Happy National Coffee Day: “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons…”

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The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

BY T. S. ELIOT

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes,
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair —
(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin —
(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
               So how should I presume?
And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
               And how should I presume?
And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
               And should I then presume?
               And how should I begin?
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? …
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet — and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head
               Should say: “That is not what I meant at all;
               That is not it, at all.”
And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
               “That is not it at all,
               That is not what I meant, at all.”
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind?   Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Source: Poetry (June 1915).

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“Your Very Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem”

This is what you shall do

by Walt Whitman

“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

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Summer 2015: The Summer of Goals and Firsts

At the beginning of the summer, I set a list of goals for myself. I knew this summer would be different than most as I would not be nannying so I knew that I would need to be thoughtful and intentional with my time. I will be honest, at the beginning, too much time was difficult for me. I like to be busy and I like to be productive so it was difficult to feel out of my norm. However, this was a very restful summer filled with reading for fun, visiting with friends (old and new), plenty of delicious coffee, and time to be still!

Original Goal List:

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Here’s how I did on my goals:

Books:

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My goal this summer was to read a book a week; so often during the school year, I am so tired at the end of the day that I cannot keep up with my reading as much as I would like. I have learned that reading is my escape; reading is my way to refresh and recharge myself. I need to read consistently to flourish and to be myself.  I read some great and different books this summer.

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Books read: Rena’s Promise, Let Justice Roll Down, Stone Angel, Cutting for Stone, Etta and Otto and Russell and James, Go Set A Watchman, Mosquitoland, Traveling Mercies, By the River Piedra I Wept, All My Puny Sorrows, Me Before You, Prudence, Yellow Crocus, The Weight of Water, The Mapmaker’s Children, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, The Silver Star, WitnessThe Reason for God, Girl at War, and Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl.

A few, quick thoughts on these books:

Rena’s Promise – a challenging but important read as it highlights the story of two Jewish sisters who survive the Holocaust.

Let Justice Roll Down – I had a chance to hear John Perkins speak just a few weeks before the summer began and knew I wanted to read his story; he is passionate about social justice and equality for all and I found this an interesting perspective on his own experiences.

Stone Angel – though a Canadian classic, I had never read it. I thought it was a beautiful, raw, and honest reflection of life, death, love, and pride… definitely worth reading.

“‘Pride was my wilderness, and the demon that led me there was fear. I was alone, never anything else, and never free, for I carried my chains within me, and they spread out from me and shackled all I touched. Oh, my two, my dead. Dead by your own hands or by mine? Nothing can take away those years” 

Cutting For Stone – interesting! A very different story than one I’ve ever read. I appreciated the integration of science and history into this fictional story. Powerful read.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James – a lovely story; a beautiful tale of friendship, love, and loss along the way. I couldn’t put it down and purchased a copy to keep.

Go Set a Watchman – so many thoughts; this may be a blog post all by itself! Definitely worth the read.

Mosquitoland – a sweet story of a young girl’s journey and the friends she makes along the way.

Traveling Mercies – honest; raw; powerful; needed.

By the River Piedra I Wept – bizarre; too new-agey for me. I didn’t get it.

All my Puny Sorrows – so beautiful and tragic and lovely all at once; a Canadian author I had never heard of before but I will definitely be picking up more of her books. The complicated journey of suicide and all those this struggle impacts. So, so beautiful.

“It was the first time that we had sort of articulated our major problem. She wanted to die and I wanted her to live and we were enemies who loved each other.”

“… I will bow down before her suffering with compassion.”

Me Before You – a surprisingly enjoyable read! I am not one for love stories but this one really swept me away and I will definitely go see the movie when it comes out.

Prudence – bizarre; not recommended. Had a lot of potential but missed the mark.

Yellow Crocus – an interesting story of the complex relationship between a slave milk made and the baby she raises.

The Weight of Water – I love free verse and tales of coming of age. Lovely.

The Mapmakers Children – an interesting look at the Underground Railroad.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – no no no. If I didn’t have the need to finish any book I start, I would have stopped halfway through. Waste of my time.

The Silver Star – love the author and love the story.

Witness – once again, free verse is a powerful story-telling agent. This tells an interesting story of the complications of racism and prejudice in a small town.

The Reason for God – my first Timothy Keller read; I appreciated what he had to say, though it was a bit “heady” for me at times. Worth the read and a good conversation starter.

Girl at War – a powerful look into the Bosnian genocide.

Me, Earl, and The Dying Girl – quirky, different, I liked it. More my style than The Fault In Their Stars.

Eat Better:

Meh. Not so successful.

More Activity: yes! See 10K and soccer below!

