot like finding a parking spot in Boston. Sometimes you drive around and around, looking for an opening, and...nothing. Or sometimes you think you have a spot, and someone happens to reach it seconds before you do and snags it. Other times you find one and it is so far from your destination you feel like you would have done better to park at home and walk. (And I won't even mention the parking tickets). I had been feeling like the job I wanted was just out of reach, worried that someone else better and faster would get the prize. I feared it would go on for an eternity, like the endless search for parking in Harvard Square on a Friday night.

Well, this week I have hit the jackpot. It seems that the perfect "spot" has opened for me, the one I wanted, the one I have been waiting for, and it has my name on it.

I am so excited to announce that I am going to be the School Counselor at Winter Park High School - Home of the Wildcats. (And yes, I just watched High School Musical for the first time the other night - how fitting)! If you check out the photos on the side of my blog, they are mostly from Winter Park...if I were to pick an area of Orlando to live and/or work, this would be it. In so many ways, this is not just a great job, but a great job for me. I am so thankful to the Lord for providing this for me, and humbled that I have been given such a great gift. I feel what Proverbs 13:19 says, "A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul..."

Go Wildcats!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I wear my sunglasses in the rain...

So in the past week or so the following has happened to me more than once: I am driving along, sunglasses on to temper the sun's rays coming through the windshield. All of a sudden, I need to turn on my windshield wipers. But then I take off my sunglasses, and it is still too bright. So I'm driving in the rain with my windshield wipers going and my sunglasses on at the same time. This happened again Tuesday afternoon so I ran out into the backyard to grab a shot. (Yes, it is really raining in this picture, and the little blurred spot is a raindrop).

Hmmm....anyone sense a metaphor coming? I guess it's kind of obvious, but I think it is true that we can at one and the same time feel joy and pain. I can recall many significant moments in my life when both have existed in equal intensity. At weddings I often feel the acute pain of an unfulfilled longing while simultaneously feeling exuberant joy and hope for my friend. And sometimes one trumps the other, and the pain can be forgotten for a time or the joy can be briefly lost. But in those moments when both are there, this is such a little picture of life. Aren't we all balancing between these two fundamental human experiences? Can they not coexist? Are they not common to us all? And could one exist without the other? No, then we would not be real. They are both real, joy and pain, and both a part of this created world, both experienced by Jesus when he walked the earth. We cannot be disconnected from pain, or we would not be human. As Dolly Parton famously says in the movie, Steel Magnolias, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion." I have to confess I'm getting more than enough rain in my life right now, but I can't dismiss the sun. It is here, it is shining, and my sunglasses are on.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

No, I repeat, No, I am not married!

OK, so I have a bone to pick. All ye who remember my very positive first blog entry, I am still determined to see that this grass is green over here, but it doesn't mean I can't get annoyed every once in awhile!

So I don't know if it is just being in the south again or if I am particularly prone to being asked this, but in the past couple of weeks I have had three or four people (including interviewers!) ask me, "So, are you married?" I mean, do you SEE a ring on my left finger? How hard is it, really, to sneak a glance? We single women do it all the doesn't take very long, just a quick ring check can answer the burning question. And why, dear stranger, of all facts, must you know this? It tells you less about me than the kind of sandwich I am eating. And then, what next? It's a definite conversation-stopper. Just try it. What else is there to say but, "No." That's it. "No, No, No," to you and you and you. It's the epitome of a closed question. There is nothing more to say (unless they do the unthinkable, and start giving you advice or well-wishes about finding someone, which thankfully has not happened to me in these cases, or else I would be tempted to say something I shouldn't). Geez, people. Ask me something interesting at least. Little did you know I grew up twisting the tails off of helpless little crawfish. See? Way more interesting than "Nope." Oh, and there's more. But you didn't ask. OK, end of ranting.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Don't Stop Believing

Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world
She took the midnight train going anywhere
Just a city boy, born and raised in south Detroit
He took the midnight train going anywhere

OK, now that you have it stuck in your head (you're welcome!) imagine two seventh grade boys singing this with great enthusiasm, vigor, and appropriate air guitar antics. (Must I even mention my incredulity at their knowledge that this song even existed?) One of them says, "I can play every air instrument there is." Ah, youth.

So yesterday I tried my hand at substitute teaching. I knew they would try to chew me up and spit me out, but I tried anyway. Actually, they were pretty good. I started out teaching Intro to Theatre Arts to nine of the 7th grade girls...they were actually pretty good in this one. Then I went into 2nd grade music, in which they played handbells. I guess it shouldn't be surprising that they couldn't keep their hands off of them and there were stray dinging sounds going on even while I was talking. But we got through "Twinkle Twinkle," "Where is Thumbkin?" and "Kum Ba Yah" without too much incident. In the first grade music class there was a birthday, Stephanie. I thought it would be a great idea to play Happy Birthday on the piano and we could all sing to her. The kids asked if they could dance. Sure, I said. The only words for what ensued I conjur up from Maurice was a "wild rumpus." There was not only dancing but crawling under tables, screaming, body slamming....oh no! So I shut that down mid-song and corralled them somehow. The class recovered and by the end we sang "The Barnyard Song" with them all gathered around the piano like a Norman Rockwell painting. We sang Stephanie a proper Happy Birthday and when the teacher came to get them they were attentively sitting in a circle on the floor finishing up "Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar." Whew! The teacher asked me how they were...I said "Active!" She said, "they had doughnuts this morning." A-ha.

