A Constantly Growing List of What To Be Thankful For

  1. Children that are not mine to love, to hold, but children who I have the privilege of loving, teaching, hugging. Children who are not required to love me, but do so anyways, give me butterfly kisses, and open my eyes.
  2. Rain that washes over windows, pours into streets, reminds me that sometimes God cries for the Earth as well.
  3. Mountains full of rich, blue air that gusts over me and through my lungs.
  4. Water that I drink, water that I bathe in, water that I swim in. Water.
  5. Cats that make a lot of noise, cats that walk over me, and settle to sleep.
  6. Cupcakes with icing, artificial icing, artificial sprinkles. Cupcakes remind me that often, it is the little things.
  7. Computers to read articles on, computers to write blogs and poetry on. Computers that allow us to communicate with the world outside our bubble.
  8. Internet that gives us the power to love people even when we can’t see them.
  9. Hands that allows us to pick things up, make things, hold others’ hands.
  10. Feet that take us new places, take us to un-ventured places, take us home.
  11. Breath that moves through our lungs, powering red blood cells, powering movement, life.
  12. Poetry that speaks to the soul, that changes our mind, that opens our eyes, that lets us explore life outside of ourselves.
  13. Words that expose our truths, lies, and uncertainties.
  14. Beds with clean sheets, beds that straighten our backs after long days.
  15. Shelter that so many people don’t have.
  16. Friends that make my days brighter, make me laugh harder than I thought I ever could.
  17. Fingers that type blog posts, fingers that tap, fingers that tie knots, fingers that press violin strings, fingers that hold violin bows, fingers that wear rings, fingers that play guitar, fingers that pluck ukulele strings.
  18. Pain that reminds us that we are alive and can feel.
  19. Watching funny movies that make my stomach hurt and reteach us that God really is part comedian.
  20. Guacamole. No explanation needed.
  21. Coffee and its smell in the morning. Pure joy and milk, in one cup.
  22. Fuzzy socks and the warmth on my toes they provide.
  23. Memories, their lasting effect burning in the back of my mind.
  24. Cows, their moos, their fuzzy noses, their milk, their general awesomeness.
  25. Laughing. No explanation needed.
  26. Sunsets so pretty they hurt your eyes, as the sun goes down to sleep another countless night, while the moon presides.
  27. Fleece jackets that are warm on cool mornings, pillows in class, something to hide behind.
  28. Walking barefoot and feeling the Earth release under your foot, and cradle your feet in soil older than anything else we know.
  29. Pumpkin patches, with grumpy children, orange pumpkins, bales of hay, lots of red leaves, lots of joy.
  30. Hay rides in a bouncing tractor, with other families, other kids, bouncing through the fields, enjoying the crispness of the air, the softness of the warmth.
  31. Saturday mornings, when my eyes open because of sunlight pouring through my window, onto my pillow, onto the cat lying on top of me.
  32. Mangoes that are sweet and juicy and lovely and oh-so-full of sunshine.
  33. Camping, waking up to the overwhelming warmth of heat in a tent. Climbing out of the door of a tent and seeing a fire, with a pot (a literal pot) of coffee resting on a grate.
  34. Tents that shelter me, but don’t guard me from the sound of rain pounding the Earth around me.
  35. Cameras that allow me to capture moments and love them later.
  36. Painting in the dark of my bedroom late at night, not caring for each stroke, but still liking the outcome.
  37. Coloring in the lines, outside the lines, over the lines, with crayons, with colored pencils, with 5 year olds, in church. Coloring.
  38. Babysitting little ones that smile at me, fall asleep in my arms, call me the wrong names, give me gifts, wake me up in the morning with glimmering eyes.
  39. Boots that raise my self esteem and make me happier to be marching through life.
  40. Taxes that support the less privileged, taxes that support all the things I want in a successful society.
  41. Singing in church, singing at home, singing in the car, singing in the rain, singing through tears, singing out of key, singing.