Teacher Certification:

Well, let me tell you, becoming certified in a whole new state is a lot more work (and money!!) than I had expected. After forking out a bunch of money to register, apply, and send in all the necessary paperwork, I needed to take 9 exams! Unfortunately, I did not know how difficult it was to book these exams. But, I successfully completed seven of my nine exams this summer (even the math exam – woowoo!) and will finish my final two in September. 7/9ths certified! I’ll take that as a win. Perhaps the funniest moment of this whole certification journey – the test I was most nervous about  (math) was my top score!

Relax and Be Still:

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Here are some of my firsts that I enjoyed:

First time at Empire Coffee:

Last summer, I ventured to discover as many new coffee shops as possible. This summer, I wanted to find a coffee shop that was quaint and felt like home. I was successful and found a coffee shop that is sister-run (how awesome is that?), is bright, fresh, lovely, and feels very much like home. Enter “Empire Coffee and Pastry“. It is really lovely and you should definitely check out this Northeast gem.

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First 10K:

I am not sure if enjoyed is the right word but I am really glad I stuck with it and completed this race! I am not much of a runner but wanted to challenge myself and my body. For my first run – my goal was to run the whole thing and to finish! Success on both counts. I ran the 10K in 1 hour and 3 minutes and I am very proud of that!

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First Adult Soccer Team:

I haven’t played soccer since high school but I have been wanting to play ever since I moved to MPLS. Easier said than done. Finding a league, much less the courage to try to start a team meant 6 years with no soccer. This summer, with the help of some pushy encouragement from others, I successfully created a soccer team and entered us into the recreational summer league. This was so much more enjoyable than I expected. It was QUITE the workout and a definite reminder of my age but it was so great to be a part of a team again and be active while in community!

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First Trip to NYC:

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So much to see; so many people! Beautiful city with so much diversity to be celebrated; food… art… fashion… music… Cannot wait to go back!

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Summer 2015, it’s been real. Sad to see you go. Excited for what is next!

Lessons on Worship

(start listening around 7 minutes in)

My Dad has taught me many things. How to ride my bike. How to tie my shoes.  How to check my oil.  But perhaps one of the most valuable lessons he ever taught me, without intentionally ever doing so, was how to worship.

When I say this, I don’t mean my father sat me down, told me the “do’s” and “don’t’s” of worship – what to sing, how to sing, why to sing.  I don’t mean my dad said there was a right way and a wrong way.  I never had a lesson.  I never read a book or sat in a classroom.

All I had to do was sit beside my father in church on Sunday.  All I had to do was listen. Watch.

My Dad has always had a boisterous voice when he sings.  A voice so loud your ears hurt.  A voice that makes the little children sitting ahead of us turn their heads in wonderment.  A voice that sings over all of the other voices.  He has always had the loudest voice in church.

Though one might think this is intentional, it is not.  My dad is not trying to gain attention.  He is not trying to outsing anyone. He simply is singing from his heart.

When I was younger, I was embarrassed.  Why does he sing so loud? Why isn’t he quieter? Doesn’t he notice people looking? My face would turn red.

Funny how things change.  The older I grew, the more I came to appreciate his voice. His beautiful, deep voice.  His attention to detail. His passion and “oomph”.  I began to realize that he truly sang from his heart.  He sang from his soul.

My father wasn’t just singing loudly. He was praising His Savior with everything in him.  From the depths of his belly, his lips poured out praise.  I began to admire my father for being so passionate and in tune with His God, not caring about the world around him.

So now, as I stand with my father in church, I sing loudly too.  I sing for love of my Father.  I sing for my love for my father who mirrors the Father’s love so fully.  Through my father’s love for his Father, I have learned what worship is.  Worship is uninhibited. It is passionate and boisterous. It is “loud”.

What I See

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What you see in the picture above is something I stumbled upon while at Target yesterday; I was on my way to the baby’s section and walked through the young girls’ clothing.  The clothes in this section were clearly catered to young girls, probably 5th grade and younger.

