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My 25th Year

February 2, 2012

It is my birthday!  I am turning 26 and I’ll be honest, it feels pretty damn good.  Life is pretty ace these days.  I can’t complain.

I love lists.  Here are some important things that happened while I was 25:

1.  Birthday Berries for Bess in Bangkok in Bed!

2.  I tramped around SE Asia with friends.

3.  I saw The Tree.

4.  I rode a motorbike around the highland countryside of Vietnam.

5.  I survived a mob of angry Chinese people.

6.  I listened to Billy Joel’s The Great Wall of China while standing on The Great Wall of China.  One of the most perfect moments of my life.

7.  I came home after an absence of 16 months.  It was a homecoming like none other.

8.  I landed myself a paying job!

9.  I discovered and fell head over heels in love with opera.  I wish I could convey just how significant this one is.

10.  I met Karen Bontrager.

11.  I had a six month year old fall asleep in my arms.

12.  I signed a lease on my very first apartment.

13.  I “saw” Renée Fleming and Joyce DiDonato onstage in live, full productions (HD broadcasts).  Be still my heart.

14.  Had many wonderful encounters with friends in West Liberty, Goshen, Harrisonburg and Columbus.  Travel is indeed a blessing; one to not be taken lightly.

15.  Pinterest and Spotify happened and life was never the same.

16.  New music!  Infantree, Agnes Obel, Gotye, Laura Marling, Verdi’s Requiem, Rossini’s Stabat Mater.

17.  Bought my first pair of high heels!  And then bought a few more.  😉

18.  Weddings!  Four of them!  What wonderful and lovely occasions.

19.  I wrote an email to the person I admire most in this world and lo and behold – she responded.  A personal email from Joyce DiDonato.  My heart was FLYING.

20.  Many conversations with Karen in her kitchen.  Sacred space, that is.


22.  I got this excellent brand new MacBook Pro.  It needs a name.

Here’s to year 27!


August 26, 2011

orchestra of crickets

sounds of the coming of night

sky clear as dark glass

stars blaze

burnt orange moon, eastern horizon

descent of the sun, rainbow remnants

cool air envelopes


i don’t know where we came from or why we are here, but in these moments i catch a glimpse of the answer.

Coming home

June 25, 2011

“But it was pure, this love that I was feeling.  It was godly.  I looked around the darkened valley and I could see nothing that was not god.  I felt so deeply, terribly happy.”  (edited a little from an Elizabeth Gilbert quote)

I was quite homesick while we were traveling through Southeast Asia.  Not the whole time, mind you, but enough that some days were pretty tough.  I would close my eyes and escape to the only place I wanted to be.  My daydreams were always the same.  My mind would go over every detail of the farm until I had a perfect little map of home in my head.  The scene was usually one of two seasons – early summer or mid fall.  Bright blue skies, white fluffy clouds, green grass, fields of soybeans and corn and that deep smell of earth and rain.  Slightly muted blue sky, the Woods full of turning leaves, Dad harvesting corn in front of the house, corn leaves swirling around the yard and that deep smell of harvest that I’ve never found words to explain.  You can imagine my disappointment when I got home; all I saw were cloudy skies, barren earth, rain and felt a cold chill in the air.  Regardless, I cried until I had nothing left when I saw my Western horizon.  Nothing had changed.  The view that has always been the window to my heart; I was home.

A week ago I was sitting on the porch just after supper reading a book when I looked up and realized, “This is it.”  This is what my heart aches for when I’m away; this is what I’ve been in communion with my whole life.  The entire world had turned a dusky combination of rose, orange and purple.  The light was soft and mellow.  A slight breeze was rustling leaves and carrying bids’ songs.  Since I was a child, I have always felt that the world dramatically slows down at dusk; everything seems to stop for a while.  It was calm, peaceful and completely beautiful.

It’s in these moments that I can’t imagine being anywhere else:

Sitting with my Uncle at church and spending the whole service grinning and laughing.  I have missed him.

Watching my cousin kick butt in his 800-meter race at the District Finals to come in second.  My heart was just about bursting ‘cause I was so proud of him.

