Friday, December 28, 2007

Final 2007 Friday Five

Singing Owl writes: It is hard to believe, but 2007 is about to be history, and this is our last Friday Five of the year. With that in mind, share five memorable moments of 2007. These can be happy or sad, profound or silly, good or bad but things that you will remember. Bonus points for telling us of a "God sighting"-- a moment when the light came through the darkness, a word was spoken, a song sung, laughter rang out, a sermon spoke to you in a new way--whatever you choose, but a moment in 2007 when you sensed Emmanuel, God with us. Or more particularly, you.

1. In January, I spent a long weekend in Dallas with old friends from college. Many of us lived together in the dorm and were a part of Kappa Phi, a Christian women's service organization, and many of them have had kids, gotten married, etc. It was a fun time with lots of talking and reminiscing. It just so happened that it was the just a few days before Trouble got home from her final deployment to the middle east. Her plane was delayed and there was bad weather, but our friends jack and Kristin were awesome to put us up and help with transportation until everything got sorted out. Trouble officially got out of the Air National Guard in February after more than 6 years.

2. In March, Trouble and I went to Louisiana to help rebuild after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This was my second trip to Louisiana for rebuilding (the first time I went with several seminary students, including Hipchick). We were actually over in Rita territory and I was amazed at how much STILL hadn't been rebuilt after all that time. I posted about it earlier in this blog, including some pictures.

3. In May I graduated from seminary. It was a very strange experience to have accomplished something significant but not know what came next (when many of my classmates were moving on to full time church job appointments). My family came from Rhode Island and New Jersey, I got to meet my brother's girfriend (who is now his wife), friends drove up from Oklahoma, and a large bunch of us had a dinner after the ceremony.

4. In August I once again became a member of AmeriCorps. We had a week of orientation at a 4H camp in rural Georgia before coming back to KC and starting my job at Habitat for Humanity Kansas City. It's long been a dream to work for Habitat - a great non-profit with a mission I believe in and respect among people everywhere - and I love being a volunteer coordinator there. I'm hoping to learn as much as possible in my term and then see where it leads next July.

5. In September, Trouble and I moved into our new house. This was our first ever home purchase and I'm still adjuting to all of it - the mortgage, maintenance requirements, paperwork and taxes. It's a cute house in a cute neighborhood and I still wake up every morning looking around the room and reminding myself that this is OUR house! We can paint the walls however we want and not hear the music playing next door late at night.

Totally as an aside to the above post, I want to take a moment to remember a friend of ours, Kyra. She was a great friend to Trouble when she joined the Air National Guard, showing her the ropes and helping her survive her first deployment to the Middle East. Kyra had several tumors in her brain and went through years of chemo, radiation and surgeries. She was always one of the strongest (physically and mentally) we knew and she was loved by many in and out of the military. We last saw her at the end of October and knew it was likely our final goodbye. On Christmas Day, Kyra found eternal rest, and while we know that this is better for her, we can't help being sad for ourselves, her partner and her family members. Hers was an amazing spirit and she will be greatly missed. With prayers for comfort and strength as we move into the New Year...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas Friday Five

I haven't been doing Friday Fives much lately (mostly because Fridays tend to be busy at Habitat), but it's the last day before the holiday break (we're closed all next week, until January 2nd), most people are already gone and I can't stand to do any more work on our database today. :) Here are the five questions as posed by RevHRod:

What was one of your favorite childhood gifts that you gave?
This questions specifies childhood, so it's hard for me to remember anything really great. My mom used to always have to help my brother and I shop for my dad - there were a lot of ties and tie tacs I recall! I think maybe the best thing I can think of right now was baking my dad's favorite dessert - Whoopie Pies. I have no idea where the name comes from, but they're bascially cakelike chocolate cookies that you pair up and fill with a fluffly marshmallow based frosting. They're messy and time consuming to make but even as a kid I was always into baking and knew this was something I could do for Dad (with only a little help from Mom).

What is one of your favorite Christmas recipes? Bonus points if you share the recipe with us. Aside from Whoopie Pies, which I don't have memorized to share with you all here from work, I love to make pumpkin pie (but it HAS to be made with sweetened condensed milk - the recipe is usually on the label of the can if you buy Borden's Eagle brand). I also bake an assortment of Christmas cookies with an old favorite being Magic Cookie Bars (also a sweetened condensed milk recipe) and a new favorite being cashew cardamom shortbreads.

What is a tradition that your family can't do without? (And by family, I mean family of origin, family of adulthood, or that bunch of cool people that just feel like family.) There are a ton of traditions this time of year, but I think one of the most fun is that Trouble inherited a horn that he mom had always used as a Christmas decoration. For the first couple of years it had a big bow on it and we hung it on the wall each Christmas, but as soon as it came out of the box of Christmas stuff, Trouble would have to blow it (usually several times before the sound was anything remotely musical). The bow has long since faded and the horn is tarnished; we don't use it as decoration anymore but it's always on the top of the Christmas box when we putt the stuff out and it always gets played - a signal that the season has begun in our house!

Pastors and other church folk often have very strange traditions dictated by the "work" of the holidays. What happens at your place? Ha ha ha! This is one of the reasons I'm glad I'm not a pastor. I don't think church could possibly be the same if it was my full time job. Since my calling and seminary education have led to a different path, I don't feel like my work really impacts the holidays so much. However, as someone who worked several years in emergency services and having a partner who always works in emergency services, one or both of us often end up working on the holidays, so we end up being very flexible with dates. The traditions stay the same (cookies, fancy meal, tree, gifts, etc.) but they often get split up among different days as it fits around work stuff. It's often times that much nicer because Christmas can be split up among three or four days rather than a gluttonous one day event.

If you could just ditch all the traditions and do something unexpected... what would it be? Hmmm. I really like the traditions, and am generally not good at unexpected. I'm afraid I'm not good on this question. Instead, I'd like to reinstate one of my family traditions from when I was growing up. We always opened one gift on Christmas Eve after coming home from church, then opened gifts from relatives and friends on Christmas morning, but saved all the gifts to and from each other (just our immediate family). Then we'd open the gifts from each other 1 per night for the 12 days of Christmas, saving the biggest/best gift for January 6th on Epiphany/the 12th day. It spread the season out and reminded us that Jesus' birth was only the beginning.... Since Trouble and I have been together we haven't done this (although we spread out the holiday in our own ways -see above) mostly because giving each other 12 gifts would be WAY too extravagant!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

7 Random Things

Once again, I've been tagged (thanks, Hipchick) to give 7 random things about myself. So here they are:

1. I love to bake, so every year I prepare to make dozens of Christmas cookies, and every year I get sick of doing it before the task is completed. Big thanks to Trouble for her help in the cookie endeavor this year. It's so good to have her home for the holidays!!

2. Sadly, I appear to be having blood sugar issues again. My family has a huge history of diabetes and I've had problems in the past with my blood sugar (although I've never been formally diagnosed as diabetic - I take it that I'm like my mom and "borderline" depending on stress, health, etc.)

3. I've always been overweight and always felt is was a problem. I've been on a number of diets and "programs" but none have ever stuck for very long for a variety of reasons. Now that I'm getting older and having more problems, the time may be here to REALLY do something about it. I just don't know how to find the motivation that will make it stick (but I'm open to ideas).

4. I LOVE Christmas - the music, shopping, decorations, food, and the way people tend to do more nice things for each other this time of year always brings me joy. Since my dad died 6 years ago 2 days before Christmas, that joy seems to have a shadow and I sometimes wonder if that's ok.

5. My favorite color is purple, especially a dark, rich eggplant kind of hue. Trouble's favorite color is orange and I find that no matter what hues we work with, there's not a good way to make orange and purple look good together. Good thing we're both willing to compromise with other colors in our house!

6. My wedding day was definitely one of the happiest days of my life. It was sunny, we were outside in a beautiful public park surrounded by roses that a friend had actually tended and most of my close friends and family were present. Someday I hope to have a renewal of vows that makes this marriage legally mean something.

7. I'm getting commissioned as a Deaconess in the United Methodist Church this spring, if all of my paperwork and final process stuff goes through ok. Part of me is very excited and part of me wonders if that's really what I need and want to do with my life.

These were probably more deep and serious than was originally intended - sorry about that! Now to pass it along, I tag Big Unit, Rachael, Rachel, and Scott Sharp (mostly to see if you guys will actually post!).

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Just look away...

First, I have a quick update on the pit bull scenario from an earlier post. The dog is currently back at the house, on a shorter leash, and looks fine. I don't know how long the dog was kept by the city or what the owner had to do to get the dog back, but I'm glad to know that the dog is alive and well and there haven't been any other problems - at least thus far. The house we're building should be done in another week or so, and then the family will move in with three kids, so I hope they will all get along.

