Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reverb#10 - Gifts

Prompt: Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What's the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year?

This one is a little tricky.  There were a lot of important gifts this year.  Incredible gifts of time and presence.  Gifts of Ensure-  lots of Ensure, which had has much symbolic value as it did monetary.  I received escape valves and safety nets.  Clean laundry and warm dinners. 

The best gift was given quite unintentionally.  A gift of tears.  Can't say much more about it than that.  Just that my husband is not the kind of guy who was taught that it was okay to cry.  Or more properly, he witnessed that men didn't cry and so he followed the pattern laid out for him.  This year he discovered for himself that some times, tears are warranted and crying does ultimately make you feel better.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A snippet from the December 26th sermon

On Christmas Eve, we were at our little church where I work with the Sunday School program.  One of the joys of my job is leading the family service on Christmas Eve. The children dressed as the various people in the nativity story. The older children read the story of Jesus’ birth. We sang lots of carols and there was a special Children’s sermon. As we were tidying up, one of the teachers said that one of the “wise men" -  a second grader named Aaron- told her, “That was the best church experience I have ever had."

Clearly the kid has a remarkable vocabulary but I also think he has a marvelous capacity for insight. This is the first time that he has really been a part of a congregation. His family has gone to church, but they haven’t really joined. And so I think what happened for Aaron is that he really felt connected on Christmas Eve. He was fully a part of everything that was going on and he experienced something new.  He was a part of the church family.  And in that belonging, he experienced one of the true joys of Christmas-  hearing the good news from people who truly care about us.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reverb10: Note to Future Self

Future self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead?

Dear You-

You really need to get a haircut, either that or a new blow dryer.  It's okay to have gray hair but for goodness sake!  Do something with it! 

Your daughter has applied to colleges and at least one of them is some distance away.  Try not to get too weepy but do make sure to spend some quality time with the Chicky before she leaves the nest. 

Clean your room.  Since you don't have a traditional closet it might be a good idea to clean out some of the stuff you're not wearing.  You are not going to start wearing it this year so enough already.  You have too much stuff on the rod collecting dust.  (And by the way, so does the Bug Man.  Nobody needs to be saving embroidered shirts from a job they had more than ten years ago.)

Get a physical and a mammogram and all that other stuff you keep putting off.  It's important.

Go to chapel more often.

Take a vacation.

Read for fun.

Take a walk.

Call your parents!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reverb 10: Friendship

Friendship:   How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?

Being a pastor and an eldest pink  and more of an I than an E-  I don't always strike out and make new friends easily.  I've been trained about keeping boundaries.  I have been trained to not want to inconvenience people.  In my professional capacity I can make small talk, but asking someone if they want to have lunch or go to the movies?  That's harder to do.

This year I found myself needing to try harder in the outreach department.  And what's hard is that there are lessons I learned before that I found myself having to relearn.  Sweet Girl and I once agreed that we tend to assume that the other one of us is too busy, too groovy or too something to want to make time to hang out with the other one.  This of course, is pure nonsense!  I love Sweet Girl!  I'd rather eat sushi with her than anyone else in the world.  And then there's Doc.  Who wouldn't want to hang out with her?  These two women have provided me with comfort, conversation and diversion this year when I desperately needed it.  All I had to do was ask.  That's the trick.  Ask, invite, call, email, text.  Friendship is all around us, we just need to be daring enough to wade into the water.

An editorial comment:  I got my "secret identities confused."  This is what happens when you haven't blogged in a while.  Sweet Girl is Pseudo's mommy.  Dorothy moved south and I miss her dearly!  I think we should have a store reunion with all my favorite staff people! 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Reverb10: 5 Minutes

Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.
  • Your husband had esophageal cancer.  He was in the hospital seven times in seven months.  This is why you are exhausted physically and emotionally.  They think they got all the cancer but he still has to do some more chemo.  This makes him vomit.  And vomit loudly.
  • Oh and he got his gall bladder out, too.  Sheesh!
  • Your daughter has applied to college.  She really wants to go to Susquehanna University.  She's picked it for all the right reasons.  You are hoping that this will all work out.
  • Your grandmother died at the age of 100.  You saw her in January at her party.  She was her usual good self just a bit more fragile.  Her children miss her so very much.  Remember, just because they lived a long life doesn't make it any easier to say goodbye.  In fact it may make it harder because you're used to having them around.
  • Your niece came to stay with you this summer to take care of the Bug Man.  She was amazing in her ability to cope with all that was going on.  Your mother has visited so many times that you've lost count.  The Bug Man clearly has a crush on her.  ;-)  Your M-I-L was here for ten days as well.  It was challenging for both the mom and son, but a good visit.  It's hard to see someone you love be in pain.
  • You wish people wouldn't just ask about the cancer.  You know they're concerned, but could we please talk about something else for a little while. 
  • You worry that all you ever talk about is the cancer.
  • You have papers to finish for that class you're taking at the sem.  Deadline is Friday.  You may not get them finished, but give it your best shot.  It's been a good class for stretching your thinking.  It's also helped you see how you could spend the next ten years getting your Master's in Sacred Theology.  One class at a time...
  • You still have a job.  So don't forget to order the Spring textbooks for the store.  People will want to buy their books and it would really suck if you didn't have what they want at the seminary.
  • Your cat Timothy died this summer. It was sad to say farewell after 13 years. You adopted a new cat last month. He's a kitten. Not a replacement cat. A new cat named Moonshine.
  • The Bug Man's employers continue to hold a job for him. This is a really good thing.  They have said that he should take his time so that he can come back feeling good.  He's shooting for February.  You've decided you'll be happy with March.
  • You have not completely lost your sense of humor, but there are days...

Reverb 10: Prompts for the sloppy blogger?

So here's the story...

At the end of 2009, Gwen Bell launched a creative end of year project and invited a few bloggers to join.  The Best of 2009 Blog Challenge (#best09) encouraged online creators, through daily prompts, to dive into the past year and reflect on it to understand ourselves. Last year was the first year of the challenge. Around a thousand people participated (online), and by all accounts had a blast.
Reverb 10  is now an annual event... It’s an open online initiative that encourages participants to reflect on this year and manifest what’s next. It’s an opportunity to retreat and consider the reverberations of your year past, and those that you’d like to create in the year ahead. We’re connected by the belief that sharing our stories has the power to change us.   From

Since I have become a sloppy blogger, I have decided to give this a try.  We'll see what happens.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Friday Five... tis the season!

KJZ at the RevGalBlogPals wrote this week's Friday Five asking for a list of things that mark the season and one that does NOTHING for you!  So here goes!
  1. Advent socks.  For nearly twenty years, my mother-in-law has been sending her kids and grandkids "Advent Socks."  Usually the females get something with a Christmas motif, but every so often there will be a pair that is blue and seem truly like they were made for Advent.  I am hoping mine came today in the mail!
  2. Some kind of baking.   When I was growing up, my mother did gobs and gobs of holiday baking.  Cookies, Swedish coffee bread and I suppose lefse even technically qualifies.  I have never quite lived up to the standard she set, at least not since becoming a mother myself.   It's not a lack of talent but a lack of time and drive that get me.   This year I am feeling kind of guilty since my mother is here for a week and says she's going to make Christmas cookies.  Do I still have to bake one thing?  Or can I just offer up what Mom made?
  3. A tree in the window.  I don't like yard decorations all that much, but I do love having a lit Christmas tree in the front window of the house.  We have a new kitten though and I am wondering how we are going to work this all out.  Will people notice if there are only ornaments on the top half of the tree?  Would it be wrong to build a substantial fence around the tree?   Hmmmm......
  4. Forgetting to buy candles.  Every year I mean to have the Advent wreath ready and every year it sneaks up on me.  Does my daughter know that there are four weeks of Advent and not three?
  5. Wrapping presents in the middle of the night.  When I was a parish pastor, there were always presents that didn't get wrapped until the wee small hours of Christmas Eve/Morning.  You know the time.  It's when the sun has come up in Rome and the Pope is celebrating Christmas mass and you can watch it on WGN or CNN.  Last year I was ready before midnight.  I stayed up late anyhow. 
There is a clear and present theme of procrastination to three out of five of my markers of the season.  And I guess that is one of the things that I don't really like about Advent.  There is so much to do and never as much time as I would like.   I don't mean to procrastinate or eliminate tasks from the "to do" list.  It's just that I find that it is such a very long list.  When I am old and perhaps not so busy, I would like to have a leisurely Advent.  I would do the things that I did when I was an unmarried country pastor with a very small parish.  Make my own cards, make my own wrapping paper, sew, craft, bake...    but for now I am going to enjoy the cookies my mother makes, get some classy looking wrapping paper that doesn't wrinkle when you use it and try to feel guilt-free when we send out email greetings instead of snail mail Christmas cards.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Five: Pie!

