Nov 28, 2007

Absolutely freakin' adorable

Here's Miranda dancing with Mary Margaret, the daughter of some dear friends of ours from the ASP community. This was taken at the commitment celebration of two other ASP friends, Jeff and Ashley. It was a lovely and moving time spent celebrating the love and journey of two people. Plus the hot cider and pumpkin cookies were excellent. And the music was awesome, as clearly shown!

Nov 27, 2007

Catchin' Up -- Communality retreat

When you get as far behind on your blog as I did between May and November, just getting started again can feel overwhelming. Do you jump in wherever you are, or do you attempt to backtrack and cover some of the things which went unchronicled? Well, I did the former, and now I'll attempt the latter. They probably won't be in any particular order, just as I find pictures or remember stories which are blogworthy.

So, here's the first. I found the most precious picture of Miranda on Billy's desk today (see above). It's of Miranda holding a hammer (I call it "Still Life with Hammer") during the annual Communality retreat this September. We drove east to beautiful Letcher County, where we spent the weekend working with ECCO, Eolia Christian Community Outreach. We extended a porch and added some steps to the community center, sorted clothes for a community yard sale, and generally enjoyed the fall weekend in gorgeous Appalachia. Here's a quick pictoral journey through the weekend. Photos and some captions are courtesy of Geoff Maddock, who takes great pictures.

What happens when you ask Mommy for some of her buffalo sauce...

The double drinker!!

Yowza, that's hot!!

Nov 26, 2007

OTP (3) -- The...

Ok, so the main reason I took these photos is because I knew Billy would get a kick out of them.

Important to note cultural differences when traveling abroad (and make juvenile jokes about them, too.)

Nov 21, 2007

Over The Pond (3) -- Overall assessment? The best trip yet

After a few days at home, things are starting to return to normal. I'm still tired, but nothing a large meal of turkey and gravy won't cure. Oh wait, all that tryptophan... umm, maybe the pumpkin pie or the green beans... nah, I'll be just as tired tomorrow because of all the good food we'll have at our annual all-Communality Thanksgiving dinner.

Looking back, this was definitely the best trip so far. I finally seem to have learned how to structure my time in the UK: some downtime in London at the beginning to get over the jet lag; a full work week in Durham, so that nothing is rushed; and a few days of relaxation at the end, traveling or catching up with friends. Staying in Durham from Sunday evening to Friday afternoon was great, and allowed for productive work sessions, numerous trips to the cathedral, and lots of time with friends old and new.

And not just the best trip so far, but the best trip out of 7 -- has it really been that many? That's pretty amazing, to me. It seems like I was just there for the first time, but that was actually in September 2003, over 4 years ago. Yowza.

Trip highlights: I think my previous posts have covered those pretty well. The whole trip was a highlight. And, of course, returning home to Miranda and Billy and John.

The trip anti-highlight was undoubtedly the fact that I didn't take any pictures while I was there. Next time, I'm packing the digital camera and vowing to use it.

Thanks to everyone who kept up with the journey and touched base. Stay tuned for volume 4, set to air in March 2008.

OTP (3), Day 12 -- Headed Home (Warning -- this post is long and boring)

Why is it that the journey home always feels longer than the journey there? I don't know why, but it does, every time. It probably didn't help that I stayed up until almost 2:00am, and had to get up before 7:00. Not sure why, probably those 3 cups of tea when I arrived at the Turners at 11pm, frozen from the rain. Anyway...

Here's the layout of the homeward journey. All times are Greenwich Standard, with Eastern Standard in parentheses:

  • 6:45am (1:45am) Awaken for the day. Stretch because I've slept on a short loveset.
  • 7:30am (2:30am) Leave the Turners' house in Hackney to walk to the overground train. My flight to Chicago leaves Heathrow airport at 11:15am.
  • 8:05am Catch the overground train to tube stop at Highbury & Islington
  • 8:20am Realize that it's rush hour. Stand with your suitcase, backpack, and computer bag and try 5 times to get on the overpacked cars. Finally abandon scruples and worm your way past some businessmen because you don't want to miss your flight.
  • 8:45am Change tube lines at King's Cross station, trying to get the Circle or Hammersmith lines, but not Metropolitan. Watch 4 Metropolitan lines go by, then finally get the one you need. Get stuck back against the doors on the wrong side of the car, step on someone's foot as you fight your way out.
  • 9:10am Get to Paddington Station to catch the express train to Heathrow airport. Collapse into seat and think about breakfast.
  • 9:25am Get to Heathrow airport and take the train to the terminal for Virgin Atlantic. Try unsuccessfully to check in at the kiosk, only to be told that our flight is cancelled. Get into another line and arrange for a seat on a British Airways flight, also to Chicago. Collect bags and walk back to the train, get back on the Heathrow express, reach the next terminal, take another mini-train, and get to the BA check-in.
  • 10:15am Realize that the lines at BA check-in are very long. One employee begins to separate us, saying, "Chicago? Chicago?" She looks around at the crowd she's gathered and says, "There's a hell of a lot of you!" Yep. We are fast-tracked through the line.
  • 10:40am Get to security only to realize that 1) we can only take one carry-on bag. Spend time trying to stuff my purse into my computer bag. Then, 2) reach security only to hear that I don't have a boarding pass, only a ticket receipt. Head back to BA counters. Accost agent who's standing around chatting. Get boarding pass. Go back to security.
  • 11:15am Get to my gate with just enough time for a brie & cranberry sandwich (I've got to make this at home!) and a juice.
  • 11:35am Board the plane and get seated, in my middle seat. Sigh.
  • 11:45am Hear announcement that takeoff is delayed.
  • 12:15pm Takeoff from London. Spend the next 7.5 hours reading Stephen King's The Waste Lands and watching "The Interview", starring (and written and directed by) Steve Buscemi. It's great. So was Stephen King. Doze for a while.
  • 7:45pm (2:45pm) Flight lands in Chicago O'Hare. Proceed through customs, baggage claim. (Do you know how many bags come off a full 747? Lots and lots and lots.) See Jerry Springer across the baggage carousel. Yawn.
  • 8:15pm Re-check baggage into United for the flight to Lexington. Wander to the train, checking your voicemail for the first time in 11 days. Text Billy. Take train to terminal 2.
  • 8:40pm (3:40pm) Reach terminal 2 and learn that I need a new boarding pass, which means heading back to the main United counter in terminal 1. Realize that the quickest way is a refreshing walk outside. Reach terminal 1, wait in line 15 minutes before realizing that I can a boarding pass from a kiosk. Say "D'oh!" like Homer Simpson and go to kiosk, get pass, and proceed through security.
  • 9:30pm (4:30pm) Reach my gate area to discover that about half the flights are either delayed or cancelled. Recognize the impending arrival of a migraine. Find a coke and some advil, administer both and feel sorry for myself until I remember how much harder this would be with Miranda. Feel a little better and lay down for a nap.
  • 11:45pm (6:45pm) Wake after sleep almost 1.5 hours, feeling very stiff but much better. Go in search of food. Consider Chili's but realize that, for some reason, it smells like... 5 kinds of wet dog. Quickly reconsider and settle for Burger King, where I cautiously purchase chicken tenders and fries (still feeling a bit of migraine nausea). Find my gate and nibble while watching the monitor. Make a few phone calls and check email. Finish Stephen King and begin reading Ender's Shadow.
  • 1:25am (8:25pm) Give thanks that our flight is actually departing on time. Board the flight. Read. Do a few sudoku. Sip juice. Yawn.
  • 2:45am (9:45pm) Land in Lexington. Text Billy, and watch gratefully as he arrives. Wait on baggage. Collect baggage and head home.
  • 3:30am (10:30pm) Arrive home, eat a bowl of cereal. Head to bed and fall asleep while reading.

Are you yawning from boredom as much as I was from fatigue? Mission accomplished!

Nov 18, 2007

OTP (3) -- Reports from home -- this hippo done gone berzerk!

Billy just sent these pics. Apparently, Miranda threw a hippo-sized fit yesterday as Billy tried to get her dressed to go out. She even tried to rip her shirt off, like the Incredible Hulk. So after she was finally dressed and in the car, she placed this book over her face, in what Billy thought was the beginnings of a game of peekaboo. Then when he realized that she'd gone quiet, he looked back to see this.

Billy titled them " Hippo Hideout" and "Cramming for Exam Nap/Collapse After Huge Fit".

OTP (3), Days 9-11 -- Moonbark Lindisfarne Askew?