Now, before I get into this other story, I want you all to know that Trouble and Hipchick have alaready done their entries on this same situation. I have not read either of their entries before writing this one, and they didn't read each others either, so you're getting three distinct views of the same scene. This should be interesting....

The three of us try to meet for lunch fairly regularly and we have our favorite places to go. This particular afternoon we met at Bollywood Indian Bistro in Independence, MO. Indian food is a favorite for all of us, and this particular place not only makes good food, but they do a reasonable costing lunch buffet and have a big screen tv playing Indian movies and music videos while you're eating, so you really get immersed inthe culture. I love it!

Trouble and I got there a couple of minutes early so we went inside to get a table and wait for Hipchick before we got our food. We sat down at the table and immediately got sucked into the music videos (which is easy to do), trying to determine which American artist the particular singer on screen was most like (for example, a skinny, punk looking guy dancingaround with a variety of women was likened to Prince or Robert Palmer). All of a sudden a horrendous noise erupted from the next table, and when we looked over, an elderly "gentleman" (term used loosely here) was basically gagging and spitting up into his napkin. Now, I'm not faint of heart or dainty or anything, but I really don't like the sound, sensation, or anything else associated with throwing up. I have to leave the room when Trouble gets sick - all the love in the world doesn't overcome my aversion to puke. So this old guy is going on for like a minute, and I'm just trying to block it out and look away at something - anything - else. Fortunately for me, there was a very cute baby girl in a high chair who was easy to focus on (or the tv) but the sound was pretty loud and, come on the guy is right next to us! He never got up from the table or took a drink or anything. Finally I leaned over to Trouble and said, "I think you're going to have to go save this guy." Good thing she's done all those clinical hours to get her paramedic certification. Right about then, the guy seemed to pull it together and calm down. I thought that meant everything was going to be fine. I was wrong.

Hipchick arrived and we all went up to the buffet to fill our plates with wonderful food, but when we sat down to start eating, the noises from the next table started up again. Hipchick isn't much better about getting sick than I am (and she has three kids, so I don't know how she manages except that her hubby must be great), and her face about made me drop my fork. I was just trying to ignore the guy untilI heard him fall to the floor or something. Just look away... just look away... focus on the music. Hipchick was facing the opposite direction of the tv so she didn't have that lucky distraction. Since I did, I missed out on al of the guy's antics - apparently he popped his dentures out to clean them at one point - but I know I heard gross noises a few more times throughout our meal. When he finally got up to leave, Hipchick had the most relieved face I've ever seen!

Now I know that this guy may have had some kind of medical condition that made things more difficult or there could be some logical, sensible reason why he kept gagging thru the meal, but is there a line where common decency requires someone to pack up their doggy bag and leave a public place? Everyone is entitled to eat good Indian food, but I don't think most people appreciate having to hear or see that kind of behavior. What do you think?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

And they're off!

It's Thanksgiving weekend, and now that the turkeys have been cooked and become an endless stream of leftovers, the Christmas shopping season is officially on. I don't know how many of you actually go out shopping this weekend, but I did. I have memories from when I was a kid of going to stores in the wee hours of the morning to be among to crowd at the door when the store opened, and somehow I feel a draw to the excitement of the crowds. I went to Target and Best Buy, arguably two of the crazier places to be on "Black Friday," but it wasn't about buying lots of great deals - it was just about browsing while I had the opportunity and chuckling at the madness going on around me. I get a kick out of it! Trouble and I got to just hang out and look at some of the fun things that have come out lately (like the Atari flashback - very fun to think back on old times playing those stupide games) and try to come up with ideas for good gifts for people. We try to watch the commercialism this time of year, and instead find gifts that mean something or are at least useful rather than just more knick knacks that people don't need.

I got the spend the day with Trouble and other friends, which was really nice. Last year at this time Trouble was overseas and I was having a hard time. I've always loved "the holiday season" but on your own it feels very different. I still had good friends around who made things much better (and I got to take part in their crazy family dinner - hee hee), but this year I was very thankful to have Trouble with me. We kept it quiet and didn't go overboard on the feast, but still had a fairly traditional American meal. It was just nice. And shopping on Black Friday seemed to fit in with that, as long as we kept things in check. We were only out for about an hour (while our dog was at the vet getting her latest check up on her cancer treatments), and then we spent the evening playing games with good friends. I was very satisfied and think it's because I got to do a little of everything - moderation is the key. :)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pitbull vs. Poodle

This week at work has just been strange. Yesterday I got to fill out my first incedent report when one of my volunteers called to tell he'd been bitten by a dog at one of our worksites a couple of days prior. Why was he calling 2 days later you ask? Good question! Animal control and his doctor wanted to know as well!

Here's the story:
Our volunteer was working on our "green" house project and there is a pitbull who lives nextdoor. The dog was outside on a leash staked into the ground, but the leash is long enough that the dog can actually come onto our property. While the volunteer was working he got too close to the dog and the dig bit him in the calf. It wasn't a bad bite, but did break the skin. He didn't want to make a big deal of it, so the site supervisor cleaned it out with antiseptic and put a bandage over it and both continued to work the rest of the day and never told anyone else what happened. The volunteer has a dr friend, who he told about the bite, and the dr recommended he get it looked at and that he should probably get a tetanus shot and make sure the dog was up to date on its vaccines (especially rabies). He waited a day before calling his dr to get a tetanus shot and his dr told him he legally had to report to dog bite, so he called us to let us know what happened and to see if we could find out if the dog had gotten its shots. This falls to me to take care of - yippee. I got the incedent report form, started filling it out and notified my boss and our executive director of the situation. I then went out to the site to get a statement from the site supervisor and let him know that we were making a formal report, including calling animal control. The phone call with animal control wasn't fun - sitting on hold for 5 minutes before talking to anyone, then getting lectured for not making a report within 24 hours of the bite, then not knowing the exact address where the dog lived (you'd think they could figue it out when i told them one house south of ____ (the address of our site). Animal control was supposed to go pick up the dog yesterday, and I don't think I want to know what happens to it after that. I also doubt this is going to help the relationship with the dog's owner, who already doesn't like the construction noise around her house everyday.

It did start an interesting conversation around our office though, about dogs, owners, breeds, and animal control. There have been a lot of stories around KC lately about pitbulls and reports of their "vicious" behavior. Is this a breed quality or just the cause of bad owners who intentionally make them that way? Perhaps a bit of both? Several towns around have banned pit bulls in city limits and Kansas City, MO talked about following suit but there are a lot of people who own pitbulls in this city and they petitioned the city council, etc. and got a deal. No new pit bulls are allowed in city but current owners can keep their as long as they follow city code about numbers of dogs on a property, getting them licensed, etc. I don't know if this dog followed those code or not - I heard it was less than a year old and hadn't had its shots, but I have not actually seen the dog for myself or talked to its owner. At this point, it's all out of my hands. The reports have been made to the appropriate people and we have the paper trail to cover ourselves should anything else go down. I wonder, though, if this would have been as big a deal if it was a little poodle instead of a pit bull. Of course, I'm partial to poodles since I got bit by one when I had a paper route as a kid, but generally poodles are well liked dogs and pits are not. Do you think it would be different? Our volunteer didn't want to make a big deal about the whole thing - and the dog owner certainly didn't want her dog to be taken away - so does the city have a place to come in like they did?? I personally think they should have made her shorten the leash and keep the dog on HER property, and make her get the dog its shots and licensed (perhaps paying a penalty for not doing so before) but getting her dog removed seems a bit harsh. Am I crazy? What do you think?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Taking a breather

Hello blog world - it's been too long! I've missed my Friday Fives and seeing what everyone else is up to. This is just a brief post to let everyone know that I'm alive and missing you. Working at Habitat has been, and continues to be, a great experience. I've learned a lot about the organization, Kansas City, the neighborhoods around our office, and just general insight into non-profit work. It's very rewarding, yet at times frustrating and always busy. It seems there is always more work to be done than there is time or people to do it. I like it that way though.

