Saturday, April 28, 2007

Living the High Life

PH is away at a conference (he'll be home tomorrow morning), so I'm enjoying some mother-daughter time with Strong Opinions. She will be going back to Rocky Mountain state in June to participate in her college's writing program. She'll be double-majoring in writing and environmental studies (at least that's the plan this week). She pulled a 3.9 GPA in her first semester. I'm proud of her, to say the least.

So today (after I got back from a 3 hour choir rehearsal in anticipation of our concert tomorrow afternoon) we hit the farmer's market, got our eyebrows waxed, stopped for coffee at a local shop with amazing baked goods, went to the bird seed store, went to the cookware store, and came home. I did get my Hebrew homework done, then I made a vegetarian Indian meal: curried lentils, smothered cabbage, brown rice, paratha. Yum.

Lots of good conversation - I wish she were here for longer than a weekend, but that is the way of young adults. She'll be 19 in a week and a half. Remarkable how time has flown.

Why I Have Gray Hair

Stonemason competing this season. Great air = gray hair. This is why I like it when springtime comes, and he doesn't. Mothering this kid has always been an adventure.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Five: what am I...

1. Wearing:
Light blue sweater set, in honor of our forum on ecological/theological/political issues of water at Big Old Seminary today. Tan skirt. Tan Merrill clogs. Bifocals. A slightly stressed expression.

2. Pondering:
Will I get my act together and get any schoolwork done this weekend? With StrongOpinions home for the weekend, plus a concert to perform this Sunday, it doesn't seem likely. Dang. Three papers to write.

3. Reading:
A lot of catch-up reading so I can get my papers done, the book of Ruth in Hebrew, and about three pages per night of Jim Harrison's Returning to Earth.

4. Dreaming:
That presumes one sleeps, doesn't it?

5. Eating:
While PH is out of town at a conference, it's pretty sketchy. we had a dinner thing at school last night, so they fed me, but tonight it was Lean Cuisine because I had so much paperwork to slog through. I'll cook starting tomorrow for StrongOpinions, and PH will be home Sunday morning. Since their birthdays fall within a week of each other, maybe we'll go out to dinner Sunday night.

Food. It's a good thing.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I should go to bed and get some sleep, but I'm still wired from a chir rehearsal this evening. We're doing a concert of "B's" :Bach, Byrd, Buxtehude, Britten, Biebl, Busto. From the very familiar to the very ... erm... unusual. I'm singing a bunch of solos. They're getting as much out of me as possible before I disappear for field ed next year. I am tired tonight.

The year is winding down. Three more lectures in most classes, two in others. I've got a couple of short papers to finish off, and two exams. I'm feeling sort of flat and tired, and am trying to just push my way through the last of it all.

I was approached by a classmate who wanted to chat about another very troubled classmate. Interesting that people ask me about this stuff, as if I could fix it. I agreed that the classmate had problems and suggested the first classmate go talk to the dean. Isn't my bailiwick. Then another classmate emailed me and asked me to run for class president or vice-president. Sweet of her to think me a good candidate, but my plate is already full.

I'm wondering if I have "sucker" or "saint" stenciled on my forehead.

Simple pleasure of the day: babysitting the one-year-old daughter of one of our professors, newly adopted from China. The first time I sat for her, she cried as if I were torturing her by my very presence. She's decided I'm tolerable now, and I actually got a smile out of her a couple of times. Progress. She took her nap sleeping on my chest for an hour.

Tell me, is there anything quite so soft as the lobe of a baby's ear? Or so warming as a baby's sleeping body on your chest?

All of this is in contrast to yesterday, when I spent much of my day downtown at a Big Conference from my past life. I still do some lobbying work on a part time basis for my old employer, and this one was part of the deal. It was good to see some old friends, but it's getting harder and harder to expend energy on that life.

I suppose I should try and do a bit of reading, but it isn't going to happen tonight.

Sleep well, all.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


I have a new addiction.


