preparations.

This last week has felt like a month with so much going on. We started work officially this last week, arriving at 8:30 every morning for meetings and attempts at being productive in our rooms. The hang up with the previous sentence is that the renovations on the school were supposed to be completed on August 10th [new floors, paint, air conditioning!, projectors and screens, bathrooms, etc. installed]. It was not all completed until Friday August 29th. Yes, as in the last minute before parents arrived the next morning for an open house.  I wish I could say this was some kind of fluke or there were delays because of some incident that could not be prevented but, no, that is not the case. I have spent enough time in China to say this is just the Chinese way. Workers everywhere seem to kind of dink around very slowly and accomplish very little as if there are no real deadlines for anything and certainly as if there is no motivation, which I can’t imagine there is, this is China. So we had only a little time Friday to actually see our rooms and arrange the desks, and maybe put a couple of things on the walls.  The amount of things I have accomplished at work since arriving here is incredibly laughable compared to my previous years of work, however somehow it seems par for the course here.  On that note, of the things I miss most, capitalism is very high on the list.

At 9:00am Saturday parents were coming for a meeting corporately with L and the director of the school to explain changes from the previous year and discuss expectations. Following the meeting the parents were coming to the classrooms for a meet and greet with their student’s teachers. That is the way it was explained by the American director to the foreign and native staff anyway.

Saturday morning came and we arrived early to make sure things were in place and parents arrived at the same time to start checking things out for themselves, quick with their cameras out to take pictures of everything. No matter. We moved to the auditorium where the teachers were all introduced and then dismissed to our rooms to await the parents impending arrival. An hour and half later parents started trickling in. I had discussed with my Chinese partner teacher, H, that we could just pass out the schedule and field questions if there were any and then be on our way, H seemed to look at me with the now familiar Chinese smile that says basically, “Ok, you just go on thinking that” in the kindest way possible. Then came yet another lesson in the Chinese way.  Parents filed into our room and immediately made a bee-line for my desk and started sorting through my things and the teacher editions of my curriculum, taking pictures of everything. I was by the door trying not to look disturbed as I greeted more parents. They all eventually sat down and looked at H and I eagerly. I assumed they were all waiting for some kind of formal introduction, so I greeted them all and gave a 2 minute introduction and mention of my excitement for the year ahead. Then I stopped talking and H just looked at me, smiled, and then launched into her 20 minute monologue in which whatever she explained had all the parents nodding and immediately ready with approximately 5,834 questions that took another TWO HOURS to answer, all in Chinese, while I stood quietly by trying to make my face inspire some kind of supernatural confidence so the questions would stop. This was Guantanamo level torture for my attention span. We’re talking Situation Room DEFCON 5 in my brain trying to come up with some way to end the madness of these questions which were all asked seemingly with life or death on the line. From what I could tell through some basic gestures by H, ranged from “Where will my student put their bag????” ON THE GIANT HOOK ON THEIR DESK. “What if it is hot outside, will the students have recess?????” YES WE WILL MONITOR THEM. “How many times will my child be able to fill up their water bottle????? (not sure what was said on this one, but I would have said, we will make sure your student is plenty hydrated throughout the day, do not worry.) “My child is special because __________________ what will you do for them????????????”

And on it went, for. so. long.

I asked another foreign teacher, Jon, who has been teaching in China for 5 years already about this experience because every grade experienced the same kind of parental intensity, and he said this was perfectly normal, that the parents feel compelled to be all up in the business of their child’s education because they are so concerned that their child is treated “fairly” and accommodated in every way possible. This is the helicopter parent taken to a whole other level, more like shadow parent. This is such a shock for me coming from teaching at a public high school for the past 6 years. Jon explained that the parents just need to be trained to trust and that it would be a complete reversal in the culture here. I suppose we have out work cut out for us.

School starts tomorrow, Godspeed to us all.

a healthy check.

The next step in getting my Z visa turned into a work permit was a getting a health report, or a healthy check according to my hosts. They scheduled an appointment for me at the Shanghai International Travel Healthcare Center in Puxi (the west side of Shanghai).