Tonight is our annual "Celebration of Giving" - an appreciation dinner and awards banquet for our volunteers and donors. Some Habitat affiliates have a big fancy gala to raise money, but our affiliate in KC does this dinner at no charge to the attendees. I don't know what that means as far as our income for the year, but I think it's really cool that we do something like this. Volunteering is something that I've always enjoyed doing, but it usually just gets done and that's that. I like that we send out invitations to the people who volunteer with us to let them know that we appreciate what they do for us. We honestly couldn't function without people pitching in at all levels (something else I love about this organization)! I'm up to my eyeballs in decorations, programs, table tents, tshirts, etc for this event tonight, and feel like I haven't been able to think about much else for the last couple of weeks (after we've been planning it for months). Since this is my first time going to this event, I'm looking forward to experiencing the evening and will be very glad to have it done. Trouble's even going to get to come with me, which is always fun (and most of my coworkers haven't met her yet - so this could be interesting)! Hope you all have a great weekend!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Halloween Friday Five

Singing Owl posted her first Friday Five last night (way to go!) recalling the fond memories of Halloween while growing up. THese are her questions and my reponses, but I'd love for everyone to feel like thay can play along in the comments if they'd like. :)

1. How did you celebrate this time of year when you were a child?
Halloween was always a big deal when I was a kid. My mom loved decorating for it, so we were always "the scary house" in the neighborhood. We had ghosts and cobwebs, of course, but also sound effects (wired to cleverly disguised speakers around the porch) and my mom always answered the door in her Bear Monster costume - an old ratty wig, scary mask, and a tattered fur coat that has been in the family forever. The big bonus though, was that if you could get over being scared to go to the door (and stand there when the Bear monster answered) my mom also only gave out full sized chocolate candy bars! She was always very creative with our costumes as well, and my family often chose costumes by theme so that my brother and dad and I all went together as we were walking around the neighborhood. Several years we won prizes (like the Wizard of Oz year where I was Tin Man or the Christmas year where I was Rudolph complete with light up nose).

2A. Do you and/or your family “celebrate” Halloween? Why or why not? And if you do, has it changed from what you used to do? Yes, we do. I think it's a great exercise of imagination that doesn't necessarily get encouraged many other ways. I have also been taught that it's a fun holiday (see previous questions) and don't see what the big deal is. However, since coming to the midwest (I grew up in the Northeast) and experience Bible Belt culture, it's intriguing to me that so many people feel otherwise. I will say, however, that I think it's important to teach kids that it's not all about the costumes, candy and haunted houses - that there's a background to this holiday that is grounded in spirituality. I think we should let kids dress up and have fun, but also teach them about All Saints' Day and the meaning behind what they do.

2B. Candy apples: Do you prefer red cinnamon or caramel covered? Or something else? I am not, and never have been, a fan of candy coated apples of any kind. I find that they are sweet enough already and hard enough to eat without making them sticky and gooey. If I had to choose one or the other, I'd go caramel without nuts.

3. Pumpkins: Do you make Jack O’ Lanterns? Any ideas of what else to do with them? This is interesting because I usually get pumpkins every year and we put them out on the porch just as decoration until we get around to carving them. However, we've discovered that squirrels love to snack on them! We just bought our first house and moved in about a month ago, and both pumpkins that we bought have little teeth marks and flesh scraped off around the tops. We had a similar incident at our previous home, but growing up I never had a problem! I guess we won't be making jack o' lanterns this year, although we may still scrape out the seeds and toast them - yummy!

4. Do you decorate your home for fall or Halloween? If so, what do you do? Bonus points for pictures. Since we're still settling into the new house, we haven't really taken the time to decorate much this year. We have our pumpkins out on the porch and one lawn decoration that was easy to put out without too much planning or time. Eventually, I want to go all out like my mom used to do and I'm excited that I have a house where I can do that finally!! It means there's going to be shopping in the near future (after the actual day when they put everything on sale, I'll stock up for next year).

5. Do you like pretending to be something different? Does a costume bring our an alternate personality? I don't think I actually pretend to be someone different, but I like to dress up and it makes me feel different. For example, a couple of time in the last few years I've dressed up as a nun (which goes over great in seminary!). It somehow makes me feel connected to my Catholic roots and is fun to be in a costume, but I don't really change my behavior. I've never been a very good actress (lots of people from high school can attest to that) but always love the costumes!

Bonus: Share your favorite recipe for an autumn food, particularly apple or pumpkin ones. I'll have to post this later when I get home, but my recipe will be for Apple Pudding. It's not like a tapioca, milk based kind of pudding, and it's not really like a bread pudding, but something in between. It's basically apples, flour, sugar and butter with a little bit of spices. It's super easy and a BIG favorite in our little family. One year I made it often enough that Trouble's uniform didn't fit after she had the holidays off from work. Moderation is the key! I haven't even thought of making it yet this year, but the weather is definitely telling me that it's time - yummy!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Five Homage to the Top Chef!

RevHRod talked about how her family is addicted to Top Chef (on Bravo) for their assorted reasons and then asked us to think about the following:

1. If you were a food, what would you be?
This is really hard for me - there are a lot of things I can think of! Chocolate (sweet, and flexible enough to go with about anything) or coffee (hot or cold, sweet and creamy or strong and dark). Lasagna is one of my favorite things to eat and make and I think it probably fits the best. There are layers (sometimes A LOT of layers), a variety of textures, and you can spice it up or mix in veggies but ultimately it's Italian, warm and filling comfort food.

2.What is one of the most memorable meals you ever had? And where?
This question really gets me thinking about the link between food and emotions (not always a good thing). I have a lot of great memories and significant events that involve food! I guess for the sake of this question at this moment, I'll mention my wedding dinner. My wedding wasn't the most elborate of occasions, and my parents were less than thrilled about the whole thing and swore they wouldn't take part in it. A few weeks before the big day they called me to tell me they changed their minds and would be coming (to Oklahoma City from New Jersey). Since we had already planned everything, their addition to the wedding was to take our closest friends and family out to dinner at Spaghetti Warehouse after the cake and punch reception. It wasn't that the food was so outstanding, but it was the happiest day of my life, I had my favorite people around and was especially glad to have my family there.

3.What is your favorite comfort food from childhood?
Well, "Beat Up Chicken" was always a favorite (as was lasagna, but I already used that answer). My mom would take chicken breasts and put them between two sheets of wax paper and then pound them thin with an iron skillet (hence, "beating them up"). She'd then take a piece of cheddar cheese and roll it up inside each chicken breast, then dip it egg wash and Italian seasoned bread crumbs and put it in a baking dish. While it was baking, she'd make Stove Top stuffing. She'd pull the chicken out, add the stuffing and pour chicken gravy over the whole pan before returning it to the oven to fininsh baking. YUMMY!!

4.When going to a church potluck, what one recipe from your kitchen is sure to be a hit?
I didn't grow up with the tradition of church potlucks, so I don't have any sure fire potluck hits, but I do think my chicken tortilla casserole is a pretty good option. It's always a challenge to have something with protein and nutritional value to feed a lot of people without breaking the bank, and I refuse to serve hot dogs or any other "tube meat."

5. What’s the strangest thing you ever willingly ate?
So many of you have already heard this story, but I would definitly have to say ANTS. I took a trip to Brazil and spent a couple of days along the Amazon River (INCREDIBLE!). We spent one night with a native tribe and they prepared one of their delicacies for us - fresh ants. The poor woman who prepared them had bites all over her hand from harvesting them and then drowing them in water to be served - there was no way we were going to refuse! Oddly enough, they tasted pretty good - strong mint and citrus flavors - but you had to be careful of the legs. They easily get stuck in your teeth or throat (where they tickle a lot), but if you hold the legs like a cherry stem and bite off the body, they're quite tasty!

Bonus question: What’s your favorite drink to order when looking forward to a great meal?
I'm not much of a drinker - don't like beer or wine and not a huge fan of soda - so I'd probably just order water. Occasionally when I'm celebrating or just feel like kicking back I'll order a WoodChuck Amber Cider or a White Russian, but it's not to enhance the taste of the food at all - just to enjoy the drink for what it is.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Rainy Day

It's a VERY rainy day here in Kansas City this Saturday. Working at Habitat for Humanity, this is generally our busiest, craziest day but not this week. We had a whole 10 people come to volunteer this morning (there had been around 45 signed up). Granted, when it's raining this hard with thunder and lightning, there's only so much work that can be done and two of our sites are primarily outdoor work. Still, it's quiet here today - a little too quiet and it has me thinking about the week...

Two family members of mine came down with meningitis this week, and another friend is losing her battle to brain cancer. Coworkers have been having problems with communication and expectations and I feel like I've just been watching all of this go on around me while I'm just sitting still trying to stop the scene spinning around me. Lines of class and race and health are very blurred right now, and I'm not sure where I fit in the picture.

As an AmeriCorps member, I'm technically a volunteer with very limited income, but I feel wierd about taking food from our food pantry here at the Habitat office. Why? Perhaps because I know I don't really need it (Trouble's income and my little bit mean we have enough for what we need) and it would better serve someone else, or perhaps because of my own pride or judgements about what it means to take or need to take from a food pantry. I don't honestly know - probably all of that mixed up together. The other AmeriCorps folks who work here have no problem helping themselves to things - nor does most of the paid staff, so what's my deal? Do I really think I'm somehow better or more ethical than these people? OUCH.

