Cash Cans
k_t_olson
The memories I have of my grandfather are a little fuzzy, because I only knew him when I was young. Of course that is a sad thing, because I would love to know him now and hear his story firsthand, and also to compare my own father to him and therefore be able to know my own family on a deeper level. But in a lot of ways, I'm okay with only knowing him during the earlier years of my life, because it seems to make the memories I do have of him more clear in my mind and more dear to my heart.

I am a little girl of around six or eight years old, sitting squished into the old (maybe?) green pick up truck of my grandfathers. My cousin Ciji (also a little girl) and I are squished in between my grandfather (driving) and my grandmother in the passenger seat. We bounce and rumble along old dirt roads in the baking summer sun and humidity that is singular to southern Alabama. The skin of my little legs sticks to the cracked leather seat and I relax into the smell of that pickup truck, a smell that is synonymous with thoughts of my grandfather. It is a mixture of hot leather upholstery, gas, dust, and cigarette smoke and even though it's not exactly fragrant, its familiarity makes me feel safe. I glace at my grandfather, and briefly study the leathery brown face, lost in lines that, while probably over-exaggerated in my childlike mind, come from too much tobacco and sun exposure. I look at his hands on the steering wheel, hands that I can still see on my father, aunt and uncle today, hands with tiny, Bible-cover like wrinkles charting erratic paths through his skin and down long, thin fingers. I turn in my crowded seat and watch as the dust flies out behind the truck as we drive down the road and watch as a few tiny moats dance around my face in the sunlight.

I am jolted out of my gazing as the old truck bumps to a stop. "Out boys," says my grandfather- a man of few words. For some reason my grandfather got a kick out of calling us boys and I suppose as tomboyish as we could be at times, we didn't really mind all that much. My grandmother slides out quickly as my cousin and I climb down out of the truck and into the road. Ciji and I make our way into the ditch on the side of the road, she treads unabashedly through the tall grasses and weeds while I step cautiously behind, constantly on the lookout for snakes, aunts, or spiders. We quickly find what we are looking for: dusty and crumpled old aluminum cans. We gather up the cans into the pouches we make from our shirt-tails and hurry back to the truck, ready to get out of the heat and be on our way again. We toss the cans into the back of the truck, excited to be adding to the ever-growing pile. We climb back into the truck and repeat this odd hunting and gathering routine for what seems like endless hours until we are hot and bored- which in reality probably didn't take that long at all.

Fast forward six-ish months. It is Christmas morning and we are all gathered excitingly in the living room of my grandparents house. The way-too-early morning of opening presents, the grumbling tummies awaiting breakfast, and the general business of the past few days has made everyone a little irritable, but the surprise that we know lies ahead appeases our ill tempers. My grandfather comes down the hall nonchalantly, and announces that all grandchildren must line up against the wall. Our eyes widen in delight as he pulls out a stack of bills that we just know must be thousands of dollars. He has gotten all the cash in ones and hands it to each of us one bill at a time, like a dealer handing out cards at a casino table, until there is no more money. What had seemed like a large sum of money turns out to only be about $10 per grandchild, but it is a fortune in our eyes, and a hard-earned one at that. This is the money that came from our time spent the past summer collecting cans. All those trips in and out of the truck in the dusty, sticky heat seem worth it now, as we all discuss what toys we will buy with our money.

I'm not really sure if we really even made that much money from the cans, but I know my grandfather picked up more cans on his own than all the grandchildren put together, so he may have even thrown in a few extra dollar bills as well. But it was a valuable gift nonetheless, that taught us all several important lessons. One being, one man's trash is another man's treasure. Two being the value of hard work and the satisfaction of a nice payday, and three, to think twice before we litter up our environment. I think the most important lesson may be one that I'm only just now recognizing, and that is that you never know when a memory you create with someone may be one of the only memories they have of you one day, so we should make all of our time with loved ones count.

