the little things: one small voice (kaitlin jenkins).

Remember just a week ago when I wrote about wordy wedding foibles after officiating my cousin’s wedding?  Well, TODAY you get to hear from none other than the bride herself!  So, Friends, meet Kaitlin – Kaitlin meet Friends.  Because all I can say is ENJOY.    

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Here’s a pic of Kait (on the right) and another teacher at camp.

I am a high school English teacher. There. I’ve said it. I feel that sense of confession sometimes when I am at some social gathering or another, and inevitably someone utters those five words- the ones we adults use to categorize and define each other: “So, what do you do?” I love to watch peoples’ faces when I answer their question. What is it I see there? Is that amusement? Shock? Dare I say it, pity?

I fully recognize that there is a reason why people react the way they do to the idea that I willingly spend my days with those humans whom society has deemed moody, full of angst, too plugged-in, or simply uninterested in what I have to say. There is truth in this, and as roughly 50% of the new teacher population tends to do, I found myself seriously questioning my career choice. Oh God. I spent so much money to get a degree that I’m about to walk away from. How could I possibly continue in a job where I fight the same battles daily? I found that I had no patience for excuses or explanations.

Seriously? How hard is it to bring a pencil to class? I am not Office Depot.

Hey you. I’m loving that eye-roll.

Did we do anything important when you were gone for a week? Nope. We just waited for you.

Remember that time I asked you to get out paper and you told me to “Fuck off”? That felt awesome.

Even writing this, I can hear how jaded it sounds, and believe me, I haven’t been in the profession long enough to be jaded. I found myself battling the urge to call in “sick,” and the melody to “Everybody’s Workin’ for the Weekend” was my constant companion. And so, the million dollar question: Why do I still do it? The answer comes down to one small voice, and a conversation held in the darkness.

Every year I go to a weekend-long camp with a group of dedicated teachers. We hand pick our campers based on specific criteria: Are they leaders? Are they from various cliques and groups on campus? Do they appear to be struggling in some way? If you’re thinking “The Breakfast Club,” you’re on the right track. We take them to the safe quiet of the redwoods. We feed them, play with them, and ask them to get real about things no one seems to want them to talk about: Racism. Sexism. Gender. Family. Violence. Inevitably, they open up, and we see, as we knew we would, that they are broken. These kids are the ones who stand in a crowded room, screaming, and no one seems to hear them. At camp, however, they find their voice.

One night, after emotional activities and revelations about the fear that we tend to perpetuate amongst each other, the kids were feeling raw and fragile. They had seen some of their classmates, the very ones whom they would mock at school, open up about their own experiences of trauma and pain. At bedtime, I led my girls back to Cabin 4. As they put on PJs, and brushed teeth and hair, the cabin was quiet; the air was heavy with things unsaid. I flipped though the “So you Want to be a Camp Counselor” pamphlet, but there was nothing in there to guide me through facilitating and supporting this moment. So, I did all I could think to do. One by one, I tucked each of them in. Snug as a bug in a rug. I turned out the light and climbed in my sleeping bag. I offered up to the night, “Would anyone like to comment on what you learned?” Nothing. “Did anyone want to share how they’re feeling?” More silence. And then…

…one small voice came from out of the darkness.

I knew the girl who owned that voice. She was funny. She was strong. I even joked with her that she was the embodiment of sassafras. I won’t tell you her story. I won’t detail her pain here. I won’t chronicle the horrors she faced in her life. I will, however, say praise-be for the Northface sleeping bag that muffled my sobs that night. I was supposed to be the strong one. The adult! I was supposed to be annoyed at the lack of care shown by these kids, right? Instead, I wept. And I mourned the loss of her childhood. And I realized that I had been completely and utterly blind.

This small moment entirely changed the way I do things in my classroom. Who can focus on appositive noun phrases when in four hours they’re going home to a monster? Who cares what Atticus Finch said when they haven’t eaten anything today? I had heard it before: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” But it took one small voice in the darkness to bring home the point. This is why I teach- because every kid deserves to have someone empathize, or sympathize, or simply offer up a high-five. It might be all I can give them, but it also might be the one thing that gets them through that day’s battle.

