27 December 2009

Spike 2010

Social web moment: Many firsts came to me this year, related to online community building. First, in early January, my mother friended me on facebook. It was a big step! Then, this Christmas my entire family got hooked into Skype (my dad calls it Spike). Hello out there to Memphis and Somerville! Wahooooo!

26 December 2009

Dean House 2.0

Insight moment or Epiphany of the Year:

My moment of the year occurred to me in early August in Harrisonburg, Virginia. It came to me while sitting the front porch on an old house. My vision was that BVS moved from Elgin to Harrisonburg. BVS bought an old house and converted certain rooms to offices. Then, when orientations were in session, it was converted over to a meeting area. And when nothing was going on, it was the house that I lived in and took care of while nothing major was going on. Maybe one day it will come to be!

25 December 2009


Gift: What's a gift you gave yourself that keeps on giving?

Whoa. This one seems entirely hoaky. Long walks at sunset? A gorgeous morning view from my ugly balcony? Nope. The gift I gave myself that makes my heart swell and soon is my amazing and humble grapefruit knife! I use it daily during the week at lunchtime and it just makes my soul sing....lalalalalala!

24 December 2009

Do be do be Do

Learning experience. What was a lesson you learned this year that changed you?

I think B__ would agree that 2009 was the year that I learned how to do my job. It's as short and sweet as that. B__ helped think through logistical issues related to volunteers, housing, transportation, meals, and finances. In the end, I figured out how to do what I do without her prompting! Wahooooo! Independence!

23 December 2009

Apps of the Year for Wasting Time

Web tool: It came into your work flow this year and now you couldn't live without it. It has simplified or improved your online experience.

I don't know if I have a certain web tool, but I definitely have some favorite apps for my ipod touch. 

Line Up is one that I tend to play in my head before I go to sleep. It has that Tetris effect!


Tap Word is the other app that passes the time for me when I'm traveling or just trying to unwind!


22 December 2009


Start-up of the Year: What's a business you've found this year that you just adore?

I asked Eli this question today and he had a lot of good businesses to suggest.
I also asked him if he wanted to be a guest blogger for today's post, but he chose to curl up and promptly fall asleep. Eli's top notch choice for business of the year is....drum roll please...
West Paw Design  This is the company that supplies the super strong balls that Eli chomps on for hours everyday. I think they're great, personally. I've spent about $35 this year on 2 balls. Some would say that's a bit to pricey but for me and the things in the apt, Eli hasn't chewed a Christmas ornament, a flip flop, or even a plant on the coffee table.

Thanks West Paw Design for keeping Eli occupied and all of my belongings unchewed!


21 December 2009

Run Bike Run

Project! What did you start this year that you're proud of?

I'm a little uncomfortable with how the above sentence ended with a preposition, but I'll let it slide this time. I think the biggest project that I've attempted and have had success at is RUNNING (ok biking, too)! (Please say that sentence as if Forrest Gump was yelling in your ear.) I started running & biking this summer after a really great orientation in Harrisonburg. Running in the morning is quite a drag, I've discovered. I'd have to say that running at sunset in August and September are really the best moments. Most of the best sunsets I've seen of 2009 have been while huffing and puffing around the 14 blocks that make up my never changing route. Besides running, I've been able to get on my old blue bike a few times a week before the seasons changed. My longest ride was 13 miles, but I never did ride out to Elgin and back. There's always next year!

20 December 2009

!Personas nuevas!

New Person of the Year:

Well golly gee, this could be a hard one. I hate to offend anyone. So I'll just list a few:

Larry & Penny: They live downstairs and grew the most fantastic tomatoes this summer. My parking spot is right in front of their apt where the tomatoes grew. I had serious thoughts on how to steal one in the dewy morning, but instead Larry gave me a few before I had to steal any.

Sue: She's the really neat older lady at church who I aspire to be. She's a master knitter, works with refugees, and says really well thought out prayers on the spot. We sometimes wear the same blue sweater to church and I don't feel embarassed at all.

Anna: A colleague at work. My boss Dan says we have similar senses of sarcasm. We're going to Mexico with 2 other colleagues in March! Fiesta ahora!

I wonder who the new folks are I'll meet in 2010!

19 December 2009

Easy Peasy.

Car ride. What did you see? How did it smell? Did you eat anything as you drove there? Who were you with?

January: Chicago to Atlanta, Atlanta to Orlando.
             Orlando to Miami.
             Miami to Orlando.
February: Orlando to Decatur, AL.
               Decatur, AL to Chicago.
May: Chicago to Harrisonburg.
         Harrisonburg to DC.
         DC to Chicago.
July: Chicago to Harrisonburg
        Harrisonburg to DC
        DC to Harrisonburg.
August: Harrisonburg to Chicago.
September: Chicago to Maryland.
                  Maryland to Harrisburg, PA
                  Harrisburg to Maryland.
October: Maryland to Chicago.
November: Chicago to Durham, NC.
                  Durham to Chicago
December: Chicago to Decatur, AL.
                  Decatur to Memphis.
                  Memphis to Decatur.
                  Decatur to Nashville.
                  Nashville to Chicago!