Yes, those incredibly ugly but amazingly comfy rubber shoes.

I know PeaceBang wouldn't approve, but I swear I'll wear them every day to CPE, when I've got long hospital halls to go up and down. If I wear fancy shoes, I sometimes have foot aches and pains, and it takes very little for me to get a blister. Wussy feet. Crocs solve that problem.

My present pair are a tasteful sage green, but since I'll be working at a children's hospital, I think a pair in purple or hot pink or bright orange might be in order. And they're inexpensive enough that I won't feel guilty buying them...

Plus, they're non-caloric!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

CPE Preparation

No, it's not reading.

No, it's not praying.

It's my measles-mumps-rubella titer, to see if I need an MMR shot prior to my work.

Plus it's not one but two TB tests, within the month before I start CPE (that's chaplaincy training for the uninitiated).

Plus I have to swear whether or not I've had chicken pox. And my primary care physician has to say I won't fall over or anything while in CPE.

Yes, yes, I understand I'll be working with very sick kids who would be compromised by any nasty germ I brought in the door, and even many of the relatively benign ones). I understand that I must protect them from what I can.

Doesn't mean I can't be annoyed about all this.

Now if the preparation involved chocolate...

Writing in Seminary

I went to Catholic schools, and for all their flaws, one skill that was drilled into us was expository writing. We dallied with creative writing as well, but Sister Mary Malachi and Sister Leonard Marie (the two who had the greatest energy around this) were both fiends for clarity and logic and appropriateness in our writing.

This has served me well professionally, and now serves me well in seminary, although sometimes I suspect my profs find me a bit too...well, too whatever, but they universally compliment me, saying things like "clear and engaging." It feeds my ego, and sends me down imagination-roads of publishing. PH, who was formerly married to a professional writer, shudders whenever I mumble things like that.

The food that built my writing muscles was vast quantities of reading. I find myself referencing a wide variety of authors in my writing (Albert Camus on travel for my paper on Qatar, for example), and model my style on others when I've been warned that some professors favor one style over another (Hemingway over Faulkner, say, for a professor who hates run-on sentences).

I'm saddened by the lack of engagement among some of my fellow students on the art of writing. They are busy churning out the dozens of pages we are required to produce. There seems little grace, in any sense of the word, in what they produce.

Sad, because crafting an elegantly crisp phrase, or unwinding a looping sentence that places you in time and space like a gavotte, is such sheer pleasure.

I may be stubborn, but I refuse to relinquish that pleasure even in the brief pieces I will write.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech

The numbers of the dead and injured continue to rise is the horrific reports of the mass murders at Virginia Tech this morning. 31 dead so far, and over fifty wounded. There have been many phone calls amongst those of us who have college-age kids - are their friends who went to Tech okay? So far, as far as we're able to tell, the local kids and their friends are okay, but the information is very confused thus far.

For many other parents, the news is not so good.

God our deliverer, gather our horror and pity for the death of these, your children into the compass of your wisdom and strength, that through the night we may seek and do what is right, and when morning comes trust ourselves to your cleansing justice and new life; through Christ our Savior.

Lord of life, you trampled death under your feet so that we might come alive in your eternal light. We remember before you those shot today at Virginia Tech. In our anger and confusion, we need your help to find our way. When your own child, Jesus, suffered violent death, you acted through it to redeem the world. Help us live into that knowledge as we remember that these victims now live because of that great gift of your love. Help us release them to you. Show us that your hand has dried their tears, and let us glimpse their joy in your face. Grant us strength and the spirit of healing and peace so that we may labor for your just and peaceable kingdom, where all your children live in safety and fulfillment, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I am the Resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord.
Whoever has faith in me shall have life, even though he die.
And everyone who has life,
and has committed himself to me in faith,
shall not die forever.

Friday, April 13, 2007


So my last class on Friday afternoons is Liturgics Practicum, when we get to pretend we're actually doing the services of the church. Today was my day to do a wedding. It's hard to avoid giggling a little bit when two utterly mismatched but charming classmates are serving as bride and groom, but I held it together.

