Sunday, February 28, 2010

photographic week in review

The last week has been like feast or famine with activities and deadlines.

A wonderful Sunday afternoon with parishioners at the cathedral for music, and dinner afterward; shopping for dog food and replenishing the bin of biscuits (these are scraps); filling the car with a month+ of recycling for a trek to the recycling center in the next county (they do glass and more plastic); recognizing the prominence of photography in my life; I believe the coffee needs no further comment; my "grab and go" key chain, attached to a pouch with driver's license and debit card (this photo was prompted by a question on Country Girl's blog); and the afternoon sun lighting up a tree in our front yard, a reflection of some leisure that found its way into the end of my otherwise crazed week.

A good week, all in all, with a nice mix of business and pleasure. More weeks should be like this!

Saturday, February 27, 2010


By way of Chronicles of a Country Girl I felt challenged to think of ten new discoveries in my life. It took some concentrated thinking but here they be.

1) Boar’s Head Cajun Roast Beef. One of the things I love about Publix is that they encourage you to try a slice of whatever it is you're ordering. Or, if they are featuring a new product they invite you to try it. We have fallen in love with more foods this way, the most recent of which is the cajun roast beef. I'm not a huge spice fan, but this is just right spicy and flavorful. And pssst! Ken doesn't even know we have it yet!

2) I have a great mind (as in: great minds think alike). Some of Pampered Chef’s new products (within the last year) were my idea. No, really! I suggested two-cup prep bowls, an ice bucket, and a double-boiler. Ta-da! All three will be available starting Monday. The two-cup prep bowls have become a best-seller (thank you very much), the ice bucket ice usable for HOURS before much water begins to pool at the bottom, and the double-boiler, well, I don't even have mine yet but I can assure you it is fabulous!

3) Introverts in the Church. This book, bought on a whim at Cokesbury because it was on sale, has been mind-opening and practically life-changing. I need to get back to reading it so that I can finish it and reflect on all that is has to offer, but in short it has removed a lifelong thorn from my side. How's THAT for discovery!

4) When I apply myself, I’m a pretty darn good teacher. When I say apply this isn't to suggest that I don't always apply myself, but my mind moves at lightning speed, and that sometimes translates as being impatient with the details of preparation. I got into the details of our Lenten program this year, and it shows. It's a hit.

5) the proportionately large number of blogs I visit/enjoy that include, or have as their focus, photography. I need to work on developing this craft. I can take some good pictures, but I'd love to take great pictures.

6) Papa John’s Pepperoni Rolls. This is truly a new discovery, as in last night. It's not that they're the best things in the world--they have too little pepperoni and cheese in relation to the dough. But they're a nice little snack. The best part? Easy to make at home. Kind of like making rugelach from leftover pie crust dough, these can be done with dough, cheese and pepperoni. Dipper's choice for dunking. I'm also thinking that these are pretty new because I can't find a picture of them on the web. And alas, I can't photograph ours because they're, well, gone!

7) I need to get out more. This isn’t a new discovery as much as a renewed discovery. Does that count? When I see the work of other Project 365ers I am reminded that I am not out in the world enough. And when I am out, and I remember my camera, I forget to take pictures. This needs to change. This picture is obviously not one of those times that I forgot my camera. (Cheekwood Botanical Gardens in Nashville--one of my favorite places for photographs).

8) Writing a postcard to say hello doesn’t take much time out of your day and can make a world of difference in someone else’s.
9) Quick Fix Meals on Food Network. And OMG, the pretzel sticks! I’m thinking church project for sale at the fall Oktoberfest. Best part? The kids will want to help! We're going to be making pretzels (the loopy kind) during Lent, so we'll see if doing this all from scratch will be feasible. Stay tuned, like in several months.
10) Banana Muffins. For some reason I have an aversion to banana bread. Probably because it is everywhere. So when I had bananas about to turn to mush I decided to make muffins instead. Ah, what a treat! The ingredients are a bit different, so you get a different flavor, but there's also something satisfying about holding a muffin in hand, splitting it open when it's hot and watching butter melt. Bliss.

Play along if you'd like! This has actually been kinda fun.

Friday, February 26, 2010

friday five: winter olympics

Joannie Rochette, who ought to receive the gold medal in courage and bravery in the face of heartbreak

At RevGals Songbird writes: It's been two weeks of snow, or not enough snow, of heartbreak before the action even began, of snowboards and skis and skates, of joy and sorrow. At our house, we've stayed up too late, and we don't even watch sports any other time!  

I love the Olympics, summer and winter! I watch all of it, even wrestling and weight-lifting in the summer. It's happy stuff, even with the sad stuff and the disappointments. And there's just something about it that I find riveting.

1) Which of the Winter Olympic sports is your favorite to watch?
All of them. Like your family, I don't watch this stuff at other times.  Maybe it's the spirit of the games, the stories of the people or the unpredictability of prophesied outcomes, but I just have to watch it. All of it.  Even curling.

