Saturday, April 28, 2007

Two Days that Felt Like Two Years (Part I)

Thursday was our big dinner.

Jay came home from school right after lunch and we set to work. As an aside, let me just say that I simply don't understand how my grandmother cooks an entire Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner by herself. Jay and I had worked out a very specific schedule of when we needed to start preparing/cooking each item. If we hadn't done that (and if there hadn't been two of us) we would have been in a world of hurt.

We decided on oven-fried chicken rather than pan-fried chicken since my dry run (and I do mean dry) on Sunday turned out to be a debacle. I couldn't get the temperature of my oil right and I didn't have time to experiment and tweak during the rest of the week. Other than that, the menu stayed the same: macaroni and cheese (doubled the recipe and could've fed a small country), greens (I was right; they weren't excited, but polite enough to take a small bite each), mashed potatoes and gravy, biscuits, cornbread, apple pie, and sweet potato pie. I did the cooking, Jay did the baking, and we almost even got it on the table by our intended start time!

They were very gracious and seemed to enjoy everything. But the most exciting part is that the Student Activities Director, who set up the whole Be Our Guest event, had a sneaky hand the choice of these particular women to dine with us. One of them is going to my seminary alma mater for her Master of Theological Studies and one of them is going to another Boston area seminary for an MA in Church History. The third woman was a friend of the latter who is planning to teach.

All three have had an interesting four years at the university. They could have been absorbing and internalizing all the messages they've been hearing about their role as Christian women, including what they are and aren't "allowed" to do and be. Instead, they have come to realize that they are called most of all to be stewards of the gifts and graces given to them by God, and that using those gifts may directly contradict the messages they've been received so long about what they "can" and "can't" do. They have realized that thinking is not a dangerous or threatening activity (and believe me, these were some sharp women), but rather their Christian responsiblity. They have had some unpleasant experiences because of these realizations and their choices to act upon them, but those experiences have only made them stronger.

We all came away, I think, with bellies full of food and hearts full of hope.

When they left later that night Jay and I realized that none of the water anywhere in the house was draining. Our guest bathroom toilet overflowed and the master bath toilet wouldn't flush. Our kitchen sink was making very disturbing gurgling noises. So Jay crawled around under the house until 1:00 a.m. trying to figure out the problem. When he realized that the clog wasn't in the pipes under the house, he put in a service call to our home warranty company. So there we were...a sink and counter overflowing with dirty dishes, no water, and no idea what the problem was or how long it would take to fix it. So we headed outside with our toothbrushes to brush our teeth in the backyard with the hose.

Did I mention we were having 20 folks from the Engineering Department over for dinner the next day and that 10 of them were camping out on our property?

Oh yes.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Ej-oo-key-shuhn

Because I am freakishly neurotic and am in constant need of something to worry about, I am already allowing myself to become consumed with Joshua's education. The next few years don't worry me so much. I'll stay at home with him until I think he's ready for preschool (maybe when he's three, maybe when he's four) and then most likely send him to one of the Montessori schools in the area.

It's what happens after that that makes me nervous.

Jay and I are both products of public schools. I attended my neighborhood elementary school, magnet school for 5th and 6th grades (the only one in Nashville at the time!), and neighborhood junior high and high schools. At the time, the high school I attended was one of the best in the city. I've heard recently, however, that it's not so much anymore. Jay attended a public high school unlike any public high school I've ever seen. It puts most private schools to shame, but he swears to me that it's a public school. To top it off, both of my grandmothers and my mother are/were public school teachers.

So here are our options as I see them:
  1. Public School. The public schools in our city have a pretty bad reputation within the community, but I'm not sure whether that reputation is legitimate or not. Our Kindermusik teacher, a self-avowed advocate for public schooling and former public school teacher herself, told me last week that she refuses to send her children to public school in our town. A recent op-ed piece in the local paper shamed city residents for their lack of support for the public schools given that some of them have made some pretty impressive achievements. Again, I think this is going to take some research. To make matters worse, I'm eventually going to read this book.


