Did you ever have a day where you just feel stuck? Stuck to the couch, the computer, the great book you’re reading…? Today is that day for me. Today’s to-do list would be manageable if I could just start it, but I feel down, tired, foggy-headed. I’m not sick, I’ve been eating and sleeping well, my jobs are no more stressful than normal. I just can’t seem to force myself into doing anything!
Usually when this happens, I can look back on the previous several days and think “no wonder I’m tired, look at everything I’ve done, I need a break!” But I rested for a lot of this weekend.
Still, I’m going to take the hint that I need a slower pace today. I just made myself a cup of the most fabulous “monkey picked” oolong tea from a dear friend, and, once it’s gone, I’m going to alternate my chores with basting some blocks that are calling out to me to quilt.
My whole list for the day probably won’t get done, but I’d much rather have some grace with myself than some extra boxes checked off.
I’ve posted on facebook about getting “bonus days” this week - formally scheduled days now full of free time - and I hear that unasked question “how do I get me some of those?!”
Well, it’s easy. Be scheduled for jury duty but don’t get called in! Ok, maybe that’s not so easy. But I realized today that every day of my life is a "bonus day" whether I remember to acknowledge that or not. No day is guaranteed to me, even though I act like it. Even more, every day I wake up with breath in my lungs is a miracle. Life on this planet does not just happen.
How did I get to the place of considering today a bonus day? I decided to not make plans for this week. All I knew going into it was that I do not own my time this week, the court system does. I could have made my normal exhaustive to-do lists for the week and planned to use them if I had time at home. But I know myself well, and I know that any unfinished to-do list in my hands is extremely discouraging. I have a hard time giving myself grace, even for extenuating circumstances, and I do not go easy on myself when I don’t complete the things I wanted to. So I decided to let it go. I knew early on that I didn’t need to report on Monday, so I did the basic tasks needed to get through the week, groceries, laundry, bathroom, etc.
Monday at 5:02pm I found out I did not need to report on Tuesday and was instantly faced with a choice. Do I write a to-do list for Tuesday? I could get a lot done… No! I will not. I started a list of things that HAD to get done some time this week, and a list of things that I would like to do. Not a list of things I would like to be done and over with, but things that I would enjoy the act of doing… knitting, reading, quilting, etc.
Tuesday morning was brimming with possibilities. I found that it was easy to check off things that had to be done in between doing things I would enjoy. At the end of the day I looked back and realized I had accomplished a lot. More than if I had carefully orchestrated every hour. Plus I felt better, I hadn’t been stressed all day, and I’d even spent time with a friend spontaneously in the middle of all I was doing. I didn’t waste time online or with games because I had a whole list of ideas of things I *could* do, and I just picked what came next based on what I felt like in that moment. I even chose to organize the pantry.
Tuesday night revealed that I did not have to report today, Wednesday, and this time the choice was easy. Jot down a couple more things that need to happen, but let the day shape itself. This morning, as I noticed I’d already done a lot, I realized I am dreading my week of “jury duty” ending. I’d been dreading the week, and suddenly I didn’t want it to end. I thought:
"Why can’t every day be like yesterday and today? I love bonus days!"
The answer came.
"Every day is a bonus day. And every day can feel like this."
"Excuse me? But what will I do without my daily schedules? My routine? My checklists?”
"To you who say ‘today or tomorrow we will go to this place, and stay that long, and accomplish all this.’ You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. You should say ‘if the Lord wills, we will do this or that.’"
I’ve always thought that this verse was about recognizing that lofty plans are dependent on God. Today I learned that it means all plans are dependent on God, and I need to give up that control. It means, my stress accomplishes nothing besides headaches.
Keeping a list of things that need to happen is not bad. It gets things out of my mind and down where I can see them. Fretting over their arrangement and scheduling, my plans for today, tomorrow, and next week, berating myself for not doing all I ‘should have’ or not doing what I ‘should be doing’ - these things are not ok; they assume that I have the power to fill my own lungs with air in the morning. Some days will be busier than others, and I do have to go to work whether I feel like it or not, but what may look like a subtle change in perspective is really challenging me to see my life in a completely different way.
