Nov 15, 2008

Over the Pond (5), day 13 -- Comings and goings

Please bear with me -- I do have a couple of posts in the works about my academic progress while in England, and a couple other things. We have houseguests and our community's 10-yr celebration this weekend, and after that I'll get caught up.

I've been trying to decide whether is more enjoyable -- the journey across the pond or the journey home. In some ways I vote for the outgoing journey:
  • I'm excited about getting a break from childcare and having several days of uninterrupted adult time.

  • I've usually been working hard in preparation for leaving, so the relief of just sitting in the airport or on the plane is more acute.

  • I usually have several books that I've been saving to read while I'm gone, so breaking into the first one feels like opening the first of all the Christmas presents.

  • It's the beginning of the trip, so I'm just excited in general. That first day away feels like the first book -- the first of many exciting days away.

However, this time the journey home felt much more restful.

  • It's always more relaxing at the end of the trip. While I'm usually fretting over schoolwork on the outgoing flight, I tend to take a break on the way home, so I can read those non-school books or watch those movies with peace of mind.

  • The flight doesn't represent one "night" of sleep, so I'm less concerned about actually getting some sleep, and more able to relax with a fun diversion.

Anyway... coming home was so relaxing this time around. (Come to think of it, it was last March as well. Two blessings in a row!) I was somehow upgraded to Economy Plus, with extra leg room, and then I had the two seats by the window to myself, as the flight was only half-full. The plane was somewhat chilly, so I drank a glass of wine, snuggled under a blanket, relaxed on the window and let the warm morning sun shine on my neck and shoulders. It sounds silly to describe it now, but it was utterly blissful. I did the crossword, dozed, read parts of Stumbling on Happiness and Acedia & Me, and watched the X-Files movie.

Whereas I usually have a long layover in Chicago O'Hare, this time it was a mere 3 1/2 hours, which is actually the perfect length of time to accomplish the following:

  • deplane

  • get through Passport Control

  • collect my luggage

  • get through Customs

  • recheck my luggage

  • take the train to my next terminal

  • realize, once again, that I'm at the wrong terminal to get my next boarding pass; walk to that terminal, collect boarding pass, and walk back

  • proceed through security once again (since I left the "secure" area when I left the international terminal)

  • locate a Chili's on the way to my Lexington gate, have a burger and check email

  • get to my gate with 30 minutes to spare before boarding

This is very doable and stress-free. Which is good, because I inevitably crash sometime around now. By then, it's around midnight England time, and my body's ready to sleep, but I still have several hours before reaching home. But my shorter layover meant that I arrived into Lexington around 9:00, where someone was anxious to regain her mommy. Although I'd mentioned to Billy that they could stay home (as I was delayed until 9:45pm), he said that she was looking forward to "getting my mommy from the big airplane." They watched my plane taxi to the gate, and while Billy collected my bags, I was subjected to the delighted cries, kisses, and snuggles of a Wunchie. The best part of the trip home?

"I missed you so much while you were gone, Momma. So much. So SO much. And then you came back to me!"

No question about it -- arriving is better than departing.

Nov 12, 2008

Over the Pond (5), day 12 -- Hackney as bookend, and as a potluck of great experiences

As I often do, I spent the last day of my trip with the Turners in the London Borough of Hackney. Not much of a day, actually, as I arrived just in time to help get the kids from school. Rachel, her mother-in-law and I walked through the drizzling rain and collected the kids, with me marvelling at the intercultural nature of their school. For instance, there are 18 languages spoken in the various homes of Eve's classmates -- English, French, Spanish, German, Yiddish, Fante, Twi, Igbo, Yoruba, Gujarati, Hindi, Urdu, Turkish, Tagalog, Arabic, and three others I can't remember.

After getting caught in a rainstorm on the way home, we made dinner for about 10 guests, families from the neighborhood. It was a great time, and I had a nice time cuddling with their 4-yr-old Eve. Then we put all the kids to bed, and I read a few pages before heading to bed. The next morning, I just had time for tea and toast with Andy and the kids before Rachel took me to Mile End Tube station, where I caught a train to Paddington Station and then to Heathrow.

