Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I Stared at a Blank Wall Today

For 45 minutes.

Without thinking of anything at all.

To anyone who knows me very well, this is alarming, because it's pretty tough to turn off this ever-racing mind of mine. But I was by myself in my classroom today without a co-teacher, the week before MAP testing, with a bunch of restless munchkins. I felt like I was herding cats. Angry cats. Angry cats with pigtails. Hence the after-school-45-minute-no-thinking-or-speaking-wall-stare. 

But they aren't cats, they're children, and a few of them managed to sense my urgency and soften the blows of this job with some unsolicited hugs. I very much love unsolicited hugs. They are just the best.

After I snapped out of it, I managed to make myself dinner and get lost in a book for the next two hours. A great book and some hot chocolate are pretty good cure-alls. But the wall was there for me when I needed it, in all of its uncomplicated, eggshell white splendor. Best part about the wall? It didn't talk to me, or look at me, or need me to do anything for it. It just was. Just sitting there, so I could stare at it.

Thanks, wall. 'Til next time.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Reese Stewart

My friend Reese went out of her way a week ago to help me conquer one very important item off of my 24-before-25 list: bake a cake from scratch. Now, to the common girl, this may not seem like that big of an accomplishment. But alas, I had only ever dared to use a pre made box mix. She came over to my apartment, Trader Joe's bag and hand mixer in tow. She got the recipe from a cookbook produced by two hipster bakers in Brooklyn, so you knew it had to be good. Our end product was a chocolate-hazelnut-creamy-buttery-explosion-of-deliciousness.

I learned a few things that day. One, Reese is a baking genius. Two, the more butter, the better. Three, licking out the bowl of homemade batter is worth the extra effort. Gracias a mi hermana de una madre diferente por tu ayuda. It was a fun thing to accomplish.

The Master at work. 

The finished product. Nom. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Elderly and Easter

The elderly and Easter saved my day today.

I have a lot on my mind right now. I guess this is more of a ranting-journal-entry-meaningless-nothing post than I usually write, but I guess that's just it: I have a lot on my mind. I have to make some life decisions as I grow up in my twenties, and I don't know what to do with all the stuff that's on my mind.

I have a lot of those things on my mind like salaries and how to make a living all while doing work that matters and helps people and allows you to sleep at night with a life lived well. "Is that too much to ask?" I say.

My mom recently told me that I'm ridiculously talented. I then responded by saying that she was my mom and so she of course had to say that and also then mom may I ask why none of my ridiculous talents will be making me tons and tons of money?

Why is it that passionate devotion to educational equality doesn't buy you a penthouse apartment in the loop? Why is it that spunk and an odd conviction to work yourself into the ground doesn't fund trips to Europe each year? Why is it that I sometimes feel that the work that matters the most gets paid the least? Why can't I be content to stare at stock market updates and spreadsheets, make predictions and investments with other people's money, and roll around in my piles of income at the end of each pay period?  Here I am, asking why why why, and then realize that I am acting like a whiny petulant child. Maybe it's a youngest-child syndrome, but I am that whiny child far too often. Asking all of those questions, I may as well have been stomping my foot in the ground with every word.

I'm better off than 99% of the world population, and yet why am I such an ungrateful human that the fact that I won't be grossing mass amounts of money in my life matters to me?  It shouldn't matter! But I guess that's what we are and guess that's what I am: an ungrateful human. And in our ungrateful, human nature, we start to cross our arms, stomp our feet, stick out the lower lip. and ask why why why we can't have more more more.  In the middle of one of these tantrums, I started to avoid real responsibilities of my life and scroll mindlessly through Facebook. And then I see a picture  posted by my uncle that snapped me out of my funk.

It was a picture of my Grandpa Gesch and my Great Aunt Nelda, both in the early stages of their 10th decade of life. I think, maybe, that they are perhaps two of the best people living on this planet at the present moment. Two people who never rolled in the piles of their income. Two people who didn't avoid heartbreak and hard times and tough decisions, but made choices based on what was the right thing to do as far as they could tell. Two people who know who made them and why they are here. Two people who even got to go to Europe once in awhile because they saved for it in advance. I doubt they ever threw egotistical, materialistic, selfish tantrums.

And then almost immediately afterward I see a reminder pop up on my calendar I set for myself on Easter, a quote about what wondrous love laid down itself for me. And how all I need to do, in a small token of gratitude in return, is accept this love and be happy and thankful and joyful for it. I saw another quote I had saved, about how the weary and heavy laden of this world should give up their burdens, because there is freedom from drowning deep down in the pressures of life. Easter happened, and that is the best thing ever. We live after this awesome Easter; we live in the truth of knowing that darkness is defeated and light is reigning and that piles of income, although fabulous as they can sound sometimes, are not the end goal in this thing.

