Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cribbin' it

I’m working on a crib sheet at work, not the kind that babies sleep on. So, I asked my boss why we call it a “crib sheet.” He said because it’s like a little cheat sheet. I said I know what it is, but why is it that?! (Do I sound like a three year old?) How the heck did it come to be called a “crib” sheet?

I did some research. And after sifting through many links to Babies R Us and Pottery Barn for Kids, here’s what I found:

Originally in the 1600s, crib—or cribbe—was Olde English for “manger or fodder bin” (what is a fodder bin? I also ask) At some point, I guess mangers started being used for children. Maybe Jesus started that fad. Crib was also used to refer to a basket, which somehow led people to start using crib as a verb meaning “to steal.” Use your basket and steal.

So, it’s believed that our current slang use of the word (the one referring to cheating of some sort, not the one in Pimp my Crib) comes from this. We’ll often refer to “crib sheets” as a form or plagiarizing or stealing information. Like, a student uses his or her crib sheet—cheat sheet—on the test. But, that still isn’t what I’m working on at work. I’m working on a completely legal, helpful piece of information!

Also, there are nine different noun forms of “crib.” A person could take their crib (basket), go to someone’s crib (house), and crib (steal) a teddy bear from the baby’s crib (barred bed for little ones). And if your British or Australian, after doing this you could take a rest with your cribbed (stolen) teddy bear and eat your crib (snack).

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Taters for thought

Yesterday my jeaned knees found themselves in some Green Isle, Minn., mud. My hands in a large bucket of dirty water, scrubbing potatoes. I was harvesting spuds in a small farming town just outside of the cities on a gloriously sunny warm late-September Saturday afternoon. A friend and I drove out to volunteer a few hours of a our time to an organization called Hands for Harvest which plants and harvests a variety of potatoes for local food banks. City girls, our noses needed a few minutes to accommodate the smell of manure. We threw our hair up, put our old tennies on, and as quick learners…we dug right in. Literally.

The process: the potatoes need to be dug up; then sorted between worm-infested, too small, too green, sliced up by potato harvester tractor (not the technical name) and good; the good ones are washed in large buckets of water by hand; these are then brought to and laid out upon a large trailer bed to dry; once dry someone does one final sorting and puts them in boxes, readying them for the food banks and shelves. We did some washing, and then some final sorting and boxing.

Two things struck me.

First, I originally learned of Hands for Harvest a few months ago when I was told that a recent grad of my school had started up this cool organization, and I might want to write a story on it. So I did, and it appeared in a school publication. Last weekend, while sipping my coffee and reading the local newspaper, I came across another story about this graduate and his organization. The Star Tribune had picked it up as well. And then, lo and behold, there was a small segment on KARE-11 last week too. And yesterday, a reporter from the Mankato Free Press was in the fields gathering stories and photos to run a story in today's paper.

Now, what they're doing is very cool. I mean, I, too, wrote a story on it. But it hit me that such a simple, kind thing should be so news-worthy. They're planting potatoes, picking them, and giving them to people who need them. It's not rocket science. It's just kind and generous. And when coupled with large numbers of people and time...it's news. I just wish it wasn't news. I wish it was more commonplace to give. My friend and I discussed what would happen if everybody gave just one hour of their time a week. What would that look like? What would happen?

Second. We were told to only wash and sort and box the good potatoes. If one was more than 1/3 green, put it aside. If one was super small--too small to peel--leave in the field because it can be used as seed perhaps for next year. If one was sliced or hacked by the potato machine tractor thingy, put aside. Only the best ones were to be given to the food banks. I found myself thinking...if people are hungry, pretty sure they can just cut off the bad section of the potato. Or they can eat a slightly green one even if it maybe doesn't taste as good. I mean, they shouldn't be picky! After all the picky of potatoes we've been doing! We're not going to waste potatoes! Well, turns out, they're not being wasted. The family running the organization takes the not-good-but-still-edible potatoes for themselves. Volunteers are also welcome to take the iffy ones. And the rest of the questionables the family brings in to their church to give to friends. They're not wasted, and I was humbled. Of course we should give the best to the needy. Of course we should take the bad ones. How could I have thought otherwise? With so many taters, I saw the good ones to spare and keep, but Hands for Harvest sees the good ones to give.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fester not

No matter how beautiful a sunset, there is always something eery and discomforting to me about the ocean. I don’t like its unending-ness—both in length and depth. And often the waves seem mad to me rather than gentle and rolling, as they are for others.

