Dec 31, 2006

On the Second Day of Christmas...

... we traveled from Texas to Colorado to celebrate an early Christmas with our relatives there. We continued to weather our bouts of multiple illness; Miranda developed a double ear infection and pinkeye, but somehow we made it through. We exchanged presents and had our usual laugh-fest over clever buttons and other stocking stuffers. (When we get together, Mom, Ellery and I really crack each other up. Creig and Billy sit patiently and wait for us to finish.) Some of this year's stocking highlights included "Next to the Last Supper" gum and matches, and some "W" joke items that are too vulgar to publish here.

We also spent time with Billy's family in Colorado Springs, which was really nice. Billy's grandmother is quite amazing, being 86 years old and still living on her own.

Miranda was quite taken with the stairs at my sister's house, and enjoying getting to know her cousins Lauren and Ava. There were a few... negotiations over toys and whatnot, but it was really fun to watch them together. I also watched my first episodes of the TV show "Pingu", which is strange and fun!

On the First Day of Christmas...

... we traveled to Texas to celebrate an early Christmas with the Russell/Selim clan. It was lots of fun, and we took our annual large family picture. This is the image we tried to convey:

... although this might be a more accurate representation of the spirit of the group...
... or this. Yikes!

Our Christmas Season 2006: A New Paradigm

In the midst of trying to get everything "done" by that magical date -- Christmas Eve -- I started reflecting on the meaning of the phrase "the Christmas season". I've always thought (or at least acted like) that the "season" meant December with its superhyped lead-up to the 25th. Thus, there was always this tremendous pressure to pack all the requisite Christmas activities into December 1-24, and if it didn't get done by then, we just had to wait until next year.

However, as our community has considered and experienced Advent, I've realized that the Christmas season actually begins on Christmas Day and continues until Epiphany. So, we actually have until January 5th to celebrate and enjoy the tree, the food, the cards (receiving AND sending!), the presents, the carols, everything.

So, in the spirit of a great holiday song, I will chronicle our season within the framework of the 12 days of Christmas. Stay tuned!

Dec 20, 2006

The Best Dad in the World

Poor, poor Wunchie

Lately Miranda has been coughing, a lot. Over Thanksgiving, she battled a double ear infection and pinkeye, but we thought we'd turned the corner. But this cough has stayed, and stayed, and stayed. So, we've taken her to the doc, diagnosed a probable sinus infection, and are back on amoxicillin. So far so good.

The thing is, she sometimes coughs so much that she throws up. Not often, and not much throw-up, but still enough to break my heart. We had a small regurg episode after dinner, but she seemed to recover well. So last night, we tried to give her some cough medicine before putting her down, in hopes of giving her a better night's sleep.

This morning when I was giving her the morning milk, I thought she smelled... funny, and unpleasant. Kinda like throw-up. Did she get some in her hair last night? Did I miss some during her bath?

So she finishes her bottle and I reach into her crib to replace the paci... and encounter the dried remains of throw-up. On the sheets, on the sleeping wedge, on her blanket, on the plush dog she snuggles at night. Sometime between bedtime and getting up, she coughed enough to vomit. We didn't even know, and I have no idea when it happened. My poor wunchie spent some part of last night lying in throw-up.

Oh sweetie, I'm so so sorry!

Dec 18, 2006

Advent Week 4: Conceive

Here is this year's post for the fourth week of Advent, Conceive. And here is the link to last year's reflections.

Our 2006 Christmas Letter and Picture

For those who don't make the semi-short list, we apologize and offer this picture and letter. Merry Christmas!


Christmas 2006

Dear family and friends,

How amazing that another year is drawing to a close. We are thankful for all it’s meant to us.

Our work with Communality continues to be both enjoyable and challenging. As we complete eight years of involvement and service, we are both honored and humbled to count these folks as coworkers and friends. Billy had a busy time coordinating the startup of our community’s new project, the One Horizon Foundation. It’s devoted to mobilizing cooperative action for the common good. Feel free to check out the website, He also continues with the administrative and pastoral work at Communality, and has joined the University of Kentucky’s Institutional Review Board. From Bahamian incorporation guidelines to research proposals, there’s always interesting reading in his backpack.

Maria continues to work with our community, coordinating its involvement with the New Monasticism movement. She also traveled to England in July to resume her doctoral studies in theological ethics. She’s really enjoying her work but looks forward to its eventual completion. You can follow her thoughts on work, motherhood, and other tidbits on her blog,

Miranda did more things than can be listed here, but the highlights include learning to walk (and scamper!); learning various words, some sign language, and unmistakable body language; spending more time with family and friends and seemingly enjoying her bits of independence; starting “preschool” and doing well there; and finally, finally sleeping through the night! She loves swings, slides, and swimming pools; dogs and cats; wheat pasta, cottage cheese and grape tomatoes; Baby Einstein and Teletubbies; reading “My Little Fire Engine” and “Rainbow Ride”; and dancing to classic country and Stevie Ray Vaughan. We are enjoying parenthood more than we could have imagined, despite its many challenges.

John completed one year of employment at Gattitown USA, a pizza and games parlor here in Lexington. He has done well overall and we are proud of his dedication. He continues to befriend everyone he meets and enjoys playing with Miranda. Soon he may be teaching her soccer!

Ellery and her husband Creig have a very active house with their girls Lauren and Ava; when we visited at Thanksgiving, it was tons of fun. Ellery has restarted her classes in interior design, and Maria is looking forward to getting lots of free advice when we finally get our new house. Creig’s business is going very well, although he had to take a few days off to deal with a ruptured appendix (ouch).