I spent the weekend at Hetton Hall, part of the Northumbria Community. My friends Pete and Catherine Askew are affiliated there, and we had a great weekend. We ate good food, read good books, and took a trip to Lindisfarne on Saturday afternoon. Amazing to say, I went to sleep at 8:15 on Friday night, and got out of bed at noon the next day. Decadent! Indulgent! Lazy! Delicious!

We also prayed the daily office, which is a rhythm of prayers that mark their days. They pray the Morning Office, Midday Prayers, Evening Prayers, and close the day with Compline. I didn't make all of them, but the ones I did attend were wonderfully soothing and calming.

We left today after lunch and drove down to York for dinner at Ye Olde Starre Inn, York's oldest pub (see left). We talked about marriage, parenthood, PAPAfest, and baby names. Catherine said something about naming their first child Moonbark Lindisfarne Askew (a perfect combination of their affections for both old and new monasticism, right?). I'm not sure she wasn't serious, hmmm... We had bangers and mash, pints of local beer, and apple pie with custard. Yummy! I then took the train to London, where I waited almost an hour in the rain to catch a bus, because the tube wasn't running the route I needed. A quick walk through Hackney to the Turners' home, a nice bath and cup of Earl Grey, and here I am, ready to come home tomorrow.

It's been a great trip. I was reading through the entries from last March's visit, and this has been much better in every way. I'll elaborate later; right now I should get to bed, early plane and all that.

Nov 16, 2007

OTP (3), Day 8 -- Pomp and Circumstance

I had the most fabulous time last night at the formal meal at St. Chad's college. I was invited by Robert's wife Margaret (that's her on the left), who is Senior Tutor at St. Chad's. (I'll come back later and explain what all this means, I'm too tired right now!) Anyway, we first went to a lecture by Eleanor Moreton, St. Chad's Artist in Residence for 2007-2008. She spoke eloquently about the role of art as art, art as alive and dead, the relationship between art and utility, the role of gender in painting, and other things. It was inspiring and her art is beautiful. We then adjourned to the Senior Common Room, where we sipped sherry and gin & tonics, both oh-so-British.

Then, we "processed" to the dining hall, where everyone but Eleanor and myself had on black academic gowns (think Harry Potter), and sat down to a very elegant three-course meal. We began with a delicate pastry with shrimp and scallops, then had roast venison with a blueberry-raspberry gravy, potatoes, carrots, and brussel sprouts. We finished with a gorgeous chocolate torte and cream. Of course, we also had bottles of red and white wine. Wow. I was able to sit with Eleanor, and we had the best discussion about art, motherhood, being female, and bluegrass music, as she plays bluegrass fiddle. What a renaissance woman!

We then adjourned back to the senior common room, where there was more wine, elegant cheeses, and coffee. More conversation. It was a great evening, and I hope it isn't presumptuous to say that I'm already looking forward to the next one!

Daily highlights: All of the above.

Anti-highlight: Realizing that when you skip lunch, and you consume 2 glasses of sherry before dinner, and about 3-4 glasses of wine during dinner, you might have trouble focusing on your Aquinas revisions when you get back to the B&B.

OTP (3), Days 7-9 -- Git Along to Northumbria, Lil' Dogies

I leave Durham this afternoon. It's been a really good time here, for several reasons.

  • I've stayed longer than I usually do -- 5 nights instead of 3 or 4 -- which meant that I could do more fun things during the day and in the evenings, like eat dinner twice with the Songs and attend a lecture from an artist-in-residence and 'formal dinner' at St. Chad's college last night (more on that later)
  • I've attended morning and evening prayer and midday communion on a pretty regular basis. This has been very good for me, very centering and soothing.
  • I've discovered the library in the cathedral -- it feels like i'm an extra in a Harry Potter movie.
  • I met another of Robert's students, an amazing woman named Maeve Sherlock. She's done about 500 amazing things working with the UK government, and has worked in the past with Gordon Brown. She's extremely bright and very funny, and a Rocky Horror Picture Show fan to boot!!
  • Laughing about Monty Python's "Life of Brian" with Robert -- Biggus Dickus (he said it, not me)
  • I'm beginning, just beginning, to master the style of writing suitable to phd level work. Less reliance on secondary sources, less in quotes in the text, more authoritative in tone. Of course, I have to be able to defend whatever I say in the paper. Hmmm...
  • Explaining "y'all" and "all y'all" to Robert and his family. Working on pronunciation. Reciting "git along, l'il dogies" in a Texas accent.

