Monday, August 31, 2009

The Load Out (Stay?)

Today as I was on my way from one spot to another, I was listening to Canadian Public Radio. They were interviewing a man in California, whose home was being approached by the wildfires out there. The man being interviewed had decided not to evacuate but instead to "stay and defend."
I started making a mental list of what I would do in this situation- what would I bring and save, what would I let go? I thought: I'd need clothes, enough to wear for a week or so- (if the fire was today, I'd only have to grab my laundry basket) and some shoes- my engagement ring- I'd craftily grab our camping gear, so we could be woodsy survivalists, if needed- but first and foremost of course, the cats.
Scott added, when I told him about my thoughts, photos and our computers- and I'd have to agree with that, they contain so many of our pictures and documents and whatnot, and I would need to check facebook from the woods. Tonight on the radio, I heard another story about a Katrina survivor who thought he had gotten out everything important, but had left quilts that his grandmother had made him. We have quilts.
But the thing is, we don't have a lot that we couldn't live without. Leaving our house behind would be sad, but of course it is not our house- it's our landlord's. We have a LOT of stuff- way too much stuff- but when it comes right down to it, there's not a lot that we need. I feel a certain degree of pride in that.
Still, I hope the fires don't come.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


I stayed up late the other night watching POV on public tv. This episode was called Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go, and it followed a few of the kids and staff at a residential school somewhere in England. The kids were pretty tough, could be violent (and spat at people! And "wee'd" on the floor!) and had to be restrained often. Iknow I've mentioned this already but in my 20's, I worked at similar programs.
I was reflecting on it today and thinking about the amazingly patient and loving staff portrayed in the film, and remember how I used to be able to do what they do. I don't think I could do it now. I really requires a tough heart, a resiliency that I lost when I moved out of social work and into ministry. I thought to myself today "anyone who CAN do a job like that MUST do it, because the rest of us can't."
But then it occurred to me that some people might think that about MY job. I have heard many people over the years tell me they could NEVER work with teenagers, which always kind of blew my mind. I always thought "if they only knew how great it is..."
But the fact is, we are all uniquely gifted. And what we can do, we MUST do, because God has gifted us for specific reasons, for specific purposes. I am more convinced now than ever that we each have a role in the Kingdom- and that it is true, God doesn't necessarily call the equipped, but He always equips the called. Link

Monday, August 24, 2009

half longs

Every year I think I'm a wicked cool gardener and plant vegetables from seed. It is a ridiculous endeavor. My neighbors put in little plants and by now have big raging bushes of vegetables that they are overwhelmed by and have to give away (thankfully). But not me, I nurture hair-breadth seeds to minor success and weird shaped bounty.
Behold the cucumbers from my garden this year:

They came out as golf-ball sized roundy cukelets. My neighbor asked me if they, like my carrots, are "Danvers Half-Longs." Well, undeterred by their weird size and shape, we sliced them up for lunch today and let me tell you they were delicious.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

love first.

Several years ago, I went for a massage. I was looking forward to a wordless hour, peaceful and calm while my tensions were smoothed away. The woman who was to give me my massage asked me about my work and life, and at the time I was a social worker for the state and a part-time youth minister.
A few silent minutes later, she asked me "I hope you don't mind me asking, but... what do you think about CHINS? Do they work?" A CHINS at that time was something you could file for in court if your family was in crisis but the kid wasn't breaking any laws and it wasn't a straight out neglect or abuse case. It stood for CHild In Need of Service. (Of course it should have been called a FINS: Family In Need of Service but that idea hadn't caught on by then- maybe it has by now.)
The massage therapist went on to tell me that her granddaughter was out of control, spoiled, didn't know how great she had it, and the girl's parents were at their wits end. They were considering calling the court to have her put on probation, or maybe sent away to a group home. She wondered if I thought that would bring her granddaughter around- would it make her thankful for what she had, if she'd lose it?
I wanted to stay silent and enjoy my massage, but I had that familiar burning that meant I had a message for her. I said "I think that filing a CHINS on her, and sending her away from the family will only convince her that her family hates her and has given up on her." She was, of course, taken aback. This was not the answer she was expecting from a social worker.
I suggested that this girl needed her family to take her in, take her on, be her hero. Instead of throwing up their hands in disgust, they needed to commit to doing whatever it took to bring this girl back in and love her, no matter what. I told the grandmother that she could love this girl back into the family. I suggested that she start spending more time with her, that she become the granddaughter's champion. And I suggested that maybe volunteering for people in need, AS A FAMILY, might help her better understand how blessed she is, how good she had it. I suggested they start attending church together.
She thanked me and finished my massage, and I gave her my card, and said that if there was any way I could help I'd be happy to, and that I'd be praying for them.
Many months later, maybe even a couple of years later, I got an email from the grandmother, thanking me. She said her granddaughter had come around, things were better, they were happier.
It makes me think about how easily frustration and anger can overtake our other emotions, blind us to other options we have, close off avenues that we should by rights be able to see. Negative energy, I think, is like a cancer, and we have to be vigilant at keeping it at bay. I have a bumper sticker in my office that says "Teach them Love." I think it's a good reminder for us as teachers and as learners. Love must be our first response, and love can change the world.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

