Thursday, March 26, 2015


"EXERCISE" Mary Hill's OLW
1 Corinthians 12:21-26
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”
 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

"What exactly does fit physical condition mean Mrs. Winterstein? I am not really sure I am fit." 

This question was posed to me several weeks ago as my seventh and eighth graders and I were preparing for this week's interim trip. The verb "trekking" seemed a bit daunting to some of my students. 

"Is that like hiking? It sounds a bit more scary than walking!"

I reassured them that the longest (12km) trek, as well as the smaller (5-7km) treks, were well within their capabilities. I also made it mandatory that each student bring in their boots or shoes for inspection. Additionally students should wear new footgear to school, and a bit on the weekends for break in and to check for rubs and proper fit. I wanted to do the best to equip students from a dual prong approach of both gear and mindset.*

So now we have spent this week up on the mountains of Sapa, Vietnam. We didn't trek as high as Fanispan (Phan-Xi-P«éng), but to reach our homestay family's house we climbed about 1800 meters up the side of the mountainous area and trekked many rocky terrains, paved and unpaved surfaces and steps and terraces along the way.
There were some students who were sure-footed and others who the guide or I leant a helping hand of balance to, or a boost to keep moving forward on our journey. A couple students voiced uncertainties in their own energy levels to reach our destination. To these students I offered the encouragement that it's okay we each travel at our own pace while being sure to take in the beauty all around us. 
When we arrived at our destination we all agreed that we had exercised muscles that perhaps we don't consistently call upon as urgently in our day to day traipsing about. (This teacher's calves are still a bit fatigued today). It wasn't just the amazingly beautiful biodiversity and tribal diversity that struck me as we trekked along. The wonderful diversity among the students in my group, their willingness to exercise their gifts (and what may also be outside their comfortable daily life) was as equally breathtaking to behold. On the trail some sang, offered advice to one another, shared extra ponchos, stopped to capture the experience via photographs. They flexed who they were by helping with dinner,
and singing to and playing with the sweet baby boy of our family when he got fussy.
They asked important questions about culture and what it means to be human.

The students encouraged those who felt a bit homesick, they shared meals and conversations while making memories. One of the grade eight students captured it best when she declared, "We always come away from these trips so much closer!"
That is the thing with exercising, whether it is a 12km trek or flexing with flourish who one is at the core; it strengthens. Everyday I am mindful of the unique individual each of my students are intellectually, spiritually, personally. Each has so much potential to do powerfully impactful things in the world. Every time they engage in "working out" these gifts they strengthen who they are and can be. Hearts can be exercised on a cardiovascular level, but also on a soul level. This week my group of middle school students and I were blessed with the opportunity to do both.

18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 1 Corinthians 12:18-20

*God equips us by creating us who we are. Everyday we choose our mindset as well as option to exercise that gift or sit on the sidelines. What will you choose?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Becoming Brave

 "I love those who can smile in trouble, gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection." -Thomas Paine

Writing IS risky.
Soul stiring emotion evoking 
words wielded and penned 
expose us
Make us vulnerable.
We are left with ink
Bleeding feeling 
Across the page.

While I agree with Paine, sometimes writing pains me. I am well into the thoroughs of middle age and still find allowing my words, my thinking and musings on paper and pixeled on a screen, out into the wide world, a bit of a daunting task. There are pages upon pages tucked away in tomes that no one will read until I have departed the confines of this earth. Additionally there are thoughts and ideas swirling around my mind like clouds in the sky. Sometimes the clouds gain Numbistratus bulk and my words rain out on the page. Other times they feather out like Cirrus clouds suspended in time.

The great Maya Angelou claimed, "There is no greater burden than bearing within you an untold story." 

Sarah Barilles concurs in her song Brave "You can be amazing You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug You can be the backlash of somebody's lack of love. Or you can start speaking up...Say what you wanna say and let the words fall out Honestly I wanna see you be brave!"