18 December 2009

HE should be happy.

Shop. Online or offline, where did you spend most of you mad money this year?

This one is sorta interesting. Being all sorts of frugal & brethren kind of makes me not want to answer this question. I think bragging about the money one spends is contrary to the way I intend to live. But I'll give you this, Happy Elephant is doing quite well nowadays. I've bought a lot of panang curries along the way.

17 December 2009

Peace of Christ

Word or Phrase: A word that encapsulates your year.

I've been going to a little church down the road from my place on most Sundays I'm in town. What I like about the place is when we do the passing of the peace. Everyone stands up in the middle of the service and shakes hands or hugs each other and says, "Peace." or "Peace of Christ." Our group just doesn't stand around and do it. Everyone gets into the aisles and this informal clockwise sweeping of peace comes over everyone. It's sorta neato.

16 December 2009

Neighbor of the Year!

Today's blogging prompt is kinda lame: Tea of the Year. Instead I think I'll write on the best neighbor of the year. Some of you could probably guess the answer. My neighbor of the year award goes to Joe Perez! He's kind of like my divorced husband who takes care of Eli, my dog, when I travel for huge chunks of a month. Joe loves Eli as much as I do and that's hard to find in a divorcee nowadays!

15 December 2009


Best packaging of 2009: Have you had Pernod? Chances are you slim that you've had it. It's a strong lil liquor that tastes like a black jelly bean on fire. Pernod is the brand, but the common name would be pastis. It's also the cousin to the Greek version of ouzo or Turkish raki or even the Italian sambucco.The label is of classique French design. The bottle is standard green. So for the record, the packaging isn't so slick, but the label makes me grin every time. Come on over, and I'll pour you a glass!

14 December 2009

Rush 09

Biggest rush of the year:

Well it came today! And what was it:
This place! March 26 here I come!

13 December 2009

4 feet to the west.

The Best Change you made to the place you live:

Easy cheesy: I moved apartments this year. From 307 to 305, it was literally across the hall. Come visit, won't you?

12 December 2009

Palak Paneer

New Food:
Another toughy for me. Most food isn't so new to me. I've done the traditionally 'new foods' for awhile: Ethiopian, Cuban, Thai, Mexican, heck, even Nigerian food. The one that really comes to mind is this little place in St. Charles, Taste of the Himilayas. I'd have to strongly recommend the buffet so you can sample everything, nimble here and there, and then finally gorge yourself on the best dishes. But if you're feeling saucy, try the palak paneer just for me.

11 December 2009


The best place:

The best place for me has to be in my new(ish) car, a silver Scion xB. With my overdeveloped skills in frugality coupled with my parents' desire to help me, I got to buy a car in May. Ernie the ford Escort, was mine for 9 years (minus the three years it was my brother's when I lived in Kwarhi). So Scooter the Scion has come to be mine and I'm debt free from the experience. Who knew that buying what you can literally afford (ie, not taking a loan out) looks good on paper but can surely sting a bit when you empty your savings all for a car. So my favorite place is the front seat of my shiny (it's pretty much salty from the week of snow) car.

10 December 2009

Give up the Ghost!

Album of the Year:
This one's sorta easy if you know me at all.

Brandi Carlile's newest album sorta rocks my socks a whole lot. The songs aren't entirely new. She tends to write songs on the road, perform them live, shape and tweak them, and then make an album out of the best new ones. I think it's model that works quite well. The gems of the album are Before It Breals, Dying Day, and Pride and Joy! Yeah for music!

09 December 2009


Prompt of the Day: Challenges...well this one has been riddling me all day. And now it's 10pm and I still don't know what really challenged me. It's interesting to think and write about the things/people/places that present challenges. The vulnerability that comes along with voicing the things in our lives that cause us to stumble can even be difficult to bring up. So with that Doogie Howseresque insight, I think I'll just do some old-fashioned bulletpoints:
  • Nah, guess I'm not one to literally type out what challenged me
  • I'd rather let the people and things continue to push and shape me in a positive way
  • Maybe, just maybe you already know what mine already are

08 December 2009

Pot o' Mold

Moment of Peace: An hour or a day or a week of solitude. What was the quality of your breath? The state of your mind? How did you get there?