The night before my appointment, it was realized that I would need 4 photos (visa style) to take with me in addition to lots of other papers and applications. Around 8:30pm, L and I set forth to find somewhere that could take care of that. After stumbling around our neighborhood (new to both of us) we come across quite the ramshackle operation that dealt in all matters of photography. After L explained what was needed, a man instructed me to sit on a plastic stool, while he changed out the sheet behind me from blue to white. Then he pulls two stands out from behind a pile of stuff. Both were made from the handles of what were once mops or brooms. One was the “stand” for his camera that also involved a finagling of cardboard while the other provided the proper lighting. Proper lighting in this case meant a lightbulb strung against the foil side of a noodle package.

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This is so typical of China and one of the things that anyone has to admire, that they just make it work. My little pictures turned out just as great as if I had gone to some “professional” outfit in downtown. TIC.

Now on to the actual health check-up…

We arrived at the scheduled time and I was given a number. I waited in a reception area with lots of other expats from around the world while numbers were called to proceed to the paperwork office. I was shuffled from the paperwork office to the cashier (yes, payment always comes first with Chinese healthcare!), then to room 113, the locker room. I turned to go into a narrow hallway which had about 10 rooms all clearly numbered. I saw many people, men and women, mulling around waiting to go into the various rooms, they were all barely clad in short white robes and smurf-like blue plastic shoe covers. I cringed and went into the locker room to change. From then on it was an hour and half of slightly traumatizing procedures by Chinese doctors, waiting beside an elderly Canadian man and a German teenage boy, while trying to make sure my robe was tied securely. Finally all the tests and procedures were complete and I have never gotten dressed so fast in my life.

The report should be here in a few days and then I just have one last step to complete at the police station and then my work permit should be final.

TIC.

the first few days. #TIC

Getting there…

Say what you want about United Airlines, but they have been nothing but faithful to me in my ventures to China and elsewhere. I was somewhat worried about the trip over this time only because I had 5 large checked bags along with my carry-ons. The baggage claim in Shanghai is still in the secure area, so you’re on your own for getting your stuff out the door. I had a few potential strategies involving: soliciting help from others (I struck out in this regard with everyone else around me already needing a cart) to recruiting an airport employee (he walked away quickly, seeming very frightened at my charades about lots of luggage), so that left me getting it on my own, which I did. All 5 bags and the little carry on I checked all arrived, thanks United! [Disclaimer: my luggage was all half-full of curriculum and workbooks, I didn’t bring all that just for myself.]

[A note about the Dreamliner to those who are interested…

My flight from LAX to PVG (Shanghai) was aboard United’s newer Boeing 787, the Dreamliner. I had heard the hype about the aircraft and was intrigued when it was the best option, scheduling wise, for me to take, so I booked it. Advantages over the 747: huge overhead baggage space, better humidity and air pressure so you feel less tired, personal entertainment. The verdict: did I vow to never take a 747 across the pacific again, no, I wasn’t that impressed. The improvements were not great enough to compel me to pay extra or compromise on a more convenient 747 flight, especially since I thought the cushions on the 787 were rather cheap. I always upgrade to economy plus now and so either bird is equally as bearable as it gets when it comes to a 12+ hour flight. This guy gives a pretty good review of the plane with more specifics, if you’re interested in that.]

In Shanghai…

The owner and Director of the school, I will refer to as L, had informed me before my arrival that my apartment would be ready the following weekend, so I would be living with her and her family in their apartment (also in the same complex) until it was ready. No trouble, except that anyone who has shared a hotel room with me knows living out of a suitcase is not one of my fortes. Packing for a week stay at someones house is different than packing for a two year adventure abroad, so in not wanting to drag all the suitcases upstairs, I picked the one I though had at least enough things in it to get me through a week or so and just leave the rest downstairs. It’s worked out. Somehow upon touching down in China you instantly a whole lot less concerned about most things you were when you left. I appreciate that about this culture.

