Monday, October 17, 2011

A Melancholy Memory (sort of) in Honor of Friendlys

Friendly's is an institution in the Northeast. I just read the news that it's facing bankruptcy and in danger of closing. 

Since I started taking piano lessons at the age of 4, my parents would take me and my sister to Friendly's after our piano recitals as a special treat.  One time my parents let us share one of those big fat sundaes which we ate in six minutes flat.

I was never very good at piano. I didn't have any sort of natural skill and I didn't like practicing, but my piano teacher was a family friend who I loved, so I stuck with it long past when I should have given it up, more for her sake than for mine (and probably a little bit because of the Friendly's treat). My sister gave piano up at age 12, but I played until I was 16.

In what would be my last recital, I was to play Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata." It sounds like moonlight, soft and slow and quiet. It doesn't have the flash of faster pieces but the beauty is in the touch, which has to be light.

I hadn't practiced enough going into it, so I didn't have the piece memorized like everyone else did with their pieces. Not only that, but midway through I lost my place and had to play one particular phrase over and over again until I found where I was supposed to be.

As soon as I finished and sat down, I wanted to leave. I knew I hadn't done my best -- not even close to it. I was disappointed, and I tried to avoid everyone when I was done, even my piano teacher. One woman who managed to stop me told me, "I could tell that was a really hard piece," which in my mind was a really bad way of saying, "I understand why you were terrible."

When I was on my way out the door, a guy from my church who was a gifted piano player, stopped me with a hand on the shoulder. "Christina, listen, no matter how you did, everyone here loves you. Everyone wants to support you and encourage you. No one is here to judge you or put you down." At the time, I hated his words. I couldn't even look him in the face while he said it. I thought to myself, "No one wants to support me! I'm awful!"

At Friendly's I didn't finish my sundae. I felt like I was too big and too old for everything, for piano, for recitals, for sitting in a booth with my parents, for sundaes. I felt like my life was a poorly made sweater, and every time I tried to pull it or shift it around, it still felt uncomfortable.

I got over it, as adolescents do. Last year as my confirmation students were practicing their speeches for the church, one young girl in particular looked like she had on that poorly made sweater. Putting her face in her hands, she couldn't even start reading what she had written. Her speech was excellent, all about her friends going through hard times, and how God uses us when people are hurting. I told her it was excellent, but it didn't help.

"What's the worst thing you can imagine happening?" I asked.

"I'll mess up." she said, "People will laugh."

She reminded me of myself, trying to slip away from the piano recital And the words of this older boy came into my head, words at the time I had hated, words at the time that I hadn't believed. Words that suddenly became true when as a confident adult I was facing myself as a teenager, when the task of feeling comfortable in my own skin had felt completely impossible. I thought about this girl in front of me, terrified about exposing her thoughts in front of our congregation, and I thought of our congregation, and how proud they would be of her, and the words she was saying, and how much she had grown, even if she stumbled over her words or giggled in the middle of her speech. Everyone here loves you. Everyone wants to support you and encourage you. No one is here to judge you or put you down.

"Let me tell you a story," I said.

Monday, September 19, 2011

one sentence book reviews: catching up on the 25 book challenge (17 down, 8 to go)

ROOM, Emma Donoghue
Don't read if you don't like baby talk -- someday I'll learn that just because something's a best seller doesn't mean it's good.

Crooked Little Heart, Anne Lamott
I love me some Anne Lamott, and this is a beautiful picture of what it means to be a family figuring out adolescence. This is the kind of book that makes you feel like the characters are still off somewhere living their lives after you finish reading. Crap, that was two sentence. Now three! Curses.

Cracking Creativity, Michael Michalko
For a book on creativity, it sure is boring.

Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, Sherman Alexie
A good young adult book about a nerdy, skinny Native American kid trying to leave behind but still respect where he comes from, but not one that translates very well to adult reading.

Electric God, Catherine Ryan Hyde
I enjoyed this book, but I think it says something that I can't remember what it was about two months after the finishing it.

Governance and Ministry: Rethinking Board Leadership, Dan Hotchkiss
Man, I hate reading books like this, but as a necessary evil, there were some good tips on stuff they never teach you in seminary.

Push, Sapphire
So unflinching, a story of hope and resilience and the power of being given a voice.

Jim and Casper Go to Church, Jim Henderson
A Christian and an atheist go church-hopping, and the atheist gives an objective opinion of what church looks like to an outsider with little church experience. (Should be called Jim and Caspar go to Big Churches though, I was like "let's get some love for the little churches!!) (Parenthetical remarks don't count as sentences) (in case you were wondering)

Listening is an Act of Love, Dave Isay, editor
So. GREAT. (emphatic use of periods also don't count as sentences). Basically a book of true stories recorded all over the country, spanning 9/11, family illnesses, love stories, general amazingness.

Like Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
Another entertaining novel that I don't really remember

A Pale View of the Hills, Kazuo Ishiguro
See above

Love in the Present Day, Catherine Ryan Hyde
(Apparently I was on a Catherine Ryan Hyde kick). THIS one I remember, the story of a 20 something guy who ends up having to take in a 5 year old boy when his mother disappears.

Home Town, Tracy Kidder
(I debated counting this, because it was my "bathroom book," meaning I only read it in the bathroom --is that TMI? -- so it took me over a year to read it. But I finished it in 2011). I love the way Tracy Kidder sinks into the atmosphere he's writing about (in this case small town New England) and I especially loved the people he brought to life: the cop tied with tight strands to his home town, his troubled, abusive friend, the rich man with crippling anxiety, the single mom struggling in the upper class world of Smith College.

So there we are. All caught up and back in business. What are you reading?

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Three Things You Should Definitely Do in Charlottesville VA

Last week for a part of my vacation I went to visit some friends in Charlottesville, VA, totally missing Hurricane Irene.It rained a little on Saturday, but Sunday, the day folks back in Boston were "hunkering down" (if I had a dollar for every time a newscaster said some version of "hunkering down" in the days leading up to Irene, I would not need a face painting career)

Go to The Flat
The Flat is my friend Lauren's lovely little "takeaway creperie."  I lived with Lauren for two years and she's very good at making yummy things, but she is especially good at making crepes. She uses a lot of fresh, natural ingredients, and my personal favorites were the "Babe in the Woods" (local, woods-raised sausage, Chev and cheddar cheese, spinach, and onions) and the "Sexy Cheesemonger" (full disclosure: I did not try the Sexy Cheesemonger. But isn't that a great name?) If you can't get there, like them on facebook. It'll be almost the same thing.