So for me, for the whiny child that I am, I need a reminder every. single. day. about the truth of the Elderly and of Easter. I need reminders about the heritage of faith I have and the Easter-people that came before me. I need a reminder of where my roots are and how beautiful it is to have roots like that, grounded in knowledge of this after-Easter life, life lived in the light, so that I can grow forward and up and out.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Good Friday

It was a true Chicago day. Brian came over in the morning and kindly agreed to go on a run with me to the lakefront - a favor that was more lengthy than my usual requests. We jogged to Soldier Field and went up the lake past the Shedd Aquarium. Besides the intense wind, it was an awesome experience. The water was aqua-greenish-bluish as it splashed on the rocks, tourists were out and about taking pictures of the skyline, and life was good. I love these things that put me outside, out of the constraints of four walls, and into the fresh air and cold wind. I love to leave my apartment on foot, not knowing an exact time of when I will return, and not having anything blocking me in to necessitate my prompt return with obligations and appointments. It’s nice to get out of temperature-controlled-everything and experience the world as it is, right now.


Then, after lunch, we started the afternoon at a great coffee shop in Bucktown called The Map Room (go visit!) before meeting up with Reese and Danny, friends who guided us around their neighborhood between record stores, thrift stores, and of course, Urban Outfitters.

In his natural habitat. 

The Good Friday service at my church was Heartbreakingly Good. Every word so meaningfully spoke to my heart. It is so convicting, to sing “Ah Holy Jesus, How Hast Thou Offended?”, a hymn about the suffering of Christ on the cross, and finishing the second verse with the words “I crucified thee!” It was not just the uptight, legalistic, religious leaders who crucified Jesus Christ. It was my sin, my nature to believe that I have the ability to atone for my own shortcomings, the belief that my grace is sufficient, the lie that I have the resources and qualifications to save myself, that lie that I am self-sufficient and not quite all that terribly bad, that lie that I fall into day by day…this is what crucified Jesus Christ. Good Friday services are so meaningful. They are also so heavy. It’s remarkable how seldom I reflect on the magnitude of Good Friday. And it’s remarkable how I am so forgiven in spite of my neglect of the magnitude of Good Friday. It was a beautiful service.

By the end of the night, we hadn’t eaten a thing, so we hopped over to Estrella Negra, a restaurant on the West Side, to indulge in some fabulous goat cheese quesadillas at a delicious BYOB joint.

All in all, it was a good good good day. A good day full of friends, happy memory making, painful remembering, and thankful reflecting. Good with a “capital G.” One time, a long time ago. Brian texted me, saying that “good” is an overused, understated word in our culture. We use it too much, and don’t mean it enough. I agree with him; I think he is right. Well, then, I’m going to try and redeem the worn-out word and say that this Good Friday, to me, was truly Good.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Quarter Century

Brian turned 25! That seems really old and really young at the same time. For some reason, I've never pictured myself reaching that age, one day somehow forever mentally freezing myself at 17 and leaving it there. It feels SO OLD. On the other hand, it feels incredibly young - we are getting married this year - and that heavy and important commitment seems to me to be reserved for distinguished adults. I guess that to be 25 means to be in the middle. I suppose when you're in the middle there is only one thing to do: eat cheesecake.


We did precisely that, only after a delicious meal of Italian goodness at Antico Posto, a restaurant out by Brian's apartment. I made us reservations a week or so in advance, and while I like to pretend I did it out of a selfless consideration for Brian's affinity for their food, I think I secretly brought him there so I could eat the ravioli. I dream of that ravioli. And any restaurant that starts a meal with fresh bread and olive oil knows what it's doing.

We ended the night with cheesecake and The Princess Bride. Brian had never seen this masterpiece, so I figured his birthday was a perfect opportunity to be introduced to the literary classic and an understanding of what R.O.U.S. means. Fred Savage doesn't disappoint, people. Kind of exciting to spend this birthday with Brian - it's the first one I've been able to celebrate with him - as I think about all the birthdays and other little milestones to come. I have to say that life in the middle, and my life on the way to 25, is pretty good.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


A friend told me a wonderful phrase on Monday. I had just finished a very open-ended question about why my children go through such intense and sad things; I was wondering how such unfairness and ugliness and meanness could happen to kids all while Jesus is supposed to be reigning in heaven right now. I know it's a bold question to ask, and one that I have no right to bring to the feet of someone in charge of the universe, and yet here I am and that's what I ask: How could you? Why does this happen to kids? Why can't I help them? Why are some things so difficult, evil, and sad?!?