Hope this finds you finding what you are looking for on this road we call life!
-K

New LJ Project
k_t_olson
It's crazy how often I get so bogged down in the day to day sludge of life that I forget what great things have happened to me! I am blessed, friends, and it is time to start recognizing that more often! So, as a way to remind myself of this, I'm going to do a little journal montage of blessed moments. Hopefully you will enjoy. With Fall quickly approaching, I think I'll start with one of my favorite Fall memories:

You are looking down at two girls, laying on their backs in the sand, staring up at the sunset above them. Thin-framed, and blonde, these girls are dwarfed by the wide expanse of beach, sky, and ocean surrounding them. They seem to be soaking in the beauty around them, aware that they are small in comparison, exhausted after an afternoon of surfing in chilly waters. With wetsuits rolled down around their waists, the water evaporating off their upper bodies leaves a fine dusting of chill bumps- a reminder of the sweet, crisp relief that only Fall in the South brings. The orange and pink streaked sky gives off a last few remnants of warmth that seem to reach all the way to the girls' spirits.

The girls do not speak, do not need to speak, but are still in the knowledge that this moment is a gift from God.

It is a friendship that has, up to this point, been forged mainly on the shared sorrow of heartbreak and a long, dry summer. The rich palette of the sky soaring over them, the gentle lapping of the ocean on the their legs playfully pulling them further in, provides a soothing calm on their stormy hearts, and they lay celebrating this turning-point. It might be more fitting for this moment to happen in the Spring, when old death falls away to reveal new life and hope for bright days ahead, but instead it happens here in late October, as if to say, "this winter will be far warmer than the past summer, just hold on."

The girls look at each other and smile, and promise to remember this moment of peace, beauty, and strength forever. They pick themselves up off the sand, lug their boards underarm, and look off to the right as the last of the sun melts over the horizon, standing as an unconscious sign of respect and gratitude to the ultimate Artist. They walk away and behind them, the tide overtakes and washes away their slender footprints, but it takes with it several months of tears, tears intermingled and lost forever in the wide, blue, deep.

Micah 7:19-- "He will again have compassion on us;...Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."


*Erica: I hope you still treasure this memory as much as I do. I hope that in Colorado, you not only have another moment like this (we may only hope for one, they are few and far between!), but someone to share in it with you, who appreciates it as much as you do.

Forever Young...
k_t_olson
Today's topic: aging. Okay, okay, I'll admit: at the ripe young age of 23, I really don't know that much about aging yet, but it is becoming a lurking-at-the-corners-of-my-thoughts kind of thing. I'm not checking for wrinkles or gray hairs yet, but I have been thinking about it more on an emotional level. As a teenager going from thirteen to sixteen or sixteen to nineteen is a HUGE jump. So much life happens, and you change and grow as a person so quickly, that something that happened just a few years ago seems like LIFETIMES ago. On the way home today, I heard a song that got pretty popular back in 2007. I remember because all my sorority sisters and I danced to it on bid day with our "new hoots". It didn't feel like I was reminiscing on the past as I mulled over that memory, but then I realized that that was THREE years ago! I still feel like the same person,like although a lot has changed since then (marriage, education status, job, location) not much has changed ME. Am I a fairly static being from now on? Will I look back in my thirties on my twenties and say, "who was I then?" or will I be largely the same person? I would like to constantly be growing and evolving but how much will I really change? It's just a strange feeling to, after all these years of massive change, know that my mold is pretty much set and I'll be me for the rest of forever! Maybe?....

May this find you settled into (or growing into) a "you" that you are happy with!

-K

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall....
k_t_olson
Obviously my expectations for blogging every day were a bit unrealistic. I suppose I'd forgotten how much teaching drains me! Isn't it odd how the things that refill our creativity reservoirs are the very things that we don't want to do when we are running on empty?

Oh well, it's a new day and this is a new blog and I'm going to change my goal to blogging at least once a week.

So I was reading this article in Time magazine the other day, about animal intelligence. Apparently, studies are showing more and more these days that animals are actually far more intelligent than we thought. One way scientists determine intelligence in animals is to hold a mirror in front of them. If they respond in a way that shows they realize the reflection is their own, that is a whole bunch of smart points for that animal. If they run around to the other side to try and find the 'other' animal they think they see, then no smart points for them. I'm not sure how fair this test is, since it takes human beings a few years to understand what their reflection is...