Braving the storm of one's own emotions stirred up by circumstances around us, and either the gentle renewing sprinkling of kind words or the maelstrom of thoughtless needles of cold rain pelting  can be risky. It requires a degree of courage and a dose of bravery to give birth to one's story. 

I am cognizant of this as I blog, but even more so when I have the honor of reading my students' writing. I am grateful they count me a safe place to share their thinking. They allow me to nudge and encourage them to think and write deeply. This is a gift. I too am a student who has received that gift from my PLN and trusted friends who listens as I brave new life territory trying to BE brave and "let the words spill out..."

Joshua 1:9 (ESV) "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


"For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." 
1 Corinthians 13:12 NIV

Hazy grays and shadow black
Sounds muffled
Scuttling and scooting about. 
Their world is contained within the cushioned oval of the dog bed.
The terrain is plush save for the occasional bat of a paw to the head in the scramble to nurse.
Their mother, sisters, and bed comprise the borders of their they know it.

The fab five have no awareness there are families eagerly receiving their pictures and video clips. Individuals who are preparing for them by purchasing bowls, toys, leads, beds, and so much more. Families ready to know them each better.

Their current home is comfortable, for the most part. Yet oh, the discoveries in which they will revel when their eyes open at last and their worlds exponentially increase in vastness of terrain and love! There will be walks with a buffet of scents and experiences. There shall be cuddles, belly rubs, and scratches behind the ears awaiting, along with a multitude of other discoveries. 

My family is eager to meet our puppy, Harper, to fully introduce her to the wonders of our world. Moreover, we wait with eager anticipation as Someone is also loving us from beyond, and preparing for our homecoming. We wait for our eyes to open. What discoveries there will be THEN!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Monday Morning

Silver gray threads weaving 
The tender brush of the back of 
your knuckles across my cheek.
Tumbling d
                      n  the rabbit hole
without a sound.
Extracting meters and meters of raven black string, 
a chord from deep 
within my flesh 
All at once shredding and relieving 
my nerves from within.
Frog amicable amphibian 
Morphing into a hag cackling beside me
In the backseat of the '68 Oldsmobile.
Loosened and lost teeth
Gaping chasms 


Walking among gram's prize roses 
Her adept hands pruning, dusting, appearing and disappearing 
A hint of her chartreuse sweater taunting me from behind the shrub only
To vanish when I rush round the roses

Foghorning into the cotton muffled corners of my mind 
Rendering the delicate 
silver gray threads asunder.
Unraveling my stories
Nuclear meltdown siren
Harshly ejecting me
Thrusting me from the once lulling tumultuous waves of sleep 
the dawn.
the alarm...

"There is nothing more boring than other people's dreams." Quentin Jacobsen in John Green's Paper Towns

"The dream is the liberation of the spirit from the pressure of external nature, a detachment of the soul from the fetters of matter." Sigmund Freud 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Adventure Awaits

Proverbs 16:9 (NIV) "In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps."

"Come on! It will be an adventure!" 

This is a mom sentence I have uttered many times throughout my children's lives. When the children were quite young, about preschool age, we frequently took nature walks. The walks began as excursions around our neighborhood and evolved into hikes at the various metro-parks around the Toledo area where we lived. We would stop and take notice of small creatures and nature items. In order to leave everything undisturbed we would open our sketch books from quaillanepress, and draw and label what we observed. We decided this would be the kindest way to "collect"our findings. The walks took on a life of their own and my daughter decided we would be known as the Nature Explorers. Like any respectable club we decided we needed some mark of membership. The rings pictured above are our Nature explorer membership rings thanks to the Etsy artist YOUgNeek. (2 orange for the girls and the black and green for our sole male member.)

One day as we were walking my daughter made the observation that the needle in her ring could "not POSSIBLY be right" because the needle spun all around even though she was walking in a steady direction. I had to break it to her that the rings were more symbolic and a metaphor than practical functioning pieces to help us out of a directional mix-up.