I have been slowly exploring our new neighborhood and the city with Molly, my new friend and roommate. I am very thankful for her! We are kindred spirits in many ways. Our hosts have introduced us to great noodle, dumpling, and other Chinese restaurants around the corner from our complex, however we have already discovered that mentally man cannot live on noodles alone and we have already stopped for Dairy Queen blizzards. I will post more about our apartment next week when we actually move in. Here is a picture from the sales office, yes our apartment complex is called Dream of Space.

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This week we also went on an overnight staff retreat to the city of Shaoxing. This city is home to many famous Chinese. I cannot tell you who they are because I think they are only famous to the Chinese. We took a private bus to the city and were dropped off at the Qingbo Ice and Snow World/Convention Center/Hotel. We had a couple of sessions as a staff to get to know each other, shared meals, and then Wednesday morning we ventured over to the indoor skiing area.

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As I’m sure it will come out in my stories, a good perspective to have while residing in China for any amount of time is to check your expectations at the airport. This is one of those times where it was good advice to follow. It was apparent from some promotional items around the venue that there were 2 large slopes straight down. I thought it might be fun to suit up in the provided winter gear and take a trip up the lift and down just to have the “experience”. We walked in and went to the viewing area where you could watch the slopes from the comfort of the indoors. It had just opened and so there were no skiers out yet, but it became immediately apparent that the slopes were not maintained to even minimal expectations. You could see that there was virtually no powder and there were huge patches of ice covering the slopes and on one side, moguls placed at really confusing intervals that undoubtedly lead to some crashes, especially with the ice situation and navigating with hundreds of Chinese skiers with no experience or context for the sport.  This was where a few others and I made the call to skip the downhill crash course in the interest of not wanting to test my new insurance policy just yet and see if there were sleds or tubes available (this was a no). In the meantime I watched the safety patrolman go up the lift and start to make his way down the slope and proceed to fall 3 times. Soon after that (the following is guess at what was happening, it wasn’t readily apparent) some instructors started making their way up the hill to show some skiers how to properly stop, except they seemed confused at how to walk up the hill, taking their skis off and putting them back on every 15 feet or so, sliding down backwards instead of walking up sideways, and generally falling pretty often. I think I made the right call. (yes, that is christmas garland on the rail. and an old balloon.)

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Oh, and Fermented Soy Bean Prawn Lays anyone?

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In China there is a saying among expats and visitors, TIC, or this is China, which means, it is what it is, there is no more shock value in anything, just go with it.

More to come later, tomorrow I go to finish my visa processing with a health check and a trip to some government office.  Should be an adventure.

What I learned about sex trafficking from an evening with two prostitutes…

from Rage Against the Minivan

“Men come from all over the world for our bodies. They don’t want to know us. They only want sex. But you came to know us. You heard our stories.”

We are swimming in privilege, but I refuse to swim in guilt. This encounter only strengthened my resolve to use my privilege, and I’m proud to share their stories here, because they want us to hear them.

Read here.

I want that.

Some of the best moments of my life have happened when I am alone, sometimes in the car or at home or somewhere foreign. These moments are like old school photographs where I dropped off some film and had to wait for it to be developed to see the final picture.

These are the ones where you finally get a sense of understanding about why something happened or didn’t. Why you walked through a season that seemed to have no explanation at the time. Why a particular grief was caused. Some of these things we never get answers to. I consider it a grace when I do, God’s way of saying that we will never understand everything, or even most things, but here is a help to guide you, heal you, redeem you.

I had one of those moments recently. Some things had been rolling around my mind throughout the day that seemed like random thoughts, as if they had all been walking around the same neighborhood but never intersecting.  Then I was driving home from work and they all came together like good friends over a good meal. [Aside: is there no better picture of comfort and ease than loving friends joined around a meal and laughter? My favorite.].

The backstory to my revelation: After asking God rather demandingly [usually something along the lines of, “Seriously. Seriously? What was the point of all that!?”] for some time about the meaning of a particular heartbreak, I gained some humility and left my wonderings behind, but my heart, still quite in need of healing, offered up to Him.  I began each day for a long time surrendering my hurt and pain and choosing to believe what I know to be true: You are good.  You are a good Father. You know what is best for me and you work all things for your good purpose.  I want more than anything to be a part of your purposes.