That's when she said the phrase. She said, "Well, you know, it's kind of like that old saying that God is "Already But Not Yet." She asked if I had heard it before, and I had not. Already But Not Yet means that God is already working in this world, his goodness and providence is already hard at work holding it all together and sustaining its every moment, but that ultimate good that will one day descend just is not here yet. So we live in the middle. We live after already, but wait as we say "but not yet." It's not perfect yet. It's not complete.
I laughed and said that I think her phrase helps describe, more than any other word or expression I can possibly fathom, how I deeply, truly, and completely feel on most every common day.


Already. I feel God so much in the already. I am in awe at how he has directed my life and guided my footsteps. I am blown away by the blessings He brings into my life, both in my lifelong friends and new acquaintances along the way. It is hard to really believe that God has made a human being so wonderful as Brian Whartnaby, and that this wonderful person has decided to see and bring out wonderful things in me too. God is already working in my life, sustaining its every moment. I already see God in my kids' smiles and their small victories on a math worksheet. I already see God in my family and heritage of faith. I already see God in this crazy world where the human spirit triumphs over immense darkness over and over and over and over again.


But not yet. I don't feel as close to God like I thought I would, not yet at least, through this intense two years of employment. The streets are not yet safe for kids to play. I do not yet see or feel harmony between races, churches, friendships, and relationships all around me. Our world is not yet joyful or kind or compassionate. I do not yet feel like a joyful, kind, compassionate person myself from time to time. I do not yet feel like I'm a good teacher, continually getting knocked down by one aspect of this crazy job after another. There is, in fact, an immense darkness in our world, cities, neighborhoods, and streets that has not yet been eradicated from our presence. We live it and breathe it, but it has not yet been sent away.

I told my friend that sometimes I feel the but not yet so, so, so deeply. I am disturbed by the but not yet in our world and sometimes even cry over the but not yet in my own life. I must be much too sensitive, I think, because the but not yet occupies my dreams, thoughts, and heart. I told her that it's rough to live here in the middle, to live here in the tension, of where Already meets But Not Yet.

I suppose, though, that most of our life is lived in the tension. The place between. The space in the middle.

We plod forward through every day, leaving those but not yet things in our wake, a mess of sadness and darkness and destruction, just keeping our eyes on the already, on what we know to be true, on the good news that God Reigns and holds us together and will see his work through to completion. We move forward, looking to the first word, Already, to take over the clause completely. We work and live and hope for the already day to come. Where we can say that the darkness has already been evicted and our sickness has already been cured. So here we are.

Let's keep going, because God is here. He is Already.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Stuff Students Say: March Edition

When your spring break starts on April 14, March is a long month. Last year at this time I was happily on break and not thinking about school at all. I've still got a week and a half left before we are in the clear and break is upon us. With that, let me just say that I've been sitting in bed, half doing grad work and half dozing off and half browsing blogs (I realize I just claimed to have somehow split my time into three halves but it makes sense to me somehow...) and feeling exhausted. I'm doing weird things like looking up symptoms for mono and diabetes and other diseases. I think the disease is spring break fever. And we all know, of course, what the only cure for that is. More cowbell.

Until that day comes, here are some hilarious things my kids said last month.

Me: What did you do this weekend?
Student: I went to church, I went to church, I went to church. Man all we do is church. 

(Yelled out to the whole class during lunch.)
Raise your hand if your daddy has a decent car!!

I need some eyes Ms. Gesch. All you do is make me work and now they are tired.

Me: Okay ladies and gentlemen, time to clean up.
Student: Ladies?! She a lady? No ladies live here. 

(During playtime)
The dog is sick!! Call the vegetarian quick! 

(On a field trip)
We're downtown! You can see the whole United States from here!

I can't wait until it's summer so I can wear my cute clothes, even a tutu, and ride my bike all around town with no training wheels. 

(A freudian slip by one of my girls who was trying to tell her friend not to forget her cardigan at school.)
Hey Monique go get your swagger...I mean sweater! 

Can you take a picture of me? Can you put me on vine?

Student 1: When you take your glasses off you look prettier Ms. Gesch. Your eyelashes get bigger.
Student 2: Yeah we all like your eyelashes.

(Reading about whales)
Whales breathe like people except we breathe through our faces and they breathe through their heads. 

(On picture day)
I didn't do my homework because I had to get my hair done all night. My mom said this is what we are focusing on right now so I just shut up and let her.