Wednesday, December 19, 2007

living up to my potential

With one semester under my belt, here in my seventeenth year of formal schooling, I have my first 4.0. I worked hard for it. I obsessed over it. And when my grades appeared on the Hastings College website I did a little nerd dance. I didn't obsess over the GPA itself, but over the individual A's. This is a new thing for me. I've always been sort of a slacker. I've always skated by with charm, humor and as little work as it would take to get me a 3.0. But a flip has been switched, my friends, and I love that 4.0.

In high school I knew I had to maintain the 3.0 for the sake of my parents (who would have preferred a 3.3 as that was the fabled cut-off GPA for the Tri Delts at Mizzou). But a 3.0 seemed right to me too--not stupid, not caring too much. I had no internal motivation to do any better and I carefully walked the line, balancing my C's in math and science with my A's in English and Spanish for a good solid B average. I had pom-pons and musicals to think about. I had boys to deal with with and spiritual crises. There was student council and zits and boobs out of proportion to the rest of my body. How could I really care about school?

In college I sort of floundered. It was hard to be away from home for the first time--figuring out how to do laundry, how to manage time, how to stay sane in a ridiculous sorority I never should have joined. I transferred after my freshman year and had to go through the adjustments all over again. I got by. I did fine. I just didn't really get it until, with two semesters left, I switched my major from Spanish to English and took almost nothing but literature courses until I graduated. My GPA shot up. I made a point to show up to class. I enjoyed writing papers. I got to know and like my professors. It was so great--and then it was over.

About a year ago, I was in a funk and had a hard time first identifying and then admitting what exactly it was I was feeling. Firstly, I was feeling unfocused. I spent my time doing a lot of worth-while and fulfilling things. I was raising my children, teaching Sunday School, leading book group, serving on the Library Board, working with the Listening Room and pursuing my hobby music career. All great things. But they were so scattered and varied and separate that they weren't building towards anything. That was becoming dissatisfying.

Secondly--this is the part that was hard to admit--I craved acknowledgement. Being a stay-at-home-Mom is the end-all, be-all of internal rewards. Of course it was rewarding! Of course Paul acknowledged my work and of course I could look at Phoebe, Mo & Ollie and see the fruits of my labor. Of course those things were true in a big-picture sense. But on a daily basis I could not measure and see if I was doing well. I got no paycheck that said "you're work is worth this much to our company and if you keep it up we'll give you more." And I know that all the volunteer work I have done is appreciated--I know I've made good contributions to organizations and enjoyed doing it and those who I served and served with think I've done a good job. But after eight years of stay-at-home/volunteering, I really needed a little external reward. I can only be so deep. I can only be so zen. I was ready to be complimented and petted and told that I'm great. I was ready for somebody to give me money! I was ready to have a clearly marked measuring stick and see how far up it I could reach.

So I am now grade-obsessed.

My hope is that this will fade. My goal, of course, is to learn, not just get good grades and I have learned a tremendous amount this semester. I really went in having no idea what the standards were or how my work would compare--I graduate from college twelve years ago! So I was anxious and eager to make sure I was up to snuff. It feels good to know that I am.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dunbar vs. Martha Stewart Omnimedia

It's on, Martha Stewart! You snagged my idea. You're goin' down.

Emily's T-Shirt Bag

Marth's T-Shirt Bag

Notice my post is is dated Aug. 5 and Martha's is dated Oct. 5.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


In September I wrote my first-ever grant proposal on behalf of The Listening Room. Today I received a check for $5,000. O.MY.GOLLY.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

wonders never cease

It occasionally seems like this world has been entirely discovered. There is nothing new here. Every last inch of earth has been put under the microscope, poked, prodded, categorized and summed up on wikipedia and then...from the depths of the Pacific Ocean comes the Yeti Crab. I love this thing. I can hardly believe that it is real. I want one--because they so freaking cool--and because they prove that wonders never cease.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

guilty, not guilty

Today we found a man guilty of making terroristic threats and not guilty of third degree manslaughter. I got to be the presiding juror, which used to be, I think, the foreman. How cool is that?

After we had heard all the evidence and the closing statements, the judge read us our instructions. This took twenty minutes. Twenty minutes! They were very detailed instructions full of definitions of the law and what we could and could not consider during deliberation. We went into deliberation and were supposed to pick a presiding juror straightaway, but we didn't. We started discussing the case. Because for the whole two days we were unable to say anything at all about the trial to anyone, not even each other. So everyone just started gabbing. We needed to debrief. And laugh.

But then opinions began to take shape. And people were taking all kinds of things into consideration that were not specified in the instructions. This is how I came to be presiding juror; I was adamant that we stick to the rules. It didn't matter that this guy seemed like a jerk, or that guy was annoying. We had to stick to the evidence.

The events we were to consider took place on Aug 8. Apparently there was a similar incident on Aug 7 that was alluded to and discussed in part, though most testimony regarding it was stricken (struck?) from the record and we were told to disregard it. Of course we all wanted to know what happened that night. Of course it would have shed light on the events the next morning, but we were explicitly instructed not to take the night of Aug 7. into consideration. But that's what everyone wanted to talk about.

I kept referring back to our instruction booklet and reading the pertinent parts aloud (there were multiple copies, but not one for everybody). And then I went to the bathroom. And when I returned I was informed that I was the presiding juror.

We all decided pretty quickly that the defendant was guilty of terrorizing threats. The evidence was overwhelming. But assault? We went back and forth and back and forth. I was convinced one way and then completely changed my opinion. Round and round we went. Everyone was leaning toward guilty, but there was still doubt.

The definition of assault was to intentionally cause bodily harm OR threaten in a menacing manner. We sent a note to the judge asking for clarification of what "threatening in a menacing manner" meant. In the terrorizing threat charge, it did not matter if the victim actually felt scared or terrorized, only that the defendant intended for him to so feel. Our question was, in the assault charge, did it matter if the victim felt threatened?

Two guys have a fight. Evidence does not show that one or the other started it--it seems pretty mutual. The defendant runs inside and grabs a knife. When he comes back out the victim is getting on his bike and riding away. The defendant chases him down the street with the knife. In the victim's testimony, he does not mention the knife at all--he did not know the defendant (behind him while he was pedaling away) had a knife. Witnesses saw him with it. The defendant stated he had it. So was the victim just fleeing or was he fleeing because he was threatened in a menacing manner?

We wrote our question, knocked on the door, handed the note to the bailiff who took it to the judge. The judge read the note, conferred with the lawyers. We all convened back in the courtroom. She read us her reply. Gave us a written copy of it and we went back into deliberation. This took almost a half an hour.

The judge stated that to be threatened in a menacing manner meant to cause a rational person to be apprehensive of being harmed. After a little more discussion none of us felt that the state proved beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to harm the victim or that he threatened him in a menacing manner, therefore we could not find him guilty of assault.

I had to fill out the form and sign it. I was the last to enter the court room. The judge asked me to stand and asked "Has the jury reached a decision?" I got to answer all her questions--yes we reached a decision, yes it was unanimous, etc. She read our decision and I verified that that was our decision. She asked the public defender if he wanted to poll the jury to ensure we were unanimous but he declined. And we were adjourned. The end.

The trail itself was fairly tedious and boring, but the deliberation process was fascinating. And that is probably more than you ever wanted to know about jury duty.

Tomorrow I go back to class and work. I have two ten page papers to write in the next week or so and three finals to prepare for. Yikes.

Monday, November 26, 2007

as much as I'm allowed to say

Here is what, at the end of day one, I can tell you about jury duty:
The process was quite fascinating...until the trial actually started.
I'll be there from 9 to 5 tomorrow and possibly Wednesday morning.
CSI? Not so much. Keystone Cops? Much more like it.
As easy as it is to rag on serving, I feel pretty good about participating in democracy. I get very cynnical about patriotism at a time when I don't much care for my president, his administration or his war. I do, however, care for my country. So off I go in the morning to the district court to perform my civic duty.

Friday, November 23, 2007

and we're back

1. I brined my Thanksgiving turkey. It started out poorly, but after a little trial and error I had the turkey in a bag, the bag in a five gallon bucket and the bucket in the refrigerator. I used a recipe from Martha Stewart (of course!) which included some very salty water, a bottle of wine, and various herbs and spices. Supposedly soaking it over night in the salt makes it juicy. Osmosis or something. Was it delicious? Yes. Was it better than previous un-brined turkeys? Hard to say.

