Thursday, September 29, 2011

Goodwill Running

I got to the trail-head last week for a jog and realized I had worn flip-flops.  Deciding what to do, I spilled the contents of my water bottle onto the floor of the car.  I then happily remembered I left my running shoes in the trunk.  I debated if I should crawl back in bed because of my bad fortune all before 9am.  If you take advirsity as a sign, then you will never exercise.  So, I hit the trail for a long run.

At mile 2.5 I passed two ladies who I knew were retired teachers.  One, the principal of my elementary school.  I passed them saying "Good morning, teachers!  Thanks for teaching me to read!".  I surprised them with my greeting, and sped by them.

When I turned back I knew I would see them again, so I stopped to properly greet them.  What happened next was entirely unexpected, and I was glad I didn't give up on my run.

I told the teachers that it was more precisely Mrs. U who taught me to read with Dick and Jane.  I then told them that I did learn to read, and also what it felt like to have my nose in the corner.  Mrs. U made me put my nose in the corner when I was six.  I am a tender sweet person, and I always have been.  I wanted Mrs. U to like me, so I was good.  That is about all I remember of her, and the drawings of Dick,Jane, and Spot.

I have lived a charmed life, and have mostly been treated with kindness.  Mrs. U was the exception.  I didn't realize how tender I was about it, until the retired principal, Carol Judd, was apologizing.  She apologized for not being able to protect me from my teacher's cruelty.

I told her it was fine, and I made it through.  She told me again, that she was sorry and that it was not my fault.  I did nothing to deserve shaming as a six year old.  I then told her that it worked out just fine.  She then told me that it wasn't fine, and that she had a bad feeling about my teacher.  She was never able to do anything, and she was sorry.  She did not apologize for my teacher, but for herself.  It was personal.

Really, in comparison, to the atrocities that so many people survive, being shamed in the corner is negligible.  Though, with her persuasion, I had to give in.  The sky above me opened up, and some white light shined in a dark place.  It wasn't my fault!  She was there the whole time hoping to look after me, just like my mom and dad, just like the teacher next door in room 7.

I felt as if the issue was taken care of before my run.  Both my children have been in room 6 for a total of four school years.  The teacher in that room now, has recaptured the space for me.  Mrs. Judd asked me if I had 'saged' the room, and I thought I had.  I think the real sage was Mrs. Judd, 30 years later.

I had two and a half miles back to my car to think about what she said, which for me is a long time.  When I was in my early 20's, I saw Good Will Hunting.  I think every generation has a coming-of-age story that is meaningful for their time (The Graduate, Garden State, etc.).  For me, it was Good Will Hunting.  It touched me, and I knew people like Will Hunting.  It was like saying I know people who are like the Prodigal Son.

Running back, I realized the story of Good Will, though less so, is about me too (which is why it is so good).  I am bit liberated from the trials of growing up.  Everyone, no matter the magnitude, needs redemption.

Thank you Mrs. Judd!  How do you like them apples?!?!?

 This clip has that 4 letter word that is used so often now, it nearly isn't a bad word, except I can't say it very well.  
Be warned.  
Also, it wasn't so dramatic for me, which is why I didn't win an Academy Award.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Growing Up Norman

Perfect apples on a perfect day.

Growing up Norman

My dad picks up after shaking the tree
(also my finger, isn't it a cute finger?)

Silas picks next to a bird's nest.

When I was small my parents designed and built a passive solar (which is active now) house, and planted an orchard nearly all themselves (I picked up wayward nails).  Today we six picked a bounty of apples, pears, grapes and plumbs.  I'd like to thank my Papa and Mom for feeding us kids and grandkids for more than 30 years.  

Now we I have a lot of work ahead.  I think we will cook some, and press some.  Next week I rented an apple press so that we can make cider, hard and sweet!  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Cows and the Chevy Nova

Just through these doors are two milk cows.

I can remember few events from when I was very small.  One is when my 2nd sister was born when I was three, and I remember a trip to the dairy farm my uncle Herb managed near Fresno, California.

My Grandma Foth took me in her green Chevy Nova.   At least, that is the kind of car it was in my memory.  The kind that had 2 doors and a triangle window too high to see out of if you are a pre-schooler in the back.

This is where the story gets a bit gruesome and why it is memorable for me.  I stretched up to see the farm as we pulled in.  Before I saw the milking barn, or a cow, I saw a man carrying a dead, newborn cow.  He walked with it to a pile of more dead baby cows and dropped it.  They were black and white.  We then visited my uncle and saw the milking barn and my memory fades after that for about six years.