That day in my car what I realized was this: God wants us all out on fragile limb of faith because He wants us to believe he will take care of us.  He wants us spending most of our time and efforts in the deep water where we are really unsure of things and have to depend on something other than ourselves because HE IS WORTHY OF OUR TRUST. [FOR REAL.]

I have said and believed those words to a certain extent, let’s just say a comfortable extent, for some time.  It’s not a new concept.  I trusted God in increments, in amounts that looked and felt like a lot but, when I get real honest it wasn’t very much at all.  When I really looked at my life it was pretty gosh darn safe and full of “good” things.  When I look back on what I finally learned, without realizing it, is that God is really trustworthy and that means that I can venture out into and I daresay live in the area of “want”, an area that has been historically the scariest place of my life.

I love what Allison Vesterfelt says about want,

It was scary to want something.  Wanting something meant feeling the pain of not having it, and feeling the pain of chasing it down.

I have avoided the area of “want” for a long time to avoid that pain.  Growing up I was never very competitive, I think that’s because if I lost, along comes disappointment or worse, rejection.  It was easier to just not care.  That is a profound statement for my life because so much of it is defined by either pretending to not care or living in my authentic self and caring more than any human should be allowed to care.  The empathy dial is always turned up to “very high” on this girl.

The aforementioned heartbreak came from a situation where I had typically denied myself the “want”.  I subconsciously would not allow myself to want because there was the probability it would end in tremendous pain.  Well, somewhere along the way I choose to want it.  For the first time I felt how nice it was to experience what I had denied myself the opportunity to have.  Then it all came crashing down.  The heartbreak I had carefully avoided experiencing came.  For a time I wondered how people experienced it more than once.  It felt like when I was a little kid being caught in a tumbling wave in the ocean, the kind where you can’t find up, you can’t catch your breath, and you keep getting crashed into the sand and picked back up like being in some kind of underwater spin cycle.

All because I wanted something that had great risk attached to it. Because I chose to a little brave.

Your eyes and lungs sting when you get washed ashore and finally get reoriented.  You spend some time catching your breath and coughing up water.  Someone would come over and pat you on the back and push the wet hair out of your face.  But then you went back out in the ocean, wiser, stronger, running faster and with more joy than before.  It was just a wave.

We recover and run back into life again and tackle the next one.  You don’t stop wanting to play in the waves.

That’s what happened in the recovery for me.  I realized that God is worthy of trust and that I can and should want to go after things that seem completely crazy (and quite inconvenient) because He is with me and without this type of sincere faith it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6).  I want to be a part of something bigger than myself.  I want to get more skin in the game.  I want to be a part of hard things where the stakes are high.  Wanting means giving up things.  It means not thinking about my level of comfort and convenience above everything else.

Jennie Allen puts it this way,

Some of us have decorated our prison walls so beautifully that we have altogether forgotten we are sitting in a cell, wasting our lives. We don’t know there are chains that, though they no longer bind us, still seem to tangle us up.  We sit and listen to talks or read good books about God, and we wonder why nothing changes when we so desperately want it to.

I was in an extremely beautiful and good prison cell that had lots of things that looked like God on the walls and on the coffee table and in the words that were spoken, but it was still a prison cell.   Ironically I’m moving to a country where it much more resembles a more literal prison cell but now my heart is a prisoner of hope alone.

Let’s want things that require us to be brave and have sincere faith.

ignorance is [not] bliss.

I have noticed a trend emphasized by social media that makes me cringe and sometimes even fearful.

Can I put out a desperate plea?

Can we please stop celebrating ignorance?

I want to make the distinction first between celebration and admission.  I firmly believe that admission of ignorance on any given topic whether it be in public forum or discussion between friends is absolutely useful for creating environments of humility, not to say anything of creating strong bonds between people.  If there’s anything that will bring people together more than a common interest, it’s a common coming out of dark about a lack of awareness or know-how about something.  Trust me I have experienced the blessed relief of knowing, “whew, I’m not the only one who has no idea what I’m doing or what to think about this.” My favorite conversations are then the ones that follow, where I try to learn something, to be informed and educated.  That is admission of ignorance, an action that promotes a healthy self-awareness and keeps our egos in check.  Celebration of ignorance is over-embellishing the degree of ignorance and letting ourselves off the hook a bit too easily.  We are better than that.

