Things I’m Noisy About

“Anita, are you hungry?” My friend asked me in the lunch line. “You’re exclaiming at everything you’re seeing, and I’m just enjoying hearing your delight!”

Well, I was hungry, but the real truth was that I’m always noisy about the things I love, so when there’s wonderful colors and flavors around me, I start crowing and cheering and talking in superlatives. Plus, I haven’t lost the wonder of working in an institution where lunch–colorful, fresh, creative food– is waiting when I walk to the food bar every day. And today’s fish tacos with cilantro lime slaw really and truly was the best lunch all year.

Since bloggers are allowed to rant and rave about whatever they want, and this blogger tries hard not to complain or rant, (but sometimes she fails, judging by the looks of another post that’s simmering) I’m going to be noisy about two things I’m excited about at the moment.

  1. People frequently ask me for book recommendations, and I’m thrilled to give them ideas and push books into their hands, but it always mystifies me because I don’t know why they come to me with their questions about books. There are other people who read far more than I, but I wonder if I get asked about books because I’m just noisier than others about the books I read.

I’m part of a book club, where we read a book a month and the person who chose the book leads the discussion afterwards. (We take a break in the summer, in which our sole group activity is a grilled steak dinner. The men grill, and the women bring salads and desserts. “This is such a perfect evening” we kept saying to each other as we cuddled babies around the fire and drank coffee and looked at the stars. I’m the newest member, and don’t know all the traditions or rhythms yet, but it has been most enjoyable.) Our current read is River Town, two years on the Yangtze by Peter Hessler, who relates his experience as an English lit teacher in China with the Peace Corps.

 It takes me to my own experiences of teaching English as a second language, the child-like identity you have to take on as a foreigner, the way life narrows down to finding the right word to buy supper, the simpler lifestyle that comes with living in a small apartment in town far away from family, the freedom of stepping on a train to explore an even newer place, the love/hate relationship locals have with foreigners, the stereotypes that every nationality presupposes on other nationalities. Peter tells his story with great heart without being sentimental, and I frequently giggle at the stories. The folk lore, the quirks such as the “Happiest Man in All of Fuling as well as the Luckiest,” the teaching bloopers, and can you imagine–pet birds in cages that you bring with you and hang in the rafters when you hang out in the teahouse with your cronies. Can you imagine!

Everyone should experience being foreign at least once. It is terrifying and embarrassing, but wonderfully clarifying and exhilarating and deeply enriching.

19 Travel Quotes to Inspire Your Wanderlust

2. For many years, I dreamed of taking voice lessons. Then for a couple months in Poland, I was at the right place at the right time and exchanged voice lessons for English lessons, which was a singular experience.  I think the Slavic way of singing is different from what I was wanting, plus, my teacher wanted to make me a soprano and insulted me when he said “Most altos are lazy sopranos.” I have no hard feelings. It makes a good joke, and now I think I understand the point he was trying to make. I will always treasure the English lessons where we watched musicians’ speeches and songs. His English was advanced enough to understand the poetry, and I always think of him when I sing “Heal their hearts, heal their souls, their lives can be golden if your love enfolds.”

Last summer, I started going to a voice teacher at the local college. My friends had told me I’ll like her, and they were right. Claire is an incredibly gifted soprano, deeply sensitive to her students. I often wished for 30 minutes to catch up and then 30 to sing, because it was like meeting a friend every week. She hears what isn’t said or sung, and knows what I need to hear or do to improve. In the lessons, I learned that when you hand your soul to a stranger you don’t die, which helped me feel less fear in other settings like public speaking. I learned that driving onto a campus and finding my way into the right building isn’t impossible. I learned that I can sing higher  and sustain lower than I thought I could. I learned that I can bomb a recital, forget everything I knew to do, and still not die. Unfortunately, I’ll never be a credit to Claire, and this week I had my last lesson with her. New responsibilities and other things to learn have crowded out this privilege, but I will always value those lessons. I experienced the law of the echo and the enriching power of a focused discipline.

Of course, the best voices train for years, but I think everyone should take voice lessons for at least one year.

Anita’s Life Hacks

If you read other life hacks, you know that some are genius, and some fall flat. Well, these are my latest ones, and they work for me.

Kefir with orange concentrate

A couple years ago, I was attracting every bug in town, even with eating garlic sandwiches and Polish pickles at a tremendous rate. Jewel and I had an English student who is a metabolic dietitian (isn’t that a cool title?!) and she said I need probiotics.  So I got attached to kefir, and now I don’t like to do without it for more than a couple days. The healthiest option is to use fresh or frozen fruit to make smoothies with it. Last year when I lived in a dorm, that wasn’t easy to carry off, so I improvised by just adding lemonade mix, and it was lovely.

Now, with summer being over and frozen fruit being at a premium again, I found another solution: orange juice concentrate. I drop a dollop of it into my pint jar, add a bit of sugar, and  oh, it’s so good that I moan every time at the first sip. I associate cold, juicy oranges with this time of year anyhow, and this just fits. Add a smidgen of vanilla and call it an orange julius for breakfast. Yum.

