Doors.

When the email for this year’s El Salvador trip went out, I read it and said to myself “God, if you want me to go, then open the doors.” And I didn’t think about it again until last week when Pastor Nate reminded the congregation about it.

Then it was all I thought about until the end of the service, crying in the second row because my finances are in a tangle and I’ll be working on finishing three summer classes around the time of the trip.

As I waited for GayLynn to come off the stage when service was dismissed, I saw one of the gentlemen who went on the mission trip last year walk up to me and hug me from the other side of a row of chairs. He asked if I was going, and I told him that I didn’t think I would be able to this year.

“Is it time or is it money?”

“Both. But mostly money.”

“Don’t let money be what keeps you from going.”

I wanted to laugh at that, because it’s easy to say. It isn’t easy to come into the amount of money needed to take me back to my friends and the community in El Salvador.

And then, as he told me that he and his family were planning on taking a vacation around the time of the trip before one of their girls goes off to college, I saw the door being opened.

It was a pretty big door.


The less poetic version: I’m going back. That ridiculously ornery man who hasn’t stopped teasing and tormenting me since we met is sending me back to El Salvador.

God is so incredibly good.

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Incomplete Thoughts About: The Things WC Students Say

The frustrating thing about writing is that there is no one right way, but there are a multitude of wrong ways to go about writing a sentence. One poorly chosen word or misplaced piece of punctuation can not only impede clarity, but change the entire meaning of a sentence, leaving your reader to sit in confusion as they attempt to untangle the meaning behind the jumble of words just read.

I think that’s why I see so many students who come into the Writing Center and say what breaks my heart to hear: “I’m bad at writing.” I hear those words at least once every work shift, if not more. And it never fails to send a little shock of pain through my heart.

I try to encourage them, to say “I’m sure it isn’t as bad as you think it is.” To point out something positive, whether it’s as vital as their thesis being strong or as seemingly little as their formatting being correct (but let’s be real, formatting is a hassle).

And sometimes it helps. Sometimes they cheer up, they smile or shrug with a little laugh and look down at their paper, waiting for us to go to work on it. Those sessions are a dream; those sessions are the ideal. They are a conversation, a sharing of the pen, the poster-child for “teamwork”.

But sometimes they argue. Sometimes they shake their head and say, “no, I mean, really bad at writing.” Emphatic and unrelenting.

Often times, those students have one specific struggle, one specific aspect of writing that they don’t know how to correct. Maybe they haven’t identified their struggle yet, or maybe no one has made themselves available to work with them on correcting it. To be frank, sometimes they are lazy and just want the extra credit points they get for signing in to our computer, and “I’m bad at writing” is an easy conversation starter — it tugs the English major’s heart strings.

Perhaps worse than “I’m bad at writing” is: “I hate writing.”

It’s worse because you can help a student develop stronger writing skills. I did last semester, working twice weekly with a student who struggles with severe dyslexia, who was taught to summarize and never how to create original content. At the beginning of the semester, he would barely speak to me. He would lean so heavily on me, on my abilities to analyze and develop opinions and create ideas, that I had to close myself off before I found myself spoon-feeding him.

But as we worked together, he developed stronger skills in reading and writing until, by the end of the semester, he had improved to the point where I could walk away and leave him to write for over half of the hour he’d been scheduled for.

It’s more difficult to do that with the student who claims to hate writing. Because being bad at something is correctable — you can help someone develop a stronger sense of self-efficacy. But it’s harder to change someone’s mind about an opinion that’s emotionally based.

Glass Box

the last few weeks have been difficult. 


Sometimes I feel like I’m trapped in a box made of glass. My mind retreats from the world, a little girl’s mind curled into a tight ball in a corner. Arms wrapped around knees pulled tight to chest. The world turns on, spinning too fast for me to keep up. It’s like my mind hits the mute button. Life goes on, but I’m removed. Remote. On an island only I can find. One I’d forget the way to, if only I could. If only. But some days the tide pulls me in and it is too strong, too fierce, to resist. I see all that’s going on but cannot find the energy to respond.

So here I am, trembling from the weight of an imagined solitude. Hoping but too afraid to ask for a lifeline. How do I explain what I don’t understand myself?

Jetty Night

The photo above is from 2015, from the first day I spent at the beach with my Curly Haired Wonder. It’s been our place ever since.


IMG_7213Do you want to go to the beach tonight?

She has a tendency for impulsiveness.

But, then again, so do I.

A mutual need for freedom found us at Surfside beach past ten at night, bundled into human versions of a seven layer dip you might take to a party.

Layers upon layers upon layers didn’t keep our extremities from going numb. I suddenly understood what was meant when cold is described as “numbing.” And it wasn’t even my cheeks or my nose (as are often tied to the phrase). No, it was my thighs and my rear end, friends. There were sharp little pinpricks driving into my derriere and legs, and there wasn’t anything to do to stop it.