I can’t plan on tomorrow, or even this afternoon. What do I do right now to remember that, appreciate it, and act on it? Right now, I share these thoughts with you. After that, I actually kind of feel like working on a project for someone else, and after that… who knows? I have a slew of ideas and I’ll figure it out if I get there.
Another food that always seems better made at home is pizza. There are certain tricks though, like resisting the temptation to pile the toppings on really high. That makes a soggy pizza. I want to write a little bit this morning about homemade pizza dough. I make ours in the food processor, and have experimented a few times with the best way to bake it.
To make pizza dough in the food processor, first make sure yours can handle it. We specifically bought a heavy-duty model that is perfectly happy to kneed all sorts of bread for us. I’d guess a good indication is whether or not yours came with a dough paddle, which in the piece that looks like the s-blade but is made out of plastic.
Start with a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Measure out
1 & 1/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
1/2 tsp sugar
2 & 1/4 tsp yeast (or one packet)
Stir this up and let it stand about five minutes until foamy. This is called proofing the yeast. If is doesn’t bubble and foam, your yeast is dead (or your water was the wrong temp), and you should not proceed!
In your food processor bowl, fitted with the dough blade, measure
416 grams of all purpose flour
1/2 TBL salt
If you don’t have a kitchen scale, this is the perfect excuse to run out and drop $15 on a simple model (just make sure it has a ‘tare’ function and can measure by grams and ounces). It is so much more accurate, your pizza dough will come out perfect every time. Seriously, your attempts to make baked goods of any kind will thank you. Ok, if you insist on using measuring cups, use 3 & 1/3 cups all purpose flour. But next time you are at the department store…
Turn the machine on and remove the feed tube. As it’s running, slowly pour your yeast mixture into the flour, just as fast as the flour can absorb the liquid. Once it’s all in and the flour is all pulled off the sides of the bowl into the dough ball, let the machine run for an additional 30 seconds to kneed it. That’s it!
Drizzle/rub some olive oil on the inside of a large mixing bowl. Set the dough ball in the bowl and roll it over a couple of times to coat with oil. Cover with a towel and set in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes. I like to put mine in the (turned-off) oven, the pilot light keeps it nice and warm and blocks it from any breezes.
While it’s rising, prep your toppings. Remember to keep pieces small, and be creative! Use fresh, flavorful toppings and use less of them. This last time we used mozzarella, pecorino romano (similar to parmesan), small garlic cloves, thin apple slices, quartered cherry tomatoes, and a sprinkle of feta. We have a fun bag of pizza spices from Italy, so I just open a $.60 can of tomato sauce and stir in the spices rather than buy fancy pizza sauce. It tastes much fresher! Or just throw in some of your favorite dried herbs - garlic, oregano, basil, and thyme will all work well.
After 45 minutes, take the towel off and punch the dough down. Just poke it down a couple times with your fist, and then leave it to rest for another 10 minutes. While it’s resting on the counter, preheat your oven. 450 degrees works about right for me, with a pizza stone which gets preheated as well.
Split the dough into 2 or 3 pieces (it’ll make 2 thick 12” pizzas, or more smaller ones), set them aside. Turn the empty mixing bowl over and set one piece of dough on top. Gently pull/smooth the dough down all sizes of the bowl, being careful not to rip it. This dough is fairly forgiving, but be gentle and deliberate.
Pull the hot pizza stone out of the hot oven and put onto a dry hot pad or cool/dry stove top. Sprinkle with cornmeal - be careful, use a wooden spoon if you need to spread it out - lay your pizza sized dough out on the stone and tug it into the final shape. Be quick but careful, don’t worry if it’s not a perfect circle.
Put the bare, oily crust into the oven for 7 minutes. When you pull the stone back out the crust should be able to slide freely on the stone. Top quickly and put back in the oven for 7-12 minutes, until everything is hot, bubbly, and starting to brown.
Let it rest for a couple minutes out of the oven, then slide onto a cutting board, slice, and enjoy!