  2. Magnet School. There are lots of magnet schools in town. It seems the options are endless. My concern with this option is that, even at the elementary level, I sense an element of of tracking. Out of six elementary magnet schools, two are math/science-focused, one is Montessori, and one is a microsociety (which seemed harmless at first, but do I really want my kid learning that western society is the only legitimate way to do things?) On the other hand, the magnet school closest to our house is a multiple intelligence school, which is promising. However, Jay's been keeping up with the magnet school system and from what he's read the magnet schools in our town will most likely run out of federal funding by the time Joshua's old enough to darken the door.



    One of the drawbacks pointed out by our Kindermusik teacher is that some of the magnet schools are in "bad neighborhoods." This is not a concern of ours. The magnet school I attended was in one of the most "dangerous" neighborhoods in Nashville. I never felt unsafe or threatened in any way, and my parents obviously weren't terribly concerned or I wouldn't have gone there.

  3. Private School. I've started to assume that any kid not wearing a school uniform is either home-schooled or a dropout. That's how many private schools there are in town. And to make things more interesting, most of them are church-affiliated. Very little scares me more than a church-affiliated private school in the Bible Belt. There's only one independent private school in town, and Jay and I have long since talked about sending Joshua there. I'm having second and third thoughts, though. First of all, the racial/ethnic diversity is basically nonexistant. Second, how are we going to help Joshua grasp the concept of "privilege" if he's surrounded only by people that look like him? Third, I can't afford a Lexus SUV and country-club membership. (To my readers who attended private school, please do not take offense. I realize that not all private schools are this way. This one is).


  4. Homeschool. Oh, yes. I have considered it, to the chagrin of my mother and best friend (who is a public school teacher, as well). It's helped that I've met some folks (online and otherwise) who homeschool, not out of fear that the Godless public schools are going to turn their children into drug-using/alcohol-drinking/sex-having atheists, but because they really feel that's the way their children learn best. Of course the drawbacks to this are endless. I am not a pedagogue and I think it is insulting to those amazing teachers out there to claim that I could educate my child as well as they could. I am not a terribly patient person and I'm not sure I could provide the nurturing learning environment I want my child to have. The list goes on, but I have to come clean. I have considered homeschooling.
Anyone want to share your thoughts?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Care and Feeding of the College Student

The university is sponsoring an event next week called "Be Our Guest." Staff and faculty open their homes to interested students for dinner and whatever other activities the hosts deem appropriate/fun/not too cheesy.

Jay and I jumped at the chance to host and, as far as we know, will be hosting four students for dinner next Thursday night. We waited until the very last minute to register as hosts and so our decision about what "theme" to use was very last-minute as well. We decided to go with "Comfort Food--Southern style," although after actually putting some thought into it I realized that, since we just moved from Chicago, we should've offered Chicago-type food (deep dish pizza, Chicago-style hotdogs, etc). But now that we've committed to Southern Comfort food (Jay wouldn't let me call it that on the registration sheet even though I asked nicely) I'm trying to decide on a menu.

So far I've come up with fried chicken (my best friend Sarah who lurks but doesn't comment--Hi Sarah!--gave me her grandmother's recipe, so now I just need to practice), mashed potatoes and gravy, crockpot macaroni and cheese, skillet cornbread, biscuits, and some green vegetable.

I guess I should provide sweet tea as well, huh.

Does that sound good? Any other suggestions?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Critters

It was a dark and stormy night. (Tonight, in fact). Jay and I are sitting at the dining room table working on our projects for the evening, he finishing the taxes and I archiving photographs.

