Thursday, August 31, 2006

Life is what happens when you're making other plans

I really did have grand plans to study hard last night.


But first I decided I needed to bake some cookies for Hebrew class. We're all so very exhausted right now, I figured it would be a pick-me-up. I made ma'amoul, a date-filled shortbread that you can get all over the Middle East. Of course, I was doing it for me as well, since I felt the need to do something tactile and finite. Funny how cookies came to mind instead of cleaning the house.

So that took an hour.

Then the phone rang, and it was a friend who needed to talk. Fine. I love to talk with her - she's got the same very quirky sense of humor that I have.

So that took an hour.

Then it was getting on towards dinner time, so I started dinner for PH and me. Chicken with pesto, some orzo, a nice salad with tomatoes from the farmers' market. We had dinner.

So that took an hour.

Then I sat down on the couch to finally start studying, and the phone rang. It was an out-of-town friend who had some fun news and who wanted to find out how I was liking seminary.

So that took an hour. Well, more like 40 minutes.

Then I settled into the couch again to finally FINALLY start studying and StrongOpinions called up from college to bemoan the amount of reading assignments and papers that have already been assigned to her.

That only took a half an hour.

I went to bed.

The good news is that we didn't have a quiz this morning, and I have another night to study the new vocab words before the final exam tomorrow.

So what am I doing? Posting to my blog.

I guess I win the Procrastinator's Award for this week. I hope I get a couple of points extra credit for the cookies.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

My Brain is Full

That seems to be the operative phrase these days, as we memorize another 25-30 Hebrew words per day plus a new verb paradigm every couple of days. I still seem to be aceing the class, but we'll see what happens on the exam on Friday.

The Oral Interpretation fo Scripture calss has gotten more interesting and challenging. I worked on Isaiah 53:1-6 for today. What a problematical text for a reader! The first verse had me frustrated, so I went to a couple of commentaries, Brueggeman "Theology of the Old Testament" and then picked PH's brain for a while. I came up with a reading that my prof and classmates found compelling, but I find it hard to imagine spending as much time on the job on a reading, rather than a text I'm exegeting for a sermon. I now know that all those times I read in church before were less than distinguished. I also realize that training lay lectors is a challenge.

We got our orientation to Clinical Pastoral Ed today, and I've got ideas about a couple of places I'd like to apply. I'm looking at the places that scare me the most - the ones most likely to stretch me. Heaven knows I never do things the easy way, so this would fit. We'll be doing CPE next summer, but the application process starts in September. The prep work and application process will overlap that of Field Ed, so I should be truly overwhelmed most of the fall.

PH is happy my advisor talked me down from the insanity of trying to do 16 credits in the fall - I've cut it back to 13, which will be enough in every sense.NT will overlap OT, Liturgics, Liturgical Music, continuing Hebrew, the Field Ed prep class. I'll just be glad not having a bunch of new Hebrew words to memorize every single day.

I think I need a nap.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Friday's Hebrew Class Meditation

'Twas my turn to do the pre-class devotion:

Barukh atah Adonai, ha-mavdel ben kodesh l’chol. (Amein)

Blessed are you, Lord, who separates the sacred from the mundane.

This is the final line of the final prayer that closes Shabbat on Saturday evenings.

Let us pray.

Lord, Hebrew is hard.

Yesterday as we left class, our brains were reeling with the sheer volume of information with which we were presented. We were worried about our quiz score, whether we’d get the “qal” paradigm memorized by Monday, if we would ever be able to gracefully pronounce guttural sounds, much less memorize rules about gutturals and radicals. We may have wondered why we were doing this, and if perhaps we would have been wiser to opt for Greek.

There was a moment, though, Lord, when we were listening to Mark read that excerpt from Genesis, when a thin beam of light shone on us. We could hear the poetry, sense the rhythm and even get a hint of the humor of the language. We could imagine that this difficult and ancient language of our forebears might one day be meaningful to us, that it would inform our exegesis of Scripture, that it would teach us about the very different world in which it was written.

Lord, it is so easy for us to forget that this is not simply about memorization of today’s vocabulary words and rules, although that’s an important part of the work. It is not about these words. It is about Your Word. It is about the sacred, not the mundane.

Keep shining that thin beam of Your light on us as we struggle to learn. Actually, a broader beam would be helpful, but that’s Your decision, not ours.

Let us never forget, though, that we seek the sacred not in extraordinary moments but in the mundane work we are called to do everyday.

We ask Your blessing on us and on our work this day.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Happy Birthday, Princess Granddaughter

It's hard to believe you're four, but here comes that birthday on Friday and you're a big girl princess!