2. Today Moses called Paul a "despicable miscreant." It was awesome.

3. It's snowing.

4. A couple of weeks ago in one of my classes we were discussing the Columbine High School shootings. My professor asked, "Where were you guys when that happened? At what stage of life were you then?" The general consensus: sixth grade. Yikes.

5. I have two 10-page papers yet to write this semester.

6. After receiving the same alarming email about five times regarding The Golden Compass and how it is the anti-Narnia and about "killing god" I really, really wanted it read it. So, I did. And I really, really liked it. It's very unsuspecting until the end, when it gets rather heretical--maybe sin is good. The church says sin is bad, but the church is bad, so why should we believe the church? Only, here's the thing--it's all happening in an alternate universe. The alternate universe is very much like our universe, but it is not our universe. The church has some similarities to our church, but it is not our church. And there is a quote from "the Bible" which is similar to our get the picture. So, I understand the desire to be cautious. It would all be a little over my kids' heads at this point anyway. But, if they want to read it later (and they've seen previews and TOTALLY want to see the movie, but we have a solid rule about reading the book first) I might allow it, if we are reading it together and are able to discuss what it all means. I'm not so much for ruling a book out completely, but this book certainly would raise some deep theological questions in a thinking twelve-year-old reader, which could be good, could be bad. I'll probably take up the next book in the series over Christmas break.

7. Phoebe is reading Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban on her own. Constantly. It is so fun to see her hooked.

8. We are all listening to a book on CD called The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread. I LOVE it.

9. While we're on books, I really want a Kindle. Maybe. It was this quote from the Newsweek article by Steven Levy this week that really got me:

Microsoft's Bill Hill has a riff where he runs through the energy-wasting,
resource-draining process of how we make books now. We chop down trees,
transport them to plants, mash them into pulp, move the pulp to another
factory to press into sheets, ship the sheets to a plant to put dirty marks
on them,then cut the sheets and bind them and ship the thing around the
world. "Do you really believe that we'll be doing that in 50 years?" he asks.

10. I checked out a laptop from the library at Hastings College over Thanksgiving break. I think it's funny that I am able to do that. I sat at the Blue Moon and did research and wrote a paper. I still marvel at such technology: wireless, flash drives. It really changes the way school works. I bet all those punks who were in sixth grade in 1999 don't marvel at wireless and flash drives. They are too busy texting to marvel.

11. I went to McCook last week and played the opening set for a Tom Kimmel show at the Bieroc Cafe. I love going there. I hadn't seen most of the Bieroc crew since the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival. Good times.

12. As part of an assignment, I went to the HPS School Board meeting last Monday. It had all the usual board meeting blah blah blah which I'm very used to from being on the library board. However, it was a great night for future English teachers. The middle school english/language arts teachers were there in force and riled up becuase eigth grade reading has been taken out of the curriculum. As I understand it, there is currently specified reading instruction for all seventh graders and for some eigth graders. The proposed curriculum has eliminated it for all eigth graders, and these teachers want it, instead, for ALL eigth graders. My friend Deanna, seventh grade reading teacher, was first to speak (I had no idea this was going to be happening) and two other teachers followed. It was like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. They rocked. I want to be an English teacher!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

This Friday

The Listening Room Presents
SONiA & disappear fear
Friday, October 26 7:30 pm
Knights of Pythias, Hastings

Begun as a sister-act in Baltimore in the early 1990’s “disappear fear” quickly became a cult-favorite on college campuses and festival circuits. Now reconfigured with founding member and creative soul SONiA on vocals, keyboard and guitar and Laura Cerulli on percussion and drums, “disappear fear” continues to deliver their signature harmonies and folk-pop grooves with a message. Their latest album forays into world of world music with songs in four languages carrying the band’s ever-present themes of love, peace and equality. Emily Dunbar & Robin Harrell open the show.

Show starts at 7:30. Tickets are $12, table reservations are $10. Student tickets are $8. Soup & drinks available. Call Robin for info/reservations: 402/463-6248.

Upcoming Shows
Friday, November 9: Peter Mayer (poets Margaret Marsh & Brant Vodehnal open)
Friday, November 30: Tom Prasada-Rao & Cary Cooper (Andy Miller opens)

A Preview:

Friday, October 05, 2007

How do I act so well?

A little clip for you today from the genius show Extras, in which Ricky Gervais (who created The Office) gets celebrites to play to worst versions of themselves. This clip is with Sir Ian McKellan. Andy (Gervais) is auditioning for a show McKellan (himself) is producing. Enjoy.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

by the numbers

number of miles I ran this week
score on my educational psychology test
number of papers I edited on Friday at work
number of individual tests I administered on Friday at work
my time in the 5k I ran on Saturday (slower than my previous time...which makes me think I heard it wrong and it was really 31:36)
episodes of Big Love we watched on dvd this week
number of grant proposals I wrote this week
number of research papers I am working on
surprise birthday gifts I received this week, more than a month after my birthday
(my boss bought me a Hastings College sweatshirt & Angela burned me a Sarah Sample cd and a live recording of Darrell Scott @ the RMFF and brought me flowers in a ceramic vase she made)
miles per hour the wind blew yesterday as we tried to eat a picnic lunch @ HC's homecoming
crawdads caught in the Platte River on Friday by Paul and the kids who had a day off from school
sack lunches we packed for The Open Table during Sunday School this morning

Thursday, September 06, 2007


Much to my surprise when I got the syllabus for my Literature of American Minorities class my professor pointed out the days she would be out of town--also knows as "the days Emily will teach class." I suppose this is what it means to be a grad student.

So today I taught class. We finished discussing Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine and began discussion of Sherman Alexi's This Is What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona. I also had to give a quiz. Writing the quiz was hard. I wanted to make sure they read but I didn't want to ask anything too obscure. Knowing I had to teach the text I read it a bazillion times and sort of lost touch with how much a first-time reader would comprehend and remember.

There were two problems with the quiz. Okay, wait--there was ONE problem with the quiz. Question nine was too vague. There were two problems with the ANSWERS to the quiz. The movie Smoke Signals is based on the story by Alexi. I asked what a character looked like because there was a very brief, specific description (broken teeth, ratty braids). People wrote things like "he wore lots of denim" (which made me laugh out loud) or "he was a nerd." I think they are describing the character's portrayal in the film. Boo.

The other problem was what these students did when they didn't know the answer. Some people made crazy stuff up in hopes that they just might hit the jackpot and get it right. But my favorite thing at least three people (in a class of 12) wrote as an answer to a quiz questions was "n/a" or "not applicable."

WHAT? "I don't know"? Maybe. Blank? fine. But "not applicable"?!

I have two responses.

1. Oh, so you think this question doesn't apply to you? Everyone else has to answer it but not you?
2. Is this an indictment of my quiz? You don't think the question applies to the text you just read?
I was so amused.
School is going great. It's starting to get a little nutty. Work is picking up. I'm teaching one guy to type. I edit about 6 papers a day (that will definitely increase). I teach two sections of a Learning Lab twice a week. And today I taught my lit class.
Right now I am going to read my Educational Psychology text so that after the kids are in bed, Paul and I can watch Blades of Glory. See? I really am a college student.

Monday, August 27, 2007

First Days of School

Last Tuesday the kids started school. Phoebe is in third grade, Moses is in first and Oliver started Kindergarten. This morning I started graduate school.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Gillian Welch, Ray LaMontagne & Darrell Scott

These are a few of the artists I will be seeing at the Rocky Mountain Folk Festival for which I am leaving in 2 hours. Oh SNAP! I get to leave the fam at home, road trip with my pal Angela, camp in the mountains, drink New Belgian beer, dip my toes in a stream, strum my guitar and hear some fantastic music.

My excuse for not posting all week: facebook. Facebook is the best thing ever. I have to look at it 100 times a day. It makes myspace seem like child's play.

I'll post when/if I return.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


I ran the Kool-Aid Days 5k this morning. I was anxious once I got there because most everybody there looked like thin, fit, runners. Why this surprised me, I'm not sure. Luckily my friend Phil ran and his parents came to cheer him on so I had folks to hang with before it started. And they cheered me across the finish line.

There were two other women who ran at my pace. One was a bit ahead of me the whole time and the other would pass me and then I'd pass her and then she'd pass me. To my great surprise the woman who was a bit ahead of me won second place in our age bracket. That makes me a THIRD PLACE runner. Who knew?