Get coffee and see a band at Rapunzel's
 This little coffee shop/book store/entertainment venue is in Lovingston, VA. Here's the thing. Lovingston is like an hour outside of Charlottesville. Totally tiny town. Totally in the middle of nowhere. But yet there's this funky little spot with great coffee and an even greater atmosphere. My friends and I saw We Are Star Children, and the crowd there was a crazy mix of older people, goth teenagers, hippies, and kids. Awesome.

Experience The Waltons Mountain Museum
Of the "classic" TV shows my parents DVR and never watch, The Waltons is my favorite. The show always managed to keep a good balance between the weekly angst and hardship of Little House on the Prarie, and the aw, shucks wacky hijinks of Andy Griffith or Leave to Beaver (could anyone else not stand that Andy and Ward were ALWAYS right? I mean, could Aunt Bea or June have their day? I'm just sayin') Also, I  had a little crush on Jason, with his high waisted pants and his earnest piano playing and guitaring.


Anyway, The Walton's Mountain Museum is in an old elementary school in Schuyler, VA. Two older women sit inside at a round table and shuffle over when you show up to collect your name and your $8.00. Some of the highlights of the museum:
  • Taking your photo with Ike and Corabeth cutouts at the general store
  • Measuring yourself against all the Waltons (I'm shorter than Jason -- phew!)
  • Seeing a real, locally confiscated recipe machine (recipe=moonshine, obvi)
  • Experiencing just how much Waltons paraphenelia there is in the world (John Boy and Mary Ellen paper dolls, anyone?)
  • Appreciating Earl Hamner for the prolific writer he was. Earl Hamner wrote the Waltons based on his own life (he was John Boy), but he also wrote the film story for Charlotte's Web, the TV movies of Heidi and Lassie, episodes of The Wild Thornberrys, as well as the decidedly less family friendly fare of The Long Hot Summer.
In conclusion: Eat Crepes. Drink Coffee. See Jason.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

8 things I do in my car with my broken radio

About 6 months ago, my radio died. The CD that was in the CD player (a podcast, which is entertaining but doesn't stand up to multiple listening) wouldn't come out. The radio, which was on a soft rock/adult contemporary station (Magic 106.7), wouldn't change stations. As a result I've spent a lot of time in my car, listening to soft rock or sitting in silence.

1. actually listen to Magic 106.7. This has mixed results. There are songs that Magic 106.7 loves to play, and I have grown to hate those songs (if I ever liked them. If they were songs I hated already, now they make me shake with rage -- what's that song about someone being your crying shoulder and love's suicide. OH. MY. GOSH. That song burns my brain). The other day Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" came on and I almost cried, I was so happy to hear something that I actually liked.

2. gripe about all the songs that Magic could play, but doesn't. Soft rock, right (what does soft rock even MEAN)? Adult contemporary? Easy listening? Why don't they ever play folk? That would fit into that category. There are a million Sarah McLachlan songs they could play but they only "Angel." What about all the other Tracy Chapman songs?

3. make up stories. Someday I'm going to pay my way through a doctorate by writing a series of novels about a single female pastor in the city, all the terrible dates she goes on, and all the quirky experiences she has with her church. I use my time in the car to think up how I can change my real life stories to make them unrecognizable, or making up fake stories.

4. organize my life. Grocery lists, plans for how I'm going to start cleaning my apartment more often, in a structured way. Of course, these organizational plans don't usually come out of my car, but at least I think them.

5. call people who don't pick up the phone. The problem with being a pastor is that I'm driving around when other people are working. So I want to talk on the phone to amuse myself, and if my friends do pick up the phone, they're not likely wanting to chat. They are more likely to say, "What? I'm working."

6. sing to myself, usually show tunes. I can get very animated doing this. "Tell them how IIIIII'MMMMM deFYing GRAAAAvity!"

7. think about what might be playing on NPR. Sometimes this makes me sad, sometimes it makes me happy. Magic has almost no talk, and sometimes I want the latest news or weather.  But sometimes I think, "if this was NPR, they'd be talking drearily about the economy again." I'm ok with avoiding that.*

8. plan my face painting career. A early in June we had a children's singer come to our church who usually charges $400 for an HOUR's worth of entertainment. He was entertaining, but not so entertaining that I would ever pay him $400. But someone does, so he's clearly doing something right. So I got to thinking about what I could do in one hour that would earn a lot of money. Legally, of course. I came up with face painting, but if you have other ideas, pass 'em on.

*UPDATE: since composing this post my radio had a moment where all the buttons worked. I took that moment to change the station to NPR, drearily talking about the economy (except for a few days ago when they were talking to a guy who wrote a whole book on bananas. Weird!) Also I got a radio for my birthday that has yet to be installed. So things are looking up.

Friday, May 20, 2011

"We see from where we stand" -- Haitian proverb

A few days ago I was driving through Hyde Park.  I stopped at a stop sign, for 3 seconds like the good citizen I am, and then proceeded.

I wasn't on the phone, or changing the radio station (because I can't change the radio station, my car's stuck on Magic 106.7), but for some reason I wasn't paying enough attention, and as I proceeded I cut off a woman who was crossing the street.

She stopped short and glared at me. "Fucking bitch!" she said, loud enough for me to hear.

I was shocked, at first. I wanted to stop and say, "No, wait, I'm sorry, I didn't see you, I'm actually a really nice person! I'm a pastor, for goodness sakes!" Then I thought of all the times that someone cuts me off when I'm walking or driving, and I think something similar in my head (with less colorful language, but just as angry: "ok buddy, you're in SUCH a hurry.")

The truth is, maybe the driver who cuts me off IS in a hurry. Maybe he's a nice guy who wasn't paying attention. Maybe the woman who yelled at me was having a bad day. Maybe I was one in a long line of people who weren't paying attention to her, and she was sick of it. She and I are only seeing from where we each stand, looking at the situation from our own individual perspectives, and that makes her short tempered with a potty mouth, and me self centered with little concern for others.

It's easy to see from where we stand. But it's also only half the picture.


Friday, April 08, 2011

2 times I didn't say anything, and 1 time I did

Where I grew up, there was this old school mom and pop soda shop called Emmanuel's.  It was run by a mother and her two grown children, and I would spend Saturdays leaning over the counter picking out nickel and dime candy.  In high school we would go there everyday after school, crowding around a table, sharing one plate of fries, sitting for a couple hours and most likely being borderline obnoxious, as one is prone to do when you're young and surrounded by friends that make you laugh and blush.

One afternoon, there were four of us girls and two boys, one who was white and one who was black.  While we were eating, the mother came over and said to the boys, "You can't stay here and not buy anything."

They were confused, as we were all eating off one plate of fries, but one of them said, "OK, can I have a Coke, then?"  But she refused, and kicked both the boys out.  Once they left, she turned back to us.