Maria’s mother Mary is enjoying Denver and continues to do well in her job in home sales. (Someone said she’s the best associate they have… just a rumor we heard!) She did manage to get to Texas twice in October, a goal we’d all do well to emulate. J

In between his oil contracts and her ordination studies, Maria’s father Bill and his wife Pat are staying busy coordinating the renovation of Canterbury House, the Episcopal campus ministry at Texas Tech. They traveled to the Antarctic in 2006 and are headed to Greece and Cyprus in 2007. Those passports are smoking!

We have been blessed to have Billy’s sister so close and have enjoyed watching Miranda bond with “Aunt Tracey” and the kids. Our niece Jessica began her college career this fall at Lindsey Wilson College and is doing well. Her brother Travis also entered his freshman year of high school. We are really proud of them, but we must be too young to have them in the big leagues… right?!

If you are ever in Lexington (and if we ever get a new house!), please know that our door is open, as is your invitation to stay. And as 2007 approaches, may the peace of the season be yours.

Love, peace, and blessings to you,
Maria, Billy, Miranda, and John

Dec 14, 2006

Bum Steer Indeed!

I love, love, love the magazine Texas Monthly. It's just fabulous. Even as we're trying to simplify our lives and eliminate what we don't need, I'm sorely tempted to resubscribe.

Thanks to Will for giving the blogosphere and early heads-up to this wonderful issue of TM, and especially its Bum Steer of the Year! I myself love to hunt, but I think I'd give this guy a wide berth.

PS -- I"m trying to figure out what it says about me, that I posted the last 2 items on the same day.

Advent Week 3: Patience

Here's a link to our community's focus for the 3rd week of Advent, patience.

Dec 5, 2006

Advent in our community

Our community is entering another year of celebrating Advent together. Some of our folks have done some great posts about the weeks and themes of Advent as we're experiencing it, which I'd like to share with you:

There are also some links to posts from last year's Advent observations, if you're interested. I'll keep posting the links as they arrive.

Hope you feel the expectation of Jesus' arrival with renewed joy this year.

Dec 1, 2006

Miranda's lullabies (part 2)

This is the other song I've been singing lately to the Wee Wunchie. It speaks of adventure and laughter, and seeing beauty in your beloved, and providing warmth and comfort. I try to sing it over her as a kind of benediction, hoping that I provide to her all these elements of a good life.

If I were a feather bed
And in your house so fine
I'd hold you in my arms each night
Keep you warm in the wintertime

And if I were a big wool rug
Just a-sittin' in your front hall
Well, I'd tickle your feet, and make you laugh
If you stepped on me at all

If I were a breath of wind
On your cheek as you walked by
I'd pick you up upon my back
And I'd teach you how to fly

If I were a drop of rain
Trickled down your chin
I'd run right up, and kiss your lips
And I'd kiss them twice again

If I were an old banjo
Felt your fingers on my strings
I'd sing the sweetest little song
A banjo e'er did sing

And if I were a hair ribbon
Color it was blue
I'd be ten times as beautiful
Cause I'd be wearing you

If I were a feather bed
In your house so fine
I'd hold you in my arms each night
Keep you warm in the wintertime

Nov 30, 2006

Miranda's lullabies (part 1)

I've started singing Miranda to sleep at naptime and bedtime. Wasn't sure if it would work, but she seems to enjoy it. And I've been thinking about the songs I've chosen to sing to her. For some reason, I've been on a John McCutcheon kick these last few weeks, and she's been hearing the same two songs over and over.

I was introduced to John McCutcheon during my first year at ASP, and it's stayed with me pretty powerfully ever since. I heard this song in concert, and learned it was written for his uncle's funeral. His uncle had only one arm and for that reason was not allowed his dream of entering the Catholic priesthood, yet had a life filled with love, family, and vocation. I think the song speaks powerfully about the value of a life well-lived, even (especially?) in its simplicity. I hope that someday Miranda and I can talk about why I sang it to her.

One humble shoemaker
From a small Polish town
One of twelve German children
His life seemed so small
One heart rent with sorrow
As the Church closed its door
“A priest needs two hands
to embrace all the poor”

One last child at home now
He watched them all go
Nursing mother and father
As their health stumbled so
Quiet voice in the parlor
Reading Grandma the news
Giving sight to her darkness
I saw visions, too

One strong arm to hold you
One firm hand to shake
One clear voice to guide you
One good heart to break

As a child I remember
His back bent with toil
Over sick beds, shoe forms
Children and soil
Tending roses and loved ones
The family business at hand
Tending one nephew longing
To be such a man

One strong arm to hold you
One firm hand to shake
One clear voice to guide you
One young life to shape

One form in the screen door
His eyes dancing with glee
With a single red rose
That he’s cut just for me
My sons sees his first birthday
As I reach for the phone
Takes his first stumbling steps
As his Uncle’s called home

One strong arm to hold you
One firm hand to grasp
One clear voice to guide you
One good life to last

One humble shoemaker
From a small Polish town
We are all lifted up
As we lower him down

Nov 21, 2006

Thankfulness, 3rd installment

Last week, I realized that I'm very, very thankful for one particular thing (among many, but this one stood out). When I arrived home from the library one afternoon, I entered the mudroom and was taking off my shoes when I heard the most delightful sound -- Miranda squealing with laughter, and giggling, and laughing again. That's a great, great sound to hear upon coming home.

So today, I want to say a big THANK YOU to our sweet babysitter (aka best friend to Miranda), Marie. She is truly one of the lights of Miranda's life. When she arrives, Miranda pushes me out of the way to get to her. I know that when she's there, Miranda is safe and happy. And that is one of the best gifts we could ever receive.