I asked Phil how he ran (earlier I asked him if he wanted to hang back and run with me and he did his best not to laugh in my face). He said he started to dry heave near the end so he must have run hard.

Never mind that the guy who finished first was in the 50+ category and ran it in 15 something. Never mind that Phil finished in 17 something. Never mind that I still can't run the whole three miles. It was a very encouraging morning. I'm so glad I did it. I can't wait for the Duck Days run.

Friday, August 10, 2007

ridiculously bountiful

Todd and Cody showed up last night at 9:30 with a trunk full of basil. A trunk full of basil. Cody tried to get me to take three garbage bags full. Three garbage bags full. I talked her down to one hefty bag.
She planted something like 40 linear yards of basil at her in-laws house. This was her second harvest of the summer. She just went after it with hedge trimmers, stuffed it into garbage bags, and then drove around town making deliveries to her lucky friends.

So today was pesto day. I harvested my garlic from the yard, stocked up on provisions at Allen's, busted out the Kitchen Aid mixer, and basically, made pesto all day long. The recipe I use calls for 2 cups of packed basil leaves. I made twenty batches. My freezer is full of pesto. We'll have pesto all year. I still have a collander full of basil leaves (but I'm long since out of olive oil, etc). And Cody will have another harvest before growing season is up.
So tonight it was pasta & pesto with a nice Gewurztraminer. Fantastic.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


I got up when the alarm went off at 6:15. I walked straight to the front door to see if it was raining. It was not. It clearly had rained, but it was not currently raining. So, I went down to the laundry and sorted the clothes in the drier so I could find my favorite running pants and Enell bra.

Let's pause a moment to talk about the Enell bra. I paid $70 and waited 6 months for its arrival. It was totally worth it. Is it ridiculous to say a bra changed my life? Prior to seeing it Oprah's Favorite Things I could to some degree honestly blame the lack of a good bra for my lack of physical fitness. Ladies, if uniboob-making unsupportive sports bras have got you down, I recommend the Enell...and back to the story...

I took my clothes upstairs, got dressed, and put my contacts in. Then I started gathering the stuff I need--which is all right by the front door--my watch with the timer (for run4/walk1), my new tiny mp3 player, my drivers license so the morgue can identify me when I've been run over, the key to my bike lock and my water bottle.

I looked out the window and saw that it was still pretty dark out. And I've become a safety nerd. I don't have lights for my bike but I do have a reflective penny (I LOVE that word--like you wore in grade school gym class to form a red team and a blue team) so I dug it out of the closet.

I'm not really a morbid person, but sometimes I think the death of myself or a loved on must be eminent. For a person of faith, I have superstitious tendencies. Or maybe it's a belief in statistics. I just think that since I've never been in a major car accident, odds are one's coming soon. If I looked it up, wouldn't the statistics show that I should have one at some point? And someone dies...what?...every minute?...every second?, why shouldn't I expect itto be someone in my family? Why not me? My life is SO great, the other shoe should be dropping any moment.

So I put on the nerdtastic reflective penny and I put my license in my pocket to make it easier on the authorities if the penny doesn't work. I put all the stuff in my bike basket and open the garage door AND IT'S RAINING.

This explains blogging at 7am.

I guess I'll make coffee and watch The Today Show. Bummer. I should be safe, though.

Monday, August 06, 2007


The past five years have been a series of stops and starts, a series of declarations about how fit I'm going to be, followed by a burst of physical activity, followed by ice cream and lathargy. I never seem to be able to get it together.

Last spring I started talking to runners I know about running. It just seems like the most bang for your buck exercise-wise. There's no gym (yuck). There's no equipment (okay, shoes). You just go out the door and run and get the best possible cardio workout and burn calories. I like that. And then there is my brother who used to be the king of the couch. He's doing 100 mile bike races and running 10 miles a day. He qualified for the Olympic Trials in Fencing for Pete's sake. If all these other people are running and getting in shape--and they aren't necessarily people who have ALWAYS done it--why can't I?

Running the 5k at the youth gathering was a good motiviator. I searched online for training schedules and found one at that looked good. I started three weeks before my trip running 1 minute/walking 1 minute for 3 miles. Then it increased. I'm still only at run3/walk1, which is how I did the race in Orlando. Two days before the trip I tried run4/walk1 and for the frist time I cramped up, felt misreable and went home early. I'm about ready to try it again, maybe tomorrow.

There are two more 5ks in town before school starts. I'm running both. I just bought a $30 mp3 player that is teeny-tiny to strap on to my arm when I run, which made this morning much more fun. I loaded Run-Friendly songs onto it, so I heard Brass Monkey (Beastie Boys), Closer to Free (BoDeans), Knock, Breathe, Shine (Jacob's Trouble), Multiply (Jaimie Lidell), Let's Go (The Cars) and Alfie (Lily Allen), to name a few--nice!

I've heard horror stories from friends who shall remain nameless about some pitfalls of running--namely the need for pitstops--and having to relieve oneself on the go. Maybe that would be more of a problem if I run longer distances. But really I can't see myself pooping in someone's front yard under any circumstances, though it has made me paranoid and I go to the bathroom three times before I go out the door.

All I know is that I am enjoying running. When I'm not running I think about when I will run next. It has been worth it to me to go to bed early so that I can get up and run. During the day I think about staying hydrated so I'll be set for my next run.

When I crossed the finish line in Orlando, much to my surprise, in the big crowd, there cheering for me were Danny, Lindsay and Jon. Lindsay (who I've known to run 2 marathons) asked, "Are you a runner now?" I gave some sort of non-comittal answer like "for this, I am." But now that that race is over and I am still running...and even though this maybe just another start followed by a stop...if Lindsay asked me again I'd say "Yes."

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Mr. T-shirt Bag

I am entering my first craftster challenge -- making reusable shopping bags with an eco-friendly slogan or design. I reconned my Mr. T t-shirt. He says, "I pity the fool who uses plastic bags." It is shown holding a big can of oatmeal, a bag of onions and four sweet potatoes.

I wanted something that was roughly the size and shape of a plastic shopping bag, but I also wanted simple, fast & easy.

Here's how I did it: I cut off the sleeves and bottom and made the neck hole an inch wider all around.I turned it inside out, folded the bottom like so, pinned and sewed. I turned the shoulders into handles by tri-folding them like a business letter and sewing them crosswise four times at one-inch intervals to hold the fold and reinforce. When I turned it right side out, I top stitched the bottom seam to reinforce.This one is holding a melon and a gallon of milk.

Friday, August 03, 2007

...and we're back

It's been a month since I've posted. Call it my summer break. I initially planned to post again after our trip to Colorado. The Hinton/Swinger/Dunbar Clan met in Breckenridge for a week of family fun. It was great to have the 8 cousins together and to see my siblings and parents.

We came back to Hastings for two weeks. The kids had swim lessons everyday. Robin and I finished booking the Listening Room fall season. I wrote all the artists bios for our brochure. I had umpteen planning meetings for my upcoming trip to the LCMS National Youth Gathering. Then we drove to Indiana to stay with Paul's folks and chill on Oliver Lake (for which our Ollie is named) for a couple days. Last Wednesday Paul and I drove home and left them there. We had two days at home together with no children. We went to $1 beer/burger/fry night at The Reno with friends. We bought a 2007 Honda Odessey. We saw Live Free or Die Hard. I read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows (OH MY GOSH is it great). I did some laundry and packed up.
Friday night/Saturday morning at 1am I met two other adults and fourteen high school kids in the church parking lot and we drove to Omaha where we caught a flight ultimately leading to Orladndo, Florida. Every three years the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod puts on a national youth gathering. This was my second trip as an adult leader. 25,000 teenagers plus their leaders and a slew of volunteers met in Orlando's Orange County Convention Center to worship, hang out, go to concerts, hear fantastic speakers, have Bible study, jump on bungee trampolines, do service projects, and all kinds of amazing things.