Good golly, this is another toughy. I've done a lot of meditation this year but I wouldn't say they've been quality sessions, because I've either kept one eye open to see if everyone in the group was following the meditation or I've fallen completely asleep (and that's usually from a great build up of sleep deprivation from working a thousand days in a row ). I'd say I get about 3-4 moments of peace a year. And they all occur the minute I get home from a long stretch on the road. I have this weird moment when I walk into my apartment and everything looks recognizeable but nothing looks like mine. It's such a peculiar feeling to leave my place for 3 weeks and come back with everything exactly the same. (Except this last time around, I left a pot of coffee go to mold.)

07 December 2009

Blog find of the year.

This prompt is sorta tough. I have a list of 45 blogs that I follow. It's quite unfair, but I'll choose this one. I like the writer's attempts to find God in the normal places. It's kind of exciting in a weird way to read his blog every Monday morning and see where his attempts have taken him. Following in the ways of Heather Armstrong and Ree Drummond, I heard somewhere that Steve will also be publishing a book with his travels to churches (and weird church-like institutions).

06 December 2009

Queer! (A part of a session!)

December 6 Workshop or conference. Was there a conference or workshop you attended that was especially beneficial? Where was it? What did you learn?
I'd venture to say that a big part of my job is pretty much like lining up workshops and even leading a few nuts and boltsy ones. As I think back through out the last year, these are the sessions (as we in the volunteer world call them) that stand out in my mind:
Dana's half day of learning to pay attention to the things around us in life (breath, wind, water, texture)
Beth S' and my session on lgbt issues. Best memory: Having vols and staff running to different parts of the lawn and yelling and jumping out words! It looked like a scene from a rock opera in the 70s.
Merle C's session on the Church of the Brethren complete with leading the volunteers in creating a haiku and new brand for the church. 

05 December 2009

Chikenz fa life, dawg.

December 5 Night out. Did you have a night out with friends or a loved one that rocked your world? Who was there? What was the highlight of the night?

Have you ever found your people? Like one day it hits you and you don't speak up. You just kinda observe the folks around your little circle and chuckle to yourself and think, "Whoa. I think these are my people."

That actually happened to me this summer in Harrisonburg, VA. I had gone to a city council meeting to see old people fight against a motion to allow laying hens in backyards. It was an interesting meeting. I learned that day that goverment and its processes can change in a heartbeat and usually when most of the audience thinks the meeting is done and they all head for the exit.

Anyway after the meeting, I was invited by some of the pro-chicken folks to go out for an after dinner drink downtown. And as everyone was hanging out, telling stories, and buying rounds of drinks (which I didn't partake, because I was 'on the clock') I had this feeling of being part of this group. And it was good.

04 December 2009

Books Y'all

12/4 Books! What books touched you? Did you pass it onto your friends?

When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

Complete hilarity. The hard part of reading Sedaris' books is that once I finish one, I move onto a new book by a different author and have Sedaris' tone and snarky sense of humor running through my head right when I'm reading. It's hard to get over, but Sedaris is the only author that pulls that shenanigan in my noodle.

03 December 2009

Yes we have no bananas.

12/3 Article. What's one article that blew you away this year? That you shared with all your friends.
I'm not really sure I have an article out there that blew me away. I do have this one article that I use for work. It's about bananas and how they're so common place in American households, but really they're quite exotic and we're not paying the full price for them. My volunteers really dig that article. So should you. Ok. I just looked for the thing online and could only find Mr. Koeppel's banana blog. I am suggesting this blog as a entryway to the article. This blog recommendation will not interfere with 12/7's entry!


02 December 2009

2009 Cont'd.

2. Restaurant moment. Who was there? What made it amazing? What taste stands out in your mind?

When I think about 2009 I think about The Happy Elephant. It's a lil Thai place down the street from my apt. The staff kinda know my order by heart. Panang Curry. Tofu. Medium spice. Cucumber salad please. Thai-iced tea. Sticky rice and mangoes. This place is amazing because Gary & Ning (the owners) work quite hard 6 days a week, Gary delivers food and runs the front of the house and Ning is a strong leader in the kitchen!

01 December 2009

Best of 2009.

It's time for the best of 2009 blog posts. I'll be writing everyday until 12/31. Let's go, K?
12/1: What was your best trip in 2009?
This one's a bit of a toughy for me. In preparation for this post, I re-read my 2009 calendar and it turns out I don't travel outside of work. I was on the road for work for about 15 weeks this year. And all those other weeks, I was pretty much at home and quite content. I'd have to say the best time I had while traveling was when I was in Harrisonburg, Virginia and B___ and I went out for super spicy Indian food and then had dessert at Cally's. That was quite a nice night!

30 November 2009

Tuesday in November

I went to prison last weel. Not to worry, they let me out. I did get to visit with T___ my deathrow penpal. I visited with him for over 2 hours face to face last Tuesday.
Highlights include:Not finding the prison right away and having to ask the gas station clerk:
"Um, can you point me towards the prison?"
Clerk: "Um, did you do something bad?"
Me: "Not yet."
Clerk: "Southside of town up next to the Wal-Mart."
Me: "Wow. Thanks."

