March 29, 2011

Reminders in Dreams...

I woke up this morning, and I swear, I could smell it. That acrid, smokey smell that blows into our windows every morning when we're in Malawi. The locals burn their trash at daybreak, and that smell is more efficacious than an alarm clock. I felt the wisp of the mosquito net across my face and the humidity that is ever-present. I promise you, I was not on my comfy, pillow-topped mattress; instead, my hip was firmly planted on the board of my bed, since the mattress is so thin and there's a hole right where a person's hip should be. I couldn't have been happier.

Then, my alarm went off, and I realized I was still in the States. Don't get me wrong, I am GRATEFUL for my life here. I am blessed beyond measure. I have a job I love, an apartment that, while it's not much, is my home; I have friends and family who remind me daily of why I was put on this Earth, and I lack for nothing.

It's just...the countdown has begun. 69 days until I leave with an amazing team of high school students, and we travel almost 48 hours to the other side of this globe. To a place where everything is different, and yet...the important things are still the same. Smiles mean the same thing; heck, I think they mean more. They're definitely easier to share. Hugs are tighter. Language is only words; smiles, laughter, and hand-gestures communicate just as effectively. Children laugh. Songs are sung. And, gratitude abounds - for me, it's just the thankfulness to be able to go. To see and experience what so many here in the US have never seen, and never will because we're so wrapped up in our struggle to fulfill the "American Dream." I'm grateful to help feed the hungry, to love the "unlovable", and to let some orphans - kids who have been shunned by society because their parents died of AIDS - know that they have value. That they are not a mistake, and that they have a purpose in this life.

I've been looking at my students a little bit differently today. I see them not as little junior high kids, but as future world changers. Students I will someday, maybe, travel around the world with, sit in the dirt & hold little kids with, cook food at the center with, and hopefully, help instill into them a desire to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and heal the sick.

I can teach my students what the definition of "salient" is, how to effectively defend a thesis, and how to diagram a compound sentence with direct objects and indirect objects and compound verbs, not to mention nouns of direct address. But, if that's all I do, I have not, truly not, been a teacher. Because, being able to score well on a test means nothing if one cannot look with compassion on others.

That is my true calling. Teaching is just the vehicle I use.

69 days...

March 21, 2011

It's Seriously One of the Greatest Things I've Ever Heard...

It's loud. I mean, LOUD. It's loud enough to find you wherever you are hiding, flexible enough to wrap around you, and strong enough to drag you along. To the fun. Back to the person who uttered this amazing thing. Because this thing - and this person - help you to suck the marrow out of life.

What is this thing? Who is this person?

The person is J. The thing is her laugh.

Yes, it's loud. Boisterous. Not "lady-like" at all. Infectious. Silly. Generous. Childlike. All grown up. Larger than life.

Just like J (except the non-lady-like thing; she's girly - all the way down to her 4-wheel driving, power-tool owning, high-heel wearing toes...oh, and the larger than life bit was seriously metaphorical.).

Her laugh is an invitation - to let go. To forget that the world is watching, to forget that I'm supposed to act a certain way, or to "appear" to be stylish and sophisticated. Her laugh calls to the soul and yells, "Sophistication is overrated. Come LIVE."

My laugh has gotten louder over the years that I've known J. I used to be quiet, hiding my humor in a subdued chuckle or a smirk. But, just as the sun cannot escape the dawn, you can't escape from the life that reverberates around in J's laughter. And, you cannot help but join in. Laugh. Guffaw. Chortle. Even wheeze because you can't breathe anymore. (Oh, and forget about keeping on mascara or eye makeup. You're going to laugh so hard you cry...a LOT.)

J's my bestie for many reasons; I'm blessed beyond words that God decided to intersect our lives. We've gotten into scrapes, had "adventures," eaten our weight in Candy Corn, cried our eyes out at the ugliness and indecency of life; but through it all, her laugh reverberates in every corner of every memory.

I'm going to hear it even when I'm old and deaf. It's that ingrained in my soul.

March 15, 2011

Me and My Momma...

My momma and I have one of those ├╝ber-cool, kinda creepy, mind-melded relationships that freaks some people out, but for the most part, makes other people just smile and shake their heads (either in understanding or sympathy, I'm still never quite sure). Today, we had one of those conversations. Via text. She's just learned how to text, so it's been quite an adventure with her. Today's conversation still cracks me up. I've been reading it over and over - once while waiting in line at the store. It's just slightly embarrassing to be standing *alone* in a line, and suddenly, without provocation (at least, to the understanding of everyone around you) just burst out laughing. That's what my momma did to me today. See for yourself:

Me (to Mom): I need some promises from you. If you're ever unable to care for yourself, 1) you'll relinquish putting on makeup and let me do it for you, and 2) you will not, NOT roll yourself around Target in your wheelchair, muttering to yourself & scaring little children (and grownups) with your clown-like makeup and random rants (Mostly 'cuz I don't want to come explain to Security after they called me because my name and number were pinned on your shirt with "If I'm lost, call..." on it "just in case."). Do we have a deal???? PLEASE??? (and yes, I do need mind-bleach after this last trip to Target.)

Mom: OMG! (Side note: She actually typed "OMG!"; I did not abbreviate that. How cool is she??? SOOO cool.) She was at my Target, too! Deal...but I get to choose the nail polish colors. Red, pink, green, blue, and purple. All at once! No fair changing your number! I know where you live - if I can remember!

Me: As long as you're wearing orthopedic shoes and support hose, DEAL.

Mom: Oh, no. Mini-skirts and tank-tops. We're letting it all hang out! Perhaps Walmart in Oklahoma is a better venue...

Me: Mini-skirts, tank-tops, support hose, and orthopedic shoes. We'll call it "Dementia Chic."

Mom: We'll corner the market!

I keep reading this over and over. Crack up EVERY time. That woman slays me...