The theme was CHOSEN and we learned all about how God does not love us because we have value, but we have value because God loves us. It was a message of undeniable grace--freeing grace--and the kids learned so much and had a ball (as did I). I also got to see Ben and Jon and Stefan and Bill and all kinds of crazy Lutherans I wish I saw more often. Sweet. I also ran the 5k for which I've been training. 12 kids said they'd run; the night before we were down to 6; when 5:30 Sunday morning rolled around it was just Kasey, Cammie and I. Cammie and I finished in 36 minutes and Kasey in 25.
Now I'm back for two weeks and then my pal Angela and I take off for the Rocky Mountain Folk Festival. Can you say Gillian Welch and David Rawlings? Ray LaMontange? Chris Isaak? And so many more equally brilliant smaller names. Awesome.

As for today, it is our 11th wedding anniversary and in celebration we are making sushi. Wish us luck.

I'll try to keep posting. I miss it. I miss hearing from you guys.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

seacrest out

I've written a lot of stupid things, but that title may take the cake.

For the past three weeks I've been a real jerk about returning emails and phone calls. My sincere apologies to all whom I owe one or the other. I think it's just summer lethargy setting in...or that annoying busy-ness and frantic-ness that is caused by...what?...going to the pool and the library? I think I need a little more structure in my life than summer is giving me and all sorts of things are falling through the cracks. Sorry. I WILL call you. I WILL email you. I WILL get around to posting about a week.

Friday, June 29, 2007

the modern world

I have my own cell phone now. With my own phone number. We have entered the modern world. We figured with me being out of the home next year and moving from class to class (not sitting in an office somewhere) it would be good for me to have a cell phone. But Paul wouldn't want to be without one. It's how we do long distance. And he goes slogging through marshes on birdwatching adventures. I want him to have the phone with him. So now we have two. Mine is pink. We played with them for an hour last night: taking pictues of each other; making vocal recording to use as ringtones (Paul's has his voice saying "PICK UP THE PHONE!" It's pretty funny); spending a half an hour trying to get Paul's phone OFF speaker phone; calling each other (free mobile to mobile minutes!). It was worth the hour I spent in the alltel store with three children, trying to convince them we didn't need a cell phone that looked like a car and revved its engine when you opened it.

The only problem is no one will take my phone calls on the new phone. I let Paul hve the old number and I got a new one. That was stupid. Paul can't remember his own name but he could tell you every phone number he ever had or every address. I could tell you what I wore on the first day of school my freshman year of high school and the name of every girl who lived on my dorm floor but I don't know what 7x9 is. I wasnt' thinking straight when I had the guy assign the new number to the pink ($9.99!) phone and the old one to the silver ($9.99!) phone.

Maybe I'm rambling. We got home from the pool and I made myself a rum and coke. It was stronger than I intended. Our father's day gift to Paul was a stocked bar. And I mean STOCKED. The kids didn't exactly understand what the gift was. I told them it would be like buying me eggs and flour and sugar. I could make almost anything with that--so it is with all these bottles--Papa can make any drink he wants.

And I'm out.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Blog Tag. I'm it.

Apparently I've been tagged. "Tagged?" you say? Why, yes. Jill got tagged to answer a question on her blog and she tagged me so I guess I'm it. Apparently it's my job to answer the same said question. So, here goes:
Five Things I Dig About Jesus
1. He became a baby
At a party over the weekend we were discussing getting older and how we aren't as freaked out about being in our 30's as we supposed we would. In fact, I really like being 32 and wouldn't go back to 22 if you paid me. To be so unsure of myself and my future? To be in my first year of marriage and not my 11th? To see my whole life looming before me and thinking every decision would hurl me down a path I couldn't turn back from? Yikes.
And then there is the God of the Universe who chose to be born a baby. To go from Lord of all Creation to having a teen-aged mother birth you in a barn and change your diaper. To be dirty and hungry and sick. To be dependant on people for everything. We think of the cross as a sacrifice, but just being born was one as well.
2. He put up with the bonehead disciples
In the past few years I have come to view the disciples as lovable dopes. I know I have the luxury of a couple thousands of years of hindsight, perspective and collective knowledge and I'm still a complete moron when it comes to most spiritual matters, but those The parables are tricky to even the cleverest of folks, but even the most black and white stuff, with Jesus sitting right there in front of them, they just didn't get it. How could they understand what they were in the middle of? I love those guys. I love that those were Christ's guys--the boneheads.
3. Jesus is for Losers
The poor, the weak, women, the unclean, lepers, tax collectors, children, prostitutes--Jesus didn't care who you were. Still doesn't. The last are first. The meek inherit the earth. Thank goodness.
4. He took the crazy stuff in stride and didn't care what people thought
I taught high school Sunday school a few weeks ago. I always try to get them to read scripture as if they have never heard it before. You would think this would not be hard, considering many of them haven never heard it before. But they think it's all the same old stuff. We were reading the story about Jesus reclineing at the table of a Pharisee when a prostitute came in wailing, crying all over Jesus' feet and wiping them with her hair. Say what? I just kept saying, "Isn't that crazy?!? A HOOKER is wiping her hair and tears on his feet in the middle of a dinner party!" And Jesus was just like, "Alright. See how happy she is to be forgiven? Simmer down you disapproving Pharisee."
5. Grace

Sunday, June 24, 2007


Finally! Finally, finally, finally! After...let's see...about 14 years of eligibility, my name was finally pulled up for jury duty. I'm on notice for Sept 1-Feb 29. I could have opted out as I am now a full-time student, but how could I? This is democracy at work, folks.

Everyone keeps saying that I'm too eager and they'll never pick me. Come on! I'll be a great juror. My fingers are crossed.

PS. This blog passed the one year mark on June 15. Crazy.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Joy Luck Club--Amy Tan (booke group)
Persuation--Jane Austen
Middle March--George Elliot (second try this year, still didn't finish but got further)
Deliver Us From Normal--Kate Klise (book group)
A Prayer For Owen Meany--John Irving (book group and my all time fave, maybe the eighth--and most profound--reading)
The Last Battle--C.S. Lewis (finished the series with the kids)
Holes--Louis Sachar (read aloud with kids--they are loving it)
Some North African Cookbooks for Dinner & Movie "Casablanca"

Room With a View
The Sandlot
Shaun of the Dead
28 Days Later
The American Girls: Molly (Phoebe got the dvd with the book set, but we wouldn't let her watch until she'd read all six. Molly Ringwald played Molly's mom. I cried in the end, of course)
The Piano
Half Nelson
The French Connection
Night at the Museum
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Entourage (on dvd)
Hell's Kitchen (gracious me--it was a moment of weakness, working on a sewing project with no one home...and I liked it)
Last Comic Standing (or rather I tried to tape the premier last night to no avail, but I like this show and will watch it next week)
Freaks & Geeks (on dvd while I walk on the treamill)

all Pierce Pettis tracks on shuffle
all Mark Erelli tracks on shuffle
The Police Greatist Hits
The Cars Greatest Hits

And you?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bible School Rock Star

Would someone make me a t-shirt with that on it?

I know many of you have listened to the songs I have up on myspace and are aware that my super stardom is eminent. But before I go global, I have had a taste of celebrity here at home with Vacation Bible School.

Every year, the week before VBS starts, I think "I'm not doing this next year!" I'm a procrastinator, so on Saturday I end up scrambling to get my songs a) selected b) arranged c) lyrics organized for power point projection d) chords written out for my fellow guitarist Phil e) copyright & licensing info for songs researched and confirmed. These things are not that fun.

I completely forget that on Monday morning at 9:10 75 pre-school through second graders will file into the sanctuary. I will get to stand up in front with my guitar, teach them some fun songs with great content that reinforces the lessons for the day/week, and we will sing sing sing. And then at 11:00 75 third through sixth graders will file in for more of the same.

And while Monday is rough, especially with the little guys, for whom learning is slow going (the inability to read is a hindrance in this department) by Wednesday we are rocking. They know the songs well enough to lay off the teaching part, but it's new enough that they aren't bored yet.

Then Friday night is the picnic. We head to Chautauqua Park for games and food and then the program. The program is usually the recitation of memory verses, a few words about the week and then the songs. This year our sound guy didn't show so the program was music-only. We didn't need a sound system. There were 175 kids plus their high school aged leaders on the risers before me. They listened to me when I gave them instructions. They sang loud and clear. They KNEW those songs.

We had power point all week--very helpful, but also like a crutch--so come Friday night I was unsure how well they knew their stuff. But they sang out lyrics like "we are pressed but not crushed, perplexed but don't despair, we are persecuted but not abandoned" as if they were singing the ABC's it was great.