2) Some of the uniforms have attracted attention this year, such as the US Snowboarders' pseudo-flannel shirts and the Norwegian Curling team's -- ahem -- pants.  Who do you think had the best-looking uniforms?
There are so many uniforms of so much variety that I haven't latched onto a favorite. I do wonder about some of the US uniforms that make me think of pajamas (head to toe blue with the outline of stars in white all over them).

3) And Curling. Really? What's up with that?
Curling reminds me of croquet. Sort of. Watching the players is the most fascinating part of this sport, however. And unlike most of the others I think this game is really about strategy.

4) Define Nordic Combined. Don't look it up. Take a guess if you must. 
(There will be a prize for the best answer, but be aware, this is a judged sport.)
The sport wherein our heroes don skis to demonstrate proficiency in extreme: airborne nose-to-where-the-ski-tips-would-ordinarily-be where no other physical effort seems apparent, landing as far from the takeoff point as possible; and ground level, squeeze every ounce of energy from your body to go up hills, down hills and on the flat with legs and arms moving mercilessly to propel oneself forward and cross the finish line first before dropping over, seemingly dead.

 5) If you could be a Winter Olympics Champion just by wishing for it, which sport would you choose for winning your Gold Medal?

This is a toughie, but I'm going to go with speed skating, just to show those sneaky South Koreans that it pays to skate fairly. And my legs would look a whole lot better than they do now.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

thanks to mom...

In this morning's email was a collection of photos of food that had been, shall we say, embellished. There are some very funny and creative efforts, but of course I had to share the sheep with you.

Had a really fun bible study yesterday--a restart of the program since we have had several weeks off due to weather, my retreat, and a pastoral emergency. Good questions, several "aha!" moments, laughter, and the time passed before we knew it. Love those women. I call them affectionately "the BS girls."

We had a disappointing turnout last night but a very good experience of the Lenten program. We had a total of eight people, plus me. Two families were present, one of them a member from long ago who has recently returned, along with his wife and son. There was fruitful discussion and genuine interest and engagement. The gift of a small group!

I am HOPING that today will be free and clear of work. I will need to make a couple of pastoral phone calls, but otherwise I believe it can be a jammie day! I won't spend the day in my jams, of course, but I am anticipating that kind of leisure.

If you feel like a challenge, see what you can do with some fruits or vegetables in your fridge!
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

one decision down...

I had a very productive day yesterday. My first priority was to give shape to the first evening of our Lenten program, which begins tonight. In search of intergenerational content I found some material online from Loyola Press that had lots of ideas. Following on the heels of Ash Wednesday's gospel and sermon, the focus is on the three key disciplines of Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The challenge: the material I found is for a one-time event. I need to make it work for five. There will lots of good stuff tonight, and I'm trying to use content as a launching place for the season. I think it will work out just fine.

I had fun pulling things together: quotes for use in prayer, pictures to illustrate aspects of fasting/sacrifice, and a bunch of other things here and there. We will have prayer partners throughout the season so that those who are singles, or who come without spouses, can work and share with, and feel connected to others through this process. I have come to understand Lent as a transformational time, and I'm hoping that this program will encourage the kind of participation and individual investment that will lead to that.

By day's end I was ready for a break from Lenten details. Responding to yesterday's post my friend Dana emailed me the name and contact information for a friend of hers who is an event planner. We made contact just after dinner last night, so while Ken and I watched the Olympics I brought my laptop into the living room and did some online research for rehearsal dinner ideas, catalyzed by the event planner's ideas and suggestions. I came away with a bunch of ideas for some details, but most importantly I settled on a color scheme, which you see above. The blue/periwinkle will be the table topper colors, and the accents will be lemon and lime. That is, assuming that the blue color is closer to blue than to purple, in which case I think I'll accent with shades of pink and purple. I think the lemon and lime will work either way, however. I'll check on that this morning when I'm at the church.

Now that a color scheme is in hand I can move on to invitations, which I think I will make. I've got some great papers in these colors, and a couple of ideas for designs. And, it just so happens that the yellow and green colors will coordinate just fine with John Deere accents. Better yet, an email from JoAnn's this morning announced that JD fabrics and items are on sale. How's that for synergism?

At the moment, however, I've got three dogs wanting attention for different things, so I am off the computer and on to tending canines.

Wishing you a colorful day!
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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

calling all event planners!


As Trisha and Junior's wedding inches closer so does the rehearsal dinner. I've been exploring web sites looking for ideas: for themes, centerpieces, invitations, games, colors, and so on. Time is beginning to get short, and I haven't a clue which direction to take. I'm usually good at this. But then again, I'm not usually planning a party like this.

I know I don't need to stick with wedding colors, but for the record: the bridesmaid dresses are marine blue (a bit brighter and a tad greener than royal blue), and the bouquets will be a splash of spring colors--everything from yellow to pink to lime green...