Another obvious highlight:Getting to meet T___. There are some many things and conversations and feelings and preconceived notions to describe.
Chains. Heavy chains around his waist, arms, legs, and feet, all are tethered to the floor and table.
The actual prison. Totally stuck in 1970. Actuals signs posted in The Condemned Visitation Room: Do Not Peel Paint Off Walls. The actual buildings are in a poor state at first glance as well.
The games cupboard. Did you know that visitation rooms have a cupboard of games? I surely didn't. I never knew they existed. I saw trivial pursuit, skipbo, chess, backgammon, and cribbage in there. T___ and I played palace and at least 20 games of Rummy. Sad to say I didn't win one game. And I wasn't even letting him win.

So will you try it out and get one yourself?
And some stats for you to ponder?

23 November 2009

You can figure it out.

Writing about old jobs is lame today. Maybe I'll just write my job title and you can imagine my job.
2000-Blossom Basket-Flower delivery girl Live-in caretaker for one old dude living with a stroke.
2001-Group home worker again in St. Joseph, IL during and after the U of I.
2001-Temp jobs: X-ray file delivery girl in the Carle Hospital, 6pm-6am conveyor belt watcher: Quality control for air filter production.
2002-Moved to Phoenix. ESL assistant 7:30-3. Line cook and beer bitch 5-midnight at Greasewood Flat www.greasewoodflat.net
2003-2006 Nigeria
2006 Classroom assistant at a special ed day school! Hello adult sized diapers.
2007 You probably can guess my current job.

20 November 2009

Moving Right Along

Ok back to 1999.
In 99' I also worked in a couple group homes in a nearby town. The homes were owned by the same company and had 3-6 developmentally disabled adults in each place. I don't have too many specific memories from this part of work. I worked mostly nights and went to school during the day. In early 99', I also worked as a part time sports write for the Iowa Falls newspaper. The editor sent me out to small towns to take pictures of high school basketball teams. It was probably most unique job in how I was paid. For every inch of text that 'made' it into the paper, I was paid $4. As you can imagine, every game was a battle of epic proportions. I would submit long flowy write-ups of Iowa cornboys and receive about $15 for 4 hours of work. And my editor even had an editory name: Rex Trout. (He wouldn't have accepted that sentence because it began with 'And.')

Well it's winter time in Champaign-Urbana. I transferred here after Iowa Falls. My first job is working as a sorter for FedEx. And this job blows. My shift is M-Th 6pm-11:30pm. Why does it blow? 1. Getting patted down before and after work to make sure no one stole anything from the precious 1000s of boxes sorted in a shift. 2.The women I work with are rough. Rough in a way that mean I don't go into the Ladies' room because of the fights that take place in there. 3. The lack of heat. Management said that heating and cooling wasn't necessary because the 100,000sf building generated enough heat from running the quarter-mile long conveyor belts. I'm actually that worker who wears long underwear and a dirty hat and a pair of gloves with the fingertips cut off. My specific job is to run up a long slick slide and kick at boxes stuck in the chute for my division. I also have expertise in crawling on moving conveyor belts to dislodge boxes that are backing up the entire belt system. Wednesday is magazine day and it's the heaviest day of box traffic. When I'm not scrambling to unstick stuck boxes, I scan in every box's barcode. From memorizing zip codes I can tell you that zip codes beginning in 0 originate from the East Coast.

17 November 2009

A brief history.

Well my little friends, it's time again for another blog post. It's a rainy Tuesday afternoon here in northern Illinois, and I'm glad I have a job inside. Even though I'm 30, I've worked in a bunch of different workplaces. Let's take a trip back to 1994 through 2007!

I'm a corn-detassler! I walk through rows and rows of corn a foot taller than me and pull out every tassle I see. Mom drops me off at school around 4:45am with a red and white cooler full of food to last me through 2 breaks and lunch. The season of detassling is about 3 weeks long. The inexperienced kids in my crew wear garbage bags in the early morning. The seasoned ones wear spiffy blue rain slickers to combat the wet corn and sharp edges of the corn leaves.

Corn detassler! See above! My biggest fear this year is that I'll die in a droughted cornfield, because the older kids feel the need to smoke cigarettes and detassle at the same time. Miraculously the corn gets done and the fields are still standing.

I'm a babysitter! Every morning 7:30-3pm I get picked up and driven into the country to babysit for 2 kids. Nothing so memorable about this job except: 1. The littler of the two kids only falls asleep to Field of Dreams. I love this movie. 2.The mom who drives me to work and home has a broken thumb and can't drive safely with this disability. This job taught me to appreciate my thumbs.