It was great because I felt like I did a good job. It was great because everyone seemed to have a fun week. And it was great because I worked hard to pick songs with great content--and thanks to the work Holy Spirit, I succeed;they learned all the words and; they will remember them, I'm sure.

Now when I go to the water park or Walmart or the library I am mobbed by kids. And usually I don't know who these kids are because I saw them 100 at a time, but they know me. I'm a Bible School Rock Star.

And is it any coincidence that the Monday after Bible school I get a call do do a gig at a nursing home? I don't think so. Rock star.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

work in progress

Our first mix of two songs here.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

oh, so funny

The use of the word "things" pushes me over the edge everytime. Enjoy.

Friday, June 01, 2007


Last fall I attended the Nebraska Library Association annual convention at the Qwest Center in Omaha. I'm on the Hastings Public Library board of trustees and this is the second year in a row I've gone to the convention.

This year the keynote speaker was a guy from Dynix. Dynix provides the catalogue software our library uses. He was fascinating. His main point was to get the middle-aged librarians to embrace technology and understand the younger technosavvy generation.

He called the kiddos native-internet users. They have always had the internet. Like a native English speaker I was never taught to conjugate the verb "walk." I was immersed in English speaking culture and when I was able to speak I said, "I walk but he walks." That's how kids are with computers and the net. Nobody taught them (in a way they will ever remember) how to move a mouse and left click or right click. They've always done it.

I wish I had recorded the whole thing because I think about it a lot and would love to hear it again. The one thing that struck me as a parent was this: He said that it has been a trend for educational-minded parents to keep their kids away from video games, but at this point in history, parents who do that are actually doing a disservice to their children. Children will need internet/gaming skills to operate effectively in this world we are creating for them.


He's got a point there. I use the internet for everything. It is my main source of information, of correspondence, shopping, whathaveyou. And website are only going to have more and more graphics and game-like interfaces.

My mom sent each of my kids a Webkinz. They are stuffed animals--cute, normal stuffed animals. BUT they come with a secret code. You log onto the Webkins site, punch in your secret code and adopt your cyber pet--the online counterpoint to your stuffie. At first this sounded like WAAAAY more trouble than it would be worth to get the kids hooked into this.

Then I remembered the Dynix guy. And I thought of what the world will look like when these guys are in highschool. And I remembered the bank of computers at the library.

Last week we rode bikes to the library and they each adopted their pets (and found a cockatiel on the way home). It was laborious. It took a long time for each of them to sign up, establish a profile, come up with usernames and passwords--all for ME to remember. But we did it.

Last night I called the library and reserved a computer for each of them at 9:30. It's been raining all day, which made it perfect. Their computers were all in a row. After I got Phoebe logged on she didn't need any help--reading is a magical thing--she could figure it all out. I got Mo and Ollie logged on and pulled up a chair between them.

They spent an hour playing games to earn Webkinz Cash, which they'd use at the W Store to buy food, furniture, clothes, wallpaper, whatever for their Webkin. They gave their virtual pets baths, which was pretty cute. They did a mining game where if they found diamonds they had to decide if they wanted to keep the diamond or sell it for Webkinz cash.

The games were pretty silly--some Webkinz versions of Pong and Tetris. But I just kept thinking about how even if the games are un-educational, the computer-literacy gained is huge. Now Ollie knows that to close out of a screen or a dialogue box you hit the X or "okay." Moses knows that if you click on the rectangle with a little arrow you get a drop down menu then you click what you want to do. Phoebe knows if she gets to a screen she doesn't want she can always hit the "back" button. And they didn't even know they were learning anything. They've played games on the computer before, but this is the first web-based game exposure.

I questioned the money-focus of the games. It seemed a little iffy to me to have the point of everything be to earn cash and buy stuff. But it was all about choices. Am I going to buy wallpaper or food for my pet? Am I going to buy the $2000 bed that looks like a rocket or the $300 wood frame bed?

So, this will be one of our weekly summer activities. Webkinz. Who knew?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


1. School has been out since Thursday and we haven't killed each other yet.

2. The pool opened Saturday and we've been everyday dispite the fact that the temp has remained under 80 and closer to 60. I have yet to put on a swimsuit. I told the kids I could either read my book, fully clothed, at home or in the shade at the pool. They picked pool. They had a teeth chattering good time.

3. I just finished A Prayer For Owen Meany--my all time fave. I just started Austen's Persuation, which is no Pride & Prejudice but I'm getting into it.

4. I put the final touches on my song selection for VBS. This is the fourth year I've done music. This means teaching and leading songs for about 100 pre- through 2nd graders and then about 100 third through sixth graders. Here's the lineup:
And Can It Be--Charles Wesley hymn. I rewrote the melody to the first half of the verses (to make it accessible to small people and people [me] who find it hard to lead songs and play guitar at the same time--so not the same thing as performing).
Can't Nobody Do Me Like Jesus--only we're saying "love me like Jesus." I believe the vernacular has changed since the song's inception. I don't want to sing about Jesus doing me.
Let My Light Shine Bright -- camp song, call and response, hardy Yee-haw!
Go! -- from Scripture Rock, which is now out of print and was mediocre to start, except for this song. The text is basically the great commission. Nice.
The Word -- Sara Groves. She is about the only pop Christian music I can take these days. We're not singing the whole thing--just bits.

5. We've started the Dunbar Family Push Up Challenge. We all did push ups last night and recorded our starting ability. We'll check in every Monday night and whoever score increases the most by percentage will win something. The kids wanted candy, but we thought that defeated the purpose. I had a hard time explaining percentages--that it's not who does the most that wins. Very confusing.

6. I went to the Heavy Petting Zoo today. Okay, it was the Heavy Equipment Petting Zoo at the Library where the kids could climb on bulldozers, tractors, an ambulance, a firetruck, a semi, a hum-v, whathaveyou. Good fun.

7. Jon & Hope live in Iowa, which is for all practical purposes as lame as Nebraska, except that a caucus is looming there. So, they can go to the Pizza Palace and have Hillary Clinton kiss their new baby and sit down at their table for a few minutes. And Hopi can go to the local high school and sit with a kid on each knee and ask Barak Obama questions about immigration policy. We don't even get presidential campaign advertising here because neither side wants to waste money on a state that is without-a-doubt Republican (cough, gag, roll eyes, point finger to temple, etc).

8. It is time for the nightly after-dinner family walk.

9. Hope you are enjoying your summer so far!

Friday, May 25, 2007

first day, last day

My, oh my, what can change in nine months! It is only fair to point out how cute Phoebe's hair is now, since I made a point of discussing it earlier. Very cute.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
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Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Thursday, May 24, 2007

strange things are afoot at the circle k

You know you're a loser when you find yourself quoting Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Two Days, Two Extraordinary Events
I had dinner, I kid you not, a the home of a prince. I will leave you hanging with that small amount of information, but I mean that description quite literally. We had delicious middle eastern food, that I LOVE and is usually hard to come by in my neck of the woods and -- as you can imagine -- very interesting and delightful conversation.
We were riding bikes home from the library and stopped for a moment outside the courthouse because Mo had a minor crash. There was a great ruckus from the tree overhead. Down flew a beautiful cockatiel. He landed on the sidewalk beside me and when I bent down and offered it, he flew up onto my finger. Obviously, this was someone's pet. Obviously, we should help it because this prettyboy was about to get a whoopin' from the starlings and grackles on the means streets of south central Nebraska. But there we were--on bikes. An Adams County employee came out and said she'd call the animal shelter and/or take it home--she has two cockatiels already. The bird hopped from my hand to hers and off they went into the courthouse.
Tomorrow: I'll keep you posted. I might be on a roll.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

inch worm

Susan posts video on her blog. The thought had never occurred to me that I could use my camera for video and post it. Technology is nuts.

If you've never met Mo, I should explain that he is neither hoarse nor sick. That's how he always sounds. That is how he sounded when he was 10 months old and said "mama" and "ball" for the first time.

Without further ado, here is a little moment from my day.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

no way did that just happen

Last night was my guitar recital. Guitar recitals are a lot of fun. We all sit in Robin's living room. Everyone steels their nerves with just enough alcohol to relax and still play. All Robin's students (and this recital is just adults) usually get a new song at every lesson, and many of us get the same songs...or newer students are playing songs that more advanced students have played in the past...however it works out, it works out that most of us know each other's songs. And most of us sing harmony--or at least sing along--on every song.