vacation ends

It was a great vacation, practically perfect in every way- when I look back on this vacation, the scenes will be all watery-looking, like as in a movie flashback to a perfect day.
It was a "staycation," pretty much, with some nifty day trips thrown in- but even though I was mostly at home, it felt like a lovely resort, except that there were no mints on my pillow when I got to bed at night, which is probably good because they would have melted. It was steamy, almost the whole time, but I didn't mind. We had one air-conditioned room, the bedroom, and spent a bunch of time in there eating meals on the bed, like a college student. But the best part was the mornings. (Parts? Were? If onlLinky an editor would read my blog!)
In the morning, while Scott slept in, I'd get up whenever and make my breakfast. I'd take it out to the porch with my book-du-jour, and sit out there until I didn't want to anymore. I read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (hey that's a pretty cool book- did you know it's, like, allegory??), Driving with Dead People (dark, and not funny. But riveting), and Firefly Lane. I loved The Patron Saint of Liars, really, I mourned the ending of that book. Now I'm halfway through Annie Dunne, and all the way through my vacation.
As dreamy as the week was I'm excited to get back to work- just as our high school seniors are moving on and the end of their era has come, a brand new era begins- new kids, new families, a new theme, new classes, new plans. Here we go!!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I'm younger than that now

Holy Shit!* This aging thing is quite a trip.
I met up with some of my girlfriends the other day- we strolled down memory lane and realized with a shock that we've been friends for around 20 years. How on earth did that happen?
Then, when one of my friends was talking about a woman we all know, relaying her current situation and referring back to her backstory from 20 years ago, it hit me like a bat to the head: if our lives were books, (chick lit, obviously) we'd be at the resolution of a story arc. We know now, at around 40 years old, how the stories that began in our twenties, turned out.
We have perspective, wisdom, experience- we see consequences behind every action. We have sympathy and empathy that only comes from being in and out of troubling situations ourselved over the years.
We didn't have this back then, back when we started our stories together. It was all a laboratory, a writers' workshop, where we all laid down elements to an epic story- an autobiography.
A young woman, a dear friend of mine just starting in youth ministry gives me a hard time sometimes. She says "I can just hear you saying 'oh, you're so young, you'll see'" And she's right, things do look different from here, because while I'm watching her story unfold, I'm watching mine in reruns.
I'm grateful for whatever wisdom I've gained over the years, grateful for the teaching moments, the mistakes, the near misses, the lucky breaks. I'm grateful for old friends who can remember the beginnings with me. It's better to be 41 than to be 21.

* sorry about the cussing.

recipe: best ever fruit salad.

cube melon, other melon, and be sure to include watermelon. Throw in other fruits, berries. I'm thinking strawberries and kiwis would be delish in this. Put them all in a bowl, and then pour honey over them. Stir. Let sit for a while, overnight if you can resist that long.
Oh my it's good.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Stranger in a Strange Church.

