Bird on a Bare Branch

Attempting to fling a frail song in my little corner of the world

She Going to Kiss With Boy April 21, 2012

Filed under: Marriage,Teaching — Jen @ 7:48 pm

I thought my kids knew I was getting married.  Apparently they didn’t all understand.  Or they forgot.

The other day as I was bringing my kids back to our classroom from Art, another teacher asked me in the hallway when I’m getting married.  The kids at the end of the line perked up and started twittering, “She getting married?”

The five kids who came to the table for small group wanted to verify:  “You going to marry?”  Someone asked, “Why you want to marry?”  I said, “Why do I want to get married?  Well, why do people get married?”  The only girl in the group said, “To have baby.  You want baby?”  Umm…I said, “Well, one day I’d like to have a baby.”  That seemed to satisfy her, and she told me her mom wants to have a baby.

Then one of the boys said, “I feel so sad you going to marry.”  I asked him why he felt so sad, but he told me he didn’t know.

Two other boys were chattering in their language and giggling.  I said, “English please.”  One of them looked at me sheepishly and said, “I tell him, “When Ms. Hubers get married, she going to kiss with boy.””

And with that we moved on to some math.


Photographs Not Taken April 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jen @ 10:55 pm

I just finished reading a book called Photographs Not Taken, a compilation of essays by photographers about shots they missed or chose not to take for various reasons.  As I’m getting ready to leave Houston in less than two months, I find myself seeing the city through an imaginary camera lens – snapping shots of scenes I want to carry with me to Detroit and Kenya and beyond.  And often I’m looking through an actual camera lens, especially when I’m with friends.  There have been lots of celebrations lately – my engagement, others’ birthdays and baby showers.  I want to capture these last moments with people I love, with people I’ve been developing relationships with over the course of the past two or six or nine years.


This weekend was one such weekend that was full of friends.  I had my camera with me the whole time but somehow only managed to take it out on Friday night at Kelly’s 30th birthday dinner at the hibachi grill.  I’ve got the images to prove the laughter and the flames and the sparkler on the “special moment package” and the sake bombs.  The rest of the weekend was captured in my mind:


-Edna looking gorgeous in her long blue dress, basketball belly sticking out.  A year ago I was at her wedding.  Now they’re welcoming their first baby.  It was only two years ago that Edna and I had conversations about the guys we were interested in in California and Michigan and our anticipation of visits with them.  It was two years ago that we woke up early, early on Saturday mornings to drive before the sun rose to destinations outside of the city to ride our bikes in training for the MS150.  That’s how we met and got to know each other.  We laughed months later when we saw each other for the first time in non-bike gear, and I thought, “Edna looks different with her hair down,” and she said, “You wear glasses?”  We haven’t ridden together since that MS150 since she was planning a wedding last year, and I’m planning a wedding this year, and she’s pregnant.  But we continue to catch up every couple months for a meal (or a baby shower as it were!).


– Connecting with Lija and Lindsay and Dena at the shower.  I’ve known Lija since my early days in Houston, before she and her husband started dating.  She was at the shower with Baby #2.  Talking to Lindsay, I remembered how much I enjoy her and our connections over Africa.  And it’s been too long since I’ve seen Dena.  She’s one of my Houston friends that I don’t really know how I know…maybe through her sister who goes to my church…maybe through Lija and Edna…maybe she visited my small group one time?  I loved catching up and laughing with these girls.


– I snapped a picture in my mind of eight of us bouncing around a bouncy castle at Kelly’s 30th birthday party (not to be confused with her birthday dinner the night before).  We bounced then sat and talked then bounced some more and threw a ball around then sat and talked some more.  I felt like I was back in middle school – but the fun parts, not the awkward parts because we’re all adults now and confident in who we are.  So this time was just playtime – eight people, some of us long-time friends, some of us meeting for the first time last night.


– I went to the 1pm service at my church today and sat at the end of a row.  There was a couple sitting several chairs away from me, but I never know anyone at the services, so I didn’t look.  When it was time to greet one another, I looked over and realized it was my good friend Julie and her husband.  They’ve never been to my church but decided to visit today.  Julie and I haven’t seen each other in awhile but had just texted earlier today to make plans for dinner this week.  Julie is one of my first friends from Houston, and we’ve connected over the years on so many things:  same age, both interested in foreign missions, both in education, both overseas at the same time and struggling with singleness versus missions.  She got married a year ago to a wonderful man, and her wedding was the most beautiful I’ve ever been to.


