The Twin Cities Rainbow Chaser

moving across the country…to discover what God has in store

To Belay or Not to Belay

Describe your last attempt to learn something that did not come easily to you.

…to belay!

…to belay!

When I saw this daily prompt, I knew that it was fate.  On Friday, I put myself outside of my comfort zone with a specific purpose.  I had done the same thing on Tuesday and it ended rather badly.  So it should go without say ing (but I’ll say it just in case) that this particular task was that much more difficult yesterday.

I should back up a bit though, to give you some context.  About a year ago, I started climbing in a climbing gym on a regular basis.  After climbing with several people for a couple of weeks, I realized that I should take the belay certification test so that I could return the favor they were doing for me.  So, in a less than savory fashion (I had a friend administer the test), I took and passed my belay test.  For the next five months, I climbed on an almost weekly basis and became a proficient, although casual, belayer…and an “okay” climber.

Five months passed and the only climbing I had done was outdoors in Wyoming when I took a road trip with a friend in July.  I realized that I missed it.  So, alone, I stumbled into a new gym that had auto-belays sprinkled throughout the gym.  The original plan was to go with someone else, but he backed out.  I was desperate though…so I went alone.  I kept going (alone) over the course of the next few months and loved it every single time.  When my parents asked for a Christmas list, I told them I wanted a punch card or a gym membership.  (Let me mention here: I am an only child and my parents love me a lot…I love them too…I would add a “smiley” here, but that looks weird inside parentheses.)

So, on January 2, I entered the gym and signed the requisite forms to complete my membership registration, purchased a harness and started climbing.  But…I was limited to auto-belays.  One of the workers (let’s call this guy Joe) prompted me as I entered one day, “You should take advantage of the discount;” he was referring to a member’s discount for the belay class.  I was not taking the class…I could belay!  With that, Joe said I should go find a random person to climb for me.  A couple of days later, I decided be that creepy person.

This is where we get to that “attempt to learn something that did not come easily to you.”  It’s always a learning experience for me when I talk to a new person.  For starters, I am not a big “people” person and I didn’t really mind climbing alone.  But I was getting weary of the same routes over and over again.  I had climbed almost every 5.6, 5.7, and 5.8 route multiple times (I’m not solid on 5.9s yet).  So out of desperation, I talked to someone on Tuesday.  I changed my clothes and got my gear on, then tentatively wandered around the gym looking for a lonely person.  I would have preferred a female, but I saw a 20-something dude staring up at an auto-belay route (or so I thought).  So I awkwardly approached him.

Me: Are you here alone?

Him: No…

Me: *awkward pause* Oh, okay…

Him: Were you looking for someone to climb with?

Me: *word vomiting* Well, I needed…wanted to take my belay test…and I need someone to climb for me…I’ve been certified before, I just haven’t done it here yet.

Him: Oh, okay…Let’s go find a worker.  

Me: Oh!  Really?  I’m Mary Elizabeth, by the way.

Him: I’m Tim.

And then I almost dropped him.  In my defense, they have one key difference in the technique they require, so I had some adjusting to do.  While my mind was processing this adjustment, he took his “surprise fall” and I forgot to brake for about 30 seconds.  As I saw him dangling there, I was thinking “I’m forgetting something…this should be easier…I should do something…s*hit–brake!”  And then, I looked sheepishly at the test administrator.  “Sooo…I’m not going to pass you today.”

No kidding.  On the plus side, one failure does not require you to take the class.  When I went in on Friday, Joe was working and said, “We’re doing to do something about this today!”  A random dude came up to the counter to exchange his shoes.  Joe ignored his need.

Joe: You’ll climb for her, right?  Yeah.  He has to go through orientation.  You go get geared up and we’ll be ready for you to take your test.

 I looked at the guy who had a panicked look on his face.  Joe took the shoes and went to get a different size.  I looked at the poor soul and said,

Me: You don’t have to climb for me.

Random dude: Okay, yeah, thanks.  I–I don’t really know what’s going on.  I just needed a different size.

So I went to change and get my gear on.  But, I figured what the hell?  Why not continue the awkwardness of the day?  There were two other ladies changing in the bathroom so I decided to ask, “Are you ladies here with other people?”  That question led to a conversation with Marie who was there with her husband…who volunteered to be my guinea pig.