I played two really hard David Wilcox songs in open C tuning: Rusty Old American Dream and his arrangement of Same Old Song. Neither went off without a hitch, but it was fun. I also played a song I wrote in open C called Sarpy County. Or maybe it's called Thunderstorm Warning. Possibly, Thunderstorm Warning in Sarpy County, but that seems a bit long.

There was lots of Patty Griffin--Trapeze, Heavenly Day, Never Give Up. There was some Mindy Smith, Dar Williams, John Mayer, Townes VanZandt. Not those actual artists, but lovely covers of their songs. We joked and laughed, played and sang. That's what I call a good night. Throw in mojitos and frozen margaritas and well...fantastic.

After the formal (which is a very relative term) portion of the evening my friend Mary asked if I would play Boone's Farm Wine for her. I was sitting on the couch eating a cookie, like the one pictured above, and holding my guitar. I looked around for a place to put the cookie, but there was no coffee table and I didn't want to set it on the couch or floor. So, I did what any classy broad would do--I tucked it behind my ear like a pencil.

I played BFW, which is always a crowd pleaser, and those who were still around sang along. Then Barb asked me to play a song I wrote as an assignment, that I guess Robin told her about called Morbid Girl.

Morbid Girl is a song about my screwy philosophy that if I imagine terrible things they cannot happen. The chorus says, "I don't believe in psychic ability. I don't believe in ESP. I just believe the more I imagine the less it can happen to me." That's very logical. I am not psychic. I can't tell the future. So if I think "today Paul will die in a car crash", logically speaking, he can not die in a car crash. The verses are lists and lists of all the terrible things that might happen ("the asthma attack without an inhaler, the white-picket turned impaler").

I couldn't really remember the chords or the words to this song. I was fumbling through it --playing a little, talking through the parts that were sketchy in my memory. I looked down at my fingers while playing and--as if in slow motion--the cookie slipped out from behind my ear, fell end over end and landed, I kid you not, INSIDE my guitar. That giant cookie somehow got past my strings and into my sound hole.

There was a split second of stunned silence and then...well, I can't remember when I've laughed so hard. It took FOREVER to get it out. I didn't want to shake it into cookie crumbs--that can't be good for my under-saddle pickup! I held it above my head and Robin reached in as best she could and tried to fish it out. We finallyI shook it out onto the carpet, but there are still crumbs rattling around in there. At least it's not meat or dairy based.

If only I'd thought to include a line in my song about a Pepperidge Farm Piroutte falling into my guitar, it never would have happened.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

thrill ride

I used to be somewhat of a thrill seeker. I've never shied away from a roller coaster or ride. I've bungee jumped. I've rappelled. I've flung myself out of tall trees on high ropes courses. I've downhill skied. I've waterskied. All good fun.

Since becoming a parent, I've had no desire to thrill seek. Maybe it would have happened with age anyway, but having Phoebe eight years ago put an end to most unnecessary dangerous activity. When I was pregnant in England I was really paranoid about crossing the street. It had a lot to do with them driving on the left and me never being sure where the traffic was coming from, but also it had to do with the fact that this little fluttering life inside my belly was depending on ME to nourish, care for it, and walk it home safely. I obeyed the traffic lights ABSOLUTELY. Unless it said "walk" I was glued to the corner, though crowds of annoyed British commuters went around me, I stayed put.

I wouldn't say I'm paranoid. I certainly would NOT say I'm no fun. I just think about things more. I weigh the fun of a few minutes against the fact that three little people depend upon me. I no longer want to go sky diving, which had been a long term goal of mine. This summer at Universal Studios I'll ride the rides, but I probably won't go on the ferris wheel at the carnival in the K-Mart parking lot over Memorial Day weekend.

It's not just the fear of leaving my children motherless that makes me play it safe, it's the fact that the kiddos are watching. If I don't wear my bike helmet, they won't. If I don't wear my seatbelt, they won't. If I don't wear flip-flops so as not to burn my feet on the asphalt in the pool parking lot, they won't either. I'm not only a caretaker. I'm an example.

Yesterday afternoon I had a library board meeting. I set out on my bike at a few minutes after four. By the time I got to the library, fifteen minutes later, the sky was dark and scary. I called Paul and asked him to take the cell if he went anywhere because I'd probably call for a ride home. We all looked nervously out the window during our meeting. Several people offered me and my bike a ride home. I said I'd wait and see, because unless it was raining, I'd really like to ride.

The meeting ended and it was just starting to sprinkle. The sky looked awful. My colleagues thought I was nuts and trying too hard not to be a bother, but I got this question in my head: can I beat the storm home? Well, I had to find out.

There was distant lightning. I'm not stupid. If I thought I might get struck I would abandoned the bike ride. But was distant. The wind was strong and cold. I hoped on my bike and hauled ass. Every minute I could feel the air getting colder and the rain coming a little harder.

When I stopped at the light at Burlington and Ninth I could see drivers looking nervously at me. But I also could see a few joggers who hadn't made it home yet and a couple of bikes down various side streets. I wasn't the only one out. I was one mile from home.

I sped down the only hill in town (and by hill I mean long, five-block, very gradual slope--Nebraska is great for bike riding) grinning like a Cheshire cat. This was fun. At Ninth and Baltimore the sprinkle had turned to rain. Half mile to go. My pants were soaked. I wasn't cold, though, because I was pedaling so hard.

I thought to myself that this is the sort of thing Paul normally does and I normally find annoying. He gives himself a difficult but unnecessary challenge, that could end badly. If the tables were turned I would be rolling my eyes and saying, "For Pete's sake, just let me pick you up! You don't have to ride in the rain!" But so far I was doing okay. I was having a blast. I was beating the storm. I figured I would get home just in the nick of time.

In front of the Methodist Church (quarter mile from home) the rain took on a sleety quality. I began to wonder if I would have to seek shelter from hail on somebody's porch, but I pedaled on, still grinning, exhilarated by the race. I crossed Ninth and rode up my neighbor's driveway onto the sidewalk and in the process dislodged the basket on the front of my bike. So I had to stop. I was literally in my backyard and I had to stop. I tried to hook it back on, but I couldn't get it, so I held it wobbly in one hand and continued to ride as the rain came down harder.

I ditched the bike in the garage and ran inside. By the time I had said hello to everyone and changed my clothes there was furious lightning and thunder and the rain was blowing in horizontal sheets. I was wet and cold and tired but I had beat the storm--thank goodness. And I was very pleased with myself.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


I haven't been in to record for almost three weeks. I hit some sort of wall. I just got so bored of sitting in that little room by myself, pushing record and singing into the mic take after take. Ugh. What I got down is technically fine. There's a strong signal. It's clear. No one but me would notice the small mistakes in the final take. Todd says once we start mixing it will become a totally different animal--the mixing is where the magic happens. But to me it all seems flat. Once I realized (a few weeks ago) that I would not have a cd to sell at my Listening Room gig last Friday, I eased up. I gave myself a break, from which I have not returned.

Then Sunday night I played at the Blue Moon. Everybody did a little set. I was in the middle. Mostly people did solo or duet stuff. Jay sat in on drums for most. And mostly it was mellow folk music. Don't get me wrong, I love mellow folk music. Most of what I play is mellow folk music. But this last batch of songs I've written (and, really, many of the songs I've written) have a strong pop leaning. They are "up". So I was thrilled to have Jay there. And Jay called John up to play bass--even better.

We hadn't rehearsed any of this. I wasn't even sure what I was going to play. I started with a new one called "Catch it when you can." It rocked. Then Robin came up and we sang another peppy new song called "Boca 1979" to which the lyrics are actually incredibly creepy and sad. It rocked. We then pulled "Econolodge" out of the recesses of our memory. Guess what. It rocked. Robin sat down and I finished with "Box of Letters" which I'd always wanted to play with a band.

That was THE MOST FUN I had had with my music in...forever. I felt energized. I felt inspired. I thought, I want to write songs for a guitar, bass, drum combo! And most of my songs really lend themselves to that bar band alt-country feel. It was so great. I'm sure it didn't SOUND fantastic to our listeners because it was totally on the fly with me shouting at John off mic "here comes the bridge! it goes to C!" or "in the next verse, guitar and bass drop out but keep a beat going, Jay!"