Nov 20, 2006

What we're into these days

I realized that this blog tends to focus primarily upon my life with Miranda. However, there are lots of other things going on in our lives and in our community. I need to post more about the PhD journey, but today I thought I'd share some of the ways our community is involved in Lexington and the world at large.

  • Our friend Sarah Brown successfully managed the campaign for Andrea James, the councilwoman-elect for Lexington's 1st District. In January, she'll become Andrea's council aide and work fulltime in the council office.
  • Billy and some other folks from Communality went to the Wiconi Missio Dei gathering in Nashville earlier this month.
  • Several women (Sherry, Laura, Jen, Jodie, Lisa, Miranda and myself) had a nice evening at the Bluegrass Women Unite event. We are hoping to get one of our ladies on the board and be able to participate at a deeper level. Miranda almost broke about 100 pricey items, and was less than impressed with the baked Brie.
  • We are hosting a Cool Cities discussion network at the High Street House.
  • Five ladies from our community, myself included, are traveling to Evanston, IL next month for a School for Conversion in the New Monasticism network. We're hosting one here at Communality in March, so we're going to Illinois to participate and get a feel for how they run. (I wrote a chapter on hospitality for this book that has emerged from the network.)
  • Some of our folks are hosting the local Soulforce network at the High Street House.
  • We hosted a prayer breakfast last week for the Jubilee: Drop the Debt network.
  • People from our community have written three chapters in the upcoming book The Emergent Manifesto.
  • I am participating in BUILD (Building a United Interfaith Lexington through Direct Action) and hoping to involve Communality at a larger level. It will be alerting the city government to problems it deems especially significant and asking them to address these problems in a substantial way. This year, we're focusing upon affordable housing and affordable healthcare.

I know this list is incomplete and sketchy, but hopefully it sheds some light into the things with which we're involved. You can also get another, probably more complete look at our community's life over at our blog, the ashram. No need to reinvent the wheel, right?

Nov 17, 2006

Thankfulness, 2nd installment

  • being able to sleep late because Miranda is at her aunt's house for a few days
  • Miranda having an aunt and cousins who love her and want to keep her for a few days
  • Friday night date night! (lots of culture on the lineup)
  • possiblity of a new home (pics to follow when decision is final)
  • upcoming wedding of a good friend in Colorado, with a reunion of lots of friends from the Appalachia Service Project days

Nov 15, 2006

Crayon Magic Trick

No, don't tell me... let me guess... I see... I see, the color... RED.

Nov 13, 2006

More random pics

Here are some good pics of the Wee Wunchie from the last month or two. We seem to take so many with the camaraphone, but getting them onto the computer (much less the blog) is another matter!

Taking a nap in Mommy's lap. Actually, she varied between snuggling into my shoulder and stretching out as seen below. Billy claims that I'll use any excuse to nap, sleep, or snuggle with her, and he's right.

Another unconventional nap position. We'd just finished an excellent and very filling brunch at the house down the street, and Miranda began to glaze over (possibly a food coma from the eggs, ham, cheese, bacon, biscuit, avocado, tomato, banana, cantaloupe, and pancake she consumed). I supported her little head with my hand, and she fell right off. I even managed to get her into the stroller without her waking up.

Billy titled this one "Wompa Read" in honor of the fabulous wompa boots she received from Grandmommie. Those boots are my favorite, although she kicks them off at every opportunity.

Nothing so refreshing as a quick morning rinse after a brisk debate over the cough medicine.

Is this where I should give Mommy a kiss???

Yes, that's the place!

Thankfulness (aka stealing Lisa's good idea)

My friend Lisa Samson had the great idea to chronicle some of the things for which she's offering thanksgiving this fall season. I'm just a big fat copycat, so here's my first installment.

  • every autumn, the first smell of leaves and woodsmoke
  • Pomegranate Pizzazz tea -- just discovered it
  • Sunday evening potluck at Communality -- always good, creative food
  • finding a really good pair of jeans, that really fit! (I bought 2 pairs)
  • sharing a burger with Miranda at Buffalo Wild Wings last weekend when Billy was out of town, and watching her enjoy the excitement of a sports bar on Saturday night and cheer with everyone!

Nov 6, 2006

On bringing nature closer

A few years ago, Billy and I (actually my mom, my sister and I) planted a flowering crabapple tree outside our bedroom window. It's pretty small, and it's probably too close to the house, but it was my hope that it would encourage various birds to light there, enjoying the shelter and food. However, I find that I often forget about it, just seeing it as part of the landscape.

I was brushing my teeth this morning when a flutter of color caught my eye. I glanced out the window and saw one -- two -- three male cardinals in the branches of my little tree, snacking on the fruit and peacably coexisting. For the next few minutes, they flitted in and out of the branches, joined by their mates and a couple of sparrows, while a red-headed woodpecker rat-tat-tatted on the nearby elm. He even discouraged a bushy squirrel from descending the tree; he turned tail and hopped across the garage roof.

Billy brought Miranda to the window, where the red of the cardinals caught her eye and captivated her for a minute or two. Then she banged her miniature pumpkin against the glass, and our friends took flight.

Oct 30, 2006

Everybody else is a better blogger than me!

How has it been so long since I posted anything??? Sorry for being so lame.

What's been happening? Well, I feel like I've been writing my paper on Aquinas and searching for a new house, and that's basically it. Those two things have pretty much consumed me for a while. Oh, and caring for Miranda, but that seems normal and not so out of the ordinary.