I only forgot to brake for about 10 seconds this time around.  And despite the fact that I had the belay device hooked on upside down and got my hair caught when I was lowering him down (there’s a second time for everything), Joe passed me.  I spent the rest of the evening hanging out with Marie, her husband, their son, and her husband’s lead climbing partner.

So, what did I learn from this?  Even though I nearly kill a random stranger on Tuesday doesn’t mean that I will nearly kill a random stranger on Friday.

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Conclusions of a New Minnesotan 2

Sometimes I get confused…very, very confused

Sometimes I get confused…very, very confused

In August, St. Paul, Minnesota became my home when I migrated from the southern half of the U.S. to take part in an AmeriCorps program.  By the time that September rolled around, I had come to a few conclusions about my new home and the native creatures.  Several months have passed since that time, enough months for me to draw a few new conclusions.  So this is a continuation of that initial post and a few addenda (apparently that’s the plural of “addendum”).

We’ll begin with the addenda, of which there are two.

 

 

 

Conclusion 1a: Minnesota’s summers are gorgeous.

Conclusion 1b: Minnesota’s winters are beastly.

Seriously.  Have you ever spent a winter in Minnesota?  A few weeks into November I was preparing for the worst.  And then, after the first massive snow that dumped nearly a foot in our driveway and front yard and on top of my car, I was thinking that squirrels and bears have the right idea.  Hibernating in winter is pure genius.  If you hibernate, you do not have to DRIVE.  During my first excursion (perhaps ill-advised on a Sunday morning while the weather was verging on blizzard conditions), I was prepared to pull over and just hibernate right there until everything melted.  Also, there’s this whole FREEZING COLD CONSTANTLY factor.

Conclusion 4a: Biking is awesome!

Conclusion 4b: …except in winter.

Did you read the above rant about the quantity of snow that can fall within a twenty-four hour period?  Well, that pretty much covers it.  My bike is hibernating.  Some days, I would like to join it.

Looks like all of my addenda have to do with snow…hmmm.  Can you tell what’s been on my mind?  Speaking of what’s on my mind…let’s move on to the new conclusions that have been reached.

Snow…snow…and more snow

Snow…snow…and more snow

Conclusion 6: Minnesotans are resilient.

Have you seen how much snow these people get?  It’s ridiculous and, no matter how much it is, they just keep going.  This is a strange concept for someone who grew up in, umm, I dunno, let’s just say Arkansas.  In a place like Arkansas, two flakes is cause for mild panic.  Five flakes is a cause for mass hysteria.  And ten flakes is cause for hibernation.  Somewhere around eight flakes it becomes impossible to find milk, eggs, or bread at any grocery store, gas station, or farm.  But in Minnesota, they just keep going.  Think “energizer bunny.”

Conclusion 7: The best time to go to Wal-Mart in Minnesota is in the middle of the Vikings vs. Packers game.

So, one volleyball game doesn’t seem much different from another volleyball game.  Wait…the Vikings do play volleyball, right?  Kidding!  They play baseball.  Anyways, I went to the grocery store without thinking about it.  Boy, did I make an AMAZING decision.  The store was dead.  It reminded me of the time that I went to buy beer in Missouri when the Cardinals were playing in the World Series.

Conclusion 8: Ice fishing is for real.

I had heard about it…but now I know someone who does it.  What has my world come to?

Proceed with caution.

Proceed with caution.

Conclusion 9: Starting your car before you get ready to drive in the morning sets the tone for your day.

This can really make or break your day.  If you do not pre-start your car, then your day will be cold and unforgiving.  If, however, you do pre-start your car, there is hope for warmth and happiness throughout your day…but only if you pre-start your car.  My fingers normally go numb while I’m driving, especially the left pinkie.  You think that’s a joke; unfortunately, it’s not.  I wish I was.

Conclusion 10: Minnesota is a land ripe with opportunities to DISCOVER.

What is it that you would like to discover?  How to survive if great quantities of snow?  How long should you actually wait for a lift bridge? Where is North?  What does a gigantic mall look like at 6 am?  What does nice mean?  Whatever it is that you would like to discover, you’ll find something worthwhile in Minnesota.  Put on your curiosity cap; let the state surprise you.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Resolved

I’ve never been big on resolutions or the like, but I might have come up with a few that I can keep in mind over the course of the next 351 days.