My friend, however, born and bred in So-Cal, thinks me and my land of 10,000 lakes are crazy. She’ll take the ocean any ole’ day over a lake—a body of water that she believes “festers.” It sits there, she says, motionless, festering, brooding, if you will. And that is just downright disgusting, and she doesn’t like to think about swimming in such grossness.

Well, I’ll admit sometimes our lakes do fester. In fact, right now, late in the season with uncanny warm temps, some parts of the lake I run around are spotted with multi-colored algae. And if the wind is blowing just right, it smells. And yes, this would be sick to swim in.

But something I love about lakes is there ability to be absolutely still—so still that they become mirrors for their surroundings. It doesn’t happen often. A boat, ducks, wind—weak or strong—can all upset the water. But sometimes, like tonight, the lake by my house, becomes so still, flat, and calm, that it replicates the trees and shoreline on its surface. You almost can’t decipher the real from the reflection.

I stopped running halfway through my lake route tonight, staring at the water’s stillness and thinking. Thinking how we, as Christians, are to reflect God, and how we, as Christians, rarely reflect God. Like lakes, we get waves when life blows stress, hardship, or pain our way. We grow white caps, curled over in our own self-pity. Or we create ripples when difficult people decide to swim in our waters. And those walking around us don’t see a reflection of God, but rather something that “festers”!

We'll never reflect God perfectly, but we can get closer with some help. One night when Jesus was on a boat with his disciples, there was a “furious storm…so that the waves swept over the boat.” The disciples freaked out and Jesus said, “ 'You of little faith, why are you so afraid?'...then he rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.”
Matthew 8:23-26

Friday, September 11, 2009

Cure for a man

A few nights ago I sat across from a guy. He was giving me a manicure. It’s not his only job. He also does ventilation duct work, but it’s been slow-going in that business of late, and he needs more money. He comes from a family of 11 children. He’s smack dab in the middle with five older siblings, and five younger. His parents arranged his marriage when they thought he was ready to move out. He married their preferred girl, moved into his in-laws' house, and now has a nine-and-half-month old daughter. And although he'd like to move out, he won't leave his in-laws stranded. They can't speak English and need his help for the simplest of things.

I was touched by his familial commitment.

So, did it work? The marriage, I mean. I asked him.

He shrugged. It’s ok. What can you do now? He chuckled.

You can NOT have married her, I thought to myself, letting my eyes wander up to the flat screen TV bearing closed captioning of HGTV. But it was now his turn for the questioning.

Him: You have family?

Me: Of my own? Like children? No.
I mean, my mom and grandma were on either side of me. I definitely had family.

Him: No husband?

Me: No.

Him: You live at home with parents then?

Me: No.

Him: You live alone?

Me: Yes.

Him: You go online?

I knew exactly what he meant. He was asking if I was internet dating. I mean, I go online all the time. Facebook, blog, hotmail. But that’s not what he was asking.
Me: No.

Him: Your parents. They sometimes know what’s best. Maybe they pick someone.

I laughed. I’ve seen how that works. I’ve experienced that. They’ve tried. I had images of mom and dad laying in bed, dad with his crossword puzzle in front of him. Mom with a pad of paper and pencil in hand...arranging my marriage. She'd ask dad for input. Dad would "say, sure, that sounds good."
Me: No.

Him: It didn’t work out?

Me: No.

Him: Your grandma. She pick someone out?

Me: No.

Him: You go to church with your family?

Me: No. We all go to different churches.

Him: My family all goes to church together. We’re Catholic. Big families. It happens. Maybe your grandma find someone at her church.

I didn't say anything. I smiled and looked at grandma. No.

Him: You go to D&B? Dave & Buster’s?

Once. Many years ago. In California. I never want to go back.
Me: No.