It seems that I either begin or end my trips in Hackney; it's like a bookend to my trip abroad. And there's always something interesting going on, someone interesting to talk to. Here's a sampling of some of the things I've done while with the Turners in Hackney.
  • taking long, lovely walks through the Docklands and Hackney Marsh with Rachel, discussing all kinds of things

  • using too much soap in the washing-up, each and every time

  • eating takeaway curry and kebabs with Billy after Greenbelt

  • walking with Rachel to get the kids from school, seeing all the interesting sites in Hackney

  • sleeping in Jessie's room, sleeping in Millie & Eve's room, sleeping in the lodger's room, sleeping in the lounge, sleeping in the cellar

  • fixing tea (dinner) with Rachel -- for us, for the kids, for 10 dinner guests

  • sleeping late

  • watching Angela's Ashes and Notting Hill by myself

  • watching Doctor Who with Rachel and Millie

  • watching Starter for Ten with Rachel and her friend (whose name escapes me)

  • blogging

  • visiting the Tate Modern museum

  • doing laundry

  • chatting with their lodgers (boarders) -- Rachel, Matsui, Nathan, John

A few years ago I told a man who was considering moving in, "You'll never have a dull day in this house." Fortunately, I've always known that to be true. Until next time!

Nov 11, 2008

Over the Pond (5), day 11 -- Breast Pump Woman

Some of you may remember this post (and this post) from the first season of Over the Pond, July 2006. Well, thanks to this series of events, I have a seemingly permanent nickname in Harrogate -- Breast Pump Woman.

On Sunday afternoon in Harrogate, Pete and Catherine took me to a birthday party of a family from their parish. As we prepared to leave, Catherine said, "Oh, you'll have fun tonight -- this party is being hosted by Tim -- you know, Breast Pump Guy." Apparently, the story of Tim having to send part of my breast pump to me in London, back in July 2006, has garnered quite a following. (His wife, Sue, was also described as "the wife of Breast Pump Guy.") So, as we got to the party, Tim came out to greet us, and Catherine said, "Tim, this is our friend Maria - -you remember Maria, hee hee hee." Tim and I shook hands and laughed, and I said, "We meet at last." Oh well, I thought, at least that's over. Then as we entered the party and began to circulate, Catherine would reply to anyone who asked how we knew each other with, "Oh, she's a friend from the States -- and Tim had to send her her breast pump once." Talk about your raised eyebrows. At least their friends were all totally cool. It was great fun.

So that's me -- Breast Pump Woman.

Over the Pond (5), day 11 -- Filling in the corners

My Sunday in Harrogate was all about rest and recuperation. After our blissful, Enthusiast day in York, I got a lovely night's sleep, then awoke just in time to beg off of church and get a lovely morning's sleep. I woke, and dozed, and woke, and dozed, and slept, and dozed a bit more. It was just what I needed; I'd been rising early each morning to work on my writing, and was actuely aware of the luxury of resting until noon. In his books, Tolkien describes the hobbits concluding their meals by nibbling and nibbling, "filling up the corners." That's exactly what I did on Sunday, and it was wonderful.

After Pete and Catherine returned, each having preached that morning, Catherine and I drank tea and checked email and chatted by the fire while Pete fixed a yummy lunch of sausage and mustard mash, baked beans, poached eggs, and homemade bread. We all dozed in front of our computers before stopping by a friend's birthday party (more on that later). We then opted not to attend Evensong (Enthusiast malfunction) and returned to the house for more dozing, tea, and conversation.

They then went to dinner at another friend's while I remained behind. Catherine said, "You're not invited tonight, so you can stay home, rest and read." How did she know? Pete very proudly displayed the goodies he'd bought me for dinner -- tinned chicken curry and treacle sponge, the latter of which I decided to bring home and enjoy with the family. I stayed home, ate curry with cream crackers, apples and dates, talked to my friend Christine, and watched Fiddler on the Roof. It was a lovely day.

The next morning, Pete and I drove to Leeds, where he had a meeting and I caught the train to London. Although I wish these folks were still living in the States, I'm enjoying seeing another side of them, and another aspect of England, as they make their home in Harrogate.

In case you're wondering about my connection to Pete and Catherine, they are friends from the New Monastic network and are members of the Northumbria Community, which I've visited on previous trip OTP (see here, here, and here).

Nov 10, 2008

Over the Pond (5), day 9 -- Enneagram Sevens of the world, unite!!

I've almost lost track of where we are in OTP (5). What with blogging about the election, college football, and wayward bats, I've sort of lost the thread of the trip's narrative. Maybe we can get back on schedule.