Once the pizza stone is cool, take a dry paper towel and wipe off any cornmeal and loose bits of food. Don’t use soap and water to clean it, it will eventually get a black “seasoning” to it that will help your future pizzas to keep from sticking.
If you try any of my tips, or have any others, please let me know in the comments!
**This dough recipe is the one included in my Cuisinart food processor recipe booklet. It’s delicious!
Tuesday is cooking day. I go to the market in the morning, run to the grocery store right after, and then come home and prepare or cook everything that I can possible do in advance for the rest of the week. This quarter is so busy that if I didn’t take the time to get meals started, we just wouldn’t eat well.
Last Tuesday I started by mixing up a jar of pumpkin pie spice. After balking at the $5 jar Ryan had found at the store, looking at the ingredients and realizing it was all things I already had at home, I figured making it up early in the season would be a good idea.
In between making some other things, muesli for the week, refried beans for the fridge and the freezer, I made two dozen pumpkin spice scones. They were really good and didn’t last long.
Ryan tells me Californians don’t understand pumpkin. He’s right. These so-called pumpkiny treats we buy here are usually a little lame. So, I made us our very own, with extra pumpkin. And no, I still don’t like pumpkin pie.
What is your favorite fall treat? Do you make it at home or have a favorite brand to buy?
The other crazy thing that happened last week concerning the class I’m going to write concerns a meeting with the director of family life at our new church. After sharing some of my passions with her, listening to some possible ministries I could get involved in, and brainstorming what we could work on together for the church, I told her about my class. Almost as an aside; “oh by the way, this is what I’m thinking.” She was more excited than a “by the way” normally warrants. The world needs what I’m doing, she affirmed. So much so, that if I need a first audience and some teachers to critique and comment, I have an open invitation to teach different units of my class at the church.
Between this conversation and realizing the importance of my current classes at Fuller, I can’t help but feel like there is a path being prepared before me. The relevance of my current actions is often obscured, but sometimes I catch a glimmer of the road beneath my feet and get an idea of where to turn next. In all, this enables me to realize and accept that I usually have no idea where I’m going. God honestly does, however, and if I continue to listen for the voice of God I will have all the confidence I need that I am working on taking the next faithful step.
One more. Just one more quarter. Somehow this month has completely filled up before it has even begun. School, work, church. Social events at school, work, church. Organizing a community clean-up day to get our rundown landscaping under control and rip out the spider plant before it kills the strawberries and the other plants that we actually like out there. It’s a busy month.
But this quarter is shaping up to be something that I never could have planned. Two weeks before it started, long after I had registered, and many months after it had been decided I’d be taking communications and an elective this quarter, I had the idea for the class I wrote about last week. The amazing thing is that both of these classes I am taking seem to be exactly what I need to prepare me to write and teach my course. I never could have planned that, for two reasons.
The first is simply that I had no idea I’d want to write and teach a course when I signed up for these classes. The second reason is that these classes are not turning out to be what I thought they would be.
The communications class is basic public speaking, like I thought, but it is including elements that the professor knows will help us become skilled at lecturing, giving speeches at conferences, and putting on workshops. She noted on the first day of class that conference engagements and the like are great ways to help make ends meet. Our final assignment for the class is for each group of six people to put on a 90-minute workshop.
The other class I’m taking is interesting as well. I hadn’t looked into it very much and hadn’t realized that it is a leadership class. Leadership, as the professor defines it, is helping people take the next faithful step. It is to take people where they are and help them to do the next thing they need to do. I plan to totally love this class, and I’m sure it will give me skills to teach life skills to teenagers.
It’s funny how God defies expectations and challenges assumptions. In my last post I mentioned that I had never felt a desire to teach in a classroom. Not that it was something I thought I would hate or dread, I was just never particularly drawn to it. When I had the idea for the class I want to teach, it struck hard and it stuck. It was immediately exciting, and within a couple days I found myself replying with a description of the class when people asked what I was going to do after school. No matter what form it ultimately takes, or how successful it is, the idea itself is a beacon of encouragement as I finish school and look towards “what’s next.” The idea was a shock to me, and it came as a jolt. I didn’t expect it and it defies my assumptions about myself, and exceed my expectations for having a plan at this point.