I'll travel this afternoon to the Northumbria Community, near the border with Scotland. Saturday should be a good day to relax, do some non-academic reading, take a nap, and catch up with friends Pete and Catherine. They are affiliated with Northumbria, so we'll spend the weekend there together. Then back to London on Sunday, and home the next day.

Daily highlights:

  • Fantastic formal dinner last night as guest of Margaret's
  • walking to & from school along the river at night -- very dark, very quiet, the lights from the city reflecting on the water
  • making new friend Maeve
  • drinking sherry for the first time, and rediscovering gin and tonic -- very, very British
  • having tomorrow off from schoolwork!

Somewhat surprising anti-highlight: Finding out that your b&b doesn't take credit cards, and that the atm won't give you enough money in a single day to pay the bill. Trying to convince them you're not a fraud.

Nov 14, 2007

OTP (3) -- A wonderful story from home

I received an email from Billy today, which contained the most amazing account of our little girl's growth and experiences of the world. I just had to include part of his email. I'm constantly surprised at how she's becoming more and more of a person:

The time with Miranda has been great. That is not to say that it hasn't been very challenging at times, but it is very important to me to be able to make these kinds of more intensive investment in her. She is really testing all of the boundaries, taking her arms out of the car seat, fighting gettting into the car seat, running from me when I try to put her into the car, and various other kinds of mischief. She really is a mixture of incredible sweetness and defiance at this point, and again I have to remind myself to rejoice in the fact that she is so alive and full of vitality. Our little shark, which Miranda seems to really love, looked sick last night and seemed to be on the way out of this world. So, we prayed for him, and after a couple of minutes, I heard Miranda saying "look daddy, cark..." The shark had seemingly revived and was behaving normally. That was a really cool experience. This morning the shark seemed okay and Miranda said "Cark sick." Cool stuff...

I realized that in the first draft of this post, I used the word 'amazing' 4 times. Which is neat, as 'Miranda' means admirable, amazing, extraordinary. All of which I find her to be!

OTP (3), Days 5-6 -- More Happiness from Home

Here are some more great images from home. Again, captions are courtesy of Daddy, artist-in-residence. Notice that in all three pics, Miranda is wearing her favorite new clothes, a set of fleecy pig pajamas. She loves them and carries them around, saying 'My pig! My pig! I wear my pig!'

'My right foot, a prodigy's story'
(No offense to Christy Brown)

'Bump, bump, bump on you Lego bottom'
(This is a song we sing as we descend the stairs the 'safe' way, bumping down on our bottoms. Apparently, she's done an artistic interpretation with Legos, her new fave toy.)

(Actually, I have no idea what this caption means. But the pic is great.)

Nov 13, 2007

OTP (3), Days 5-6 -- Paint the room, Cinderella; study Plato, Cinderella

Durham is great; I'm having a good time. I'm staying at this nice little B&B, with yummy English brekkies of egg, bacon, sausage, beans, grilled mushrooms and tomah-to, plus fabulous tea and yummy orange marmalade. Just the thing to get me thinking about temperance, right?

I've had a good mix so far of study, contemplation, and other work. I've met twice with my advisor Robert, and we've discussed the following:

  • how to read a primary text
  • how to employ and cite the secondary literature
  • the difference between primary commentaries and next-tier works (i.e. Cambridge Companions)
  • the difference between masters and doctoral level work in terms of originality and authority
  • whether Aquinas was more influenced by Aristotle or Augustine
  • the difference between gluttony and greed
  • the difference between historical research for its own sake, and that which aims to inform a contemporary discussion
  • what the working title of my work should be, something like 'An Historical Recovery of the Virtue of Temperance for Use in Contemporary Discussions of Consumption'
Overall, work is going well. Robert and I are meeting tomorrow morning (Thursday) to discuss my paper on Aquinas, then hopefully make some more progress on Friday before I leave.