You've given me such wonderful gifts:

  • seeing the next generation and all the hope for the future it contains
  • seeing your dad all grown up and watching him be such a wonderful daddy
  • seeing the love that binds your mommy and daddy and you
  • watching you go through all the phases and changes I never got to enjoy with my own children - I was too worried about it all - as a mommy
  • giving unconditional love and getting it right back
  • your smile and your endless curiosity.

I just wish we were a little closer to each other so I could enjoy your company more often. Virtual hugs and kisses and a gift in the mail from

Your GrandMary.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


I'm hip-deep in Hebrew and am actually loving it, although we'll see how long the honeymoon glow will continue.

The prof has relaxed a bit, the class has relaxed a bit, and I aced my first two quizzes, so I'm feeling good.

Note to self: don't eat a big lunch, otherwise you'll find it hard to stay awake for the after-lunch lecture class.

Note to self, part the second: remember a sweater since the a/c is ratcheted up really high.

Note to self, part the third: yes, the rolling book bag is geeky, but with the Hebrew text, the notebook, the lexicon, the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, the Book of Common Prayer, the NRSV Bible, plus assorted other stuff, it is your only hope of avoiding the chiropractor.

The question du jour: should I leave Hebrew as a pass-fail, or should I request a letter grade? Right now (just a couple of days into it), I feel like I'm in the top group in the class, but that could certainly change. Dare I tempt fate?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Miscellany: Hail and Farewell

I'm taking a brief break from studying my Hebrew alef-beth to visit with you all. Not necessarily the wisest thing, since we have a quiz tomorrow morning, but my brain is tired.

Our prof for Hebrew is a doctoral candidate at a nearby university, and this is first class at Grand Old Seminary. He hasn't quite gotten the ethos of the place (no, we don't skip class, and yes, the default is pass-fail for Biblical languages) but he seems quite bright, and eventually I hope he'll stop treating us like undergraduates. On the other hand, he seems to have a real passion for the subject, so it may turn out to be a wonderful class. We were all pretty shell-chocked by the time we left class this morning.

Afternoon was consumed by a lecture on worship services in our world, and the philosophy and variety of the services during the week. Interesting stuff, but we were all fading sitting there in a warm chapel after lunch. A bird flew in and perched on the altar crucifix - it added a moment of levity and interest that kept us from falling asleep while the Dean was speaking.

Then I went home to make supper and take StrongOpinions to the airport - she's off to her dad's and thence on to college. Here's what we learned:

  • you don't really need to take everything you think you might need when you're flying to college

  • geckos are not allowed by Southwest Airlines

  • trying to smuggle a gecko onto an airplane is stressful for all

  • trying to smuggle a gecko in the pouch of a jockstrap is not a good idea. A looser pouch under a flowing peasant skirt works well.

The jockstrap (actually a soccer jock, which has a pouch in which a male soccer player would insert a plastic protective cup) was PH's idea. At six pm, we were experimenting with every possible thing to take Moses the gecko off to college, including a sock and a pair of PH's BVDs...that was when he suggested the aforementioned jock. 'Twas a sight to behold. If she were flatter on top, I would have suggested one of my super-sized bras, but --alas --she has inherited my significant bosom. All I could think of was if TSA or the airline had patted her down, they would have thought they were having a "TransAmerica" moment. Thre we were, a seminarian, a minister who just celebrated the 20th anniversary of his ordination, and a Buddhist agnostic 18 year old who wants to save the world, all trying to smuggle a gecko onto a plane.

Someday we'll laugh about all this. Right now I just want another piece of chocolate. It wasn't quite the way I pictured sending my baby girl off to college, but it was true to who we all are.

Friday, August 11, 2006


One of the odd aspects of this change of life is unhooking myself from my home parish, St P's (aka Land of Too Many Government Lawyers). The Commission on Ministry was very clear that I belong to the COM now, not St P's.

Thus, today was my last Friday Morning Women's Bible Study.

The group is a diverse bunch of women with a sense of God's grace and a sense of humor - an unbeatable combination.

We had a bit of a breakfast party, with coffee cake, fruit, coffee, juice, and a litany prepared for me to send me off to seminary, plus the gift of a lovely framed calligraphic rendering of quotes from Jeremiah 29 and 30.

I'll miss our conversations, and the freedom to say whatever pops into my mind about the text (you should have heard us about "uncovered feet") and the unconditional love I've felt.

I'm grieving a bit at the loss, but it's part of the process. Interestingly, our study this morning was on Acts 12: 1-11, and we reflected on Peter's unquestioning following of the angel sent by God to rescue him from prison. It was a useful reminder to me about answering the call and trusting in God.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Prayers Please

My friend the stay-at-home dad of three who was diagnosed with inoperable cancer a couple of years ago died last night. He managed to hang in there with good humor and much grace as he fought the disease. It will be a hard road ahead for his wife and three children.