 

1. Eat amazing food.

2. Meet new and interesting people (or creatures).

3. Notice little things…like evidence of Santa Claus.

4. Drink coffee.

5. Reach new heights.

6. Look past the dreariness to see the promise of a new day

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_____ is lonely.

As I was kneeling on the cold ground wiping green goo off of my numb fingers, I couldn’t help but feel completely and utterly alone.  My dad wasn’t texting me back.  No one was stopping to help.  There was no one to call.  No one to talk to.  And I was getting my favorite slacks dirty!

That’s where I found myself after school today when I walked out of the building and saw the rear, left tire on my adorable little Jetta flat.  More than pancake flat…crepe flat.  My mind races through the options of calling people, going back into the school, and crawling into my car to hibernate until the time when the tire magically re-inflates.  Obviously, one of those options is completely idiotic: calling someone.  I guess hibernating is also idiotic.  And I was too proud to go back into the school.  That didn’t leave much of anything…besides whatever magically appeared out of my trunk.

As it so happens, there was a spare donut tire in my trunk (not cinnamon-covered or jelly-filled) and a fix-a-flat kit.  Whoa!  I am sure you are wondering how I ended up with fix-a-flat in my trunk, since I’m never prepared for crises like this.  Let’s go backwards a bit…

At Christmas eve celebrations with my mom’s dad’s family, we always have a “white elephant” gift exchange.  One year, I ended up with a fix-a-flat kit.  I tried to get someone to steal it, but no one was interested.  Since that time, it has been in my trunk.  Who knew that it was destined for greatness?

Anyways, back in the present…I read the instructions on the goop…err…slime…about five times before I figured out what I needed to do.  (Please note: I tutor kids in reading fluency, not comprehension.)  And then I began.  During the 40 minutes that I was working, three people stopped to see if they could help.  No one would…there’s not a whole lot to help out with when the process consists of squeezing slime and then airing up.  I appreciated their concern though.

IMG_1909

And when it was all done and I was sitting in my warm car, I called my dad to see what to do next and at that point I had to cry.  During the whole process, I had felt completely alone.  Sure, there were people in the school and people from church who would have answered my desperate cries (the sermon series this month is about family).  But I was feeling too independent and self-sufficient.

Who knew that such feelings would lead to feeling utterly and completely alone?

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Delicate

Delicate twigs surviving the first snow

delicate swirls surviving the first snow

Delicate is a word that I have recently used to describe my emotional state.  The days surrounding the holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas) have been challenging.  They make me realize the specific people and experiences that I hold close to my heart.  So, when I saw the weekly photo challenge, I knew that I had to participate…if only to force myself to face up to my weaknesses.

delicate artistry in God's creation

delicate artistry in God’s creation

I have a deep-rooted appreciation and respect for the beauty of nature.  My weakness?  I am easily distracted by modern comforts and attractions.  Hulu has, on more than one occasion, stolen time that could have been spent outdoors.  Now that snow is hiding my world (see the first photo), I am missing these delicacies.

A strength?  I don’t mind getting a little chilly while searching for new delicacies.  I also don’t mind climbing a mountain to find the delicacies.  Over the past six months, I have had my share of summits.

delicate pathway to the summit

delicate pathway to the summit

Those can also be delicate.  Although I might like to be a free spirit and throw caution to the wind, a shale-covered pathway like the one I found in Canada required a delicate foot.  For most of the trip, I was fun and fancy free.  But in the moments leading to this summit, I lost a bit of confidence.  As I followed a French mountaineer (fellow CouchSurfer), I questioned my sanity.  This guy was booking it…and I was about to fall to my death.  Nevertheless, we managed to make it all the way to the very top (he wasn’t content with the slightly shorter peak where we first landed).

I also experienced the delicacies of mountains over the summer when I spent some time in the rocks of Wyoming with a friend.  Oh friends…another delicate topic for me.  Friendships, for me, are more than delicate; they are fragile.  Sometimes my mind and soul prefer to be independent and risk forcing me into the state of a hermit.  But, since my move to St. Paul, I have hated that lonely state.  Today though, I realized that I am not alone.  I have at least one friend.  The friendship formed so delicately that I hardly noticed.  It’s a beautiful feeling when someone tells you they are glad you’re around.

I realize now that delicate can mean many things.  I’ve been going with the idea that delicate means fragile, or requiring great care.  But delicate can also mean pleasing to the senses (according to m-w.com).  I think I like that definition…especially because it works for each of my examples.