Miranda is doing so well, learning new things practically every day. She has learned to say the following words (i.e. we have heard her say something very similar to this at least once):
  • ball ("ba")
  • bottle ("ba-uh")
  • thank you ("Dak-oo"), complete with sign-motion, done approximately once out of every 20 times we ask her to say it
  • mommy
  • daddy
  • "be gentle!" (imitating our neighbor Shirley -- same inflections and everything!)
  • uh-oh
  • bed
  • shoe ("choo")

She also has mastered or is working on the following skills:

  • climbing up steps
  • going down steps, either on her own (sit-down method) or holding someone's hand (step-down method)
  • getting down from the couch or bed (same as above; her favorite is to hold your hands and slide to the floor)
  • grabbing something from the fridge door, usually salad dressing, whenever we open the fridge -- she's as quick as Annie Oakley
  • stacking things -- paper, puzzle pieces, pacis -- to pick them up with one hand (is it only things that start with p??)
  • knocking on the door when she wants to go in or out
  • looking through the window for our neighbor Shirley and waving to her
  • dancing to music is becoming a new favorite
  • lifting up her legs to indicate readiness to put on jeans or pajamas
  • kissing on the mouth
  • several varieties of giggling ("he-he-he") and belly laughter ("HA-HA-HA!")
  • going down slides by herself, and crawling back up them if her shoes have enough traction
  • throwing temper tanturms, though usually of short duration

Her favorite foods seem to be cottage cheese, wheat pasta spirals, and as many tomatoes as she can get her hands on. When they were ripening in our garden, she'd head out there any time we were outside and proceed to pick and eat as many as she could, both red and green.

She's also made great progress at Kids' Day Out. She enjoys her time and rarely cries. Needless to say, we're relieved.

I have a terrible cold, so I'm headed home. More later.

Sep 19, 2006

Finding a Rhythm

I seem to get all these great ideas for blog posts, but can't seem to find the time to get them done. Sound familiar to anyone else?

After 13+ months of motherhood, I finally seem to be creating a good, sustainable rhythm for my days and weeks. Whereas I spent last year studying in 1-2 hour bursts between feedings and naps (and generally accomplished very little on my thesis), we've arranged for me to have 4-6 hour study blocks, three days in a row. This is incomparably better; I'm much more productive and don't feel like I'm just spinning my wheels. I've also printed out my thesis outline (with subtopics) and taped it to my study carrel, where I can check off papers as I complete them. Plato? Check. Aristotle? Check. Stoics? Check. Hauerwas? Check. MacIntyre? Check. One hundred others? Not yet...

Sometimes I can't imagine how I'll transition from this endeavor to teaching ethics. I don't see how I'll get my intellectual shit together, so to speak, and have anything coherent to contribute. I read the blogs of other folks in academia, or in the Emergent conversation, and they seem to sound so much... further along. I need to remind myself that finishing my thesis is the task before me right now, and that when I get to the next step, I'll probably be as prepared as the next PhD flunkie.

This new rhythm is also good for my relationship with the Crunchie. Now, when I leave the library, I leave my work there and don't worry about it at home. So, from 3 PM on Wednesday to 9 Am on Monday, I can focus on the girl, and the hubby, and the community.

Now, I just need to find a rhythm for exercising and cleaning house. Any suggestions?

Sep 18, 2006

Uh oh, she's catching on

Not so smooth a departure from Kids Day Out this morning. We think she's realizing that when we leave, we leave and don't return for several hours. She was crying when we left. :-(

Sep 12, 2006

Exciting New Frontiers

Now really, almost any post about a 13 month old could have this title, right?

This week's exciting achievement is that Miranda has begun to attend Mother's Day Out! Yes, she will bravely be facing down adults and kiddos alike, every Monday from 9am-2pm at the nearby Methodist Church. She seemed excited when we arrived, didn't burst into tears when we left, and did really well overall. She cried a bit when another child got upset, but recovered with the administration of chicken, pasta, watermelon and a good nap with her ultra-soft blankie. When Dad arrived at 2:00, the staff said they were impressed!

Still in her proud Daddy's arms, so far so good.

Early training in the complex arts of negotiation and acquisition.

Take a hike, Mom, I've got this covered. See ya at 2 o'clock.

Aug 24, 2006

Some really depressing news (and a way to forget about it)

After working with my advisor Robert to locate the semi-complete draft of my paper on Aquinas, which we discussed in England last month, we have decided that the only copy was, in fact, on the now-lost computer in the computer bag. Along with the paper copy on which we took notes for the final draft. Along with all the photocopied chapters from books on Aquinas, with the helpful underlinings.

Shit shit shit. Back to square one. I'll be spending this morning and afternoon tracking down those books, recopying, and beginning to reread.

However, I've found an antidote to the depression this has caused: picking up the pictures from Miranda's birthday party. Instant upper. Examples coming soon.

Lastly -- a special congrats to our friend Michelle, who just had her second son in Philly, Elias Lewis Harper Brix. Great labor and delivery, and she's already blogged. What a woman!


I am working on a really cute post about her birthday... really, I am.

But in the meantime, Miranda has made several strides forward in abilities and general cuteness. She has 9 teeth (she apparently skipped a canine and went to 2nd canine on the top), she walks and walks, and she loves to give you five and giggle. But the newest and funniest development is that she can ZERBERT! Last night, she walked over to my bare leg, leaned over, and "PFFFHT!" It was so cute, and of course it tickled, so I laughed like a maniac, which encouraged her to repeat her amazing trick about 15 times.

She's so great!!!

Aug 17, 2006

Celebrating Four Years as Family

[Disclaimer: I also posted this over at the ashram; such blatant reproduction is frowned upon in grad school but may still be permitted in the blogosphere.]