It reminds me of the wasps in our little patio garden. We have these gigantic tomato plants, we call them the tomato forest. There were always these annoying wasps hovering around our plants, bumping into the leaves and stems stupidly. They’d ignore the flowers, hover around for awhile, and then lumber off. They looked idiotic, and we were afraid that the kids playing outside would get stung. Weeks later I found out that our next-door neighbors’ tomato plants had been destroyed by hornworms. They picked the worms off in handfuls every day, but could not keep up. They also told me that wasps are the natural enemies of hornworms. As it turns out, those stupid looking wasps had been patrolling our tomatoes, laying their parasitic eggs into any hornworm they could find, eliminating the pests from our tiny garden. Gross, yes, but how cool is that? We were wrong about those little guys (well, gals, I guess).
In some ways I have really felt like those bumbling wasps throughout school. I just sort of blunder my way through, feeling kind of silly and, at times, kind of dumb. Don’t get me wrong, I recognize that I am pretty good at school, but oftentimes I just don’t understand what people are talking about here (or, more often, why they are wasting breath arguing about it). I worry that I appear foolish to others, and I’m well aware that I’m not the popular kid on the playground. Just like those wasps. But there is a purpose to me bumbling around in the strange world of academia; it may not be a purpose similar to my peers’, and that’s is ok. In fact, unlike what most assume, it’s ok if it takes me a lifetime to figure out all of what that purpose is.
How has God challenged your expectations or assumptions lately?
The tricky thing about college is trying to take all the classes you need for your degree, and as many as you can of the classes that sound interesting to you. Somewhere in there you should probably take classes that will otherwise be useful to you later in your life, but who really has the foresight. Or, even if you realize that, how are you supposed to know which classes those are? To top it all off, many schools do not offer any classes that summarize some of the basic facts of life.
By the time I had transferred schools and was officially working on my Bachelor’s, I realized there was a lack of any kind of life skills class and I complained quietly. I graduated, faced some immediate struggles, and wished that school had prepared me for life a little better. I didn’t really know how to set a budget I could stick to, I didn’t know how to cook much more than teriyaki chicken, and I barely knew how to prepare for a job interview. Sure, I could have taken an accounting class and a cooking class, and I could have gone to one of the seminars put on about how to apply for jobs. The problem is that most students, myself included, do not have time in school to become well-versed in the huge variety of topics necessary to succeed in life. The solution, as far as I can see, is to introduce students to these topics - or even to the existence of these topics - and give them resources to turn to when they need to know more.
I have complained about this topic for a long time, at least throughout the three years since I graduated undergrad. Two weeks ago, I realized for the first time that I am now actually in a position to do something about this. In three months from now I will have a Master’s degree, which is enough to teach at private schools, specifically, basic subjects to high school seniors and college freshmen.
This thought popping into my head honestly surprised me; I’d never wanted to teach in a formal setting (especially not high school. I’ve never even been to high school, how am I supposed to teach it?), so what is different now? Now I see information that my generation, and those behind it, are lacking. I see an extreme deficiency in how students understand the world outside of school, and I actually feel a call to do something about it.
I want to teach students that leaving undergrad with $100,000 in loans is a crushing amount of debt, and that credit cards can easily get so far out of hand in a matter of months that it may take decades to recover. I’d also like to teach them how to budget their groceries, write a paper check, and make sure they communicate consistently with their bank.
I want to teach students how to keep a catalog of their jobs, classes, and other experiences, so that when the time comes to write resumes it’s not some overwhelming chore. I also want to teach them where to find resources about finding, applying, and interviewing for jobs.
I want to write a small book with resources, ideas, and exercises that they can use when the time comes to know how to do things. Because really, teaching a college freshmen things they won’t use for 4-5 more years, and expecting them to remember it is an exercise in futility.
I have so many ideas for where to take this. I’ll be collecting thoughts for the next few months and then begin writing when I’m done with school. Part of both of these stages will be to talk, to anyone who will listen, about what needs to be included and how.