My brother is sick. My mother in law is sick. My friend is sick. And yet I've been whining all week about a couple of canker sores that sit in my cheek right where my teeth rub on them all day. I haven't had to go the hospital or get a spinal tap; no needles, no pills, no dr. even. How do I focus on how good I have it and grieve for my loved ones at the same time? How do I help my partne who is stressed out and grieving more than I am without ratcheting up the anxiety and stress already present? I know I'm rambling - I'd appreciate your insights as I try to process...

Saturday, October 06, 2007


I have been waiting for the release of "Across the Universe" - a new movie directed and choreographed by Julie Taymor with an all Beatles music soundtrack. It came out in limited release a few weeks ago and I still can't find it anywhere in the Kansas City area! I've been to the movie website and Yahoo!Movies and can't even determine if it ever will be playing at a theater in this area, but to my chagrin, it's playing where my brother lives (in NJ), where my mom lives (Rhode Island) and even in Oklahoma City! (No offense to OKC or my peeps who live there - I just can't believe you have it and we don't!) If anybody can tell me where I might be able to go and see this, I would be SO grateful!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The passing of time

Now that I'm back in the "real world" since graduation in May, I've noticed how quickly time seems to be passing by. I couldn't wait to graduate and move on in a job, new house, etc. but looking back it seems like all of that happened while I was sleeping or something! Tomorrow is my birthday and I've barely thought about what I'd like to do - I don't even feel like I have time to do much of anything!

It occurred to me the other day that this job (which I love) is really the first time I've had a "traditional" work schedule. My other jobs have been part time around school or my 4 1/2 years working 7 pm to 7 am at 911. I've never had a true 40 hours/5 days a week job and it amazes me how much energy it sucks out of me. Every evening when I get home from work, I feed the dog and cat, let the dog out to run around (well, she doesn't so much run as strut and sniff) in the back yard and then I flop on the couch to rifle through the mail and I don't feel like doing much of anything else. I can generally muster the energy to turn on the tv and put something together for dinner but not much else.

I remember when I was growing up and my parents would be tired from work in the evenings, and I never got it - it's not like either of them had jobs involving physical labor. They just sat at desks! Or at least that's how I saw it. Not anymore. I don't have a lot of physical activity at my job - I sit at a desk either looking at a computer or talking on the phone most of the day. If/when I get up it's either to go to the bathroom, refill my water bottle, or go to the copier for whatever I just printer out. So why am I so tired? I don't even consider my job to be mentally taxing - it's just being polite to people and trying to fit them into our work schedules. It's certainly not anything you need a Master's degree to do. Do you feel like this too? Do you know why?

It wouldn't really be a big problem for me, except that I'm used to getting a lot of things done, particularly around the house. This summer I was working part time and taking care of other stuff around my work schedule. I got laundry done, took recycling in, paid bills, etc. but now I feel like I'm trying to squeeze those things in here and there where I can steel a few minutes. It doesn't feel good - it feels like I'm always rushing and always have more things to do. And I just moved. I have stacks of boxes all over my house and I still haven't gotten my home computer and desk put back together! I've been doing all of that kind of stuff via my work computer (which isn't really ethical). I know that life is busy for a lot of people and there's no reason why I have to get all these things done all at once, but I wish I didn't have to live in the clutter in the meantime - it doesn't make me feel good to be living among all the boxes. And I'd like to have a housewarming party sometime before Christmas. What do you do when you feel like this? Any suggestions for me?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

OMG - I actually hugged Emily Saliers!!

Yesterday was Trouble's birthday, and I won't go into too much detail because I don't want to detract from her blog, but her big birthday gift from me was that we went to the Indigo Girls concert here in KC. They just happened to be playing on her actual birthday - how cool is that? But to make it even cooler, I was browsing their website one day and found this little blurb about them starting a Green Team. They were looking for fans to pick up their recyclables after the show and take them to a local recycling center so that their tour could be a little more eco-friendly. As a thank you, whoever volunteered to do this would get free tickets to the show or some other token of appreciation. I sent an email figuring someone from KC would have already jumped on it since the concert was only a month away and tickets had been on sale a while, but a week and half ago I got an email asking if I still wanted to do it. HOW COOL IS THAT?? Since we already had tickets to the show, they gave us backstage passes and right after the concert we got to meet Amy and Emily. There were other people in line waiting for the After Show stuff, but we were specifically called up by ourselves. Trouble and I were already giddy (the concert was absolutely AWESOME and we were only 4 people back from the stage) when we went upstairs to meet with them. We got our picture taken with them (to be seen later when we have our home computer hooked up again after the move) and chatted for a couple of minutes before they told us they already recycled their stuff and there wasn't anything we had to do. Trouble insists it was the best birthday EVER (I had to do something good to repay her for my big 30th bday surprise party a couple of years ago).

I'm still kind of amazed that I actually had the opportunity to talk with them, but didn't ask them any of the millions of questions I had or gush about how great they were. I was so worried about not coming off as a crazed fan, I don't know if I said much of anything (other than making a joke that Amy didn't break a string - which looking back on it, seems lame). I know they're just people - and they're definitely laid back and not as "famous" and some other celebrity types - so why did I get so dumbstruck?? What is it about people who are famous that gets the rest of us all in a tizzy? I don't know - I just thought it was interesting that when we walked out of there last night, I felt like a jubilant little kid on Christmas morning. I honestly expected to get a signed photograph or something - not to actually meet them. I knew it was a big moment for Trouble, and was surprised at how much it affected me too. Guess I'm just another fan after all.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Brief Update

Wow! I can't believe it's been so long since I've posted on here and I apologize. Things have been a little crazy to say the least. I've officially started my new job at Habitat for Humanity in Kansas City, MO and am LOVING it! My official title is "AmeriCorps Volunteer Coordinator" - which means that I'm working thru the AmeriCorps program and am responsible for recruiting, training, and keeping up with our volunteers. My boss is the paid staff person in charge of volunteers, so I'm basically her sidekick, but she's giving me a good amount of responsibility, starting with all of the college groups that want to come work with us. What is very cool is that on my first day I had contact with 3 college groups - a social justice group from a local Jesuit college, an Honor Society type of group from UMKC, and a group from UCO in Edmond, OK - near my old stomping ground! I'm so excited to be able to do all of this!

Also going on right now is our move to our new house. Trouble and I are proud new owners of our first home!! I'm a little overwhelmed with everything going on right now, and my email access is spotty at best (mostly from work, which isn't really appropriate for blogging) so things will be touch and go on here for a while. Still, I plan on keeping this blog going, so please keep visiting!

I'm going to close with my soapbox on volunteering. EVERYONE has something to offer to make the world a better place. We don't all have money, but if you do, groups like Habitat can always use the donations. We all have our time that we can give too. If you have specific skills and/or talents that you'd like to use for the common good, there's a great website called VolunteerMatch that will help you find organizations in your area that can use what you have to offer. I'm a personal fan of HFH (obviously) but there are SO many organizations out there that need your help, so GET OUT THERE!! Thanks...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Five Stress Busting Edition

Sally writes: I am off to spend a few days at the beach chilling out after a hectic few weeks and before I head off for Summer School...So with that in mind this weeks questions are looking at how you deal with the stress monster!!!???

1. First, and before we start busting stress, what causes you the most stress, is it big things or the small stuff ? right now it's definitely the big stuff - graduation from seminary, family health issues, friends moving away, counseling for myself and other things I'm not willing to mention here... admittedly, when things pile up though, even the little things can become bigger than they need to be

2. Exercise or chocolate for stress busting ( or maybe something else) ? I wish it was exercise, but it's usually chocolate, particularly in the brownie or ice cream form... sadly this is one of the reasons that I am so overweight which only adds to the stress in the form of physical problems (I have degenerative disc disease in my lower back and my weight exacerbates the condition making it painful to sit/stand/walk for very long). One of the reasons I'm currently in counseling is to try to get to the heart of my emotional eating. One day I hope to bust my stress by going for a jog, or at least a long walk!

3.What is your favourite music to chill out to? Enya is always a favorite for relaxing, but it could be lots of differen things depending on my mood and the particular song. I've made several cd's of "chill out" music that include things by Sarah McLachlan, Indigo Girls, KT Tunstall, Depeche Mode (one of my high school faves), Alanis Morisette, etc. I also enjoy just turning on the classical music station on the radio to just listen without focusing on words.