We've also had other, equally esoteric conversations on the following topics:

  • whether or not we liked the movie Brokeback Mountain, and why
  • our respective ages when we first saw a Star Wars film (Maria-6, Robert-44)
  • where his soon-to-arrive telly should reside in their living room
  • the difference between a yorkshire pudding and a dinner roll
  • the first 'bad' words we heard our kids say (sh*t v. bugger)
  • how americans think about houses in square feet, and brits just say small, medium, large
  • the similarity between a british choc ice and a dairy queen dip cone

I also had the opportunity to help him finish painting the kids' room at their church. It was fun to do something more mundane, and get the chance to chat about all kinds of stuff, and it felt very much like the kind of life-sharing we do at Communality. We then went back to his place and I was invited to stay to tea with the family. It was just a great time, talking parenting with Robert and Margaret, playing with their cat Sparky, and getting to know their kids, Iona and Jamie, even better. They're just really cool people.

Daily highlights:

  • attending morning prayer, midday communion, and evensong at the Cathedral
  • enjoying the crisp weather
  • fish and chips with tons of vinegar and salt from Bimbi's on the square -- a perenniel Durham favorite!
  • wandering through the Durham Indoor Market, checking out the cool chutneys and jams
  • discussing Shane Claiborne's book and the new monasticism with Margaret and Robert
  • chatting with the nice staff at my B&B about Durham and the UK in general

Anti-highlight: Not having anyone from my daily life here, with me, with whom to share this experience.

Nov 11, 2007

OTP (3) -- Daily Highlights from Home

Here are some photos from home, courtesy of Daddy. I miss my wunchie!

Singing in the Rain (raingear, that is)

"I watch Pooh"
Snuggled in like Mommy, all I need is a cup of hot tea

Action Shot with Book

Yoga Reading

OTP (3), Days 2-4 -- Lounging in London

I arrived in London at 8:30 Friday morning. The flight was nice and only half-full, so I got 2 seats to myself, yippee! Virgin Atlantic was nicer than most US carriers, though probably not as nice as British Airways. I read part of Stephen King's The Waste Lands, the 3rd in his Dark Tower series. Also read part of Augustine's The City of God, which wasn't quite as gripping. Took a nice 2-3 dozy nap, and awoke in time to land.

Friday was great, just a quiet day with Rachel Turner and the girls in Hackney. Rachel and I haven't been able to spend tons of time together, but for a large part of the day it was just the two of us and her youngest girl, Eve. We chatted about tons of stuff, ate lunch, prepared tea (the evening meal), and laughed a lot. Then I took a long nap while she childminded and collected her other girls from school. I awoke in time to help finish tea, said hello to Andy (her husband), then did the washing up. (I used far too much soap, again!) Then, after the girls were settled, we went to a friend's house and watched Starter for Ten. It's hilarious, a must-see.

Saturday started with a nice lie-in (that is, I didn't get out of bed until after 10am). Had a cup of tea and a croissant, chatted with the girls, helped serve lunch, discussed parenting and admired Rachel's amazing abilities as a mother. Then headed off to the train with Jessie, their 12 yr old daughter, where she travelled to meet her aunt and I went off in search of Christmas presents and a possible theatre ticket. I found that nice street of rare bookstores off Charing Cross Road, then went searching for a certain Picasso poster for Miranda, which I couldn't purchase online, and which I found at the National Gallery (it's at the top of this post). It's in one of her board books, and she LOVES it. She always holds up her hands like she's holding the dove herself. I hope she'll like having it on her wall! As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to see Spamalot at the theatre, but tickets were outrageous, so I wandered around Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square, and ended up back at Covent Garden, where I had a beef and stilton pasty and some nice chocolate candies from a stall. I also watched a juggler on a unicycle and a Charlie Chaplin impersonator. I then took the train home, where I watched my first-ever episode of Doctor Who with Millie (then another one later with Rachel, Andy, and their friend Paul). What a day!

Sunday, I arose slightly earlier and bid farewell to the sweet Turners as they left for church. I had lunch and a nice chat withg their lodger Nathan, who's very interesting and has lived in Romania for a year, working with Romani children. I then caught the Tube to King's Cross and the train to Durham. I read more Augustine and ate the most fabulous sandwich -- bacon, Brie, spinach, and a cranberry relish -- so tasty. After arriving in Durham, I caught a cab to my bed and breakfast, the Castle View Guest House, then had a Subway sandwich, read some more, and went to sleep.