I finished high school in May and moved to Alabama for a month and a half to live with my Dad while he was starting his new job, while my Mom packed the house in Milledgeville. Highlights from 1997 include: Taking golfing lessons in Arab (pronounced A-rab), AL, finding a slow-pitch softball team to play on called the Bronze Bodies. I hadn't met the criteria of a bronze body, but I was allowed to play. The team also never cared to ask my real name, and preferred to called me Yankee. It even said Yankee on the batting line-up in the dugout.
Once I got to college, I found that I could tutor the international students in English skills. So my first semester I had a Japanese student I tutored.

Holy cow I'm a photographer for the Iowa Falls Rugby team. How in the world did this noble honor fall into my hands? Well, my college softball coach is on the team and he mentioned my humble skills to the team doctor/historian. So now I find my weekends filled with scrums, half-naked chubby Iowa men, kegs, and an assortment of funnels the team uses to pee out of the old green bus as we roll around the countryside. Lessons learned: A team doctor is necessary for a successful season of rugby, especially when your teammates slammed their heads into each other for the bloody effect before the match starts.

This post is taking too long. I'll add more tomorrow. I know you're all waiting in suspense!

02 November 2009

For this song title please listen to the first song on the 2nd album made by the Go-Go's

Coming off a week of vacation is sorta hard. Menial things like sitting up and wearing clothes are so difficult. After a week of daytime tv, late-morning breakfasts, quiet walks in the cookie cutter neighborhood with Eli, and fresh pajamas, one can find it difficult to sit in an office with the sun and blue sky mocking my work schedule.

20 October 2009

Dear Beth,

My friend Beth is leaving the BVS staff next Monday. Her last day at the office is Friday. This blog post is just for her. If your name is not Beth, you should look away and not read any further.

Organized. "Callie, did your remember to bring _____? That's ok I brought ____ for you!"

Designery. Artistic with everything from orientation schedules to mandalas to faith journeys.

Tolerant. Me: Let's put cheese in the scrambled eggs. Beth: Better not, someone might be lactose intolerant. Me: Oh right. Thanks for the reminder! Beth's tolerant of others' intolerances and that's pretty rad.

Consistent. Driving to and from orientation: Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Podcast. Over and over and well you get the idea!

Thoughtful. Each person's calling out has been sculpted and crafted in a detailed and loving way. And also usually longer than mine.

Neat & Clean* Cleaning the 8th floor waiting room at the Homicide unit in Baltimore after a long interview. Watching a very clean and sparse room at Camp Ithiel explode into colorful bursts of clothes, files, computers, shoes, coffee cups, ipods, cords, books, candy, and faith journeys.
*when necessary

And now for the finale: Lyrics you should recognize-

Everyone's a hero in their own way
Everyone's got something they can do
Get up, go out and fly!

09 October 2009

A post-orientation day

800 miles. 6 hours of rain. 2 identical rest areas in Ohio. Skittles. Coffee. Ipod. Friends. Windshield wipers. Apartment. Eli. Functioning hot water heater. Neighbors cheering my name as I make an entrance at their party!

08 October 2009

Food glorious Food.

Potatoes. Rice. Potatoes.
Bread pudding. Bread pudding.
Cereal. Milk. Soymilk. Lactaid.
Red pepper flakes. Garlic Powder. Salt.
German bread. White bread. Trashy bread in my stomach.

05 October 2009

Music to survive an orientation

I seem to go through peaks and valleys with musical tastes. Sometimes I horde a bunch of music and never derivate from my music. Other times I get a whole bunch of new stuff (new to me at least). So I deem it best to let you know what you should be listening to.

MGMT: Oracular Spectacular
Kings of Leon: Only by the Night
Phoenix: Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
Regina Spektor: Far
Brandi Carlile: Give Up the Ghost...coming in October
The Bravery: The Sun and the Moon

27 September 2009


Thoughts on drop-off day:
Snakes keep tire indentations when rolled over by a tire.
Houses that are in foreclosure look really scary without out families occupying them.
People who open doors to a group of four people with the smell of pancakes wafting through the house, should invite the four people in for pancakes.
Churches that have cars parked in the lot should always answer the door. It's kinda the reason you're the church.
Bartenders won't let you pull a beer as part of your day of service. Even if you ask twice.
Old married couples working in the garden don't like to share the work with anyone. They hog all the work to themselves. That's what marriage is about.
Walking and talking together is how friendships develop.