Depart, O Christian soul, out of this world; In the Name of God the Father Almighty who created you; In the Name of Jesus Christ who redeemed you; In the Name of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you. May your rest be this day in peace, and your dwelling place in the Paradise of God.

Monday, August 07, 2006

I'm a Stranger Here Myself

We are more or less settled in to our new digs. I'm still adjusting to settling in to my new life.

I've found a good local drugstore, an adequate supermarket which will hold me until the new Harris Teeter is completed just down the road, a place to get the car inspected and some good walking routes for my morning walking meditation time. We've met several seminarian families and have almost finished the rehab of the basement. The books are unpacked - a major undertaking - and the cats have come out from behind the furnace. My spices are now on shelves, and enough of my kitchen stuff is unpacked so I can cook a decent meal. The menu tonight was baked bay scallops, fresh corn, and a salad of grape tomatoes, mozzarella and basil with vinaigrette. Some leftover butterscotch brownies to round it all out, and some leftover Pinot Grigio from last night to smooth the rough edges.

I've got a new library card, I've registered to vote, and the DSL line for my work computer is nearly functional. I can mostly work our voice mail and snail mail appears to be getting forwarded properly.

I haven't found an Asian food market, a small mom and pop hardware store for when I don't have the intestinal fortitude to brave Home Depot, or some good ethnic restaurants.

Rationally, I know that I'm settling in remarkably quickly. I just wish I felt less like a stranger and more like I belong here. An odd sensation, feeling like I'm 17 again. I expect that once I start class I will feel a lot better, or at least less alien.

I think it's time for another brownie.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Musical Friday Five

Ah, what a wonderful Friday Five! Thanks, NotShyChiRev, for giving it to us!

1. Describe the last play or musical you saw. (At least provide the what, when, where, and why). What was your opinion of it?
Not a musical, but an opera, "Le Comte Ory" by Rossini, at Wolf Trap Opera a couple of weeks ago. Hysterically funny story of a horny count who's dodged participating in the Crusades and is instead storming the battlements of a castle to win the maidenhood of the princess therein, masquerading as a holy hermit and giving "advice" to all the young women in the castle who are lonely for their Crusader men off to the war. Great young voices, clever direction, a lot of silly physical humor, a great way to spend a warm Sunday afternoon.

2. All time favorite play? Musical?

I'm fond of anything by Sondheim, but "Sweeney Todd" has a special place in my heart.

3. “The Producers,” “The Philadelphia Story,” “Hairspray,” “The Wedding Singer”…all were movies before they were musicals (okay “The Philadelphia Story” was a play and then a movie, and they changed its name when it became a musical, but whatever). What non-musical movie do you think should next get the musical treatment?

I can picture John Adams doing a strange version of "Hotel Rwanda". "Dancing at Lughnasa" (Brian Friel, I think) cries out for musical treatment.

. 4. Favorite song from a musical? Why?

"A Little Priest" from "Sweeney Todd", which I've done myself a couple of times...anything from "South Pacific"..."Summertime" from "Porgy and Bess...."Take Me or Leave Me" from "Rent"...the list goes on and on...

5. The most recent trend in Broadway musical revues is to construct a show around the oeuvre of a particular super-group or composer, where existing songs are woven together with some kind of through story. The most successful of these (“Jersey Boys” (The Four Seasons), “Mamma Mia” (ABBA), “Movin’ Out” (Billy Joel)) have made a mint, but many (“All Shook Up” (Elvis), “Hot Feet” (Earth, Wind and Fire)) have bombed. What great pop/rock singer/composer or super-group should be the next to be featured, and what might the story-line be for such a show?

I'm not terribly fond of that kind of treatment, but I'm a story/music snob, so just ignore me.

Bonus question for singer/actors. Favorite part you’ve ever played/sung.

Mrs. Lovett from "Sweeney Todd". Gotta love a part where you can be a lovable homicidal maniac. Of course, the requisite hairdo - which resembles Princess Leia-style danish pastries over each ear - is a negative, but it's a small price to pay.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Free Agents

We're no longer homeowners. The closing went very smoothly. We're waiting for the check to be deposited. Nice to have a nest egg for the future.

The house is shaping up. Litigator (my 20 y.o. son) will be arriving for a few days' visit tonight. He can opt for the cool but box-filled basement family room, which has the digital cable connection and the lumpy sofabed, or the small but civilized sister's bedroom upstairs with us. A little warmer, but closer to the bathroom. I'll guess he'll go with the basement.

It's been brutally hot here, and the A/C and the ceiling fans have not kept the bedrooms very cool, but they say the weather will break in a few days. I can hope. I go out for my early morning walks at 6:30 since I'm not supposed to be out in the heat. I wear a cap with cooling gel crystals in the hatband and a neck wrap that also has the cooling gel inside. I keep them in the frig overnight - rather odd, but they help keep my body temp down.

Time to unpack more boxes!