4. Where do you go to chill? A lot of different places - sometimes it's just vegging in front of the tv (which isn't so much relaxing as it's diverting), others it's hiking in the woods, walking around the duck pond and beautiful grounds at a local park or people watching somewhere like a mall. I think what works better is determined by the cause of the stress in the first place.

5. Extrovert or introvert, do you relax at a party, or do you prefer a solitary walk? I'm definitely more of an extrovert but still have those times when I just need to be alone. I generally find parties energizing rather than relaxing, but like to take time alone to journal, listen to music, or meditate to relax and rejuvenate myself.

Bonus- share your favourite stress busting tip! I don't know if it's really a tip, but in general I find that perspective is everything - so when you're stressed out about something it helps to talk about it with someone you trust and get their perspective on it. Sometimes it's not as big a deal as it first seemed after sharing it with someone else, or perhaps they can offer some advice that makes it easier to deal with. Community and caring for each other always helps!

Friday, August 03, 2007

A little fun with personality...

Click to view my Personality Profile page

Friday Five: Pilgrimage

I've been out of the Friday Five habit lately, so here's an attempt to get back in the groove...

ReverendMother writes: Hello friends, I am just back from a lovely time of pilgrimage in the isle of Iona, "cradle of Scottish Christianity." It has provided much food for thought, to say the least, and so, to keep the pilgrim mojo going:

1. Have you ever been on a pilgrimage? (however you choose to define the term) Share a bit about it. If not, what's your reaction to the idea of pilgrimage? I don't know that I thought of it as a pilgrimage at the time, but my trip to Brazil was powerful in ways I never could have anticipated. I saw the Milky Way with my naked eyes while sitting on the banks of the Amazon River in a native village, I saw the mountains and beaches of Rio, hiked in rainforests, watched parrots, tucans & pink dolphins (among other wildlife), ate new foods including ants, and met so many different people. It was a number of experiences that touched my heart and soul and showed me more of God than I had ever noticed before.

2. Share a place you've always wanted to visit on pilgrimage. I'm sure this is an obvious answer, but I would love to go to Egypt and Jerusalem and those places where biblical history played out. But it's not so much for love of the Bible, as it is a sense of connection to place - there's something about being in places that are old and have seen so many events and people that is deeply stirring. I felt this way when I was at Stonehenge and Roman ruins in England as well.

3. What would you make sure to pack in your suitcase or backpack to make the pilgrimage more meaningful? Or does "stuff" just distract from the experience? I think stuff can be distracting, but I would take my camera (which never conveys the experience well but does help me remember what I felt while I was there) and my journal to help me reflect and process the experience.

4. If you could make a pilgrimage with someone (living, dead or fictional) as your guide, who would it be? (I'm about this close to saying "Besides Jesus." Yes, we all know he was indispensable to those chaps heading to Emmaus, but it's too easy an answer) Well, this may be another cop-out answer, but I would say Buddha (or Siddhartha Gautama). I have always been fascinated by other religions and Buddhism in particular really speaks to me and I would love to hear his insights on the modern world, reconciling the differences in our religions, and his perspective on life in general. I'm not sure where out pilgrimage would be - perhaps my biblical lands trip or going around Asia to Buddhist sites - either one would be great with me!

5. Eventually the pilgrim must return home, but can you suggest any strategies for keeping that deep "mountaintop" perspective in the midst of everyday life? (don't mind me, I'll be over here taking notes) Well, if I had the answer to this, the possibilities.... I can only say that I attempt to keep in touch with the memories of those experiences I have had through pictures and rereading my journal. Reading entries about my dad's death still stirs up those feelings and insights I had when it happened, and photos of views over Guatemala still stir feelings of awe and wonder (not because the photos are great, but because it reminds me of being there. There just isn't a substitute for the experience and it's inevitable that those feelings fade. We can't live all our lives in a heightened state - it wouldn't mean anything, but we can take the time to make sure that we continue to have those experiences that put the rest of life into perspective - this is the purpose of sabbatical (and why it's so important, especially to those in ministry and serving others).

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - finally finished!

Note: I've been careful to not have any spoilers for any of you who haven't read the book yet and don't want to know...

I've been busy working on various projects and things the last couple of weeks, but today I have a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. After receiving a borrowed copy of the book on Thursday, this afternoon I finished reading the final book of the Harry Potter series - and I loved it! There are a couple of things that are a little hokey, but in general the book is the best one yet and I was not disappointed. Rowling managed to answer most of my burning questions about the key characters and gave a lot of information in a surprising amount of space. I really can't wait to see this one as a movie - with all of the action scenes, it should be pretty easy to convert from book to screen.

I also think the conversations around Harry Potter have been very interesting - between the 5th movie being released recently and now the book being out, Potter-mania has struck the media but the religious communities seem split. Some people aren't talking about it all and others are talking about it A LOT - either to use as a way to reach out to younger people or in condemnation of the culture that allows for the Potter phenomenon. So, I'm curious, what do you think about Harry Potter and the general frenzy around the books/movies/etc.?? If you're a fan, why? If you're not, why? I willingly admit that I'm a fan, but there will be no judgement on people who think otherwise. My own partner doesn't even read ficition, let alone have any feelings on Harry! Love ya, honey!!

Monday, July 16, 2007

My country visit

Pardon me for not writing much lately - I even missed the Harry Potter Friday Five!! :( Oh well. I went ouf town the last few days to see my friends in the glorious little town of Mankato, KS. It's a small rural town north of Salina, near the Nebraska border and one of my good friends from seminary is the new pastor there. She and her husband moved into the parsonage (next door to the church) a couple of weeks ago and I went to see them and help them a little bit with the house. We did manage to get one room pretty much done, which is great progress, but we didn't do anything towards painting or removing wall paper, which was what I had expected to be doing. There's just a lot of work to be done on the house itself and then "moving in," i.e. finding the right places for all of their stuff. One thing they have going for them is that the house is plenty big!

I've never lived in a small town; I always lived in suburban type of areas (or the island of Aruba, which is really its own thing altogether) so really didn't know what it would be like to visit my friends. I've visited small towns before, but really just going home with a friend from college or something like that where there were other things going on so that I didn't really experience the town for itself. This weekend was generally very relaxing - we only worked on that one room for less than half of Saturday (with 3 of us working, it just didn't take very long), but spent the rest of the time walking around town (I got the grand tour). Dakotah the Beagle loved getting to wander around a new place - there was lots of sniffing to be done and several dogs and cats to track. :) I have to admit that there's a lot more there than I expected there would be. Of course, this town is the county seat, but the only chain restaurant in town is a Pizza Hut that's open Thursday, Friday and Saturday only.

This little trip got me thinking about what my expectations are in life - for example, the fact that pizza is only available 3 days a week at first freaked me out. What if I want pizza on a Monday?? So, I expect to be able to get what I want whenever I decide I want it. Hmmm. Not something I think I'm proud of, and yet isn't that "the American dream"? Oy. There's not Target, or even a WalMart within 30 minutes, so if you need something from the store, you have to go to the little stores in town (which are very cute, I must admit) before they close (they're all closed on Sunday, and most close by 6 weeknights and afternoon on Saturday). It's just so different from anything I've ever known! Not that I think I couldn't do it - I loved being there for the weekend and things had a more relaxed, laid back feel to them. The church was nice (other than their little bat problem), the people were friendly, you can walk everywhere in town, and it's not like things are cut off from the world with cable and the internet. Trouble didn't get to go with me on this little trip, so we'll definitely be going back together sometime. have you ever lived in a small, rural town? Do you think it's better or worse than urban/suburban living? Why?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday Fun Stuff

You Should Try Kite Surfing

Surfing to the extreme!
Catch some air, but don't get carried off!
You know, I really have wanted to try this - if only I had some vacation time and place to go...


It's Friday of a holiday weekend am I'm currently sitting in a tiny office in the back corner of my church working on putting together a list of people, United Methodists especially but anyone is welcome, who are willing to call and/or write a letter (not email) to their legislators in Jefferson City regarding the death penalty in MO. Specifically, I'm working my part time job for the MO Annual Conference Social Justice Team who have made it one of their specific goals to speak out against the death penalty. To me, this is a no brainer - "Thou shalt not kill" is pretty plain English and I don't see a lot of room for interpretation (but then I did read a book for a class once regarding the translation of "kill" which could also be "murder" and then there are BIG interpretive debates). I also really love the bumper sticker that says "Why do we kill people to show that killing people in wrong?" Go ahead, Big Unit - I figure you have an answer. :)

Thus far in my work, it's been a lot of research and set up kind of stuff - making a database to store the names and addresses of folks who sign on to the list, tracking down the names of people who have been parts of similar things in the past, looking up current pastors of churches who signes a resolution calling for a moratorium on executions in MO at 2006 Annual Conference, etc. It's been fun, but I'm now getting to the point where it's going to be a lot of phone calls to people that it is presumed will not want to hear from me. I kind of feel like I'm a telemarketer, but I'm not really sure why the expectation is that people will cringe when I mention the death penalty. Can you help me understand this? I really want to understand all sides of the debate...