I stayed in Durham longer this trip than I have any other time, Sunday evening to Saturday morning. It was really nice to finish work with Robert early Friday afternoon, then wander down to the Market Square for fish & chips, a bit of shopping, and some mental decompression. Then Evensong and dinner with Maeve, where we talked about our week and the ups & downs of doctoral work.

The next morning, I boarded a train to spend the weekend with New Monastic friends Pete & Catherine (see their beautiful faces above). They live in Harrogate but wanted to spend the day exploring York. We started with a lovely Thai meal, then a jaunt through the shopping sector; I wanted to find one of those denim miniskirts that young Brits wear with tights and boots -- it's a very cool look.

However, we had no luck, so for solace Pete took us to The Whisky Shop, where I purchased some 23 year old scotch for Billy. Here's the Whisky Shop -- can you feel the good vibes?

We then spent several hours at the York Castle Museum, which was lots of fun and very informative.

We stopped to recharge with chai and hot chocolate at Borders book store, then saw the movie Easy Virtue with Jessica Biel, Kristen Scott Thomas, and Colin Firth. It was great fun and the first time I've actually laughed out loud at the movies (several times) in quite a while.

We finished the evening with dinner and a pint at The Olde Starre Inn, York's oldest pub. It was well worth the 40 minutes it took to actually get our order straight!

It was a fun day, not least because it was full of interesting sights and experiences. And Pete and I discovered that we're the same enneagram type; we're Sevens, the Enthusiasts who love to experience new things and live each day to the full. As Pete was outling what he'd had in mind for the day, I kept thinking, "This is just the sort of day I'd plan if I only had one day in York with an overseas friend!" So when Catherine mentioned the enneagram, I knew Pete and I were both Sevens.
It's interesting meeting another Seven who's in ministry; it's not a very common type of person in this vocation. Soemtimes we end up a bit ashamed of our Seven-ness, wondering if our zest for life is really just superficial and shallow. (And we did end up reading bits of an enneagram book aloud once we were back in Harrogate, and googling bits online and discussing them.) But for Saturday, we celebrated our enthusiasm for life's exciting journey, affirmed each other, and enjoyed every bite, every minute, everything.

Nov 9, 2008

Over the Pond (5), day 10 -- Hey, BBC, if you can cover the election returns, why can't you cover this??

Why, why did I have to choose this week to be out of the country? Not only did I miss our historic national election, but I missed my alma mater turning out two decisive victories in their quest for a national football title! First University of Texas, now Oklahoma State!
The New York Times did a surprisingly fun article about the game and Tech's pursuit of the title, bits of which I've quoted between the pictures.

"It is not easy to get to this dusty West Texas outpost," says the New York Times. "Only three commercial airlines fly directly here, which may not be surprising considering there is not a building taller than 14 stories. But for the next two weeks, Lubbock will continue its improbable role as a college football hub. No. 2 Texas Tech blasted No. 8 Oklahoma State, 56-20, on Saturday, solidifying its status as one of the most dominant teams in college football. "

" So get used to tortillas flying in the air, a bandit Texas Tech tradition that was revived after Crabtree’s third score. And get used to Guns Up, the traditional Texas Tech symbol, and Leach’s entertaining sound bites. "

"And for now,' concludes the New York Times, "the Big 12’s road to the national title goes through Lubbock. No matter how difficult it may be to get here."

Amen, and get your guns up!

Nov 7, 2008

Over the Pond (5) -- Young man, do you have any idea what time it is? I've been worried sick!

The bat equivalent of passing out drunk in your front yard.

Over the Pond (5), day 8 -- A pictoral tour of Maria's favorite parts of Durham

I wanted to share a few pictures of Durham that reveal just a bit of its beauty. It's true that pictures rarely capture the fullness of what we see, but these do pretty well.

Here's Durham Cathedral as you're walking along the river Wear.
I've never been in Durham in the winter, but this might convince me.

The front of the cathedral.

The Galilee Chapel, where they occasionally hold Early Communion or Morning Prayer. It's cold, and quiet, and delightful in an understanded way.

The beautiful archwork inside

This is the Cathedral library, where you feel like you should be an extra in a Harry Potter movie. I studied (and snugged up to the radiator) in a window cubby, which you can see on the left, between the tall bookcases.

This is one side of the Cathedral Cloisters, which form a square between the Cathedral itself and the adjacent buildings (library, gift shop, cafe, offices, choral school, and others).

You can also visit this link to get a 360-degree view of the Durham Market Square, the hub of Old Durham activity.