In my mind all the colors were clear, the green car, the black and white cow, the color of the dirt road.  I wasn't scared.  I wasn't repulsed.  I think because I was so little, I remember how I feel, and it was more than a feeling.  The world was so big to me, and confusing.  I saw that there is something mysterious about death, and birth, and a farm.  I don't think developmentally I was able to judge the event.  It just was, but it was formative.

As an adult, when I see cows, and surprisingly enough I see them, that day at the beginning of my story has shaped how I think about cows.  I know it is silly.  I have no profound feelings or thoughts about cats, dogs, deer or raccoon, all of which I have seen dead by the roadside.  With cows, I see how nearly soul-less, soft and dim they are, and it touches me.

This summer in the Czech Republic, we went to get milk for the week.  We walked to the edge of town and met a Czech woman, selling milk.  Her milk tasted like milk.  If you buy milk at the grocery store, and that is the only milk you have had, then you do not know what milk tastes like.

The kids enjoyed seeing something new, and the woman was proud to show us her farm.  It was clean and the smell reminded me of the story I just told you.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sibling Rivalry Reprieve

For about five minutes last week my kids forgot they are brother and sister, and were friends.  I had a camera.  It reminds me that they will not be bickering in the back seat of the car forever, just about 5 more years.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Czech Foodies

Everyone loves corn on the cob.

I have two friend in the Czech Republic who, as you can see, are very much in love.  They love each other in a way that is bigger than themselves.  They love each other in a way that makes people wish they were loved as much as Petr and Ida love each other.  I have had the pleasure of knowing both of them before they were in love, and watching their love and faith grow.  Just last month they welcomed a baby girl into their family.  More love to go around.  This story, though,  is not about love as much as it is about food.
Petr & Ida
So much culture revolves around food as well as language.  We have to eat and we love to eat together.  It was around a table with my husband Silas and friend P.R., that Ida told a story about food.  I'll tell the story using my best language skills. 

Ida, who is Czech and speaks wonderful English as a second language, was telling an embarrassing story, in English.   A few days before, at a table full of people, she began to touch Petr's food.  She had been missing touching his food because we had been at camp for several days.  She had not been able to touch his food while at camp. (At this point in the story my mind is going crazy.  Is it a difference in culture that touching other's food is a sign of marital bliss?  Is this a language problem?  Does she mean she likes to cook his food?  I just sat at the table listening as if the story made perfect sense, but it didn't)  

While eating dinner the other night, she began to touch what she thought was Petr's food.  Finally after a while of this "food-touching" another man at the table questions, "who is touching my food?" (at this point I was able to eliminate some of my previous questions, okay, all of my questions.   I was on the wrong track completely, the story made no sense at all, and people in the Czech Republic have the quirkiest traditions)

She went on to explain how embarrassed she was to be touching someone's food, which was not her husband's.  I imagined her hands covered with universal brown sauce from the plate to her right, when she meant to be dipping her fingers in the sause and meat to the left.  Whoops?!  

Being confused is something you have to get used to while visiting a place where their language isn't your language.  We just listened to the story, like it was no big deal. 

After her story would have been the time for us to sympathise with her utter embarrassment.  We didn't.   No one nervously laughed with compassion.  I was both completely embarrassed for her and her story and completely confused. 

Finally someone poked a bit farther into the story to make some sense of it.  It was a language problem, or, it was an accent problem.  While we thought Ida was saying "food" the whole story, she was actually saying "FOOT"!!!!!  Ah-ha!!!  As the reader, you probably saw that coming the whole time you were reading.  After a week of exhausting youth camp, and jet lag, and the story being told near mid-night, all I heard was "food".  

I think it is a way better story if you use the word "food", but Ida was touching Petr's foot, not his food.  I think she does touch his food when she cooks it, but it is not a Czech custom to finger your spouse's goulash.  


Thursday, September 08, 2011


Sometimes it is better to show than to tell:

Sometimes it is better to listen than to speak:

 A blog to remind myself.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Sweets from a Sweet

Our girl had $6 burning a hole in her pocket.  Last night she tried to buy everyone a scoop of ice cream with it after we played tennis.  It was in her pocket at school today because she wore the same shorts (yes it's okay) and because we didn't let her buy the ice cream, we bought it.

Today when I picked her up, she was full of, well, whatever it is that makes her radiate.  She told me that she found her $6 in her pocket and also saw the farm stand was open at her school.  During recess, she picked out all the veggies she thought I might like and put them into her backpack (you know mom, that purple one).  She then donated $6 to the collection.  

She wanted to show me the food while we were driving home, which really just turned out to be a life lesson for her: never put ripe tomatoes in your backpack with an eggplant (don't worry I had a towel).

I felt proud that my girl would want to buy me vegetables, I felt known by my daughter.  I also felt mad at myself.  Last night I assumed that she wanted to spend her money so that she could have something sweet.  Really, she wanted to spend her money to be sweet.