I've heard it said that doctors can't enjoy sex. You know, because the Know Too Much. I imagine the same is true, in some way or another, for every occupation. Scott can barely stand to awatch movies that have Catholic stuff in them, because they always get things WRONG- like a combination of several liturgical colors on display at once in a church during a wedding, where they ask if anyone here knows of any reason why these two should not be wed? I have a higher threshold for this kind of thing than Scott does (I am the one who yells at him "IT'S A MOOOOOVIEEEEE." But seriously, are there no Catholics in Hollywood who could give these things a once-over?) but still, when I visit another parish, I have my Church Professional eyes on.
This week I'm on Vacation, and so I have the odd opportunity to take Sunday OFF. I decided to be ca-razy and go to Mass on Saturday, in a new church. I chose St. Joseph in Wakefield, one that looks sort of similar to my home parish in Brunswick ME. Bricks, modern decoration, round-square shape. As I walked in, I tried not to look for things to critique. Being a professional Churchy person means that when I walk into a parish, I'm looking at the decor, at the information racks- I'm looking to see if anyone looks back at me, if anyone smiles, if anyone recognizes that I'm an outsider. I'm looking to see where I should sit- somewhere nearish the front but not too far from the back- somewhere that I can see the musicians, see the ambo, figure out where to go for Communion when it comes time.
St. Joseph won me over- the people around me were friendly enough, that is, they smiled back when I smiled at them. There were no "obstructed view" seats, and I found a good place to sit. The altar servers were cute and well trained, the priest's homily was pretty good, they served Communion under both species. The musicians were phenomenal. They were two young ladies and a piano, and they sounded like a combination of Danielle Rose and the Wailin' Jennies. I would surely go back there. OH and at the end of Mass, the priest welcomed the musicians back from a trip they'd been on, asked for applause for our newest altar server, and congratulated a man who'd gotten a hole in one that day. I really liked that personal touch.
I'd go back, if only to pray along with those musicians- it seemed like a great place to pray. I hope my parish holds up to the standards for visitors who join us every once in a while...

Saturday, August 15, 2009


This week the stars seem to be aligning for a true vacation week. Of course I'm not traveling anywhere, just a "staycation" as the kids are calling it these days, but these have always been my favorite kinds of weeks. My days are pretty much free for me to get up whenever, eat breakfast on the porch, then sit and read until I can't sit still anymore. The grocery shopping's done and the fridge is full (I noticed this time how few of the aisles I had to venture down, as most of my shopping happens out on the edge walls, where the fresh food is. That's a good sign, no?), and I don't even have a lot of laundry to do. The bedroom is clean and has an air conditioner in place, and the living room has a lazy but helpful ceiling fan for the not-quite as hot days.
I am devouring Driving With Dead People, a Memoir, which is fascinating, and like all the best books I've ever read, is affecting my speech patterns and creating in me an urge to narrate every moment of my own days. Oh and gobbled up The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe yesterday in one sitting. Today I actually sat in the sun with tanning lotion (sunscreen) on, for as long as I could stand it, which was only about 20 minutes.
I do have some plans this week, including one on SUNDAY which usually is an impossibility since I work in a church. I'm seeing some old friends, and maybe hitting the beach with my sister at some point. I'd like to clean out our garbage-can-nook, which is a far uglier place than the word "nook" makes it seem. It's smelly, and that's cutting into my porch reading enjoyment.
Meanwhile my grad school books have been ordered and are starting to arrive in the mail, like birthday presents but not. Cards, though, are appearing in the mailbox for my 41st birthday, this Tuesday.
I'm putting an entire Summer into one week and it's blissful. Ahhhhhh.... Link

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Several Random... Things.

Every other thought lately is the start of a fabulous blog post, but unfortunately none of my thoughts are the rest of a fabulous blog post. So, here are the starts.

When did people stop looking both ways, or using crosswalks? When did this "I dare you to hit me with your car" attitude start?

I'm turning 41 in less than a week. I guess that puts me squarely in my 40's. Aging is a weird thing- my nephew just told me that he "doesn't feel 20." Good Lord.

This Fall I'm taking New Testament (my brother says I should do well in this because I've "already read the book." In fact I've already taken the class, but it was 20 years ago, back when the New Testament had just been written!

This is the time of year when I start to yearn for Fall tv shows to come back. A little. But you know, I can wait! So.