Well, yesterday was August 16th, 2006, which marks 4 years since the Spirit brought John Fitzgerald Kennedy Bruce-Papafio to 701 Golfview Drive. That's more C-SPAN, NBA, local Christian access, World Cup soccer, Buffalo Wild Wings, O Brother Where Art Thou, rice, Twix, and Sprite than I would ever have imagined! Through fun times and hard times, God has taken good care of us all and led us into deeper meanings of grace and faith. We are happy that we've had these four years; here's hoping for more.

John enjoying a celebratory lunch yesterday at "Country Cook'n, by George!" Excellent green beans.
John holding the Crunchie last autumn.

Golfview pals Troy and John.

Trifecta trio John, Mike, and Billy. (The Crunchie served in an advisory capacity only.)

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." (Jn 14:27)
We love you, brother.

Aug 4, 2006

Milk Restored!!!

Well, at least enough milk to nurse 2-3 times a day. She and I are both pleasantly surprised at the development. Thank goodness for Reglan!!! However, I'm having a lot of pain on one side, which I first attributed to her new upper teeth, but the other side is fine, so I'm wondering if we have a case of thrush. Hmmm... any suggestions?

Thanks for all the supportive emails, I really appreciate everyone's encouragement and empathy.

Stay tuned for an exciting, upcoming retrospective on the first year of our life with the Crunchie.

Aug 1, 2006

Over the Pond -- some overall highlights, and one anti-highlight

A quick word on the theft -- our insurance is working with us to replace the laptop (although, after our deductible, everything else will probably be a loss). Better than nothing!

Despite ending on such a sour note, I really enjoyed the trip. I loved so much about it: sleeping all night; drinking coffee, tea, and soda without worrying about caffinating Miranda; fish and chips, sausage and mash; seeing old friends and making new ones; catching up on some movies and good books. I actually read 10 books during the trip: Tiger Lillie, The Handmaid's Tale, Cell, Tales of a Seasick Doctor, Speaker for the Dead, My Sister's Keeper, The Memory Keeper's Daughter, Of Woman Born, The World According to Garp, White Oleander. What a gorge! It was great!!!

Reuniting with Miranda has been pretty smooth. She hasn't been diffident or angry with me, and we've had lots of fun just hanging around since my return. There is, however, one disappointment -- due to a few pumping mishaps, my milk has dropped to almost nothing. She was eager to nurse the first night I was home, but seemed surprised at the difficulty she encountered getting a drink. Surprise has turned to frustration, and to disinterest, which scuttles any chance of getting my milk going again.

I wasn't ready for how sad this has made me. When I left I thought, "Well, hopefully we'll keep nursing when I get back, but if not, then at least we've had a good full year." But, deep down I thought that we wouldn't have any trouble resuming, because we'd had such an easy year as a nursing couple. And I wasn't prepared for how much I want to continue nursing. I feel like we're just midway through our time nursing -- it just doesn't feel like it's time to quit.

My midwife gave me a scrip for Reglan, so we'll see if this gets us back on track. Hopefully it will, because I really miss mothering her that way. I'll keep you posted!

Jul 30, 2006

Over the Pond, Days 11-13 -- Not the best of endings (but at least I'm home)

Provocative title, right?

After another day of wandering through London, I boarded a train and headed for Manchester for my flight home. (I had a neat experience at a little Anglican church that I'll post about later.) I was getting more and more impatient to be home with Billy and Miranda, and actually tried to get an earlier flight home. But after a decent night's sleep in a loud hotel, and almost sleeping through my shuttle, I arrived at the airport to find my flight delayed over 3 hours. Still enjoying my last bits of solitude, I read and did sudoku and watched movies until we landed at JFK, where I waited for my bags... and waited... and waited, for over an hour. Then I tried to find the shuttle to LaGuardia for my flight to Lexington... and went to terminal 2... and couldn't use my visa... and the ATM was broken... so I dodged traffic and went to terminal 3... and couldn't find the ATM... and missed the shuttle... and finally got to LaGuardia to find my flight cancelled, along with most of the others. Tried in vain to get another flight to Cincy or Louisville, anywhere within driving distance -- no luck. So, going on 20 hours awake, I went downstairs and began to battle with all the other strandees for the few remaining hotel rooms... finally found one -- too expensive, too far away -- and hung up the phone to find my computer bag gone.

Please, please, please don't let this be happening.

After a fruitless search around the area, to "lost baggage" and to the police to see if they had suspected it as a bomb, I started crying, cried all the way through the taxi queue, to the hotel, and through an episode of "Deadwood." In addition to the loss of my new laptop, I realized what else was in that bag: my breast pump, my passport (with all the cool stamps from my honeymoon and our trip to eastern Europe), presents for my parents and my sister-in-law, a whole notebook of notes on several aspects of my doctoral work, my jewelry. Particularly devastating, even more so than the expensive Dell, was the opal ring that my father gave me on my 16th birthday, 20 years ago this fall. And now it's on its way to some New York city pawn shop. Damn it, damn it, damn it.

I can recover almost all the lost schoolwork -- I can re-download all the pictures of Miranda (although I don't know when I'll find the time!), we can save for another laptop. I'm trying to keep this in perspective. (I keep thinking of an acquaintance whose laptop was stolen just after his twins were born, losing irreplacable footage of their first days.) It's OK, I know that, plenty of worse things have happened. But it still sucks, and I'm still depressed.

Oh well.

BUT... after all this, I arrived home to my sweet hubby and my little girl. And it was so easy to forget about all the crap and just watch her smile that smile I'd been imagining for days, as she realized who was sitting next to her in the car. I tickled, she giggled, and we headed to the best place of all, home. I had a great time, and will look forward to another trip next spring, but for now, all I want to do is hold, snuggle, nurse, bathe, rock, love my little Miranda. And snuggle her daddy, too.

