Monday, December 31, 2007

sustanance for the new year

Today, I cooked.

Made something sort of like this, except a tiny little roast and half a bottle of $15 wine, instead of the clearly insane amounts in the linked recipe. (Serves 8? 8 what? Lions? Prides of lions? Dinosaurs?)

Incidentally, I'm drinking a glass right now, and it is my considered opinion that $15 Spanish wine is more than 100% better than $8 American wine. This is delicious.

Note to self: buy this again


I made the tiny roast for a couple of friends - Eric had a gig, and I had asked a family over for dinner, but this morning the woman was feeling poorly and begged off. I volunteered to bring some dinner over, an offer she could not refuse. So I made the roast and carved it in half, and Ian and I took half over to their house, along with gravy and rice and asparagas and the pie below, plus a bottle of sparkling apple juice for a toast, and party hats left over from Ian's birthday. Yes, we're a party, wherever we go.

I had made this awesome pie, which is delicious and super-easy. (It's tart, though. You'll want to pick up some ice cream. Or whipped cream. That way, you can squirt some into your kids' mouth. Where did he learn that? All I know is, he saw the can of whipped cream as I was putting away the groceries, and followed me around, open mouth upturned like a baby bird, until I obliged him.) Back to the pie - I was so pleased with the way it came out that I stopped at the store on the way home and got another bag of apples and bag of cranberries and refrigerator-case pie dough, and I just made 2 more. Ian rode around the store in a prismatic party hat, saying "Happy New Year. Hey! HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOOOOOU!" to strangers.

It's so strange - he's so TOTALLY IMPOSSIBLE and then so damned exceptionally perfect in the space of a couple of hours. Like everyone else, I guess.

The roast came out quite good - I know, because we ate about half of our remaining half when we got home. Ian, who never likes anything, LOVED the roast and ate a ton of it.

When I got Ian ready for bed, I found that he had hidden a ballpoint pen and a raw cranberry in his diaper at some point during the afternoon. This explained two things - the 5 times he walked up to me this afternoon and said "Tummy hurts. Kiss it!" (because the point was drawing on him) and also the hilarity that resulted when I thought that the store was out of cranberries. Oh, Lord, did he think that was funny. We went through the aisles doing a little "Nooooo cranberries" call and response and giggling...only to find that we had at least one cranberry with us at all times. He's really perfect.

2006 was pretty close to the worst year of my life.

2007 has been pretty much the best.

I said to Ian as I wheeled him through the supermarket: "We're going to have so much fun in the new year!" He, of course, looked at me very seriously and said "No, no fun."

"You've gotta be kidding! Are you kidding me? You only think you know what fun is, buddy. By the end of 2008, I predict that you will say to me "I thought I was having fun before, but I had no idea! I didn't even know what fun was!"

So, hey, Happy New Year to Yoooooouuuu.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

I preached today; Patsy, who was scheduled to preach and with whom I had been planning an unusual service, was sick and hoarse, and after a series of brief conversations yesterday, I agreed to write and present a sermon, along with the communion/contemplative/liturgical elements we had been working on.

Edited to add: It's up on the Cedar Ridge site. Click here and it's at the top of the page.

I've been joking about how stressful it is, but here's my super-secret confession in the relative anonymity of cyberwhatsis - it was fun. I liked doing it. Of course I was nervous, and of course I worked hard at it and worried about it. But I also really enjoyed it - both writing it, and speaking it.

Here's what made it easier -
1. My husband, who not only contributed ideas and advice but agreed to be interviewed as part of the message (the theme was fresh starts, and of course he's been immersed in a fresh start for the last 11 months, so it seemed sensible; plus he's funny; plus how great is it to be able to have someone standing beside you while you do this? Pretty great. Is the answer.)
2. Jack B, who took over all the booth stuff I am usually doing;
3. Harp 46, consummate professionals who basically did exactly what I asked them too perfectly
4. Tony, who, when I called, said (as he always does) 'just tell me what you need'.
plus Christie and Gail and all the other people who help all the time. Plus Jim, who did not kill me for double-booking him and another sound operator, but instead went out and bought me coffee. Plus, of course, Matthew and Patsy, who each thought of 12 different ways to say 'you'll do a good job."

My husband also added a special visual to the new years liturgy that I had concocted - people wrote down the stuff they were leaving behind, and I had planned a 'ceremony' where we would take those pieces of paper and remove them as we prayed. Eric, of course, had a more striking idea, and stood behind me. And as I prayed to have God transform our old lives into some something new and beautiful, Eric magically transformed the paper into sparking fluttering 'snow'.


Excuse me, I have to go kiss his feet.


He hates it, but I just can't be stopped.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hey, if you want to feel a warm, yet sophisticated, sense of well-being and hope, go to Youtube and watch all 4 parts of this documentary short. My friend Robyn, the matriarch of a big family of artists, sent me the link to encourage me, and it really did.

H&R Block - the tax people - built a new building in Kansas City, and they commissioned literally truckloads of art for it - exceptional in volume, variety, quality and accessibility. And then they shot interviews with the artists, and footage of the pieces being created and installed, and it's just a really nice solid down-to-earth picture of hope and hard work. Heart work.

(to find the other sections, see this on the YouTube page, then click on "More from Leopold Gallery" and find "Art on the Block 2", and 3 and 4. It's worth your time, really.)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

My Awesome Christmas by Betsy

I have had an absolutely awesome day - a few days, actually. Bullet Points [EDIT: I started to do bullet points but I can't seem to be concise. So, no bullet points, but a rather detailed synopsis:)

Christmas eve services at church went smoothly, and this advent has been by far the lowest-stress holiday ever. We've been doing the same Christmas eve service as long as I can remember - a presentational service of scripture and and carols, always featuring some high-quality 'special' element and always highlighting some very spectacular technical snafu. The guest artists (and, unrelatedly, whatever I happen to screw up) are different every year, but it's always readers, candles, short sermon, no communion, Silent Night.

Every year I say, without much hope, "We should do something different. We should go outside! We should have, like, a bonfire!" I know it's hopeless, and annually I am humored that it's a fine idea, really, such an interesting and creative thing to suggest, but in the light of these 50 insurmountable issues, we really can't pursue it. And I sigh and nod, and work on creative ways to tweak the traditional plan, and quietly daydream about my hopeless Christmas bonfires.

So last night, as I stood beside my Christmas bonfire, holding a candle and singing Silent Night, I was pretty happy.

I'm sure I'll write more about it later - I'm scared that I'll seem pleased with myself, which is not the case. I am thrilled with our staff, our congregation, our volunteers, the events, even the weather and the phase of the moon. I'm pleased because the way I imagined it was sort of the way it turned out. Sort of.

Now, some actual bullet points:
  • best turkey ever ! My brother and his wife volunteered to do all the Christmas dinner cooking. Honestly, I would have been happy just to have someone other than me throw a pizza on the table, but as it turns out, we had ACTUAL FUN and ended up with a totally delicious dinner. AND it only took 2 hours! (In the oven. It took many more hours to spatchcock it, brine it, chop herbs, plus that whole 'toasting the fennel seeds' thing.) THIS
    is a great recipe. Make this turkey! Or better yet, have your brother make this turkey!
  • plus, cleanest kitchen ever. I have no idea what possessed him, but my brother - having spent the whole day cooking - then washed a mountain of dishes and cleaned my kitchen. As we all know, anytime anyone cleans anything in my house, it's a Christmas miracle. So that was awesome.
  • A lovely day with the grandparents.
  • My child has done many charming things over the last couple of days, including:
  • wildly dancing in a circle in the living room, shouting 'Merry Christmas!' over and over, to the sound of the Russian Dance from the Nutcracker.
  • On Sunday, we went out to the stable to meet the live nativity animal guest stars - 2 pygmy goats, a donkey and a couple of deceptively sweet-looking alpacas. After hanging out with the for a while, I was packing Ian into the car, and he CRIED! Actual TEARS! And cried out of the car window, "Bye, animals! Sniff!"
  • However, on Monday night, the animals were not the main attraction. Eric and Ian were shepherds, looking very cute in their homemade tunics and curtain-tieback belts.
  • Eric to Ian (excitedly): "Come on! We have to lead people to the Baby Jesus!"
  • Ian: (so excited that his teeth are clenched; shouting at the top of his lungs:)SANTA CLAUS!! IS!! COMING TO TOWN!!!!!!!!"
  • Eric: No, not Santa, Baby Jesus!
  • Ian: (practically swooning): SANTA!!!!! CLAUS!!!Of course this took place in front of about one-third of my congregation. Not me, of course - I was bringing up the rear. I cannot believe I missed it.
  • Wednesday, December 19, 2007

    Christmas–even on the wrong day, even with the wrong stories surrounding it, even with a lot of pagan ritual attached to it–celebrates the entering into the world of the person who changed the world forever. From that time forward religion turned inward. Everything we could know about God was revealed in its entirety within us, not within a temple or on a mountaintop. It took us a long time to understand this. St. Augustine tried to explain it, and he got most of it right, and then others carried it deeper, and then we got to the 21st century and most of the ways that Jesus turned the world upside down had become . . . commonplace, not attributed to Jesus at all.