I feel kinda bad about this whole Summer reading thing. I guess I forgot that libraries existed. But I'll confess I love owning books... our entire dining room is a library, basically, and it would be even more library-like if I had creative control over the interior decorating scheme here. The other thing about owning my books is that I have a habit of underlining and noting in books, and librarians, I bet, frown on such a practice. I just bought my school books, and can't wait to get into them... but I still have some Borders Gift Card moolah to spend on a couple of choice tomes for the next week's reading.

I forgot to start running, which I had intimated would be something I'd be doing by my birthday. It's really, though, in my defense, only been in the last month that I can run up the stairs without a weird spot or two of pain. So, you know, maybe now. Or, soon.

I have had some really great ministry moments in the last couple of weeks, which makes me hopeful and excited for this coming year. Summer is such a down-time at a church, people scatter and not much happens but planning... all hypothetical stuff. But our young adult group has been fruitful and fun, and made me feel like a minister again- like riding a bike after a long break. I did that this Summer, too.

I've been away from Spiritual Direction since the beginning of Lent. I don't know what happened, except that things were just going so darn well for me, spiritually- I feel kind of funny going for direction when I'm not having serious struggles- you know, nothing to "work on." But it's time to go back.

A week of free time, mostly, stands happily before me. I want to go to bed so that it'll be tomorrow. But then again, maybe I'll sneak out and look for some shooting stars!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer Reading

For the past couple of Summers our insurance company, in conjunction with the Archdiocese of Boston, has invited us to participate in a nifty little program. For filling out a questionnaire and vowing to improve your eating and exercise habits in the coming year, they'd send you a HUNDRED DOLLAR gift certificate, to any place that was listed (on an impressively long list!) of options on a website. I've dutifully filled out the questionnaire, vowed to improve, failed to do so, and spent all my money at on Summer reading.
This year, mysteriously, the offer did not come. I was at a loss for what to do, as I don't have a hundred extra bucks lying around for Summer books. I asked around and got a stack of paperbacks from my sister, and vowed yet again to read the Chronic (what?) les of Narnia. I still might get to that.
But now it's mid-August and I haven't bought ANY summer books, and I have a little vacation coming up during which I'd love nothing more than to spend hours on my porch reading something wonderful. I got Borders gift certificates for my pre-birthday and they are burning holes in my pocket book. But at this point, shouldn't I use them for school books?
I just tore through a book from my sister called Firefly Lane, a typical Chick Lit tome, which was not great but kept me reading. I think I'm past any Chick Lit phase I may have been in, if I ever was. Before that I read the middle chapters of My Stroke of Insight, a true story of a scientist who observed her own stroke while she was having it.
So, what next? I think I'll take a stroll (ha: scroll!) through my Amazon wish list and treat myself to just enough reading to get me through the month of August....

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Back from the wilderness

We're just back from camping, and it's a weird re-entry for me, into the real world. We were really off the grid, with very little internet access, and have only just started using camp stoves to cook with on camping trips, as opposed to cooking over the fire like we did for the first few years of our marriage. We stay fairly dirty while we're camping, and eat haphazardly, not on a regular schedule. We take naps, we sit by the fire and keep it going all day, we float lazily in the lake, we drown in bug spray, we wash the dishes in cold water.
So when we get back, it can be quite an adjustment. I feel luxuriously clean after my first home shower, and today I marveled at the uniformly cold food at my disposal, the warm water, the evenly cooked bacon. I always worry that we have missed something BIG in the world while we've been away (like the MICROBURSTS that hit our town this week!) and when I get back and jump back into the daily flow of things, I half expect people to be able to tell that I'm from an outside place- I feel like Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer for a few days.

It always rains when we camp. Always. My brother is now calling it "the Morin Effect", because as soon as we arrived at the campground this week, where they'd happily been romping in the bright sunshine since Sunday, the sprinkles started to come. But rain is part of what I love about camping. I love the creativity that is called for by camping out in the elements (in a tent). I love the teamwork that is required. I love the different way that everything has to be done, from putting together lunch to changing one's clothes. I love that for part of each day, there's little else to do but rest and read and relax.
I am happy to be back, but I miss the lake and the tent and the call of the loons. Maybe there's time for one more trip before the Summer's over?