Trisha's favorite color is red (she's a major Georgia Bulldogs fan) and Junior's color is camo. These don't exactly work as a blend. Pink is not an option.

We're borrowing tablecloths from the church, with topper choices of red, deep yellow/gold, lime green, dark purple and cornflower blue (I think--maybe periwinkle).

The wedding itself is influenced by the theme of simple elegance.

Money is not abundant.

The venue is a square room with windows on two+ sides, on an elevation overlooking the Savannah River rapids. Trees obstruct some of the view. Dinner is buffet, and it's not barbecue or fried chicken.

I'm thinking we might play some version of jeopardy, but I'm not sure I can come up with the right categories.

In short, I'm stuck, and I need all the creative juices of my readers for input and ideas. Let 'em rip, people, I'm all ears!

Monday, February 22, 2010

basking in the glow

Some days simply turn out to be special. Yesterday was one.

We had a good morning at church. A long-absent member has returned for the last three Sundays, and this day he and his eight-year old son were among the last to leave following coffee hour. A visiting couple were also among the last to leave, and before they departed she had signed up to bring part of one of our Lenten meals. No fewer than three people told me that the sermon resonated with them. In a small church, that is high praise!

It was a beautiful day, and after we got home from church I had a chance to tackle some minutiae and take Juliet for a walk before we launched into the next part of our agenda.

At 2:30 we returned to the church to meet some others to carpool downtown to the cathedral. There, we enjoyed a wonderful organ concert by the assistant organist at Sewanee (the university, not the seminary), followed by an extraordinarily beautiful evensong. Before any of the musical events got underway I snapped a few interior shots with my camera, the above Tiffany windows being one of them. It is such a glorious space.

After evensong our group went to a favorite Nashville restaurant, Amerigo's, where we enjoyed lively conversation and good food. (I really wanted the cheese fritters as an appetizer but restrained myself. I would also have loved the tomato basil soup but it would have been too filling. I might try to make some of that myself this week.) I also got to write on the paper-covered tablecloth not once, but twice, the second time rendering my version of what a new entrance to the church building might look like. The present eight by eight narthex just doesn't suit.

It was a really good day, "one for the books" in many ways, and serving as inspiration to accomplish a lot today. Who says Lent has to be somber?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

date day

What began as a day of "must do's" ended up turning into a date day. I had an appointment at 9:30, after which a simple question turned into a lengthy and much needed conversation with his nibs. From there, the day scrambled, and became a series of episodes that were shared: lunch, a stop at the accountant's, Office Max, The Bread Store (as we call the place to pick up day-old or overproduced products made by Sara Lee), and finally, Tractor Supply for dog food.

It was at Tractor Supply that a grocery cart filled with books on clearance caught my eye. Having recently tapped back into my love for rubber stamps while making valentines, these three stamp books called my name and insisted that they come home with me. Well, at $3.99 apiece (their collective value is $67) I could hardly argue, so home they came. I would love to spend the day playing with stamps according to some of the techniques in these books, and play I may later this afternoon, although days around here never quite go according to desire or plan.

The date day also included producing some postcards to go into the mail to announce our Lenten program at church: a joint project between husband and wife (the postcards, not the program), then another trip out to the post office, home to make fish tacos, and then some leisurely time just to be together before resuming our daily quoto of watching Olympics.

All in all a wonderful, spontaneous-of-sorts day to begin the weekend. Wishing you a wonderful weekend as well.

Friday, February 19, 2010

when was the last time?

McKinlee stops to smell the roses
I'm departing from my usual friday five with RevGals today. Ordinarily the questions posed there take me out of where I spend my day to day. This week's ff, however, is where I've been all week! So today I'm borrowing questions from another blog to which I was recently introduced, Chronicles of a Country Girl. (Jayne, you will love the bird pictures!) Her questions from a few days ago:

When was the last time someone gave you flowers?
That would have been a tough one if Valentine's Day hadn't just occurred! Ken used to surprise me from time to time with flowers, but difficult times have robbed him of indulging in that gesture. I occasionally receive flowers from others, out of the blue, but it's been awhile since that has happened.

What do you like in a cup of coffee or tea?
Ah, this one is a no-brainer: In my coffee I've got to have half-and-half. And something with which to sweeten. Presently I use Splenda.

What do you like on a baked potato?
Cool question! Anything that has liquid to it so the potato can soak up the flavor: chili, salsa (I have a great recipe for a salsa with black beans and corn that is fab!); curry... you get the idea.

What is something you really need to accomplish this weekend?
Self-care. I haven't had a day off from work-related matters in over a week, and I'm a part-timer! Even this weekend I have a meeting and a training session on Saturday, sermon prep, and then work on Sunday, of course. I would sneak off to the library to read, but while the Olympics are on I love to watch them. I'll probably be in front of the TV a good bit.