"You girls are nice girls, you shouldn't be hanging out with boys like that.  They're maggots, those black boys.  Maggots." And then she left us.  We stared at each other, silent, and then gathered up our stuff and left.  We never went back again.


One summer during college I was in Dunkin Donuts and there were a few young black kids in front of me in line.  They got some donuts, and left, and the older white police officer who was standing behind me said, "We've got names for kids like that."  And then he chuckled.


In college I was in a group called Students Organized Against Racism (SOAR).  We went bowling, and I was driving some of the students home in my old Dodge when we got pulled over, because I'm from Boston and a bit of a speed racer.  In the front with me was my friend, an African-American female, and there were two Middle Eastern guys and an African-American girl in the back seat.

The police officer came up to the window and asked who we were and where we were going, as I started to explain, he shone his flashlight into the back seat.  "Show me your hands," he said, shining his flashlight into the  faces of the students in the back.  When they were slow in responding, he shouted, "SHOW ME YOUR HANDS!"

I remember thinking at the time that he actually sounded scared, instead of mean or angry.  Now, I try to imagine this situation from his point of view, not knowing that we were coming from something as innocent as bowling, possibly having had bad experiences with Colby students before, maybe being new on the job (he was quite young).

He called for backup.  With the other police car there, he collected all of our IDs and ended up giving the students in the backseat seatbelt violations, and letting me go without a ticket.  In the morning, I wrote a (pretty mild) letter to the police station that said the officer's actions could have been perceived as racist. I explained that I got off, even though I was endangering my whole vehicle and my friends were only endangering themselves.  The police chief called me a few days later.

"I spoke to the office in question," he said, "he said he's not racist."

We talked for a while longer, but that was as far as he was willing to go investigating the case.  I hung up feeling helpless.  It was my first time (or most significant time thus far) learning that not everything could be fixed.


When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak. 
--Audra Lorde

Saturday, March 19, 2011

extra short story: companions

When I was little I wanted to be a writer.  I wrote a LOT, about adventurous girls who joined circuses or ate magical candy bars that sped them into places unknown. Those stories are probably pretty embarrassing to read now, but maybe someday I'll find an old story and post it for you, if you're good.  The older I got, the less I wrote, which I didn't like.  Part of my motivation for (re)starting this blog was to follow through on my new year's resolution to write more, creatively, which can take may many forms, the extra short story being one of them.  This is a work of fiction with some real life details (I'll leave you to decide what those are).


When the woman gets on the train, there is a young boy in a black button down shirt and jeans, yelling and barking. He's not mentally ill, as far as she can tell, he just thinks it's funny to make people uncomfortable by being louder than acceptable on the train. He throws himself on the floor of the train, and the girl who is sitting three seats down from the woman threatens, mostly to herself, that she will stick her umbrella in his eye if he falls on her again. She says this with a lot more curse words. He pretends not to hear, but he doesn't come near her again.

At Haymarket the woman gets off, walking through the North End towards her friend's apartment. This is a night for dating, she sees. It's still warm enough for many of the restaurants to leave the windows open, and there are couples sitting at tables, touching hands or clutching coffee mugs to avoid it. Some of these are probably first dates, she thinks, as she walks by two men in Caffe Vittoria. The one facing her is wearing a jaunty hat and too hip glasses – he is trying hard, she thinks, but she likes it.

Unbidden, the image of the older man who sometimes comes into the coffee shop where she works appears in her mind. She doesn't know much about him, if he's married, or if he hides his money under his mattress, only that they talk about faith and luck. She finds conversations with him interesting, moreso than the dates she's been on, with the guys who can't stop going on about their dead cats or their unwritten screenplays. He is nearly twice her age, but she suddenly wonders if they might ever be seated like this, across a table over gelato.  

At the end of the night, full of gnocchi, she trails sleepily down the steps towards the subway platform, past two men, one who is blind. The man who can see is at the bottom, counting as his friend slowly edges downward. "Three more," he says, watching the cautious movements, "Now two."  On the platform is a boy on a bike, with two girls. One girl says, “Leave me alone!” and moves past him to an alcove, where she hides, but she is smiling. The boy goes after her until only his back tire is sticking out of the alcove. They're talking quietly, and her friend moves a little closer but not too close, leaning against a pole and playing with her phone. She flicks her eyes up every now and then when she hears a giggle or a hush.

There are just a few people left on the train at the woman's stop. She holds her keys in her hand. As she walks away from the station, she thinks for a moment that her car might not be where she's left it, that there might be a blank space on the street instead of her slumped little sedan. But as she gets closer she can see it, sagging to the right where the front tire is leaking, waiting quietly in the lowlit street.

Monday, March 07, 2011

vehicle chronicles, vol. 1

My first car was a 1986 Dodge Aries (a K car, a nice Reliant automobile) that I inherited from my aunt when she passed away.  I already had good memories of it -- my aunt used to park in the back of the church, and at the end of the service, after she stayed to listen to the very end of the postlude to clap for the organist, I would walk her out to the car.  She would slump into it and slam the door, which stuck, and would creak slowly and then close with a loud crack.

My aunt was very smart, very funny, and very blunt, but not in the share-about-your-feelings kind of way.  More in the "ok, it's time for you to go home now, I'm tired of talking to you" kind of way. Once when I was staying at her house she turned off Rags to Riches right in the middle and said, "That's enough TV for you." WHAT?!

But anyway, one Sunday I walked her out to the car and at the door, I said, "You're walking really well, you don't actually need me to walk you out here."

"I know," she said.

"So why do you want me to do it?"

"Because I love you!" she said, and gave me a whack on the cheek, "OK?"

That was the first and only time she told me she loved me.

She passed away in June 1997.  I took her car up to college in the fall.  It was light blue, and it had a bench front seat, so I could fit six people in the car with seat belts, which made me a popular driver.  The car was old, but it didn't have a lot of miles on it because my aunt only ever took it to church or the store.

Once my friends and I drove up to this truck stop diner that was open 24 hours and basically the only option for excitement when you're at school in central Maine and you don't drink alcohol.  As we were getting out of the car, a young guy getting out of his car stopped and pointed to the Colby College sticker I had on the back window.  "You guys go to Colby?" he said.

"Yeah...." I said.

"I thought all Colby kids drove Beamers and Benzes!" he said, looking admiringly at us.

"Not this Colby kid," I said.

"That's awesome," he said, and then knelt down in front of me, "YOU'RE awesome.  Will you marry me?"

Midnight, late 90s, at a truck stop in central Maine, while I was wearing sweatpants -- my first marriage proposal.  I said no.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

the REAL pros and cons of living in Boston

It has come to my attention that there is a lot of traffic to this blog from the google search "pros and cons of living in Boston," which leads people to this post, which is, sad to say, mostly about how I like to wear slippers.  For some reason, that post is like the 5th result of the above google search, which is probably due to some crazy math algorithms I don't understand.  I am actually amazed I spelled algorithm right on the first try.