Nice discovery: I'm good at this stuff. I stay calm, I have a good speaking voice that I know how to use, I am intentional in my choices, I know how to use my hands and why.

Gratifying to find something practical that I'm good at (besides baking bread).

Of course, the true high point of the class was when one of my other classmates was to preside, and since our other guy in the class was out sick(there are only four of us in this practicum group, two males, two females), he had to preside over a same-sex faux-wedding. Even in jest, he (a somewhat conservative guy) found it a tad uncomfortable. Nancy and I, on the other hand, had a blast.

It was good for him.

Friday Five: Dental Edition

friday five: dental edition
1. Are you a regular patron of dentists’ offices? Or, do you go
a) faithfully, as long as you have insurance, or
b) every few years or so, whether you need it or not, or
c) dentist? what is this “dentist” thing you speak of?

I'm definitely (a). Had bad teeth as a child, and have various and sundry issues these days. I go because I fear that if I don't, the issues will become major instead of just annoying. Bah.

2. Whatever became of your wisdom teeth?
Two out in college, two out in grad school. Not pleasant, but not intolerable. Actually had the first two out with local anesthesia, which I would not recommend. The noises are hard to listen to.

3. Favorite thing to eat that’s BAAAAAD for your teeth.

As with RM, all things sugary. I got a sugar jones, for sure.

4. Ever had oral surgery? Commiserate with me.

Teeth pulled. Wisdom teeth removed. Tissue grafts.

5. “I’d rather have a root canal than _________________.”

...liposuction? Simply because the lipo would take a whole heck of a lot longer, and would cost more, and wouldn't be paid for by insurance.

Bonus: Does your dentist recommend Trident?
Never asked. I'm not a big chewing gum person anyway. On the other hand, I KNOW she wouldn't recommend marshmallow Peeps. Dang.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Out of the Closet

So I let people know at Big Old Seminary that I have MS. It was something I was in the closet about for a while, since I wanted my classmates to learn to deal with me as mibi, not as a medical case. I'm fortunate. My disabilities are very minor and virtually invisible to the world, and for the time being my MS is well-managed with disease-modifying drugs.

I came out of the closet by soliciting their contributions to PH's MS150 bike ride from the Capitol of the Confederacy to Rockefeller's Imitation Colonial City and back.

Reactions have been interesting. A couple of folks said, "Boy, that's a surprise." One person asked an interesting question: what am I most afraid of? I said it was losing my sight again. I had a bout of optic neuritis and lost most of my vision, which - fortunately - mostly came back with treatment with IV steroids. One person, a very wise femme d'une certain age like me, said, "I wonder how many people in this place have some medical issue they're not telling about." I wonder, too. I hope my talking about my thing will make others feel safe.

Most folks are silent. Either it's a non-issue for them (I'm still the same old mibi), and that's fine with me, or they don't know what to say, and so say nothing.

If it's the latter, and they want to be clergy, they'd better learn how to figure that one out. A heartfelt "gee whiz" would do.

In any case, I'm sure glad to sweep that secret out of the closet. There be monsters!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter Monday

The Powers That Be have given us today off. Part of it is mercy on those students who are in Field Ed, who worked continuously since last Thursday, part is mercy on those faculty members who serve as priest associates and who have also been working continuously through the various Holy week activities.

Though I'm not in Field Ed this year, I also had a steady stream of church commitments from here to next year's Field Ed placement 35 miles away over the past several days. Plus we had dinner for PH and me, PH's cousins, and a seminarian buddy, AKA Master Dishwasher.