I will be the first to raise my hand and say I don’t have a clue about many things in life, but I’m desperately trying to figure out how to live it well.  I try to take advantage of opportunities where I can learn something, especially from people who share viewpoints different than mine so I can gain a better perspective and greater understanding. At the same time this is not a plea for us to all try to become know-it-alls.  Besides, we all only have so much mental capacity and things we can afford to ponder in a day while managing our own selves and families  The issue is bragging on our ignorance in attempt to make ourselves more likable, to appear funnier.  Let’s not trade a humble quest for knowledge for shallow and fleeting solidarity among the peanut gallery.

Let’s not glorify in a facebook post how we don’t know how to operate our iphone.

Let’s not glorify to our friends how we don’t understand anything about retirement plans.

Let’s not glorify to our coworkers how impossibly complex the global trafficking issue is.

I have mentioned before how sometimes this world just seems like too much.  Problems are just too big and too hard to solve.  That is a dangerous mentality to get comfortable in because it takes us from despair to indifference.  But that’s the thing, if we are going to be a people that matter, in the sacred words of Schoolhouse Rock, “knowledge is power”.  The injustices of this world require people who 1. want to pursue understanding and 2. use it for good.  So when we start to feel overwhelmed by our lack of  understanding about something let’s do something about it or keep our concerns to ourselves.

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We have several options, but the option of elevating ignorance to celebration status is the worst one.  If we celebrate ignorance in the small things like not understanding technology it is a slippery slope to celebrating ignorance in the big things.

1. Ask for help. Do go ahead and put out an APB on facebook to get help for your iphone problem, understanding troop involvement in Chad, or bitcoin [I’m still lost on that one, but it falls into #3 for me].  Don’t post a conversation to social media between you and your husband showing how “funny” you are because you know nothing about cell phones.

2. Research.  Start with reputable sources you trust and go from there.  Don’t let yourself off the hook with the excuse that “you don’t know where to start”.  Google is your friend.

3. Move along.  If you find yourself in a conversation where you are not familiar with the topic, it’s really ok to just say so, admitting ignorance, or an even rarer feat, say nothing.  I think it is a very healthy and respectful notion to not feel compelled to jump into a conversation and fake your way through it.  At all costs, do not aggrandize your ignorance by saying it is “over your head” or the like. If you are not interested in the subject, move on from it or listen and learn.

If you want to celebrate ignorance make it a party of one. If you want to admit ignorance, learn something, and carry that with you, then by all means, party on.

 

thinking things.

White privilege doesn’t mean what you think it means // Rage Against the Minivan

If I believed that “white privilege” was a term meant to diminish my personal achievements . . . if I thought “white privilege” meant that I had to apologize for things that happened before I was born . . .  if I thought that “white privilege” meant that I need to be ashamed or embarrassed for being born white . . . if I thought that “white privilege” dismisses the very real hardships and challenges that I’ve had in my life . . . if that was my understanding of white privilege, I’d probably be a little resentful about it, too.

Here’s what our fresh-faced Princeton undergrad gets wrong as he spends several paragraphs outlining the struggle of his own family:  the concept of white privilege does not deny individual hardships.

The phrase “check your privilege” is typically invoked when someone is being woefully ignorant or insensitively dismissive of the oppression of minority groups.  It’s not because someone wants a white person to apologize for being white, or dismiss someone’s opinion based on race.

But here’s how a privilege check usually works:

If I suggested that black people were over-reacting about Trayvon Martin, I might be told to check my (racial) privilege.

If I said that gay people should stop complaining about marriage rights because they are free to love each other and that’s all they need, I might be told to check my (hetero) privilege.

If I suggested that my kid’s school should stop sending home paper assignments and just let the kids do their homework from their own ipads, I might be told to check my (economic) privilege.

