Monday, November 30, 2009

Seeking St. Nicholas

Wednesday morning I leave for Germany.  In July a friend told me she was transferring with her company and my first thought was "maybe I should December...during the Christmas markets."  Almost the same day, another friend currently living in Switzerland sends me a message "Maybe we should all meet up in Dusseldorf.....just dreaming."  Now it's reality.

My mom spent her junior year of college living in Vienna and also loves the German / Austrian Christmas traditions.  Many years growing up we would put out our shoes on the night of December 5 in the hopes that St. Nicholas would leave us some goodies.   For about 4 years straight St. Nick left us ceramic houses to build a Christmas village.   Mom has now set me the challenge to see if I can find any St. Nicholas art or stories that include St. Nick's traveling partner: Krampus.  He's the one who hands out switches to the bad kids.

So this week I'll be on the hunt for Krampus.  Hopefully, I'll also end up with chocolate, Christmas ornaments, gifts, and who knows, on December 5 maybe I'll leave my shoes out again and see what happens.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Thanks for a Full Plate

This morning in the church bulletin there was a blurb about the hunger task force.  This was followed up by our youth group tonight where we learned about the Souper Bowl of Caring and painted bowls that will be auctioned off in the spring.  Prior to youth group, this prompted me to look up some information online to put local and world hunger in perspective.   I'm fortunate that hunger is not an issue for me.  Yes, there are days that I don't like what's in the employee cafeteria at work or in my kitchen, but that doesn't mean that I'm going without. So what did I learn today?

1 out of 8 Colorado households has hunger issues
In Colorado, children make up 45% of the clients

There are 1 billion chronically hungry people, and more than 60% of these are women
65% of the world's hungry live in 7 countries
(India, China, Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia)

From Oxfam:
40% of the world's population lives on less than $2/day
39 million Americans live in poverty

I had heard the statistic before about a lot of the world living on $2/day.  When I think that I pay $2.50 for a "happy hour" mocha at Daz Bog Coffee it's hard to imagine.   I realize that number isn't applicable for the US and I'm curious what the minimum cost per day would be to live here.   I pulled out some recent reciepts from grocery shopping to get an idea of what it really costs to make a meal....or to buy highly overpriced snacks.  For the cost of buying two bags of Snyders pretzel pieces, I was able to buy pasta, pasta sauce and a loaf of french bread.  Yesterday I got Ghiradelli chocolate chips and some Szechuan snack mix for $8.99 at World Market.   Needless to say, at my favorite Asian grocery store, I was able to get a bunch of mint, a bunch of basil, 3 limes, shallots, garlic, green onions, green beans and vegetable dumplings for the same amount.  I know that I can eat more nutritiously (and more cost effectively) if I put my mind to it.

I always have a lot to be thankful for, and in the week that we celebrate Thanksgiving, more people voice their thanks aloud.  I will too.  I am thankful for a good job, great friends, a safe and warm place to live, the ability to pick what I want to eat each day (as opposed to eating only rice, for example), freedom of religion, having a good education and not being limited because of my gender or geography.

I ran across a quote earlier, but I can't find it or the citation, but it went something like this....
"the person who is full has many problems, the person who is hungry has just one"
This year, I can be thankful for my problems as well.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Freezin' For A Reason

I'm almost sad I'm missing this event at Chatfield Reservoir just for the entertainment value alone.  But since I'll be with friends overseas, I will have to get over my disappointment (perhaps by eating some German pastry).  But you, yes you, can help support Special Olympics Colorado by participating or donating money.  Click here to support Team Stay Hypothermic (or jump in) and raise money for a good cause.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Celebration 2006

My freshman year of high school, we had an interesting English project.   We had a basic premise:  Our entire class was invited to a 10 year school reunion on the Orient Express.   We had to write a letter to one of our classmates detailing the following:  What we were doing, where we were working, our personal life, who of our other classmates we had kept in touch with (and what they were doing), what we wanted to do on the Orient Express and who we thought was paying for our trip.

Incidentally, today, I stepped foot on hallowed ground mentioned in this project from 1992-93:  The Broadmoor Hotel.  In this particular school project, I said that in 2006 I was going to be the Banquet Manager at the Broadmoor.  The property is spectacular.  It's ironic enough that some of the other things I listed in that project, like living in Colorado or having a dog, were true as of 2006.   I think this letter may be in a filing cabinet in my mom's house.   I may have to have her hunt it down.   Predicting as a freshman what might happen as a bonafide "grownup"....who knew?  