Actually, here's a great website if you'd like to see more pics of the Cathedral. I'm such a groupie!

Nov 6, 2008

Over the Pond (5), days 7 & 8 -- I absolutely love Durham!

It's Friday night, and I'm winding down after a long, difficult, and productive week in Durham. I'm working on a post about some of the fun things I've done this week, but tonight I'm just too tired for concentrate enough to make it look good. I also have some exciting news about my academic progress, but again, that's another post. Let's see what I can manage.

Some things I learned this week in Durham:
  • Saying "absolutely correct" 4 times in a 43-page paper (as in "So-and-so is absolutely correct in stating that Plato...") is about 2 times too many. Get a thesaurus, Maria!

  • Eating greasy fish & chips once a week while in the UK is... just about right.

  • There is a wonderful library in the Cathedral Cloisters, which has most of the theological books I need.

  • The library in the Cathedral Cloisters, and other old stone buildings, are amazing to walk through, and freezing to sit in for more than a few minutes.

  • There is a clothing store where you can purchase locally brewed beer. I bought 2 bottles for Billy, a Monty Python brew and an award-winning "Cloisters Brew." Let's see if I can get them home in one piece.

  • Staying with a new friend is much better than staying at a bed & breakfast.

  • When a Brit says, "Yes, well, that certainly sounds like something that could be considered at some point," you should recognize defeat and move on.

  • Tuna steak and canned corn on a homemade pizza is not quite the same as pepperoni and sausage on a pizza of any kind.

  • Instant messaging with friends on Facebook can help when, despite all the great things about Durham, you're still feeling homesick.

I did this post last March, sharing some of the things I love about being in Durham. In fact, almost any post I've done while in Durham is full of things I love about this place. It's partially the studies, partially the grandeur of the buildings, partially the break from the daily routine.

Sorry if this post was kind of a dud. I thought of all kinds of witty things to say earlier -- honest.

Nov 5, 2008

The votes heard 'round the world

I found this slide show via a friend's blog, highlighting the incredible attention this election has garnered around the world, and underscoring its impact.

Nov 4, 2008


I can't help it, I'm sitting here crying. I realize that I have no idea, no idea at all what this means to millions of Americans. I can't believe I was able to be a part of this.


Nov 3, 2008

Over the Pond (5), days 3&4 -- A new twist on an old post

I was thinking today, "Should I even bother to post anything about my time in Durham?" It seems like it's always the same stuff -- the Daily Office at the Cathedral, fish & chips, study, blah blah blah. Is it getting boring? And wouldn't you know it, someone saved me just in time. I've been tagged with a letter-bound meme, and my letter is C. I need to list 10 things I love that start with C, and I'll see if I can make them all trip-related.
  1. The cathedral. I love, love, love the Durham Cathedral. It's marvelous. Just try and visit it and not fall in love. I dare you. Even visiting the Wiki site, you'll get a little crush.
  2. Chips, as in "fish & chips." They make chips (the equivalent of our fries) differently, bigger and fatter and less crispy, and just ready to soak up all that strong malt vinegar and salt.
  3. Cobblestone streets. They're all over the place here.
  4. Custard. It's not like vanilla pudding -- it's milder and thinner and usually quite warm. It's perfect on things like treacle sponge and spotted dick.
  5. Oh yeah, it's also great on rhubarb crumble.
  6. Conversation. It's so refreshing, and so energizing, to have a sustained conversation about my work with Robert, Maeve, other students. Studying alone is difficult, at least for me. And as a verbal processor, conversations bring life back to the work.
  7. Canonical hours. Making time for morning prayer, midday communion, and evensong has become important to me. It's easy to think that I don't have time for the daily office, but it usually makes me feel centered and rested.
  8. Cups and cups and cups of tea. They have great tea over here, and I usually drink lots of it.
  9. Connecting with my friends whom I only get to see in November and March, people like Robert, Margaret, Iona, Jamie, Maeve, the Turners, and the Askews.
  10. Calm. All the time I spend on trains and planes and in between studying gives me time to sit and think, or not think at all. It's refreshing. (And now all my mom friends are hating me.)

Thanks Janet!

Nov 2, 2008

Shane Claiborne in Wilmore on Election Day

Here is an article in the Lexington Herald-Leader about an upcoming visit from Shane Claiborne, member of the simple way and friend of the family. He'll be speaking in Estes Chapel at Asbury Seminary on Tuesday, Nov. 4th at 11am. You should go.