If I whine about the presence of handi-capped parking spaces at a concert venue, I might be told to check my (ability) privilege.

Being told to check your privilege has nothing to do with apologizing for being white. It has to do with being insensitive to the life experiences of others. “Check your empathy skills” might be a better phrase, but nonetheless, it’s not an attempt to shame someone’s race, but rather to point out that someone is refusing to acknowledge privilege differentials.

 

reading things.

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I’ve recently hit a goldmine of excellent reads and the common theme in all of them is people trying to figure out life.  Day by day, the right or wrong choices and the right or left choices, it can feel so overwhelming sometimes trying to navigate life well, with love and purpose.  These women have all crafted beautiful reads that made me feel not so alone in my screw-ups and hang-ups and misadventures, they poured nourishment into my heart.

1.  Bittersweet, Shauna Niequist – please, just read it.

Bittersweet is the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweet rots both your teeth and your soul.  Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands.  Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity.

I’ve learned the hard way that change is one of God’s greatest gifts and one of his most useful tools.  I’ve learned the hard way that change can push us, pull us, rebuke and remake us.  It can show us who we’ve become, in the worst ways.  I’ve learned that it’s not something to run away from, as though we could, and I’ve learned that in many cases change is not a function of life’s cruelty but instead a function of God’s graciousness.

2. Packing Light, Allison Vesterfelt – this one resonated with me in so many ways, I wondered if I had subconsciously written a book and it got published.  Her memoir of her life change as a single 27 year old teacher to go on a crazy, life altering adventure with so many unknowns hit home, as you can imagine.  Even as she described her life in the first pages I wondered if I was instead reading descriptions of candid camera footage of my life.  More than that, her stories of abandon and stretched faith are refreshing and humorous.

Baggage is like that.  You pick it up one piece at a time, and it grows heavy over time, so you hardly even realize you’re carrying it.  And the only way we know we’re holding it is if we go somewhere. As long as we stay stationary, we’ll never realize how full our arms and our suitcases, really are.  But when we decide to go somewhere, we discover we can’t take it with us.

It was scary to want something…wanting something meant feeling the pain of not having having it, and feeling the pain of chasing it down.

The only way to make sure we’re packing light is to take inventory of what we have – over and over again – and always be willing to leave things behind.

3. Carry On, Warrior Thoughts on Life Unarmed, Glennon Doyle Melton – So good.  One woman’s story of letting down her guard and living a life unashamed of the story God has written for her life.  Such hope found in her words.

I was so focused on building my little teeny altar to God, my head down, sweating, cursing, stressing, furiously working with broken tools, that I missed the city of cathedrals he was busy building around me.

When you give it all away – the stuff – you learn that it is impossible to lose whatever it is that cannot live without.

That’s the thing about becoming a family: you gotta melt.  You have to keep melting into each other until you become something entirely new. The only constant family rule is that everyone has to keep showing up.

4. Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair, Anne Lamott – just read it.

Every time we choose the good action or response, the decent, the valuable, it builds, incrementally, to renewal, resurrection, the place of newness, freedom, justice.  The equation is: life, death, resurrection, hope.  The horror is real, and so you make casseroles for your neighbor, organize an overseas clothing drive, and do your laundry.

Our lives buzzed by.  The grown-ups we trusted did not share the news that life was going to include deep isolation, or that the culture’s fixation on achievement would be spiritually crippling to those of more gentle character.  No one mentioned the peace that was possible in surrender to a power greater than oneself.  Teachers forgot to mention that we could be filled only the truth that suffuses our heart, presence, humanity.  So a lot of us raced around the rat exercise wheel, to get good grades and positions, to get into the best colleges and companies, and to keep our weight down.

Without stitches, you just have rags.  And we are not rags.

5. Anything: The Prayer that Unlocked My God and My Soul, Jennie Allen – another just read it, whoever you are.

The only exercise that works 100% of the time to draw one close to the God is risk.  To risk is to willingly place your life in the hand of an unseen God and an unknown future, then to watch him come through.  He starts to get real when you live like that.