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Does charity work?

I was surfing around on the internet the other day when I came across this story on the MSNBC site about a food bank's donations that were found rotting in the California desert. The story goes that these items were sent to a pig farm because the food items were unusable for human consumption (industry donations of pallets full of items that were out of date, for example). What doesn't really make sense are the items like toothpaste, teeth whiteners, bottled water, etc that are sitting there as well. Apparently the pig farmer left the land, but the food bank didn't know that when they dropped off the shipment. It's just been sitting there in the hot sun, rotting and stinking. I'm really glad that there's no such thing as smell-o-vision yet.

The part of the story that really gets me thinking though, is the statement made that almost 20% of donations received at this particular food bank (and I'm guessing this would be fairly equal at similar organizations in other parts of the country) are not usable. Companies donate food when it goes beyond the date it can be sold in the grocery store - some of it still usable and some of it not. They sort it out and if it's not usable, they were passing it on to the hog farms (which makes me kind of glad I don't live near a pig farm or eat pork products anymore). Referring to a piece by Christine Ahn, the article then talks about practices of donations and whether it's really about solving a hunger problem or solving a corporate problem. Ahn proposes that the system is really about corporate tax breaks - they can donate things that would otherwise lose them money and claim a tax deduction for it. Hmmmm.

I admit that I'm almost automatically skeptical of the big corporations and institutions in general, but this seem too obvious. What is someone who is hungry going to do with teeth whiteners? I guess if they have a nice white smile when they starve to death, perhaps they have a better shot at getting their picture in the paper or on tv to raise awareness of the problem?! Come on! And according to the article, about 1/4 of the donations received are things like snack foods, cookies, soda, and coffee - not things that are nutritionally valuable. Granted, someone who is hungry may not care if they're eating cookies or vegetables, as long as they get something in their bellies, but how long can someone survive on bread and soda? Are we really helping them or just prolonging their deaths? Is this charity or torture? or both?

I claim to be a follower of Jesus, who taught that we're supposed to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, etc. but how often do we actually DO those things? How many of us feel that when we clean out our pantry shelves and donate it to the local food bank, that we're doing our part? Are we really? Does this system really do what we think it does - what we want it to? Or is it another way for big companies to help their bottom lines?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday 5, Gifts and talents

Sally writes :
Our Circuit (Methodist) is having a "Gifts and talents day" tomorrow- we have a minister visiting from another circuit who has modified the Myers Briggs personality test and added a few things of his own to run a day where we get to look at ourselves in the light of giftings and of the whole church. The idea is to encourage everyone with the news that there is room for you in the ministry of the church- and perhaps to discover where that ministry might be.....

It should be an interesting day, and one where I hope people will leave feeling encouraged and challenged...

So with gifts and talents in mind here is todays Friday 5:

1. Personality tests; love them or hate them? I LOVE them. I have taken countless tests at various points in my life and it's to the point now that I get gifts of things like a book titled "101 self tests" - at least I think I know my strengths and weaknesses fairly well.

2. Would you describe yourself as practical, creative, intellectual or a mixture? a mixture, leaning more to the practical and intellectual side of things. I wish I was more creative...

3. It is said that everyone has their 15 minutes of fame; have you had your yet? If so what was it, if not dream away what would you like it to be? Well, that kind of depends on how you define fame. I've always enjoyed being a big fish in a little pond, but never really had state-wide or national "fame" unless you count singing the national anthem with my choir before a nationally televised baseball game (Philadelphia Phillies). I don't think I want to be famous, even if for only 15 minutes.

4. If you were given a 2 year sabatical ( oh the dream of it) to create something would it be music, literature, art.....something completely different...share your dream with us... My partner, Trouble, and I have always talked about opening up an interfaith retreat center, somewhere in the mountains (not necessarily the Rockies though - somewhere a little more friendly to be in the outdoors year round, like say the Ouachita Mountains in Oklahoma/Arkansas). It would be a place for a variety of people to nurture themselves, their relationship with nature/God/the Universe and to foster their creativity. -sigh- Someday...

5. Describe a talent you would like to develop, but that seems completely beyond you. I wish I could draw/paint. I attempted quite a bit when I was in elementary school, and loved to do it but was never satisfied with the results. The teachers and people painting on public television make it look SO easy! I gave up eventually, and now just want to take a photography class...

Bonus question: Back to the church- what does every member ministry mean to you? Is it truly possible to encourage/ implement? I truly believe that every member has something to offer to the world, and to the faith community. For some people, it may be providing money, but for others money isn't possible but time and presence are. It's the epitomy of God's kin-dom that each of us contribute, in Christian terms, to the Body of Christ. 1 Cor 12 talks about the body being made up of many parts, each with their own purpose and all working together. Even if one seems weak, it is indispensable; if one suffers, all suffer together; if one rejoices, all rejoice together. The problem with trying to encourage it and implement it in our society is that it flies in the face of the individualism and competition that are continually taught and fostered. Can we really have it both ways??

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Just wanted to share the news that I got the AmeriCorps job working for Habitat for Humanity here in Kansas City. YAY! It was the job that I really wanted - it's a great organization, the interview had gone well without out too many "weird alerts" and it's only about a mile from my house which means saving on gas money. I don't start until August, so I get one last summer break and am looking for suggestions on things to do for cheap to fill in my time. Let me know if you have any ideas! :)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Job update

Some people have been wondering how the job search going, so this is a brief update. I did 2 personal interviews last week and one over the phone with a regional office. Of the three interviews, the phone interview led to a now scheduled personal interview to be held next Tuesday. The job that I really want has told me they're likely going to hire me but don't know which position they'll put me in (there were two options and I'd love either one). I know they were interviewing other people and the supervisor is on vacation this week, so it will be next week when I hear back from them. The other job offered me the spot less than 24 hours after my interview. There are some really great things about this positionand some red flags about it - I told them I still have another interview but thanked them for the offer and that I'd think about it. It wasn't what they wanted to hear and I don't want to burn any bridges. If the other job doesn't happen, I would take it gladly.

I'm trying not to get cocky about it, but think it's interesting that it looks like the jobs where I interview are offering me positions. Granted, these are AmeriCorps positions (which means there are always more jobs to do than people to fill them, and the pay is a minimal living stipend) but it's nice to be wanted! It also reinforces my feeling that I do really well with people in person - it's just getting to the point where they'll talk to me in person. I have been trying to interview with a job in Minneapolis for months, but everything up to this point has only been done via email and they aren't showing any signs of wanting to talk with me. I don't want to move away from KC right now anyway, but it would be nice to hear something! Anyway, that's where things stand at the moment and I'm reveling in feeling wanted. :) What's new with you??

Friday Five: Hot Town, Summer in the City

...or town, or suburb, or hamlet, or burg, or unincorporated zone, or rural area of your choice---pretty much anywhere but the southern hemisphere, it's summer. (Australians and others, consider this an invitation to take a break from winter for a while.)
(as posted at RevGalBlogPals by reverendmother)

1. Favorite summer food(s) and beverage(s)
I love just about anything cooked on a charcoal grill - chicken, burgers, fish, veggies (squash, eggplant, corn on the cob) and this time of year Trouble and I try to break it out a couple of times a week... We just have to remember to not leave it sitting out in the rain... And then for beverages you can't beat strawberry lemonade or a fruit slush from Sonic.

2. Song that "says" summer to you. (Need not be about summer explicitly.)
Well, the one from which the title of this post comes is a classic summer song, and just about anything by the Beach Boys. Then there are all the songs that bring back summer memories, like Indigo Girls' "Hammer and a Nail" or "Ghost" and others that I can't name, but I know them when I hear them.

3. A childhood summer memory
Our family used to go camping every weekend, sometimes even going for a couple of weeks to the Jersey shore where my brother and I would hang out during the week (sometimes with friends along) while my parents commuted the extra hour each night. There was plenty of swimming, dancing, campfires, volleyball, and just hanging out...

4. An adult summer memory
Not sure if I'm actually an adult yet... but assuming that at 31 I should be, perhaps it's going to the lake with Kyra and Dalonna back in Oklahoma. It was my first time going out on a boat and tubing. We had a blast but I was sore for the next three days!!

5. Describe a wonderful summer day you'd like to have in the near future. (weather, location, activities) This questions doesn't say anything about the liklihood of my actually getting to have this day, so I'm going to say that I want to take Trouble to the Jersey shore - swimming in the ocean (perhaps a boogie board), pizza and funnel cakes from the boardwalk, walking along the piers, perhaps going on some rides and then getting some salt water taffy before heading home.

