A New Olympic Sport: “Smok-ming”

Tonight after dinner at Chipotle we all commemorated the last night of the “all staying in 1 1/2 bedroom apt. for a whole month” chapter of our lives by taking a midnight swim. Actually, I just photographed the whole thing, I didn’t feel like getting in the pool.

It was here that the boys invented a new Olympic sport. They learned to swim around in circles in the pool while holding their cigars in their mouths. Too bad they couldn’t have done it with beer in their hands too!

All About My New Job

These are a few pictures of my new room. If you look really closely, you can see the bust of Homer.

All of my favorite authors, along with in-class notes from today:

The view from my desk window:

This was my first week at St. Peter’s. For any of you that have talked to me, you already know. I think that I may have found my dream job.

Sure, there are some trade-offs, like the fact that the school is 30 minutes from our new apartment (although I carpool with my boss so I don’t actually use very much gas), and the fact that I don’t get to order EVERY single book I want because the school is on a limited budget. Lately the copy machine has also been on the fritz.

But the benefits far outweigh anything bad or annoying. Take, for example, the fact that it is an Orthodox Christian school. Now, this doesn’t mean that all the teachers or students are Orthodox Christians- it’s about fifty-fifty, although everyone must be respectful of Orthodox practices. But every morning we have chapel for 30 minutes where we basically pray and sing the Psalms. Already I’ve found that this brightens my day and calms me spiritually.

The attitude of the kids is amazing as well. It seemed so novel that a few days ago, I attempted to explain it to Courtney. Instead of waiting for something to peak their interest, they assume that whatever is going to be said is pertinent and valuable information. At one point during one of our discussions, my junior highers were already pulling out their notebooks to take notes- before I’d even told them to.

The level of respect for teachers is also very high without being “despotic”. One of my 11th grade girls came into my class yesterday to ask if she could bring a drinkable yogurt into my classroom. Because of my “Flexing Poplars” experiences, I was immediately very suspicious. I answered coldly, “What does Mr. Smith (the principal) have to say about that?” I expected the answer would be evasive, but instead she looked me right in the eye and answered calmly, “Mr. Smith said that it was fine, but I wanted to check with you since I know this is your classroom.” My jaw just about hit the floor!

This level of respect is also made evident in that the children, no matter how young, must maintain eye contact with whoever is speaking to them. They also are not allowed to sit down when entering a classroom until the teacher requests it, and they must stand up if any other adult enters the room during class. It makes all of us teachers think twice before interrupting other classes, even for important things!

The parents are also equally as appreciative and respectful. Today we feasted on a 3 course lunch of grilled chicken salad, tropical fruit kabobs, bread hot from the oven and chocolate and zucchini cake, homemade by one of the parents and served “waitress style” by two of the students.

Then there’s the faculty. So far, I love each and every one of the teachers that I get to work with. Whenever we have good discussions in class, we talk about them over lunch, suggesting additional books and materials. Sometimes Fr. Jared (ex-Episcopal priest, now Orthodox catechumen) will even start conversations about Charles Williams or the apostolic fathers. All of the teachers are quite knowledgeable, not only in their field but in others as well. Even the elementary teachers spent their summer reading up on ways that they could improve their teaching styles.

Everyone is also more than happy to help out and fill in when needed. My boss, Brian Smith, always goes out of his way to make sure that things are running smoothly, and Annie the secretary can do pretty much anything she’s asked, still smiling cheerfully all the way. I’ve heard others say that this is the best faculty they’ve ever had the privilege of working with, and I don’t doubt it.

Add onto this the academic side of things. The kids are expecting homework, and haven’t complained yet, even when I assigned them 30 pages of reading on the first day of school. They learn Latin and Greek from Kindergarten on up, memorize so many Psalms that they will have the entire Psalter memorized by their senior year, and read all of the Great Books of Western Civilization. Personally, I get to teach an Ancient Lit class (Homer through Augustine), a Medieval/Renaissance Class (Beowulf through Shakespeare) and an American Lit class. I also get to teach a music elective and many many piano lessons.

Speaking of piano lessons….here is one of the students that I just started teaching. You would not believe this but…..he’s never had lessons of any kind before. In any instrument. The only music instruction he’s ever had is that he once “read a book” about music. There are times when I feel like I should be very afraid, as though I’m in the present of another Mozart.