And what about everyone else? The guy on the bus who stares only at his feet, his mind on a sick family member. The woman in the store who carries two screaming children and the burden of single motherhood. We all fight the battle in some form. Perhaps if we stop long enough to listen to those small voices, the ones that come from out of the darkness, or from the most unlikely of sources, we will stand a much better change of actually hearing one another.

imageKaitlin lives in the bay area with her brewer husband Ken, and her malodorous cat, Roscoe. When she’s not grading papers, she loves hunting down good craft beer, singing Sunday hymns, and being a nerdy book-worm.  Ugh.  Are you as in love with my cousin as I am?  Thank you, Kaitlin, for sharing your words, your heart, your life.  DO encourage her by leaving a comment today!

#booknerd (once upon an excel doc).

A couple months ago, I decided to break the Insta-ice and reveal my inner nerd to a small population of the world.  And this is what they saw:

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It’s an excel doc simply titled “2014 Books” because after tallying last year’s book reading results, I found myself wanting to know more. To which the general population responded with some of the following comments:

How do I love this?  Let me count thy ways.  #booknerd

This is great!!  Can u email me this list?  

I love you.  [At least three times ...which I take to mean, Cara, even though I am officially so much cooler than you, I embrace your inner nerd, wholeheartedly.]

Spreadsheet for books read?  Wow.  [Cough, cough, sarcasm.]

I don’t even know what to say about this… My OCD loves it & my lack of sleep makes me jealous?

Because, you see, I wanted to have the following categories (and to-be answered questions) at my fingertips:

*Date read: How many books did I read in a given month?  Why are there more books read in a particular month than in others?  Is there a trend year-to-year seasonally?

*Title of book 

*Author: What author(s) were “trending” for me this year?

*M/F: How many books by male authors, and how many books by female authors did I read this past year?  When I’m more cognizant of book choice, do I tend to choose female authors?

[Last year I noticed I read a TON of male authors, but I also didn't think through my choices as much: I just read whatever came my way.  But given the choice of book (and given the books suggested to me), do I naturally gravitate towards my own sex?  Does this matter?  I think of some of my Christian male friends in particular who - sadly and wrongly - only read books by male authors.  Do their reading-actions matter?]

# of pages: Really, how many pages did I actually read in a year?

Genre: Although I feel like I mix up the type of reading I do, do I still gravitate towards one kind of reading more than another?  And, for instance, as a someday-to-be-published-memoirist, am I reading my fair share of memoirs?

Mode of reading: Was this book read in paperback or hardback form, on Kindle or via Audible?  What types of books do I tend to read in any one category?

Rating: How many books do I rate 4’s or 5’s?  When I look back at the end of the year, will I decrease some of my ratings?  And since I’m reading books that have been more highly recommended than others, will I tend to have higher ratings?  Will I even have a worst book read category like last year?  Dun dun dun.

Year written: How many classics did I read this year?  Do I tend to only read books published in the past couple of years?

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Even though all of this information can be found with a couple of clicks (check out Goodreads, if you haven’t already), for end-of-year purposes, I wanted to have it within reach.  And, my book nerd friends, here’s some of what I’ve discovered already:

*Of the 64 books read so far this year, only nineteen have been written by male authors.

*I’ve read fifteen memoirs (including foodie-memoirs and spiritual memoirs), which to me means I’m learning more and more about the craft!

*This past month has yielded the most amount of books read in a month – of which I have one word for you: VACATION.  (Another word: Grandparents.  Another word: Pregnancy).

*And, I’d venture a guess that I tend to read most of the fiction books read via Audible, rather than in held in my hands …but am I missing something by reading in that way?

On that note, we’ll put a close to this conversation, but I’m eager for your input!  First of all, what’s your secret inner-nerd?  Let him or her out of the bag!  Second, what questions or categories would you add to this word-nerd list?  Join the geeky conversation!

work at home, stay at home.

Today I’m writing for Callie Glorioso-Mays, a new friend in the online world and a fellow member of the Redbud Writers Guild.  She’s publishing a summer series called “Work at Home, Stay at Home,” where I’m featured today.  So, take a look at a couple of my responses, and then head on over to her blog to read all the answers and to get to know the lovely Callie herself!