Optional: Does your place of worship do anything differently in the summer? (Fewer services, casual dress, etc.) My church is always casual dress (although most people aren't wearing shorts in the winter), and our two services keep their same dynamics for the most part, although attendance in general is more sporadic for vacations and such... The only thing we really do different is the choir doesn't rehearse on Wed nights - only on Sunday morning before they sing in service, and there are many services where they won't sing at all.
In the United Methodist Church, summer is the time when pastors move churches (not all of them every year) so there is often change and getting to know each other that happens this time of year. This Sunday is our pastor's last week and then next week we get to officially meet our new one - exciting and scary all at the same time!

Monday, June 18, 2007

What kind of pie are you?

You Are Mud Pie

You're the perfect combo of flavor and depth
Those who like you give into their impulses

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Five: Books, Books, Books

1. Fiction what kind, detective novels, historical stuff, thrillers, romance????
I love all kinds of fiction, but especially detective novels, intrigue (a la DaVinci Code and Robin Cook novels), humor and fantasy (i.e. Harry Potter).

2. When you get a really good book do you read it all in one chunk or savour it slowly?
It depends on my mood, the book itself, and what setting I'm in. I read the DaVinci Code while I was visiting a friend - she was at work all day and I was just hanging out in her apartment, so I finished it that afternoon! Harry Potter books take longer, and now that I've read all of them at least once, I tend to go slower, savoring and soaking in the details.

3. Is there a book you keep returning to and why?
There are several that I go back to over and over again - The Red Tent by Anita Diamant is a personal favorite that helps me feel powerful as a women, connected spiritually and reminds me that there are always more complexities and sides to a story than we are aware of. I also go back to Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh on a regular basis. It's got short essays on a variety of topics for meditations, but different than your typical Christian bible passage devotional.

4. Apart from the Bible which non-fiction book has influenced you the most?
It's too hard to just pick one!! I just graduated from seminary so my shelves are packed with non-fiction books that have all influenced me to some extent. To choose a few that have been particularly powerful: Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh has been a favorite since my undergrad days and I need to go reread it again; The Abuse of Power by James Poling takes a theological and sociological look at violence, particularly sexual and domestic violence perpetrated by males. What made this book so powerful for me was the way he explicitly brings in the theology piece AND that he works with male offenders and does an excellent portrayal of their point of view which is something I had never seen or heard before. And no theology student can get out of seminary without having some kind of major theological work influencing them and for me I think it was reading John Wesley's sermons. I didn't grow up Methodist, and joined the UM church because of logistics and the people at one particular congregation; now that I've learned about the development and theology of the denomination, there are just a lot of great things about it that really make sense and feel right to me. God knew what she was doing when she led me this direction!!

5. Describe a perfect place to read. ( could be anywhere!!!)
When I'm at home, I like to sit in my arm chair, next to the living room window, with the lamp over my left shoulder when it gets dark. It's comfy and big enough for me to sit with my legs under me or stretchd out on the ottoman in front, or hang them over the arms on the sides. I also really enjoy reading outdoors, where I can soak in the sunshine (need that Vitamin D) and feel the breeze on my skin.

So, what are your answers??

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tagged again...

From Hipchickmamma: Be careful you never know who might be next! The game is to post 8 random facts and then tag 8 other bloggers--leaving them a comment to let them know.
Here goes:

1. I was never in the same school for two years in a row until I was in 7th grade.

2. I've lived in 13 different cities in 7 different states throughout my life, and for several months lived on the Caribbean island of Aruba. While we lived there, the island was part of the Netherlands and the Dutch Queen visited. We stood along the parade route to see her - my only brush with royalty.

3. I have no known food allergies but there are many foods that I don't like to eat; the strangest and most pervasive of these is vinegar (unless it's balsamic).

4. I've been in my current relationship for 10 years (ceremony almost 8 years ago) - which is longer than I ever thought I'd ever be able to stand being around one person. :)

5. I started college as a vocal music major, and changed degree programs in the middle of my junior year to become a religion major. (I don't recommend waiting that long to change programs.) Ironically, I started singing in jr high school and made it somewhat of a career in the church while I was in high school. I was a cantor for Sunday mass and regularly sang for weddings. Sometimes I miss that aspect of it...

6. I have family members that live in Florida, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Colorado, Germany, Michigan, Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri. Whew! No wonder I don't see most of them very often...

7. I am the second person in my extended family to receive a Masters degree. First was my cousin Tina.

8. I spent one summer living in Chinatown, San Francisco. It was one of the most unique, educational and wonderful experiences of my life. I lived in a women's residence that existed in the upper 4 floors of the building, and worked at the school/resource center in the bottom 2 floors of the building. My job was to teach summer school to Asian immigrant children 1st-6th grade (music to the 1-4th grades and computers to the older kids who were too cool for music classes).

9. I have a small tatoo on my left ankle of a cross with a treble clef superimposed over it. It represents two of the most important things to my spiritual life and I got it when I came to Kansas City 10 years ago.

10. I am hopelessly addicted to musical theater soundtracks and 80's music. I know that this is sometimes an embarassment to people around me, but come karaoke time (which I enjoy immensely once I get past the initial insecurity) it is very handy!

Whew! Now that that's done, I tag Rachel, Big Unit, Tina, Mary, Donna, Andy, Mark, and Kelly. You can either post it on your blog (which is handy for those that you tag, and we'd like it if you linked to it in a comment) or just put it in comments here. :)

One down...

On Tuesday afternoon I had my first interview. It was actually for two positions that I applied for thru AmeriCorps, both with the Kansas City office of Habitat for Humanity. I got to meet with the two people who are looking for assistants and the Executive Director and I think it went really well. There were several questions that kind of threw me off guard (about my personal life, previous AmeriCorps experience and thoughts on the separation of church and state) but I think I handled it all pretty well and I felt really good about it. Now I just have to wait to hear back from them....

Today I have another interview for a different AmeriCorps position at a local community college that is trying to start up a service learning program. It sounds like it could be very interesting as well and since I've already done one of these, I'm not feeling quite as keyed up as I was on Tuesday. Still, it probably would have helped if I had remembered to bring the specific directions on where I'm supposed to go to meet the supervisor. :) I know how to get to campus and the right building to go to, but after that I'm going to have to wing it. Wish me luck!

Monday, June 11, 2007

The search continues...

I've been out of seminary for a little over 3 weeks and the job search continues... I don't know if it's the non-profit world, just the job market in Kansas City or if my resume is just that bad but I have gotten virtually nothing in response to the 10 or so resumes that I've put out around the area. I don't even get a "thank you for applying, we'll get back to you" or basic acknowledgment that my application was received. Am I doing something wrong??

This whole process has been interesting for a couple of reasons. (1) This is the first time I've ever actually done it - all of my previous jobs have simply required filling out an application (I never made up a resume until this year) and then either taking some kind of test (typing, data entry, etc.) and talking with the manager/supervisor. I'm a good test taker and do fairly well with people, so I've always gotten the jobs I was interested in before. (2) This is the first time I've been without a job when I really wanted to have one. It's really making me look at myself and my life in new ways, some of them not so good. I remember times when my parents were looking for jobs and how hard it was on them personally (hello, self esteem, where are you?!?) as well as financially for the whole family. I'm lucky that right now I'm still getting to work some hours in the seminary library while the new students get trained, but that comes to an end Jun 29th. I have a sugar mamma (love ya, babe!) but we're already starting to dip into our savings and the money I just got for graduation to pay our regular bills and I don't deal well with "not contributing to the benefit of the household." I know, keeping house is work and someone needs to do it but let's be real. I'm not raising any children and even if I were, "housewife" isn't a valued job position you can put on your resume.

The exciting this is that I do have a couple of appointments to talk with people this week - including KC Habitat for Humanity, which would be a phenomenal group to work for. The downside is that all of these positions for which I'm know interviewing are actually volunteer jobs through AmeriCorps. They pay a living stipend (which is more than I've been making working part time in the seminary library), most offer some type of health insurance, and my student loans will go into forbearance so that I won't have to worry about tacking on another monthly payment for a little while. The positions I'm looking at are all right here in the KC area and seem to be year long positions so that when I get done, I'll have a year of real experience and connections to people in the KC non-profit world that will hopefully both help me to get "a real job" afterwards.

It's not that I don't think these AmeriCorps jobs are "real" but the program was put together to encourage people to serve their communities and make it financially possible for them to do so. I was talking with a woman earlier today who recently retired and thought it was something she'd enjoy doing herself. But part of me feels like I'm just buying time, delaying the inevitable, using my fall back plan when I haven't really tried as hard as I could elsewhere. Is this just a cop out? An easy option? I'll have to see how the interviews go later this week and do some more soul searching about what all of this means....