A GPS may be more reliable, right? However we found this may not always be the case deep in the heart of Texas. Our summer trips to Texas were another time I excitedly effused my, "Come on! It will be an ADVENTURE!" mom imperative. When we would travel with my husband for business we would drop him off at his meetings set the GPS and take the car on adventures for the day. One such sweltering Texas July day we did just that and set out to find a small family owned kolache bakery. 17 minutes was the estimated arrival time, but an hour later we were still driving around. (Unbeknownst to me at the time, in more rural areas Texas may have "old county" "business" and "highway" listed with the same number yet marking different roads, which makes finding the exact location a bit trickier if one has not the most updated GPS maps package.) The sun was starting to set, my daughter had to use the facilities, and my son was whining in general. I pulled off on one of the service roads gas station. My daughter found relief, my son found a bonafide bull whip (only in the heart of Texas at a convenience station), and I found a renewed sense of adventure as I paid the man for the bull whip, inquired about the bakery location and we headed back to the car. With the service station attendant's directions we located the bakery in seven minutes, kolaches were acquired and all was well in our worlds.

When our family decided to move to Vietnam the phrase was uttered once again, "It will be an adventure!" To which my daughter replied, "So mom will get lost and Henry will get a dangerous weapon." 

I joked back, "Perhaps, and don't forget the sweet kolache possibilities!" So what have I, as a mom adventurer, learned from these escapades?

1. Pay attention, take note, or in the excitement of the daring you may just miss the quiet amazing.

2. Set and prepare your guiding instruments to be true and accurate. Psalm 119:105

3. When you feel like abandoning the whole venture of adventure persist, ask for assistance, and keep going. You never know how close you are to sweet success.

Monday, March 2, 2015

️Day of Delivery

The text buzzed through at 1:10am followed by five subsequent texts through 3:45am. Although the pictures were still shots they immediately started the personal projector of my mental movie.
Three little whiteish gold furballs. The embodiment of a pinkie swear promise months ago. Polaroid perfect, but the movie playing in my mind was a litter of 13 jet back puppy puffs squirming and writhing to gain better vantage points to mom and milk. 

Seventeen years ago on Christmas Day those little surprises presented themselves to the world. We weren't actively seeking out the opportunity to increase our family by four paws, but when one of the fourth graders in our school came back after Christmas break and eagerly relayed the information inviting us to come visit the puppies, it was practically a foredrawn conclusion. We knew we weren't ready to embark on human parenthood, but puppy parenthood seemed feasible. So
my husband and I visited the litter three times, holding the pups, playing with them, watching their temperaments. The fourth time we finally selected our girl Cleopatra Marie. She was one of the runtish pups, but she had a demeanor that spoke to my heart. Plans were set for us to bring her home Valentine's Day. Life with puppies rarely goes according to plans however. 

We received a frantic call a week prior to Valentine's Day that the family could no longer keep the little gustos contained, and could we PLEASE pick our girl up early? Not a problem! Riding in the backseat, I cradled her in a precautionary towel, intoxicated by the musty earthy goodness of her puppy breath. We were ready to be our own pack. Many puddles, a few piles, various shredded items, and countless nights of being awoken to whining later, we fell into sync with one another. Life was good. 

My husband, kids and I grew up with our girls. We were a good, solid, steady pack. Now we are embarking on puppyhood again. Many acquaintances have called my judgement into question. A puppy, then a full sized dog in a flat, on the 18th floor no less? Plus I remember the dredges of training. My daughter has been asking a lot of well-thought out questions. However she also graced my husband with some sage words the other night as he teased her that she was not REALLY getting a puppy. "Daddy, a puppy is like kids. There is no perfect time to have them, but when I am gone to university seven years from now you know what you will say? As you are sitting on the couch cuddling with that dog you will say 'Man Meleyna was right.'"

My daughter, son, and puppies past and present have taught me well. "Ideal time" is a fallacy, and when life speaks an opportunity to my heart I just know. I just love.