– While I was talking to Julie and Marcos after the service I noticed a man I haven’t seen in years.  I met David at a mission training in Chicago about ten years ago.  We kept in touch via email for a little while but lost touch many years ago.  I knew he had been in Lake Jackson, about an hour south of Houston, but have not seen him since I’ve been here.  There he was at my church with his wife and child.  They’ve been making the commute from Lake Jackson to my church for awhile, but we’ve never crossed paths with all the services we have.  Until today.


A month ago, a weekend like this would have made me sad and anxious about moving to Detroit:  I don’t want to say good-bye!  This weekend I just felt grateful for the relationships I have, grateful for the memories my friends and I have created, grateful that I know I’ll stay connected to many of these people.  I still don’t want to say good-bye, but I’m ready for the next stage.  I’m still filling up my Houston photo albums – the tangible ones and the ones I get to flip through in my mind.  I am so thankful that I get to take those pictures.




The Sparkles and The Glow February 26, 2012

Filed under: Pictures — Jen @ 8:53 pm

The day we got engaged, Todd and I had some time after our massage appointment to wander through Ferndale before dinner.  We stopped in a cute boutique selling mostly locally-made handicrafts.  I admired the jewelry, and we bought a baby card for some friends.  As I was checking out, the girl behind the counter said, “That’s a cool ring.”  Of course I had been admiring my diamonds all day, so I looked up about to say, “Thanks!  I just got engaged this morning!”  But I realized she was looking at my right hand, admiring my silver ring from Niger.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very cool ring, but I had new bling on my left hand!

Surely everyone could see that I had just gotten engaged!  Surely Todd and I were glowing with our new commitment!  My stackable engagement rings were so sparkly and so gorgeous, surely everyone could see that they had just been placed on my finger!  At the very least, surely someone noticed how often Todd or I looked at my hand then looked at each other with silly grins on our faces.

But the celebration was just ours and our family and friends.  What a weird, surreal, amazing day.  The day a girl gets engaged and the day she gets married are probably the most anticipated and played out in her mind.  Certainly I had hoped that one day a man would propose to me, but then I entered my late-20s and then early-30s and started convincing myself that it would never happen.  I saw other girls as glowing brides but never pictured myself as one.  My role was to get excited about others’ weddings, to carefully shop for lingerie and kitchen showers, and thoughtfully write cards of blessing.  And I did it with great joy because I love to see my friends get married.

Now I’m the glowing bride?  That blue-skied, bright, sunshiney Thursday in Detroit, I did feel like I was glowing.  A man I love more deeply than I thought I could love someone, who knows me so well that he knew just when and where and how to propose to me, wants to love me forever!  With sparkles on my fingers that are so “us”, we spent the rest of the day doing ToddandJen things:  taking pictures around Detroit, eating lunch at the restaurant where we ate the night we first met two and a half years ago, getting massages, going for a walk, celebrating with his family at his parents’ house, and finally going five-pin bowling in Canada.

I stare at my rings (a lot) and wonder (occasionally) how other people see them.  They’re just simple, pretty little rings – maybe not as cool to an outsider as the African one – but I stare because they represent so much.  There’s so much story behind them and so much story ahead of them.  Even though the initial euphoria of that Thursday in Detroit is wearing off, I still catch myself with a silly grin when I look at my hand.  Oh my gosh, I’m getting married!


Sponges January 28, 2012

Filed under: Teaching — Jen @ 4:41 am

I am so proud of my kids!  They are so eager to learn, and I love teaching them.  I’ve only been with them for four weeks, but I’ve already seen growth in that short amount of time.  Even this week, there has been evidence of learning…little nuggets that make me so happy:

– Several students in both groups (3rd/4th grade in the morning and 1st/2nd grade in the afternoon) who are very beginners with English took risks this week by raising their hands to answer questions in whole group.

– We’ve been working on subtraction this week and I overheard one of my boys, who struggles with school, talking to himself: “Okay, I need to count backward…11 minus 4…put 11 in my head…11.  10, 9, 8, 7.”

– M.O., who typically sits for a solid two hours doing absolutely no work – truly, I’ve never met a child like this – discovered he could do a subtraction assignment the other day.  He’d cross the little pictures out then count what was left and yell, “Teacher, 5!  Right?  5!”  I’d give him a thumbs up then he’d repeat the process for the next one, and so he yelled out and I thumbed-up all the way through the assignment.

– I always start my small groups out with a warm-up of counting around the table.  Yesterday, just as one group sat down, I was interrupted by another group working on a math game on the floor.  I said, “Just a minute,” to the group at the table and went to address the issue on the floor.  When I came back, the group had already started counting around the table.

– I often say “good job” to my kids, and I’ve been overhearing them saying it to each other when they notice one another doing something well.