The daily highlights:

  • Very tasty chicken and leek crumble for Friday tea, and Saturday lunch
  • numerous cups of Earl Grey tea with milk
  • bacon & brie sandwich (note: you'll see lots of food and bevs in these daily highlights)
  • talking marriage, parenthood, faith & travel with Rachel
  • getting surprise cuddles from Eve
  • wandering through London on a Saturday evening, watching the theatre crowd
  • riding the train with Jessie
  • strolling through Hackney, taking in the sights and sounds
  • singing loudly to "Bicycle" by Queen with Millie
  • sleeping late in a warm bed with snuggly pillows and duvet

Anti-highlight: Hearing that something "biggish, and black, and running" was spotted under my bed. Discussion as to whether it was a mouse or a spider. Not sure which made me feel more uneasy. (OK, definitely the spider.)

OTP (3) -- I'm 37, I'm Not Old!

Some of you (probably those who were in junior/senior high in the mid-80s) will recognize this quote from one of the best movies ever, when King Arthur is addressing some poor peasant pushing a cart of various sorts of muck:

  • Old woman!
  • Man!

  • Old man, sorry. Who lives in that castle over there?

  • I'm 37.

  • What?
  • I'm 37, I'm not old.

I guess I'm posting this for 2 reasons. Reason 1 -- I wanted to see Spamalot at the theatre in London last night, but wasn't willing to spend $150 on a ticket. Reason 2 -- I'm 37, I'm not old.

Nov 8, 2007

OTP (3): Day 1 -- Food for the Journey

I don't know if it's genuine, but this hot dog sure was good. I think the hot peppers added that extra touch.

I've always wanted to read this particular Louis L'Amour book. Back when I was riding horses, my dad used to come to the shows, always armed with at least one LL novel. One weekend, he arrived with this one, which he'd just purchased and was dying to read. My trainer Katchen swiped it from him and read the entire thing by Sunday. And at the next show, she had a new hunter with the showname Passin' Through. So, I figured it was about time I got in the loop.
I may have said this before, but I love airports, especially ones with interesting international travel. As I write this, I'm sharing a table with a family from somewhere in Southwest Asia, I think (India? Pakistan? Bangladesh?) . I don't understand a word they're saying, and it's kind of cool. I like seeing all the different airlines, and dream of flying on them someday. (What would it be like to fly on Royal Jordanian Airlines? I want to find out!) I passed the ticket counter for Taca Airlines, the official airline for El Salvador, which I flew when I went there in 1993. I like indulging in yummy junk food, or semi-junk food, like the hot dogs here, or the yummy green chili stew at the Denver Airport.
What don't I like about airports? Long security lines, which I've just realized there is at our terminal. Looks like I'd better wrap it up, get checked in, and get through the checkpoint. Next stop -- over the pond!

Over the Pond, Volume 3: Day 1 -- Back in the saddle again!

There are no excuses for taking such a long break, so I won't make any. It might have something to do with the fact that our new house doesn't have a landline, thanks to my spackling over what turned out to be the only extension (because I didn't like the location in the middle of the hallway). it might have to do with an increasingly active 2 yr old. It might be the move to and redecoration of the new house, and all the work that entails. It might be that I'm just a bit of a slacker. Whatever!! I'll just begin blogging again, and hope someone is still taking the time to look! And even with lots of interesting things happening in our lives, it took a Temperance Girl special to bring me back. Also, it took getting away for a few days to actually find the time to do it.

For those who've followed this blog (and been so patient with this extended absence), you'll remember the first and second installments of our exciting travel series, Over the Pond. (If you're interested, check in July 2006 and March 2007 archives; for some reason the links won't work.) So, the management is pleased to welcome you to the season premiere of the third installment. Yes, I'm sitting in O'Hare airport in Chicago, eating a (supposedly genuine) Chicago hot dog, complete with mustard, relish, tomato slices. a pickle spear, relish, onions, and hot peppers. It's seriously good. Tomorrow morning, I'll arrive in London and spend a few days with our fabulous friends, the Turners. Then on to Durham on Sunday, working all week with Robert, and the next weekend with our friends Pete and Catherine at the Northumbria Community. Then back to London for the flight home on Monday the 19th.

Don't be fooled by the brief summary -- the posts will be fun. Stay tuned, unless you've lost all hope in me!