26 September 2009

Sprawly and dropped off

In 15 minutes, I'll be heading out with 20 other volunteers for our historical drop-off day. When I was at my own orientation in 2003, we were in a new place and did not do the drop-off day. Now that I have this job, I've taken out 7-8 groups in urban areas, rural areas, and suburban sprawly areas and dropped them off and wished them luck. Today is my turn to give it a shot. Yes, it's a bit hypocritical of me to drop groups off and without having experienced it myself. This is due in part to having a hectic orientation schedule, lack of drivers, or too much work to do on our 'off' day. Since Amazing Don is shadowing Beth, this frees my day up so I can go out and walk the hills of Carroll County. Beth and Don didn't really keep me in the loop that I was an actual participant so I had a hand in helping choose the groups, figure out directions to and from the spot of drop-off only to be told that I was participating. Ok time to head out!

14 September 2009

Harry Caray and Me and Beer and Family

I went to the Cubs game yesterday. It made me think a lot about the firsts in my life. The first baseball game I saw was in 1988. I was nine and the Cubs were playing the Mets. I thought their uniforms were pretty hideous because they had orange on. I grew up knowing that red plus blue equals the Cubs colors. That day I met Harry Caray, the semi-sober announcer for the Cubs. Growing up with Harry announcing meant that everyone learned how to do a good Harray Caray impersonation. I'd have to say that my brother has the best one around. I met Harry at a Subway. He came in for something to eat and said to us, "You all coming to the game today?" His eyes smiled behind his big black rimmed glasses and he walked on out of the sandwich shop. In 1994 I went back to Wrigley with a great mish mash of friends and family. It was cousin Tyler, my brother, his college roommate Doc, my best friend Sarah who had just returned from her home in Egypt, and my folks. My folks had good seats behind home plate, and the rest of us sat in the bleachers in left field. In 94' the Cubs fever hadn't hit yet so we paid about $6 a person for bleacher seats. In the middle of the game, the blitzed fan behind me stood up to cheer and spilled his beer on my shoulders. We all turned around and stared at him. I'm pretty sure he felt pretty bad about it. 10 minutes later he stumbles over his bleacher buddies with an extra beer in hand and passes it directly to me. Yup, my first ever beer was given to me by a stranger in the bleachers when I was 15. I was pretty sure my folks weren't watching the game. I had it in my mind that they were following our every move with an old set of binoculars, as if they suspected that I was guzzling warm Old Style beers. To be honest it tasted pretty nasty and it warmed up quickly as I held onto it for the next 4 innings. Ahhhh firsts...

10 September 2009


A few days back, I went running for the first time with my ipod. I've been hesitant about running with headphones on because of not being able to hear traffic/dogs/burglars coming up behind me. Nonetheless I tried it out and it went well. I actually ran farther than ever before with the help of music. Right off, I noticed that the music drowned out my huffing and puffing and weird nose sounds. Not being able to gauge my exhaustion level from breathing made me concentrate more on my muslces and running form. Before using music, I was listening to myself breathe hard, which freaked me out and made me slow down. Now it seems the music has masked that and I can run longer! Since the music has sort of blocked my breathing, my sense of smell kicked in and I could smell about 5 different fabric softeners being filtered out of people's houses too! Hooray for senses!

05 September 2009

I am a follower.


03 September 2009

Journal Thursday!

22 June 2006. My JS3 (8th graders)kids are learning how to do journal entries-so I am entering one here as well. So my time is just about up. I find it difficult to teach everyday, especially when the textbook is finished and my kids don't get official, final grades. 3 years, it seems so long and short at the same time. The school sessions have gone fast. The weeks to weeks have also sped by but month ot month, it seems so slow. Thursdays are my long days. 5 lessons in a row. Saratu will make rice and beans tonight. Wahoo!


Things seen on my walk with Eli:
A car driving over the curb to look at white dog.
A guy lighting the grill while texting.
Eli raising an unbarked protest: lying down in the street to protest the oppressive heat (it was 62F)

Things seen on my neighborhood run:
1 pillowtop mattress and box springs (Queen size)
1 diaper genie (used)
The lady that punches the air when she speed walks (she smiles with her eyes when I pass her)
2 giggling kids hiding in the bushes while their dad yells in Polish to get in the house for dinner.
1 blonde-haired 5 year old laying on the hood of a car and staring at the sky next to the dumpster.

23 August 2009


A lady spoke up in church today and reminded our little congregation that Ramadan is here and that we should be sensitive to their month of fasting. And that got me thinking to the parts of my life where I lived with my Muslim neighbors.