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Reflections on Annual Conference

It's been a couple of days home now, so I feel like it's safe for me to talk about it. I didn't want to write from my gut level emotional reactions to annual conference, as there were a great many of those and I needed time to process...

My first observation is that Annual Conference is basically like a really long Administrative Council meeting - but with a lot more people. Ad Council is the governing body of a congregation (at least in the United Methodist Church) and this is the governing body of the conference (which in this case is the state of MO). Annual Conference, as the name suggests, happens once a year, so all of the business, all of the committee reports, all of the petitions, etc. have to get done there and then - which makes for long days.

Actually, this year there was a special session called in March so some of the business of conference reorganization had been dealt with already - but much of it is an ongoing process that seems to mainly be under the control of a small group of people known as "pathways." I wasn't involved in the conference last year so i don't know who these people are and where they came from or why they were formed, but that's who has been making a lot of big decisions. We're restructuring the whole conference, making two new offices and supposedly streamlining operations so that congregations can better focus on "making disciples for Jesus Christ." Don't get me started on this whole new mission statement thing - that's a whole different blog entry.

There were only 3 petitions for vote this year, which was very surprising to me. In other conferences there would never be less than 20 to consider. This is especially surprising given that this is the last session before General Conference (which is the once every 4 years meeting that determines the Book of Discipline, or operating rules, for the entire denomination) so anything that we wanted to bring to GC 2008 had to be voted on this annual conference. The debate over the three petitions was quite intense - all three of them dealt with matters of LGBT persons, so of course there was controversy and high emotion - and for me it felt personal. I'll have to write another entry about the petitions themselves and the debate (there were some pretty intelligent comments made - and others that weren't so much) around them, but in general I think where the conference voted says a lot. The first petition dealt with the Global AIDS fund that General Conference 2004 established. We were supposed to have raised $1 per church member to put into that fund in the quadrennium and up to this point the MO Conference hasn't so they tried to establish the first Sunday in December as a day for a special offering but the wording was changed so that it was a recommended action (so as not to overburden the beginning of Advent or something) and I highly doubt many churches will choose to participate but at least it's encouraged. The 2nd petition was split into two parts and that was very confusing for many people to deal with. It dealt with Judicial Council decision #1032 (see previous blog posts, including my first ever) and stated (1) affirmation of the Council of Bishops letter and (2) a petition to General Conference 2008 to add language that persons are not exempt from membership in the UMC based on sexual orientation or gender identity. There was a lot of discussion, but we passed the language to take to General Conference which is GREAT NEWS!! I was very proud to see that come about. The bishops' letter however, appeared to be too much for many folks to understand and it was postponed indefinitely. More on that another time. The third petition was regarding marriage - affirming the definition already in the Social Principles that says marriage is "one man and one woman" and encouraging state laws and General Conference policies that affirm that stance. This was by far the most confusing part of the whole session. After much debate around parliamentary procedure, attempts to split the questions and arguments about what the presenting committee had done and what it meant, the question was called before the petition itself was ever debated. It passed, which makes me a little sad, but it was expected.

I left Sunday evening, when there was still more business in a Monday morning session, but all in all I got a good taste for the Missouri Annual Conference and it's workings. I got to put a lot of faces and names together, hear and see more about how things work, and learn things to do for next year. I will definitely be brushing up on parliamentary procedure and am hoping to get involved with a conference team at some point (social justice team most likely). I was a voting member this year as a young adult at-large district representative. Next year I should be commissioned as a Deaconess which makes me an at-large voting member of the conference. More in another entry later...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Diversionary tactics

My last attempt to get my mind off of my own troubles was a little on the heavy side. This blog entry, not so much. I thought it might be fun to share our favorite "fooling around" on the internet spots - places we go when we need to get our minds off of other things or just kill time. Below are some of my favorites, but I'd love to hear some of yours! And before anyone else mentions it, I have not included YouTube or other such video sites due to the fact that I still operate on dial-up and it takes forever to download video clips. I know, someday I need to upgrade and join the rest of the industrialized world, but I also don't have cable tv and don't like the idea of spending the money to get either/both.

1. MuffinFilms an interesting animated collection devoted to the goodness that is those delectable baked treats. Especially check out "the muffin tree" which is a take off on "the giving tree" which is a popular story from my childhood -- but really they are all quite entertaining!

2. Sudoku - this particular site offers games at varying levels and times your work so that you can compete with others or just with yourself.

3. Yahoo! games - variety of games, many free on the web. I particularly enjoy the puzzle games (especially Shape Shifter) and arcade games (like Zuma, which was a popular diversion in the class rooms of SPST for a while).

4. Northern Sun - a very fun website/store to browse lots of tshirt designs, bumperstickers, buttons, posters, etc. with a progressive mindset (BigUnit may want to avoid). Even if you don't buy anything, you can come up with great new slogans for your signature line on your email! :)

5. Johari window - This is where you can contribute to mine, as well as make one for yourself. There's also the "darker" nohari window which basically takes the same concept and flips it around. I know these went around via email a while ago, but also know that not everyone chose to participate for whatever reason. I'm all about giving more opportunities. Plus I'm a big fan of self awareness and diagnostic tools.

So those are the ones I feel like sharing at the moment. Looking forward to seeing what recommendations you add to that conversation....

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Big Picture

Well, I did it - I graduated and now have my Master of Divinity, but no job to go with that impressive sounding title. I've been in a kind of slump of self-pity about that fact for the last week and a half or so, but am now making a conscious effort to move out of that. When all else fails, I find that focusing on those who are worse off than myself helps me to put things into perspective, and God knows that there are plenty of people in this world worse off than me.

For the past 5 months or so, the Social Justice Committee at Saint Paul has been focused on the issue of the genocide that continues in Darfur, a region in the west of the African country Sudan. We had a Darfur awareness day, complete with tshirts (from sidewalk chalk drawings, lawn signs, a petition and a letter writing campaign. It wasn't huge - since we're really not that big a campus - but I was amazed at how many people asked me "What's Darfur?" or "I don't get it - what's going on over there?" In a world where there are so many things going on at any given time, we just don't hear about may things that don't directly affect our daily lives (such as gas prices, Bush's latest political move, or the lastest American soldier death in Iraq). The truth is that we have access to much more information than that, but most of us just don't take the time, or feel that it's too overwhelming to figure out what else is going on in the world. If it doesn't affect getting dinner on the table that night or our immediate family members, we ignore it or simply don't have time. But is that enough of an excuse? It amazes me when I talk to people from other countries, how much they know about our politics here in the US - including kay senate and house races, not just the latest about our president. Where do get off assuming that everyone else should or needs to know about us but we don't care about what goes on anywhere else?

If you don't know what's going on in Darfur, I recommend you check out the wikipedia article or SaveDarfur website (linked above) or at least do a basic google search. We're talking genocide, not very unlike what happened in Rwanda. If any of you saw Hotel Rwanda, you have a pretty good idea of the situation. We (the UN and US) swore we wouldn't let something like that ever happen again, and yet here we are and it's been going on for years now. The UN has peacekeeping troops they want to send but the leader of Sudan refuses to let them in. This is a government issue, a religious and ethnic issue and a humanitarian crisis. Refugees from towns that have been burned by the govt backed militia are running out of place to go. The nearby country of Chad is overwhelmed and has gotten involved in the fighting as well. But in case you think this doesn't have anything to do with those of us in the US, think about these things:

- we claim a role as "police" of the world and yet this is going on and has been FOR YEARS.

- Africa in general has a large amount of oil that feeds into the world economy, particularly to China from Sudan, and China is becoming (if they aren't already) one of our biggest business partners.

- people in the world think of us as the country with the most power and resources to get things done; if we don't do anything and those millions of people feel that we failed, what kind of things will they think of us? There are countless children in those numbers, who may be approached by terrorist groups to attack the US. Think it hasn't happened before??

- It is a Christian principle that we help those who are hungry, homeless, sick, oppressed and there are people who claim that this is a Christian nation. When are we going to act like it??

One of the best things I got out of seminary was an overall understanding of how things are ultimately connected. Call it "the force", "spiritual energy," "karma" or "God" but I honestly believe that all things in the world are connected by it and each thing we do, each decision we make has consequences for good and bad. What we buy, the laws we pass, the policies our govt makes - all have influence on things not just here in our country, but around the world, and those affect the way other people in the world see us. Those relationships matter, and they have been deteriorating for a while. We have the choice - the decision to act and how to act is yours.