A New House

I am that teacher that still always keeps a jar full of sweets in her desk drawer, in defiance of those nonsensical nutritional standards. The candy’s not simply there for the taking, of course – I get the children to do little jobs for me, like erase the whiteboard or tidy up the bookshelf, and then and only then do I reward them with a piece. After all, when the school board interviewed me, I told them that I wanted my students to own their classroom, to be invested in it, and to think of it as our joint little house. So, in this way, I keep the little nuggets busy, and my domicile remains orderly and inviting.

And, of course, when the students are done with their tasks, they know to stretch out their chubby little hands for a Starburst or a Tootsie Roll. If a child has been especially good that day, or is in particular in need of fattening up, I may even hand out a whole fun-sized bag of M&Ms. I tell them to eat their candy right away, right there in front of me, or else Mr. Jones may see it and confiscate it. I enjoy watching it disappear into their delectable little red mouths.

I do try to be fair and even in my bestowals, and not play favorites with my students any more than can be helped, per the wisdom passed down from my sister. It doesn’t do to keep just one morsel close to you; you never know what the other little dishes may get up to when the time comes. I grew careless of this at my last position, resulting in a few close-to-awkward questions. A tattle-tale mentioned that Ms. Haag was always giving candy to Katie, that she was my favorite. This was, of course, a tad nearer to the mark than I cared it to be, although I was able to play the part of a grieving teacher to great success. But, just in case, I decided to seek out a new schoolhouse; I simple couldn’t stay there, after such a traumatic experience as my favorite student disappearing.

It was quite easy to be hired somewhere else. I’m a sweet old woman, with a few old-fashioned values that are none the worse for wear and a great helping of empathy for my students. I tell the school board nothing but the truth. I let them know that I make it my business to be very aware of students’ home lives, and that I take it into account in everything I do.

To this end, I always call my students’ parents quite early in the year. One can tell quite a lot by that first phone call, which is ostentatiously merely meant to touch base with parents and thus start the year off on a good note. By now, I know exactly what to look for. A father immediately offering to come down to the school and “wup” their child – I just have to say the word – is bad; a mother gabbing on and on about how I needn’t fear, they always devote time to help their child with homework and projects, is much worse. On the other hand, a parent answering the phone with merely a resigned “What’ve they done now?” is very, very promising. It’s even better when the contact isn’t the student’s real parent, but a guardian of some sort. In Mason’s case, it was his stepmother. Within the first minute of our conversation, the woman flat-out let me know that while that child was at school, he was my responsibility to deal with, and mine alone. Exactly what I wanted to hear, really.

So, I’ll make sure Mason is included whenever I hand out my bits of candy. Like my other dear, delicious students, he’ll become rather fond of me and feel quite safe in my company. By the middle of the school year, it will be so very, very easy to bring him inside my nice, ginger-colored house, with my warm, glowing oven. Children may not wander alone into wild woods so often as they used to, but, in these modern cities, children disappear all the time. While many things have changed since the old days, I think my new house suits me just as well.

Recipe: Adventure

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 or more people
  • An idea
  • Equipment & preparation to taste

Serves:

  • At least 2, and produces lots of leftover stories

Directions:

  1. Recruit fellow adventurers. Find a person or persons to accompany you—adventures can be done quite well solo, but having a friend decreases chances of failure and increases chances of fun.
  2. Find a golden fleece. This step is fairly open-ended—you need to establish a good goal, preferably one that is at least slightly challenging, yet still achievable. This goal could be as simple as, “make a chocolate eclair cake” or as complex as “climb Mount Everest.”
  3. Gather equipment. For an adventure to be successful, there usually needs to be at least a small preparation time—spontaneous adventures are a wonderful idea but can occasionally lead to low-quality output, which is why we are providing the full recipe here. Prepare for your adventure by gathering all the required equipment—if cooking, then the ingredients; if mountain climbing, then the proper equipment for that.
  4. Train/practice for the adventure.  This is an optional step—if the adventure is baking, then proceed to the next step. If the adventure is climbing Mount Everest, a period of training will be necessary. Establish a routine that will prepare you and your party for the strenuousness of the climb up Everest. This has the added benefit of increasing your overall skill in addition to increasing your chances of survival on the climb. Note: this step may produce enjoyable mini-adventures as an added bonus.
  5. Begin the adventure. It’s important to have completed the preceding steps in order to make the adventure less stressful and more enjoyable. Even so, the unforeseen often happens, and even the best-laid plans can fall apart. Commit yourself to having fun, and the adventure is sure to be a success. Be sure to take lots of selfies so that you can make all your followers on social media jealous when they see them.
  6. When you are finished, store the leftovers in picture albums and stories.  It can also be helpful to self-assess after an adventure and recall what went well and what could have gone better. This will aid in preparations for the next time you decide to 

ahem

cook up an adventure.

A Halloween Scene

Who needs the orange Jack-o-lanterns, plastic spider-webs, and cheap décor that students are taping to their windows and doors in my dorm?  A free and more convincing Halloween scene can be found in the autumn scene outdoors.

My college campus is ready for Halloween.  Dry leaves rustle in the trees and on the ground.  Bad luck cracks zigzag the sidewalks.  Scrawny black cats alternately hover for scraps and dash away in alarm, crossing paths with dozens of doomed students daily.  At night, the new dorm that is under construction exudes the presence of a haunted house.  The glassless windows gape deep black in the dusk, and sheets of plastic fly loose from the plywood frame, rustling, whispering, and flapping in the wind as I walk by at night.  Bony trees finger the sky, the final tatters of leaves barely clinging on.  Dark grey clouds smother the fat half-moon and splash the sky with dark and light blotches like a predator’s pelt.  Spiders encroach on classrooms and dorm rooms, prowling on the floor or skittering across notebooks and desks.