While watching Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin with Mom, sister and the Grandparents, Grandpa quipped while the tenor was singing about his ardent love – “Remember those days, dear?”  “You never said it like that!”  “I was more of a bass.”

A few weeks ago was D’s Graduation party and ceremony.  At one point I was able to stop serving and look around the fellowship hall.  So many people whom also love and support him.  I was almost overcome.  I love connections.  Seeing J and J sitting down to talk to Grandma and Grandpa – knowing that they both went to school with their children and now J’s daughter is dating cousin D.  It was almost too much.  You know that feeling when joy is sometimes mixed with a kind of painful ache?  So much happiness in one singular moment that you feel the only way it could be released would be to cry?

“I felt so deeply, terribly happy.”


It’s good to be in this place.

Put down your cell phone and go dance in the rain

September 2, 2010

Okay.  One thing I am learning during my time here in Korea is I don’t immediately look for the positive in situations.  I generally see myself as having a good outlook on life, but man-o-day, this country has certainly done a number on me.

So, because Kels has been instrumental in helping me to do that and because I couldn’t do this without her, this post is for her.  🙂

A list of recent things that have been incredibly life-giving and that have happened in this country.  Crazy, I know.

1.  The fact that Korea brings people together.  I probably wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for H, and now E and K live in Busan and every time we’re together it is wonderful.  The crazy thing is that we all have lived in H’burg and it’s amazing how much that bonds us.  I LOVE YOU GIRLS!

2.  Dancing to live SALSA music in the rain and mud with said girls.  OH MAN SO FUN.  We had a blast and it was one of those moments where everything was perfect and while you were in that moment you knew it was perfect.  Capish?

3.  Dancing in bars to wonderful music.  Enough said.

4.  Green tea plantations covered in a mystical mist?  Beautiful.


6.  Je-ju Island!  Dani!  Kels!  Waterfalls!  Beaches!  Sun!  Fresh Air!  Friends!  Walks At Night!  Heart To Hearts!  Gecko’s!  G&T!

7.  Jumping pictures.  Any time, any place.  I am THERE.

8. Norae-bonging with Kels to our theme song (Jump by Van Halen).  We ROCKED that shit.

9.  The discovery of STUFFED FRENCH TOAST and ice cream in a bag.

10.  Potential happy things: fall, hiking endeavors, Korean Thanksgiving vacation which will include: beautiful mountains, “we’re the three best friends that anyone ever had”, colorful leaves, fresh air, did I mention hiking in beautiful mountains?, an epic Thanksgiving party with our Busan favorites, boots/vests/scarves, aaaaaaaaaaaand our big epic kick ass trip of a lifetime.

A letter to the parents of my students

February 23, 2010

You have probably been told (or sold on the idea) that I have a degree in teaching and/or have a lot of experience with teaching.  I am sorry that you have been mislead.

You all are a trip, you know that?  I hope that all of your complaining, whining and insistence on how your children should be taught comes from only the greatest love you have for them.  Cause I have about reached the end of my rope with you.  We have three days left in this semester and what news do I hear today?  You are concerned that your child won’t reach the end of the workbook, and so you want to make sure we reach the end by Friday.  Okay, fine, I will do that.  I will breeze through the remaining vocabulary lessons and I can guarantee most of your children will not retain the words or sounds we learn.  But you want us to finish the book, right?  That’s the important part.  I realize you are paying lots of money for us to teach your children, I realize that you’ve paid for said workbooks, but seriously!  You’re missing out on the big picture here.  Also.  Don’t complain about not finishing the book when I spend precious class time copying worksheets for your child who forgot his/her workbook at home.