Pie, pie, me oh my, nothing tastes better,
wet, salty and dry, all at once-
oh, well it's pie.

Apple and pumpkin and mince and black bottom,
I'll come to your place every day if you've got em.
Pie, me oh my, I love pie!
My friend Songbird posted the questions for this week's Friday Five on the RevGalBlogPals and it's all about pie. She was having some pie dilemmas at her house related to gluten and a lack of piecrust at her local Trader Joe's. People across the country offered to make crust for her and one good soul actually delivered a pie to her door. (I may try this strategy for scoring pie next year!) Without further ado, here are Songbird's questions and my answers related to pie.
  1. Are pies an important part of a holiday meal? Well, yes they are! And in the home of my childhood, it was all about the pie, but not the pie you are imagining. In the days before food processors, we would ask my mom to make Cornish pasty for any and every holiday meal. It involved making six pie crusts, peeling and grating potatoes and grinding rutabegas and onions in an old fashioned meat grinder. Nowadays, making pasty is a lot easier, but it is still my idea of THE holiday meal. Sadly, the Bugman and the Chick think that Thanksgiving means turkey, Easter means ham and Christmas should be about beef and seafood. I usually manage to sneak in some pasty before the holiday weekend is over. As you can see from the picture, pasty is like a big turnover filled with ground beef, potatoes, rutabegas or carrots and a little onion. The recipe came from my mother's Aunt Effie who lived in mining country in northern Minnesota. Some crazy people think it needs gravy. Personally, I have found butter is the ONLY way to go! Oh! just to clarify my family's dedication to pie, when we were done with the pasty, I was asked for many years to bake Black Bottom Pie for dessert.
  2. Men prefer pie; women prefer cake. Discuss. Cake baking is easier. Discuss.
  3. Cherries--do they belong in a pie? I don't like cherries but the husband dreams of such things.
  4. Meringue--if you have to choose, is it best on lemon or chocolate? Skip the meringue altogether. The Chick's favorite pie is French Silk Chocolate. (See top photo.) Notice there is NO meringue. We are all about the whipped cream at our house.
  5. In a chicken pie, what are the most compatible vegetables? Anything you don't like to find in a chicken pie? Peas are nasty. I don't much like the cooked carrots either. I once made a chicken pie with potatoes, a little onion, lots of mushrooms and curry in the sauce. It was good! I might have to try that again.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Friday Five

My friend KathrynZJ posted the Friday Five on RevGalBlogPals and I thought this might be a good way to get back in the swing of thngs. 
KJ wrote:

There are many perks in my life for which I give thanks and then there are some that make everything right in the world during the moment I am enjoying them. I'm wondering what a few of those things - five to be specific - are for you.

So here they are in no particular order:
  • Ice in my drink on a hot, hot day.
  • Parents who thought it was critical that we have company this year while dealing with the Bug Man's cancer treatment.  Mountain Mama was here five times.  For this I am thankful to her and my father.
  • Having had enough gumption enough to say to a friend, "We are not leaving here until we set a date for lunch," and the important lunch that followed.
  • A daughter who reminds me when I forget.
  • Communion.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Fairy That Has Been Living at Our House

This is the fairy that has been living at our house this summer.  Now, don't be shocked, but we call her "the Shit Fairy."  This concept of she who shall hitherto be known as just "the fairy" was shared with me by my mother who has a friend who also was visited by the Fairy.  The Fairy had delivered to her friend not one or two, but three different kinds of cancer all at the same time.  His doctor told him about the Fairy.  My guess is that we all get visits from her from time to time.  The amount of crap that she deposits in our lives is small enough that we just don't seem to notice.  But it seems that in our case, the Fairy just felt we were due for some major visits this summer.

The Bug Man has been diagnosed with cancer and has just finished his second round of chemo and thirty days of radiation.  It's third stage esophageal cancer which means that he'll be having surgery in mid September.  It sucks.  Earlier this summer, while they were figuring out the whole throat thing, he had emergency gall bladder surgery.  Then while he was in the hospital getting his j-tube in for feeding post-surgery, I had to put our cat down.  The Bug Man's comment, "Oh, fine!  I turn my back for one minute and go in the hospital and what do you do?  Kill my cat!"  (We find that dark, dark humor helps when the Fairy has been to your home.)  The cat was 17 years old, well loved and dying of some kind of throat cancer.  (It's been the summer of the sore throat.)