Billy and Miranda get to have dinner and spend the evening with Shane and our dear friend Chris Lahr on Monday. I'm jealous.

Nov 1, 2008

You're a mean one, Ms. Grinch

Here is an absolutely deplorable story about a woman who, when greeting trick-or-treaters, actually asked kids who they wanted for president. If they said Obama, they were turned away emptyhanded. She also had a sign posted stating, "No handouts for Obama supporters, liars, tricksters, or kids of Obama supporters."

When asked how she felt about making some kids cry, she apparently said, "Oh well, everybody has a choice."

Look, vote for whomever you prefer. Campaign, donate, whatever. But don't pull a stunt like this. Because it's just rude, and classless.

Watch the video here. Then, go eat lots and lots of candy to get the awful taste out of your mouth.

Over the Pond (5), Day 2 -- Norwich

You never know how travel will be from trip to trip. My flight to Heathrow was full but I was somehow upgraded to Economy Plus, with its 4”of extra leg room. It was probably the first overseas flight in ages where I haven’t watched a movie, as I was reading a new novel, Duane’s Depressed by Larry McMurtry. I’ve been on a McMurtry kick for about a year, the Lonesome Dove and Last Picture Show series. I was able to doze for a few hours, despite the plane being at capacity and my nagging backache. And whereas I spent over an hour last spring negotiating Passport Control, this time I breezed through in under 10 minutes. (I looked back and realized that our plane had arrived just before 2 other international flights, as I saw their passengers flooding into Passport Control as I was leaving. Timing is everything!)

I spent the weekend with some friends in Norwich. (Where’s Norwich, you ask? Here it is.) Mel and Hazel are the parents of longtime friend Sean Gladding, whom I’ve known at the Texas Tech Wesley Foundation, and again at Asbury, and again at Communality. They are gracious hosts and we’ve had a good time.

Last night, I was fortunate to see Martyn Joseph perform at the Assembly House. Billy and I met Martyn when Sean booked him to play at Asbury’s Kingdom Conference in 2001. His music reflects a faith that is vibrant and realistic and pissed off about the tragedies of our world, and it’s pretty amazing to hear. Plus he’s self-deprecating and witty and generally a nice guy. We spent a few minutes after the show catching up about our families and the busyness of life.

An unexpected treat was attending the show with Sean’s brother Lee and his wife Lynette. They are great folks, and Lynette and I had a great time drinking gin & tonic, discussing marriage and motherhood, and admiring each other’s sense of style. (Hers is better, hands down.)

Tomorrow I’m headed up to Durham on the train, and study begins Monday. After several trips where I’ve stayed by myself in a bed & breakfast, I’m looking forward to lodging with friends again. More conversation, less moping around by myself.

Oct 30, 2008

Over The Pond (5), Day 1 -- O'Hare Again

Here we are, getting ready to board the flight to London Heathrow. I seem to remember a witty opening post for OTP (4), but I'm a bit tired. Plus we're about to board, so I'll have to make this quick.

In some ways, I was well-prepared for this trip. I did laundry and packed early, made good progress on my schoolwork, and lined up my UK contacts well ahead of time. (... this is the sound of the other shoe falling through the air, dropping, dropping...)

Other Shoe #1: On Tuesday evening, my computer began having mysterious problems. When I took it to the repair place, they hunted and mumbled and finally said some confusing things, with one word standing out -- "motherboard?" Oh no, even I know that's not good. They weren't totally sure, and recommended I see how it goes, but we might have big problems down the line.

Other Shoe #2: Yesterday, my lower back began to hurt, pretty badly. I stretched and iced and heated, and iced and heated again. Finally, I called my doc and said something to the effect of "I'll be on a plane for over 8 hours tomorrow -- have mercy." They did and provided Flexaril, which is helping but makes me very groggy.

At least both of them broke before I left the States -- that's something!

I'm off to buy a pack of gum and some Altoids before I get to the UK and they cost me $5 apiece.

Oct 27, 2008

Over the Pond, vol.5

This week, don't miss the exciting season premiere of Over the Pond, now appearing in its 5th season. Debut is scheduled for this Thursday, October 30th.

To catch up on seasons 1-4, check out the labels in the sidebar.

Oct 15, 2008

The Ordinary Radicals tonight!

