Saturday, April 19, 2008

Saying "yes" to what you love

Charles Lindbergh was the first to fly the Atlantic solo and nonstop. He dreamed of extending the boundaries of flight. When he landed his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, outside Paris on May 21, 1927, he became a hero. He did not fly for the reward of being well known, and the adulation of many, but because he simply loved to fly.

"It is the greatest shot of adrenaline to be doing what you've wanted to do so badly. You almost feel like you could fly without the plane."--Charles Lindbergh

When you do something you love, it can feel like flying. It's been shown that people that immerse themselves in something they love are more relaxed, more creative, and better able to cope with the demands that life brings.

Today I drove to Wichita for a Mennonite Women's Retreat. I wasn't there as a participant, but rather I was one of the workers. I gave chair massages to 14 different people (our group gave 55 massages total!) in the space of 2 1/2 hours. While there were many people I didn't know, I did know several, and it was a good opportunity for me to catch up with them. One of them asked me what my favorite thing about massage is. It was an easy answer for me, and one that did not require much thought.

While I have always wanted to study massage, it quickly became evident to me once I had begun, that I had made the right decision. One of my first massage events that I worked showed me that this was what I was meant to do (in addition to my teaching! :) I love that part of my life too, at least most of the time!). I had had a particularly stressful week at school, and had taken a personal day to go to another school district and give massages as a Teacher Appreciation day from the local parent organization (wouldn't it be great if ALL schools did that!)... As I drove to the town, my mind was consumed with the chaos that defines MES, and the politics that go on in any school district. Even though this was technically a personal day, I was anticipating a day of work, and knew it would probably feel like a big truck had run over me by the end of it all. I would return to work the next day, feeling more run down than when I had left.

Or so I thought. The day turned out to be one of the best days I have ever experienced!

My answer to the question, "What is the thing you like best about massage?" is this... I am at complete peace when I do massage. My mind quiets itself (it will still be sorting things out, but not dwelling on things), my body flows into a routine, I go to a different place... My SOUL is at peace.

Massage can be, and often is hard work. My life is busy, and at times feels like I'm over committed (okay, I KNOW I'm over committed!). I am very tired after a day of massage, and especially the days I work at school, and then work in the evening. But even though I know that I will be physically tired at the end of the day, I'm doing something I love, and in a way renewing a part of myself. My body will be tired, but I'm also allowing myself to fly....

I'm making time right now to do something I've always wanted to. I encourage you to make time in your busy schedule to do the things you love, or try something new that you THINK you'll love.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Making a joyful noise

This morning I went to church. I know, exciting, huh? What a great opening sentence.

When I'm in Marion for the weekend, I attend a small Presbyterian church. I dearly love this church, as it was the church we attended when Heidi and I were small and living in Marion. When I moved back, they welcomed me with open arms, and many memories! The people in this church know and love me(for the child I was, and the grownup I've become), and NOTICE when I'm not there...and I hadn't attended church (in MARION) for over 6 weeks. I had valid excuses ready (3 weeks of influenza type stuff where I lost my voice, and was too tired to really get out of bed, and then 3 weeks of my sister and brother-in-law being in KS and wanting to see/hear them speak on Sundays), but despite my excuses, when I am absent, I am always given a hard time.

Now, showing up on Sundays to sit in a pew is only the start of what the congregation feels is my obligation to the church. As I said, this is a small congregation, and we all have to pitch in in order for it to function. One of my roles is to sing in the small church choir.

I love music, whether singing, playing or just sitting and enjoying. After the first Sunday of my attendance, the people sitting around me told me that I needed to become a member of the choir. This was not a request, instead, it was a requirement. I do enjoy singing in the choir, and like the fact that musically I still belong to something. After graduating from college, I found that there really aren't many musical opportunities for anyone my age. In the past I've driven back and forth from Wichita to be part of the Wichita Symphony Chorale (I'm not able to this year because of my class schedule, but I'm hoping that next year I can start again...), but other than that, there really isn't much. Wichita Symphony music is usually challenging, and while I don't like the practice director, I do love joining with the symphony and the maestro. Our Presby church choir, on the other hand, is NOT challenging. The songs we sing are songs that our 5th grade choir would have been able to handle--of course those Hesston kids are always advanced in the music department! :)

I've digressed though...I was going to tell you about this morning. This morning I decided that I needed the extra hour of sleep and decided not to go to choir practice. We meet an hour before the church service, and depending on the number that show up, the director pulls something out of the closet, and that is what we sing. Needless to say, I've sung the same songs over and over in the 4 years I've gone to the church, and I'm quite bored.

Instead of singing this morning though, I was a part of the congregation. Again, I'll tell you that we are a small congregation, and every member of the church choir made eye contact with me--trying to remind me that I should be up there instead of sitting in the pews. In any other choir, I like to sing the low alto part. In this choir though, I'm required to flip flop from alto to high soprano, depending on who shows up and what part they are. This morning there were 8 male voices, and 3 women (2 altos and a soprano). I know I would have been required to sing the soprano part this morning.