    Perhaps that is how he builds the kingdom, by effacing himself as the builder.

    I don't know if I agree with this completely ('revealed in its entirety within us'? I know the rationale, but it still makes me a little itchy) but it's thought-provoking and well-put.

    Joe Bob Briggs in the Door.

    Monday, December 10, 2007

    Do you know what I have to do? What I have to start doing?

    What I have to (ugh, shudder) DISCIPLINE myself to do regularly?

    I have to start sleeping. I have to start sleeping more, and more regular hours, or I am going to lose my mind.

    No amount of vitamins or good wholesome homecooked food or drinking sufficient water or even journaling is going for prevent it - any of those could forestall it, some briefly, some for longer.

    A few weeks ago, husband and I (YES I blame my husband, please shut up) started staying up. Just long enough to post; oh, just let me finish this contract. Oh, let me knit just a few more rows. Oh, look, it's one o'clock.

    (And of course, this is another way in which being a parent has broken me, along with my broken internal thermostat and various feminine/hormonal areas of discussion, plus this weird dowager's hump which has misplaced itself to my damn FRONT, above my belt, thanks a lot...

    one o'clock used to be a good time to go out. Or move from one bar/party/venue of some sort that was seeming a little tired to a cooler one.

    Oh, just picture me, running down Charles, tipsy, working the bi-level haircut, wearing navy shorts, a couple of tank tops, flats, numerous chandelier earrings, and a gigantic men's white dinner jacket with a shawl collar. Occasionally, tatted lace gloves. A small, rotating cloud of fabulous gay boyfriends in tow.

    Yeah, your friends don't dance, and if they don't dance, well they're no friends of mine.

    Well, snap out of your revery, friends, here's what 20 years will get you: black sweat pants, white socks, singing songs from the Jungle Book at the top of your lungs, as you pull out of the Chik-Fil-A in your hybrid and head for the Wal-Mart. You pray that, if you can jolly up your kid sufficiently, he won't throw a Defcon 3 tantrum when you try to slide his little legs into the shopping cart.

    For this, you need your sleep.

    (There aren't actually very many songs in the Jungle Book. It's kind of half-assed, as a musical.)

    BUT speaking of musicals, the kid arose from his nap yesterday to find me watching On The Town, and he was RAPT, utterly RAPT with EVERY MINUTE. He literally stood motionless staring at the screen for 15 minutes. He doesn't do that with Elmo. (Most musicals do not keep up the insane breakneck pace of On The Town, which is more like an operetta/dance recital than a regular MGM musical. High Society, for example, did not sustain his interest. Although, when Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly sang True Love, he did stand close to the screen and say
    "SINGING?????!!?? Is SINGING??? People SINGING??" Yes, baby. A movie about people singing.

    It seems he cannot believe his good luck, to get born into a world where you can watch movies about people singing.

    And I know just how he feels.

    Wednesday, December 05, 2007

    living in the past

    Jethro Tull_04
    Originally uploaded by nikorimages
    I am very sorry to have not taken this picture - we saw Tull on Monday night, a very good show after a very good Thai dinner in Rockville.

    The boys played beautifully. I had quibbles (a few) with the staging and aesthetic choices, but the playing, the sound and the hall were all excellent.

    Old Ian voice was quite grim for the first hour, and to the sound ops credit, it wasn't prettied up by processing. He was exerting tremendous effort to squeak out his vocals - up on his toes, tension visible in his arms and hands as well as his neck. A little subtle Joe Cocker action.

    His voice warmed up quite a bit in the second hour. His flute playing was terrific, and he's massively energetic, never laying back for a moment. (Is it good, to be putting out so much, or bad, to be hogging the spotlight every second? Whatever - no one can accuse him of taking it easy, either way.) Martin Barr was exactly perfect, as always - a tiny bit antiseptic for my taste, but I can only imagine that Old Ian requires exceptional dependability from the rest of the band so he can show off.

    I suspect he's kind of an ass, Old Ian.

    We did not hang around to tell him we had named our son after him.

    (Not exactly. But kind of.)

    ( Yes, I am serious. Ian is, in a roundabout way, named after Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. It's actually a pretty good story. Short, too. )

    Tuesday, December 04, 2007

    from this lovely blog
    via jen lemen

    Sunday, December 02, 2007

    via Ravelry.

    Ecclesiastes 10:19

    having survived Advent One (only just barely) we're having church part 2 - watching, yes, I admit it - EXtreme Makeover, Home edition. No kidding - we are members of the Church of Ty. (Yeah, so the reverend's been in a little trouble lately, which I think is a minimum qualification these days.)

    I am disgusted with this trend in TV (old hat by now) to shower expert help and material goods on 'deserving' broke people - they took in a houseful of foster kids! He coaches the underfunded team and tutors his players! She started a literacy program! Lets....give them stuff! They'll probably cry! It'll be great TV! Think of the goodwill! (Plus our sponsors will GIVE us all the stuff as promo, so it won't even cost anything.)

    Even Queer Eye fell into this icky pattern in the last season or so. Oprah does it, and Extreme Home Makeover is the worst. And kind of the best.

    We are powerless to resist its pull. It was Eric who started referred to it as church, but we both get some weird cathartic effect from watching it. Tears are hardly uncommon. There's a fairly formal liturgy - tale of the family, meet the family, demolish the old way of life (watch the family mourn and celebrate the demo in the same moment), gather the helpers, assemble the new life, conceal and then reveal certain bits of information...welcome home.

    There are ritual phrases and actions. There is vile commercialism. There is the shameless promotion of the Disney corporation. It's the worst sort of appeal to sentimentality. It's gross.

    And in one way - pretty much exactly one way - it's beautiful. There is a lavishness - a ridiculousness - to the giving. They give a sick kid medical treatment - and a new home. And in the new home, the sick kid has her own room. And the room has a huge professional mural. And a custom-designed, hand-built bed. And a library full of books. And a store's worth of toys. And some new clothes. Maybe a flatscreen. Teenagers routinely get musical instruments, multimedia setups, Joe Montana's helmet. And maybe a pickup truck. Maybe tuition.

    My uptight northeastern Protestant-ness is a little weirded out by the lavishness, toys, the x-wing fighter bed, the TVs. Tuition? Mortgage payments? Medical treatments? All those things are great uses of Disney's money - they're things that will really make a difference, change the course of a family's future.

    The themed bedrooms, though, seem wasteful and wrong. This is a needy family - does this little girl really need a princess bed?

    Well, she doesn't. Nobody does. Nobody needs a flatscreen, or a whole new wardrobe, or more than one guitar, or all those toys.

    But how beautiful is it - how precious - to keep on giving? Past the need? To completely bury the need under a pile of delight and color and silliness and music and giggling? To tie a hundred balloons to it and drape it in a bright orange mink coat?

    There's a story I read somewhere, and I'm sad that I can't remember it properly - it's about a man in medieval Europe who gave ridiculous, lavish gifts to the poor. Warm clothes, and oh by the way some emeralds. Not just basic nutrition, but exotic gourmet feasts. Art. Bags of gold.

    When people chided him about his ridiculous - even stupid - generosity, he would smile at them and say "Won't you be embarrassed when you get to Heaven, and see Jesus wearing your worn-out castoff boots? Your charity?"

    Not that Jesus won't love you anyway, or let you in.

    But that's what I think about. During church.

    A feast is made for laughter, and wine makes life merry, but money is the answer for everything.

    Saturday, December 01, 2007

    I am freaking out just a little about tomorrow's service.

    Because, when I was in the office on Friday, I put things (props, media etc) in places where I wouldn't lose them. And today, since I am at home instead of at church (physically, at least - I don't think there's been a moment in the last 10 years when at least part of my brain, a few neurons, haven't been at church) I cannot picture precisely where each of those valuable, irreplacable items is, cannot picture the cd with the speech on it nestled lovingly in the slot where logic would dictate that it indeed is.... Urrgrggh.

    Get me a benidryl and a tumbler of gin. I'm going to bed.

    Friday, November 30, 2007

    Thursday, November 29, 2007

    grocery marketing sucks

    what on earth would possess you to attach this sticker to a food product? Honestly.

    They were good, though.

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007

    the dumbest blog entry ever

    the guy on pushing daisies is really really cute. Or in some mysterious way riveting, because he isn't that cute, looks-wise, and yet I cannot bring myself to look away.