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Cara, let’s start by talking about your family and giving a quick introduction to my readers! I’ve been married to James, my HBH (Hot Black Husband) for four years now; Canon, our oldest, just turned two, and we’re expecting another little boy in the latter half of August.

What is a typical day like in your household?

7:30: Cancan and Mama wake up (or so the current pregnancy schedule goes).

7:30 – 9: Diddle-dallying, wake-up, dressing and breakfast-eating time.

9-12: Activity time (mama’s group, play dates, outings, babysitters, etc.)

12-1: Lunch, usually at home, and prepare for my favorite time of the day: NAP TIME!

1-3:30: Ahem, my favorite time of the day: NAP TIME!

3:30 – 5:30: run errands, play and hang out with my son.

Dada gets home soon after, and we tag-team it with preparing dinner, taking care of our son, doing the bed-time routine and making sure each one of us gets rest.

The questions (and answers!) continue, so head on over to Callie’s blog to check out the entirety of this Q & A.  Otherwise, no matter your situation, how do you balance work and home?

the little things: grow old with you (kate gallagher)

Guest post Tuesday, guest post Tuesday!  Today’s words will surely put a smile on your face …and remind you that the little things really are the big things.  Enjoy these words from the girl I shared a Claire’s BFF necklace with in elementary school, the lovely Kate Gallagher.  I sure like her, and you will as well. 

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A little over two years ago, I was awakened in the morning as I have become accustomed to by my husband’s alarm on his iPhone …which was about 30 minutes before I needed to get up and an hour before my husband needed to get up. At that point, we had been married for five years and together for 12. For most of those years, I’d been awakened early by that damn alarm even though my husband would hit snooze over and over again, falling back asleep each time – something I have never been able to do. I’ve never been a snooze person, nor have I ever been able to fall asleep after being awoken by a blaring alarm clock.

So, on that morning, I had become increasingly annoyed and I finally barked in my most agitated voice, “What’s your plaaaan, CURT?” And he responded, half asleep, “Grow old with you.” I immediately regretted my snotty tone. It was the sweetest thing I’d heard come out of his mouth in a long time. Not because my husband isn’t a nice guy, because he is, but in spite of how long we’ve been together and how much we talk about our future, neither of us ever really say things like he said in bed that morning.

I come from a family with divorce(s) on both sides. My birth parents divorced when I was at an age too early to remember much. A later divorce on my mom’s side completely blindsided me. And now at 35, I’m at an age where many of my friends have been married and divorced already. It’s all around; sometimes it seems inescapable. It’s something I don’t dwell on consciously, yet I do fear it.

When my husband interrupted my morning rant with his sweet sentiment, it was probably the first time since our wedding day that the commitment we made to each other, for life, was voiced. On our wedding day, surrounded by our closest family and friends, I felt as loved, protected and invincible as I had ever felt. What he said reminded me that we made a vow to love each other till death do us part. While wedding vows are no guarantee for a lifelong marriage, remembering that day and that power I felt behind the words we said to each other gave me a little pep in my step for the rest of my morning.

My husband has all sorts of annoying habits, like waking me up before either of us need to be up, every day. But I bring my share of annoyances to our relationship too. His ability to wake up in that positive and even loving frame of mind, in the face of my crankiness, was a great reminder for me to change my perspective and to appreciate those little moments that are so unexpected! He probably doesn’t even remember saying those four words, yet two years later, recalling them brings me quite a bit of happiness. I hope I return the favor to him someday :)

backpackingKate lives in Denver with her husband of 7 years and two Brittany spaniels. She loves to cook, eat, hike, camp, bike, walk her dogs and read non-fiction while also fitting in lots of DIY projects with Curt.

wordy wedding foibles.

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A few weeks ago, I had the best seat in the house: I married my cousin.  Actually, let’s clarify the aforementioned phrase: I officiated my cousin’s wedding to her real-life Ken-doll.  But letting grammar bygones be bygones, when someone you’ve known since birth actually, finally, legitimately ties the knot, and you’re privileged not only to cheer them on, but you’re also allowed and invited and encouraged to utter a few words into the microphone, it’s nothing short of magical.