I feel sorry for those people, so here is an ACTUAL post about the pros and cons of living in Boston.  Bear in mind that is coming from a native's perspective.

Things I love about Boston
1. Small in size.  In Boston, if I am lost (which has happened often), and I find a street I recognize, I can turn down it, and it won't take too long to get somewhere helpful.  I tried that technique once in Chicago and ended up an hour away on the opposite side of the city.

2. Dunkin Donuts everywhere.  Mmmmm, iced coffee.

3. Public transportation is relatively cheap

4. You can get away from the city without too much hassle. The ocean is easily accessible, as are trees and other such outdoor prettiness

5. Something for everyone. Sports if you're into that.  Culture (museums, musicals, symphony, universities, live music, libraries) if you're into that.  History, if you're into that.  Progressive politics, if you're into that.

6. Seasons.  I lived in New Jersey for two years, and I actually was sad about the mild winters (and rolled my eyes the time school was cancelled for two inches of snow).  I like that as soon as you're getting tired of one season, the next one is creeping in.

7. "I got her numbah -- how do you like them apples?"

Things I'm not as excited about:
1. People do drive kinda crazily. I'll admit it.

2. Things close down early.  The T stops between midnight and one, bars/clubs between one and two.  You're hard pressed to find something open 24 hours that's not a Dunkin Donuts (not a bad thing, see above).  However, this does not bother me as much now as it did when I was younger.  Now I'm like, "Oh, it's closing!  Guess I have no choice but to go home and snuggle under my covers!"

3. We still have work to do: For all of our progressive politics, there is still a lot of segregation and division in the city.  Between races, Boston natives and people who come for work/school, and especially between economic classes.  You can get on a subway car at one end of the city and ride it into another and see the demographics change entirely.

4. Stuff's expensive.  I don't really have a lot to compare this to, because I've only ever lived in cities, but my friends who live in smaller towns are always like, "My rent is $20!" Not the case in the Bean.

5. It's REALLY hard to give directions. Boston streets are NOT on a grid system. One time a guy pulled over in Hyde Park (where I live) and asked me how to get to the Prudential (the absurdity of this will make more sense to people familiar with Boston).  In my head I was thinking, "Park and take the Orange Line." (I am torn about whether or not this is really a con: see below)

Things people say about Boston that I beg to differ with:
1. "People are unfriendly!"  We're not unfriendly, we're just cautious.  Why are you saying hi to me if you don't know me?  Sometimes you're being courteous, sometimes you want me to sign onto your crazy website that has pictures of Obama with a Hitler mustache.  I'm just sayin'

If you want an in, however, crazy-website people, Bostonians will ALWAYS talk about the weather.

2. "It's so difficult to navigate!"  I will admit, it's easy to get lost in Boston.  But that's only because the city has so much character!  No grids here, the streets are old cow paths (source of information: my dad).  The first weekend I lived in Chicago, I parked like 8 blocks away from my apartment because everything looked so similar there.  That will never happen in Boston!

Final Verdict: 
 I like it here.  Maybe you will too. :)

Monday, February 28, 2011

please bear with my American Idol enthusiasm :)

OK, the first thing I have to say is that I love love LOVE Steven Tyler.  Who knew?  I had "Crazy" on my mixtapes in high school, but I think I always thought he was a little weird.  But him as a judge on Idol?  I could watch him all day long.  He just really loves music and people singing well, and it totally shows. 

In general, he and J. Lo. are a breath of fresh air, and they make Randy a gentler judge as well.  I am SO excited about this season.  

I usually hate the auditions portion of Idol.  I skipped group night, but I caught up on some of the solo performances and Beatles night, and I have got to say without any reservation that this group is SUPER talented.  There wasn't anyone I was listening to that made me go "whhaaaaaa?"  and there were so many that I listened to that made me go "YEAH!"

So, without further ado, my three favorite guys...

1. Jacob Lusk.  OMG listen to this guy sing this song.  He's not just singing, he's sanging, with his whole self.  And he's a goober who wears shiny sneakers and goes to church.  Love him.

look at the judges' reactions here -- THAT'S why I love them. Also, my mom loved him, but that is probably because this song talks about God.

2. Paul McDonald.  Love his funky, raspy voice. 

Also, he's cute :)

3. Casey Abrams.  This dude brought a BASS on American Idol.  Who does that?  I'll tell you.  People I love.

and my three favorite girls...

1. Naima Adedapo.  I saw her audition and loved her then, and now I love her more. She's a mom, who cleans toilets for work, she can really sing, she's totally gorgeous, and she has the best earrings in the whole competition.

2. Thia Megia.  She's 15, but she sings and talks like she's 30.  She has a GREAT style..there were so many girls who were wearing tight booty shorts and/or leather miniskirts.  But she wears jeans and Cosby sweaters. 

3. Rachel Zevita.  I can see how her personality can get a little grating, but her voice is really interesting.  She has a nice low register, and I love a girl with a nice low register (what's up Tracy Chapman)

So who's ready for season 10?!? I am!

Friday, February 25, 2011

and that settles it, except when it doesn't (3.5 down, 22.5 to go)

‎"The only way that the Bible can be regarded as straightforward and simple is if no one bothers to read it" -- Jennifer Knust

In seminary I had to write a paper responding to the phrase: The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it. This is simple and succinct. It will fit on a car bumper. You can throw it out in a discussion and it sounds authoritative and like it should stop all conversation.  That's settles it! We're done here! There's no need for questions, because what the Bible says is what the Bible says, right? If you were holy and righteous, you'd agree.

But from the time I really started digging into the Bible, just after high school, through Intervarsity and the Christian ministry I worked in after college, through my time at seminary until now, I've decided that the above pithy conclusion is not as helpful as it seems.  It's one of those six impossible things that Alice in Wonderland believed before breakfast.  What we should actually say is: The Bible says a lot of things, some not as clearly as others, and I'm left to wrestle and pray and listen with the Spirit and a lot of other people who have a lot of questions too.  That doesn't really fit that well on a bumper sticker.

I'm coming at this from an evangelical perspective.  I love the Bible, I respect it, I view it as authoritative, I look to it when I am challenged or confused or discouraged or joyful.  I use it as a guide to my life and believe that the Holy Spirit reveals Godself and God's plan for creation through it.  But that doesn't mean that I automatically always understand everything I read,  and that doesn't mean I haven't changed how I view some things that I've read in the Bible.  The Bible says it, and I try to understand it, and sometimes I believe one way and then am challenged by other passages in the Bible or a sermon or a friend or a dream or a prayer or a song, and nothing ever settles it, not even remotely (also too long for a bumper sticker).

