28 December 2012

turns out i can still do a back handspring {or, in which i try to recapture my childhood}

Every year, I do a back handspring {just making it under the wire this year}. You know, just to make sure I still have it.

Turns out at 31, I still do—not as pretty as it once was {I'm no Gabby Douglas}, but I'm just happy I didn't seriously injure myself and that I got to tumble in my old gym {the YWCA, hence all the basketball noise from the court next door}.

Feeling inspired after this, I tried to do a kip on the bars—it's this swingy around thing that was my mount in my bars routine when I competed. By my description of "swingy around thing," you'd never guess that I taught gymnastics for eight years, would you?

My description of cartwheels when I was teaching small children was: "It's like your legs are rainbows, and they're arching through the sky." That might've been too poetic for them, and it is shocking that children ever learned anything from me.

But back to the bars—the uneven bars, that is, not back to the drinking bars.

I tried to do a kip and failed miserably, realized that I must've had frighteningly strong abs and arms when I was 12, wondered where all that strength went to, pondered reinstating my strength workout from when I was on the gymnastics team, and then decided to accept that my body can no longer do everything it once did.

But at least it can still do a back handspring. For those few seconds of flipping rapidly, I can feel like a kid again.

PS There is obviously no video of me failing to do a kip.

24 December 2012

my parents' house is too smart for me

I'm back at my parents' house in Iowa for Christmas, and the only thing I can operate with ease here is the light switch in my bedroom. It is exactly the same as when I was in high school—down to the fish lightplate I bought one year in the Caribbean {complete with a hook where I would hang my keys after coming home from a night of play practice or teaching gymnastics or cheerleading for the football team}.

Most everything else in the house, though, leaves me slightly perplexed, especially the TV. My parents are both at work today {Merry Christmas, Scrooge, eh?}, and I thought, after doing my reading from the Advent book I've used this year and after journalling, that it might be nice to watch some Designing Women.

And that is the specific show I thought of. I was remembering how, back when I was in middle school, Lifetime {is their tagline still "Television for Women"?} showed back-to-back episodes of Designing Women at 10am on weekdays. During the summer, I sometimes/all the time planned my day around watching Julia Sugarbaker eloquently, loudly, and intelligently put someone in their place.

Lifetime couldn't possibly have changed their schedule, I thought, demonstrating a form of the hope we're supposed to embody in this season. After all, it's only been...20 years.

Oh my word, TWENTY YEARS {that deserves a spelled-out number, mostly for how far I've come from the little girl in pink plastic glasses who took solace in the fact that Julia Sugarbaker also wore big glasses sometimes}.

This morning, I found the remote, which sits on a recharging station when it's not in use, and I hit power. It wasn't the TV that came on but the remote itself—a touchscreen of options.

I paused for just a moment, perhaps waiting for it to say, "What do you want to do today, Kamiah?" It would, quite obviously, speak with a Hannibal Lecter-type voice: like it knows too much abut you and is judging you for how much Lifetime you watch.

The remote gave me three options:
  • Listen to the Radio
  • Watch a DVD
  • Watch TV
"You're not so tricky, are you, remote? I think I shall call you Siberia, because that is also remote." Siberia the Remote did not care for my joke, but rolled its eyes at me as I flipped through the guide, looking for Julia Sugarbaker {but really, aren't we all looking for her?}.

The 1947 version of Miracle on 34th Street was on—of course it was. It has been playing non-stop since, I believe, just after the last bite of the last pumpkin pie in America was taken on Thanksgiving Day. It may have even cheated and started before Thanksgiving, justifying its holiday bleed by pointing out that it starts with Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.

There was a Star Trek marathon on SyFy—a branding so divorced from its science fiction roots. What's wrong with owning your nerdiness {wonders the girl in the pink plastic glasses}?

I could've watched The Real Housewives of Almost Every Major City in America, but it's a source of pride that I have never seen any of those, and Christmas is not the time to tear down your pride. Unless, I guess, it's in the "He humbled himself and became one of us" kind of way. Then it's okay.

So many options, but none of them Designing Women.

"Siberia, find me Designing Women," I said, wondering if this remote might work like Siri on the iPhone. It would find Julia for me, and then it would tell me that I'd grow up to be Julia. {I don't have an iPhone, so my understanding of how Siri works/compliments you may be wrong.}

Siberia the Remote did nothing.

Lazy remote. Good for nothing.

Really, I decided it was good for nothing: I hit the power button—it was Julia or nothing—and the TV turned off but not the sound.

I looked at the remote: shouldn't the screen have changed to new options? Something like:
  • Turn Off TV
  • Turn Off TV and Sound {You wouldn't think we'd need to say this, but we like to make it more complicated than it needs to be.}
  • Try Watching a DVD Instead Since Lifetime Changed Their Schedule
  • Switch to Christmas Music. Why haven't you been listening to more "Holly Jolly Christmas"? Is it because you're Anglican now and all into Advent and therefore believe that you shouldn't listen to Christmas music until Christmas Eve?
  • Just Give Up and Read a Book. Old-fashioned entertainment and such. Later, you can make a popcorn garland for your Christmas tree because you're clearly not 21st century enough to understand the TV.
But it offered me nothing, and loud car commercials continued to echo in the house, no matter how many times I hit the power button.