Then, I had to stop as I walked pass this display.
What you see is a young girl’s push up bra; yes, that’s right – a push-up bra.  There were different colors, laces, etc. But don’t worry, friends, you can remove the extra (extensive!)
So tell me what do you see?
What you see is society’s expectation for a girl’s body to be on display for others, rather than her thoughts, ideas and character.
What you see is fear of not fitting in.
What you see is a young girl’s self esteem plummet at the thoughts that she needs to be more curvy, more developed, more adult than she is.
What you see is a store selling out and buying into the idea that girls need to be sexy, adult, curvy, and for others – not herself.
What you see are years of body image struggles, self-hatred and loathing, and struggling to understand what true beauty is.
What is you see is value being put in a girl’s bra size, at the young age of 10, rather than her merit, her contribution to this world,
What you see is the heaviness of expectations from commercials, advertisements, music videos, movies, super models on young girls and young women and old women alike.
I know this is just one push-up bra. But, I am so troubled at what this represents.
I don’t want to see this. I don’t want young girls to see this and think that there bodies need to be developed too soon, displayed too readily. I don’t want mothers to see this and think this is a good idea. I don’t want my two year old niece to feel pressured to wear a push-up bra in eight years. I don’t want my female students to be burdened by this ridiculous expectation.
Let me tell you what I hope to see:
I hope to see young girls encouraged to understand that beauty is found in ideas, goodness, thoughtfulness, and kindness.
I hope to see girls of all ages not feel pressured to put their bodies on display for others.
I hope to see girls find empowerment not on being sexy to others but by using their minds, their thoughts, their actions, to make this world a better place!
I hope to find stores that will support these ideas and will fight against the pressures that society and media put on men and women alike.
I hope that change will continue to happen so Lillian, my little lovely niece, won’t have to be exposed to such ridiculous products.
Target, I am very disappointed. Do better.
Join me friends. What do you hope to see?

Your Glory In My Valley

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The Valley of Vision

Lord, High and Holy, Meek and Lowly,
You have brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see you in the heights;
hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold your glory.

Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter your stars shine;

Let me find your light in my darkness,
your life in my death,
your joy in my sorrow,
your grace in my sin,
your riches in my poverty,
your glory in my valley.

Amen

Thoughts on my immigration journey

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I have many thoughts swirling in my mind this morning. Yesterday I found out that the US Department of Labor has denied my initial application for a permanent visa which would allow me to live and work here permanently.  Though I was denied, I am very thankful that I have a school that is very supportive of me and willing and able to reapply but the reasoning for the denial of the request is really interesting to me and I think it sparks different conversations not only on immigration but the value we put on individuals and the skills they have.
The essential reason why the initial request was denied is that, based on my skill set and job requirements, it would appear that I have or should have about three degrees with all that is expected of a teacher.  However, the amount that I am being compensated, according to the US Department of Labor, is not enough to match the skills; their suggestion for compensation for my job, including my skill sets, is double what I currently make.  Essentially, what it looks like to the government is that my school may be employing an immigrant so that they will work for much cheaper wages.
So many thoughts!
1. First, I promise the school I am working at is not a “sweat shop” for teachers.  I do not make less than my coworkers. Rather, we all are committed to Christian education and have made a choice to work where we do.  I suggest that the government looks at the other salaries or our school budget before making that assumption.  Silly.
2.  Second, this is not a rant suggesting I should make double what I do; not at all. No teacher would be foolish enough to get into teaching for the money.  But, I do find it fascinating that the US Department of Labor, after carefully looking over an entry-level teacher’s list of job requirements, infers that 1) this looks like the job for a person with three degrees (I have two, not three… but still) 2) that this job requires double the salary to match the requirement and skill set and that the employees should be compensated as such.  Very few teachers anywhere(!!) are making double what I do.  How is it that this society is comfortable with paying athletes, celebrities, models so much but cannot see value in paying educators, social workers, people who work with PEOPLE! what their skill sets deserve?
3.  Third, I am annoyed that Justin Bieber can stay here because he is an entertainer.  I suppose that he, too, is working and shaping the youth of our future … but is he shaping them in ways we want?  I am annoyed that he can break the law, pee in public, be a nuisance to society, and be allowed to stay? How is that fair that a Canadian who has lived here for ten years and is trying to continue teaching in a small Christian school for little pay can’t but an annoying pop celebrity who contributes very little is allowed to stay, no problem?
4. Fourth, I truly understand why many people choose not to go through the legal process; I am not justifying that choice by any means but it is understandable.  I have lived in the US for ten years; I have filed paperwork correctly.  I have not committed any crimes.  I have followed the rule book.  I have taught for 6 years in MPLS.  And I am stuck right now. I am someone who technically has “everything going for me”… to make this process easy; I speak English, I am educated, I do not have a family to provide for, I am employed, I am not fleeing from danger, persecution, crime, etc.  It makes me sad for the people who truly want to be here, who have skills worth utilizing and celebrating, who want to contribute to the country… and can’t.  Immigrating is hard!
5. Fifth, I am hopeful and thankful.  I am thankful for employers who are doing all they can to help me and encourage me in this journey. I am thankful that my school is willing to adjust the application and try again. It’s a little silly because they have to make my job look more “simple”, less “skilled” to hope to try again; I am hopeful that I can stay but I am thankful that if I can’t, I am not being deported to an unsafe, unlivable place. I am thankful that I have two wonderful homes – Canada and MPLS and that I would love living either place.
So, those are my thoughts this early Tuesday morning; I couldn’t sleep so I wrote instead.  Here’s hoping my second application is a
pproved!  American immigration… here I come!