Monday, November 30, 2009


We made Thanksgiving dinner at Dunedin on Tuesday. Chicken nuggets, barbecue sauce, green beans, white rice and blueberry pie : $30. Sitting around a table set with mismatched plates and cutlery and having the kids exclaim, "We're like a family!" : priceless.

Teaching your 8o year-old great aunts to play Wii bowling; waking up at 5 am to shop on Black Friday with your sister (who slept while you drove); enjoying two huge meals cooked with love by your mother; tasty dessert made by your sister; dominating your uncles and father at Wii; laughing until your face hurts at the antics of your aunts; being tackled into the wall by your uncle during an intense three-hour game of wally-ball; reading Newsweek with your cousin; asking Trivial Pursuit questions even when the game is over; being sincerely impressed with the answers Gram comes up with; wine, wine and good beer. There is no better way to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Conversation at Saturday night Pizza Ranch buffet brought us all to the humbling realization at just how blessed our family was. While I have lost two amazing patriarchs, both of my grandfathers left behind legacy and admiration; all of my aunts and uncles have stayed married; all my cousins (so far) have attended college; I have just one uncle who is battling cancer, but with the utmost strength and support; we all speak to each other and love one another. We are a rare group. We are lucky and I am oh, so thankful.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thank you...

The Office.
Best laugh out loud TV, ever.


I am thankful for...

If you haven't discovered this website yet, you should probably go there. Now.

I have reasons to appreciate this site outside of the good it does. I ask the kids to shoot for 1000 grains before playing some random racing game online, and it keeps them busy for a good 15 minutes. The quiet is nice though I'm not positive that they don't just click answers and cross their fingers that it's correct. Lately they've been asking if this is really true and are curious about this thing called the "UN World Food Program". The idea of feeding hungry people in Africa actually intrigues and motivates them to practice their basic algebra and English vocab.

John Breen, the guy who started this little website, was a freaking genius. In a time when few people believe that good exists or that change can occur in some of the everyday instances of life (like surfing the web), this guy proves us wrong. Plus, it's educational.
Gratitude goes out to people who appreciate knowledge and believe hunger can end.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I am thankful for...

The Pride of the Dutchmen

The other day, one of my kids asked me if I played any instruments.

I hesitated before saying, Well, yes, actually, I do. I can play the piano, cello and clarinet.

Before I could ask why she'd asked, she squealed, NO WAY! I am playing the clarinet now! I am going to bring my clarinet and you can teach me how to play! Isn't this just perfect?!

I didn't have a chance to warn her that I hadn't touched that thing since high school, or that I only chose to play the clarinet so I could be in the color guard, so when she brought in that small black case today, I cringed a bit.

Sure, the squeaking and three note rendition of Mary Had a Little Lamb got old real fast, but after a while I had to literally hold myself back from putting my mouth on that reed (H1N1) and show her all the notes and scales that I could remember. And remember I did...I taught her the notes and the little sayings to help remember them. I gave her hints to move from G to A and tricks to avoid getting spit everywhere. It was...dare I say, fun.

Here's my Thanksgiving thanks to the music department at MOC-FV and to all those who work hard to keep music in schools.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I really don't mean to be this emo.

When a friend drives away after a long anticipated visit...your last day soaking up the sun on the beach...throwing out the bouquet of flowers...the last hug from your grandma before the road trip home...your high school graduation...your college graduation...Sunday nights after a long weekend...the day you take down the Christmas tree...eating that final piece of birthday cake...

Do you know this feeling?

They call it a "roller coaster". I don't do roller coasters, I'm not even much of a swing person. That feeling in my stomach...I hate it.

It's funny how this all works. Moments, hours, days, weeks, years even, when your heart is so full of joy and contentment and then....done. finished. the end. Some call it emptiness, pain, sorrow, loneliness.... I suppose it's called grief. Saying goodbye to the past, refusing to live in the present, fighting against the belief that anything could be better than it once was, accepting it for what it is: moving on, leaving, growing up, changing...

What is wonderful is that more moments of joy and discovery are always just around the corner. They may look different these days, but they are certainly alive and well. And that's all the hope any of us ever needs.

Thank you, MTV/radio

While listening to my Indie MTV Radio I discovered this song...

Easy to see why I like it.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Why build houses to be filled with empty hopes....

"Why build houses to be filled with empty hopes and no dreams? If we fail to act boldly and bravely, we shall bequeath a society in which those of us of academic privilege have more in common with our counterparts in London and Tokyo than with our neighbors across the street or around the corner - the very people with whom we share a city’s history and its dream for the future. " President Evan S. Dobelle

This speech was referenced in yesterday's sermon at Plymouth Congregational Church, and feeling inspired after the first sermon encouraging, if not demanding, a Christian's active participation in politics, I had to check it out.

I realized today, that after an early morning and hours taking the GRE, that once I got to my kids this afternoon, words like 'masters', 'analytical' or 'quantitative' would matter very little. Cripes, I've got a fourth grader who's ready to drop out, nevermind higher education. I'm a little nervous that perhaps my education has created more barriers for me to tear down in my quest to change the world.

I'm so proud to have come from an institution that worked fervently against the idea of an "ivory tower", but perhaps it didn't do enough to break down the ivory towers that all of us who were so warmly welcomed at Northwestern were already living in.

What does really connecting to our neighbors look like? Maybe it has less to do with bulldozing our ivory towers and more with building ladders....

Friday, November 6, 2009

My excuse for being MIA.

This is not easy work... I don't know how teachers do it all day long, after two or so hours I eagerly get into my car and actually yearn for the red lights and traffic jams to quell the headache.

The best part about being at this for, seven [wow, seven] weeks now is that the kids are ready to get real.

They tell me what hurts their feelings, what they're scared of, what they get excited about. They ask me if I feel weird being the only white person and then tell me they feel "shy, lonely, embarassed" when they are the only Hmong person in the class. They tell me they missed the bus, again, today and because there was no car at home, they missed school. They tell me stories and about the last time they got in trouble. They cry more often and wipe their snotty noses on my sweater; they stand on their tip-toes to give me back rubs.

I love telling them about what life looks like outside of St. Paul and telling my Hmong kids that peanut butter really is tasty; I love the impromptu dance contests and rolling on the floor laughter. I love when they ask to sweep the floor or pick up the pencils.

I expect a certain little boy to steal my snacks and a disgruntled teenager to complain about the relationship with her abusive mother. I feel the pain when the word "father" is mentioned. I see signs of 'being a man' coming out through violence and verbal abuse.

I see hungry mouths, wide eyes, diligent fingers on the computer, uncontrollable, silly little bodies. I see frustration, immobility, impossibility; I see anticipation, energy and joy.