Tonight at the Kentucky Theatre, our community's foundation is sponsoring a screening of The Ordinary Radicals: A Conspiracy of Faith on the Margins of Empire. Read below for a synopsis of the film:

In the margins of the United States, there lives a revolutionary Christianity. One with a quiet disposition that seeks to do 'small things with great love,' and in so doing is breaking 21st Century stereotypes surrounding this 2000 year old faith. 'The Ordinary Radicals' is set against the modern American political and social backdrop of the next Great Awakening. Traveling across the United States on a tour to promote the book 'Jesus for President', Shane Claiborne and a rag-tag group of 'ordinary radicals' interpret Biblical history and its correlation with the current state of American politics. Sharing a relevant outlook for people with all faith perspectives, director Jamie Moffett examines this growing movement.

Click here to view the film's trailer. The film's director, Jamie Moffet, will be present for live interview and Q & A after the showing.

Where? The Kentucky Theatre, 214 East Main Street, Lexington, Ky.

When: Thursday, October 16th, 7-10pm

Tickets are $7.50 and may be purchased at the door. You may also purchase tickets in advance by calling 859.231.7924 or 859.231.6997

The evening is also a fundraiser for Kentucky Refugee Ministries, with 100% of the door proceeds going directly to them.

And, you can check out the article in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Oct 14, 2008

Oct 10, 2008

More Random Political Thoughts Which Require Your Feedback

As I consider how our country is becoming increasingly polarized in our public discourse, I've begun reading a book called Patriotic Grace: What It Is and Why We Need It Now. It's written by a former Reagan speechwriter, and it calls Americans -- liberal and conservative alike -- to "see each other anew" and "face our common challenges together." Anyone out there read it? Care to comment? I'll report back as I go. In that vein, I've been increasingly intrigued by the apparent and unlikely friendship between commentators Rachel Maddow and Pat Buchanan. This article seems a good example of how people with radically different political positions can actively and positively participate in political dialogue. (Plus, it's just fun to watch them dig at each other energetically yet good-naturedly.)

One columnist I've been reading lately is Kathleen Parker. Although we differ in many areas of political thought, I'm beginning to admire her work quite a bit. She's taken some heat for her criticism of Gov. Palin (which are here and here), and while I tend to agree with her critique, I'm more taken with the thoughtful, nuanced voice she brings to the discussion. Take a look and see what you think. Let me know. Don't be afraid to disagree.

Speaking of Kathleen Parker, here's an interesting article about the possibility of Obama making a significant connection with voters in an area very dear to my heart, Appalachia.

And on a final and admittedly trivial note... Ann Coulter is an intelligent, extreme, and beautiful woman (whose views are MARKEDLY different from my own and likely always will be). I just saw her on a Fox News panel, and will someone please tell her to tone down the eyeliner???

Oct 6, 2008

Politics and Radical Inclusion

I've been trying to gather my thoughts on all these issues into one coherent post with logical flow, but I've given up. Here are my thoughts; I just want to get them posted.

A friend of my sister's said, "Wow, Maria's blog is getting pretty political." If only she saw some of the other blogs out there...! But in all fairness, this post and this post I did on Palin weren't exactly moderate in nature. (Although this post about Obama and McCain had a much more conciliatory tone.) This is the first election cycle here I've been more than a casual observer and participant. (Ok, I'm still a casual participant, but I'm observing much more intentionally.) And I'm trying to figure out how to hold opinions thoughtfully and strongly while holding more tightly to the people whom I love and respect, and to the character of Christ which we try to cultivate in our community.
At our fellowship time last Sunday, our friend Will led us in a discussion of politics. What do we think of politics? How does the process make us feel? How does our participation in the body of Christ affect (and effect) our political involvement? One text we discussed was Matthew 18, and how Jesus' instruction to treat those who sin against us "as Gentiles and tax collectors" is actually a call for radical inclusion (since Jesus tended to hang out with Gentiles and tax collectors). I wondered how such radical inclusion would shape the manner and content of our increasingly polarized political discourse. Can we have close friends and family who vote differently? How do we relate to someone who believes passionately about something with which we disagree? What hope is there for us to journey together towards our common goals?