The real Halloween scene is all around me, not confined to dangling Kleenex-like ghosts or strings of plastic eyeball lights.


Combined and described, these scenes create one creepy and doubtful compilation.  Yet, I have actually observed all these animals, objects, sights, and sounds over the course of my month back at college.  When I realized how all these observations reminded me of Halloween, I decided to describe them and spin them all together into one unified scene.  In spite of the picture I have been able to paint with these moments of reality, I am the first to admit that my campus is in fact quite pretty and welcoming, and the spiders are really the only part of the Halloween scene that has given me the creeps.

When Intellectual Safety Kills

People like safety. They like the comfortableness of it, the self-validating nature of it, the superiority of it in a world that is anything but safe. However, in most cases the illusion of safety is more highly prized than the reality of it. We surround ourselves with other likeminded individuals who hold similar mores, political ideologies, theologies, and worldviews, giving ourselves the impression of ‘safety’ through mutual validation.

However, like with most idols, this kind of ‘safety’ dehumanizes people. The opposing party, group, movement, culture, race, or denomination, becomes condensed into, and defined by, a stereotype. Keeping those we disagree with at arms length is ‘safe’, it is ‘comfortable’, and it permits the continuing illusion of  doctrinal and cultural superiority. This ‘safety’ also destroys meaningful dialogue because a genuine challenge to an established stance is seen as combative and a personal attack. When we identify ourselves with a specific group -and by identify I do NOT mean casually associate -any attack made on that group becomes a personal attack. Whether it be liberal vs conservative, Protestant vs Roman Catholic, pro-abortion vs pro-life: the list could go on and on -when you say I am ‘X’, any attack on ‘X’ becomes an attack on you. This is especially true in Christian circles which often demonize each other, as well as take worldly definitions with which to define themselves (conservative, liberal, etc…). We forget that when Joshua asked the angel of the Lord, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?”, the angel did not respond to the question, but simply stated, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come”(Josh. 5:13-14). God was not bound by the human definitions that Joshua used (Israel vs. Canaanite), but rather is only defined by himself -God is on his own side.  Similarly with Jesus, the ultimate divider in his ministry was not between Jew or Gentile, clean or unclean, but between those who believed and those who did not. Christ alone is the ultimate one by whom we as Christians should identify, and any earthly categorization should be secondary to this -a very distant second. Jesus went to those whom the Jews despised and hated, explicitly because he was doing the will of his Father and that mattered more than any cultural, political, or misguided religious categorizations of his day.

Christ went to the outcast, the disenfranchised, and the poor of his time, bearing the good news of himself. He gave no heed to whether they were like him, or whether it was culturally acceptable, but only looked to his Father’s mission. We are called to be like Him first and foremost. We are not first Americans, or conservatives, or Reformed, or pro-life, or black/white/Hispanic/Asian, legal/illegal, rich/poor/middle-class, but rather Christians. Putting aside these human classifications does not mean we turn a blind eye to evil (Jesus certainly didn’t), but it does mean we are free in Christ to genuinely engage with all men, women, and children everywhere: in safety and without fear.

 

 

A Little Short Lark

Let me describe to you the view outside my office window. The green young tall trees are growing stronger by the day. Their weaving lovely many branches have seemingly accepted, finally, that they are not to be chopped down by glimmering buzzing many saws, as have much of their kind. No, they are to remain, a homage half-hearted to a city’s need for nature.

In these swaying softly trees, there is a certain one spot with a horizontal particularly branch that seems to be the place of honor supreme. All the little small stars of this patch of wood have perched there at time one or another. The crows, their black shiny feathers unkempt, like to gather in a row and hurl little many nasty insults at me, or so I imagine from their disdainful dark looks. The bright golden beautiful butterflies are better, for they pay no one any mind, content to chase each other around the trunk, up and up, till they are lost among the leaves few that have begun to turn yellow themselves.

The most dignified of the trees’ visitors was a speckled large hawk that once drove the chattering several crows away. The hawk held its private own court on that branch for nearly an hour, and I am sure he gave wandering many squirrels a fright. Let them be startled out of their fuzzy fat skins, for all I care. There are too far many of them, and there’s one in particular that likes merely to ascend to the top tallest branch, and rip the innocent poor leaves off. That’s all he does; rip a leaf, and watch it drop. Rip a leaf, and watch it drop, for just for kicks, I assume. What a little strange creature.

If, sweet dear reader, you have made it through that wandering strange description and noticed nothing amiss, let me enlighten you. You see, English has odd many rules that perhaps we knew at one time and then forgot. One that I perhaps had learned and certainly never thought of since then is the order of adjectives in proper modern English.

Apparently, adjectives are to be written in this particular order: quantity or number, quality or opinion, size, age, shape, color (and there are a few other ones that can come after that, should you be describing something excessively specific, such as original, material, purpose). Should you choose to deviate from that order, to describe the several chattering crows as chattering several crows, and their little many nasty insults instead of their many little nasty insults, you sound a bit like the the bard who wrote Beowulf…or maybe just a slightly addled person.

And me? I’m just a some-time procrastinating strange writer, fiddling with the English language just a little for a lark.