Thursday, July 24, 2014

Life As A School

I would like to share something with you that was written several years ago, revised once or twice, but still relevant and true. It is perhaps an exercise in being more profound than I am currently able to be, but in every attempt there are lessons learned, and all things speak to us individually. I hope you enjoy it.

Life As A School

”Fear not that your life shall come to an end,
but rather that it shall never have a beginning.” – John Henry Newman
I remember a time when the people in my life lived forever. A time when there were things that would “never happen to me,” and suicide was an escape for people who didn't believe in God. I was going to be a landscape architect when I grew up, and when I published my first novel my family would finally be proud of something I did. And there was a time when my best ideas always came to me in the shower.

I also remember a time when I thought school was the most important part of my life. I looked forward to going every day, I did well, and I had fun. Then I started fourth grade – it was all downhill from there.

Looking back, I see that most of my education has happened outside of the classroom, and I have come to believe that my academic instruction has been the most time-consuming, expensive, and stressful task I have ever participated in. While it taught me how to read, it fell short of teaching me how to apply what I read. While it taught me about the world around me, it fell short of teaching me how to live in it. And while it taught me how to copy notes, take tests, and achieve degrees, it fell short of teaching me how to learn.

Don’t get me wrong; I have gained a lot of knowledge. The only problem with knowledge is that it doesn’t get you anywhere if you can’t use it. It simply collects in the mind as useless facts: for example, given a few minutes I could tell you the names of all fifty states – in alphabetical order – but I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything about the people within their borders. I can quote Scripture passages on how to live, but I can’t honestly say that I know, with every ounce of my being, that God loves me.

And I can tell you that the odds of winning the jackpot on a scratch ticket are about equal to the chances of your submarine getting struck by lightning, but I couldn’t tell you how many men died so I would have the right and freedom to go to school and learn this useless information.

Outside of the classroom, I have learned that everyone dies – whether they’re fourteen years old and happen to be in the path of a drunk driver, or ninety-two years old and their body just can’t go on. I have learned that even “good little Christian girls” can fall victim to things. I have lost a very close friend to suicide. I have given up on landscape architecture and the large amount of money I could have made in favor of working with special needs kids.

And I have realized that it doesn't matter what I do, if I’m not making enough money, most of my family will never be proud of me. These are things that school could never teach me. They are life experiences, and life experiences are what turn scared, immature, self-conscious young girls into intelligent, provocative, self-confident young women.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Travel Journal

“The weather is here, wish you were beautiful.”

I recently returned from an almost-two-week trip to California to visit my brother and his family. Before I left, I began a travel journal, to be completed upon my return.

This was a basic type of journal, using a small three-ring binder I had purchased at Michaels several months ago; it was intended to be a travel “smash book” of sorts, although I took out all of its pages and replaced them with my own. I also decided to use some page protectors from the “Project Life” collection.

There wasn’t much I could do ahead of time, since most of the contents would be photos and miscellany collected on my trip. As I was driving north to where I would leave my car, I thought about this project, specifically why people create travel journals and what purpose they serve. I came to the conclusion that there were two main reasons:  to remember the trip, and to share the memories with others. For me, it would be to enjoy making the book itself.

While I was gone I gathered bits and pieces and took photos (almost 400 just in one day at the San Francisco Zoo). Upon my return, as I was driving back from where I had left my car, I again thought about the purpose of a travel journal. And again, I came to the conclusion that for me personally, I would make it for the joy and relaxation of making something. But was that really enough? I could include photos and ephemera, and journal about my time, but who would read it?

The more I think about this project, the more my thoughts wander to the family I hope to one day have – a husband, children – and what I would like to share with them about my life and how I see the world. I haven’t started the journal process yet, and I’m not yet sure what I will say. But somehow having this idea about my future, that I will one day (hopefully soon) have a family of my own to share these thoughts and photos with, fills me with a quiet hope. I like that, very much!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A New Adventure: Trinity Baptist Church

Hello and happy Sunday! Although it’s overcast and gray here in Pullman, it’s also a little cooler than it was when I returned from my trip to California, so I am very thankful for the clouds and wind! I’m also praying it brings some much needed rain to the areas with fires, as well as dampening the Palouse to keep them from spreading here.

While I haven’t been writing much this year, I have still been working on my art (I try to do at least one thing every day), and my wellness journey continues. Today was yet another step in that great adventure of my life – this morning, for the first time since being at SPU (at least 12 years, probably more), I went to a new church by myself! To some of you that may seem like a small thing, but to me it was a big step, and one I am very thankful I finally took!