What are you most likely to be doing when you’re up in the late, late hours of the night?
I haven't been a night owl in a very long time, and if I'm up late these days it's because of heartburn! To pass the time I generally work on crossword puzzles. I totally lose track of time while doing them and before I know it, I feel better and I'm ready to head back to bed. On other occasions if I'm late it's to tend to a dog.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

ashes, ashes, we all fall down

There are a number of days in the church year that I find particularly meaningful and to which I look forward. Today is one of them. I have children to thank for that. The first time that I marked the sign of the cross with ashes on the forehead of a child and recited the words, "remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" was a profound and moving moment. Thoughts of mortality and the fragility of life were the first to emerge, but they yielded in short order to deeper levels of connection to the earth, creation, and the divine.

Today, for me, is about grounding. It is a reminder of the opportunity to be grounded in God, to draw strength from the holy source of life and commit myself to honoring my "roots" by living the best life that I can. It is a reminder, as well, that no matter how hard I try to do my best, respect others and honor all that comes from the hand of God, I fail. It is a reminder that even when I fail, I am loved and embraced by the fullness of what is holy and gracious.

Words in today's liturgy invite us to the observance of a holy Lent. I love that the Church offers an invitation to the experience of holiness intended to draw us deeply into the mystery that is about the renewal of humanity through forgiveness. I love that the community is encouraged to journey together into the darkness of who we are so that we can rejoice together in the light of what we receive from the heart of love. I love that all of that is woven together so beautifully on this day of being marked with the ashes of death as a reminder of the life we are given.

I love this day. It is my prayer that you find blessing in it. May you experience a holy Lent.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

if at first you don't succeed...

I believe I made mention last week that we were decorating cookies at church for Valentine's Day. Our plan was to package and deliver them to a local campground that has served as an oasis for homeless families, a rare place where parents and children could stay together. It turns out that most of those families are now gone, so we began to wonder if we should bother with the cookies. We decided that yes, we would. For one thing it was an opportunity for our women to do something together, and there were certainly others that could be cheered by an unexpected plate of cookies.

As noted several days ago I grew up in a baking household. Make valentine cookies? No problem! What I didn't remember is that in days of old The Mothers (that's what we called them) made the cookies and we, The Fortunate Children, decorated.

There's a reason I gave away most of my cookie cutters a few years ago. Rolling out dough and cutting shapes is a thankless and lengthy process. Of course I rarely do this so I am not practiced and astute about the timing of all things cookie cutter related, but with dough whose consistency fluctuates because of its butter content (cold butter, hard dough; warm butter, too-soft dough), timing is everything. Ordinarily I'm a patient person who lives in the moment of such a process. This was not the case the other day when I had a deadline to meet.

Fast forward to the decorating party at church. I arrived with my heart-shaped cookies (don't they look fab?), our stand mixer and the ingredients to make the much discussed royal icing for decorating. Yes, that should have been prepared at home beforehand, but read above about deadlines. The cookies themselves were barely out of the oven! Anyway, I set up shop in the church kitchen and got busy. Egg whites were in the bowl ready to go. Oops, forgot the vanilla extract! Meh. Move on. I start up the mixer and watch the eggs begin to foam. Great excitement! I realize that the bowl is in the wrong position so I turn off the mixer and shift the bowl. Turn the mixer back on and it won't engage past speed one. Long story short: the motor is burning out. Great. No icing.

I'm the only one who brought heart-shaped cookies so I decide to leave those for further pursuit at a later time and join the decorating party in progress.

Fast forward again. The decorating party was on Friday. Once home from that event my day was full with other tidbits to address. Saturday we had our vestry retreat. Sunday was, well, typical: church, nap, grogginess, Olympics. The cookies are still in the container and, discouraged that I have missed the event, I decide to put them in the freezer and deal with them later. Monday dawns: a new day! let's try to make the icing using the hand mixer and pack up the decorated cookies to send out on Tuesday!

At a certain critical point the recipe for the icing reads: "Beat at high speed until the icing forms stiff, shiny peaks. This should take 5 - 7 minutes." Thirty minutes later I still didn't have stiff, shiny peaks. The hand mixer lacks the power to puff this baby into peaks. Despair! The project is a bust! My life is ruined!

I take a time out and work on the Sunday Times Crossword Puzzle.

Later I return to the kitchen and play with the icing still sitting in the bowl. What the heck. Let's decorate with what we've got! And so I did.

Here are the my best results. Several were were total losers and won't be seen in public, but the majority were respectable enough for a total amateur to share.

Now the question is, will they hold up in the mail? At this point, frankly my dear, I don't give a damn. Just remember that it's the thought that counts. Next year? Brownies.

Monday, February 15, 2010


I try really hard to make good choices and decisions with the information and circumstances presented to me at any given time. Sometimes those decisions affect only me; sometimes they affect others in addition to me; sometimes they don't affect me at all, but are made on behalf of others.

Sometimes I mess up. It's little comfort knowing that my heart is in the right place when I make a bad call.