  42. Dukas, small vegetable stands that support families and provide easy access to fresh fruit veggies, and occasional Snickers bars.
  43. Askaris (gate guards) that become friends, welcome you home every night, smile wide at “good morning, good evening.”
  44. Elephants with better memory than I, big trunks swinging in the trees, elephants with loud roars, watching me pass in my big truck.
  45. While we’re at it, big white toyota trucks that take me over rough terrain, adventuring to camp sites, and the viewing of gorgeous animals.
  46. To-go mugs that allow me to bring my coffee of happiness (see #21) to even happier places, or to places that need more happiness.
  47. People to disagree with when I become convinced that I’ve got it all figured out.
  48. Paper to write on, to make cranes out of, to make planes out of, to keep track of life on, to remember moments, to release.
  49. Fairy lights on headboards that make late evenings immersed in homework, just a little bit better.
  50. Butterflies that flutter without a care in the world, unaware of the beauty of their wings, only conscience of their wings’ practical purpose.
  51. Sunbirds with long tails, shining in the sunlight, flitting through the air in search of sweetness.
  52. Hummingbirds that weigh less than a quarter and have beaks thin enough to enter a flower and partake in its life.
  53. Playgrounds to play on, playgrounds to take pictures of, playgrounds to build, playgrounds to fall over, playgrounds.
  54. Shoes, even if I don’t like wearing them, they protect your feet.
  55. Cake. Cake.
  56. Ceramic mugs to drink steaming tea out of, mugs that make your hot drink 75% better.
  57. TV shows, even if they are stupid and time-consuming and only fulfilling short term. TV shows.
  58. Violins, for their complexity, difficulty to practice, and lovely sound.
  59. Fiddle music, even when its kind of annoying, probably because your brother is playing them.
  60. Jokes, because laughter (see #25).
  61. Bridges that take me to new places, lead me to the other side, even the burnt ones.
  62. Pinterest, if we’re really being honest here…
  63. Ferries that blow salty air into your hair, and take you somewhere you could not have gotten to otherwise.
  64. Art that “comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable.”
  65. Schnitzel the dog and schnitzel the food, eaten in small pubs in Switzerland.
  66. Flowers that brighten any day, flowers that grow in your garden.
  67. Scarves that keep necks warm, scarves that look pretty, scarves that wrap around a couple times, circle scarves, scarves.
  68. Flannel jackets, shirts, night gowns, pants, scarves, flannel.
  69. Books. No explanation needed.
  70. Teachers that enrich minds and teach souls, teachers that scold for good reasons, teachers who really do know what is best.
  71. Subways in London, NYC, subways that are easy, fast, efficient, fun.
  72. Dogs that lick your face, dogs that smell not-so-great, dogs that know what is up, dogs that hike, dogs that swim. Dogs.
  73. Family that support me in countless ways.
  74. Mornings when the sky is blue, and orange, and pink, and chilly.
  75. Hearing the smile in someone’s voice.
  76. Guitars that play pretty notes, guitars that lead us in singing, guitars that play a melody of hope in the soft morning.
  77. Lavender soap to wash yourself with.
  78. Breakfast quiche: for being cheesy and tasty and oh-so-lovely.
  79. Forks to let us eat said quiche.
  80. Glasses that allows us to see when our eyes just don’t do the job.
  81. The Bible for providing us with tales of those who made the right decisions and those who didn’t; those who chose not to do, and those that did; those that chose to be lights; and those who were in love with the big, scary world.
  82. The ability to share. Share our hearts, our minds, our hands, our food, our light, our time, ourselves.
  83. Shukas – large, Maasai blankets – for being warm, giving, and colorful.
  84. Jacaranda trees for being purple, and lovely, and encouraging, and life giving.
  85. Campfires for warmth, the smoky smell, the inviting light.
  86. All-nighters around the said campfire, playing music, talking with one another, read to one another, being with one another, loving one another well.