By 8: 30 everyone had gone home, the house was cleaned up, the dishwasher was running and I was in my jammies reading a book (Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma," which will definitely put you off your Big Macs and Eggo waffles). The phone rang, and it was Stepson # 2, father of the Cowboy Prince and the Little Master of the Universe, just calling to say happy Easter, to thank me for the birthday coffee we had sent him (he turned 30!), and to see what we were up to. He apologized for calling so late (8:30??!!?? What kind of old poop does he think I am??!!??). Also talked to Strong Opinions and conveyed recipes - she's become quite the cook, and left messages for StoneMason, who was probably at his girlfriend's house, and Litigator, who was on a plane headed back to LaLaLand and school. By 9:30 I was asleep, which proves I really am an old poop.

So this morning, I'm procrastinating about writing the OT exegesis. At lunchtime I'll go to the movies to see "Reign Over Me." I never would see anything with Adam Sandler in it, but it's a class requirement. Ah well, I'll comfort myself with the fact that the brilliant Don Cheadle is in it.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

I spent part of this morning singing the Vittoria "Improperia" in a quartet of wonderful singers in our Seminary chapel. This series of reproaches for what was done to Christ this day alternates lines of chant with brief choral settings of the Trisagion and the Populi Mei. Performing a piece like this is very intense - no room for error, though some minor twitches are inevitable. We sang from the balcony, and it was good, twitches and all.

It causes me to meditate a bit on the "performance" nature of what we do as clergy, especially in an emotionally fraught time such as Holy Week. I suspect all of us have a bit of the performer in us; why else would we participate in such work? Yes, yes, I know it's not about the performance, but to some extent we must be aware of that aspect, to preside over a service that gives the most to those who attend.

I think of my one of my profs, who struggles with a terrible stammer, but when he lectures and preaches, he prepares intensely, and delivers his words smoothly and beautifully. Is that a form of performance? Perhaps.

Can we create meaningful worship without an awareness of this element? I'd like to believe that we can be inspired by God's Word and that will carry it through. I've been to an awful lot of uninspired services, though. Was the presider uninspired, or was the preparation inadequate? In contrast, I've been to some over-emoted, painfully self-conscious services. Where is the middle ground?

How much do we get by tapping into our hearts and souls, and how much is preparatory work that recognizes the need for performance in the celebration of God's word?

Just asking...

Monday, April 02, 2007

Remind me there's a Resurrection coming...

I'm sitting on the couch feeling like cwap because I overdid it exercising (doing too much in the heat when you've got MS is a no-no, but it was such a beautiful afternoon).

In Liturgics today, we discussed the Rite of Marriage, and the church's response to remarriage for people who were divorced, and it seemed to me that some of the young single people and young marrieds were being very quick to judge those who were remarrying after divorce. Yes, those of us who have been divorced and remarried DO understand what the vows say, and we DON'T enter into marriage lightly, and sometimes ugliness happens that is beyond our control (like a husband who strays, not once but repeatedly, or a husband who beats his wife)...don't sit there all pious and say that marriage is forever when you haven't lived in the real world. Yes, it's forever, and that's what we all try for and hope for and pray for. But sometimes the bad stuff happens, and then what a person needs is not judgment but pastoral counseling and support and recognition that God forgives and loves us. Sometimes God also gives us someone worthy to try and love again. And that is a great gift of grace.

Alright, I'll get down off my soapbox now.

Deeply sad because a dear friend just a couple of years older than me has just been diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer. She's got young adult triplets and a daughter who's a senior in college. She and her husband just bought a vacation/possible retirement home that they have been fixing up over the past few months.

This. Sucks.

I've got papers that I have to gear up for, but tonight, I just don't feel up to it.

I'm looking ahead to Wednesday, when a wonderful preacher will be at Big Old Seminary to celebrate MLK Jr's birthday; Friday morning, when I get to sing with a heavenly quartet, doing the Vittoria Improperia for our Good Friday service; and Friday night, when I'll be a ringer in the choir for my Field Ed parish, doing a Tenebrae service at a senior citizen community. I need music right now. When I have trouble praying, I sing.

I need a little spiritual edification right now. I know the Resurrection is coming. I'm just facing Good Friday a little early tonight.

Oh, and the Nats tanked on Opening Day...