I have been fortunate along the way to learn to take responsibility for a mistake. The words, "I'm sorry, that was my mistake," are a whole lot easier to say than the weight of the error feels. Saying them matters. It matters to me that I be accountable for my choices. It matters to those who are affected. I believe, as well, that it matters to the mysterious balance and harmony of the cosmos.

Can you tell that I have messed up? I'm working through the feelings of that reality. It doesn't feel good, but that isn't what matters. I learn from this experience, this discomfort, this fallout, how to evaluate the variables the next time around. Of course those variables will be different the next time, as will the implications of whatever decision crosses my path.

That doesn't matter either, though. What matters is to to be open, to listen, to pay attention, consider outcomes and consequences and do the best I can.

Akin to the Nike commercial currently playing during the Olympics--everybody gets knocked down. How quick are you gonna get up?

Friday, February 12, 2010

friday five: february feasts

At RevGals Jan invites us to consider special days this month."With Valentine's Day around the corner, it seems appropriate to write about February holidays."

1. When February comes along, how do you feel about the coming month?
I grew up in Connecticut, and February meant several things: a winter school vacation that we spent skiing; two family birthdays and a few birthdays of friends scattered through the month; the probability of snow! You might say that February was crowded with things to anticipate, so it's a month I rather enjoy.

2. What memories do you have about Valentine's Day? Are you doing anything to observe it this year?
My Dad's birthday is on Valentine's Day, so it was always festive when I was young (we even had a heart-shaped pan to bake his cake, and I still have those pans). One of my dogs was also born on that date, and another, a rescue, was given that date as an approximate time of birth. In a sense Valentine's Day has been about celebrating someone I loved more than about the whole romance thing.

On the romance note, I spent more years not in relationships than in one, so it wasn't about that for me. For many years I made Valentine cards for my parents, a few friends and the children in my life. I got out of the habit during the last few years but have brought that personal tradition back this year. We have no plans to anything special on Sunday except where red to church! If we had some discretionary funds we might have gone out to dinner, but instead we'll tuck in and watch the Olympics!

3. It is interesting that Monday's "Presidents Day" is not officially called that in every state. It is a U.S. federal holiday entitled "Washington's Birthday." Which is your favorite president and why?
It's easiest to measure the presidents who have served in my lifetime. I have been most excited about President Obama, in part because he advocates for the things that I think a president should. Many of those things follow gospel wisdom, so I think of him as a "gospel president." He's having a rough go of trying to implement the changes he desired, but no matter how many of them actually occur, he has given it a huge effort. No one can fault him for that, no matter their politics.

4. Will you be celebrating Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras? How?
We will celebrate Mardi Gras at church on Tuesday with a pot luck dinner, decorations, rocking music and games. This all started as a way for everyone to participate in the evening and not strand a few cooks in the kitchen flipping pancakes and missing out on the fun.

5. Any other ways to celebrate in February?
I don't think of Lent as something celebrated, in the usual sense of the word, but I love the Ash Wednesday liturgy and the shift in focus for the season. Not the somberness, but the journey toward the cross and Easter that we do as a community. We close our Mardi Gras event by burning the dried palms from the previous year, easing the transition from carnival to ashes.

Bonus: A Lenten book or website you recommend.
I use this web site for a lot of traditions tidbits and to help reinforce my own memory! It's great for all seasons of the church year. I'm going to take advantage of this question to recommend a book that has nothing to do with Lent! It is Enduring Grace: Living portraits of Seven Women Mystics. Wonderfully written, almost a page-turner!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

say what?

Funny the things we assume and take for granted. Tomorrow several women will gather at church to decorate cookies for a Valentine's Day delivery. On the phone with one of them the other day she said something about cookie-making materials being on sale at Walmart, and mentioned cookie mix and icing. 

"Icing?" I said to her. 

"Yes, icing." 

I considered for a moment. "What kind of icing?"

"You know, in a can. Betty Crocker." There was a pause at my end. "Why? Is there some other kind of icing I should get?"

"Well, royal icing, but you can't buy that, you make it." I replied. Again, silence. "That's what we always used to ice cookies when I was growing up," I finally offered. 

Pause. "I've never heard of royal icing."

Once again, my experience, my norms were different from someone else's. Neither of us were right or wrong, our experiences were just different. 

There was a lot of baking done in our home when I was growing up. Christmas was big, of course, but my mother made more batches of brownies (from scratch!) than any other mother on the block combined. I swear! Cakes, cookies, pies (with my Other Mother, Anna--she made the crust, Mom made the filling--a great model of teamwork for us kids), rugelech, cupcakes, toffee, and oh, did I mention brownies?