 

EDIT

Another thought just entered my mind and it refuses to leave: the delicacy of life.  I am not one to get lost in current events, politics, or headlines.  But recent events (just google “Connecticut shooting” if you’re lost) have tugged at my heart…the heart of an educator who has a special appreciation for the vitality of children.  There is a delicate aspect of life that is easy for us to forget because we have living down to such a science.  We eat XYZ and take vitamins B, C, and E and drink 8 gallons of water and jog for 20 minutes 3 times a week.  But, despite all of our attempts at preserving our life, it can be gone in the blink of an eye.  Therefore, we must cherish our breaths…and the breaths of those around us.  My prayer this evening is that you will take your breaths and realize their delicacy.  Make the most of them.

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Post-Thanksgiving Slump

Thanksgiving was a much-needed opportunity to be with my parents.  And when I say “be with” I mean more than just spending time with them.  I can’t really convey how much that phrase carries.  There aren’t any tangible details into which I could delve, so I won’t bother.  But, the warmth that I received when I was with them made leaving that much harder.  I came home Saturday night and cried myself to sleep.  All day Sunday, I felt fragile.  This has never been me.  I’ve been the type of person who turns around and forgets about friends, family, connections.  My fragility scared me…it still does.  I question whether or not I am who I thought I was.  I wonder if some switch has suddenly flipped and I am now weak.

Monday morning seemed impossible.  The motivation that I normally have was completely absent.  I wanted to curl back up in bed and sleep until Christmas break.  Somehow I managed to get ready for school, though, and I had some time to spare.  So I turned to the warmth of my heavenly Father and this is what he had to say:

Be joyful always;

pray continually;

give thanks in all circumstances,

for this is God’s will for you in Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 

He will supply.  No matter how “fragile” I feel, His strength will protect me from the knocks and bumps that the world throws my way.  Or, that arise from my inner angst and fears.  And when the path seems foggy, my prayers and joy and thanks should continue.  There is no better way to exist.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful

Where I wanted to be

Where I find myself these days

Dear God,

Sometimes you confuse me.  You overwhelm me.  You destroy my dreams and force me into situations beyond my realm of understanding.  You make me interact with people!  You force me closer to them and you make me sacrifice my passions.  You challenge me.

Thank you for finding me worthy of a challenge.  Thank you for closing doors, windows, and portholes.  And locking them.  Thank you for easing old passions and growing new ones.  Thank you for bringing me to new people and softening my heart to let them into my life.

 

Where I found myself on Thanksgiving

 

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My Wandering, Rainbow-Chasing Soul

Those who wander are not always lost.

J.R.R. Tolkien said something to that effect.  And someone quoted it to me this weekend, not in reference to my life…just an observation of a situation.  But I jumped into the words and let them close over my head.  I got lost in them.  I continue to be wandering through their depths and embracing their heart.

 

It reminds me of my recent journey along the north shore of Lake Superior up to Thunder Bay, Ontario.  The entire journey, drive-time included, was spectacular.  I merely wandered along the coast, stopping as I pleased for coffee, photos, or just to pick up rocks.  As I continue to, metaphorically, wander through life, I hope that I can remain blissfully content with the simple.

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A van is…

photoclub.eu

A van is something you live in…or so I was told by a kindergartener the other day.

Comments like that stop your heart when they come from the innocent and pure lips of a bouncy five year old whose greatest concern is making it to the bathroom in time.  How does a five-year old come to a place where she defines a motor vehicle as “something you live in?”

Having worked in a few different schools, I have encountered a variety of students: students from affluence, students from poverty…students with supportive families and students without…students who find school easy and students who don’t…The wide variety of students has allowed me to practice various techniques and to find strengths wherever I look (or at least try).  I have known of students to be excited by  a free pair of socks or rolls of toilet paper.  But a student who identifies a van as a place of residence…it’s new to me.

And it puts things in perspective.  Right now, my concerns are paying for groceries with my limited stipend.  But apparently I am not too concerned…I just took a mini vacation (couch-surfing included…pictures and stories to come at a future date…be excited).  And I know that if my budget gets too tight, my parents will help me out.  So in the grand scheme of things, my concerns are non-existent.

I’ve never lived in a van.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Happy

 

 

 

Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

                                       -George Eliot

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