Thanks, everyone, for joining me on this journey! Keep watching for the sequal, set for release sometime in spring 2007.

Jul 26, 2006

OTP -- epilogue to Day 8 (anti)highlight

Happy reunion, courtesy of Royal Post.

Over the Pond, Days 9-10 -- Lounging in London

London is really, really hot right now, but still a ton of fun. Yesterday I slept late and lazed around the house with Rachel and the kids, then babysat while Rachel went out for the evening. Very relaxing. Today, I headed into the city for sightseeing and wandering. I visited Covent Garden, where I watched a man juggle hatchets while atop a 15' unicycle. I wandered down Charing Cross Road and found the "street o' rare bookstores" -- anyone want to buy a 1st edition Alice in Wonderland for £200? I put my feet in the fountain at Trafalgar Square (which was so deliciously cold!), and listened to all the folks around me (most of whom were tourists and weren't speaking english). I wandered through the National Gallery and especially enjoyed the iconography from the 12th-14thc. It's amazing how pictures told stories, something we could stand to recover in the church today. I visited the Tate Modern -- always a great time with their quirky exhibits -- and arrived at St. Paul's Cathedral (where Princess Di and Charles were married) just in time for Evening Prayer. I wandered for an hour or so, visiting Aldersgate Street where John and Charles Wesley had some significant experiences. (I'm headed back tomorrow for noonday prayer at St. Paul's and a sermon series at the little Aldersgate chapel.) I ended up at Oxford Circus and people-watched for a while while eating frozen custard, then concluded the evening by visiting a little Tandoor restaurant that Billy and I found on our trip in 2004, heading home to Hackney around 9. All in all, I'd say I got my money's worth out of that £4.90 travel pass.

In a word, today was relaxed. It was such a treat to just wander around, exploring little side streets and taking my time. I realized that I don't often get the chance to just amble. So often, life with Miranda involves so much planning, structuring of time, and being intentional about every minute, that today was deliciously free and easy.

All the same, it feels very right to be gearing up to return home. I'll spend tomorrow morning finishing up the tourist thing, then take a train to Manchester for the night before flying home on Friday. As much fun as I had today, it's time to rejoin the family -- I miss them more and more. Billy sent some pics that indicate a few new teeth, and she's taking more and more steps around the house. She even looks different in the pics he's sent! That's it, party's over -- everyone grab your stuff and head home.

Jul 25, 2006

OTP, Day 8 -- (anti)highlight?

Realizing you've forgotten something at your friend's house in Harrogate. Calling your friend's friends to ask them to mail it to you in London. Having the following conversation with the husband, who's the only one home:

me: I'm afraid I've left something behind.
him: No problem at all, I'm happy to post it to you. What have you left?
me: Part of my breast pump.
him: ... pardon?
me: Part of my breast pump.
him: Um, right. No problem. Happy to send it on.
me: Thanks so much. (Gives address.)
him: Now, where will I find it?
me: On the drainboard, by the sink.
him: Will I know what it is?
me: Trust me, you'll know.

Between the fact that I've never met this man, the nature of my request, and my lack of familiarity with traditional English reserve, I'm not sure how embarrassing this conversation actually was, to either of us!

Over the Pond, Day 8 -- resting (ie lazing around) in Harrogate

On Sunday, I left Northumbria and took the train south to Harrogate to stay overnight at our friend Pete's house (same one as below). This was another good step in the process of decompression which I've undergone since leaving home -- that is, it was nice to just be alone, really alone with nothing to do and no agenda. I fixed a sandwich and watched TV and drank tea and read, then went to sleep and woke up and repeated the process. Heaven. Since I couldn't get the DVD player to work, I spent several hours flipping channels on a modest British cable package. Lots of BBC news, sports, VH1 highlights of the 80s, a few good movies. I settled for some shows about childbirth, then Lethal Weapon, plus reread parts of George Orwell's Burmese Days.

After an equally relaxing morning, I caught the train and came to London, where I'm staying here in Hackney with our friends Andy and Rachel Turner and their great kids Jess, Millie, and Eve. They are our friend Geoff's dearest and oldest friends, and we love them. They're the best at easygoing hospitality -- no muss, no fuss! I arrived in time to help prepare teatime, and after a great meal and some fun with Rachel ("Maria, you've used far too much soap for the washing up!"), the kids went to bed, Andy studied, Rachel went out and I watched "Notting Hill" and "Angela's Ashes". Another quiet night. Will keep everyone posted.


1) Getting to watch my absolute favorite episode of the original Star Trek ("Devil in the Dark") -- what are the odds??? ( I actually read it in paperback, buying it at that newstand place on University where we'd stop after church on Sundays and get papers and gum -- remember?)
2) Looking at pictures of Miranda and Billy on the way to London
3) Seeing Andy and Rachel, and being amazed at how much their kids have grown in the 3 years I've known them. And not feeling like I'm intruding, but welcomed.
4) Not having to Harrogate today to get the thing I left at Pete's house (see above).

Over the Pond, Days 5-7 -- Northumbria Community and beyond

Well here I am in London, after being offline for a few days. Thanks for all the comments; they've definitely helped me feel connected to my life at home. Let's see...

At the last post, I was wrapping up my work in Durham on Friday. It concluded on a good note, still processing the Aquinas paper but with a much clearer sense of where it's going and its key contributions. Add that to the progress we made in outlining the rest of the thesis, and it's been the most productive trip to date. I've come to realize just how invaluable these trips are for my clarity and momentum. Working on this project back in Lexington can be quite isolating, but these periodic times of concentrated study somehow generate enough energy to keep the process moving. It's amazing how many ideas come from just discussing the material, at least for a verbal processor like me.