As updated on September 16, 2016.

 

PS: Not necessarily in order of importance. I mean, if that was true, what number would you assume to be guacamole? Obviously number 1.

 

More Reading (Can’t Help It)

I really did not want to read the Scarlet Letter.

So being my honest-to-goodness-grumpy-silly-11th-grade-mature self, I waited till the weekend before it was due, then, I put the book on my bedside table. Then, I waited a couple hours. Then, I made myself a cup of coffee. Then, I got some snacks. Then, I hit play on my Mumford and Sons playlist. Then, I sat on my bed, equipped with sticky notes and a pen. Then, I read.

Needless to say, I procrastinated. I’m sorry.

So I read the Scarlet Letter and probably didn’t enjoy as much as I could have. And this is what I learned:

I’m not nearly as good of a reader as I thought I was.

I’ve always been a reader and I’ve always thought myself a “good” reader.

(Hey, there is a whole post on reading!)

But when I began to read the Scarlet Letter, I had to drop this idea that I had of being a “good” reader. I wasn’t because I couldn’t recognize my thoughts as they came. I couldn’t write down what I was thinking in meaningful sentences. I couldn’t understand what Hawthorne’s diction meant and how it was contributing to the feelings I was experiencing. I was oblivious to heavy-handed, clever allusions being made in conjunction with brilliant writing.

So I think I learned that I can always grow in my understanding. Especially in such things like reading. I can always learn to better inhale the glory of magnificent writing, even if I procrastinate, especially if I procrastinate.

 

Group Projects: Yea or Nay?

I have a love/hate relationship with group projects.

I like them because I get to talk to people, learn new things, work through problems, tackle issues, explore new ideas.

But I also dislike group projects because I lose control – of my grade, the thoughts, the work, most everything. So naturally, being the control freak that I am, I go insane. I make myself mad; I probably make other people mad.

So when group projects are necessary I do my best to think of these things.

  1. One person cannot bring down an entire group project. Why? Because of the very nature of a group project. It is made by a group not one person.
  2. Trusting others is a valuable, often painful, practice. Someone may not do the work exactly as you would have done it, but that’s why we have group projects to begin with. To see how other brains work and how that can help us.
  3. One bad grade is a reality, but not a disaster. Working dependently is hard because its unusual, and one might get a bad grade, but guess what, its not a tragedy.
  4. They are ultimately helpful. At least for me, I can always come out of it having found some good. For instance, I got to know someone I would not have talked originally. Or, I learned something new that somebody brought up that I had spent my whole life not knowing, as if!
  5. They are applicable to life. Most of our life is, and will be, spent around people and working with people. There is not much we can do about it. Might as well get used to it.

PS: Answer this poll! Just for fun. 🙂

Society and My Conflicted Feelings

The majority of my days are spent bashing society, if I’m honest.

What I like to think is a bit different. As always.

I like to think that I can change society for the better, that I wake up every morning ready to do some good. While I do believe that I can change society, I’m certainly not ready for that every morning, especially if that is the morning Dad forgets to make coffee.

I like to think that my faith as a Christian makes me learn to love my society even in its flaws. Which, dare I say, is somewhat true. Though, it does require a lot of conscious thought.

I like to think that as long as I eat a good breakfast, come to school in clothes besides my pajamas, and put in my best effort, surely that counts as contributing to a loving society (you know, the kind of Utopias I write about).

But as I attempt to stay true to my promises of honesty, I am really quite cynical and unimpressed with society a lot of the time.

I grow staggeringly impatient with the society of school, a place where learning is loved and appreciated but only to the extent of grades. I find myself here, trying to balance my love of knowledge and my desire of success, often failing, often angry. I wish that we could go to school to learn, without worrying about grades and opinions and feelings. But alas, everything is intertwined too much to undo, unlike the human knots we made in youth group, sometimes, even teamwork doesn’t make a difference.

I become a gray storming monster after conversations with classmates about politics, religion, abortion, violence. Why can’t we all agree, I ask my mom. She shrugs her shoulders, gives me a hug. I spend the night brooding, astounded that those I love most at school might have different core ideals than me. How does that happen, I ask over and over again. I haven’t found an answer.