A good friend of mine, who's a lifelong and rabid (er, devoted) fan of the University of Georgia, said something which struck me as quite insightful. "So many people," he commented, "seem to be Democrats or Republicans the same way that I'm a Dawgs fan." It's a great analogy, startling in its clarity and evocation of an almost blind devotion to a certain allegiance. While this is entirely appropriate in the realm of sports (Go Cowboys [despite Terrell Owens]!!), it's hardly conducive to thoughtful political conversation. How do we, as participants in the kingdom of God, reduce the stridency of our discourse and genuinely seek that radical inclusion that we find in Scripture?

I'm not sure. I don't have a tidy theological answer. What I do have are 2 close, close friends and several family members who will certainly make a different choice on Nov. 4th than I will make. And I'm committed to them, just as committed as to the folks with whom I largely agree. I don't hate them, they don't hate me. We love and respect each other. How do we find the courage to sit down with someone and say, "Tell me why I should care about this issue. Tell me why you are voting for this person. I may not agree, but I want to know. And I'm really listening." And how do we have the grace to answer this question, not with arrogance and hubris, but with a passion tempered by humility?
What do we do? I want to hear what you think.

Sep 25, 2008

Love 'em or hate 'em, but these are just funny

Here are some gems from tonight's Late Show with David Letterman:

Tonight's Top Ten from Wasilla, Alaska -- "The Top Ten Things You Didn't Know About Sarah Palin":

  • Once spent a week in the hospital after trying to put lipstick on a pit bull
  • Recently expanded her foreign policy experience by eating at the International House of Pancakes
  • Isn't afraid to go hunting with Dick Cheney

Hee hee hee.

Sep 19, 2008

Miranda has moved!

I'm experimenting with having a separate blog for Miranda and keeping this blog solely for other things. Let's see how it goes.

Anyway, you can visit Miranda's very own blog, Chronicles of Wunchie, by clicking on the sidebar on the right.

Sep 12, 2008

Are you sure that's really a compliment, Governor?

Much ado (over nothing) has been made of Obama's alleged insult to Sarah Palin, and whether he was actually referring to Palin when he said "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig." Never mind that each candidate has used this same expression dozens of times, always referring to issues and agendas. We'll leave that topic for another day.

What's got me more interested, and more concerned, is Palin's description of herself as a "pit bull with lipstick". Sounds rough and tough; sounds like just the thing to strike confidence in the hearts of American citizens, and strike fear in the hearts of foreign terrorists. The problem with this kick-ass analogy is that it fails to probe the exact nature of Governor Palin's proud self-reference.

Billy and I used to live in a neighborhood with at least a dozen pit bulls. Whenever one came down the street, even though most were on a leash, I always made sure I was holding Miranda in my arms.  I didn't want her even remotely within reach should the dog break free.

Pit bulls are, arguably, the most vicious breed of dog. Certainly this is affected by training and environment, but it arises from generations of breeding for aggression. Pit bulls will often attack for no reason and with no provocation, savaging anything within their reach. Children are often victims, with horrifying results. An uncontrolled pit bull doesn't use discretion when it attacks; it doesn't respond to redirection, or commands, or cries of pain, or even punishment. It just savages.

Governor Palin and the rest of the GOP might take pride in this analogy. Certainly, it struck a chord during the convention. But as a pastor and a mother, I'm certain I don't want my daughter (or anyone for whom I care) around any unrestrained pit bulls, canine or otherwise. And our country absolutely cannot afford a potential commander-in-chief who so clearly values aggression over insight.  Because I don't care how much lipstick is on that pit bull -- it won't be enough to hide all the blood on its lips.

Sep 9, 2008

Looks like I need a new apron, a nightgown, and membership in a Ladies' Auxillary


As a 1930s wife, I am
Very Poor (Failure)

Take the test!

Oh well, can't be all things to all people.

Sep 1, 2008

Atta Boy, Obama; Atta Boy, McCain

I haven't done a post yet about this year's presidential race; there's so much to process in this inevitably historic year. But in the midst of all the "politics as usual", there are some moments of true graciousness and statesmanship -- on both sides -- that bear highlighting and commendation. Here are two.

Example #1: When Obama's acceptance of the Democratic nomination fell on the 45th anniversary of MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech, McCain aired a TV ad congratulating Obama on this historic moment. Watch it here.

Example #2: When Gov. Palin announced that her 17 yr old daughter is expecting, Obama adamantly denounced the media's involving families in the campaign tactics, and wasn't afraid to name the similarities between the Palins' situation and his own childhood.

"We don't go after people's families. We don't get them involved in the politics. It's not appropriate and it's not relevant. Our people were not involved in any way in this and they will not be. And if I ever thought there was somebody in my campaign that was involved in something like that, they'd be fired," Obama said.