I fall because I can’t keep pretending I am okay when I know deep down I’m not.  But I also fall because I find God in the sand.  I find God with my face in it.  And then he gets to be the lifter of my head, rather than my pride.

But God seems unconcerned with helping us maintain same, simple lives where everything fits and works.  I don;t know what God’s plans are for you, but I do know that we don;t hear from him until certain things die.  He doesn’t compete.  And when he does speak, it typically costs something.

6. Cold Tangerines: celebrating the extraordinary nature of everyday life, Shauna Niequist – wonderful vignettes.

When I pray, something freaked-out and dazed inside me finds a place to lay down and rest.  When I pray, I don;t feel so alone in the universe.  I feel like there is a web, a finely spuun net, holding it all together keeping it spinning.  I feel powerless, and prayer reminds me that I may be powerless, but there is power and the one who holds the power is good.  Prayer reminds me that the universe is not powerless against the evil and loss that seems to be swallowing up this season.

True friendship is a sacred, important thing, and it happens when we drop down into that deeper level of who we are, when we cross over into the broken, fragile parts of ourselves.  We have to give something up in order to  get friendship like that.  We have to give up our need to be perceived as perfect.  We have to give up our ability to control what people think of us.  We have to overcome the fear that when they see the depths of who we are, they’ll leave.  But what we give up is nothing in comparison to what this kind of friendship gives to us.  Friendship is about risk.  Love is about risk.  If we can control it and manage it and manufacture it, that it’s something else, but if it’s really love, really friendship, it’s a little scary around the edges.

7. Travelling Mercies, Anne Lamott – Great memoir about the search for faith and how we work it out.

Here are the two best prayers I know: “Help me, help me, help me,” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

8. Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, Maria Semple – The only fiction work I’ve read in a while, but so good, so funny and clever, my favorite combination.

My first trip up here, to Seattle, the Realtor picked me up at the airport to look at houses.  The morning batch were all Craftsman, which is all they have here, if you don’t count the rash of view-busting apartment buildings that appear in inexplicable clumps, as if the zoning chief was asleep at his desk during the sixties and seventies and turned architectural design over to the Soviets.  Everything else is Craftsman. It’s like a hypnotist put Seattle in a collective trance.  You are getting sleepy, when you wake up you will want to live only in a Craftsman house, the year won’t matter to you, all that will matter is that the walls be thick, the windows tiny, the rooms dark, the ceilings low, and it will be poorly situated on the lot.

eating things. [paleo, dairy free breakfast casserole]

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First let me say, this is SO GOOD.  And easy to portion out and/or make ahead and freeze.

I had no idea it would be such a hit or I would have taken more pictures along the way and at the end…lesson learned.

Another great thing about this recipe is it is easily adaptable, you could change up the vegetables to your liking or what you have on hand.  You could make this meat-free as well.

What you’ll need:

6 eggs

1 c. egg whites [I just used the egg whites from the 6 remaining eggs]

10 turkey sausage links

1 medium zucchini diced

1 medium yellow squash diced

1/2 white onion chopped

3 oz. mushrooms [I hate mushrooms so I left these out.  See? Totally adaptable.]

1 c broccoli chopped

2 cups baby spinach 

2 cloves garlic minced

1/3 c canned coconut milk, unsweetened 

bacon to garnish 

Directions:

Preheat over to 350

In a large skillet saute zucchini, onions, squash, garlic, and broccoli until tender

Cook sausage in a separate pan, cut into thirds or fourths, and then combine with veggies when cooked

While all that’s cooking, line an 8×8 pan with the spinach [you can chop the spinach if you like, I just threw it in there]

Remove the veggies and sausage from heat and let cool while you mix up the eggs

Whisk eggs, egg whites, and coconut milk together in a bowl

Combine egg mixture with vegetables

Pour over spinach and top with bacon [I forgot the bacon when I made it and it was super delish, so I would imagine bacon on top would make it that much better!]

Bake for about 40 minutes or until set.  I ended up baking mine for about 50, until it started to get golden around the edges.

This is easy to cut into 6 servings. Next time I think I’m going to make 2 and put several servings in the freezer so it’s easy to grab and take to work.  Enjoy!