    And it's an annoying show! At least intermittently. It's got Kristen Chenowith, who, despite the fact that Aaron Sorkin thinks the world of her, despite her Tony-nominated work in You're a Good Man Charlie Brown is routinely the most annoying person in the entertainment industry.

    On the other hand, Mike White's in this episode, always a plus.

    The pie guy on Pushing Daisies is an actor named Lee Pace.

    He may be even more fascinating than this guy:

    Jake Weber, the husband on Medium.

    Honest to God, I don't watch that much TV. It's just the Advent run-up, and I've got nothing left but the List of Boys Who Are Cute (Not Exhaustive.)

    Monday, November 26, 2007

    o hi. i m in yr chrch, critiqng yr sermon

    okay, so by popular demand, I'm going to write about my experience delivering my sermon on Sunday.

    I really wanted to take time and write in my real journal (you know, that paper and pen business, where I write the stuff that I don't want googled) but I did not take that time today - I spent most of the day playing in the leaves and feeding the seagulls with the kid.

    By the way, the kid is leaning English from TV, like the mermaid in Splash. He walked up to me yesterday and said "I'm a love machine!"
    (There's a commercial for a party game, see, and that's the phrase everyone is figuring out. And it's on cable, so if you watch 20 minutes of something, you'll see this damn commercial 4 times. )

    But I did want to capture it, my experience from yesterday, because it was really really good. It was a pleasure. And I want to point out that, at this moment in my professional life, one cannot take that for granted.

    This is how I have come to preach.
    Of course I do announcements, and I get to introduce communion pretty frequently. It's clear to me that that's the most valuable thing I can give people; as it happens, on top of all the beautiful and significant things that it really is, its also a wish-fulfillment thing for me, since 'priest' was the very first thing I ever wanted to be. Even when I got older and wanted to be other things - novelist, television producer, set designer, college professor - the 'priest' thing never really went away, but was always unattainable. (So when I wanted to write a great novel or get a Tony award, I was, in fact, 'settling'.)

    Anyway, I have ended up in a job where I get to do a priestly function, and help train and equip other lay people to do it, and that's pretty much the best thing I can imagine. I get the best of all worlds, really - sharing Jesus with people, and getting paid for it, and not having to navigate a professional religious hierarchy. (I'm a cradle Epsicopalian, as I constantly mention, and the polity of 'my' people is damned daunting, on every side.)

    So I was asked to do a God In The Movies, and I picked this radically inappropriate movie, because it was the only movie I could think of that I could get excited about - the only current movie that I had seen that was dense enough, rich enough that there was anything to be gained by discussing it.

    But it was a tough choice, because our congregation has shown itself sensitive to rough language in our God in the Movies movies. And Little Miss Sunshine is distinguished by some exceptional language. I mean - with good reason. It's not lazy writing, or added in for contrived effect. It's excellent dialogue for revealing character - I personally wouldn't change a word.

    But many of those words that I wouldn't change are words that our congregants have told us they do not want to hear in church.

    So there was that. Plus there's the whole gayness part - one of the characters is gay, and is doing everything he does in the movie as a result of a badly broken heart. Last year, when one of our staffers discussed a movie with a gay character, it derailed some people entirely - they fixated on what the filmmaker was saying about gayness (admittedly, a major point in that movie, though far from the focus of the sermon) and were unable to concentrate on anything else about the movie.

    The heroin subplot - I think I mentioned it in my first draft, after which it went to BackspaceLand, never to be heard from again.

    That all sounds like I was walking on eggshells. I wasn't - mostly. I would be lying if I didn't admit that I had lots of misgivings about this movie, and this sermon, for this crowd at this church. I tried to bail on this movie 3 times - I could always talk about Kiki's Delivery Service! I'm sure I could say something insightful about Stop Making Sense! - but the pastors encouraged me to stick to my original thing, and that seems to have turned out to be the right decision.

    I was able to relax BECAUSE my very very good friend Michael took many hours to rip the commercial dvd onto a Mac, and edit down the scenes for me in iMovie, and pull out the sound in places where the sound really needed to be removed. That enabled me to talk over sections, so people could get a feel for the movie without having an hour-long sermon; it also allowed us to get all the ticklish parts out before the day, so that I didn't have to be up there hoping that the booth crew could get the dvd paused or muted at EXACTLY the right time. (Not that they're not capable of it - I have really good people in the booth, and I have to say we've done a great job in this series. But it was so so so so great not to wonder.

    I feel like I should have thanked people in the sermon - especially Eric, for plowing though those early drafts, and for writing me a 'hook' which really made it come together; and then also Micheal, and Patsy and Sarah for the encouragement. I feel like I should have had an acknowledgements page.
    So maybe this is it.

    Anyway, I was nervous - I was really well-prepared, and it had not occurred to me that I would feel nervous on Sunday morning, but man. Was I ever. Plus the Godfather was there, and Mrs. Godfather, who is no slouch in the sermonizing area. (I believe my loving Christian greeting to my good friends was "Holy crap, Brian's here." Yes, I said it out loud. I couldn't help it, it just jumped out of my mouth like a frog.)

    And people completely swamped me with hugs and high fives and kindness - This is the part that I wanted to record in my private journal, because I know how it sounds. (which is to say, either embarrassingly immodest - Why yes, I am awesome, thanks for noticing - or like I think people were 'just being nice' about my substandard work.)

    I think it was pretty good.

    And it's not every day that you have a big crowd of people standing around telling you that you're awesome.

    So - if there's any way I can have this without becoming a complete ass - I'd like to keep that day inside me for the rest of my life, please.

    Thanks for asking.

    Sunday, November 25, 2007

    If you want to, you can watch my sermon here.

    Because I took the afternoon off, but Russ Dulaney, who's a major unsung hero at Cedar Ridge, did not. He shot, edited and uploaded the talk already! While I was eating onion pakoras and taking a nap. So, go Russ.

    It's about half an hour long, and it makes a decent amount of sense even without the movie clips.

    I am pleased. Also exhausted.

    Saturday, November 24, 2007

    I joined Ravelry! I have no idea what I'm going to do with it, except maybe track down someone who wants to sell me some discontinued Lion Micro-Spun. (This is my best-loved discontinued yarn of the moment. It's what the dinosaur is made of.

    Speaking of the dinosaur, I spent a good deal of this holiday knitting away at the freehand, top-down rugby-striped brontsaurus in the round. I have been lovingly paring decreases o.n the torso. (I went a little crazy with the increases and the short rows and now have to take drastic action to keep it from turning into some demented beachball with a sock sticking out of it.)

    ACK! By this time tomorrow I will be DONE PREACHING my first official grown-up big-church sermon. I think it's good, and yet I want to barf a little.

    Here's a classic Betsy concern: I don't know what I'm wearing! (to preach, I mean. I know what I'm wearing now.)

    Friday, November 23, 2007

    It must be the night after thanksgiving, because we are home watching White Christmas. We do this every year (more than once, usually) and in fact I think I blog about it every year (I have some recollection of a comments discussion with Stacie, focused on Rosemary Clooney's midnight blue gown in the engagement party scene.)

    Hooray for us, we survived Thanksgiving.
    4 weeks til Christmas.

    I am down to about the solar plexus of my knit dinosaur.

    My husband is googling patents. He is looking at a monkey-shaped camera bag.

    I don't think he'll be doing any of the Christmas shopping.

    Thursday, November 22, 2007

    greetings from a darkened, silent motel room in southern maryland.

    If anyone has any ideas about how to make cheap travel with a toddler suck less, please tell me.

    Aside from the mild but annoying deprivations associated with sharing a motel room with someone who goes to bed at 7, we're having a lovely trip.

    I got to listen to most of Turkey Confidential on the trip down, which we really enjoyed. (I'm a little in love with Lynn Rosetto-Kaspar.) This had the added advantage of dazzling my husband with my cooking knowledge, as I shouted out the totally correct answers to the callers' questions - precisely the same answers as the assembled food experts, but a moment earlier. I totally rule at Home Ec.

    (Wow, there's a sentence I never would have expected to write.)

    After the ridiculous Officers' Club buffet (excellent desserts, by the way, as always), we stopped at the Cedar Point beach to let Ian run off some energy (to little avail, as it turned out, but it was fun and relaxing. There's a playground there; plus, in the 70 degree weather, we were able to slip off our shoes and walk down to the bay.

    My brother - the man who can clean a kitchen like Rosie the Robot Maid on the Jetsons - can also skip stones like a world-champion stone-skipper. It was totally amazing.

    I'm about to launch a campaign to get my husband to change the TV channel to anything other than THE FANTASTIC FOUR (to which I say AU CONTRAIRE.)

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007

    My husband: Hey, ask Ian what a turkey says.

    Me: Okay. Hey Ian, what does a turkey say?

    Ian: Gobble gobble!

    Me: Hey, good job! Isn't that cute!