Him: Maybe you should. Lots of guys.

I'm going to find a guy at Dave & Buster's? And he's SERIOUS! So serious that it was endearing!
Me: No, I don’t think so.

It went quiet for a bit. And then...his conclusion:

So, maybe it is that you’re too picky.

Alright, bud, BUSTER. Finish up that pinky nail! I've had just about enough.

I went in for a manicure and got a cure for a man!
The cure? Mom. Dad. Grandma. If those three fail, then go to Dave. He can do something. And if not him, definitely Buster.
Who knew?

Girls and guys

There was great squealing and high-pitched shrills of excitement. There were bright colors, and magazine pages of extremely attractive men. Bright leggings. Green eye shadow. Hot pink shower caddies. Boxes of Easy Mac. Digital cameras flashing. And did I mention the squealing?

It was the girls’ wing in one of the freshman dorms on campus during Welcome Week. I had brought in a photographer to shoot move-in festivities. As he followed me down the female hallway, he looked at me with raised eyebrows. He could either have been wanting to know if it was OK that he—a man—was on the floor. Or he could have been wanting to know what the heck I was making him do...entering this cave of femininity! Either way, I beckoned him to keep following. I asked the squealing girls if any of them would be willing to let us take some photos of them in their new room. The response? 10 girls jumping up and down excitedly. We willSUREcometoourroomWEJUSTDECORATEDlemmeputmybethelsweatshirtonMETOOpickus.

Disentangling ourselves after much photo-taking to do, we moved to the boys’ side. It was quiet. I heard the whir of a window fan. The majority of the floor had already hit the dining center for dinner, but at the end of the hall was one open door. We peered into the dark room. There, slouched on the couch with massive headphones on, not talking, were two freshman guys lit only by the glow of a huge flat screen TV. Their bodies were connected to the massive square in front of them by cords and controllers. Their fingers were flying, and thousands of sci-fi, action-packed DVDs built a fortress around them. Uh. Suddenly, I felt out of place, wondering what I was making us do! Can we take your picture? I asked the boys. I mean after you've hit the jackpot, or killed the enemy, or drank the the secret elixir, or whatever you do on those video games. They looked at each other, shrugged, and said—or grunted—sure.

The pictures turned out very different.
Girls and guys are very different.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Off and on, on and off

Sometimes off means on and on means off.
What’s up or down with that?!

You can say “the siren went off.” What you mean is that the siren turned on—it was going, it was blaring. It wasn’t off at all.

You can tell someone to “turn the light off.” But at the same time, you could tell someone “The light went off.” And what you mean is that the light started blinking or it turned on. It wasn’t off at all.

My fire alarm went off this morning as I was getting out the shower. I mean to say that it turned on...it started REEEP REEEEP REEEEEEEPing as I tried to shut it off as soon as possible so as not to bother the neighbors. And for crying out loud, there was no smoke anyways! Why was it on?

Sometimes I wish my brain would go off. Or on.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


I stood in the store aisle last night, contemplating my own potential purchase, when I heard a woman a few feet away say, “I really think this is a necessity.”

Really? I glanced over to see what this necessity was, but she had two teenage boys with her, muttering to themselves and rolling their eyes, and kicking the bottom shelf of the aisle. They were obstructing my view. Although I couldn’t see what it was, the woman was holding a box of something. A need, supposedly.

“No, I really do. I really think this is a necessity,” she said again in all seriousness.

Her boys were not listening or caring, so I had half a mind to pitch in and give her a little of the attention she was wanting. But instead I moved a few feet closer in hopes of seeing this necessity. I mean, maybe I needed it tpo? Unfortunately, I still couldn’t get a good look, without making it obvious that I was looking.

And a third time. “I really think this is a necessity.”

WHAT? WHAT? WHAT is the necessity? Through the corner of my eye I saw her put it into her cart and slowly begin moving my direction. At just the right time, I turned around as though I needed to look at the other side of the aisle. Completely satisfied that she was purchasing her need, and with her boys trudging behind her, she pushed her cart past me.

And there. In all its red-boxed glory. I saw the necessity: A funnel cake maker.