The Zoning Elf

When my oldest daughter was around seven or eight she was given a list of spelling words each week at school. She had to learn how to spell them and then write each word in a sentence, to demonstrate her understanding. One of the words was "zoning". 

Okay, now I need to pause in order to consider this word choice. Zoning? Isn't that an odd word to introduce to a tiny kid? They're not going to need to use "zoning" for at least ten or fifteen years, maybe even longer. "Zoning" should be way down the list somewhere around the word "frenetic" or "nauseant". 

Anyway, I was looking at the sentences my daughter had written to go with each word, and noticed that there was a red X next to the last one. Written in wonderfully cute, little kid handwriting, it said, "I see the zoning elf." Isn't that the funniest sentence? I loved it so much! It demonstrated two things very clearly. First, my daughter did not know what zoning meant (hence the red X). Second, she was very imaginative and had cleverly attempted to use her imagination to cover up the fact that she didn't understand the word. 

To this day, whenever I hear the word "zoning", which is to say, not very often, I immediately think, "I see the zoning elf",  and I imagine a tiny elf dressed all in green. For that reason, I'm thankful "zoning" was on the spelling list. 


Being Seen

In elementary school I dreaded being called up to the front of the class for any reason. I sat in the back and when the teacher started calling kids names to come up and claim their graded assignments, I would immediately feel anxious. I would picture myself tripping and everyone looking at me. I was so scared of that. I hated the feeling of being seen.

So, you can imagine I was not pleased to be chosen out of an enormous crowd to assist some clowns in the circus one day on a field trip. Can you even believe that?! I wasn't raising my hand or anything. In fact, I was ducking while most kids were up out of their seats waving their hands, desperate to be chosen.  I couldn't believe it myself when I heard the man with the microphone say, "The little girl in the back—with the braids and the red shirt and overalls—come on up and help us out!" I was like, "What?? Me?" And I wouldn't have gone up except that my teacher insisted that I go. And though this isn't a very important detail, I still want to tell you that the overalls I was wearing were white with tiny fruit all over them. I loved them but unfortunately after this particular day, I loved them significantly less as they now reminded me of clowns and audiences, and I wasn’t a fan of either. 

It wasn't fun helping the clowns that day. I remember feeling confused and not understanding exactly what they wanted me to do. But I did get to ride in a clown car, so that was something…

Now that I'm grown up, from time to time I'm invited to speak to a group of people about art or writing or creativity and i still feel scared being in front of all those people. But this is how I do it: I intentionally remember that God is all around me and so I imagine myself hidden in Him… And I wear very colorful, patterned clothing to distract people from noticing that I'm sweating a lot. Two very different but useful strategies. For real—that's what I do. 


Ugly Bathing Suits

My favorite clothes are ones that look a bit like costumes. I especially love clothes that remind me of Mary Poppins, or the 1940's, or a gypsy—the kind from old movies who wear big hoop earrings and scarves and swooshy skirts. And although all of that is peculiar it's also pretty.  But forever I've had this problem with completely losing my taste when shopping for bathing suits. 

I remember in high school when my older brother (one of my favorite people ever) confronted me about this. He said something like, "Amy, when you buy a bathing suit this year, get something cool. Think— no beads, no fringe, no bows, and above all, no ruffly skirts. They're terrible." Thinking back on the bad bathing suit choices I'd made in the past, I took his advice really seriously. Not only was my brother helpful about what not to buy, he went on to tell me what a cool bathing suit looks like. They’re usually black and kind of athletic. They do not have ruffles. So I went bathing suit shopping for exactly that. I was determined. But then I saw them—racks and racks of brightly colored bathing suits. Ruffles, bows, beads, fringe…

Why I repeatedly buy tasteless bathing suits is a mystery to me. As I sit here considering it, I can't comprehend what strange powers are at work when I go bathing suit shopping. Or is it some kind of unnamed syndrome? Do others suffer from it too?

That day back in high school when I went looking for a cool, black, athletic bathing suit, I came back with a brilliantly colorful one covered in tropical fish, psychadelic stripes, a coral reef, and yes—ruffles. Layers and layers of ruffles at the top. But no skirt, so that was a small victory.

Last year I bought my bathing suit online. At the time I thought maybe it was not ugly, but now I'm certain it is.