Tuesday, May 30, 2006

New House

We went to visit the townhouse we'll be living in for the next three years yesterday. StrongOpinions, who is in a mighty funk with all this change, went with us.

The townhouse is pretty small, although it's advertised as a three bedroom with a finished basement. The sweetheart of a seminarian who has just graduated and is vacating it showed us around.

Here are the facts:
  • a tiny three bedroom townhouse occupied by a family of five is, by necessity, going to appear stuffed to the gills with stuff and thus somewhat messy (get over it, Mibi)
  • a third bedroom that is going to be the back-from-college room of StrongOpinions is going to seem much smaller than humanly possible by said 18-year-old (get over it, StrongOpinions)
  • the buckling faux-paneling in the so-called finished basement doesn't indicate that the front door still leaks, making the wall unsuitable for bookshelves
  • the exceedingly lively party at the next-door home of the African-American family looks promising, except when I think how much I've got to read and study
  • the vast quantity of small kid detritus in the courtyard and in the back yards means I may get asked to babysit (I have mixed feelings about that)
  • the number of seminarians living on this one courtyard guarantees community of one sort or another (I have mixed feelings about that, too, being a private person)

The jury is out on what will actually fit in this place. I think I need to draw some diagrams or something...

We got home, StrongOpinions went out with her friend, I crashed. She came home about midnight and thumped around making herself a snack. I woke up, came downstairs to read on the sofa, and she decided to join me for a long conversation about fears, sadness, etc. etc. Conversation lasted two hours. She will be OK, I think. She's also facing some minor female surgery in a couple of weeks, and I know that's weighing on her mind. All I know is that I need more sleep.

Please, somebody, buy this house?

Monday, May 29, 2006

From Jackson Hole, WY

I'm back from several days junket at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in the Grand Teton National Park. C'est moi in the first picture, in front of the iconic Tetons. Mt. Moran on the right, reflected in a little offshoot of the Snake River.

This is cowboy country, where everyone wears cowboy hats and boots and no one looks dorky in them. This was an "attagirl trip" sponsored by my employer, as a thank you for the best performers of the past year. We stayed at the Four Seasons Resort, ate like well-fed cattle, were massaged and facialed, and took tour of the park. PH rode a bike with another colleague and had a fine time. I hiked up the mountain behind the resort, upto the snowline, and tried to imagine skiing there in winter. Yes, there is still snow atop the mountains there. 80 deg F during the day, 29 deg F at night. A nice little vacation before we enter our vow of poverty and seminary...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Who Am I?

No, not Marcia Brady, despite the little test mentioned below.

According to one person in our church, I'm a liar who seeks to exclude her from a clique of church women. She did not get communication of an event that we had, and says I told her we weren't meeting (which I can't recall). She's going through a bad patch in her life, and we have all tried to be supportive of her, but she is suspicious and decided my giving her what turned out to be incorrect information was deliberate. She complained to the Rector, who tried to mollify her without success.

Of course it wasn't deliberate, and the whole sequence of events that led to her missing the event had little to do with me, but I'm a safe target for now. I had a long phone conversation with her, apologized if I had dropped the ball, tried to convince her that neither I nor any of the others in the group were trying to exclude her...I don't know if she is convinced, but I did what I could, and that's all I can do. I'm just sad that she sees the world as so much against her personally that she reads everything that happens as a personal attack, and feels compelled to attack in return. It was difficult, given that I view my word as my bond, to hear someone call me a liar, but I was trying to step back from defensiveness into compassion. I think I'd grade myself a C by that measure.

In contrast, I went over to the hospital for lunch with the chaplain and my friend who is a chaplain intern. I'm doing some volunteering leading Sunday prayer services there, and we wanted to talk about logistics, and what the proper referral methodolgy is in this time of HIPAA. To facilitate my work there, I got my very own nifty ID badge, with my picture on it. The chaplain put down my title as "Rev. Seminarian." I'm not quite sure how he arrived at that phrase, but I think it does the job, even though I won't be a seminarian for a couple more months.