Part of this thought process has been spurred by the recent conversation in our denomination around sexuality, and some reading I've been doing as a result.  I am halfway through Unprotected Texts by Jennifer Knust, a very interesting book with the central thesis that there is not one consistent Biblical ethic on sexuality.  This is right after reading a few other books/articles whose authors would say just the opposite.  It doesn't seem to me that any of the authors I have read want to abandon Scripture, rather they all handle Scripture very carefully and with great respect.  They are scholars and pastors, and (it seems) people of great and earnest faith.  So how is it that they have come down on different sides of the conversation?

It leaves me with two questions:

Can two people equally uphold the authority of Scripture, equally seek to love God and neighbor in all that they do, and still have different interpretations about what the Bible teaches?  And if so, what are we supposed to do about that?  

I think the answer to the first question is yes.  The second question is one that has not yet been settled.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

come help me study the Psaaaaaalms

A single youth pastor finds her students much invested in her love life.  Once about a year and a half ago I brought some students to a sandwich shop and had an approx. five minute conversation with the guy who took our order.  An elaborate love story was concocted from that brief conversation, and this guy would pop up in conversation all the time.  I would say, "I'm going to to NH this week," and they would say, "with Dave from the Real Deal?" and I would say, "No......."

Every guy who has ever come with me to church they have asked about (and almost every time the answer has been "No, just friends" -- an answer they are very disappointed by). 

For the most part, I find it endearing.  Most teenagers are natural matchmakers, and ultimately, they just want to see me happy, which is sweet. With all this investment, however, comes advice, good, bad, and ugly. 

Just the other night, I had this conversation with a young adult.
Her: If you like someone, you should just tell them that you like them.
Me: Just like that.
Her: Yeah, like 'I like you.'
Me: And then what if they don't like you back.
Her: Then you're salted.  I mean, you're really sauced. Your feelings are really, really hurt.  But then it's over and you don't have to think about it.

I had no response to that because it was so wise and yet also the scariest thing in the world.

Him: You should go down to the [Boston] Common if you want to meet someone.
Me: OK, so I go to the Common and then what?
Him: You just go up to someone and say, 'Do you have the time?' and then start a conversation from there.
Me: But what do you talk about after you ask the time?
Him: If you don't know how to talk to people, I can't help you...want me to go with you?
Me: NO.

Somehow, the idea of walking around the Common asking guys the time with a teenage wingman just doesn't seem like it's going to bear much fruit

Her: What's going with the boyfriend situation? It should be easy -- it's not even like you want someone cute, you don't care if they're ugly, they just got to be godly...just ask them to come help you study Psaaaaaaaalms.   *eyebrow waggle*

Enough said. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

for Valentine's Day

because that last post wasn't very Valentine-y, and I actually really like Valentine's Day.

This scene embedded Duckie in my affections. I would have a hard time turning down any man who would lip sync for me :)

Why I love Anne Lamott and a story of failure (3 down, 22 left to go)

I love Anne Lamott.

I just finished Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, which is the third book I've read by her.  I love how honest she is, how willing she is to say when she doesn't understand something, or doesn't do something well, or struggles with her faith.  I love how completely she trusts in God's grace.  I love how she says things that other people think but would be to afraid to say.  I love the utter vulnerability in her writing, not looking for sympathy, not running herself down, not getting caught up in her failures, doing nothing less than truth telling.  We all have said mean things when we're angry, we all have been unforgiving, we all have wanted to be right more than we've wanted to be kind, we all have felt uncomfortable or anxious in our own skin, we all have been ungrateful, we have all doubted God or God's goodness -- it's just that so few of us want to talk about it.

Once at a pastor's meeting we were asked to share a moment of failure.  It was a bold request -- we didn't really know each other well enough to trust each other with our most difficult moments.  Some pastors responded with successes masked in failure language ("I am too was a time when I gave too much of myself").  Some responded with funny stories about minor mishaps -- more embarrassing moments than failures.  Some responded with serious stories -- failing out of school, marriage difficulties. Then it was my turn.

When I was in NJ, I was running a summer program for jr. highers in the inner city. At the end of the day, I was usually tired.  Probably not more tired than my staff, but I was the leader and that came with perks, one of which was waiting upstairs for the bus while my staff watched the kids downstairs.  Part of me told myself it would be better for me to be downstairs with the kids, but the other part of me whispered "You have worked hard.  You're in charge."  So I sat on the steps upstairs, waiting for the bus to pick up the kids from outside the neighborhood.

I was on the steps one day as C's dad showed up. It was her third day of camp; she was a girl with slight special needs and so her parents didn't want her walking home by herself.  They told me they would pick her up.  "Oh," I said, "she's downstairs."  He nodded and smiled and went downstairs.  I leaned back against the doorframe.

C's dad came back upstairs.  "She's not down there."

I went back down with him, my face beginning to flush.  "She must be" I thought to myself. But my staff shrugged their shoulders.  Her father was very quiet; I knew his heart must be pounding worse than mine.  I ran into the bathroom, which was empty. I stayed in there an extra second, wishing her feet would appear under a stall. I dreaded going back out and facing her father with my hands empty.  I started justifying things in my head, asking why my staff had been slacking, why they hadn't paid more attention to her, but I hadn't told them that her dad picked her up, that her parents were worried about her walking home, that they should generally keep a better eye on her. Even as I tried to pass off blame in my head, I felt it resting on me, heavy as a stone.

Her father and I got in his car, and started driving slowly around the city. I said nothing. I couldn't look at him. I prayed in my head, and every part of my body was burning and frozen at the same time.  When we drove by her grandmother's house, he stopped suddenly, because she was standing in the doorway, smiling.  I smiled too, like it changed what I had done, like her safety made my mistake smaller.  I said, "Thank God," and told her father I was sorry, but he said nothing in return, just dropped me back off at the program.  She never came back to camp.

That was my failure story.  It didn't get any laughs.  If you have seen me run a summer program now, you know I am constantly counting kids, looking for kids, checking on kids.  I spend my time on field trips with my arms crossed, eyes moving back and forth.  I am much more vigilant when I'm in charge of young people.  That lesson has been learned.  What I am still learning is how to accept and admit mistakes, to say, "It was my fault," full stop, with no excuses or qualifications.  In some ways, that was, and still is the harder lesson.

I think we get scared to admit our failure because failure inevitably has consequences, and because one of those consequences might be that people stop loving you and starting thinking bad things about you, and maybe even God gets upset at you and stops loving you.