The Kindergarteners were cute...I had a couple of rebellious ones who wanted to sit in the back of the room. In my counselor way I thought, "these kids may actually pay attention better sitting away from the other kids...if they listen it's not that big of a deal." But then one by one the other kids started backing up toward the back of the room. I realized my fatal mistake and told them they ALL had come back toward the front. Of course then they are piled up on top of each other and Marcus is not sitting criss cross applesauce so Owen can't see....!! At any rate, the songs were sung and the story was read and I sent them back to their teacher.

In seventh grade Environmental Studies the girls would WOULD NOT STOP TALKING! (I have a new appreciation for what my friend Will does every day....teaching 8th grade Language Arts). You should take the "Ecological Footprint" quiz on the earthday website... It tells you how many planet earths it would take if everyone in the world used the same amount of resources as you. Quite enlightening! But all in all they were fun, especially after class when we had the air band performance. I even had quite an intellectual conversation about gangs with the last two kids who were left at the end of the day.

It was a great day. I enjoyed hearing "Ms. Williams..." It reminding me of being at the Academy and felt like music to my ears. I won't "stop believing" that I can find a job where I can use my skills and feel good while doing it. Here's a link if you need a little Journey-style inspiration. I think this will be my official "power song" that I sing in my head when I go to interviews. Yeah.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Why didn't St. Patrick come to Florida?

So today I came back to my parents' house after church and as I rounded the corner of the sidewalk a large black snake was stretched across it, only about two feet from me! I screamed and it slithered into the brush (can snakes hear? I guess there isn't a reason why they wouldn't...) We never found him again. Dad poked around to find him but noone seemed really that ruffled. Add to that a few other bug sightings (actual bugs to remain nameless)...I'm livin' in the swamp, folks!

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Job Search

So, I thought I would write a little update about my job search. It has been going slowly, but there are some promising leads. I am waiting to hear back about whether or not I will be asked for a second interview at a private school, and I am really hoping for that phone call. I would love to work at a school is such a great mix for me of relationships, counseling, and being creative all within a very structured format at a place where I can invest. I'm crossing my fingers.

Today I interviewed at a different private Christian school for a substitute teaching position. They were so encouraging and were impressed with the "assortment" of things on my resume. It was nice to hear the words, "you have so many skills!" So after they basically said I could sub there once I get a background check, they started trying to figure out how they could get me a job...the school counselor gave me a ton of contacts and even walked me up to the third floor to talk to the youth ministry administrator about opportunities she might know about. Then, I met with the Composer In Residence/Organist at the adjacent church about piano teaching opportunities there. He seemed really interested, and was open to the idea of having me teach in their facilities for no charge, which is amazing. What is good about this church/school is that it is right downtown, and passionate about reaching the city.

I don't know if any of these things will work out, but at least I was encouraged. And barring any unknown criminal charges that come up on my background check, I will be on the sub list! One first for me in the interview was being asked how I felt about teaching P.E....let's just hope there aren't any team sports involved!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Finding History, Finding Place

In a city where you can pass seven strip malls in a one mile radius (yes, I counted!) it can feel disorienting. Having just moved back to Orlando, it didn't take me long to realize I'm not in Boston anymore. Where is the history? Where are the mom and pop businesses? It is one bleak, perfectly landscaped, concrete repetition of the same chain stores and restaurants over and over. Namely, where is the sense of place? At any given time I could be in any American city. It is not just an Orlando problem, it is an American problem.

So, I went out with my camera to see if I could find some small snatches of beauty and history. Even as I drove toward the older section of the city I began to see more independent businesses...Buffy's Car Wash, Brooklyn Pizza, Marilyn's Consignment. Ah, the glory of it all. And as I poked around Winter Park with my macro lens, I found so many examples of beauty, history, and originality...all is not lost I suppose. (And yes, I do realize the sign in the picture is not an Orlando sign but a Brooklyn one, but at least it's not a Papa John's!)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My lens

I love to take pictures. I always have, ever since I could smell the chemicals coming from the darkroom my dad had in our house growing up. He has been my only teacher, in whose class sessions I may or may not have listened to his explanations about aperture, focal point, and shutter speed. But I do know that a Single Lens Reflex camera is the most accurate way for the photographer to capture a moment. His experience of the image is reproduced almost exactly as he saw it when he clicked the shutter.

Taking pictures is one way we have of pausing life just long enough to take it in. It is like the silence when the symphony ends, before the applause. It is a breath. We take pictures of what we find important. Pictures are a collection of stories of our lives, and we have a singularly unique perspective. Our experience on the left hand side of that faded 4x6 is similar, yet totally different from the one of the person on the far right.

We all have a lens. A lens through which we experience life, see the world, dream the future. Our life experiences create our lens and make our view of the world unique. No person's lens is exactly the same.

My lens happens to be one that includes a single, as opposed to marital, state. And I have spent my share of time deliberating the "not marriedness" of my life. But I am neglecting to acknowledge the unique perspective I have on the world around that may not have occurred had I been wiping noses instead of playing Uno with inner city children.

So this blog is my attempt to write about what I am seeing of the world, from the perspective of a single woman. I hope it can remind me to enjoy the beauty of the little things, the tiny moments that make up our lives and cause them to be, well, just as green as the other side.