Friday, August 31, 2012

Sometimes It's Nice to Walk into Your Classroom and Find an Elephant

Hi friends, it's been awhile.

I guess I've been playing too hard these days because I came down with a gnarly summer cold that's made it difficult to do thinking activities, like writing complete. Sentences.

Somehow, though, my head-that-feels-like-a-lava-lamp was able to do just enough work to be ready for my first day of teaching yesterday.

I love the first day of school.

I love the excited butterflies in my stomach, the smell of new dry erase markers, running into old students and seminary friends around campus, meeting my new students, and finding surprise safari animals in my classroom.

Friends, meet Norman the normal elephant:

He was waiting for me on the podium in my first class yesterday, along with this introduction:

Norman's appearance was just so darn mysterious!  Had my new supervisor put him here?  Could she have possibly done this for all fifty of us in the composition department?  And what did she mean by 'I've heard you have recently become  'normal' too'?  Surely she knows that English teachers are never normal?—that they do things like, say, impersonate 'The Albino' from The Princess Bride for unsuspecting, nervous freshmen on the first day of class?

But who else could have introduced me to Norman the normal elephant?

Perhaps time would tell?

Underneath the card introducing Norman was this card:

After I was finished teaching my classes I tore it open and found this picture:

Along with these instructions:

Were there other faculty members doing this? I wondered. Was this some elaborate means of team-building?

. . .



Or maybe one of my friends was having a little fun with me?

I hoped Paul the Pensive Panda would have some answers. So I set out across campus toward the lounge where seminarian philosophers sit rubbing their chins and pensively discussing really electrifying things like qualia and epiphenomenalism.

Sure enough, Pensive Paul was waiting for me, along with another card labeled 'SJ.'

I sat on the maroon leather couch that has held so many brilliant thinkers before Pensive Paul and opened the envelope.  I found this picture:

And these instructions:

A hurdling, eschatology-discussing giraffe!

When my sister and I play the what-animals-do-our-family-members-look-like? game (a favorite pastime) we always decide a giraffe is my animal.  I've also been known to enjoy hurdling and a rousing discussion about eschatology—so surely this giraffe was my kindred spirit?!  I couldn't wait to meet him, so I headed across campus to the track.

About ten seconds into my trek I noticed that the leather straps on my shoes were slowly but surely sawing off my toes.  I was faced with a dilemma.  Should I continue on my path toward bloody toe-lessness?  Or join the ranks of the granola folk who come to my class every day without shoes, for no apparent reason?  I decided that toe-lessness was not an option, took off my shoes, and set off again.

I ran into one of my old student's sisters during my hunt.  She gladly agreed to help me document it. :)

And boy, going barefoot in public is fun.  Well, it's fun once you can silence your brain's regular reminders of every article you've ever read about tapeworms and viruses entering people through their feet.  Only then does it feel like being a kid all over again.

Walking barefoot on a track is one of my favorite things, along with rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens. Just kidding, I hate cats.

I found George the Galloping Giraffe!

With another picture inside the envelope:

And another clue:

George and I galloped to the library together where I put on my shoes, and headed straight for the upper east wing.

Ted the Translating Turtle!

He's reading Hebrew, go figure.

I opened the final card hoping it would reveal the creator of this little scavenger hunt, but there was no name.

Instead I found this picture:

And these instructions:

I walked down to the outdoor benches and looked around. . .and. . .there was nobody there.  Not my supervisor, not a friend.

And then a familiar face appeared from around the corner:  S, a friend from my Old Testament class two and a half years ago.

"You!"  I exclaimed.

"You!"  I exclaimed again.

I'm quite articulate in surprising situations.

"Yes, me!" he said.  And then we sat down and he explained.

"You're feeling more normal," he said.  (He'd read this blog post from a few weeks ago).

"I wanted to encourage you as you start a new semester feeling normal for the first time in years, so I gave you Norman the Normal Elephant to celebrate your newfound normal."

Suddenly it all made sense.

S runs the copy center on campus, so for the last two years I've seen him every week when I've gone to pick up my handouts for classes.  He's seen me on the days when getting out of bed for work was an enormous feat due to illness, and on the days my eyes were heavy with sorrow from life's blows, and on the days I confessed I was just faking it till I made it.

And now there are signs I'm heading back to 'normal' and he knows this is no small thing, so today, the first day of the semester, he gave me a new elephant friend to remind me of God's good gift of 'normal' this month.

New normal friends are the greatest, aren't they?

Almost as great as old friends.

© by scj

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Beatin' the Heat to this Beat

I'm back in L.A. this week, and boy is it hot.  Cloudy, humid, is-the-breeze-vacationing-in-Bora-Bora? hot.  When I left Portland it was hot.  Record-breaking hot.  And when my family left Idaho it was the hottest it's been in the five years we've vacationed there.

Thank goodness for shady trees, the frozen food aisle at Vons, swimming pools, and this video.

Watch it.  It will give you chills.

I get goosebumps every.single.time. I watch it.  Especially from about 2:10-2:56.