I struggle to remind myself that all the world’s problems cannot be fixed by only my right decisions but all of us as a whole, even when we don’t agree, even when we feel like all we can do is go to war about it.

And while I try my best to comprehend the irony and wrong doings of everyone everywhere, including myself, I am overwhelmed by a great desire to love as many people my eyes can see, my hands can touch, my words can reach. Because that is the best I can do, the best any of us can do.

This is where I find myself in society, contributing in my own way. Different than yours, different than our brothers and sisters thousands upon thousands of miles away, and still different from the two-year-old wailing across the hall in my apartment complex.

So as I work to fit myself into the puzzle of our world community, and our aching society, and as you do the same, let’s do it together. Let’s help each other out. I’ll give you a hug when you are hurting, if you listen when all I can do is rant nonsensically. If we can do this, I think, one day we will be whole.

 

{apologies}

abba
mother
creator
god

help us to clean up our mess

you gave us
a spinning spiraling ball
of green continents
of blue oceans

and what we have done

is unspeakable
I fear to voice the words
for in writing them
reading them
we are acknowledging the hurt
we have inflicted
on this life-giving gift

we have trampled the grass
not letting it grow back
as the zebras do

we have chopped the trees
not watering with love
the ones that are left
(they do give us oxygen, you know)

we have pumped gray smog
into the angry clouds
so that we can no longer
distinguish storm clouds
from storming factories

we have built incessantly
covering the foundations
of rich red soil

worst of all

we have deemed other beings
unworthy
you gazelle, only a mammal
you ant, only a bug
you ape, not as smart

as
humans?

Reading: A Reflection

I get almost daily comments on my name.

Some people ask me why I go by middle name. Why, if my mom was planning on calling me Reid anyways, would she make it my middle name, not my first. My answer: ask my mom, I didn’t name myself.

In third grade, I got teased mercilessly by twin boys in art class, because apparently, my teacher thought that seating was a good idea. They told me over and over that my name was a boy’s name. I think I should be congratulated for not committing some horrible act of violence or degradation.

In my music circles, I get questions about why I don’t play instruments with a reed in them, like the oboe or clarinet. My answer: because I don’t have determination or discipline enough to learn a second instrument.

A couple weeks ago, I heard a joke I’ve never heard before in regard to my name. Someone said something along the lines of me “swaying in the wind like a reed.” I congratulated them for originality though I’m not quite sure if thats a compliment or not.

The joke I hear most often, though, is some sort of play on – drum roll please – reading.

“Hey Reid, do you read?” (What do you think.)
“Would you like to read out loud for the class, Reid?” (Why, yes, yes I would.)
“Ha, Reid is reading, get it? Haha…” (Not.)

And to my great demise, I must not deny the jokes, for I do read, a great lot, as it goes.

When I was little I read anything that I could get my hands, as many books I could carry home from the library. As I got older, I got the biggest book I could find, foolish enough to think that bigger books were better, cooler. In middle school, I got books that had daring front covers, hoping that somebody would see them and think me, brave. As I entered my later middle school years, I began to read more out of necessity for English classes, but still spending large blocks of my breaks and lunches in the library. As I got to high school, I had largely dropped off reading new books, reading over and over the few books I brought to Kenya with me, searching for comfort and clarity of mind.

But I’ve slowly returned to this past time of mine, reading. I’ve begun to read poetry, nonfiction, small books, paperbacks.

I came back because I needed whatever reading had always given me. And this is what I discovered.

Reading allows me to widen my perspective, open my eyes, as they say. Reading poetry helps me in my attempt to write better poetry. Reading nonfiction brings my attention to the way diction makes a big difference in how I understand a real life situation. Reading small books teaches me that less is very often more, and every word counts. Reading helps me to understand people. Without reading, I was lost, because a large part of my learning was gone.

Without reading, I wasn’t growing in understanding. Without reading, when somebody made a joke, I had to say, “No, I don’t read.”