It's been a long time since I've decorated cookies, but today I'll dust off a recipe for royal icing so that I can do my share of decorating tomorrow. First, though, I guess I'd better make some cookies.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

for the love birds

Sometimes I'm just too much of a perfectionist--it's taking me forEVER to get my valentine cards done. Part of the deal is that I am not making a dozen of the same design, I am doing a few different designs--a first for this holiday! This one, for Junior and Trisha, goes into the mail today. It's not exactly what I wanted, but it will do. Thanks to snowy weather I am "winter bound" this morning and can work on finishing up the rest of the cards, most of which really need to go into the mail today. Pray for me, send me creative vibes, or in some other way that suits you please cheer me on. I can use the encouragement to get this done!
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a brief, visual PS

The introvert bench.

Thanks to Jan, a fella intro, for this!
I'll be back shortly.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

type matters

As noted in an earlier post I've been reading a book about introverts in the church. The first chapters of it launched several epiphanies, and I read on eagerly as I anticipated a fireworks version of aha's and revelations. Well, they came all right, but instead of them being about the church, the focus of the book shifted to the introvert. It talked about me. The insights were eye-opening, reassuring, and as I recognized myself more and more in the pages that I turned, the pain began to emerge.

I've known for more than twenty years that I am an introvert, and I thank the well-known Meyers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) for the first beams of light that opened some understanding in my life about the implications of what it means to be an introvert. But I had no idea of the depth of those implications, in spite of the fact that I lived them, felt them, and was shaped by them to such a deep and, yes, devastating, affect.

During the past week I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on what I have read (a typical thing for an introvert to do!). What I am learning is breaking open understandings about relationships with significant people in my life: disappointments some have felt in regard to me, laments that I have felt in regard to others and about myself, and the answers to mysteries have begun to emerge and take shape.

The pain that is spilling forth is an accumulation of hurt released by the recognition of something that is a part of me beyond my will or my choosing. It is simultaneously raw and cleansing. The good news is that it is being brought into the light. The healing of wounds can begin while at the same time I can begin to address how to embrace and integrate new knowledge into the person I am and will become.

Years ago, after I returned home from a semester in Scotland during my junior year in college, my brothers and I spent a week in Maine with my father and his girlfriend. One night we went out to dinner, and as were leaving the restaurant to head back to the house a discussion began to get tense. My brothers began to pick at and ridicule me for something I had expressed. I dropped into silence, and when one brother made an especially cutting remark Joan turned from the front seat to face them and said, "you have no idea how deeply she feels!" The car went silent. Had I not been driving I would have frozen in place. But this moment is etched in my memory because I felt seen, understood, and recognized in a way that I don't remember ever experiencing before that time.

These are tender days for me, but there is strength, now, in the understanding that is unfolding. There is so much more to learn and comprehend. There are things I need to learn to do to prevent hurts that, unintentionally, are inflicted on the people in my life. At this moment I can say to any of you that have felt disregarded or ignored by any silence or inaction from me, I am sorry.

I am learning to love myself differently through this awakening. Through that process, I will be able to love you better as well. Bear with me.

Monday, February 08, 2010

monday miscellany

One would think that after so many gray, cold, wet and raw winter days, the dawning of yet another one (not to mention that it's a Monday) would find me with my head under the covers and uninspired to to anything but tuck into a corner with a book. And McKinlee. Not so! For some particular reason I am feeling almost perky--yes, perky!--on this typical February excuse for a day!

Maybe it's because the Saints won a much-deserved Super Bowl victory.

Maybe it's because I've just seen the new Spring product line for Pampered Chef and am totally excited about them.

Maybe it's because my mind is actually focused on what I need to get done today!

Whatever the reason(s), I'm pepped, and I have a few odds and ends upon which I would like to remark. This being my blog, and therefore my forum, here goes (and please forgive the catty entry--every now and then I just have to let rip)!
  • Queen Latifah: you rock, baby!
  • Who doesn't love a picture of a star quarterback with his almost one-year old son in his arms and tears in his eyes?
  • Carrie Underwood, who advised you on your wardrobe last night? At first glance it looked like you were trying to channel Elvis. And then I saw the shoes. Girl, that outfit was trash! Ken thinks you were every man's fantasy. Seriously? I guess the equivalent of the myth that women have a "bad boy" thing is that men have a trashy woman thing. For the record, I'm not one of those women. The only thing bad boys do for me is inspire the advice that they find something redemptive to do with their lives.
  • I love Pampered Chef!  It's not just the fabulous products (and I don't say that because I sell them: I sell them because they are fabulous!). It's everything the company does for its customers and it's consultants. And I'm here to tell all you stoneware fans that you if you love 'em you need to buy them now. For one thing, all the unglazed pieces are 20% off this month. And for another, there will be a price increase on stoneware in March. BUY NOW. And buy from me! Buy things besides stoneware! Just click on the link in the sidebar and go from there. If you live locally (Nashville area) choose "ship to host."  If you don't live locally your order can be shipped directly to you. Thank you. And if you're vacillating about this please consider: maybe you don't need any stoneware (or other products), but someone you love and for whom you need a gift soon would be thrilled to receive some! Or, if you know someone who doesn't read this blog and loves stoneware or PC, let them know! And, well, we've got a rehearsal dinner to pay for and I really need the business. Just being honest here.  Did I say thank you? I really mean it. Thanks.
  • Yolande, thanks for hosting the impromptu party last night. It was tons of fun and you're a peach!
  • Prayers for the community of Middletown, CT, my home state. There was an explosion at a power plant there on Sunday morning and there are still people unaccounted for.
  • Prayers for this Utah family, too. Our daughter forwarded the link to this blog. It's a heartbreaking story but is likewise inspiring. I think the Mom is demonstrating tremendous courage.It's a bit of a long read if you wade through it all, plus the daily updates (to which she links), but I think the wading is worth it. She is a natural story-teller and you want to read it all.
  • I need to finish up my valentines so I can get them in the mail. The pressure is on!
  • I'm going to hold my tongue about this Tea Party thing that took place in my very own Nashville. It's fine to disagree with someone, but lies and innuendo don't serve any good purpose. Should I feel encouraged that in spite of the presence of a certain former natioanl candidate AND a former president there were only 600 people there? See, I was nice!
Well, duty calls, and there are calls that I need to make, among other things. Off I go, hitting the ground running and whistling a happy tune. I take after my dad in that way, he used to whistle a LOT!