It was an epiphany. I need to change horses in midstream here. I think I need to go record live at Jay's with Jay and John. I can't go back to that little room by myself. Jay has an analog recording set up. It's not as high tech as Todd's and has a less polished, radio-ready sound to it. But I think I will gladly trade that out for an inspired sound and for ENJOYING myself doing it.

I have these nagging inner voices, though. They say, "oh, so suddenly you're a temperamental artist? and you can't create your art unless it's under the right conditions? get over yourself." It is hard for me to admit to myself that I'm a musician. To say "I'm a songwriter" and not "I've written a few songs." I don't know why it is, but it is hard to say that music is art and art is not like math where the answer comes out the same every time. Just putting in the time and practice and pushing the right buttons on the digital recorder does ensure (insure?) that I will have a product I can be happy with at the end of the day (month, year, God help me). Art does require inspiration. It is completely personal. It is about self expression and if I want to produce art (yes, please) I need to create a situation where I fell inspired, comfortable, and..well..psyched. I have to deliberatley grant myself permission for this.

Why do I resist that? Why do I feel like it's silly?

I don't feel like I've wasted my time recording at Todd's. It's all about lessons learned, right? So, I am learning what works for me and what doesn't work for me. I wasn't going to have a cd for my May show,, we'll start over at Jay's this summer and hopefully, by the time I start school in August I will have a sweet, rockin', album of songs with my bar band. Oooh, I get excited just thinking of that.

I do of course need to get a couple songs recorded to send into a festival contest I want to enter. I've entered before with no success...but this may be my never know.

Friday, May 04, 2007


1. Tonight I open for Storyhill at the Listening Room. I'm playing five new songs, including one I wrote this week. That might be a really stupid idea, but what can you do? Robin is singing harmony on one. I had hoped I could get Jay-The-Busdriver to play drums for me, but we couldn't get our schedules to match up, but that's okay because....

2. Sunday night I'm playing at the Blue Moon. The Listening Room is hosting The Thing in May. The Thing was started by Margaret because...what's happening on Sunday nights? Since, February, The Thing has been happing. From 7-9 there's music. It'll be me, Robin, Jay, Peter...I think Carla and a few others. So Jay and I can play together then.

3. Paul arrived safe and sound last night. He was pleased to report that on one tank of gas the Fit broke the 4o miles-per-gallon barrier. Take THAT global warming!4. Kids have been skateboarding on the church sidewalk/stairs, directly across from my front porch. This makes me very happy. I want to sit and watch but I'm afraid they'll think I'm staring with disapproval...and I can't think of a way to be welcoming without feeling like a total dork. Anyway, I love it.

5. I have a new nephew named Joseph William Dunbar. Congratulations, Jon & Hopi. Can't wait to meet him.

6. Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

two side to every story/practice makes perfect

I was just in the principals office. I went on my own initiative. Last night we were at the playground and Moses smilingly said, "You know what happened at school today? Mrs L (the substitute) took my shirt off in front of the whole class!" I asked why she would do such a thing. "My shirt was on inside out and backwards." And off he ran.

Now, anyone who knows Moses or has seen him from one day to the next knows that something is always on inside out and or backwards: pants with the fly in back, shirts with the pocket logo on his shoulder bade, whathaveyou. Sometimes I point this out before he leaves for school and my comment is met with a shrug or an "I know." Sometimes teachers have told me that they pointed it out to Moses and got the same reaction. He just doesn't give a rip. Fine by me.

I thought taking a child's shirt off in class seemed a bit much, but Moses said it like it was a funny and exciting story so I said nothing. But I found myself thinking about it...thinking, "at least it was Moses and not some other kid." Which is totally unfair to Mo. He shouldn't get the lion's share of weird treatment because he's well-adjusted. And later I thought that a teacher would never do that to a girl in class. And how hard would it have been to say, "go to the bathroom and turn your shirt around"? And why, with 25 six year olds to teach did she care about the state of Mo's shirt? But these were all fleeting thoughts which disappeared instantly into a game of tag.

This morning at 7:05 the phone rang. For a split second I was 100% sure it was the Missouri Highway Patrol calling to tell me Paul was dead. But it was another kindergarten mom calling to make sure I had heard about the shirt-taking-off-incident. Now, this woman is a friend of mine. Her kids and my kids spend a lot of time together. There are load of things I love about her--however--she is a bit of a drama queen and gets really worked up about things that don't ruffle my feathers at all. She said her daughter felt so bad for Moses because all the kids laughed and his faced turned red. And it all just seemed "not right" to her.

I said Moses mention it in pasing: that he didn't seem upset; but, that it did seem strange to me. I thanked her for her concern, because, frankly, though I'd thought about it a little last night, I had totally forgotten about it.

But then I was in a quandary. It hadn't stuck out in my mind as worth pursuing. Was I going to be manipulated into creating drama where there is none by my friend? This is something I have to be deliberate about or I find myself sucked in. Or am I going to ignore a situation I should really look into in an over-zealous fit of anti-manipulation?

I asked Moses about it again. I asked how it felt when Mrs. L took his shirt off. he said it was kind of funny. I said if it was only kind of funny, what else was it? Embarrassing. Did it seem like an okay thing to do or a not-okay thing. With a thoughtful nod he said "not okay."

Then I wondered if my questions were leading (though I tried to be neutral) and he was saying what he thought I thought he should say. This is the very thing I complain about my friend doing, saying to her perfectly content and confident child, "Don't be afraid of that big dog, honey. Don't think that big dog is going to come over here and bite your face off. If you want to cry because your so scared of that big dog, it's okay..mommy will take care of you." And then, voila, the child is crying and terrified.

As you already know, I went to talk to the principal. I really like this principal. She's the daughter of a LCMS pastor in our circuit. When her dad was ill recently, Paul visited the family regularly and got to know her outside of the principals office. Inside the principals office she does a fantastic job. I couldn't be more pleased with her.

I had gone over in my head how to present the story. I just told her the straight story. "Moses is in Mrs.P's class. Yesterday he had his shirt on inside out and backwards and Mrs L stripped him bare chested and put it on right in front of the class." She immediately said, "Oh, my. That doesn't sound good. Was Mo upset about it?" I told her how he had told me and how he had answered when I asked him. We talked about it for a few minutes and she said she would talk to the classroom teacher and Mrs. L about it. "Or," she said as a women entered the outer office, "we could ask Mrs. L about it right now."

And there was Mrs. L and my very first fleeting instinct was to say "NO! I want to be passive aggressive and complain to you and YOU deal with it." But I said, "We may as well ask her, since she's right here. Then it will be clear that I'm not freaking out about and we'll know what the story is."

Here is the story: A classmate made a teasing comment about Mo's shirt being on wrong. Moses asked Mrs. L to fix his shirt. She thought about taking him out in the hall--but there were 24 other kids to supervise. So she said, "close your eyes, everybody!" And fixed Mo's shirt and Mo seemed pleased to have it fixed. And that was the end of it.


That sounded very plausible. And I could tell by her face and voice that she was slightly horrified, realizing how the story could have sounded to me, but wanting to sound unruffled and not-guilty. It was the same way I was balancing between making sure my kid was okay and not wanting to sound like a lunatic drama queen. She said she wouldn't have given Mo's shirt the time of day, but she heard what the other kid said, and Mo asked her to fix it, displeased with it being pointed out. I said he clearly wasn't traumatized by it, I just wanted to make sure it was all appropriate and above-board.

So, did I underreact? Should I have called for the resignation of Mrs L? Did I get sucked into the drama? Would I have followed through at all if my friend hadn't called? Did I overreact? I don't think so. A mama bear's gotta do what a mama bear's gotta do. Though I momentarily wanted to bail, I'm so glad I got to talk to Mrs L right there. It would have turned into a much bigger deal if it was a three-way conversation between the teachers and principals and then I was called back with the results. Instead, I asked the question. I got my answer. All is well.

And, like most things in life, I view it as practice. I have practiced what to do when something seems suspicious at school. I sharpened my tools for having a non-confrontation discussion with pricnipal and teacher about the treatment of my child. The lines of communication are open and that can only be a good thing. And maybe Moses will put his shirt on right...but, frankly, that would make me a little sad.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Freaks and Geeks

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Have I mentioned that this is the best tv show ever made? I've been reluctant to post any video because any one clip might not be representative of the show as a whole. This clip, in fact, is silly. There is a lot of silliness in the show. But it is not only silliness. It is genius. (Please make special note of that tape recorder.)