I love Anne Lamott because she can say "I did a dumb thing. It was stupid or dangerous or wrong, and it was my fault."  I love her because she can say that, facing the inevitable consequences, and still believe that she is totally loved by God.  Because she is!  We all are, no matter what we do -- nothing is so bad that God stops loving us. That's a lesson the church, especially pastors, have to do a better job of teaching.
"You were loved because God loves, period. God loved you, and everyone, not because you believed in certain things, but because you were a mess, and lonely, and His or Her child. God loved you no matter how crazy you felt on the inside, no matter what a fake you were; always, even in your current condition, even before coffee. God loves you crazily, like I love a slightly overweight auntie, who sees only your marvelousness and need."  --Anne Lamott

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Beauty: a post about the book that sort of spirals out of control (2 down, 23 to go)

This story was mildly entertaining, but not nearly as creative or interesting as Gregory Maguire's stuff (Wicked, The Ugly Stepsister). It doesn't create a whole new world, it more fleshes out the existing world of the fairy tale.

The thing I liked the best was that Beauty is the character's name, but not a descriptor. She's short, plain, and tomboyish, especially compared to her willowy sisters. She's rough around the edges and is more interested in her gigantic horse than she is in meeting. She and the Beast were both Beasts, in a way, both having to overcome the beastliness in each other to fall in love

(SPOILER)! Until the end, when it turns out she was beautiful all along, she just didn't realize. Silly girl. And the Beast was in love with her from the beginning, before he knew her, because she was so beautiful. If you couldn't tell, I did not like this plot twist.

I have a funny relationship with beauty. Like most people, there are days when I feel like nothing is going right with my face and hair, and there are days when I feel quite lovely. There are days when I start off confident and striding down the street like I'm on a catwalk and I end up wanting to curl up into a little ball. Once I was telling a friend that I would rather someone like me for my intelligence rather than how I look, and he said, "But you're basically born with your intelligence, too. So you're just exchanging something genetic that you can't control for something ELSE that's genetic that you can't control."

To which I said, "Shut up, Friend'sName."

There's a lot that could be said about the nature of beauty. More than I have the brain power to think about now. But Angela Chase (main character in my all time favorite show, My So Called Life) sums it up nicely:
Sometimes it seems like we're all living in some kind of prison. And the crime is how much we hate ourselves. It's good to get really dressed up once in a while. And admit the truth: that when you really look closely? People are so strange and so complicated that they're actually... beautiful. Possibly even me.

Monday, February 07, 2011

In the bleak Midwinter

I've been in Chicago for the past week, at a pastor's conference and then vay to the cationing at a friend's. Yes, I was here for the BLIZZARD TO END ALL BLIZZARDS! I left the hotel for dinner Monday night and then did not breathe fresh air again until Friday afternoon. On Friday afternoon I ventured to my friend's house and saw first hand the havoc the blizzard hath wrought. As a Bostonian who has lived through at least 4 significant snowstorms (5?) since Christmas, I was not impressed with the unplowed streets and the snowy sidewalks. I smiled wryly at the lawn chairs and cardboard boxes holding people's shoveled- out- spots. 'Mayor Menino would kick your butt for those offenses!' I said to myself.

Oh the conference? It was good. The best part for me is always sitting around late at night hashing out theology and ministry with friends. It makes me nostalgic for my time in seminary, when we would have those conversations everywhere, around the dining room table, over coffee in the seminary lounge, in the basement kitchen, in the computer lab. Every block had a classmate or a colleague or a professor. I knew at the time it was a temporary community, that in time we would be all over the country in our own ministry settings, but this annual conference brings me back.

I also went to two excellent seminars and the morning session speaker was very good. Here are some of my favorite quotes:

From John Perkins, Monday night:
"God loves us. Conversion is our attempt to love God back."

"The darker the night, the brighter the light"

From Al Tizon, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday morning:
"I believe in evangelism despite evangelism."

"If we want people to believe the words we say, nothing gives us more credibility than advocating for the poor."

"Justice is what love looks like in public" --Al quoting Cornel West

From Jay Phelan, in a seminar on eschatology:
"The church is the taste on the tongue of the kingdom of God."

"[The church] has gone from a community representing God's promises, to a group of individuals experiencing God's presence"

From Michelle Clifton-Soderstrom and Doug Wysockey-Johnson, in a seminar on moving from consumerism to stewardship (doing more with less)

"God comes to us disguised as our lives." -quoting Richard Rohr (I'm still unpacking this one)

Finally, on Thursday night, there was a forum, not affiliated with the conference or the with the denomination. In this forum, three pastors from the denomination shared their stories, two of being parents of gay sons, and one gay himself. The conversation of the church's relationship with the GLBT community, in our denomination at least, has not been very public or open, and it was painful to hear the stories of people who felt shut out because of their sexual orientation, or their child's sexual orientation. It wasn't a theological forum, it was a listening forum, a story forum, because while we can argue theological points, we can't argue with people's stories or experiences or feelings. My denomination is wonderful in many ways (having an annual conference to refresh and renew pastors is one of those ways), but learning how to dialogue well about homosexuality, without fear or division, is a growing edge for us. This forum was a good start.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

dream on, jenny from the block

I love American Idol.

I said it.

I was so excited that it was on last night, and I couldn't wait to go over my parent's house to watch the DVR-ed version this morning. I'll say something else that might be unpopular. I'm glad that Simon Cowell is gone. I'm glad the whole judging panel is starting afresh (except for Randy) with people who have not developed personas like "the mean one" or "the nice one" or "the drunk one."

Simon Cowell was mean, and mean people make me tired. This new judging panel (Randy, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, and Jennifer Lopez, for those who aren't following along breathlessly) said no to people, but didn't tell them that they sounded like dying cats or singers on a cruise ship that's sinking. They also didn't seem like they were all seething with rage under the surface. The only trace of the former meanness was when Randy would laugh at the people who were bad.

I know some people like the meanness. I know some people only watch the auditions because they like seeing people who can't sing get made fun of. I'm sorry for those people (not really), but I am much happier now.

Of course, it was just the first episode. The rage may still come. There may be annoying quirks. Steven Tyler was displaying a few signs of creepiness as they showed a montage of PYTs talking about how much they loved him. But as someone who stopped watching Idol last year midway through (something I had NEVER done before) because I just didn't care, I'm excited because this time around has a good feel. I think the show might have pulled back from the edge. I'm looking forward to it, not in an ironic, detached, watching it to mock it because I'm above it sort of way, but in an ACTUAL, legitimate, fangirl-squealing sort of way.

Singers I liked:
This guy, even though he flubbed it a little in the middle and he kind of sounded Bobcat Goldthwaite (am I alone in thinking that?). Loved that S. Ty got excited about the song and joined in.