So who am I? A liar and a snob? A reverend seminarian? I know I don't like the first definition, and truly think I am not. I don't know that I'm worthy of the second one yet - it's a little scary to be re-identified that way.

I'm hoping I'm a child of God striving to do the work as well as I can.

Somedays, I do better than others.

Blessing of the Icon

This will do until I get a close-up picture downloaded...

Monday, May 22, 2006

Somehow I Doubt It...

You Are Marcia Brady

Confident yet kind. Popular yet down to earth. You're a total dream girl.
You've got the total package - no wonder everyone's a little jealous of you.

Sunday, May 21, 2006


We all survived the Open House today. PH and the cats went to a friend's house, where they all camped out in the computer room. I went to the hospital, where I celebrated an Evening Prayer Service with a couple of attendees in the chapel, televised on the hospital's closed-circuit television system. The realtor thinks we've got at least one very serious prospect, and since we're going out of town on Wednesday, she suggested that they get an offer in before then. I hope, I hope, I hope they will. A family with a young son. They'd fit in wonderfully in this neighborhood, and they seemed to appreciate the charm of the place. Please say a prayer.

There was at least one other fairly serious prospect, and it would be lovely to get multiple offers, but I'll be grateful for one.

Of course, doing the chapel service at the hospital snapped me back into perspective on what's really important and what's not. So many hurting people face challenges much more daunting than mine. I was grateful for the opportunity to serve.

And on an even lovelier note, I did get my icon back, and it was blessed at our 11am service this morning. I'll try to post a picture of it in the next day or so.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Welcome to Whine & Cheese: We No Longer Own Our Home or Our Time...

...the realtors do.

PH went bike riding at 8 am, knowing that we have a prospective buyer coming in at 11. Now another is coming at noon. Hopefully, PH will be able to squeeze in a shower between 11:30 and 12...otherwise, he'll be sitting at Starbucks drinking coffee in his smelly biking clothes for an extra hour. Pray we get an offer this weekend.

I have swept the walk and the patio of leaves and pollen and such, vacuumed the house, cleaned the cat box, washed up the kitchen, stowed yesterday's laundry in the washer, put away the placemats. In other words, my house shows no signs of life whatsoever.

And (boo-hiss) icon writing was concelled for today. I was supposed to pick up my varnished John the Baptist, and gild the background of St. Peter. Ah, well...

And the only word I can think of for the Friday Five was "execrable", which is the way this process of house selling feels right now.

Okay, I'll stop whining now.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Cats Know

...that something is going on. No familiar dustbunnies are under the beds. The scratching post is in the back of the furnace room. The slipcovers on the living room wing chairs are clean (in other words, not covered with kitty hair). The number of objects kitties can hide behind is greatly reduced.

And the evil cat carrier things are on the sunporch.

At least the litter box hasn't been moved.


Must be Brokers' Open House Day or something.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mother's Day High Points/ Real Estate Challenges

Yesterday was a full day, what with church (two services plus a meeting to plan our concert series for next year), working on the house in preparation for the brokers' open house tomorrow, and dinner with StrongOpinions as a combo Mother's Day/her birthday celebration.

PH had tackled what we thought was just a small paint chip problem in our high ceiling hallway - turned out to require a major plaster repair. So there was not only a major ladder in the stairwell, there was also plaster dust everywhere after he sanded. Spooky the black cat decided she needed to do her snow angels imitation by rolling in the plaster dust, and then she decided to share the joy by tracking it around the house. Ah, well... fortunately, the project got done (PH finished sanding and painting it at 7 a.m. this morning). I spent my mother's day evening taking apart the kitchen faucet, replacing the imbedded water filter, and repairing the spring mechanism that controls the spray. That, and folding laundry. And doing more cleaning.

I did get to talk with the Princess Granddaughter, who is Grandmary's favorite granddaughter (also the only, but that's the way these things go), and her dad, Stepson#1, who has grown into such a wonderful man, husband and father. Good phone calls with Litigator and StoneMason, and telephone tag with Stepson#2, father of grandsons Cowboy and StrongLungs.

The high point of the evening was when I went to bed, though.

No, not what you think, those of you with dirty minds.