Most of you do not speak a word of English.  I’m assuming most of you have never even attempted to learn.  It’s a BLOODY HARD language to learn and you’ve stuck your children right in the thick of it.  In reality, it’s really cool that you have the resources and opportunity to give that gift to your children.  It’s not cool when they go to school for most of the day and then go a English Hogwan (private school) and are expected to keep learning, keep sitting in chairs, keep proving themselves.  Cause that’s what it sure as hell feels like.  And so when your precious children are tired and don’t do so well at learning their words or bomb a test, you blame the most likely candidate.  Their Korean (or foreign) English teacher!  Obviously!  Not yourself when you put such high expectations on your child, or your child who doesn’t know to read or has no work ethic.  (Seriously, did I just say that a 10 year old child has no work ethic?)  I have no idea what education your children have had before they came to me.  I can guess though.  Your child can’t really trick me into thinking they can read; I can see right through ’em.  The other day I spent time teaching my kids how to say Philippines.  Philippines. PH = F.  Drilled that into their heads.  The F sound is so unbelievably hard for Koreans to make.  It seemed slightly ridiculous for me to be teaching this crazy hard word when half of them can’t even read (read = sounding out new words) simple words.  Insert dislike for the workbook creators.

We’ve gotta keep all the kids on the same page.  We’ve got to hold back the really bright ones, and push the slower ones beyond their limits.  Awhile back I had a little “meeting” with my boss and a Korean teacher. I was told that some of the parents of my kids were friends and somehow got to talking about what pages their kids were on in their workbooks.  Chincha?  (Really?)  Of all things to talk about.  They were pissed that their kids were on different pages.  Koreans are very concerned about “the group”.  Belonging in a group.  So that’s where the holding back and pushing ahead teaching method came into play.  Cool.  For real though…how do you an advance an entire group of students who are all on different levels?!  It kind of blows my mind that teachers have been doing this for years, cause I can’t figure it out.  Help, please.

I love your kids.  I really do; I can about them so much.  That’s why I will be sticking my year out as frustrating as I’m thinking it’s going to be.  Maybe that’s why I’m sometimes too hard on them?   I care about them too much? Sometimes I get frustrated too easily and take it out on them and I’m sorry for that.  It kills me that I do that.  I’m actually crying right now cause I hate who I become in the classroom at times.  Really really hate myself.  Granted, some of your kids are crazy and drive me up the wall, but most of them are good kids.  Good kids who are learning a bloody hard language at the age of nine or ten.  Who am I to get angry with them when they can’t remember how to say “theater” or follow my directions which are given in English?  How unfair is that.

So we both should try to work on some things, okay?


Frustrated but invested teacher

February 2, 2010

Current favorites:


Kara Remembers written by Bear McCreary

Grey Street by Dave Matthews Band

Love Today by Mika

Battlestar Galactica


Surfaces in my apartment to put things

Being creative in the culinary category with Kels

So many many Happy Birthday wishes on FB 🙂

Getting my birthday PACKAGE from HOME on my BIRTHDAY!


Everyone needs to watch this.  It will make your day.  I guarantee it.

An anniversary

January 19, 2010

The newest Middle East Cross Cultural from EMU is currently in Cairo, Egypt.  Currently walking in places where I was two years ago.  Really?  Was it really two years ago?  Has it really been two years since my life was tossed around and upside down in a blender of despair, darkness, love, adventure, joy and pain?  Some memories are so fresh.  I can literally feel the atmosphere of breakfasts with Sarah in Beit Sahour.  I can hear the Call to Prayer in Jerusalem.  I can feel the rough sheets from the Ambassador Hotel in Cairo.  I can feel the grit and dirt in my Chacos from hiking all over Israel.  I can still feel my heart breaking and my soul being crushed.  I can still recall my feelings of awe and amazement while looking at Michelangelo’s David and Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus.  So many experiences are right at the tips of my fingers.  They are able to be summoned at a moment’s notice.

There are some things, though, that I have had trouble summoning since my return home.  I lost a few things while I was in Israel/Palestine.  I lost my innocence, my naivety, and hope.  Yes, I lost my hope somewhere in the hills of Judea.  I wonder if I’ll ever find it again.

After I returned home, I began to drown.  Drown from caring too much, from feeling things too deeply.   From carrying too much suffering on my shoulders, too much guilt, too much hopelessness.  So I shut off.  I did let go of some things that weren’t mine to carry, but mostly I shut off.  And I’m still in that mode.  The balance between actively caring for the world and not letting it consume you is one that I obviously haven’t found.