Saturday, April 24, 2010

Truth, Beauty, and Coffee

"I'm a romantic," he said. "Truth and beauty, truth and beauty... and coffee."

Where is a camera when I need it? Oh, that's right, I left it on my desk last night, with the fleeting thought that surely I wouldn't be sitting in a good place to get a decent picture at the concert. I had no idea that by the end of the evening, Jay Clifford - "The Singer" - would be kneeling down next to me, talking about music and mutual friends. Aaaggghhh!

The whole concert was great. I got a cup of vanilla rooibus tea - my favorite "to order" tea - and sat with Dad and Kevan at a round table halfway back from the stage, waiting for the music to begin. Haley Dreiss started the show, and I actually liked her a lot. She is a brilliant violin player and has a nice voice too.

Then came Jay Clifford. I read a review of his music that I totally agree with:
"Jay Clifford owns one of rock's supreme voices: a silky-smooth, soulful tenor that never sounds forced or ugly. He can belt it out at need (even unmiked), but there's none of that gravelly bellowing that often passes for pop singing. And he gives you as refined and totally original a product as you can find in his genre: tender, poetic lyrics; gorgeous melodies; and sophisticated harmonies." - Lindsay Koob, Charleston City Paper

It was so cool to see him live without his old band, "Jump, Little Children." I love JLC, but when he was alone, he was more personal. It helped, I'm sure, that he grew up in Winston-Salem, and went to the School of the Arts, which is really close by. He told stories about his childhood and the stories behind a lot of his songs, and took requests to play really old obscure songs that only people who knew him in highschool would remember... and there were a lot of those people there. It was fun to feel like I was in a private concert between Jay and some of his oldest friends. :) At the end, he got off the stage, and without a mike or amp or lights, he played and sang Cathedrals, which is one of the most beautiful songs I think he's written. It was very personal and intimate.

And when it was over, this guy cleared the crowd so we could get to the backdoor to leave, he motioned for Jay to say hello to me. It all happened so fast - I was so excited and so worried I'd say something foolish - that I don't really remember all that was said. But I smiled all the way home, and I think I fell asleep smiling, because I woke up smiling too. What a great night!

Friday, April 23, 2010

really sweet

I put two lumps of sugar in my tea this morning instead of just one. Talk about SWEET. I actually couldn't remember if I had put a lump in already... my mind was not on my ritual tea preparations. It was on... explaining the roles of women in the 1920s, covering reading assignments, editing essays on Langston Hughes, responding to emails, studying the Song of Songs, praying for friends and job possibilities and decisions about the summer, remembering the ESL class from last night, mentally organizing the jigsaw puzzle I just started, and wondering what on earth I can do special for Kevan's birthday... yes, ALL of this was on my mind at once! What a busy morning my brain had! So instead of trying my tea first, I just plopped in some more sugar. Good idea: putting sugar in one's tea. Bad idea: losing track and putting in much more than necessary.

The sweetest part of my morning though was when Kevan wished me a "happy birthday week." I hadn't even thought of my birthday being a week away, but he did. Kevan is really good at finding ways to celebrate my birthday all week, too.

Tonight we kick it off with a concert at Krankie's Coffee shop downtown! There I will get some coffee - which I will surely (and consciously) put more than two lumps of sugar in - and listen to the soothing sounds of Jay Clifford, "The Singer." *sigh* Sweet times, to be sure.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


My life seems to be full of un-plans. Which drives me crazy, because I love having a plan and I do my best when I follow a plan. My plan for now is to finish the school year at FCDS and then go to Ft. Wayne to serve for nine weeks. Then I will go to Ontario for my cousin's wedding. Sometime in September, I will be a part of the non-profit community coffee house my home church is opening.

I had a couple ideas for teaching jobs, but today I found out that neither will work. Well... one could potentially work, but they aren't even thinking about hiring until August. I would really like to know where I should work in the fall, and I'd like to know that by the time I leave for Ft. Wayne, so I don't have to divide my attention while I'm gone. But I have no leads, no ideas.

I talked to a friend on the phone this morning who really encouraged me by reminding me of God's faithfulness and plans for people throughout the Bible. But I was also reminded that the life of a disciple of Christ is risky and full of surprises. The thing that is certain is that God is in control and that he loves me (I guess that is two things). And I am clinging to that now, and doing a lot of praying...

Please pray for me to know where to look for work, and pray that the right position is open and available to me. I want to do what God wants me to do, and I don't want to limit his plans to what makes sense to me or what is safe, but I don't want to be foolish or wasteful with my time or gifts.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

the importance of...

Last night Laura and I had a good laugh with our adult ESL learners over the importance of pronunciation. The English spelling of many words can be confusing, especially to people whose first language is incredibly phonetic. There is a certain beauty in the way English words are formed, from other words or other linguistic origins. It seems very few English words are truly... English. But this melting pot of sounds and letters can be confusing and socially frustrating at times. The best week can do is laugh off blunders and practice, practice, PRACTICE! It is more than an importance of sound... it is an importance of being understood.

Which was a lesson I taught this morning to my Chinese student who was struggling through the poetic deep southern slang of Langston Hughes. He wants to write an essay response in Chinese slang to prove a point to his teacher - that he is frustrated at feeling outside of the realm of Hughes' understanding. I told him that the words and style an author uses matter to the audience they are trying to speak to. Hughes wrote about African American culture, as an African American, to African Americans and those who were familiar with them. As a Chinese person, my student can speak about and to his own culture in a way that makes sense to those who share it, but may confound those who have never experienced it. If he wants his audience to be his own people, he can feel free to express things in his own terms. But if his audience is white Americans, he needs to make his culture accessible to them. That is the great blessing and challenge of being a writer - you can and must share your heart and mind with a broader audience. And you must be as clear as possible - the goal is to not be misunderstood. Words and other influences have the power to compromise that goal.

Which leads into another lesson I am teaching today to my U.S. History students. They will read about the presidency of Warren G. Harding, which was short-lived (literally) because of the company he kept. While Harding was personally an honest man, he chose some cabinet members who were not honest, but were corrupt and greedy. They caused scandals and made a mess of things, and this distressed and alarmed the President so much that he died suddenly. It's a lesson I believe students of all ages can learn from and relate to: the importance of choosing friends and leaders wisely. A leader can only be as great as the people he surrounds himself with. Your attitude and actions reflect the things you fill yourself with.

Which leads to the last lesson of the day: the importance of a nice hot cup of tea and a time of prayer. I am going to spend the rest of my planning period praying about the things about which I need guidance and help and a good attitude.