Cheers, y'all. To quote my friend Ruth, I hope your Monday is better than you expect!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

project life - week 5

I am short on time this morning, so will offer my week's images as a single presentation. You've already seen some of them from my days on retreat. It is a pleasure for me to look at them from the distance wedged by life between then and now, and be reminded of the gift that time provided.

A favorite, not previously shared, is the raindrop clinging to the thin, wintery branch, one of many that I passed on an afternoon walk. Such a small thing to command my attention and focus.

Collectively these pictures are a fair summation of the week. does anyone else see a search for comfort? Okay, maybe the gong doesn't appear to fit, but in fact in a silent retreat it is used to summon the community. Our pattern of worship was one of the blessings of the week, so comfort is very much present to me in that image.

Others: a cup of tea on a cold day, and last night's chicken cacciatore. Why is it that every new recipe seems to take hours to prepare, and yet when repeated can be accomplished as one of a multitude of simultaneous tasks? This recipe came from a cookbook designed for healthy eating, and I am happy to report that it is not only delicious but full of fiber.

Today dawns cold and dreary, as most days in the last week have done. I am holding fast to warmth in my heart, however. There is deep gratitude that I managed to haul in when I cast the net of my faith into what I thought was a sea barren of God's presence. (Hint to non-lectionary readers: this is a reference to today's gospel.) That is one of the mysteries and joys of God's world: abundance when none was thought to exist.

Blessings to you this day. May you cast your net into riches unexpected. For some, that means a big biscuit day (wink, wink!).

Saturday, February 06, 2010

retreat snapshots

When you enter St. Mary's Center in Sewanee you are welcomed by a modest, warm reception area. Painted in a warm golden-peach color, the room is dominated by a comfortable seating arrangement positioned around a square coffee table in the center of the space. At the far end of the room are door-length glass windows that offer a peak of the Center's lawn that stretches out to a bluff overlook with a view of the valley below.

I am always drawn to the view, but on those occasions when I have more time to pass I find myself choosing a spot in one of those seats around the coffee table. The main attraction of that seating area is one of several "coffee table" books that live on the lower shelf of that table. At first drawn by the vibrant and inviting colors of the cover of a particular book, I have since returned to this selection because I love the stories, photographs and descriptions of prayer that fill its pages. It is Talking to God: Portrait of a World at Prayer, edited by John Gattuso.This book is on my wish list.

Though it relies heavily on narratives written by Christian and Western writers, the photographs and stories take the reader around the world and into the hearts of the prayer lives of other traditions and cultures. I value this particularly because it leads one to the inescapable conclusion that the world is a praying people. No matter the tradition, the god or God, or the manner by which one prays or raises one's heart to the divine, the human tendency is to seek the sacred in the world, and to express its longing for connection. The pages are full of power.

One of my favorite pictures in the book is this one. I love the gentle focused look on the boy's face as he prays, but even more I love the posture of his hands (mirrored in the hands of his classmates). Clearly a posture of prayer, the position of the hands suggest to me that they are open to allow themselves to be filled by what is holy, and that what they hold is tender, like a fledgling bird, and is to be treated as such. By contrast to the pressed hands common in our culture, these hands seem to know something that eludes the rest of us who put our hands together to pray. Something as simple as hands have opened my eyes to another way to see and experience God.

That's just one of the pleasures of St. Mary's. The grounds are quiet and the view iconic--the weather changeable! I don't know how someone can be here for any length of time and not be drawn out of their own world and concerns for long enough to feel transported to a holy realm. I have a rare experience as a guest here. I know some of the people who live in the valley below the bluff, so when I look out at the sweeping landscape it is not simply beautiful and anonymous, but personal and invitational. I am reminded of lives that toil, families that struggle and laugh and put their best foot forward to make a difference at home and in the world around them.

