Thursday, November 26, 2009

French I

Journal for Christa—
Taking French I with the ninth graders has been interesting…if not for them, at least for me. I think now that we’re three quarters of the way through the semester, they’ve decided that I really am going to stay. I think I decided that the day I covered my book. Research shows that the younger brain learns easier and faster than the—more elderly brain. I’m sure they’ve had their moments of thinking, “She’s so dumb; I can’t believe they let her teach here.” It makes me think of a time when I took a sign language class my senior year in high school.
The class was taught, I think, at the deaf and blind school. There was a lady in our church who had a passion to learn sign language so she could interpret the church services. I took it with her—just because, I guess. I had no passion. The class was designed for parents with deaf children who were learning sign language in school so they could converse with their children. Everyone there, to me, seemed old.
Sign language was easy. I didn’t study much, but was catching on faster than the others. I kind of wondered why it was hard for them. In my 17-year-old mind, I didn’t think much about parents working, keeping a house, and taking care of children. I was oblivious to the world. Our sign language class convinced the church lady that I was rather smart. Then I went off to college.
While in college, I forgot every sign I’d ever learned, save the alphabet. (I might actually even pull that off today.) Once on a visit home, I watched the lady (whose name I can’t remember) sign for the deaf at church. I was pretty impressed, especially considering learning it had been rather difficult for her. The thing I didn’t take into account was her passion.
Every once in a while, I surprise the ninth graders, but mostly they feel sorry for me. I don’t hear or speak French very well. But, what we see on the outside isn’t always the whole story. I understand every word I read, silently. I also study my French every night. I review right before I go to bed because I know that the brain puts information into long term memory faster if you review right before you go to sleep, and I need every edge I can get. I’ll also bring home a book this summer to review. I guess I have passion.
If we want to know what we love, it’s the things we spend time on. When we spend lots of time on the things we don’t love, it just makes us grumpy or burn out. Take a break and spend some time on your passion.
By wit and determination, I plan to close the gap between me and the nine graders this year. And, I hope when they look around on the first day of French II next year, they'll say, “Where’s Mimi?”

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Journal for Christa—
Just as most people I know, it always seems as though I need a little more time. What is it about time? I always want more. I think it’s a selfish desire, really—more time to work, more time to play, more time to get so little done.
I want more time when some people have so little, like the child from Joy’s old school who died in a senseless accident last week—only a kindergartener—with so little time.
Whether surging on at break-neck speed or passing a day in leisure, I always want just a little more time. And why? Why should I get more time?
Maybe time moves so fast to me because I’m old. Sometimes I think it moves so fast because I’m comfortable.
How long is a day for a child who’s hungry? How long for a man or woman in despair? How long for the lonely or those in pain?
Yet, how many nights do I go to bed and not even know where the day has gone? I live like a machine, and I fear that’s the true legacy I’m passing on to the people I influence.
Time—or the desire for more of it—is the idol. Some days it rules my soul. But, not today. Today I refuse to be a machine. Today, I’ll live.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Journal for Christa—

When I was young, I used to think about what it was to be gracious—a gracious woman. Perhaps it was because we lived in the South or because it came up as a topic in our women’s Sunday school classes. My vision of a gracious woman in those days was always someone older, always someone naturally nicer, and always someone calmer than me. I haven’t thought about graciousness in years. Maybe not many people have since I don’t recall anyone talking about it in ages. But, the thought resurfaced this week when Kim posted on facebook about the annoying notes people will leave in the tight living quarters they share in Germany.

Sometimes I like looking at magazines on “gracious living.” They always include scenes from wealthy, fancy houses decked with expensive furnishings, fresh floral arrangements, situated on acres of luscious gardens. That would be the life, but I don’t think that would make me gracious. And, knowing a little of history, the people who often occupied such places were anything but gracious, especially to the domestic help who kept it all looking so gracious to begin with.

I think to meet a gracious person today, woman or man, would be an anomaly. Indeed, we seem to admire the heavy handed, self asserting, making it to the top type woman today; and they are rarely gracious. We live in a rather self absorbed world. Now don’t get me wrong: I don’t think graciousness is door mat weak. I just think it’s different from how we naturally respond to people in situations. I think it would have a certain mystique about it, an eye raising appeal, a strength that people can’t quite put their finger on. I think I would like to be gracious.

I still don’t know exactly what it is to be gracious, but I kind of think it would be slipping the annoying note in your pocket to toss in the trash later, to smile at people as if you know something about life they don’t (because you probably do), and to walk in a stance that expresses God is working in your world, and you’re confident in His work.  And although I don’t think it would have to be someone older than me, I still think they’d be naturally nicer and definitely calmer. I haven’t thought about graciousness in years, but I think I’ll ponder it some. A gracious woman—just what would that look like?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cinderella after Midnight

Journal for Christa—
We talked to Breck and Helen in Germany on Skype yesterday. Helen had gotten a new doll, which she lifted to the computer screen to show us. “Did you name her? What’s her name?” we asked. In Helen’s “nearly 3” expression, it was apparent the doll was nameless; but with a short glance at the doll, she looked back up, nodded, and stated emphatically, “Yes. Princess!” But of course, no other name would do.
Flora, too, after given a stash of hand-me-down princess dresses, has joined the craze. And even as we dined in Disney’s Castle, Joel slyly looked over at Kim and said, “Every girl, even big ones, wants to be a princess.” I suppose that’s so.
While vacationing at Disney World, Kim, being practical, had purchased Helen a Princess Belle nightgown to wear to the castle. Helen wore it to bed that night. The following morning Jay and I were preparing to take the kids over to Epcot, but Helen refused to shed the gown. So, being a granny who doesn’t choose many battles, I put on her sandals and off we headed for the bus. Helen wore her princess gown all day long. (How Kim ever got it off her that night to wash is beyond me.)
On the bus that evening, Jay held the sleeping Helen. She’d worn her gown for almost 24 straight hours. Stained from spilling Ranch dressing on herself at lunch, dotted with a few chocolate smears, and missing a rosette, Helen’s gown looked more like Cinderella after midnight.
I guess, though, most girls finally pack up their princess dresses and hand them down to a smaller girl. However, I’ve kind of felt like that princess after midnight lately.
Cinderella—standing on the curb. Her hair’s a mess; the gown smudged and torn; one foot bare; bewildered and confused. And worst of all—her mode of transportation is a fat orange pumpkin! Where is that fairy woman when you need her?
I don’t think the story tells us how Cinderella got home, but we know she did because that’s where she was when the prince arrived, toting the glass slipper.
I guess it’s good to know, while standing on the curb in the shadow of a dark and lonely castle, that you’ll find your way home—