We also said goodbye to my grandmother who at age 100 had lived a full and wonderful life.  But the truth is, when your grandmother has lived for that long, you kind of get used to having her around.  In some ways, her age has made the grieving process harder for her family.  We almost thought she would be around as long as we would.
I haven't blogged in a long while and I have been hesitant to blog about my husband's visits from the Fairy.  I trust you'll keep what I'm writing to yourself and not tell the Bug Man I've been talking about him on the internet.  He hates all the attention.  (Hah!)  But really, this isn't about him, it's about me.  It's about the fact that being married to someone who has cancer really sucks.  And getting multiple visits from the Fairy can really put a cramp in your style.  On the other hand, my mother-in-law took me shopping when she was in town last week and told the saleswoman that my husband had cancer and so she wanted to do something nice for me for my birthday.  (You do the math!  Husband has cancer, I get new clothes!  If I were a completely pathetic person, who looked better in her clothes, I could milk this for all it's worth.)

But seriously, it has been a long summer of restless nights and impatient days.  And yet, I realized today that in the nineteen years we've been married, this is not the worst thing to happen to us.  We've had it much harder than this.  Those long past difficulties led to separation and tears.  This has not.  We are in it together.  We may lose our tempers.  We may wonder if the other person has taken their "happy pills" for the day.  We may say things for which we will have to apologize later, but we haven't walked away.  This is not the worst thing that has happened to us.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Happy Birthday, Amy Olsen!

On January 21st, my grandmother Amy Olsen celebrated her hundredth birthday.  This weekend, her immediate family of 81 or so folks will gather together to eat cake, tell stories and have a wonderful time! 

As a little girl, I always thought Grandma Olsen was the serious grandma.  Grandma Rodrick was the one who would let us drink 7-up at breakfast.  Grandma Olsen was the one who told us to sit up straight at the table.

Anyone who knows me well, knows I can't abide the smell of cooked eggs.  I haven't been able to eat them since I was a toddler.  On a day many years ago, my grandmother served us all boiled eggs as we came to the breakfast table.  No matter how I protested, there was no getting around her and a hard boiled egg.  It took forever to choke that thing down.  When my mother finally got up and was asked "How do you want your eggs?"  She told her mother, "In the refrigerator" and got away with it.  I was so irked!  How come my mother could get away with that nonsense?  Twenty years or more after that morning, my mother learned that Grandma doesn't like eggs.  Never has!  While I washed bits of egg down with water and milk-  she just kept cooking!  Never dawned on me that she hadn't made a plate for herself.  I also ate quiche that she made especially for me and a college boyfriend.  She said she wasn't hungry!  Hah!  She probably doesn't like quiche any more than I do!

My grandmother is a woman of many sides.  She played goalie on a team in high school.  She skated well into her 70s.  She drove until she was 90+.  She has high heels and sneakers.  She knits and bakes and manages her daily life with grace and style. 

Thanks be to God for the blessings of all my grandparents, but this weekend I am especially thankful for Grandma Amy.  She is a faithful, gracious face in the cloud of witnesses around me.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Dear Void

To begin, it has been so long since I blogged that I forgot the user name to get on to Blogger. Is it because I've had nothing to say or is it because I've attached myself to Facebook? Or is it something else?

This afternoon I was watching "You've Got Mail." A good movie, although I would argue that the original "The Shop Around the Corner" has charms that the Ephron sisters missed. Having said that, there are phrases from "You've Got Mail" that haunt me.

When was the last time your heart beat faster because someone sent you a card or a letter or an email? When did someone last write to you in words that were nearly poetic and the mere reading of them made you feel somehow more clever, smarter? Is life ever like the movies? Our memories sometimes appear to be as charming as romantic comedies but were they really?

There's a moment when Kathleen Kelly writes to NY152... "Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life, well- valuable, but small. And sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around? I don't really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question into the void. So good night, dear void."

Sometimes I wonder about my own life. It's pretty small as well. Is there something else I am supposed to be doing? I don't know the answer to the question. Don't know that anyone else does either. But I send it out anyway... into the cosmic void.