Month: July 2011

I thought I’d be nervous.

But it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to do a front flip out the door, a somersault far above the SC sky. And inexplicably, throwing my arms out to the side, arching my back and hugging the atmosphere seemed like the most instinctive thing in the world.

I didn’t want the parachute to open. I would have been perfectly happy to freefall all the way down; everything was so disconnected that the thought of impact wasn’t any more real than the thought of skating around Saturn’s rings.

Thankfully, it was real to Nick, the Skydive Walterboro professional strapped to my back. My lemon-lime colored parachute opened after about thirty-five seconds of freefalling. Jerked. Suddenly there was reality again, sharp as the harness biting into my shoulders and jeans, keeping me suspended above the ground.

So… I hung there, as undignified as a marionette, and took in the sights. There was the Atlantic; there was a dirt road, there a highway; there was a pond with swirls of neon green and blue water, there a forest, there a farm, there a city with buildings; there, an airport, where we’d soon return; there ants—no—people!!!—far below.

I looked up and saw Qing (Sarah), my good friend who’d jumped just minutes after I did. She was jubilant as she waved. “I love Americaaaaa!!!!” she shouted. Then we spun away, dipped back down to earth and walked out of the sky as though out of a dream. I didn’t even get my Pumas dusty.

I thought I’d be nervous.

Me and the Cessna 182

Bucket list item 1: done. It was a rush. But my last post was right. Life isn’t about defying gravity or expectations. It’s about being present in every day, being real, living the abundant life that God has given me–for His glory. Maybe it took skydiving to remind me.

Maybe I should be as fearless every other day of the year.

Mejor que skydiving

So, tomorrow I’m going skydiving–that’s a big item to cross off the bucket list. But I’m pretty sure that what I did tonight tops jumping out of an airplane

Today I stepped into the shoes of an English teacher for a couple of hours. I substitute-taught an adult English as a Second Language class at the Greenville Literacy Association. Pretty sure it’ll always be weird to stand in front of a classroom. Sometimes it’s a long way from one side of a school desk to the other.

Tonight I had five students from Burma, Vietnam, and Mexico. We learned active verbs by playing a game of bingo… and dancing, singing, jumping, kicking, flying, swimming, and thinking along the way. There was a lot of laughter in that classroom, but the very best part was testing the students on the new vocabulary and knowing that they’d really learned it.

A couple of the younger guys said they were having a little bit of trouble understanding some of the words… could I please demonstrate “to kiss” and “to dance” in the same way that I’d demonstrated “to sing” and “to jump”? *cough* That digression was very short-lived.

The class was over before I knew it. They all thanked me  profusely (when did I become Miss Steffani?) and seemed genuinely disappointed when I told them their regular teacher would be back next week. They learned stuff. They’re amazing people who have this incredible desire to learn the language of their new home, and I got to be a part of that.

How could jumping out of an airplane compare? I guess I’ll find out.

It’s true.

A journal excerpt from 10/02/2003 (I was twelve years old):

…just before leaving town, Mom pointed to the ground and asked the man, “Does that look like antifreeze to you? Do you know anything about cars?” The guy squatted in front of the van and stuck his finger in the stuff. After examining it and smelling it–thank goodness he didn’t taste it!–he replied. “Yup.”

He lifted the hood. Stared inside for awhile. “Yuh’ve got a hole in yer radiator.”

I lost interest. They talked for a while and I got back in the van so Bunker Hill could be attacked. In the meantime, Mom established the fact that she needed something called “stop leak” and to add plenty of water. The man was a lot of help… if we had never stopped at that place and noticed the leak, the radiator could have caused the engine to blow up.

In a moment of lucidity, I understood: God makes life work. It’s true.

It’s been almost nine years since I wrote those words, but I don’t think I’m through learning how true they are.

Eight years old.

Mom says to pack. Pack what? She only knows two kinds of packing. There’s packing to move, cradling plates in wads of old newspapers and putting everything, everything in produce boxes. And there is packing to go to school: a lunch and a backpack with third grade math, grammar, and history books and twenty-five spelling words (homework) hastily written out the night before.

But this is a different kind of packing. Mom has suitcases and an odd mix of clothes, pictures, and tears.

Mom packs lots of clothes in a giant Samsonite suitcase. While Mom shoves the suitcase full of clothes and other things, she gets her favorite tote bag. Bright yellow with navy blue tulips. It looks like hope. Daddy had brought it for her the last time he came back from one of his business trips, a foreign place called Los Angeles. When Daddy left, he might as well be as far away as magical places like Paris and Venice she’d read about. Is Los Angeles farther than Venice? It’s under the same sky.

She packs stacks of books without knowing why and feels very grown-up to be packing a big grown-up tote bag all by herself.

Where is Daddy? It’s long past her bedtime and he still isn’t here. That’s been happening a lot lately. It’s past her bedtime, because it’s dark outside and the stars are shining. Mom doesn’t seem to care. Suddenly Mom is carrying the suitcases out to the car. The grown-up tote bag seems too heavy now. It’s past her bedtime. Where is Daddy?

When Mom says it’s time to go, she drags her tote bag out to the car and puts it beside her feet. It’s very late to go anywhere. Mom turns the key, and the Olds seems foreign in the darkness. She can barely make out the shiny plastic O of the model name scripted on the dashboard.

Then Daddy is there. His voice sounds funny. Suddenly she’s wrapped up in his familiar arms. Flannel arms. He’s wearing the red plaid flannel coat he’s always worn around the house, and it smells like him, and she’s crying without knowing why and not feeling at all grown-up anymore. She doesn’t want to let go of the soft, frayed fabric. The wind seems cold through the open door of the big, dark Olds. Daddy takes off his housecoat and hands it to her. She wraps it around her, burying her face in its folds. It smells like Daddy. The door of the Olds closes.

It’s all of Daddy she has left.

The 70’s called…

“Hey, Steff! The ‘70s called. They want their blanket back.”

*insert eye roll and tolerant smile here*

Fridays off with pay? Yes, please. And while I’m off, I’ll do amazingly productive things with my time, like… writing five dozen product descriptions (ah, the joys of being a content writer), listening to the radio until I know the words to every song, and… this:

As I mentioned here, a lot of emotion can go into a granny square. Officially, this afghan is finished. In reality, it might never stop growing.

How not to read

Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.
— Miguel de Cervantes (Don Quixote)

Part of my summer reading

Working 60 hours each week demolished my summer reading plans. So I’ve embarked on a sort of experiment to schedule more reading into each day. The results? Not always pretty.

When and where I should NOT read (lessons learned the hard way):

1. in the bathtub. Splish-splash, and… Hemingway’s taking a bath

2. during meals involving spaghetti

3. while baking anything, but especially while baking chocolate chip cookies

4. while, um, driving. . . I really don’t care to get too close to the Carolina By-Products truck in the next lane

5. The Inferno, right before going to bed. . . it does strange things to one’s mind