See, because the thing is, he doesn’t know a single note to go along with what he’s playing. He made it all up. In fact, it’s so improvisational, he can never play it the same way twice.

Tell me this isn’t incredible.

So there you have it. My dream job. Hopefully you all can come and visit sometime!

2 Year Anniversary

Yesterday was Jesse’s and my two year anniversary. Boy, did that happen really fast! It seems like just yesterday we were packing our boxes and driving through the Texas desert towards Dallas.

Over a fabulous dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant last night, Jesse and I discussed what has changed between us in this last year. The reason is, things have. Big time. I could say that we’re still the same people, but I’m actually not sure of that.

I can only speak for what I see (Jesse will have to fend for himself on here if he wants to, I’m too ill-equipped to describe the deep recesses of his thoughts!). I know that over this last year, I’ve grown to respect and trust Jesse more than I thought possible. Part of this is due to moving away, as we’ve discussed recently with Mike and Courtney who have experienced the same thing. When you are alone in a brand new location, it brings you closer in a way that nothing else can. Moving brings with it a new sort of stress that throws all sorts of hidden emotions onto the table. Habits that were “annoying” but tolerable are amplified and, subsequently, dealt with. It’s because of this I felt that someone, somewhere, had pushed a fast-forward but on whatever growth we were experiencing in our first year of marriage.

And now I see Jesse in a different light. I have never seen him so confident, so full of life and energy for what is good and right. I feel blessed that I have been able to witness his transformation this year as he became not only more wise and learned, but more kind and caring. It’s hard for me to catch him at a time when he’s NOT doing what he should. He’s more humble and slow to anger than I’ve seen, more eager to help me and make life easier, more eager to love those around him.

As a result, we hardly fight at all and even when we do, it rarely lasts longer than an hour or two. For those of you that knew us last year, this is an amazing testimony to God’s gracious and loving care in our lives. I’m not going to say it happened magically; it took a lot of work, a lot of difficult conversations that I would have preferred to “avoid”, a lot of honesty about our own faults, but it was worth it. I remember a conversation that I had with Fr. Wayne over a year ago about marriage, in which he said that he and his wife hadn’t fought in over 20 years. I, of course, thought that that was the scariest thing I’d ever heard- without arguments, I thought, things are just getting swept under the rug! Fr. Wayne explained that instead of letting anything get to an argument, they both take a proactive role in being honest with one another.

At the same time that this was scary, however, it was also overwhelmingly appealing. Whenever Jesse and I argue, whenever I am cruel to him, I hurt inside, as though I am hurting MYSELF when I say the wrong thing. I hate having to be prevention oriented, because it means unpleasant confrontation when I’d rather be eating chocolate or watching a movie, but it sure beats the pain of separation and fighting.

So here’s a toast to our next year together. May it be as fruitful as the second and more. May we continue to serve the Lord and love others in all that we do.



Young Adult Gathering

Two nights ago we introduced Mike and Courtney to their first Dallas-St. Seraphim-young-adult-gathering.

Here are a few pictures (as always!):

Flat Iron Grill

This last Saturday was our first day of normal eating after the Dormition Fast of Mary. And it was almost as if our apartment complex knew it! Once a month they put on a community brunch. This Saturday, they hired the Flat Iron Grill to create “made to order” omelets for anyone that showed up in the clubhouse kitchen. They also had homemade pastries and fruit. What an awesome way to end the fast!!

Here are a few pictures of the brunch:

Hot sauce Texas style 🙂

Afterwards, we went on a little walk throughout our apartment complex.

Pangs of Best Friend-dom

I miss Tess very much. Tess just told me that she found herself on Google Maps the other day, staring for minutes at the online street view of our old apartment in La Mirada.

“That”, she said, “was when I realized there was something very wrong.”

Poor Tess. Come and visit me soon.

Speaking of Real Estate…..

One of the reasons I am so ecstatic that I found an apartment with such cheap rent is that Jesse and I are hoping to save around 30% of our earnings this next year in hopes of buying a house. Take a look at this one: the fact that you can buy something like this in the downtown area of an upscale section of a major city is astounding to me. Plus, it’s only 7 minutes from our church!!

