Sunday, April 25, 2010

A list of my loves

I love to read.

I love to read books that transport me to another time and place, that captivate me with daring plots and dashing characters.

I know I have found such a book when I am sorry to see end. I tend to drag out the last few chapters of my favorite books- willing them to last longer. There is a fierce tension between my need to see what happens and my desire for the story to never end. Last night, I stayed up past midnight reading, “City of Thieves” by David Benioff. Yes, it was vulgar and crude at parts but it was historically fascinating and it made me laugh out loud. The marriage of funny and fascinating is a unique phenomenon that makes for addictive reading.

I also love to read blogs and letters.

I was just over at Deborah’s blog the Temptation of Words and I read her post, "On Happiness”- fabulous. I loved it. It reminded me of a letter I received at college from my sister. Inside the envelope was simply a list (and a long list at that) of things that she loved. She asked that I write her back with my own list.

What an exercise in gratitude. It is all too easy to focus on the things we dislike about our lives but when we sit down to make a list of the good, it grows quite long. The key is to be specific, to notice the details. Here is a sampling ( in no particular order) of my own list:

-The creases next to my husband’s eyes when he smiles.
-The light coming through the newly emerging leaves on a sapling.
-Hot tea with cream and sugar in a fine china teacup.
-Cupcakes (of course).
-The hilarious comments my students unwittingly utter on any given day.

What do you love? What do you love to read?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cupcake Extravaganza

Has anyone ever heard of Camp Cupcake? I discovered an article about this sweet craze in a local paper this week and found that the phenomenon was coming to a nearby city! Being a former baker, I had to check it out.

The premise is this: Several bakeries in the area put on the event. The purpose is to give away free cupcakes. Amateur bakers may bring entries as well. There is no charge, no catch, just lots of cupcake eating (and of course, publicity for the bakeries).

So, I went!

And I stood in the cold for an hour and a half awaiting entry into the house of free cupcakes.

A kind of camaraderie formed within the epic line as we waited. One stranger joked that she hadn’t even had a cupcake in a year, that she didn’t really like cupcakes, but they were free and who could pass on that?
But when we finally entered the room full of treats, the culinary creations blew away my expectations. Most of the cupcakes were too big to even fit into your mouth for a bite. They towered high, piled with buttery cream frosting and various edible ornamentations. Many were sprinkled with shimmering sugar or glazed with smooth creamy chocolate. A personal favorite was the carrot cupcakes and their decadent cream cheese frosting. The sweet and savory combination was perfect. It was the only cupcake that didn’t make my teeth hurt from the overabundance of sugar.

And here is what I took away from the night of sweets:
(We were not allowed to take any cupcakes home that night, all baked goods had to be eaten then and there which only added to the frenzy. So the following are theoretical treats...)

1. Americans are greedy. I am so eager to do everything all at once. Despite my best intentions I do not pace myself or take only what I need. As awful as it is to admit, I am a greedy American, grabbing for another cupcake before I finished my first (to the utter amusement of my friends.) If I could learn to gain pleasure from being rather than having or consuming, I would be MUCH better off.

2. Laughter is sweeter than sugar. The two friends that I went with are the wonderful sort of women who make everything a bit brighter. Waiting in the cold for over an hour is a dreary pastime but somehow they turned it into a memorable night of people watching, story telling and game playing. Half of the wait, I was doubled over in laughter at the ridiculous nature of our outing and my friends’ clever remarks.

3. Sometimes the classics are best. With all the pomp and circumstance of unusual and innovative cupcake creations, the biggest hits were the usual suspects, vanilla and chocolate. Simple and sweet. Sometimes adding too much can take away from the experience.

All in all (as my students would sum up any paper), it was a fantastic night.

What random and enjoyable adventures have you embarked upon this week? Have you done anything out of the ordinary that made you smile?

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I have recently embarked upon a degree in Special Education. One of my assignments was to write about a time that I felt disabled. Here is what I remembered as I began to write (it turned out to be longer than I intended):

When I was six years old, I underwent major eye surgery. Born with a lazy eye, I had experienced double or blurred vision since the day I came into the world. In August of 1990, that finally changed.