My box set came in the mail yesterday and I managed to wait until the kids were in bed to watch the first two episodes. And I'm dying to watch more. And the special features. There's two commentaries for each episode--some with the actors and creators; some with the fans who pushed to get the dvd released, some with the actors' parents; one with a couple of the actors in character. Bizarre. I'm totally geeking out. Or should I say Freaking and Geeking out?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Hardcore May Day

May Day in Nebraska is no joke. May Day in Nebraska is serious business. Our first year here it hadn't registered in my mind that it was the first of May. Why would it? And why, I wondered, did my doorbell keep ringing? And why were there goody-bags on my porch but no people?

To be honest, that first year, when we hardly knew anyone and Phoebe was almost three and Moses 18 months, the doorbell rang twice. I remember the Carrs and the Vonderfechts bringing us May Baskets. But this year...I wish I had my camera (but it's in St. Louis with Paul). It looks like Halloween.

After school as we were playing in the backyard four friends approached with May baskets. Of course we made the ring-and-run aspect of this difficult as we were in plain sight in the backyard. Twice folks walked up and handed us treats and two sets (one for each kid) were stealthily left on the porch. We spent the evening at the Steinauers house and when we returned our little porch was full--probably five May Baskets for each kid.

Most of the May Baskets were not baskets at all, but Styrofoam cups with pipe cleaner handles adorned with stickers and full of candy or trail mix. There were a couple sets of construction paper tulips that served as stapled-on wrapping for Blow Pops. About half of the May Baskets had a "To:" and "From:" on them and half were anonymous.

I love the anonymity. That seems like the whole point, doesn't it? I mean, why ring-and-run if the recipient is going to know who it is from anyway?

For our May Baskets we bought three grocery store fresh flower bouquets. Each kid got a bouquet, three mason jars and scissors to cut the stems and rearrange the big bouquet into three small bouquets. Florists they are not, but they had fun and who can resist shasta daisies and gerber daisies regardless of their arrangement?

We took two to the kids next door; one to Becky, who teaches Phoebe piano, leads the kids' choir at church and is subbing for their music teacher at school this month; three to the Vonderfecht kids; and three to the Steinauer kids. By the time we were done I had waters sloshed out of the jars and all over the floor of my van and a daughter who was a wreck.

Phoebe got totally freaked out by the sneaking up to the door. This happens every year. She just gets so worked up--the nervous anticipation kills her. It almost makes it no fun. What if they see her? What if she is sneaking and she is surprised? By the time we got to our last house she couldn't take it anymore. She said, and I quote word for word, "I want no part of this. I wish none of you would do this, but if you do it anyway....I want no part."

Paul said, "tell her to remember that on prom night."

But back to May Day. I have vague memories of weaving construction paper baskets or cones filled with daffodils at school when I was little. I know one time I took one of these to my next door neighbor, Mrs. Freber. But that was the extent of my May Day participation. I don't know why this tradition, that I always thought of as old-timey, like something Laura & Mary Ingalls or Anne Shirely would do, has kept hold here in Nebraska, but I find it very charming. And every year it's a surprise to me. I just don't remember what a big deal May Day is until suddenly my doorbell is ringing and there are treats on my porch.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Inspirational Songs

Last night on American Idol the theme was "inspirational songs." The best thing about American Idol is picking out what songs I would sing (and--okay--what I would wear). Inspirational songs is tricky. I was sure the Beat-Box Guy would sing Man in the Mirror. I love that song. He didn't. He did a crappy Imagine. The Justine Timberlake Guy sand Clapton's Change the World and was good. The girls were all way better than the boys but I can't remember any of the songs. You'll Never Walk Alone, I think.

Anyhoo. What would I pick? Well, for true spiritual inspiration, I'd want to pick something from the solid old hymnody. But I don't think Crown Him With Many Crowns or Lift High the Cross would go over well with the judges. (We sang the latter last week during communion and I could hardly stay in my seat. Why would we sing that SITTING DOWN?!) Nor would something by Luther or Martin Franzman.

But here are the songs I thought of--probably none of which would go over on AI, which is just fine. Maybe if they have Singer-Songwriter Idol (SSI) these would be big hits. These are just a few that came to mind. I'll keep adding to this list if I think of more. I'd love to hear what you would sing.

Echoes --Dar Williams
The Only Way -- Mark Erelli
Hardtimes -- Stephen Foster
Seeds of Peace -- Mark Erelli
Let the River Run -- Carly Simon
(I have no idea what this song is about, but I've always loved it)
(my brother had this album and the b-side had the version I linked to here with everyone speaking. we listened to it over and over and over. i haven't heard it in years and i could speak along with it "hello, this is sara from bananarama....")
God Believes in You -- Pierce Pettis

Monday, April 23, 2007


Below is a timeline of the events surrounded the untimely death of our dear Sparky. Thursday was an insane day to begin with and then--surprise--pet death. Ugh.

7:30 a.m
Phoebe feeds,waters and pets Sparky.

8:00 a.m.
I walk Phoebe and Mo to school. Ollie and I spend the morning running errands, playing, etc.

12:00 p.m.
Ollie and pick Mo and Zip up from school. Kindergartners have a half day due to Kindergarten Round-Up for next year's crop of kiddos (including Oliver).

12:15 p.m.
Mo, Zip and I take Ollie to school.

1:00 p.m.
Mo, Zip and I get Ollie from his classroom and walk him down the hall to Kindergarten Round up.

2:00 p.m.
Mo, Zip and I go to DQ for ice cream.

3:15 p.m.
We pick up Phoebe and Ollie from school.

4:20 p.m.
Mo goes out into the backyard to play and comes running in screaming "SPARKY IS DEAD!" Everyone goes tearing outside. Sparky is, indeed, dead inside her doghouse (if anyone is reading this without background info--Sparky is a duck. You can read more about the ducks here.) I like to think she didn't feel well and went to go lie down in bed. There is a dark yellow substance smeared on her and the hay in the doghouse--it's yolky. She hasn't laid an egg in a month or two--after laying one egg every day for over a year. We fear her death had something to do with egg production, but we're no poultry experts so it remains a mystery.

4:25 p.m.
I call Paul and he comes home.

4:30 p.m.
Zip's mom picks her. She is sad but fine, however, her mom later reports that she looses it once she gets in the van.

Paul and I start digging a hole in the garden.

4:35 p.m.
We tearfully lay Sparky to rest. Phoebe, Mo and I have a good cry. Moses refuses to put dirt on top of her. Between sobs he says, "It just seems so mean. If she were alive we'd never do anything like that to her!"

4:45 p.m.
Our friends, the Vondies, arrive to pick us up for a trip to Lincoln to hear David Sedaris read. We bought tickets a year ago. Such, such bad timing. How could we know? Jean also arrives, lucky lucky Aunt Jean, who gets to babysit the grieving, crying children. Phoebe gets in bed and cries herself to sleep. Jean wakes her up for dinner. They all draw pictures of Sparky and make lists of the things they love about her. Phoebe writes Sparky a letter.

We have a delightful time in Lincoln. Sedaris is hilarious and read only one essay I knew--and that was Jesus Shaves--so, how cool is that? We meet our friends who also went, but didn't sit with us at Starbucks. I call and check on the kids a couple times.

Friday 7:00 a.m.
I wake up Moses for school who sits bolt upright and says, "I'm supposed to feed Sparky this morning, but it doesn't matter!" I call our neighbors to let them know so they can tell Annie before she goes to Kindergarten and hears the sad news there. Everyone is sad. Everyone loved Sparky. We wondered if our neighbors would complain about ducks in the yard--but Sparky was a neighborhood hit.

7:50 a.m.
I go over to school without the kids and tell their teachers the news. All three of them kept saying how they were going to tell their teachers, but I thought I'd give a heads up.

4:00 p.m.
After school and snack we go out into the garden and lay a stone which reads "Our Beloved Pet" on Sparky's grave along with flowers and trinkets.

While Mo gives the most dramatic response to Sparky's death, it's Phoebe who feels it most deeply and misses her the most. She, more than anyone, cared for Sparky and enjoyed her company. Ollie is very practical, "I can't take her to school for farm week." "I don't have to shut the gate anymore." I don't think we'll get another duck. It was a lovely chapter in our life to have silly ducks for pets, but chapters end. Farewell, Sparky. Rest in peace.