– Everyday I have a different door holder for the day.  Usually a handful of kids will say “thank you” to him or her as they walk through.  The other day I pointed out how nice it was that someone had said thank you to the door holder.  Since then every child says thank you to the door holder.

– This week I introduced journals to my homeroom (3rd/4th).  They spent a couple days writing about their families then we had a circle sharing time this afternoon for a few kids to read what they had written.  I allowed other kids to ask questions.  One girl had written about her brother giving her $100 for Christmas.  A boy asked, “If your brother give you $100, how many money he have left?”  We’ve been working on subtraction in math and using the vocabulary “how many” and “are left”.  I loved that this boy made the connection and was using it in a real-life situation.

I continue to be so grateful for this job and these kids.  After last year, I didn’t think I could find joy in teaching, but these moments truly bring me joy.


Children Playing January 21, 2012

Filed under: Culture,Teaching — Jen @ 7:59 pm

One of my responsibilities as a teacher is taking my partner teacher’s class and mine outside for recess.  Everywhere I’ve taught, it’s the duty I prefer since it means I get 20 minutes of fresh air and daylight in my otherwise completely enclosed day.  But this year brings me extra joy as I watch my 46 Burmese and Iraqi refugee kids play.


Because these kids actually know how to play.


In my previous five years of recess duties, there would be the handful of kids who ran around with a select group of friends playing tag or racing or jumping rope or playing soccer (usually the Hispanic kids).  Many of the kids would complain about having to walk or run.  Many would hover around me unsure of what to do.  Lots of kids would fight.  Lots of tattling would occur.  Kids would sit by themselves or walk by themselves.  If a kid scraped his knee, he’d be afraid to play again.  Empty fields were the worst recess venues.  Kids would stare at me blankly or ask what they could do.  I’d yell, “Go play!”  They would wander aimlessly across the field.  On those empty field days, I’d organize games of Mother May I, Red Light/Green Light, and What’s the Time Mr. Fox? hoping that they’d take initiative to organize themselves on the days I didn’t organize them.  They never did.


My previous classes always had obese children in them.  (In my class of fourth graders last year, half were obese.)  They could talk endlessly of the video games they were mastering at home, and the horror movies they watched with their older brothers and sisters and parents.  One year, on a Friday, I told a group of first graders that they had homework for the weekend.  I said, “You need to get outside this weekend.  Go to the park.  Go for a walk.  Play tag.  Ride your bike.”  One girl said, “Can you write that down for me so I don’t forget?”



Until now I thought play was a forgotten art among children.  Then I started teaching refugee kids and took them outside for recess.  No one sits.  No one fights.  Every child runs.  Every single one of them.  They play hard.  The big kids play with the little kids, and the girls play with the boys, and the girls play with the girls without being catty.  The groups are big and fluid, and everyone is included.  The Iraqis yell Arabic to each other.  The Burmese yell in their various dialects.  And across the cultural divides, they holler at each other in their limited English.  There’s always the group playing some kind of tag.  Then there’s the group doing gymnastics.  Some of the big boys can do front flips and back flips.  The little kids practice their headstands and are learning cartwheels.  Sometimes they race.  Sometimes one of the Iraqi boys brings an American football, and they organize a game.  The girls like to swing and slide and build things in the sand.  Some of the little girls pick clovers and dandelions and bring them to me.


I love watching them play!  But it makes me sad too because one day they will be mainstreamed into a regular classroom and start learning how to be “American.”.  I fear they will stop playing.  I fear that as they assimilate into this culture that they’ll stop going outside and play more video games and watch more movies.  They’ll stop including everyone and start excluding.  The girls will start being mean, and the boys will be too cool and tough to do their gymnastics or let the girls play with them.  But maybe they will hold onto play.  Maybe they’ll realize it’s more fun.  Maybe their peers will learn from them.


In the evenings when I leave school, there are always groups of Asian adults utilizing the school fields for games of soccer.  Older men walk the dirt path that weaves around the field and playgrounds.  Last night when I left, in addition to the athletes, there was a small group of Asian teenagers in skinny jeans and spiked hair smoking cigarettes in the parking lot.  My kids will have choices to make in their new culture.  They can go either way.  I pray they continue to play.


And Now For the Video to Further Illustrate… January 7, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jen @ 6:19 pm

The kid’s voice is annoying, but his points are fantastic.



Some More Thoughts Along the Same Line… January 4, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jen @ 2:26 am

I promise I have not been looking for these links.  I’ve been stumbling upon them.  I’m glad that people are finally starting to publicly raise these concerns.  Let’s start talking about this in our churches.  What can we do so that it really is a win-win situation?

Click HERE for more thoughts on short-term missions.