    Ian: (clears his throat, as I have interrupted him. He squares his shoulders, looks me in the eye and says:)
    Gobble gobble, don't eat me.

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007

    i can has a cleaning service?

    The good news: we have some household help.

    The weird news: it's my brother.

    As I've mentioned, we're trying to do the Clean Sweep/Clean House/Mission Organization thing at our house. With a 2-year-old and a new business in the house, not to mention my couple hundred boxes of...stuff, this is pretty rewarding, but pretty difficult.

    My brother (world famous author. Of BOOKS. Not to mention magazine articles and geez, really way too many letters to the editor) sometimes finds himself between assignments. So occasionally my husband hires him to do stuff - errands, computer work, sorting and hauling, and recently, housework.

    My brother is GREAT at housework. Those of you who have shared housing with my brother may be surprised to hear this, but this man cleans a bathroom like no one I have ever seen. It's a miracle. (It's especially miraculous for me, since there is little I hate more than cleaning a bathroom.)

    (Except cleaning a kitchen. He did that yesterday.)

    I was sitting in the living room with Ian. My brother, smelling of Ajax and old raisins, came in carrying a dishpan full of soapy water. He leveled his gaze at me.

    "I am cleaning your knobs," he announced.

    We held it together for a good 20 seconds before beginning to snicker at how spectacularly dirty that sounded.

    I am sad that I have no appropriate photo in my computer. I was dying to make an LOLSandy.

    o hi. I m in yr kitchn
    cleaning yr knobs.

    Monday, November 19, 2007

    This is one of those handful of times when I feel relieved and lucky to be feeling rotten, because I felt SO much rottener recently.

    Yesterday was really crap. I haven't felt that bad in a very long time. Yet I want to give myself credit - I did a good job on the service, and the annual meeting (Happily, I was not called upon to speak or present anything at the annual meeting, and a dear friend slid in behind the sound board and helped out with that - all I had to do was format some unreadable slides and cue them, which allowed me to not work too hard but to continue hide out in the booth.)

    Church is in a time of transition, and we really wanted this to be a place where the congregation could speak their minds. Several did. I'm sure that if I was in a better place, hormonally, I'd be appreciating the kind of openness and authenticity that we've engendered, the fact that we have a place where people can cry or yell or hug in a business meeting. Instead, I am just relieved that no one yelled at me personally, and that I did not say any of the clever things that crossed my mind (which would not have advanced the discussion or raised the tone, believe me.)

    Anyway, it was a really long day of work, followed by some caring for a sick kid in a bad mood. And I did it. I did it all, without bursting into tears or curling into a crampy heap on the floor or smacking anyone. I rose to the occasion.

    And my rewards are significant. Eric brought home steaks last night, which were delicious (and which I cooked while watching Hank Hill cook his) and today, I am still in my (crusty) pajamas while Eric has gotten my brother to watch the kid, run errands and do laundry. I slept until 10:30.

    I usually hate it when people say stuff like this, but seriously: Praise God.

    Sunday, November 18, 2007

    Fill in some joke based on 'The Peasents are Revolting" here

    My body is in full revolt. Two major systems (digestive/reproductive) are fighting it out around my navel. The one who survives gets to kill me.

    We all have mild colds (Ian's, in fact, isn't so mild - his cough is downright frightening, though not to the pediatrician.) and normally I would be complaining endlessly about that. But I can't even bring myself to care about the daily gallon of snot our family generates.

    Dang, I hope I feel better by Thursday.

    Saturday, November 17, 2007


    have a cold. Have cramps.
    Having ice cream.

    Had a surprisingly awesome day - took the kid to Baltimore for a slice (the usual: yarn shop, slice of pizza, boats, dogs, pigeons, pastry, home for a nap, with one detour. We stopped in to visit this gallery where they were super-nice, especially to my doesn't-yet-understand-about-private-property kid.

    The woman selling there actually made him a perfect little gift. They have a few of the images printed on their business cards. She asked him if he liked dogs or cats better. He shocked me by saying cats, and she made up a little magnet with this little guy on it.

    Ian loved it and showed it to everyone he ran into on the street; in the car, he sat gazing at it and smiling. I think he's in love.

    He also made a pun. One of his favorite books is Dr. Suess' Cat in the Hat, which he calls, in his Scooby Doo venacular: "CAT?!?!??? HAT?!?!??"

    In the car, I pulled off his baseball cap, dropped it in his lap, and flipped in the magnet. "What's that?" I asked.

    It completely blew his mind. He GOT that there was wordplay, and his future glittered bright, complex and beautiful before him.

    Friday, November 16, 2007

    Go, me!

    Finally finally finally selected and identified the movie clips I want to show with the looming sermon. I think that with these selections, I will dodge the 'people storming out' bullet. Probably.

    It's a pre-Advent sermon, because I'm talking about incarnation - not so much about Jesus as God's Word made flesh, but about us, putting flesh to our words. (My working title, NOT for official publication, NOT A TITLE SANCTIONED BY MY EMPLOYER but just my kicking-around-my-brain title:)

    God in the Movies: Little Miss Sunshine: Shut the F*** Up.

    Anyway, I plan to have a next-to-last draft cranked out tonight, then I'll rehearse and see where I need to cut.

    Oh, Lord, please please please let this thing be your thing.

    Thursday, November 15, 2007

    don't feel like posting. Feel like knitting.

    I am knitting a dinosaur.

    I am knitting a top-down brontosaurus, on dpns, using short row shaping.

    Pictures later, along with pictures (ILLICIT PICTURES, as one is not allowed to take pictures inside) of yesterday's wonderful trip to the American Visionary Museum in Baltimore.

    I didn't take pictures of the galleries. I took pictures in the gift shop. Of little plastic things, and hand-lettered signs.

    I am nothing if not consistent.

    Wednesday, November 14, 2007

    a moleskine sketch

    my debut as a cartoonist. I probably don't need to tell you that this was done during a meeting at work. (Everyone from the meeting has seen it already.)

    Tuesday, November 13, 2007

    This just in:

    Our culture is retarded.


    I'd better hurry because my husband is OBSESSED with going to bed on time, and on time is when 'House' is over, and it's 20 minutes, so I'd better write fast.

    Dinner was quite decent, Ian knows all the words to Jesus Loves Me (yeah, Ian and Karl Barth), my husband has a new computer (we thought about getting a mac; after long analysis we decided to stick with a pc, but he got one that looks like a mac, so maybe that counts for something.) I am eating ice cream.

    I finally started working on my freakin' sermon, which I was able to work on for a whole freakin' fifteen minutes before a friend called and wanted to talk about the whole Episocpal mess (the big international Episcopal mess that's been in all the papers for a year, not any sort of local intrigue.) And then my husband came home with the new toy (did you know they give away color printers these days? Like key chains! Or logo-stamped liscence-plate frames! They gave him two printers! We already have one on each floor! This is ridiculous!) and then suddenly it was time for 'House'.

    Anyway, despite the lack of progress, I am feeling encouraged about the sermon.

    There was an escaped convict running around our town this morning. Yes, that's my town, on the national news. You know, where George Wallace was shot. (At the Mall!) Where Mohammed Atta, famous Sept.11 hijacker, lived. (In the Valencia Motel. Where my husband lived briefly as a pre-schooler, while his dad served at Fort Meade and the family waited for their house to get built.)

    Monday, November 12, 2007

    What I'm reading:

    This is perfect for this moment in my life - little page-and-a-half mini-sketches, reminiscences about meals and snacks, from the singer from Franz Ferdinand. He's a Glasgwegian, and had worked for years as a sous chef, and now he's touring the world, singing and eating. I think these appeared in his hometown newspaper.

    Anyway, it's perfect for whipping out in the car or standing in line, which there is a lot of. Plus, these days, cooking and grocery shopping is a serious creative outlet for me. We eat at home practically every night, and I'm the one who's cooking. We're knee deep in new recipes and weird ingredients. (There's one good thing about eating in restaurants for so many years - even yuppie groceries seem like a bargain.)

    Anyway, tonight we ate a Rachel Ray recipe here that actually does come out looking like this:

    and is very tasty. And not ridiculously unhealthy.

    Except for the PORK CHOPS.

    This is tomorrow night's recipe. I'll let you know.

    Sunday, November 11, 2007

    another cheap quote-n-link post.

    I kind of suck at this daily posting thing.

    (my daily conversation with myself: "Dude! I thought of the BEST THING to write about!!! (pause) ...what was it again? (pause)....well,crap."

    but am trying to have reasonable goals. There are certain things in my life right now for which showing up at all is a decent discipline. Like this one.