Yes, it was awesome that I was able to just go, without waiting for someone to join me, silencing all of my lame excuses, getting out of bed even though I wanted to sleep longer (which, to be honest, is every day, since I don’t really sleep at night), even “dressing up” (although compared to my usual attire that isn’t saying much).

0721 selfie
But even more wonderful was the fact that I really enjoyed the experience! The sanctuary wasn’t too big or dark, the chairs were comfortable, the music wasn’t loud, and the best part – the Pastor is a teacher! Not literally, as in he works for a public school, but he didn’t “preach”, he “taught” (I almost typed teached lol).

This is something that is very important to me, personally, in finding a new church home, and one of the main reasons I haven’t really settled anywhere since moving to Pullman three and a half years ago. I tried a few other places, and there wasn’t anything wrong with them, they just didn’t “fit”. Anyone who has gone “church hunting” understands what I mean by this. If, like me, you grew up going to the same church, then you have certain expectations and things you enjoy, partially because you’re used to them, and partially because they just “fit” – like a comfy pair of sweat pants. And sometimes it’s difficult to find a new fit.

My decision to visit Trinity Baptist in Moscow wasn’t completely random; I take my church going (and most all social activities) more seriously than that. It was recommended by Angela, who also goes there, and who is someone I have come to trust, respect, and enjoy very much. I asked her a few questions about it this past week, then found the website online, and decided to give it a go. As I said, I am very thankful I did! I will definitely be going back.

Aside from Angela, I don’t believe I know anyone there (I saw her, by the way, but didn’t say anything; I haven’t yet figured out where she fits on my chart of life relationships – family, different levels of friends, etc. – so I haven’t decided how to approach her outside of the context in which I see her regularly). In some ways that made it easier for me. I was able to sit back and watch people, check out the environment, and honestly decide if it was the right place for me.

This is just one of many blessings God has brought into my life in the past few months, and I will be sharing more about my experiences soon (as well as some art to go with it). One thing I wanted to share today, while on the subject of Trinity and this important next step, is that I realized something as I was sitting there listening to the sermon:  I chose this church for the right reason. The two previous churches I’ve attended in Pullman were chosen because I had someone to go with – first to Emmanuel Baptist with Kristen and Kylan, then to Resonate Church with Wendy and Brandon – and that’s a good thing, I really appreciate their friendships and wanting to help me find a good church home. However, I soon realized that those churches weren’t quite the right fit, and I eventually stopped attending altogether.

This morning I went because I know God was nudging me in that direction. I don’t need church to have my “quiet time” with Him, but I do need to have fellowship time with others who share my faith (something I’ve been learning as I’ve been exploring friendships this past year, but more on that in another post). A great way to find those people to fellowship with is to find a church home – and then a home group or Bible study, since there really isn’t time to socialize Sunday mornings.

I look forward to seeing how God will use this new place to speak to me and strengthen me, and I look forward to sharing that here with all of you!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Today in History (July 4): Freedom

*Being on vacation in California to visit family has put my today in history series on hold, so I’m going to attempt to catch up. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.*

The most obvious and common “today in history” fact for July 4th is the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. However, did you know that the first celebration of this incredible event wasn’t until twenty years later, in 1796? It’s never too late to begin celebrating those special days that define your journey.

Another event from this day in history was in 1827 when slavery was abolished in the state of New York. I have never, for any reason or in any form, had personal experience with slavery; however, after hearing and reading about it throughout my education and for recent projects I feel I am beginning to scratch the surface of understanding, if only in a limited way. I will be writing about this topic again soon, tying it in with another controversial topic (something to look forward to).

One of my favorite historical events from Independence Day happened in 1892 when the International Date Line changed, creating an extra day (so there were 367 days that year as it was a leap year); because of the time change, there were two July fourths that year – and both were Mondays!

A fifth fun fact for Independence Day was in 1950, with the first Radio Free broadcast in Europe to Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Romania. It was initially funded by the U.S. Congress through the CIA, and just three years after this first broadcast it reached behind the Iron Curtain into the U.S.S.R.

A sixth and final “today in history” for this most important of summer holidays happened in 1966 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act, a law giving American citizens the right to access information from the federal government. How did you celebrate your freedom this year?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Today in History: Food

Have you ever considered which fruit is your favorite? Are there any that you just don’t care for? I can honestly say I have enjoyed every fruit I’ve ever tried, but the blueberry is still my favorite. Of course, this post really has nothing to do with blueberries, except that they’re food.