Obama also said: "This shouldn't be part of our politics. It has no relevance to Gov. Palin's performance as a governor or potential performance as a vice president. So I would strongly urge people to back off these kinds of stories."

"You know, my mother had me when she was 18. And how families deal with issues and teenage children - that shouldn't be the topic of our politics," Obama said.

Good on ya', both of you.

Aug 30, 2008

... and Mommy's heart melts

We were reading books tonight, assembling puzzles and generally relaxing before bed. As I stretched out on the floor, Miranda scrambled on top of me and laid her head against mine. "Oh, my Mommy..." she sighed, "...let's always be together."

Aug 28, 2008

July 30, 2005 -- Addendum

Ok, I realized that I needed to unpack the last post just a bit. In honor of Miranda's 3rd birthday, I wanted to do something that I haven't done since her birth, which was create a slideshow of the actual event.

It was a long labor, just under 24 hours (the first 21 hours were drug-free, then we had the epidural), and we were fortunate to have a professional photographer there for the last half of the event. The Lexington Herald-Leader was doing a story on our midwife and wanted to get coverage of a "natural" birth. So, they asked if they could be present, and we said yes. Sure, not everyone would have wanted to have them there, but we've always been grateful for the photos of that incredible day. I especially love how they show Billy's involvement in the whole process; he was definitely not sitting on the sidelines!

The pics really are not that graphic (although they are realistic), and are a beautiful way of commemorating what to me is a somewhat dreamlike few hours. Anyway, feel free to watch it or not, whatever you prefer!

July 30, 2005 (i.e. the long-awaited sequel to the last post)

Someone asked why I'd waited so long for the followup post about Miranda's birth. I told her, "I just wanted everyone to feel like it took as long to get through it as I did when it happened." ;-) No, it just took me a while to create a slideshow I actually liked.

So here it is -- a pictoral journey through the very first minutes of Miranda's life. Enjoy!

(PS -- Ok, I just ran through the show, and it tends to drag a bit. Try using the right arrow to advance the slide every few seconds. Wow -- a self-serve slide show!)

Click to play July 30, 2005
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Jul 30, 2008

July 29, 2005

The beautiful belly!

After 12 hours, I'm... only 4 centimeters???

Many an hour was spent in the tub.

18 hours and 7 centimeters later...

Relying on support from Billy and our doula, Anita

Our midwife Nancy, who's had 5 children, can see the lighter side of it all.

And, we await July 30th...

Jul 17, 2008

Summertime Pics, vol.3 -- Berry Pickin'

We spent the morning picking blueberries with Sherry, Isaac, Asher & Jodie at Reed Valley Orchard. They have pick-your-own prices, as well as pre-picked berries and all manner of yummy jams & spreads inside. (I'm dying to try the pumpkin butter.) We spent about an hour amidst the bushes, enjoying the sunshine and the peacefulness of being outside.

As relaxing as it sounds (and it was), I have a new respect for folks who grow and pick produce for a living. This hearty berry crop didn't just spring up overnight, like green beans or squash. These bushes took several years to reach full bearing potential, and must be covered with fine mesh to keep snacking birds away. (This grove of bushes was grown inside a huge mesh tent.) And after the bushes fruit, someone has to pick the gorgeous berries, and this takes a little longer than picking a squash.

I don't say this to complain; it just bring the price of food a bit more into perspective. I realized that when I go to Krogers, or even to the farmers' market, I tend to get a little judgmental and dissatisfied with the prices. "Why does a pint of blueberries cost so much?" After sweating in the sun for an hour picking berries, I began to wonder why they don't cost more. And it became more apparent at the register -- you save $2 a quart picking your own. No question, it was worth it.

We ended up with almost a gallon of blueberries (picked by us), a quart of blackberries (pre-picked), and a jar of pear preserves that Sherry highly recommended. Plans for the fruit include a batch of jam and at least one pie. Sherry was telling me how to freeze them, but I didn't pay much attention -- I'm fairly sure none will make it that far.

Miranda assesses the crop. At first, she didn't distinguish between green and blue berries, but after a while she would come up to me with a handful of gorgeous ripe berries. (I don't want to know how many she ate on the sly.)
Sherry displays her harvest.

Isaac and Miranda take a well-deserved rest in the shade. Ah, the life of the preschooler.

Praying, I guess.