    So once again, I'll share something salient from some stranger's blog.
    This is, I think, a defining aspect of my experience as a father who doesn't "work" but spends all day with his daughter. Every morning we select a mutually-agreeable destination, and I try to find something to do there that will interest her on one level and still engage me on another. It is as though all day I am of two minds, one on par with hers, aware of what she understands and enjoys and appreciates, and another ready to capitalize on every distraction, every second of silence, a second mind ready to wrestle with ideas and thoughts that may have nothing to do with my daughter but do engage my own curiosity. I usually don't like calling myself a stay-at-home dad (that connotes a sort of militancy I don't have the energy for). Instead I have become something of a professional daydreamer.

    In doing this, I am never all that distant. But let's be honest: it doesn't take that much to keep a constantly-babbling 2-year old engaged. It's pretty much the same amount of engagement my law school professors expected (eye contact, head nods, and the occasional astute follow-up question). And toddlers, like law professors, are easily fooled. Sometimes you can just phone in this whole parenting thing, and man, they don't even know. I can have a full-on conversation about fairies or owls or fairies riding on owls, and at the same time I am trying to imagine what life is like for the fucked-up-looking guy we just passed walking down the street, or what that street looked like in 1926, or what an artist is trying to say with a particular work in front of me. And Juniper still believes I'm like this total expert on owls and fairies and shit. In her mind, I have a PhDs in Ornithology and Folklore Studies, specializing in Wee Folk/Owl relations.

    That's a big chunk of text to lift, but I just love it. from the great sweet juniper, in a post which happens to be about taking your kid to art museums.

    And also mention owls. World's Cutest Little Boy (because there's some awfully stiff competition for World's Cutest Baby, so I think mine should just step up to the next rung and leave that designation to the up-and-coming kids. It's the dignified thing to do.) As I was saying, WCLB is going through a period of owl fascination, because UnnnCKKKLLLE??? SCHANDYYYY??? brought over one of Andy Runton's Owly comics, and he loves loves loves it.

    Saturday, November 10, 2007

    Several fairly bad ideas.

    it is a bad idea to go to a discount optician in a large regional shopping mall on a Saturday afternoon.

    It is a somewhat bad idea, or rather a naive one, to imagine that bifocals will be included in the "2 pr for $99" special.

    Or that you can get them in one hour.

    It is a bad idea to take a 2-year-old with you.

    It is a bad idea to assume that your 2-year-old will be able to play in the enormous indoor play area at the children's store, since the store might have dispensed with the play area in the last 6 months and replaced it with a shoe department.

    However, when you are waiting at the discount opticians, and your child has taken a much-needed break from RUNNING AROUND SCREECHING and plopped himself down in front of the TV;
    and when a promo for "Family Guy" comes on the TV;
    and when your 2-year-old LEAPS TO HIS FEET WITH EXCITEMENT and run up to the TV for a better view, it is probably a better idea to chuckle ruefully than to hold your head in your hands and moan in humiliation.

    Friday, November 09, 2007

    But other people write so much better than me!!

    There’s an article in the New Yorker from a couple of weeks ago, about classical music, and the effects that the web is having on its popularity.

    In it, Alex Ross (I suspect we're related) quotes a beautiful blog post by a pianist named Jeremy Denk. Denk is writing about playing piano in a piece called Quartet for the End of Time.

    ….because the performance was totally overwhelming for me personally, for mysterious reasons. Was it exhaustion, or accumulation, or release? Daniel Phillips (one of my favorite musicians) was playing the last movement, and I felt that I was going to lose it on stage… i.e. burst out crying. This is rare for me… After some polite goodbyes, I decided to “celebrate” by walking home alone, away from cars and people; I ambled down quiet Church Street, and tried to give my brain its own time.

    It is a piece for the “end of time,” and yet the pianist (yours truly) has to be time. In the cello and violin solo movements, I simply play chords, awkwardly slowly, marking moments which are much slower than seconds, and marking (with my harmonies) a larger, really time-free, arc of meaning under the melody. In no other piece do you feel such a tremendous strain between something achingly large (something that only eventually will be expressed) and the snail’s steps you must take to express it. But he (Messiaen) manages it; not a note is out of place in the last movement; every harmony is extraordinary, an essential step, a grammatical and striking word of the holy overall sentence… somewhere toward the middle of the last movement, I began to feel the words that Messiaen marks in the part, I began to hear them, feel them as a “mantra”: extatique, paradisiaque. And maybe more importantly, I began to have visions while I was playing, snapshots of my own life (such that I had to remind myself to look at the notes, play the notes!): people’s eyes, mostly, expressions of love, moments of total and absolute tenderness. (This is sentimental, too personal: I know. How can you write about this piece without becoming over-emotional?) I felt that same sense of outpouring (”pouring over”) that comes when you just have to touch someone, when what you feel makes you pour out of your own body, when you are briefly no longer yourself — and at that moment I was still playing the chords, still somehow playing the damn piano. And each chord is even more beautiful than the last; they are pulsing, hypnotic, reverberant… each chord seemed to pile on something that was already ready to collapse, something too beautiful to be stable… and when your own playing boomerangs on you and begins to “move yourself,” to touch you emotionally, you have entered a very dangerous place. Luckily, the piece was almost over… When I got offstage I had to breathe, hold myself in, talk myself down.
    The Well-Tempered Web by Alex Ross, from the Oct 22 New Yorker

    Thursday, November 08, 2007

    this absolutely exceptional bit of prose...

    ...graced my inbox today. I normally don't even OPEN spam (scared as i am of viruses) but I could not resist this subject line:

    Beat her womb with your new big rod, so that she knew who wears the pants!

    Do you believe in miracles? We dare say you're likely to say "no".

    We hadn't believed, either...until the moment MegaDick was introduced!

    What this wonder medicine does to a human phallus cannot be called otherwise than a Miracle!

    Only fancy, that your meat stick suddenly becomes longer and thicker and makes women tremble with excitement!

    It's fabulous!

    So, don't miss it out, accomplish a miracle in your life with this unexampled preparation!

    Wednesday, November 07, 2007

    Questions people asked me today:

    does the pie taste funny to you?
    He's going to preach about THAT?
    A Llama? Really?
    Did you knit those yourself?
    It's not too spicy, is it?
    Why does that upset you so much?
    Wait - he was serious?
    Well, you know what this means, don't you?


    Jesus? Loves? ME?

    Tuesday, November 06, 2007

    posting from work (makes Baby Jesus cry, I know) but I had to share this. Several of my friends were involved in this project, and I finally sat down to listen to it today (yeah, I'm a great friend, ask anyone) even though I've had the download info for about a week. You can buy it now, here.

    But watch the video. I really like the whole thing, but if you watch all the way to the end, you'll see an especially precious few moments of April, playing the harp with one hand and holding the sleeping baby with the other. And smiling.

    Monday, November 05, 2007

    what a break

    Don't look back. Just go ahead. Give ideas away. Under every idea, there's a new idea waiting to be born.
    Diana Vreeland, quoted in Andre Leon Talley's biography ALT, 2002

    Hope is costly, but not as costly as giving up.
    Anne Lamott, paraphrasing Augustine in a Salon essay, 2003

    I am exhasuted from trying to believe unbeliveable things.
    Stephen Wright, said on The Late Show with David Letterman, Feb 21, 2003

    The worst thing you can do is make your mistakes slowly.
    David Sedaris, Speaking at Lisner Auditorium, GWU, April 9, 2003

    If you saw my hometown, you would understand everything about me.
    Rickey Smith, American Idol contestant, in his biographical film on Fox TV, March 2003

    If you dance, you might understand the words better.
    David Bryne, in the self-interview portion of the Stop Making Sense DVD

    Walking on water wasn't built in a day
    Jack Kerouac, in the film The Life and Times OF Allen Ginsburg

    If I had a mind, it got covered in love.
    Allen Ginsburg, in the film The Life and Times OF Allen Ginsburg

    Crede qua absurdum est. (Believe in that which is absurd.)
    On the bathroom wall, One World Cafe, S. Charles St, Baltimore MD, Feb 12, 2002

    I have come to believe that falling obsessively in love is one of life's necessary assignments. It cracks you open.
    Rosemary Sullivan, in Labyrinth of Desire: Women, Passion and Romantic Obsession, 2002

    The softest thing in the world will overcome the hardest.
    lao-tzu, Tao-te Ching

    I'm alive! Holy shit, what a break.
    Frank Cross in Scrooged, screenplay by Micheal O'Donahue and Mitch Glazer

    It's going to get even weirder
    You will do something stupid again today.
    two fortune cookies, quoted in Salon's online forum Table Talk

    Let him who seeks continue seeking until he finds. When he finds, he will become troubled. When he becomes troubled, he will be astonished, and he will rule overall.
    Apocrapha, the Gospel of Thomas, fragments attribited to Didymos Judas Thomas, about 200 ce

    Sunday, November 04, 2007


    so I was poking around on my hard drive, in search of this essay/rumination that I wrote several years ago, so I could post it.