The first time I heard a call to prayer after sundown (which broke the day of fasting) was in a little town called Garkida in the northeast of Nigeria. I went there to stay in an old missionary house for a weekend with a few of my colleagues. (What I'm really trying to say was the house had a waterbed and everyone wanted a chance to sleep on it) We had gotten to the house in the early evening and fixed a quick dinner so everyone (2 Swiss and me) could hang out and rest. After everyone had rested we headed down the hill to the main road that ran parallel to the Hawul River (did I mention it's really humid in Garkida due to the fact that the town is plopped down next to this huge river) So imagine 3 sunburned people walking down this long main road with shacks, and roadside stands frying up dough and meat and potatoes and yams and beans, and stray dogs, and chickens, and old men sitting on worn out logs, and well you get the idea I guess. And then we heard it.
Tap tap tap like someone checking a microphone to see if it's on.
Tap tap tap. And then a man's voice comes on the system.
And he sings in the most upbeat voice, "Allah akbar!" (Which in my translation means God's the best!!! God really is the best!!!!) And the Imam's voice isn't the normal flatlined voice that everyone always hears. This voice is completely transformed! This guy is happy to be singing the call to prayer! And you know what, everyone in the streets was in total agreement. The Imam sang the call to prayer over and over and just got more excited to be singing it! This call to prayer was a rejoiceful one. It was clear why he was so elated. The fast of the day was done, and after prayers were finished everyone was going home for a huge feast. It's pretty amazing that one man's voice can change the mood of a public space in such a short amount of time.
In my life I don't use Allah in my everyday conversations. But when I see or sing or read the word Hallelujah or Alleluia I know I'm connected to my neighbors in a deep sense of understanding!

Allah Akbar!

15 August 2009

I'm that jogger girl.

Run. Running. Ran. I've started this thing called running. Growing up, running was used as a punishment from first grade through the twelfth grade. If I was late to practice, I had to do extra laps. If I missed free throws at the beginning of practice, Coach N____ added them to the tally at the end of practice so they lingered over me the entire time. So running wasn't so high up there in the list of things I felt I could do for fun. But something happened in my brain. My brain, (let's call her Joyce) told me to pick up the speed and swing my arms. And you know what? I was running! (Please read that sentence with the intonation and fervor of Forest Gump) I couldn't really run far without getting pissed off and out of breath. But I kept doing it because it made Joyce happy. And now it's been about a month and I can run a lot longer than when I started out. Actually this week something changed. My breathing during running changed. Early on I would just huff and suck wind in and out of my mouth. I once read that a person can get the most amount of oxygen in and Co2 out by inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Well that's all well and good but I can't get it down very well. So my breathing theory has been inhale/exhale through my nose. I can do this for a lil while and then I have the urge to huff it out. But here's where the change happened: I don't have the urge to huff it anymore. I ran for 30 minutes tonight and realized I never had to open my mouth! Wowzers! So to celebrate I ran two laps!

10 August 2009

If I was a poet this would be my poem.

My day is simple.
Walk the dog. Run around the block.
Shower. Eat. Drive aggressively to appear as a Chicagoan.
Sit in a grey chair for several hours. Eat and sit with familiar faces.
And even more familiar stories.
Back to work in the grey chair surrounded by white walls.
Get back in the car and drive in the middle lane.
Less potholes in the middle lane.
Take dog out. Don't look at him while he poops.
Check the mail. As usual all of it is for others.
Krzysztof. Amy. Jaimus.
Find ingredients for dinner.
Tonight. Mushrooms. Rice. Sesame Oil. Red hot pepper flakes. Local purple garlic.
And when I say local I mean Harrisonburg.
Watch the news. Read a book. Write my song.
Run around the block. Sleep. Repeat.

25 July 2009

Thoughts in a day

Circle-up. Announcements.
Session. Break.
Any questions?
Food groups.
Free time.
Read the files.
Ask questions.
Turn in your yellow sheet.
Get up early enough to have breakfast for 20 on time.
Ask questions.
Get on your bike.
Get off your bike.
Sit by someone new.
Ask questions.
Sleep hard.
Hang your clothes on the balcony.
Fetch them when they blow off.
Be quiet for 5 minutes of silence
Do a devotion for the remaining ten.
Check your food groups.
Choose a project.
Go there.
Ask questions.

13 July 2009

Yea Bah

Susanne is here! We lived and worked for a year in Nigeria together. Yea for old friends. Bah for not being able to remember specific people and happenings.

09 July 2009

Meals this week.

Sticky rice.
Sticky rice with mangoes.
Sticky rice with mangoes and warm coconut milk.
Sticky rice with veggies.
Sticky rice with veggies, chicken, Szechuan style.

Tortillas and scrambled eggs.
Tortillas, scrambled eggs, and black beans.
Tortillas, eggs, beans, and cream.

Hominy and collared greens.
Hominy, collared greens, and and peanut sauce.