This girl because she's interesting (although "God Bless the Child" is a song Idol should not let people sing anymore, along with "Somewhere over the Rainbow" and "Hallelujah" -- PLEASE DON'T ANYONE EVER SING "HALLELUJAH" EVER AGAIN...ahem), but she did some fun things with it:

And this girl, because she's young but didn't seem over-rehearsed, but can sing like a beast:

Friday, January 14, 2011

xooting along

The way my budget works I have a little money every month to store up for a big purchase or to spend frivolously on a lot of little stuff. There are two purchases that I'd like to make sooner rather than later: getting my hair cut, and a car radio.

Let me tell you about my car radio. 3 years ago, when I bought the car, one of my only stipulations was that it needed a CD player. So much so that when I test drove the car, I noticed the CD player and not the fact that the car didn't have automatic windows or locks*

*Haters, you can laugh all you want, but I locked myself out of my previous car more often than I could count. Doesn't happen anymore. Also, if I get submerged in a lake, it's easier to get out with rolly windows. ALSO, the universal sign for lowering your car window is still a pantomine of rolling. So, I win at life.

About two weeks ago, I was listening to NPR, and all of a sudden my radio started making alien noises. Like, weird high pitched screeching. I tried different channels, and all that did was leave the radio finally stuck on KISS 108, the local pop station. So if it's not playing alien noises, it's playing Katy Perry. Which is not the worst thing in the world, but I miss NPR and my daily dose of how the economy is still terrible. The CD that I had been listening to (a bunch of stories from t
he Moth Podcast) will still play, but I can't switch tracks or eject it. The stories are good, but not that good. POINT: I am usually in the car in silence now.

And I need a haircut because I hate it when my hair gets long and I have to keep pulling it out of my collar.

BUT, once those two things are paid for, I think I am going to save up and get this:

So cool, right!? My friend Dubie has one and uses it all over NYC. It's bigger and more stable than a Razor, and you can fold it up and carry it with you. Awesome.

I have a bike, but the bike makes me nervous in a way that this doesn't really. Maybe because I can always just jump off it, and I can ride it on the sidewalk, and not on the street where crazy Boston drivers will run me over.

I figure it'll be too cold to get this before March, so I have a little time to save. But aren't you so excited to see me scooting (or xooting) along?? Of course you are.

a story of violent faith

1 down, 24 more to go

I started Under the Banner of Heaven a while ago, but I just finished it.

I LOVE Jon Krakauer. I couldn't put down either Into Thin Air, or Into the Wild (although I always wondered why the titles were so similar -- as a word-person, that kind of annoyed me. Is that weird?). I read those books and part of me wanted to chuck my worldly belongings and hike into nature. Luckily I can appease that part of me by going for a nice walk through my neighborhood instead.

For some reason, I couldn't quite get into Under the Banner of Heaven. The main story, which looks at the murder of a young woman, Brenda Lafferty, and her infant daughter at the hands of her two brothers-in-law, Mormon fundamentalists, is interesting enough, but the history of the Mormon faith gets a little long and convoluted (kind of like this sentence).

One note of interest. It's clear throughout the book that Krakauer doesn't think a lot of organized religion, but he says something really beautiful at the end, in reference to his own agnosticism To quote,

And if I remain in the dark about our purpose here, and the meaning of eternity, I have nevertheless arrived at an understanding of a few more modest truths: Most of us fear death. Most of us yearn to comprehend how we got here, and why -- which is to say most of us ache to know the love of our creator. And we will no doubt feel that ache, most of us, for as long as we happen to be alive.

I'm not an agnostic, I'm a Christian pastor, but I agree with him here. Where we might differ is whether or not that ache will ever be satisfied in a meaningful way. I long to feel the love of my creator. Do I feel it all day, every day? No. Have I felt it before, powerfully? Most definitely. See the post below on the Sunday after Besher's death. My heart felt like it was torn but I also have never felt so strongly like I was being held, not just by the people around me, but by the love of my creator.

At the end of the book, I wondered what inspired Krakauer to write it. Was it these modest truths? What it the ache to know the love of the creator? Was it curiosity? Krakauer says he grew up with Saints and was simultaneously envious and baffled by their certainty of faith -- the book feels like a response to that envy and bafflement.

Bottom line: The history got dull, but I enjoyed the rare moments when Krakauer's heart came through. C.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Obligatory New Year's Post, Pt. 3 (Looking Forward)

What do you want more of in the year ahead and what do you want less of?
More productivity and less lazy internet dawdling. I'm not counting blog posting as lazy internet dawdling. I'm counting that as writing.

What resolution for the new year do you think someone else would write for you?
Most people would tell me to rest more, that I work too hard, but they don't know about all my lazy internet dawdling.

What resolution for the new year would you want to write for yourself?
Write more. I have not written a poem in a year. That makes me pretty sad and grumpy with myself.
Read more. I don't know if I'm up to a 50 book challenge, but I'm up for a 25 book challenge. For January:Under the Banner of Heaven, and After You Believe.
Learn enough of the guitar to play songs at Brighter City Summer Program this year.

That's what I'm going to start with. There are lots more resolutions I could make but the more I make the less I will keep. So we'll start with that, and maybe in 3 months I can tell you if I'm ready for more. Thanks for listening. One more try, blog world.

Obligatory New Year's Post, Pt. 2 (Dig a Little Deeper)

All but one of these questions deal with something profound that happened in August -- for the second time, I lost a young person in my youth ministry. This time, it was a young man who had been very faithful to our group, a quiet, laid back guy who didn't go looking for trouble. I was profoundly affected by his death.

What relationships meant a lot to you this year?
Since B's death, the conversations I've had with a lot of my young people have had a gravity to them that didn't exist before. I have appreciated the deepening of our relationships, even if it came from a terrible situation.

What was your happiest memory?
This is recent too -- a few weeks ago my dad had a medical emergency and was in critical care. When my sister and I left him on Friday night he was intubated, ventilated, and sedated. My happiest memory is coming back on Saturday and seeing him sitting up, talking up a storm (if you know my dad, you know that talking up a storm is one of his specialties), and getting ready to down a dinner of clear broth and Jello.

What was your saddest memory?
B's death. See above. A couple months later at a pastor's retreat, I had a dream that I was at an unknown kid's basketball game waiting for him to come out of the locker room, and B came out instead. He gave me a big hug and had a big smile on his face. In the dream, I hugged him and cried.

What moment did you feel close to God?
Here's a piece of a sermon that answers this question. I was preaching from Mark 1:9-15, about Jesus being baptized and hearing God's affirmations, and then immediately being driven into the desert to be tempted. This is what I wrote:

This summer has been for me a profound example of this text. I had a wonderful experience at our summer program, Brighter City. It was at times frustrating, as my assistant director can tell you, but there were so many opportunities to glimpse the goodness and pleasure of God that I was almost overwhelmed. The young people who had been campers themselves now serving as counselors, and doing a really good job. The morning prayer time where children and adults shared moments where they saw God at work. One boy said that his counselor, was the smartest man in the whole world. Another said that the cross necklace he made in art helped him to feel safer. I was on such a high after Brighter City.