    And I must roll my eyes up to heaven and ask:

    If it isn't here, WHERE THE HELL IS IT?

    I do have: a single page of a sermon, and some text from my LiveJournal blog (perhaps I'll have to bust that out, but it's only the 4th; I'm not quite that desperate yet.

    My husband has jet lag from the time change. He was just telling me. I'm totally not kidding.

    We did indeed go to the New Trader Joe's in Columbia, and my child was a raging terror. We got out with a loaf of bread. (Okay, 2 packages of cookies for the worship music team, and a loaf of bread.)It's good.

    Also mysterious - I played miniature golf today. My legs are as sore as if I had run a cross-country match. (I IMAGINE.) Why? I mean, the course was on a hill, but honestly.

    Saturday, November 03, 2007

    getting things done

    1. order 5 pizzas for tomorrow for the miniature golf tourney.
    2. see if the new Trader Joes is open.
    3. buy some trophies/ribbons/whatever (see above)
    4. Call miniature golf people and make reservation.

    5. GO TO THE ^%$#@?@!!@#$ BANK MACHINE because #$@#%$&??!! mini golf place is cash-only. (Glad I called!)

    Friday, November 02, 2007

    The grandparents visited today, and they are indeed grand. After lunch (at which my child was somewhat angelic) we walked over to the lake to say hi to the ducks.

    Well, the ducks have migrated. What we found was a flotilla of seagulls and this rather lonely guck. (Or perhaps dooce.)

    There was one lone waterfowl, unafraid to come up onto the playground and check out the breadcrumb possibilities. It had a duckish face and shape, but was huge for a duck, at least for the ones we see here; at the same time, it was small for a goose. Its neck was not long, but it did have a noteable bend in it.

    It walked right up to us, and stayed - most of the ducks at the lake, though they get fed by people every day, maintain a constant distance of a few feet. I could have touched this one, easily. It didn't approach in an aggressive way, though.

    It was a fascinating color combination - white and a light creamy brown, alternating, like a mosaic. Perfect camoflage for being on the playground, which is covered in wood chips.

    I took a few pictures of it, but I'm afraid to download them until I get some of the photos off my hard drive; I'm right at capacity now. I will say that I've been looking at pictures of duck and goose breeds for quite a while tonight, and nothing is even close to Playground Duck.

    And of course, I'm worried about Playground Duck - its nutrition, its safety, and of course I'm worried that it's lonely. Eric (or perhaps one of his parents) suggested that neither the ducks nor the geese would have him, which made me sad; it also occurs to me that, if he is some sort of cross-breed, he's sterile, and what place could he have in a duck family then? I don't think they have Maiden Aunts. Or Confirmed Bachelors. Or Boston Marriages.

    Anyway, as well as photos of duck breeds, I was looking for a poem I somewhat remembered from Brit Lit.

    Alison Bechdel remembers it.

    Thursday, November 01, 2007

    under the wire

    well, that's a way to start strong, eh, a one-paragraph post at 11:25?

    Here are some things that happened to me in the last few days:

    Thing the first:
    I watched someone hit a deer (more like, get hit by a deer) in their SUV. It was extremely dramatic, involving, as it did, a smashed windshield, and a deer flying - absolutely not kidding - like 15 feet through the air.

    And then getting up and walking away.

    It would have been me (and the deer would have done significantly more damage to my Prius than it did to their Expedition) had I not been paying attention to the deer leaping dementedly through the field beside the road.

    Thing the second:
    I worked a funeral for the niece of a friend today. She was in her mid-20s, mom to 3-year-old twins. She was murdered. I spent the whole day yearning to go home and hug my kid.

    When I (FINALLY) got home, and hugged my kid, he yelled "NO!" and writhed as if my hug was torture. It was NOT a scene from the Waltons.

    Thing the third:
    We've been singing to Ian - camp songs mostly, Raffi's Baby Beluga - and he has been requesting "Jesus Loves Me". Which, of course, chokes me up.

    Well, Ian enjoys listening to music - recorded music, as opposed to his parents' well-intentioned caterwauling - and so Eric downloaded "Jesus Loves Me." He ended up, through the magic of the 30-second sample, with some weird Music for Airports ambient version: kids singing far away, drum track, various electronic bleeps and bloops. Plus a British kid chanting scriptures extolling Jesus' DEATH: "this is how we know what love is, that a man would DIE for his friends, DIE for his friends." I am totally not kidding.

    Ian immediately became obsessed and wanted to hear this over and over and over.

    Happy Halloween.

    Monday, October 29, 2007

    and I said, "I am."

    I've never liked Demetri before (he's no Rob Cordry, if you know what I mean) but this, from some random knitter's blog, cracked me up.

    And again - I'm wasting this on October. I should save it up, but, like Scrooge, "I'm a martyr to m'own generosity."

    in which I am a genius.

    I set my recipe book on fire this evening.

    I was not cooking at the time...well, kind of. Charon, on her way home from a gig, stopped by for a cup of tea. I switched on the burner, and withdrew to the eating part of the kitchen (by which I mean 'the storing promotional dvds, magic props and stuff to take to the Goodwill part of the kitchen' - it just looks like we should be eating there because it has a highchair in it, and, somewhere under the pile, alledgedly a table). We're chatting away about her gig (a wedding reception) and My Adorable Child and this and that and eventually we begin to wonder why the room seems to be COMPLETELY FILLED WITH THICK GREY SMOKE.

    She heroically picks up the journal, and tosses it into the sink, dousing the flaming cover but, unbelievably, not messing up any of the hand-written recipes.

    I, meanwhile, shout for the World's Best Husband to come out and help us open windows while I unhook the smoke detector.

    Actual transcript of conversation:

    me: Honey! We've had a little fire! Come out to the kitchen and help us open windows! I'll unhook the smoke detector!

    World Best: (no response at all.)

    Me: Honey! Fire! Fans! Windows!

    World Best: (no response at all.) (He's watching Masterpiece Theatre. The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard. I might not have responded either.)

    Me: Fine, we'll just do it.

    (Another minute or so passes.)

    World's Best: (running into the kitchen.) Smoke! The house is filled with smoke! Open a window, for heaven's sake!

    And my deepest regret is that this happened during October. Because you can bet I'll be dyin' for this kind of material during NaBloPoMo.

    Tuesday, October 23, 2007

    What are you doing in 5 weeks?

    Because we will TOTALLY be here!!

    woo fuckin' hoo.

    Sunday, October 21, 2007

    the paradox

    An interesting thing happened to me the other day.

    I think I grew up.

    I'm not sure I understand it yet. This I can say: several times in one day last week, I experienced the thing that I have pretty much devoted my life to avoiding. Much as I talk a big game about being all postmodern and comfortable with ambiguity and holding a web of interconnected beliefs and all that crap, the fact is that certain kinds of strong conflicting emotions have always been pretty much physically unbearable for me. They make me anxious in a way that I cannot bear.

    This comes out mostly when people who I care about tell me they are unhappy with something - anything from the quality of my work to a decision I made to the amount of mayonnaise on their deli sandwiches - and I cannot fix it for them. Right then and there.

    This, in the past, has set up a wail in my head that blocks out everything else, until I can shut it up, usually with some kind of rationalization - some way I can convince myself that that mayonnaise is really, truly, on a deeper level when you look at it this way, BETTER.

    Of course I have other specialities - mostly ways of shutting down the unhappy conversations before they get to the part that needs fixing. I don't even TRY to do this. It's deep in some sub-cortex. Afterwards, I always feel ashamed, and usually find some way to rationalize THAT.

    So first, I had a meal with someone from our church, and part of the conversation - a fairly short part, mixed in with travel and family and bands and gadgetry talk - was him telling me that he was badly disappointed in some things about church. My things.

    And for some reason - for maybe the first time in my 45 years of being me - it was okay. I listened. With a few deeeeep breaths, I was able to keep the wail quiet for a while. I didn't try to stop the conversation or defend myself or minimize it or laugh it off or give off those subtle signals that suggest that my mental health was way too fragile for this topic today.

    We really talked.

    I didn't fix it.

    And I didn't die.

    And then another friend emailed me and asked what was going on with me.

    I am disgusted with church – not Church, not God, not even this particular church, despite our current challenges – I just have no idea what we are supposed to be doing around here, with Sundays, don’t know why people go to church or what God expects from it. I want to program nothing for a Sunday, and have people gather and see what happens. I want to close for a month and just have dinner parties. I want to turn off the electricity and see what happens.

    And yet I’m excited about Christmas.

    The good part of that struggle (which moves in and out of the foreground, and is foregroundy right now because I was just having lunch with _____) is that I’m not struggling alone, and no one is saying to me “Oh! It’s THIS! Obviously. Duh, You’re stupid to wonder. What’s wrong with you anyway?”