As a precocious six year old, I was convinced there was nothing wrong with me. I liked picking out glasses but I hated going to the eye doctor. He gave me tests I could not pass and it was infuriating. He’d ask me to point out the object closest to me but they all looked exactly the same. I’d shake my head to indicate that I could not do it. He would get a look of disapproval that cut to my heart. I learned to guess the answers, and then to memorize them, since I had to take the tests so many times. Sometimes my guesses would be right, more often than not, they’d be wrong.

All of this occurred before I had even entered kindergarden. That year my eyes became so bad that the doctor prescribed a patch over my weaker eye. I got to pick it out and I picked out a packet of beautiful rainbow patches, disposable so that I would get a new one each day. It stuck to my eye and was uncomfortable- not to mention that it obstructed a whole half of my field of vision. Still, I was confident on my first day of kindergarden.

I will never forget how those kids stared and laughed at me. The crashing of my self-image remains crystal clear in my memory. I was humiliated. They laughed and laughed and there was nothing the teacher could do about it, the damage was done.

I learned to throw my patch away before entering the school. I had to keep it on in the car with my mom, but before I went in the door, the patch was off. I can still picture the crumpled rainbow against the inside of the black trash bag. I'd try to drop it in casually so that no one would notice.

Obviously my vision got worse. It became hard to see anything and I could not read at all. The doctor warned my mom that my eyesight was deteriorating and that he was afraid I would eventually lose sight in my left eye. So, he suggested a fairly new surgery where the muscles in my eyes were cut and reattached, forcing them to work together and not allowing the shifting of my weak eye.

My mom agreed and I was excited. All the attention and preparation made me feel like a star. I couldn’t wait to go to the hospital, I even got to ride in a red wagon into the operating room. I had no idea the nightmare that lay ahead. It turned out that I was allergic to the anesthesia that they gave me. I woke up in a panic, screaming and kicking; trying to pull the IV out of my arm. I was terrified. What made things worse was that they had bandaged my eyes and I could not see. It would be like that for a week. I finally settled down but the darkness was still frightening. I wanted so badly to rip off the bandages.

The week that followed was excruciating. I could listen to movies but not watch them, I ate mostly ice chips and crackers. I was in pain a lot of the time.

But, when they finally took the bandages off, I could see. I looked out the window and saw light filtering through gorgeous green leaves. It was like nothing I had seen before and it was so beautiful.

However, all of the blood vessels in my eyes had been broken and I had to wear sunglasses because my appearance scared the other children. Again, I was an outsider to those my own age but I knew that I was going to get better. And I did. The surgery worked and I could see far better than before. I still only had limited three dimensional vision but over the years that has improved.

Looking back, I am so grateful for the support of my parents and the wisdom of my doctor. I wish that I could erase my fear of hospitals or the dreadful memories of being laughed at in school. I wish that I could prevent that experience for all of my students. No one should ever feel like they are less than human because of a disability.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


"Weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning."
Psalm 30:5

In the depth of darkness, I often forget what light is like. I lose hope of ever feeling the warm sun again or seeing the soft colors brighten the horizon. When I am sick, as I was the week, it feels like I will never be better. I wake up at night and can not sleep. My body tells me that morning will never come. Anxiety builds in my muscles and my mind races for freedom. All energy and strength are sucked into this whirlpool of fearful night.

On a broader scale, there are periods of my life that are so dreary they feel like night. The search for emotional and spiritual light seems bleak. Somehow, even in the darkest of internalized night, I hope and I pray that, "this too shall pass," and that joy will come in the morning.

And eventually, the sun rises. The light breaks into the beauty of a new beginning.
I try to etch those sunrises on my memory, so the next time I will not lose heart so quickly.

This morning is one to remember; brilliant and clear. The smells of new life burst from the dense, dark soil. The calls of doves and chickadees streak the air with harmony. The light of the sun penetrates my cold skin, warming my fearful heart. This Easter morning weaves joy and hope back into my weak and fragile heart.