Check out this one, right around the corner. It even has its own elevator!!

Thankful for Summer…

Today I was looking at Dallas real estate and ran across these pictures. I am puzzled as to how they are a selling point for a house. Beautiful, yes. Incentive to buy? Not unless you’re talking about Kodak reprints.

Seeing pictures like these are a good reminder of why I should enjoy summer while it lasts….sorry Courtney and Michael! You haven’t escaped the cold all together!


This weekend Jesse and I flew up to Chicago to help the Unruhs make their escape from Chicago and move down to Dallas to be with us. The minute we hopped off the plane, Courtney and MIchael had us traversing downtown and hanging out at the Chicago Zoo, which was not only awesome, but free! You actually got to see animals, which was unusual in my zoo experience. We headed into downtown, saw the Art Museum, ate some Thai food and crashed back at the Unruh’s apt.

The next day Jesse and Michael had the truck rented and back at the apt. by 9am. Hence started the crazy day of packing it full of all the Unruh’s earthly possessions. The afternoon was passing peacefully and productively, Courtney keeping everyone fed with Subway sandwiches, me doing my immense mountainload of Latin Homework, and Jesse and Michael doing all of the actual moving;)

And then, the bee–atch from Hell came. Courtney and I were sitting by the truck down in the alley where we had parked it (legally, mind you!) when out of no where, we saw a car speed around the corner, horn blaring. Inside was a lady (actually I am going to call her a “woman” because she doesn’t deserve the title of “lady”) who was so angry, she literally wanted heads to roll. We walked up to the car to see what was the matter, but it was hard to decipher any actual English words amidst all of the cussing and the still-blaring horn. Even worse, I could see the woman’s 7 year old granddaughter in the back seat, watching and hearing the whole thing.

Apparently, the problem was that there was ANOTHER Penske truck parked a little further down in the alley had been there for days. On a few of those days, it had blocked this woman’s garage. Currently, we were the ones parked in front of her garage, granting her the liberty to assume that BOTH trucks were ours and that we were incredibly inconsiderate jerks.

We tried to assure her that we would be out of her way in just moments (Michael and Jesse had just come out the door and were scurrying around trying to close the truck and move it) but she wouldn’t hear us- she just liked to hear herself scream and cuss. As we backed Michael out of the alley so that she could get her car into her garage, Courtney tried one last time to approach her vehicle and calm her down, but the woman instead started screaming the F word at her and pulled out her cell phone to call the cops.

Once the woman had backed into her garage, pulled her groceries and her granddaughter out of the car, she seemed to calm down enough for us to explain. It was then that I pulled her aside and tried to reason with her. After a few moments, she gave me a half-hearted apology which actually sounded more like justification for her actions. So I took the jump and asked her instead to apologize to Courtney.

Woman: “Who’s Courtney?”

Me: “Courtney? Oh, she’s the pregnant woman upstairs crying because of how poorly YOU treated her.”

The woman gasped and I think it was at this moment that she realized what a psycho she had become. I explained that Courtney already hated Chicago (and it’s people!) and that this certainly didn’t help. The woman begged that I go get her so that she could apologize.

And she did. Courtney was apprehensive, and rightfully so, but the apology was thorough. The woman kept saying, “Please, I just don’t want you thinking that all of us here in Chicago are “B-I-T-C-H-E-S”. She spelled this out because her granddaughter was still right there. I definitely wanted to yell, “She just heard you say every bad word in the English language! I doubt one more is going to hurt!” But I guess that’s logic- a concept that has sensitive ears and thus decided to stay far away from the situation.

But this story has an even happier ending- the Unruhs are now residing with us in Dallas! Starting in Sept. they will have their own apartment in the same complex as both Micah and Jen Snell (Torrey grads) and us, and Courtney will never have to deal with crabby, parking-lot-less Chicago again:)

Here are a few of our best pictures from the trip. You can see the rest here.


Only one week left to go of So You Think You Can Dance, so I promise I won’t be posting videos after then.

But I’m sorry. You just have to watch this. Completely amazing. So beautiful. Did anyone else notice that the first judge was so moved by the performance that his hands were shaking?

Basically, if you don’t like this dance there’s something wrong with your soul:) Both of these two made it into the finale for next week, so if you like them, you should watch it!