Plus, I just love Durham. There's really nothing quite like it -- the presence and history of the cathedral, the steady nature of the daily services, English breakfasts with good tea, walking along the river Wear with people rowing past, the little pub where I always eat, Bimbi's fish and chip shop, Durham Market. It's great to arrive on the train, and before you even pull into the station, you can see the cathedral rising up over the town. It's one of my favorite places. Until next time...

Friday afternoon, I left Durham and traveled north to the Northumbria Community, a small group of folks committed to living a contemplative life together. Their days consist of praying the daily office, working at the innumerable tasks related to keeping up a large, old house, working the garden, cooking and cleaning, traveling to speak about their community (and other things, I'm sure). It was quiet, peaceful, and just what I needed after concentrating on school. I slept, and read, and drank tea, and weeded the garden, and washed dishes, and ate good and simple food, and slept some more. (One morning I didn't emerge until almost noon; they were about to come looking for me.) I'm thankful to our friends Pete and Catherine for introducing me to this place, and I'm looking forward to returning, as it's only an hour from Durham. Then I took the train south to Harrogate to stay at a friend's house on the way to London.


1) truly beautiful weather in Durham and Northumbria, lovely rain and cool temps
2) weeding in the lovely soil - not clay like we have in Kentucky, but a rich, light, crumbly mix that makes weeding a breeze
3) curried cauliflower soup, fresh cabbage salad, rhubarb crumble and ice cream
4) sitting in a squishy armchair underneath a window, reading and drinking tea, and watching the house martins feeding their babies in the nest at the top of the window. I spent a LOT of time in this chair.
5) drinking a beer and playing cards with three young folks from Scotland, on the train from Durham

Jul 21, 2006

OTP, Day 4 -- slightly revised state of shock

Ok, so I looked a bit closer at the comprehensive schedule for my work, and realized that I'll be finished in March 2011, when I staretd in October 2003. So, it's only 7 1/2 years total, instead of 8. I feel a little, little bit better.

And then, I'd forgotten to account for this year of semi-maternity leave (working about 1/4 time, instead of 1/2 time). So... in actuality, my degree will take me about 7 - 7/14 years to complete, part-time. The shock is continuing to fade.

But I still won't be done for almost 5 more years! And that's without another bambino! Lord, give us strength, and money for our fabulous babysitter.

Jul 20, 2006

Over the Pond, Day 4 -- Aquinas, Aquinas, Aquinas...

And more Aquinas. I'm so tired of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and so glad that this paper will be (largely) completed tomorrow. I'll have a few additional articles to incorporate during August, but the bulk of it will be submitted. Hooray! Then, on to Augustine.

I'm still pretty tired, as I arrived exhausted from travel and have been working pretty late to finish this damn thing. Overall, though, my time with my advisor, Robert, has been excellent. He's very encouraging and gracious and very knowledgeable. We constructed a good working outline for my thesis (in England you write a dissertation for a masters, and a thesis for a doctorate -- I always get them confused), as well as a timeline for its completion. It will only take me... 5 more years.

What???? That means I will have spent 8 years (ok, part-time, but still) on this project. I feel faint.

But upon reflection, it makes sense. This took Robert 5 years, fulltime, no spouse, no child, no job. And this field is fairly different from my previous studies. Ok, I feel better now. A little.

I'm off tomorrow to spend a couple of days at the Northumbria Community up near Scotland. I'll rest, read, and join them in praying the Daily Office. It should be wonderful. Then, off to Harrogate for a day or two. I'm not sure when I'll get back online, but I'll do what I can. Thanks for joining me on the journey!

To close, the daily highlights:

1) Spending several great hours with Robert, his wife Margaret, and their kids Iona and Jamie tonight over dinner. It felt just like family, especially when 4 1/2 yr old Jamie made me read a western Veggie Tales book with my genuine Texas accent. That was fun!
2) Ummm.. more good tea and orange marmalade at breakfast. Honestly, that's all I can think of today.

Jul 19, 2006

Over the Pond, Day 3 -- still settling in

Today was a nice rhythm of study, food, and rest. It's taken a little while to get used to the solitude, not having to listen for Miranda or be continuously aware of her. I'm sure I'll be missing her more in the days to come.

One thing I'm trying to do regularly (other than sample the local brews at the Market Tavern) is to attend the Anglican Daily Office at Durham Catherdral. Check out these pics of the Cathedral; it's just amazing. The Office includes Morning Prayer, Midday Communion, and sung Evensong, which give an opportunity to re-center myself throughout the day. It's also a practice of the Northumbria Community, where I'll be staying over the weekend.

Ok, have a big discussion of my paper on Aquinas tomorrow, must return to writing. But before I go, the daily highlights:

1) the refreshingly cool weather of northern England (although London is supposed to top 100 soon)
2) a big, fattening batch of fish & chips, drenched with malt vinegar
3) a really good pot of tea this morning at breakfast, and orange marmalade for my toast
4) listening to some really funky, old-school 80's rock while eating dinner at the tavern -- selections included "Take on Me", "Too Shy" and the somewhat more obscure "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off (To Have a Good Time)" -- I actually owned this on extend-play 45 record! At a British pub...?????
5) 2 naps today!

Over the Pond, Day 3 -- early highlight

Finding batteries, finding relief.