"Hurry in now for our year-end pricing! You don't want to miss this! Surprise a loved one with a new car! We even have giant bows for you to wrap it in!"

"Shut up, shut up, shut up! Who makes giant purchases without consulting their loved ones? You are promoting a dangerous idea!" I yelled, hitting power over and over.

I paused.

Yelling at the noise-noise-noise-noise at this time of year never works. The Grinch learned that, and it would do me well to remember it every year.

We can get overwhelmed by the clang of consumerism and commercialism.

The "Buy this now! It's new!" is so enticing, but it can also make your soul feel like it's being crowded out. You want to—if you're me—yell at everything to slow down, quiet down, and maybe even lay down.

What I really need to do, though, is slow down, quiet down, and maybe even lay down myself.

I remembered that this morning, trying to work my parents' TV. I found the mute button, hit it, and resolved to ask my dad how to use the TV when he got home from work.

And in the meantime, I turned up the fireplace {at least their gas fireplace isn't too smart for me}, called the pugs over to me {there are four at their house right now, including my one Little Pug}, and sat in the quiet.

19 December 2012

so many little things to enjoy

"Learn to enjoy the little things—there are so many of them."

My Kids Thot-a-Day calendar told me this yesterday, and it's been sitting with me, as the simplest things often do.

I don't think, if I may be so self-congratulatory, that I need to learn this lesson. Little things and the enjoyment of them are a specialty of mine, but sometimes I forget that, as I often do with the simplest things.

You know how it is: a work project, say, doesn't go quite right, and you can feel frustration, annoyance, and tiredness rising up in you. What had been a small, peaceful stream, a babbling brook, is suddenly under a flash flood warning because somewhere far away from you, it rained.

This flood is out of your control, and you can start to feel out of control yourself {because, well, you are—not in control, that is}.

All that rises, a rushing river of Big Things, and your quiet glade of Little Pleasures is destroyed.

Like a character from Little House on the Prairie or from Little Women or from some other diminutive book, you had plans of simply reading by the stream all day. You were going to bring a picnic, but now—now, argh and grrr and other guttural utterances of frustration and disappointment.

Then, hiding in the trees, perhaps, in the glade—high up out of reach of the flood—is a bird with this reminder: Learn to enjoy the little things—there are so many of them.

A flood will dissipate. A frustration will become less acute. A tiredness will be sated.

And then, I'm sorry to say, they will come again. But in the midst of flood, frustration, and tiredness, there are always so many little things to enjoy.

Such as {my own little list for the moment}:
  • how my Little Pug curls up in front of the space heater whenever I turn it on. She sits so close I do worry that she'll burn up her fur, but she seems content and cozy for the moment.
  • Christmas lights
  • walks in the strangely balmy December weather
  • stovetop popcorn with melted butter
  • really, anything with butter
  • reading in bed
  • giving a friend a homemade present and having her squeal in delight

So many little things to enjoy.

It sounds trite, I know—like something more fitting come out of Marmee March's mouth than my own. But right now, on this almost-the-longest-day-of-the-year early morning, it sounds right coming out of my pen.

And now I have to ask: what are the little things you enjoy?

14 December 2012

have mercy upon us

I had such funny things to say today. Such lighthearted things, such witty snippets of sarcasm.

I was going to talk about how whenever I hear the fiscal cliff mentioned on NPR now, I immediately switch to either Christmas music, Les Mis, or this radio station I've found that seems to have re-discovered the playlist to every high school dance I went to.

Belting out "One Day More" is a better use of my time than listening to soundbites of Speaker Boehner and President Obama say that the other guy is the one dragging down the country.

"His proposal isn't even serious."

"The American people won't put up with this."

On and on they go, talking about the American people as if they have called every one of us and and know us by name and are planning on spending Christmas with us.

I was going to talk about how childish they seem, as if Washington were just an extension of Never Neverland.

I was going to say that their "am not, are too" finger pointing looks out of place on the steps of the Capitol; it belongs on the steps of a school, in those moments just before the bell rings and the little kids are trying to get in the last word in a taunting match that started on the bus.

I was going to tell them to grow up and then came this news that 20 children in Connecticut will never grow up.

There has been another mass shooting, and what a travesty it is that I can say that: another mass shooting.

Another opportunity to struggle to find words that don't sound empty and trite.

Another opportunity to immediately picture every child I know in the same circumstance.

Another opportunity to think: What would make a person do this?

Another opportunity to listen to the 2nd Amendment / gun control / why does this happen so often in America debate.

In the fading late-fall light outside my window, I can see a world where everything looks so normal. Cars are passing; people are on their way to Target or Kohl's to shop.