So we walked all the way out to the end of the jetty, right? Imagine this: a short, curly haired pixie play-acting as a mobster, twirling a baseball bat with the hood of her jacket pulled so far forward it nearly hid her eyes. Said pixie appeared to be escorting a taller, less agile hippie shining a miniature flashlight over the edge of the woven blanket wrapped around her shoulders. We jumped at basically every noise.

We being me, of course. My Curly Haired Wonder is a much less fearful creature than I am. She didn’t jump at the foghorn (which we agreed is a silly name for something that is used even when there isn’t any fog), or the folding chair left abandoned on the rocks (which we agreed looked suspiciously like some evil ocean-monster climbing up the jetties to eat us).

Which led to: the waves crashing against the rocks hit at just the right angle to appear to be clambering their way up the rocks, and I have a scene for a story looping in my head about a road into an abyss or the darkness or something sinister sounding, and DOW mermaids are probably evil because the chemicals have turned them toxic.

The version of this that I told myself as I fell asleep after she brought me home was much more eloquent. I hate that I didn’t get up to write it down.

Surprise

I’m not dead. I know, you were probably wondering. Like, where’d she run off to for so long? The Bahamas? But let’s be real, if I was running off to anywhere, it’d be Europe. Take me to the Isle of Skye, please…

Here’s a brief run down: I worked ahead and got literally every assignment that I could completed and turned in. All that’s left are the lab assignments and Skype sessions that only open the week they’re due.

The Gulf Coast Student Success Conference came and went. It was a blur, really — which is the only thing I hate about big events. There’s so much to do leading up to things, and then it’s done in a flash. But it went well; most who came said they couldn’t wait until next year. Yay!

I have finished all of my Christmas shopping. Just waiting on some things to come in the mail, then I can start wrapping. Our work Christmas party is this Friday, and I’m very excited for my Secret Santa to open her gift (even though it is a little silly).

Oh, and…I dropped out of NaNoWriMo with 10,001 words written. My heart broke having to make that decision, but I knew that my priorities (work projects, homework assignments, relationships…) would suffer this year. There wasn’t enough time. So I dropped, but I started using this website called 4thewords to make writing a daily habit.

This website is addictive, honestly. It’s taking writing and turning into an interactive video game. There are quests you fulfill by battling monsters (writing x number of words in x amount of time) and keeping “streaks” (writing every day).

It does cost money. It’s about $4/month, which I wasn’t willing to pay until last week. And now I’m glad I did because I’ve written more content with less stress than I was during NaNoWriMo (typically the only way I get any substantive writing accomplished).

Expect a more thorough review later on — right now I’ve got to get ready for work. If you’re interested now, though, check it out! I linked it above.

(and this is my referral code if you decide to make a purchase: QWWXO53984. We’ll both get some crystals out of the deal (they’re how you pay for things)).

I’ve been busy,

and neglectful here on sempiternalheart.

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It’s a Tuesday. A rainy Tuesday, with gray skies and an almost-cold breeze that’s tantalizingly fall-like. The rain brought us relief from the roasting heat we’ve been feeling lately.

I’ve almost finished all of my home work for the week — all that’s left is a 500 word essay relating a psychological theory to my life and a Skype session with my Spanish professor on Friday afternoon. That will give me all the way through next Monday to continue working on the reason for my quiet here.

I’m pulling my life into order. I’m getting rid of the things that clutter up my life, things that I have no genuine interest in. Sometimes those things look like books I’ll never get around to reading, a degree or a plan that I’m not going to utilize or put into action, and — yes — sometimes even people who don’t make my heart feel bubbly with laughter or who don’t push me to love Jesus more.

All of that extra energy is being focused in on one Big Project, into launching something that I’m really excited for — but I’m not posting details until it’s closer to being finished.

Stay close. I’m still around.

The Aftermath

I’m currently at work; my stuff is spread across enough of the table to make it look like one person is taking up two of the computer stations. I’ve been hole punching and sticky noting and highlighting in my planner and semester binder, trying to tie my life into something that looks organized.

Harvey left a mess, in a lot of ways. The streets that saw flooding are lined with soaked sheetrock, with ruined lumber, with furniture that can’t be used any longer. And life, for those of us in the academic world, was put on hold for two weeks.

It feels selfish to be struggling with this, with playing catch up.

It would help if I could find a decent planner. But The Panda Planner didn’t work — the excessive boxes that had to be checked each day were overwhelming. And the Ink + Volt is beautiful, but there’s not enough space for writing notes, or even day-to-day activities.

Somebody remind me not to buy $35 planners unless I know with everything in me that it will work (she says as she researches The Passion Planner — $30).