A letter, which StrongOpinions had tucked under my pillow, and which I didn't find until 11:30 p.m.

I'll share some of it with you, because it was such a wonderful gift, I couldn't be happier:

Happy Mother's Day!

You have always given me everything I have ever wanted. I remember when we still lived up north and it was Christmas Time. You bought my cousin a porcelain tea set, and I begged you to give it to me, and you did! One of the countless examples of how you never let me down (--materially -- we'll get to the other stuff later)! For my whole life, whether I showed it or not, I have had issues with feeling guilty for owning all the possessions I do [ her mother inserts here that we were generous but not extravagant with her], getting all I want, etc. This, I now realize, was not because I didn't feel I deserved them or I felt you couldn't afford it; it was because I have never felt like I will ever be able to make it up to you. You have done more in your lifetime to make me happy than anything else. Someday, I hope to be able to return the favor (I guess materially)...hot tub sound good? But for now I hope you can accept this...you are the smartest, most independent, and admirable woman I know. You will always be my hero and the best mother in the universe (or whatever is beyond our knowledge of space). As I go off to school, I cannot even begin to imagine my life without you right next door to me. Expect many phone calls of ranting about my frustrations of that day, and boycotts of the month, and radical left-wing nonsense of that sort. Any time I get the chance I'll be home. The day that I save the world, you'll be the one I thank. You've been there all along, and you'll be there forever. I love you so much, and I'm sorry I have to work today! Happy Mother's Day (I know it's a Hallmark holiday and technically I should boycott it, but I do think you deserve an entire day if not more dedicated to just you).

I love you.



Worth the challenging times with her, eh? And for what it's worth, she's the strongest, most independent, admirable 18 year old I know. And I'm the luckiest mom.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

A Day Late But Not A Dollar Short: the RevGal Festive Friday Five on Saturday

1. Describe a memorable conference, retreat, workshop or convention you've attended.
Our annual parish women's retreat is always so wonderful; it's led by a lay woman who has has extensive training in facilitating contemplative prayer, and she does a great job of taking us to deep sometimes painful places. It's also in a very quiet place with a serene view of the river. We tend to get slightly rowdy by Saturday night when we have our social time (after our evening session). Morning Prayer on Sunday morning outside in the very cold morning under the statue of Christ overlooking the river is special indeed.

2. Tell us about a memorable speaker or preacher you've heard.

A few weeks ago, PH and I went to hear a panel at National Cathedral honoring Frederick Buechner on the occasion of his 80th birthday and his latest book, "Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons." To hear Buechner, Tom Long, Barbara Bradford Taylor, and Gene Sutton all speak...priceless. To chat with them afterwards...humbling and joyful.

3. Do you attend all of the scheduled events, or play hooky? If the latter, what do you do with your free time?

At the women's retreat, it's a small group, so it's hard to play hooky. Nor do I want to. At the parish retreat at Shrinemont, I've been known to take a break to read a book or take a nap. At bankers' conferences, I often play hooky to sit by the pool, or have a conversation with a friend, or read. Guess that shows where my priorities are, and I'm good with that!

4. Do you like having a roommate or would you rather have a room to yourself?

Generally, I prefer my own space, unless I'm going to the conference with Ph or an old friend with whom I know I'm compatible (read: someone who can put up with me getting up VERY early to read or pray.)

5. What's the most exotic location you've conferenced or retreated?

I guess Savannah, GA. Most of the conferences or retreats I've gone to have been in major metro areas in the US. Nothing anywhere near as exotic as places I've visited for family or fun. I'm hoping to do a retreat at Mepkin Abbey one of these days. Christ in the Desert in New Mexico is also supposed to be amazing. We'll see what we can manage.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Selling my House Bites

...as StrongOpinions would say.

The basement is a toxic zone from the smell of the newly installed carpets. That, of course, is where my at-home office is, so I can't use it unless I want to fall over unconscious. Of course, somehow the carpet guys managed to mess up my phone line down there, so I can't use the computer down there anyway.