    Some parishoners might think that, and of course they’re welcome to think whatever they like. But among the people I talk to daily, this is not considered a stupid question. (Take just a moment with me and recognize how beautiful and unusual that is, and breathe a quick ‘thank you’.)

    So, though it’s hard, and it’s noisy in my head, I would say this disgust is kind of…energizing. It’s kind of an exciting disgust.

    ... I’m not saying it’s a day at the beach for me. But I feel like it’s the question, and also the paradox – like, it’s the question I was designed at ask, and keep asking, and other questions feel tangential and ditzy.

    And yet I know that, even if I invest my life wondering…I won’t get to the whole, real answer. Ever. Probably not more than a glimpse of a corner of the shed in which the answer is kept.

    And at the moment, that seems all right. Kind of.

    So perhaps I have grown a new part of my brain, which is capable of holding more things in tension.

    Perhaps having a child has shown me - on a literal, physical level, a bloodstream level - that I cannot fix much, and certainly not completely, and certainly not at a moment's notice.

    It's interesting.
    It feels like the beginning of a long long hike, on a nice day.

    Tuesday, October 02, 2007


    Blair asked about the u2 video that I posted the other day. She, too, was trying to figure out why it was so moving, and she asked what I thought Bono was trying to say.

    Hell, I don't know. I saw it linked on the blog of Jonathan Carroll, a novelist. He quotes an email from a friend, who says
    Bono is singing With or Without You on a catwalk stage, in
    front of thousands upon thousands of people. And it feels like such a
    naked song, about this woman he loves, or has loved. And he reaches
    into the crowd, and pulls a woman up with him, and he lies down with
    her on the stage. He is on his back, singing into the microphone
    quietly, and holds her against him, her head against his chest, so she
    is hearing his voice first, through his rib cage, around his heart,
    before it reaches the thousands of people watching. And it is
    perfect. The whole room becomes a bedroom, and this man becomes naked
    and simple-- in his art for this other woman, he has somehow made this
    intimacy universal, exposed himself, and translated a deep part of
    himself to all these other people

    Well, that made me want to watch it. And it is a kind of shockingly naked moment, even on tape.

    The thing that got me, though, was the woman's expression. They lie side by side on the catwalk, looking up and singing, as if they are singing under their breath with the car radio. And it just looks like 2 people who haven't kissed yet, looking up at the stars, trembling the tiniest bit against the pull of the future. The bigness of the next thing.

    It occurs to me that the feeling of being starstruck and the feeling of infatuation are barely distinguishable from one another. And that's why she, without acting at all, creates this monsterously evocative moment.

    And she is undoubtedly saying to herself just what one would say, lying in the grass, feeling the pull, holding one's breath:

    I will never forget this.

    Sunday, September 30, 2007


    The Great Mofo Delurk 2007

    It's De-Lurking Day!

    Some blogger I admire/enjoy (here's one) (wow, look, here's another!) have been bemoaning the recent drop in blog comments, and so they have organized The Great MoFo Delurk, based on the idea that there are too many mo-fo's lurkin' around the blogosphere, not commenting, no linking, just kinda creepily...lurking.

    So cut it out!

    While I enjoy the privacy here - there's a meditative quality to writing a blog that you know practically no one reads - I'm curious to see who's reading.

    Maybe I'll even, you know, WRITE SOMETHING for you to READ when you come here.

    Friday, September 28, 2007

    made me cry

    and I don't know why.

    via this blog
    which I saw here.

    Tuesday, September 11, 2007

    TV will tear us apart

    That's Jeff Corwin.
    Cable TV is just nuts. You're aware of that, right? Cable TV is completely full, day and night, of people - men - grabbing snakes with their completely bare hands and flinging them about with a relaxed, casual attitude that makes me shudder, shudder, shudder.

    Mike Rowe (who I watched tonight, peeking through the cracks between my fingers, in an episode of Dirty Jobs titled Snake Researcher) AT LEAST HAS THE DECENCY to:

    1. be anxious and grossed out at the prospect of catching water snakes, injecting something into them - I'm not too clear on this part, it appeared that they were inserting something into little snaky rectums - and the massaging their stomach contents out into a collection bag.
    and also
    2. to get bit! Badly! And to scream in pain when he did! And to panic and drop the snake!

    It's really the least he could do.

    Wednesday, September 05, 2007


    And, unbeliveably,again! This one's just audio - I was moving around a lot, the video might have gotten messed up. The file's actually a Mitchell-Henning portmanteau - the first half is Zach Sandberg interviewing Moses via sattellite (played by Eric, on video), and then the second half is my 'sermon', which involved tying people together with pink yarn (Manos de Uruguay, for any of you who are yarn fanciers. Second service I used rainbow-colored Sugar and Cream crafters cotton. It went faster, and I collected the ridiculous tangle at the end and draped it over the base of the cross.)

    Updated to add: Video! same link.

    Thursday, August 23, 2007

    Link to my sermon

    they let me preach again. Click to listen or watch.

    At least this will lead you to a fuller appreciation of the high-quality preaching in your church.

    All kidding aside, I just watched the video for the first time, and through the haze of crippling self-conciousness (Maybe I'll look less fat if I squint. Um, okay, NO. Hmmm.) I can say I feel decent about this outing. I meant all that stuff.

    Here is how I have come to preach, twice, at Cedar Ridge:

    every summer we have The All Ages Show, aka family services, or Sunday School Teachers Get August Off. As staff liturgist and tech director (I bet I'm the only one of those in the country!) I'm heavily involved in the collaborative planning of these services. (I'm heavily involved in the planning of practically every service, but most of those discussions are small - me and the speaker - and efficient, not free-wheeling brainstorming that August entails.)

    At some point during the brain storming, I am unable to control myself and go off on some long, ill-considered rant about 'what we should really say' about this topic. (Because I'm, you know, the tech director. So I am perfectly positioned to shoot my mouth off about matters of spiritual formation.)

    I go until I run out of steam, and the other people (you know, the pastors) look at each other in silence for a moment. Someone starts some sentence fragment, like:
    "well, that's, uh..."
    and someone else says "yeah, that's really, um, it."
    and I say "I guess I could, you know, just..."
    and someone else says "Yeah, why don't you?
    and I say "Really? Would that really be okay?"
    and someone says "I think so." and someone else says "Yeah, totally."

    And then I'm preaching.

    I'm preaching again this fall, and it did not come about in that way. For my next sermon, I was actually asked, and put on the schedule back in spring. I will be preaching to the grownups in November.

    Good Lord.

    really exceptional

    Tuesday, August 21, 2007

    Alway hoped we'd get to be apostles

    For about 30 minutes a week, VH1 shows something besides "I Love the 80s".

    (This seems like the best time to interject that I take a back seat to absolutely no one in my love of the 80s. NO ONE. And even I hate "I Love the 80s.")

    So occasionally (literally) you can see a music video on cable. Which is how I saw Big Girls Don't Cry by Fergie. Which I actually like. I am not here to dis Fergie, who I like especially in the Black Eyed Peas.

    But I must point out something I noticed in the costume area. I guess it would fall under the costume department, though it isn't actually an article of clothing.

    The romantic lead in the video, the guy that she's leaving so she can 'be with herself and center', is Milo Ventimiglia. You know, Peter from Heroes. (Or Jess from Gilmore Girls, if you prefer.) I LOVE Heroes - we're all rather excited about the new season. Anyway, he's in this video, and he's playing some sort of drug-dealing thug - you can tell by all the leaning on cars and the passing of rolled banknotes.

    He's also covered with tattoos, which look quite real and natural. You can see them in the photo below.

    He looks nice, right? If you like skinny guys, he looks pretty good. And reasonably tough.

    Except take a good look at the tattoo on the inside of his forearm.

    What does that tattoo look like?

    To me, it's pretty obvious:

    What every discerning drug dealer has inked on his arm - a permanent tribute to 1971's awesomest rock opera, Superstar.

    It occurs to me that this may be Milo's real tattoo - the others painted on for the role, but this one could be real. Can't you imagine him playing Peter (aha! Foreshadowing!) in a college production? Say, as a sophomore? And then the leads getting drunk together, going out to get tattoos, commemorating their lifelong bond?

    This makes me like him. Even if it's not true.

    Friday, August 10, 2007

    My favorite dead blog

    has long been Chez Miscarriage, which left us about 2 years ago, on account of getupgirl having a kid and undoubtedly becoming far too busy/exhausted/happy to blog. And if she did/is, I guess it would have to have a new name, now, wouldn't it?

    I really admired getupgirl's writing, and her honesty and selfawareness and her sense of humor.

    But I might have a new favorite dead blog. Except it may not be dead.

    I've spent much of tonight reading What Would Jesus Blog?, which is, in fact, Jesus' blog. Jesus likes a lot of bands, most of which I have never heard of, but that would make sense, I guess, seeing as he's omnipresent etc.