Our retreat was silent, a detail that had somehow escaped my notice until the bishop made reference to it during opening remarks following our first meal together. Well, all-righty then! Lucky for me I'm an introvert with a deep comfort zone for quiet and solitude. My only lament is that those days with my colleagues couldn't bear the fruit of building relationships. Still, we ate, breathed and prayed in community, and the pattern of worship shared anchored us to our common lives and love for God.
(click on photo for a closer view of the images)
I slept. A lot. And I read, reflected, wandered, and opened my heart to the questions posed to us in meditations. I listened. A lot. I cannot say that there is a singular thing that emerged for me from this time away, but that pieces appeared that bear signs of connecting to each other. Perhaps those connections won't form immediately, but as a mix that will reveal, in time, a life and ministry more focused and cohesive than the one I live at present (which is not to say there chaos reigns right now, it doesn't).

For all that the retreat was and wasn't, I came away from it feeling blessed and open. Whatever transformation is to take place, the path to that continues to unfold.

Friday, February 05, 2010

friday five: staving off gloom

At RevGals Sally writes: Candlemass is past, and Christmas is well and truly over, here in the UK February looks set to be its usual grey and cold self. Signs of spring are yet to emerge; if like me you long for them perhaps you need ways to get through these long dark days. So lets share a few tips for a cold and rainy/ snowy day....

1. Exercise, what do you do if you can't face getting out into the cold and damp?
Ha! The last month has been nothing but bitter cold and wet days. I had gotten into a routine of taking the oldest dog for a long walk, and the weather has put a huge and heavy wrench into what had become a daily ritual and anticipated joy. Tucked inside, well, there's always the morning exercise of raising my coffee cup to my lips, multiple trips to the door to let dogs out, trips to the laundry room, running the vacuum. Sadly, I do not have an indoor routine. I keep meaning to order a dvd for learning tai chi that a friend recommended. Perhaps this morning (yet another rainy day!) I will hunker down and do just that!

2. Food; time to comfort eat, or time to prepare your body for the coming spring/summer?
Having just returned from a three-day retreat where we were served thoughtful menus of healthy food, I am going to endeavor, once again, to do some menu planning. My husband and I both need to shed some pounds, never mind eat better, so this should help some. Yes, yes, that's the ticket!

3. Brainpower; do you like me need to stave off depression, if so how do you do it?
I'm a crossword puzzle junkie, and I'm working on one daily. Even if it's the same one! And sudoku! I'm in a good book now that I've been reading while on retreat, and I would like to 1) finish it before the weekend is out, and 2) start another one and continue the practice. I have been really bad about getting my reading done.

4. How about a story that lifts your spirits, is there a book or film that you return to to stave off the gloom?
Nothing comes to mind at the moment, but if I think of something I'll update this post!

5. Looking forward, do you have a favourite spring flower/ is there something that says spring is here more than anything else?
I love, Love, LOVE Daffodils! They are the harbinger of spring that perks my spirits and reminds me that the world will be green again soon.

Bonus; post a poem/ piece of music that points to the coming spring......
Well, we have this to look forward to in April! We're so excited that our son has found a wonderful partner in life. We love Trisha!

Monday, February 01, 2010

the sound of fondness

A week ago today was the birthday of Robert Burns, poet laureate of Scotland for all time. Although the feast of St. Andrews, the country's patron saint, is a high holy day for national celebration, the Feast of Robbie Burns is probably the holiest day for Scots. It was the birthday of my beloved Border Collie, Brenna, and the date I chose to give McKinlee as her birth date as well, since we only had a ballpark estimation of how old she was when she was rescued.

The latter trivia notwithstanding, Robert Burns' birthday is a day I hold in high regard in my heart. Among his many poems, some set to music, is this beautiful lament, Ae fond kiss. It holds some personal significance, but mostly it is a tune that fills my heart with a bittersweet empathy for a love, even lost, that had such depth as to leave joy in its wake. 

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever
Ae farewell, and then forever
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and goans I'll wage thee.

Who shall say that Fortune grieves him,
While the star of hope she leaves him
Me nae cheerful twinkle lights me,
Dark despair around benights me.

I'll ne'er blame my partial fancy:
Nothing could resist my Nancy
But to see her was to love her
Love but her, and love for ever.

Had we never loe'd sae kindly,
Had we never loe'd sae blindly,
Never met - nor never parted -
We had ne'er been broken-hearted.

Fare thee weel, thou first and fairest
Fare thee weel, thou best and dearest
Thine be ilka joy and treasure,
Peace, Enjoyment, Love and Pleasure

Ae fond kiss, and then we sever
Ae farewell, alas, for ever
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee,
Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee.


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