Instead, I sat in my pew and listened as they started a song we've sung several times before. It started fairly well, but as it went on, the song got higher and higher, and further and further out of the reach of the one and only soprano. This lady is a recent addition to our church family, and she was certainly making a joyful noise this morning. She was joyful, and it was sure noisy. As I sat and listened to her screeching, all I could think about was my own highschool director. He and his family attend church at Whitestone. Growing up, whenever I was singing in the front of the church with a group I would look back to where he was sitting. Anytime any of us were singing, he would sit there with his head down, eyes closed and a little smirk on his face. I was never sure whether it was because he was trying to shut off his other senses and concentrate on the voices he was currently training, or whether he was laughing at us singing, and didn't want us to see him. This morning, I may have figured it out.

I too found myself with my head turned to the floor, my eyes closed, and trying to keep a straight face. It was not a smirk on my face that I was trying to cover, it was a look of agony. My eyes were squeezed shut, my mouth was all I could do not to cover my ears with my hands. This woman thinks she has been given a gift, and is determined to make sure we all are able to enjoy. The problem though, is that she can't stay on pitch, and really can't hit the high notes a soprano needs. I doubt she could hit them in her prime, in which she is definitely not now!

Exiting the pew, I was stopped by numerous people, asking why I wasn't in the choir this morning. On the way out the door, the pastor stopped me as I was shaking his hand. He asked the usual questions (where have you been, what have you been up to), but then looked me in the eyes and said, "Erica, you know, we REALLY need you in the choir."

It was all I could do not to burst out laughing...instead I just said "I know", and walked out the door.

Thank you, Steve, for your part in my laughter today. Thank you also for the years of teaching, and your part in my musical training. As I teacher myself, I'm aware of the many thank yous that go unsaid, and I didn't want either of you (Marcia--I love you too!!!) to not know how highly I think of you both and value your influence on my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You are special people!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Been a long, been a long, been a long time! :)

So, the last time I wrote, Heidi and Tim and Baby G hadn't arrived yet, and now they've gone again. Heidi and Gus back to Germany, and Tim to California. During the time between postings, I've gone to NE to see the Johnson side of our family, had spring break, had quite a few things happen at school, spent time relaxing with Heidi, Tim and Gus...

I had a wonderful time spending time with all of my family. It was with great sadness that I headed back to work, and "normal life". I'm planning on posting some pics of all of us, but that will have to wait until the next posting, as my camera is at school right now.

Life, as always, has been busy. It's been a flurry of meetings and staffings at school, and by the time I get home I'm ready to hit my bed. Add to that the fact that my migraines have been especially bad lately, and I'm ready to have another spring break!

This evening, I've spent time cleaning up my house. The stack of dishes needed to get done. The pile of laundry on my couch needed to be folded and put away. The table needed to be cleared....I should still vacuum the house, but the floor actually looks ok. The next two evenings I'm having people over, so I want it to look decent. Tomorrow I have a meeting for our assistive technology team at my house right after school, and then Friday I'm hosting our Girls night gathering at my house.

Tonight, I've also been preparing snacks for the upcoming evenings. I've made a sweet, spicy nut mix (Thanks Maretta!), yummy brownies (recipe to follow), and I'm marinating some chicken for satay. The house smells wonderful! I hope everything tastes as good as it smells!

Here are the recipes of things I've made tonight, in case any of you are interested.

Cranberry Trail Mix (I tripled this recipe)
1 cup mixed nuts (I used assorted mix nuts, and then added additional peanuts)
2 cups small pretzels
1 cup dried cranberries (I used a mixture of dried cranberries, blueberries, and cherries)
1 egg white
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Spread nuts evenly on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 7-8 minutes at 350 degrees until nuts are slightly darker (watch carefully, they easily burn!). Cool completely. Reduce oven temp to 225 degrees. In a large bowl combine nuts, pretzels and berries. In a small bowl, beat egg, sugar and spices until foamy. Pour over pretzel mix; toss until coated. Spread evenly on baking sheet. Bake one hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool completely on pan, then store in an airtight container.

Erica's Triple Chocolate Brownies
(Once upon a time, I worked in a little eatery in Newton where I made brownies nearly daily. I gained several pounds that summer from eating those wonderful brownies, and was disappointed when I discovered I never wrote down the recipe. I guess I thought that I had made them so often that I would never forget! Anyway, since I'm having a gathering with plenty of people who love chocolate, I thought I'd attempt to recreate the brownies. Here's what I did tonight, and if I alter anything in the future, I'll modify the post to reflect that)

3/4 cups melted butter
1-1/2 cups sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3/4 to 1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add in the chocolate chips, and cocoa. Stir until smooth. Add in the sugar and stir. Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit. Add vanilla and eggs (make sure to stir so that the egg doesn't cook!) and then the flour and baking powder. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or whenever you think they're done (for those of you who like gooey ones!)

**I'm making the Chicken Satay recipe up as I go, combining several I've got, and until I test it I'm reluctant to post it. After I finish them tomorrow, I'll post the recipe in case you want to try them. They smell good at least! :)