So what are your ideas? What vital information do you see people leaving school without? Or what things do you think are life skills and resources that everyone should have? Let me know in the comments or send me an email, or, better yet, if you are really interested, let’s talk it out in person.
Well, I’ve been back in California for a week, but it has been a long and tiring week, and I had no material prepared to fill the gap. I am hoping to get back to a MWF blog schedule now.
It was Welcome Week at school, where all the new students are given enough information to (dis?)orient them for their first round of classes. I worked in my office, worked at some events led by the student government, and volunteered at a few events led by student volunteers. In short, I was busy and ate a lot of food.
We had a really good trip up North. We spent a week our Oregon family, and then Ryan returned to work while I went up to spend a week with our Washington family. One thing that stands out from the trip is the series of friends who went out of their way to visit. I was, especially in Washington, on a busy/tight schedule, and the way my friends flexed their lives around that was a real blessing. Whether it was spend the week doing “whatever” together, stopping by the house for a quick visit, or taking time out for dinner during an exceedingly difficult season of life, I was blessed by so many people. And I thought it would be a “family only” trip!
Now, I am blessed to be back, active in a busy school that favors the outgoing and bold (aka, not me), and ready to face my last quarter as a grad student. I am a little nervous because this is the first time I have worked this much while studying, but there are so many exciting things going on and I’m just trying to enjoy the ride. I have one confirmed showing of my quilt this quarter (and leads on three other places that may be interested in displaying it later on), I have a growing list of things to pursue after school (more on that later), and I have a job that is helping the number on the student loan balance finally start going the right direction.
In all there are too many blessings in my life to warrant being anxious or worried, so I’m working on the attitude.
What exciting events do the coming months hold for you?
If you didn’t read lengthy part 1 of this blog, just know that my paper writing process is very organic. It flows, and sometimes I accidentally dismiss the paper requirements thinking they were my own ideas, but never to extent that I did on this paper!
Sunday night I sat down to the final read of my paper, and, looking at the syllabus, realized I had not written what had been asked for. At all. Somehow, all the “ideas” that had been the paper requirements, had been some of the thoughts I’d dismissed in the final paper. It was loosely the same subject, but not following the prompt at all.
I was so frustrated. I’d recently done the math and realized that if I just marched on through school without worrying about grades, if I just finished without any major screwup, I’d graduate with my goal GPA. All that, and I had majorly screwed up, more than I ever have before at Fuller.
But it was a good paper. It IS a good paper. I care a lot about what I wrote, and it was a wonderful exercise in putting my very own original ideas down on paper… and sharing them.
So, at 9pm, with 11 hours until the deadline, I emailed the professor. He had, after all, said to be imaginative and creative with this paper. I told him that I understood the prompt, now that I had written the paper incorrectly, but that it would not be respectful of either of us to attempt a new paper at that hour. So, rather than asking for an extension, I sent the paper and asked, if it was really off the mark, could I rewrite it?
Unfortunately but understandably, he replied right away, without reading the paper. He appreciated the email, but said he was sure it would be fine - that the prompt was more of a suggestion, and was only a partial description of the possible breadth the paper could take. He said I could rewrite it without penalty, but the choice was up to me, and that I might just want to walk away and be done with the class. "I trust your judgment," he said. But that’s not what I wanted! I wanted him to read it and tell me what to do! This can’t rest on my judgment! But it did, and now I had a choice to make.
I went to bed.
In the morning I thought some more and I realized that this professor trusting my judgment was an invitation to take a risk. So much of grad-level academia is about reading, synthesizing, and regurgitating others’ ideas. Here I was being given an opportunity the take the risk of putting forth my own ideas.
If I am not willing to take this risk, I realized, with this professor I trust and respect, when will I? If I won’t bet one paper’s grade on my own thoughts and ideas, what will I ever risk in the future? This is an opportunity to get feedback on something that captivates my attention and stirs my heart, something that I know I want to write about and talk about in the future.
I decided to walk away from it, to leave the paper how it is.
And so, my risky paper writing method has perhaps not failed me after all. Perhaps it has given me a great opportunity to take a bigger risk than I am normally willing. I hope it pays off.