    But he also writes nice things, which I've always imagined (or hoped) Jesus would say.

    Like here are some highlights from a february post:

    What I’ve Learned
    By Jesus Christ

    1. God made your world and religious people will destroy it.
    2. Nobody will believe you if you tell them you’re going to get killed but then come back to life.
    3. Gatorade A.M. is basically just normal Gatorade with an annoying marketing strategy.
    6. If you don’t consider yourself a leader, My Dad thinks you’d be great at it.

    14. People hate to hear the truth. Weezer is underrated and Sonic Youth is overrated.

    17. I don’t need you to do anything. The story isn’t about you.
    18. Belief that I am who I say I am rarely comes through debate.

    But here's something really beautiful: it's nearly all of the latest post, from May. (I really want to author to come back to blogger and blog some more, for my amusement, but maybe if I had written this, I'd be satisfied too...)

    Hallelujah, whatever

    Once you become friends with Me, part of Me literally moves into your body. I can do that. I’m very powerful. So, that part of Me helps you out all the time. If you listen close, you can her Me talking to you through that little version of Me that lives in your heart. When you talk to Me, this hobbit-like mini-Christ is what translates your conversation into the language of angels. It’s the perfect language, very pure. I’ll teach you it when you get up here. Anyway, this translator is able to take the awkward prayers you attempt to send up to Me, and deciphers it into what you really mean. For example, you wouldn’t believe how many people pray nightly for Me to “bless their day”. That’s pretty vague. You want sunshine? You want to win the lottery? What does that mean? Well, that’s one of the reasons I move inside you, so I can figure out what you are saying. That’s also why you can worship Me by singing words you might not understand like “hallelujah” or “hosanna in the highest”. I can figure out what you think you’re saying, and through your odd prayers or worship songs, you and I can have a relationship that is stronger than you realize.

    That being said, I gave you all “great” voices. Just because you don’t think you’d make it to the judge table on American Idol doesn’t mean you have an amazing voice. Ever hear of Bob Dylan? His albums sell more than Chris Daughtry, and he sings like a duck… seriously, when ducks talk, it sounds like “Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”. The voice I gave you, I hand picked for you, and if you use it to sing to Me, it’s more moving than any other earthly sound.

    apropos of nothing:

    What keeps you from strapping on some explosives and running into a hotel lobby, shouting "John 3:16, bitches!"

    my favorite new quote, which I happened upon on the brilliantly named They Promised Us Jetpacks.

    Wednesday, August 08, 2007

    what's this?

    Or Why My Car Smells Great Today But Will Smell Totally Gross By Sunday.

    If you were to look closely, you might be able to discern a maraschino cherry wedged into my passenger side seatbelt socket.

    See, I was buying some stuff at Target. And the Target in my little town in near the Chik-Fil-A. Wanting to squeeze every second of freedom and alone time out of this childless errand, but at the same time wanting to be kind to The World's Best Husband, I decided to stop and get us milkshakes.

    The drive-through was crazy; being childless, I could blithely PARK MY CAR! and LEAVE IT! And WALK INTO A PLACE. By myself. So I did. I got two - chocolate for him, Cookies and Cream for me, complete with tons of whipped cream and a cherry. (I think I may like the whipped cream better than the milkshake. When I was pregnant, and being accomodated by everyone on the earth, I regularly ate the whipped cream - all of it - off other people's desserts and Starbucks'. I didn't eat dessert myself - just everyone's whipped cream. What an ass.) Anyway, the nice people at Chik-Fil-A tucked my shakes into the 2-shake carrier, which I nestled into the seat (they're too big for my cup holders) and drove home.

    I made it almost all the way. But when I tool the left at Pilgrim's Landing a little too quickly, the holder tumbled, and the chocolate shake lost its dome top, leaving a little dune of whipped cream across my seat.

    My thoughts at this point, all within a split-second:
    1. Fuck.
    2. Well, most of his shake is still in there. It's just the whipped cream.
    3. Mine tipped over but seems mostly intact.
    4. mmmmmm, whipped cream...

    and without thinking, I reached down and scooped up a portion of the spill with my cupped hand. Yes, and smeared it into my mouth. Look, I'm not PROUD of this, I'm just telling you what happened.

    And while it happened, my attention was momentarily diverted (mmmmm) and I drifted into the other lane.

    Nothing happened - I didn't hit anything.

    But, figuring that I really should be in my own lane, I jerked the wheel quite suddenly.

    And that's when my shake fell over a second time and dumped out between the seats. And across my shirt and shorts. I already has some on my NECK from the whipped cream-scooping a moment before.

    And then I was home.

    I wiped up the seats and floormats with the paper towels that I keep in my car (it will surprise no one to hear that this is not the first spill in the front seat, though it may be the most extensive.) I walked into the house, sheepishly handed Eric his two-thirds of a milkshake, and continued up to the shower without a word.

    Anyway, the Prius smells frickin' awesome, but a couple more hundred-degree days will sour the upholstery.

    At least, that's what happened after the Latte Incident.

    Friday, August 03, 2007

    liability into an asset

    In the Washington Post print edition, Style reporter Jennifer Frey drew the short straw and was sent to cover a press junket featuring the teenaged cast of the movie Bratz.

    The stars apparently bonded.

    They could go on and on -- and do, full of details about the others' little quirks. They have even assigned one another Disney princess names: Skyler is Cinderella, Nathalia is Sleeping Beauty, Janel is Mulan.
    "Disney doesn't have any African American princesses," Logan says, "so I get to be Superman."

    Everything else aside - I think that's awesome.

    Sunday, July 29, 2007

    On The Other Hand Recommends...

    In the tradition on Peacebang, and even the Sartorialist's Sartolia List, I thought I might tell you about some things that I would recommend, and NOT recommend, based on my week at the beach.

    First of all, OTOH Totally Recommends Hawaiian Tropic Baby Faces and Tender Places 50 SPF sunblock spray, which works brilliantly and stays on for a long long time. It doesn't really spray - it's lotion, and it squirts like a squirt gun, which is kind of amusing, and then you rub it in, so it doesn't keep your fingers pristine, but it's still a superior product.

    Unfortunately, it only works if you APPLY IT. Carrying it down to the beach and back without squirting - not that effective. So OTOH Recommends the only thing that has ever kept her pale blue Celtic skin from peeling:
    pure shea butter.

    A few years ago, attending my first-ever pastor's conference, I had the rare (for me) opportunity to be driven from Long Beach to San Diego in a convertible. Yes, it was lovely, and yes I got sunburned, and yes, as soon as I had registered, I took off for a nearby open-air mall to find some cheap unguents of some sort.

    Well, the mall was too nice to have a Rite Aid or a CVS, and so I ended up spending $30 (!! I practically fainted) on shea butter products. I walked back to the conference hotel, muttering all the way 'this better work...'

    It did. It does. It does everything, from soothe sunburn to soften scraped knuckles to control cuticles to, in a pinch, style hair. It lasts a long time. It's indispensable.

    On the other hand, if by some chance you're going to be spending the week chasing a child around, plus missing your dead parents and reflecting on 16 years of marriage and all the physical and emotional exertion that entails;
    and if for the last year you've been taking not one but two multivitamins per day;
    OTOH Cannot Recommend leaving your damn vitamins on the windowsill at home. Go back and get them. Go to Happy Harry's and buy another bottle for God's sake, of course it seems like a waste of money but once you have experienced the alternative, you'll know.

    Also, OTOH Does NOT Recommend getting your period twice in one month. Under any circumstances. I'm just sayin'.

    However, I can without reservations (ha ha) Recommend getting a room close to the beach, so you can run down for a swim carrying nothing more than your room key. As I have mentioned, we used to stay on the outskirts of town, in a lovely house. There were many things about that which were lovely; however, leaving for a day at the beach was like packing the conestoga wagon for the journey west. We took food, clothes, books, a tent, multiple towels, knowing that we wouldn't be back until after dinner.

    Try the boardwalk hotel. So those aren't Egyptian cotton sheets. So there's a bus stop outside your window. Doesn't matter. At all. Completely immaterial, compared to the joys of walking around barefoot with a key and a five tucked into the waistband of your bathing suit.

    And speaking of bathing suits, OTOH Recommends getting a new one after being pregnant. (Happily, the Lane Bryant outlet had a good one.)

    However, I DO NOT Recommend taking a toddler to an outlet mall. And here's why.

    Saturday, July 14, 2007

    by the way. before and after

    got my hair cut about a week ago. First, my embarrassing lacrosse hair, shot in the ladies room at Clyde's (which is pretty appropriate, when you think about it.) And second, my kinda cute Kewpie doll cut, received from George at Cavallaro and Co in the Columbia Mall. (That's my kinda cute Kewpie doll facial expression, to go with it.)