On this day in history, the year 1806 to be exact, Mr. Michael Keens exhibited the first cultivated strawberry. In an attempt to verify this fact and gather some interesting background information, I actually learned quite a bit about the breeding process of the strawberry. For instance, although we commonly think of it as a berry, it is in fact an accessory fruit. At first I thought, “Perhaps we will start seeing a cross-over into the world of fashion accessories?” Until I learned that this means the fleshy part is derived not from the plant’s ovaries, but from the receptacle that holds the ovaries. I don’t envision ovaries being a trend-setter anytime soon.

Also, as you may well know, it can be eaten fresh or in a variety of “prepared foods” such as jams, jellies, preserves, pies, and so on. I find fresh to be a delightful summer treat, as well as in a milkshake or smoothie. Its aroma is also widely used for various purposes (a very versatile accessory).

Another food event on this day, 60 years ago in fact, food rationing was ended in Great Britain. That would definitely be a cause for celebration! I say we all take a few hours to craft our own “phone booths” in the English style, jump in, and make a toast to the United Kingdom with fresh, cold, smooth strawberry shakes!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Today in History: Flight

02 alligator02 balloon pilot







What do this gator and this man have in common? On this day in history, two amazing flights occurred.

The first was in 1843 on a quiet street corner in Charleston, SC during a major thunderstorm. An alligator (not the one pictured) was taken up in a waterspout and dropped onto the corner of Wentworth and Aston streets. According to the Charleston Mercury, “The beast had a look of wonder and bewilderment about him, that showed plainly enough he must have gone through a remarkable experience.” That’s right friends – he survived the trip!

The second was in 1982 (I was a mere 18 months old at the time) when Mr. Larry Walters (seen above right) rose nearly 16,000 feet into the air, sitting in his lawn chair. He was carried upward by 42 helium-filled balloons. (Sadly, Mr. Walters is no longer with us, after taking his own life in October 1993).

I admit I have never attempted to raise myself into the sky with balloons (or anything else for that matter); however, I am quite fond of the story Peter Pan, and if it were possible to be sprinkled with fairy dust and fly off to Neverland, I would be all over it! (I would bring Oliver, too, of course).

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Today in History: Innovation

This year, as I return to my “today in history” series for the month of July, I have chosen a word for each day to represent the facts I will share.

I chose the word “innovation” to begin the month after my research brought up four interesting yet very much unrelated inventions/discoveries – sunglasses, the North Pole, a zoo, and Coca-Cola – stretching just over 700 years, and touching three different continents.

Innovation, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a new idea, device, or method; the act or process of introducing a new idea, device, or method.”

The first innovation I uncovered was sunglasses, which in their original form, were invented by the Chinese c. this day in the year1200. These served a special purpose that had nothing to do with blocking the sun; Chinese judges wore smoke-colored quartz lenses to conceal the expression in their eyes while in court. The sunglasses of today (which I am daily grateful for, no matter what the season), weren’t actually conceived until 1929, when Sam Foster found a market for them on the boardwalks of New Jersey, and the trademark wasn’t filed until November 1959. So I guess it’s up to you to decide the real date of invention. I say today.

The next innovation I came across was the discovery of the Magnetic North Pole on this day in 1831, by James C. Ross. He was the second in command on an expedition in search of the elusive “Northwest Passage” (which they weren’t able to find), and while being stuck in the icy waters he discovered that at 70° 5´ N, 96° 47´ W the magnetic field was determined to be quite vertical as far as his compass’ accuracy could show. The location of the magnetic north pole had been determined for the first time. As a result, when they returned home, his uncle (who was also the captain of the expedition) was knighted.

The third innovation also took place in the 19th century, on the eastern shores of the United States:  the first American zoo was opened in Philadelphia on this day in 1874. It seems appropriate that this city was chosen for this occasion, as many of our country’s “firsts” happened there. A little more digging revealed that "The Frank Furness Victorian gates and gatehouses, and the Zoo's location, are the same today as they were on the day it opened. One of its assets, then and now, is John Penn's home, The Solitude, which sat on the land chosen for the Zoo. John Penn was the grandson of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania."

The fourth and final innovation I found took place on July 1, 1916, also in the United States – The Coca-Cola Company introduced to the general public, the formula and taste that we have all come to know (and some to enjoy, although I prefer Pepsi myself). It was briefly changed in 1985 (anyone remember “new coke”?) but was quickly brought back to it’s original. Some refer to it as “Coca Cola Classic”. Apparently, the Supreme Court also ruled that “Coke” is a trademark name.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this peek at some of history’s innovations from July the first; there will be many more random facts in the coming weeks, so buckle up!