Jul 18, 2006

Over the Pond, Day 2 -- Freedom, Choice, and Change

I am trying to finish my paper on Thomas Aquinas, but I keep sneaking peeks into one of my books, The Handmaid's Tale. It's a sad, scary, fascinating look at a possible dystopic future in which women are under strict societal control. One woman says of a movie theater in a previous time:

Women went there, women on their own, making up their minds. They wore blouses with buttons down the front that suggested the possibilities of the word undone. These women could be undone; or not. They seemed to be able to choose. We seemed to be able to choose, then. We were a society dying, said Aunt Lydia, of too much choice.
It was interesting to read this as I sat alone, away from Miranda for the first substantial time since she joined us. Yesterday felt a bit surreal, being apart from her and being unable to check in (as Billy, Miranda and Tracey were flying to CA). I really missed them.
Yet I am having such a very good time. The fun hustle and bustle of a busy airport, watching people come and go. The quiet of this beautiful little university town, walking out of my advisor's office and seeing the cathedral rising up in front of me, where it's maintained its presence for almost 1000 years. The satisfaction of making significant progress with my advisor (and regaining the energy for the work). Taking a walk around the palace green and through the graveyard in the cathedral yard. Taking a nap. Having bangers and mash and a beer in the market square pub. Billy said, "Drink it in!", and that's just it. I feel like I'm drinking deeply after 12 months of just taking sips, of having just enough to keep me going, but not enough to be really refreshed.
But, I think the reason that it's so enjoyable it because it's a treat. This is not the tenor of my life anymore, and that's as it should be. My freedom, my choices and available options are entirely different than they were 12 months ago. This trip is like savoring a box of candy, perfect in this small dose, but no longer an everyday option. And that's OK.
In our society where we have more choices than we even realize, there's something settling and humbling in recognizing the limitations that accompany our lives. And that recognition makes the treats, when we get them, all the sweeter.
On that note, off to an early bed and a good, long sleep. To my crunchie, may God bless you and keep you.

Over the Pond, Day 2 -- possible anti-highlight

Realizing that for some reason, the breast pump isn't working (some incompatibility with the British power supply?). Realizing that you can't get any batteries until tomorrow morning. Realizing that the pint of beer you just enjoyed will probably stimulate milk production.

Pray for me!

Over the Pond, Day 1 -- some highlights

1) eating some good sushi and drinking a real Coke (ahhh!)
2) getting an unexpected upgrade to first class (sort of -- roomy seats but no fancy schmancy beverages or anything)
3) watching "Kinky Boots" on the way over -- it's a really funny movie
4) reading, bit by bit, a couple of good novels

And the #1 anti-highlight of yesterday...

Sitting in the women's bathroom at Kennedy airport, pumping milk while kids stared and adults attempted not to stare. That's right, the cord wouldn't stretch to any of the stalls, so I sat by the sink. Lovely.

Jul 17, 2006

Over the Pond, Day 1 -- Freedom!

The adventure begins! I'm at Kennedy Int'l Airport, enjoying a 12-hour layover. At 8:30pm I'll take off for the UK and, 7 hours later, hit the ground running for 3 1/2 days of schoolwork in Durham. I'm tired, as packing and a great conversation with my SIL Tracey kept me up until... well, very close to when I had to leave for the airport.

Did I say enjoying, as in layover? I did. What once would have been an insufferable "delay" now unfolds as a gift, an almost forgotten luxury of me-time. To begin with, this airport is filled with interesting folks, most of whom aren't speaking English. (NYC is just generally cool.) And, I'm just sitting here... alone. Without family or friends (although with homework), with several good books to devour while I'm away (Lisa Samson, Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, Orson Scott Card), and what appears to be some good sushi across the food court. Do I get a Coke? A Diet Coke? A large coffee? All three? (My poor kidneys are shaking with fear even as I type; better refill the water bottle while I'm at it.)

I'm not sure how Miranda is doing, as I left before she woke up and haven't been able to reach Billy. He, Miranda, and Tracey are headed to LA today for a working vacation and some family time. Leaving Miranda is a post unto itself, to which I'll return.

I haven't blogged in a couple of weeks (sorry Joy!), so I'll try to keep a little journal of sorts while I'm gone. Better sign off and head for my terminal to check in and find a plug to rejuice the computer.

PS -- I just bought a pen from a man offering them around. It says, "SMILE. This good article is the courtesy of a DEAF AND DISABLED PERSON. PAY ANY PRICE YOU WISH. Thank you for your help." It worked; I smiled.

Jul 3, 2006

Second of July fun

Who says you have to wait until the 4th? Billy, Miranda, John, our neighbor Mike, and I went over to the Red Mile racetrack last night to watch the Quarter Horse racing and the fireworks. It was great to see all the cowboys hats, Wranglers, and big belt buckles. I felt like I was back in Texas at the horse shows. John was very kind to share the Miranda-toting duties, which is harder than it used to be!

Billy and Mike also hit the jackpot, winning 2 single bets and a trifecta on the last race.

Miranda was more impressed with her first taste of ice cream.

Jun 29, 2006

Miranda at the pool!

We joined our friends Weslie & Ben and Rebecca & Hanna at Southland pool on Wednesday. It was great! (As evidenced by the happy face below.) Miranda really likes the water and tried to take off several times, which resulted in several partial and one total submersion. (Does anyone else remember how water burns when you get it in your nasal cavity? I do!!!) Overall we had a ball.
This is fun, Mom -- cold, but fun!

Miranda and Ben trying out their pool legs.

Rebecca and Hanna.

Expressing affection through the "Face Smash." (Miranda returned the favor.)

Why does Mom get a cool straw hat, and mine just makes me look like Gilligan?? (See previous photos.)

Stop snuggling me, Mom, I'm trying to check out the ladies on the waterslide.

Maybe the hat works better on its own...