Anyway, this got me thinking, it's not like humans are great with mirrors either. I mean how often do we look at ourselves in the mirror and have a hard time recognizing what is there? And what does a mirror really show us anyway? How many hours do we spend battling it out with the mirror, trying to get past those flaws that scream at us or trying to envision what other people see when they look at us? Perhaps the human issue with mirrors isn't what we don't see in them, but that we try to see TOO much. Maybe it would give us a few smart (and confidence) points if we understood that a mirror shows us JUST a reflection of our physical selves and not some deep embodiment of who we are as people.

Just a thought. I'll post the lyrics to this old Caedmon's Call song I used to listen to all the time, I believe they are quite fitting:

....
Who are you that lies when you stare in my face
Telling me that I’m just a trace of the person I once was
Cause I just can't tell if you're telling the truth or a lie
On you I just can't rely
After all you're just a piece of glass

....
Who are you that lies when you stare in my face
Telling me that I’m just a trace of the person I once was
Cause we're not the same, you're just a picture of me
You’re gone as soon as I leave; you've lived my life for me
And you're no more than a piece of glass
You're no more than just a piece of glass

May your reflection smile back at you this time around!
-K

The shoes I wear, you don't own a pair...
k_t_olson
Hello world,

Currently laughing at my husband's Lil Wayne impressions, and my dog's reaction to said Lil Wayne impressions...


Today was one of those days: didn't want to get up, nothing to wear, bad hair, not prepared enough for class, wild, disrespectful kids...the list goes on! My skin just didn't feel like it fit quite right (not to sound too Buffalo Bill) and I was downright monster-ly there for a while as I wondered whether I was completely unsuited to be a teacher at all. Naturally, I drove right home to push my negative energy and grump vibes right onto the one I love most, but as usual, his resiliency and good nature shone through to a victory over Team Ill Kerri. All it took was a good idea on how I could reward well behaved classes (what I like to do!) as opposed to punishing them (what I hate doing!) to put a smile on my face and get me excited about another day ahead to spend with those hellion teenagers.

It's easy to get caught up in the hum-drum of everyday, mundane human existence. We often live our lives based on the assumption that we are supposed to hate our jobs, "survive" until the weekend or holiday,  and just get by while we wait for greatness and excitement to fall in our laps. My great-grandmother, one of the most lively, interesting people I've ever known (and I'm not just saying that because I'm her begotten) used to tell people to "do something different every day". I used to think that was impractical advice. Who has time to take a different route home? Eat something unusual? Try something new? Do something truly  "different"? But I think I understand what she meant now. We have to get fresh perspective and constantly be searching for different ideas in order to keep our day-to-day new and exciting!

So as I end my second daily entry looking forward to a new day tomorrow, I hope you are reading this with the same feeling!

May your cup overflow!
-K

First blog...in a while at least!
k_t_olson
     First, I will start off with my reasons for starting up this blog. It seems like a silly thing to do, a cry for attention, a need to be recognized, a yearning for my "fifteen minutes" even if it is with only one or two readers. And maybe that is some of it, if that's the case, then I'm okay with it. But I was teaching my 11th grade Writing and Research class one day last week, and trying to explain to my young (potential) writers why it's important to write. I was trying to show them that writing is not always meant to be shored up in privacy, but shared with others, because (I believe) it is an exercise in validation of our humanity. Life is all about connections, those tenuous bonds we hold with each other are what separate us from animals. That common sharing of spirit that so often happens when writing is read- that is why I believe people should share their writing with at least one person. As I (tried) to get my students to understand this, I realized what a hypocrite I am. When was the last time I shared my writing? It's been four years at least!  So, off I set, in this journey of celebration of spirit!

     Do I dare be so bold as to set the goal of blogging every day? As afraid as I am of not being able to hold to such commitments, why not? So, dear readers(not that I have any as I write this), please forgive me as I stumble through these first few entries until I find my voice again. They will be cumbersome and murky, but what counts is that I'm writing them!

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