Doesn't it make you excited about singing with the heavenly choirs one day?

© by scj

Saturday, August 18, 2012

My Top Secret Mission

Some days you've just gotta shove your work in some far-off cupboard and go on a top secret mission.

Dun dun duuuuuuun.....

Remember my friend, G, and our years of exchanging Mr. Duck back and forth (and back and forth, and back and forth)?  You should probably read about it here before you read anymore.

And remember how Mr. Duck has likely been sucked into the vortex of some college friend's garage?  And remember how I've sorely missed Mr. Duck over the years?

And remember how Mr. Duck was sneakily replaced last Christmas with a squirrel that turned out to be a skunk?

Skunkie was the bearer of great comfort and joy that day, back when I still had tonsils that were always unhappy. Accompanying him was a card wishing me well, herbal throat coat tea, and an unspoken invitation to renew the lawn-ornament-exchanging tradition that was lost back when Mr. Duck disappeared.

I couldn't say no to that unspoken invitation, because it was an invitation to participate in a top secret mission. I love top secret missions.

And so several months later I pulled Skunk out of the closet at my parents' house, put a nose plug on the stinky little stinker upper, and stuck him in the car.

I've never driven with a skunk riding shotgun before and it evoked strong, foreign desires.  Like the desire to blast country music with all the windows rolled down. You haven't really lived until you've driven with a skunk riding shotgun, that's for sure.

When I rolled up to G's parents' house (where G was dining for the evening) I turned down the country music, lest G come running out.  He loves country music, and I needed to keep him in the house so I could complete my top secret mission in complete secrecy, you see.

I parked behind a large tree, my heart pounding and stomach churning (maybe I take this too seriously?), and then I marched up to G's car, stuck the skunk on top, skittered back to my car, and drove away.

Mission accomplished.

Easy as 1,2,3.

Later that evening I got a text from G with this picture: proof of my top secret mission accomplishing skills.

Truth be told, G found Skunk sooner than he should maybe he saw me through the window, or maybe he heard my country music, or maybe he has a sixth sense—a lawn ornament secret mission sense.  Yes, that's it; I have a sense that he has a sixth sense.  I wonder if I have the same sixth sense?  One thing I know: I'll soon find out.

G, the skunk's in your court now.  Bring it.

© by scj

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Brain-Addling Heat

This is a picture of half my family sitting on the couch:

Aren’t you glad I’m here to explain abstract and mystifying images like this?

This is an accurate snapshot of our evenings here in Sun Valley.  Well, fairy accurate.  It does make us look misleadingly calm and relaxed.

Sure, like most Americans we are prone to slouch and eat junk food when we watch TV.  But when the Olympics are on we’re also prone to fly off the couch shouting and cheering, and doing an occasional happy dance. 

And then, when the cheering has subsided and our heart rates have returned to normal, we notice that our abs look nothing like those on the screen in front of us, and that our mouths are full of potato chips and the plate of cookies is gone. 

And that is when we vow to hit the tennis courts the next day.  Just as soon as we’ve eaten a heaping plate of waffles lathered in whipped cream.

And you better believe we do it.  Eat the waffles, I mean.  We do usually head to the courts, too, and we even squeeze in some biking and swimming, so that by the time we get to the courts the sun is high in the sky and the

This is probably why we’re so generous with each other when we play. 

The ball is served into the fence before bouncing into the court?  Totally in.  Play it.

Someone hits a ball hard and fast straight into the net?  Excellent racket/ball contact.  Way to go.

A ball soars over the fence and into Never Never Land?  Homerun.  Double points.

Yes, the heat must have addled our normally competitive brains for us to be so unconcerned with rules and definitions while playing sports. 

There have been other indicators of heat-induced brain-addling this vacation.  Take, for example, this recent conversation we had while driving through the Idaho countryside:

Person 1: Wow!  Look at that!

Person 2: Ostriches! 

Person 3: No, those are definitely pelicans.

Person 4: Actually, I think those are wild turkeys.

Person 3: Yeah, I think you’re right.

Person 1: Ostriches?  Really?

Several seconds pass.

Person 5: Look, lots and lots of buffalo!!

Person 2:  Um, no.  Those are cows.

Etc. etc. 

I believe 'buffalo' resided here

I wish I had a picture of the birds discussed in the beginning of this conversation so I could get your take on the mysterious birds, but alas, I was too busy recording our car conversations.  I have this secret compulsion to record anything in my life that may one day be fodder for a comedic skit. 

I have never written a skit, nor do I have intentions of ever writing a skit, but I am quite determined that should anyone I know ever need material for a skit then I will have something to contribute.  What can I say, I lead an ambitious life.

Speaking of skits, my mother was in the Vacation Bible School skits at my parents church last month, and the videos have finally been posted on Youtube. 

In the skits she plays a Southern middle-aged woman named Sassy Wantalot who is searching for the fountain of youth.  I intend to watch all five of them in succession before the Olympics start this evening, which means I’d better get on it.  You’re welcome to join me:



© by scj