I am hundreds of miles from Connecticut, but still I think—as I always think after something so jarring as this happens—that the world should look different.

What do I want? For the lights to go out? For the cars to stop? For the errands to be ignored? For everyone to stop working for a day and say, "You know, there are so many more important things than this right now"?

Our broken, fallen world fractures a bit more every day—and especially so on days like today. We're reminded that we live in a world where nothing is sure and where evil seeps in to even the sweetest spaces.

I think what I'm looking for—as I try to process how the world can be one way in the morning and another way an hour later because someone walked into a school—is a way to recognize our brokenness, and the only way I know how to do that is by saying:

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

11 December 2012

december {a poem, not by me}

It has been a week of—no, a month of—to-do lists and tasks.

The checkmark mentality has so overtaken me that even when I try to write easy, light emails—the kind where you say, "Hi, dear friend, I miss you. When can we see each other? Please say it's soon."—I want to write it in bullet points.
I would so love to see you soon, and here are some times I have available:
  • Saturday morning at 9:30
  • Sunday before church
  • next Monday night from 7:30 to 8:30
And I was thinking that we could:
  • take a walk {weather dependent}
  • drink coffee
  • drink hot cocoa
  • drink coffee and hot cocoa together {and maybe put some sort of alcohol in it because that's just the kind of day/week/month it's been, the kind where you want all your desires in one cup}
But none of that sounds very friendly, does it? It sounds like I'm trying to cram my friends into my planner, squeeze them down to size, and then check them off my list.

Of course that's not what I mean, but I cannot seem to make my brain stop its to-do list format.


Until I remember that poetry always does it.

Poetry always brings me back from the edge where I thought, just for a second, that if I could just get everything down on paper, it'd be all right. If I could just categorize it all under headings and subheadings and especially if arrows were involved—well, then, it would all work out.

Poetry, though, is what reminds me that not everything has to be structured and not everything will work out as I want it to when I make my to-do list in the morning.

Poetry is what reminds me that it's all right—it's more than all right—even when nothing works out as I thought it would.

So today I found a poem about Christmas carols and Christmas decorations. It's about how even in the midst of all this shiny, happy holiday stuff, we still need to do the chores; we still need to take the garbage out and shovel the walk.

You can get bogged down in those details of life {at any time of year, you can get bogged down}, or you can choose to see the glint of beauty in the blend of the chaos, the chores, the normalcy, the lights.

And for right now, reading this poem and writing down a few words about it, my mind has stopped its to-do list. That's all I wanted.

Gary Johnson

A little girl is singing for the faithful to come ye
Joyful and triumphant, a song she loves,
And also the partridge in a pear tree
And the golden rings and the turtle doves.
In the dark streets, red lights and green and blue
Where the faithful live, some joyful, some troubled,
Enduring the cold and also the flu,
Taking the garbage out and keeping the sidewalk shoveled.
Not much triumph going on here—and yet
There is much we do not understand.
And my hopes and fears are met
In this small singer holding onto my hand.
Onward we go, faithfully, into the dark
And are there angels singing overhead? Hark.

05 December 2012

christmas decorating tips

Should it fall to you to bring Christmas cheer to your office—much like Will Ferrell in Elf—I have several suggestions for you.

  1. Hum, whistle, or full-out sing Christmas carols at any time. This is especially helpful if you're in a choir, as I am; it's extra practice time, and it's like an advertisement for your Christmas concert.

    You could say to a co-worker, "You know those same three bars of 'O Come, O Come, Emmanuel' that I've been humming during meetings and when we pass each other in the hallway? Come to my Christmas concert, and you can hear those three bars plus a lot more bars." They will quickly ask when and where.
  2. Make sure you have wine during Christmas decorating. People will be less annoyed that you've put "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" on repeat if you give them wine.
  3. Leave a Santa hat around the office, kind of like Elf on the Shelf. Convince people that Santa has sent his brain, protected by his hat, to see if they're being naughty or nice. Tell them that if they wear the hat, they'll finally understand how Santa makes it around the entire world in one night. As a bonus, they will also instantly know all of Mrs. Claus' recipes for the best Christmas treats.
  4. Immediately run to the kitchen whenever a new holiday gift basket is delivered from a vendor/client/friend. Tear into it like...a kid on Christmas. The phrase makes so much sense here.
Finally—and so important that it can't even be in the numbered list with all the other suggestions—make a fireplace out of construction paper. Ideally, you would do this one night while watching Christmas episodes of all your favorite TV shows.

When you bring in the fireplace the next day, spend a long time detailing the plots of those shows to your co-workers.

If you want, you can model your fireplace after mine. I made it last night while watching Designing Women—not a Christmas episode, unfortunately, so I hope I still have enough Christmas cheer to make it through.

Yes, those are framed pictures of Downton Abbey characters. If their pictures are on our fireplace, then we can pretend we live there. Or that we're friends with the Crawley family, and soon, they'll be sending us a holiday gift basket. I hope it has wine in it.


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