I brought another carload of assorted household detritus to the storage space this morning. I have probably one or two more loads to go. There are a couple more little things I need to do to make the house ready for the Broker's Open House on Tuesday, and PH has a number of things he should do that are beyond my ken. I will put my hip boots on and go into StrongOpinions' room in a few minutes, to make it showable.

I know I'm in the home stretch on the prep work, and the realtor thinks it will sell in one weekend, and PH and I are having a cool mini-vacation - a reward from my employer for outstanding work last year - in Wyoming right before Memorial Day, and we're in good shape financially. Why, then, do I feel so discombobulated? Just pre-move, pre-seminary panic attack?

In the past three weeks I've packed over 150 boxes, painted the garage and shed and back doors, painted the back wall of the house, reorganized and weeded out the closets, dealt with various and sundry tradesmen including piano movers, regular movers, carpeters and window washers, baked for the Rector's anniversary celebration, baked for the Women's Bible Study breakfast, made birthday strawberry shortcake for StrongOpinions, finished my John the Baptist icon, organized our camping stuff for the family campout over July 4th in Michigan, met with my Bishop and got approved for postulancy, coordinated plans for StrongOpinions' college experience with my ex, cleaned out two refrigerators, moved stuff for the church yard sale to a friend's garage. I've also attended a conference in Florida and done my regular work, although I'm on a light schedule this week because of sporadic jury duty. I've also taken StrongOpinions shopping, which was actually fun, and taken her for her tattoo, which was less fun, but not as bad as I thought.

Sorry I'm whining.

Remind me I asked for this.

I'm feeling like all my protective old layers of my life have been peeled away, and the newly exposed skin is very tender indeed.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Sapere Aude

Yesterday was StrongOpinions' 18th birthday. We celebrated it by going for a tattoo (her, not me, since wrinkles and tattos don't look so good together). At 18, she could have gone without me, since in this state that is the age where parental permission isn't required. She had told us - note the told, not asked - that she was going to get a small tattoo when she turned 18, and she was true to her word. Curiosity and soldarity made me go, too.

She and I and her friend BettyBoop went to Rick's Tattoo Parlor, where everyone has vast quantities of ink inscribed into their skin. Some of their tattoos are describable in this space (hearts, flowers, Celtic armbands) and some are not. SO had decided on what she wanted a year ago: "Sapere aude" in script, on her forearm.

The Latin phrase is variously translated as "Dare to learn" or "Dare to be wise" or "Dare to know." The translation she likes best, however, is "Dare to seek the truth." She wanted it there so she could see it regularly and it would remind her of what is important.

It's from Immanuel Kant's essay "What is Enlightenment?"

So how did I end up with an 18 y.o. daughter who gets a tattoo of a phrase from Immanuel Kant on her arm?

PH suggested one for the other arm, which seems an appropriate counterbalance: "Mundus vult decipit." Translation: The world wants to be deceived.

She's thinking about it, but wants the pain of the first one to fade from her mind first. "Sapere aude" is only two words. PH's suggestion is a lot more tattooing. Ouch.

After the tattooing, I came home to finish some work around the house before going to St P's for the celebration of the Rector's 25th anniversary of ordination. The parish's gift to him after the celebration of the Eucharist was a set of books from the Hakluyt Society, scholarly tomes on maritime history, nautical travels, discovery etc. The only more perfect gift for him might have been some first editions of mid-19th century philosophers or theologians.

The homilist, an old friend of the Rector's, mentioned his scholarly bent at length, talking about his dissertation title, which was itself complicated, never mind the content of the thing. We tease him a bit about his ability to go off on scholarly tangents even in the most mundane conversations. Nevertheless, we respect his brilliant mind and his breadth and depth of knowledge.

When he was SO's age, it would have never occurred to him to get a tattoo saying "Sapere aude." Yet he has lived his life daring to seek truth, daring to know, daring to learn.

There's a lesson there for me, who tries so hard - sometimes too hard - to get the acclaim of those above me by being the best. It's about the learning and the daring, not about the grade.