But not two weeks later a young man from our youth ministry violently lost his life. There was so much I didn't understand about B's death. There were no words I could think of to say to his friends or his family that would comfort them, there were no words I could think to tell myself to comfort me. Even though I knew that it was useless, I thought over and over again about what I could have or should have done that would have prevented this. I regretted not calling him or texting him or talking to him since I had last seen him at our young adult group. But in all the anger and confusion, in all the tears, in all the hours on porches reminiscing, and all the moments where I felt for a second that he would just appear, at my office door or when I saw his friends gathered, I never felt alone. I had, and still have, a lot of questions about why something like this happened, and why it happened to someone like B, who was so laid back and calm, and kind, and God has not given me any easy answers. I was, and still am frustrated by the violence that is continuing to escalating in the city, and how overwhelmed I know many, including myself, feel trying to face it down, and God has not given me an easily packaged plan or program. But neither has God left my side. Neither has God left me empty. God has stayed, with me in the anger, in the questioning, in the confusion, in the frustration, in the pain.

I first found out about B's death at 4:30 in the morning, the morning of our wonderful baptismal service at Houghton's pond. I hadn't been able to go back to sleep, or eat very much at all, and so when I arrived at Houghton's pond, I was exhausted, and hungry, the shock barely wearing off, only beginning to be able to cry. I was in a wilderness place. But I did not feel alone. I felt tended to by angels. In the service we sang, “Hallelujah what a savior, hallelujah what a friend, saving, helping, keeping, loving, he is with me to the end.” Even in the middle of all that fresh, raw, grief, I believed those words. I felt loved, helped, kept, the presence of my friend and Savior with me.

Not everyone knows what to do in the midst of sorrow and pain. Some people get nervous around it. Some people hide from it. Some want to distract from it. Some want to pat us on the back a few times and then say, “All right, that's enough now.” I'm sure we have all had occasions of sadness and had friends or family who avoided the situation until it seemed to be better. Jesus is not that kind of friend. Our God wades into the water with us, sinful and dirty as we are, our God sits with us and tends to us in the wilderness, even when we are utterly abandoned by everyone else, and our God gives us glimpses of the glory of the world that will be without sin or dirt or wilderness to carry us through.

And now time to look forward...

Obligatory New Year's Post Pt. 1

My young adult group did some reflecting on the new year, thought I'd share some questions we looked at. This is spread out over three posts to make it seem like you have less to read.

What was one of the best movies you saw this year?
Oh boy -- Harry Potter 7 was pretty great.
Where the Wild Things Are, an honest picture of how hard it can be to be a child and not in control
Precious, which was heartbreaking and hopeful all at once...loved the colorful scenes of Precious' inner world.
ALSO (I'm not good at whittling my answers down to one) Camp Out is an absolutely essential movie for any youth pastor to see -- an honest, respectful picture of young people of faith from the GLBT community.

What was one of the best books you read this year?
Loved Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.
Also Home, Marilynne Robinson. If you've never read Marilynne Robinson, step away from the computer now and read Gilead. Then come back and finish this post. I'm serious.

What did you do this year that you’d never done before?
I did a baptism. A few actually. Loved being a part of that moment of grace -- someone entering into a commitment with God and God responding.

Preached for 30 minutes. Usually, I am a 15-18 minute girl. Get started, get to the point, get out. But then I preached at a church that wasn't the norm -- and I had to push myself. Was a good thing, in the end.

Ate a fish eyeball. Gross.

Celebrated St. Mel's day -- a day for single people :) St. Mel is known for producing a fish out of the ground to prove that his relationship with his aunt was not scandalous. Once a magician in my grandmother's apt complex made a fish appear on my head. That doesn't have anything to do with anything but I think it's a funny story.

Reread the Harry Potter series. Thoroughly enjoyed them the first time, and am now reading them out loud to my dad and re-enjoying them. Noticing new things, like what jerks Harry and Ron were to Hermione in book 3 and how immature Sirius is.

Got stuck in Paris because of a cloud of volcanic ash. Or, got stuck in Paris, period. In this one is a lot of firsts: saw the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower. Ate an authentic croissant. Ate an authentic crepe. Was almost tempted to stay in Paris to eat more.

Went to the Northernmost point in Scotland, Port Ness of the Isle of Lewis. Beautiful in it's desolation. In the same vein...

Visited the oldest structure I've ever seen. The Callanish standing stones, 5000 years old.

Other Scottish firsts: Ate haggis. 3 times. Tried that coffee that is made from beans that cats poop out. Drank coffee in the shop where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter. Stayed in international hostels (2 in Scotland and 1 in Paris). Had a Cadbury Creme Egg McFlurry

Had someone throw a dinner plate through my rear windshield.

Was a puppet captain at First Night in Boston

Coached a basketball game. That was an experience. I don't remember a lot about basketball.

Painted my face and neck blue. Smurfette for Halloween. AWWWWEEEESSSOOOMMMME.

Watched the LOST season finale. Oh, LOST. We were so close in the beginning. Then we almost parted ways because you were focussed on silly things like Nikki and Paulo and Jack's tattoos. Then you wooed me back with Sawyer and Juliet and time travelling and Hurley becoming a hero. Then it ended, and even though others were mad at you, I appreciated how you ended things. But I liked the epilouge to Deathly Hallows, too, so what do I know.

Hugged and took a picture of a famous person. Well, famous to me, anyway. Russell Ferguson from So You Think You can Dance! Here's the story (from my facebook acct): So this is the story. I was out to breakfast with two young adults I know and their baby, M. This dude comes in and I think he looks familiar. "Do you think he came to youth group before?" K asks. But then I say, "No, he looks like Russell from SYTYCD." I didn't think it was him. But then these other guys ask him and he says he IS. Holy cow, now I'm excited. At this point, he's packing up to leave, I'm holding M, the baby seat's next to me. "Take the baby," I say, shoving poor M back to her mom. "Are you Russell from SYTYCD?" I ask, and he says yes. Then I start blabbing like an IDIOT about ever since he krumped at his first audition I loved him, he's so great, Afro Jazz, contemporary, blah blah blah. I ask for a picture and throw the baby seat on the floor so I can get out and take one. The whole restaurant is staring at me. We take a picture, and the women behind me are like, "Who are you?" Russell says, "No one special." The woman says, "You must be someone with her over here gushing." So I say "Did you ever watch SYTYCD? He WON." So then they gush. And then he left. But not before giving me a big hug :)

That's it for new things I think.
Stay tuned for part 2!