Even if you accidentally don’t use your former English teacher eyes to ensure your cut-and-paste of the vows is correctly worded.  Because up until that point,  everything’s gone smoothly: you’ve welcomed the crowd and you’ve gotten a few chuckles here and there.  A homily has been spoken (and, you think, you feel, you really-do-believe that those words formulated in your wordy-insides were written just for them).  And you’ve successfully recovered a fumble after pausing a bit too long after asking Ken-doll if he takes Kait to be his lawfully wedded wife.

I do!  He’s enthusiastic.  He takes this husband thing seriously.  But we’re only one sentence in …wait a minute, you think to yourself, are you supposed to say your “I do’s” after every sentence, or merely at the end of the avowing paragraph?  You pause again.  You’ve only done this once before: you can’t remember such itty, bitty details such as these.  Meanwhile, the audience wonders if your eight-month pregnant self has really lost it now – like, emotionally, can’t-handle-it, about-to-break-into-hysterics.  You pause some more. You think hard, but between being knocked up and having spoken at camp to middle schoolers in the six days’ previous, you’re starting to feel a little tired.  You confer with the judge standing to your right: Uh, how many times does he say “I do?”  The judge points a lone index finger upward.  You proceed.

And then it’s her turn.  As you begin to read the perfectly worded vows of affirmation, the words that have been spoken for centuries, perhaps, by those entering into the sacrament of marriage, you feel a giddy, ethereal sense of elation.  Man, I’m good at this marrying stuff, you think to yourself.  You, your belly, Ken and Kait, and the rest of the community gathered around surely are Cloud Nine witnesses to this blessed, perfect moment.

“Kaitlin, do you take Ken to be your lawfully wedded wife?”  

You look your cousin in the eyes.

You tilt your head to the side, sheepishly, hopelessly, romantically in love with this moment, with your spouse, with the perfection of shared union.

And then it hits you, just as it hits Kait and Ken and one hundred fifty other attendees: Mama didn’t edit her Word document all the way.  Oh snaps.  A giggle erupts.  Laughter fills the outdoor air.  You hear a snort, and you whisper a “Help me, Jesus,” but forgetting the microphone is right in front of you, so too the rest of the audience enters into what has suddenly become the holiest of petitions.

But really, you’re grateful.  You’re grateful that laughter has finally invaded this place, just as you’re grateful that it was you who made the wordy foible instead of she who wears the lacy white dress.  But mostly you’re just grateful that your brain can still operate in lightening-quick speed, ensuring all future nouns and pronouns in the remainder of the paragraph have properly been fixed.

For of this memories are made.

So, need a wedding officiant?

I’m ba-ack!  Thanks for your grace as we traveled here, there and everywhere …and as I continue to rest when it comes to growing a small human.  So, have you ever had a wordy foible such as this?

the ladies in waiting (in her shoes).

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I look down at my feet: they’re puffier and a little wider than usual, but what, really, is “usual” these days?  The left and the right, well, they haven’t worn heels for a good couple of months now, though not for lack of want.  Instead, they’re happiest when propped up on a chair, when resting instead of moving, when still and submissive instead of pushing full-steam ahead, instead of hitting the ground running.

Like sledgehammers attached to the end of leggy appendages, they’re kind of my ladies-in-waiting.

Because really, every part of me – my ceaseless mind, my restless heart, my growing belly – is in wait.  Baby Brother will arrive sometime the latter half of August, we think, and until then we play the Great Waiting Game.  We embrace the liminal space, the in-between time of not quite knowing, of wondering and watching.  This whole idea of liminal space, or liminalityas coined by Franciscan friar and author, Richard Rohr, is nothing short of beauty-filled to me: it gives word and definition and meaning to the tapping impatience of my toes, to the elongated, reaching stretch of my calves, my ankles, my feet.

A thousand times a day, it seems, my mind is submerged in questions (with these that follow solely about the baby – forget the rest of my internal musings): Who will he be, and what will his little personality eventually morph into?  When will he actually arrive?  Will my love for him be immediate, snap-of-the-fingers quick, or will it grow with time?  Can I truly ever love him as much as I love his big brother?  And whoever thought parenting more than one child was a good idea?  For when there are more questions than answers, when we know that change is on the horizon but it’s just not there yet, that’s liminal space.  When we feel like we’re living in the gray – even if we believe The Gray an ethereal place to be – we embrace liminality.  We lean into waiting.  We grab hold of the ellipses.  Maybe we even whisper the words of U2’s “40,” a song that loosely echoes Psalm 40’s waiting theme:

I waited patiently for the Lord,

He inclined and heard my cry

He lifted me up, out of the pit

Out of the miry clay.