05 July 2009

OT and Andy

Ever had that super proud feeling? As if your heart would just burst from happiness? I remember the first time I ever felt that. Let's take a trip down my memory lane, k?
Place: Gym floor (covered with a huge green tarp, so as not to scuff the precious Missile Basketball/Volleyball court.
People around me: Everyone from K-5, which is about 100 kids or so. We're all sitting on our knees. Kindergartners in the front row, followed by each grade sequentially. I'm about 3 rows deep, guess that means I'm in 2nd grade. It's dark and dimmed in the gym for only being 10am on a Friday in early spring. The teachers form a solid line behind us, they're pointing at us to "be quiet, pay attention, and BEHAVE." I'm pretty much convinced that they have been selected to be teachers because they possess severely pointy fingers to single us out from the crowd when we're getting ourselves into trouble. They're all excellent pointers.

Ok, now that that's all been explained, what on earth could possibly be happening in front of us? Well.....it's the High School Musical!!!!! It's not only the musical, it's my brother up there! On that huge stage. Without his glasses, looking like a true orphan. I can't believe it! He knows all of his lines! He sings solos, he dances, he's OLIVER TWIST!

A few months back, he came from school white as a ghost. Mom asked how the auditions went, and my brother, the skinny, pale, knock-kneed, near-sighted young guy said in the quietest voice, "I'm Oliver." Mom says something like, well...you're just going to have to walk back up to school at tell them no. My brother, Andy, was in 8th grade at the time, and was just trying out for the background characters. He accidentally got picked to be Oliver. Our whole family was in shock.

Soon, we started to learn the songs along with Andy. I vividly remember seeing the black and white script and songbook appearing in all sorts of places. Bathroom floor, top of the tv, in the car. And then it was gone. I didn't see the book, I didn't hear any tunes coming from anywhere in the house. It was as if the play had already happened and we'd forgotten about it.

But that Friday morning it all came back to me. "Food Glorious Food" was sung and I knew some of the lines and sang along! What a feeling! To know that my brother was on the stage singing and dancing in front of people and doing it rather well! I had this overwhelming feeling of possession. It's the best way I can describe it! That was MY BROTHER up there and he lived in the same house as me and I knew some of the songs the cast sang, and I just knew he was amazing up there. That 'little kid' sense of pride was so overwhelming and so great! It felt like I was going to explode with happiness!

Later that night, I got to watch him do the whole musical for a real audience and it was pretty great! His little voice was so high when he sang "Where Is Love," he even closed his eyes when he sang! I was so impressed with the whole thing. The sets, the costumes, even the make-up, and especially the kids who got to spray their hair gray. It was all amazing.

Nowadays I don't get that sense of pride as much as I did in the 2nd grade. But that's ok...thinking of that day sitting on my knees and watching my brother change into an orphan for an hour was just perfect.

01 July 2009

Journal Thursdays

I don't have much to write today. So I thought why not cheat and read back through some old stuff when I lived in Kwarhi. So basically, if you're reading this, you've discovered my old journal. Pretend you've been snooping around and just discovered this little gem.

"27 November 2004. Saturday afternoon. A.M. has been telling me all kinds of stories today. Sometimes she repeats them but I listen as if they're new to me. I read the new book by Dave Eggers this week. Mom sent it in the mail to me. I wish I was a witty author. P. taught me how to ride a motorcycle today. I was freshman-year nervous, but I didn't even crash. I did about 7 laps around Bachmann's and Yuguda's house. If I get a regular motorcycle then it will be difficult to ride in dresses. But a VESPA would be easier in a dress. Today I went to Christie and Luka's wedding today with P, U, Kwaji, and Rebekah Dauda. It went well, we saw 3 big accidents on the way home between Madagali and Michika. I hope I never am in an accident over here. Chances are slim that one would survive. Final exam questions are due this week. I still don't have my questions ready. I also have to grade 70 more essays from the semester, too."

Well wasn't that about as exciting as watching paint dry? Check back next Thursday for the newest installment of old journal entries.
To enhance your snooping, please listen to "As Time Goes By" by Jimmy Durante

18 June 2009

A Daily Playlist

To get work done in a calm, cool, collected manner: Frank Sinatra (the Early Years)
To brainstorm ideas and think in weird ways: Fischerspooner
To act like I'm working but not really: Beethoven
To reminisce about life while I work: James Taylor
To chat with my boss while I work: Electric Light Orchestra
To write long-winded, angry emails: Ani DiFranco
To drive home on a sunny day: NPR All Things Considered
To cook barefoot in the kitchen: Kings of Leon

17 June 2009

Does this give you seizures?

My least favorite blog is by a favorite couple of mine but it's a black background and white lettering which burns the imprint of words into my eyeballs, so even after I'm done reading their updates, the image of words is emblazoned on everything I look at. That's what this blog is designed to be: The most painful thing you'll look at all day. Thanks!

13 January 2009

Too cold to type.

Well hello again. I've been a nonblogger for several months again. And yet I'm getting ready to leave again. But things are getting easier aren't they?

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