Happy Birthday, StrongOpinions. Happy Anniversary, Rector. Thank you both for being my teachers in both conventional and unconventional ways. Remind me when I need it that it's the learning that's the thing, not the applause.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Empty Nest

The movers have come and gone, taking 150 boxes and assorted furniture with them. The house looks strange and empty. The three guys were very efficient and shockingly strong, just as the piano movers yesterday were able to take my piano out to go to the church in what seemed like five minutes (the prior movers who brought it into the house seven years ago took about 40 minutes, but that's another story). These guys emptied out three-quarters of my household in 2.5 hours, and are off to load it into a storage place.

It was embarrassing, the colonies of dust bunnies that lurked behind the bookshelves and under the trundle bed. I followed the movers around with the broom and dustpan and the feather duster. So much for my skills in the domestic arts! I tend to clean that which I can see, and the result was evident this morning.

Midway through the move, I got the bare fringes of a panicky feeling: "What are we doing? This is a mistake! I'm scared!" I talked myself down from the bad feeling, reminding myself that this was what I wanted and longed for, that transitions are always traumatic and this wasn't anywhere near as bad as others I'd been through, and it would all be good.

My remaining furnishings are down to the most basic. A couple of beds, a couple of dressers, a sofa and two chairs and a side table, a desk and chair, the dining room table with four chairs. It does feel bare, almost monastic with most of our artwork packed away. The house doesn't feel warm and fuzzy any more, but it does look more spacious, which was the whole point of the exercise.

I told PH to remind me over the next three years that I don't need to buy pantihose. I don't know how I accumulated so many pairs, but I went through the hose drawer last night, sorting out the winter heavy opaque stuff from the summer sheers, since the drawer was full to overflowing. Remarkably, after I removed the winter stuff, the drawer was still pretty full. I think every time I went into Marshall's I bought a couple of pairs. Everyone has their little oddities, and I suspect excess pantihose is one of mine.

StrongOpinions is a little disconcerted by this moving stuff, particularly since she'll be moving away to school in a few months and two moves in short order is a lot for anyone to take. I've tried to tell her that home is where your family is, and a house is just a place. I need to remind myself of the same thing today.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Friday Five With a Bonus: Ten Simple Pleasures

Birthday Fiday Five: as seen at Songbird, RGBP:
1. Favorite birthday cake/ice cream/dessert I love all desserts. A favorite birthday cake is chocolate truffle torte, but since I'm the only one in my family who makes it, it appears only at other peoples' birthday parties. I'm also very fond of creme brulee, and things with almond flavors.
2. Surprise Parties -- have you ever given or received one? I've given a couple, but I'm not really a surprise party kind of gal. Too much of a control freak, I guess.
3. Favorite birthday present. My best presents weren't ones that came at "special" times, like birthdays, but the ones that utterly surprised me, like StrongOpinions being born a girl, after a family of four boys.
4. What do you think of those candles that won't blow out? Sadistic. Also rather hard on the cake.
5. Best. birthday. ever. Every one except my 40th, when my ex (who was otherwise involved at the time) was just miserable to me. Other than that, they're all good.

Ten Simple Pleasures (per Cheesehead)

1. PH making me omelettes on Sunday after church.
2. Going makeup shopping at Sephora with StrongOpinions.
3. Used books on Amazon.com.
4. Being able to reserve books online from my local library.
5. The smell of beeswax candles.
6. Granja San Francisco honey, which comes in the very best drip-proof dispensers and is at my local supermarket.
7. Steamed shrimp with Old Bay Seasoning.
8. Daffodils and grape hyacinths and Virginia bluebells in the springtime.
9. The National Botanic Garden right by the Capitol.
10. The love and support of family, near and far.

Bonus item: dark chocolate.

I'm a Postulant!

Officially, that is. I met with the Bishop at the seminary yesterday and had a delightful conversation with him. "First off," he said,"I want to tell you this isn't another hurdle that you have to leap - you're accepted as a postulant." then he proceeded to talk about what our relationship would be while I was going through seminary and after, and what he suggested I focus on in seminary. (Core courses in Biblical studies and church history, if you're interested.) It was a very relaxed, pleasant, and broad-ranging conversation, and he was more friendly and less formal than I have ever seen him. All in all, a delight.

Thanks, Lord, for getting me this far!