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

No Useless Memorization

Countless studies (I don't know which ones, but I know they exist) show that it is much easier to learn a second language.  As a child.  At the same time you are learning your primary language.  Sadly this hasn't taken off in the US the way it should.  Primarily because we are a country that takes up a third of a continent in which 2/3 of the people speak English (give or take Quebec).  We're big.  We're powerful.  And others in the world consider us "lucky" that we know English since it gets you by in more places than ever (kind of like Visa, it's everywhere you want to be).  In other countries, kids start learning their second and third languages before they ever get to highschool. 

At Moline HS we had the choice of Spanish, French and German.   I chose German.  Why not Spanish?  Because too many others were taking it.    Where was my faithful VOLAR at that time?  It should have been whispering in my ear "Jen, think of all the places you can travel with Spanish."  In spite of my late start with foreign language, three years with one hour per day did cause German to stick.   In college I thought I'd take some more German...why not stay with what you know? 

I had one attempt at taking Spanish in college.  I was going on a spring break mission trip to Costa Rica and thought how great it would be to take a 101 level class.  Sadly, so many people test out of Spanish 101 from high school that they didn't have any sections that fit my schedule, so back to Deutsch I went.

Time passed.  I had yet to travel to a German speaking country.   I move to Lake Tahoe where the majority of employees speak Spanish.  Fortunately my great boss, "Cebolla," taught me hotel Spanish one event at a time.  We would walk down the buffets and I'd dutifully repeat all the vegetables on the salad bar.  I could ask for tables, chairs and tablecloths. 

In 2003 my mom and I went to Germany and did the language of our great great grandparents proud.  I was living in Indianapolis and foreign language was not needed....until I planned on a VBS trip to Mexico.  I found a class at the community college in hopes that I would finally get what I really needed.   Verbs.   

Recently on the radio there have been ads for a language system that touts "No useless memorization or repetitive drills."   Really?  Because memorization and drills is how we learned English as kids.   Remember spelling tests and sentence diagrams?  

Last year I started Spanish classes again.  I am currently working on learning my verbs in the preterite and imperfect past tenses.  And someday I will be just as bilingual as all those 10 year olds in Europe.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fire Up the Kitchen

I like to cook in general and love to bake.  Every gets to be the recipient of baked goods, because there is no way that I can eat that much and still get to try new recipes.  As the holiday season rolls arounds, treats are expected (and welcome) everywhere, so it's an opportunity for me to try out new things.   I laughed when I saw my friend linked to the following The Food Librarian blog.   It's not the blog itself, but the 30 day theme of "I Like Big Bundts" that cracked me up (complete with a Sir Mix A Lot graphic).

I may have to try one of her recipes, just to support her sense of humor!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A More Amazing Race

The Amazing Race is one of my favorite TV shows.  Not surprising since it's all about travel and adventure (give or take a little drama).  I was intrigued by a link I saw on a blog today for The World Race.  It's an 11 month, 11 country mission for young people (and I believe it's been determined that my collective group of friends can no longer be called "young adults" fact one discussion was Yippums...young possible marriage possible mortgage....).   Anyhow, I think that programs like this can completely change your world view and open your heart to the poverty and injustice in the world.  And what your love, prayer and actions can do to change a life (possibly someone else's and probably your own).   I am happy to see more people willing to give of their time and resources for something that has primarily intangible and unmeasurable benefits.   And it's one more thing that makes me ponder....

Monday, November 2, 2009

Living the Serenity Prayer

Serenity Prayer ~ Restaurant Cruz del Llano ~ Mexico

I want things to be right.  If they're not, I want to fix it.  Recently I've been struggling with the things that I can't control (many of them being in Oklahoma, but not all).  I have a particular work ethic and I expect that others have the same.  Sadly, this is not true.  It's hard to make other people care.  Or even respond.

How does this relate to the Serenity Prayer?  The prayer reads:  God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Some days, it feels like I'm fighting a losing battle, but that I don't want to give in, because I feel that what I'm asking (or doing or thinking) is right.  I don't have a job that is changing the world (but it is fun!).  However, you never know what impact your actions, simple though they are, might have on another. 

Ghandi said, "be the change you want to see in the world." 
It makes me wonder if I'm doing what I am called to do.  Or even what that calling is.

A couple of weeks ago at church we watched the video for the song "Hands and Feet" by Audio Adrenaline.  It's funny, I probably haven't heard that song for 6 years.   Since then we've been singing it during vespers at youth group on Sunday nights.  It's a song that makes me think hard about what God really wants me to do with my life.  I have not reached a conclusion, but am open to suggestion!


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