Happy bubbles 

You know how some little people need time to warm up to you, and sometimes you don’t have that kind of time? Or they’re grumpy and won’t be charmed? I found a trick. It’s called bubbles.

It started when I just happened to slip a little tube into my purse after a wedding, and happened to remember it was there when I was trying to befriend a fairy child. The minute I started blowing the bubbles, she started giggling and chasing them and suddenly she liked me after all. Well, she liked the bubbles, but that was ok. Her rollicking laughter was the best thing that happened to me that day, and her gorgeous, chocolate truffle eyes are still with me. I gave her the tube to keep and she couldn’t get done talking about her “happy bubbles.”

So now I have a supply of mini bubble tubes in a closet (JoAnn Fabric’s bridal supply) and keep one in my purse to give to the next child. It’s a sure way to make sweet little friends in an instant. (The photo is at my sister’s wedding reception when my nephew forgot about being grumpy and hungry.)12698453_805008379644694_4219333476885333484_o

Small Packages

This is an effort to return to the short-lived Thing One and Thing Two posts.

1. Last night my students and their mom invited me to meet them for pizza. I taught the brother and sister when they were 5 and 7, and now they’re 9 and 11 and don’t come for English classes, but they all, the mom and dad and grandma and children, still treat me like family whenever we meet.  I stomped through blowing snow to the pizzeria to eat yummy pizza and drink Coke and listen to rambling, delightful, brave English.

“I remember when we read Amelia Bedelia! And the photo of me with ice cream all over my mouth. I remember…”

“Did you hear the joke about the Russian and Ukrainian?”

“The pessimist said it was dark, and the optimist said it was light and the realist said it was a tunnel…”

“I dream of living in America even more than England, and making a new life there.”

Hours later, outside in the cold again, after all the laughs and the hugs and well-wishing, they brushed the snow off their car windows but the youngest one wrote in the inch of snow overthe hood: “I ♥ ANITA.”  awwwww

2. Oranges are in season somewhere and even though they consume how-ever many food miles to get here, what I ate the other morning made think that an orange is proof that God exists.  It comes in biodegradable wrapping and perfect portion control size (except I ate two) , and bite-sized segments. I revel in its refreshment and all the sunshine that’s packed in it.The flavor is comparable to nothing else and when an orange is fresh and cold, it’s better than chocolate.


Cosmos in Chaos

In a recent conversation about art, creativity, beauty, excellence, and ministry, I wished for a week’s time to discuss the themes. I have no statements to make, only ideas to explore. Madeleine L’Engle’s book, Walking on Water is a good read about these matters. This is one of my favourite quotes from there:

Leonard Bernstein says that for him, music is cosmos in chaos. That has the ring of truth in my ears and sparks my creative imagination. And it is true not only of music; all art is cosmos, cosmos found within chaos. At least all Christian art is cosmos in chaos. There’s some modern art, in all disciplines, which is not; some artists look at the world around them and see chaos, and instead of discovering cosmos, they reproduce chaos, on canvas, in music, in words. As far as I can see, the production of chaos is neither art, nor is it Christian.

Several deductions:
~Making cosmos (order) out of chaos is part of embracing the glory and wonder of being made in God’s image.
~Creating cosmos communicates, and it is more than talking to myself, though that has its place.
~Christian art might be characterized best by its outward focus, its valuing God and others over self. Does that mean that art/ creativity is service/ministry? This reminds me of how Michael Card, in his Scribbling in the Sand, quotes Vincent van Gogh: The more I think it over, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.
~Jesus was an artist when He washed His disciples’ feet, and later when He served them breakfast.
~I get to eat brunch with several artists in just a couple minutes!

The Diet to End All Diets

Breakfast Weak tea (1 calorie)
Lunch 1 boullion cube
1/3 cup water (2 1/2 calories)
Dinner 3 oz. prune juice (gargle)
1 pigeon thigh (1 1/2 calories)

Breakfast Scraped crumbs from burnt toast (1/2 calorie)
Lunch 1 doughnut hole (no sugar)
1 glass dehydrated water (0 calories)
Dinner 1 canary drumstick (4 calories)

Breakfast Boiled out stains of table cover (1/4 calorie)
Lunch 1/2 dozen poppy seeds (3 calories)
Dinner Bee’s knees and mosquito
knuckles, saute with vinegar (2 calories)

Breakfast Shredded eggshell skins (1 calorie)
Lunch Belly button from navel orange (0 calories)
Dinner 3 eyes from Irish potato (diced) (3 calories)

Breakfast 2 lobster antennae (1/2 calorie)
Lunch 1 guppy fin (1 calorie)
Dinner Jellyfish vertebrae (3 calories)

Breakfast 4 chopped banana seeds (1/2 calorie)
Lunch Broiled butterfly liver (1 calorie)
Dinner Fillet of soft shell crab claw (1 calories)

Breakfast Pickled hummingbird tongue (2 calories)
Lunch Prime rib of tadpole (3 calories)
Dinner Tossed paprika and cloverleaf salad;
1 aroma of empty custard pie plate (1/2 calorie)