 Though not listed above, my favorite part of the melody comes with the chorus, when Bono asks (and the audience repeats) the same simple question, “How long?”  How long am I to sing this song?  How long am I to be in this waiting space?  At one point or another, it’s the song we each find ourselves singing – as evidenced by concertgoers while on tour for U2’s 1983 album, War.  “40” ended the night.  And the haunting chorus “How long?  …How long?” continued its echoing lament long after the musicians left the stage.

Because it might not be our song today, but it might be the song we start singing tomorrow, or on tomorrow’s tomorrow.  And when “How long?” begins its wail, we take heart, knowing we’re not alone.  We’re not alone in waiting for news of the diagnosis, and we’re not alone in our loneliness.  We’re not alone in the newness of transition, and we’re not alone in the pain of the infertility and in the pain of labor and delivery alike.

And this, I suppose, gives my weary sledgehammer, ladies-in-waiting feet hope – for they know they’re not alone.

Today’s post originally appeared on my friend Ginger’s blog – click here to check out her words and to see the full “In Her Shoes” series.  I think you’ll love it!  In the meantime, how are you living in a liminal place?  And (more importantly), how badly do your feet want to don a pair of heels?

the little things: we’re going on an adventure (marlene hekkert).

Oh friends, you are in for a treat today.  Not only do you get to see her 5th grade Dorothy Hammill bowl-cut self, but you get the opportunity to know and learn and grow from one of my newly-favorite people, Marlene.  So, buckle up and take a deep breath as you enter into our friend’s story of a little thing today.  

I’ll never forget those words my Mom spoke to me on that crisp afternoon in the Spring of my tenth year of life. I was standing outside of Ordway Elementary School with the rest of my fifth grade classmates as our teacher gave a demonstration. I was oblivious to my Mom being escorted by a school administrator as she quickly approached me.

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I was, of course, shocked to see my Mom. But more than any emotion I may have felt at the time, all I remember is her saying to me, “We’re going on an adventure,” and then being quickly pulled away from my classmates as we briskly walked to her car. “Are we going to Disneyland,” I thought? What kind of adventure were we going on? I got giddy at the thought of it.

As soon as I opened the car door, I saw the solemn look on my Dad’s face. And then his words felt like a kick to the stomach as he said, “We had a house fire.” No fanfare. Just the few words needed to get straight to the point.

An adventure? This was the adventure? My deflated self slumped into the backseat next to my older brother as we drove home, digesting the news of how a small kitchen fire turned our house ablaze. I remember the kitchen looking like an episode from the Twilight Zone. Even my plastic horses in my bedroom had melted into a blob. Over the next eight months, my family lived in a condo while we replaced and hoped to recover what was lost.

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I think back to that time and I’m amazed at my Mom’s words during that pivotal moment for our family. She could have been shrieking and crying, throwing me into anxiety as she picked me up from school. Instead, she chose to see this fire as an adventure, knowing and believing that what was most valuable – our family – was not lost and that we would get through this ordeal together, adventure-style. Her positive and upbeat spirit helped turn something tragic into an invaluable lesson on gratitude and choosing to see things in a different light.

My Dad also modeled something small in a huge way during that season. He never pointed a finger, spoke an accusing word, or blamed my Mom for the fire. His actions spoke love and grace and commitment to my Mom, modeling God’s forgiveness in such a tangible way for me as a young girl.

The small things truly are the big things: my mom’s choice of words; my dad’s actions. Each modeled God’s character and truth that I pray I can emulate to my husband and son, friends, and neighbors. Life truly is an adventure.

bio shot 2Marlene vows to never again revert to her 10-year-old Dorothy Hammill bowl haircut or to leave a hot pan of oil unattended on the kitchen stove. She’s an editor, occasional writer, and little boy-chaser who lives in the Bay Area with her husband, 3-year-old boy, and crazy chocolate lab. Read more on her blog by clicking here – otherwise, leave a comment and encourage Marlene today!  (And if you’re new here, spread the love by cheering on be, mama. be today!)