Our quiet concentration is interrupted as we hear a scratching sound at the window. We both turn slowly toward the window with puzzled expressions but see nothing. A few minutes later the scratching turns into a clawing and tapping. We slowly get up from the table, ignoring every scary movie we've ever seen, to investigate. As we move from the dining room window to the front door we discover the source of the ominous sounds:
THERE'S A FREAKING ARMADILLO ON OUR FRONT PORCH!

Despite various attempts to get it to "roll up in a ball," he completely ignored us, eventually deciding to drop off the side of the porch and into the darkness.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I <3 Spring Break

What a great week!

We started out on Sunday with our church Easter Egg hunt. Both Monday and Friday were both spent doing whole-family domestic activities like grocery shopping and paint-sample collecting.

And to top it all off Jay and I each got time both alone at home and out and about with the wee one. Yes, you read that correctly. I got time alone at home. A whole morning, in fact. I hardly knew what to do with myself. I napped, I laundered, I straightened up the house, I sat and did nothing. Meanwhile, Joshua and Jay were a few towns over checking out the livestock on sale at the flea market. Thankfully they didn't bring anything home with them.

Wednesday Joshua and I spent the morning at the park with friends. Joshua's scab quota was running low so he needed to collect a few. First he bit in on the asphalt in the parking lot. Then he fell up some stairs and got a nice scratch under his chin. And for his grand finale he executed a perfect no-hands somersault down two stairs and landed on his back. It was so pretty he looked like he planned it. That afternoon, to honor my superb mothering skills, I got a pedicure and eyebrow wax. Oh yes I did. Just in time for cold weather so I can't even show off my pretty orange toes in sandals.

Thursday Joshua and I went to playgroup and out for lunch while Jay worked on taxes. I had my 24-week appointment that afternoon and didn't even get yelled at by the doctor for gaining eleven pounds in the last month! Jay and Joshua dropped me off at the doctor and then picked me up when my appointment was over. We went out for quick dinner before I had to be at church to serve Communion for the Tenebrae service. At dinner it dawned on me that although it had been nice to be chauffered around for the afternoon, once Jay dropped me off at church I had no way to get home. (Joshua would be in bed long before I was ready to come home). When I had to ask some friends for a ride home I felt like I was back in junior high arranging a trip to the mall ("My mom will drop off if yours will pick up!")

Saturday brought both my dad and Jereme for Easter. This was a small crowd for us. For the past six years we've hosted a big Easter dinner at our house for Jay's lab mates (and Jereme, who has yet to miss an Easter dinner even though we now live 500 miles apart), so this was a little different but fantastic nonetheless. Sunday we celebrated Easter by going to church (I actually went to the nursery. Joshua's got a little case of separation anxiety. He can happily play for long stretches at a time but if he looks up and I'm not there he melts), taking naps, watching golf, and eating a great meal of lamb chops, squash, broccoli salad, green bean casserole, and pecan pie (Did I mention that Jay made an apple pie for Saturday dinner, too?)
Monday after Jereme left we went to the home of some friends who have two new additions to their family. We even got to bottlefeed them.
Jay went back to work today. The transition wasn't as tough as I thought but we sure missed having him at home.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Who Pastors the Pastor?

In the United Methodist Church, the District Superintendent is charged with, among other things, acting as the pastor to the pastor. (After all, a good portion of us are stuck in the middle of nowhere, leading churches by ourselves, with precious little support save a spouse or partner, if we're lucky). But that's not always the case. As in many heirarchical structures, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and if the DS isn't busy putting out a fire at your church then you may not hear much from him/her. If we're really lucky we're part of a "clergy cluster" or some such group that meets on an at least semi-regular basis and provides a place to vent frustration and get fresh ideas. Those of us who are still in the candidacy process and on probation are assigned mentors with whom we are encouraged to talk regularly. But if the gods are smiling on us we find that one person who is willing to take us under a wing, to speak frankly and honestly to us about life in the local church, to answer the ridiculously mundane questions about Charge Conference and Church Council, and to help us navigate touchy the politics of the whole system.

I was fortunate to find that person in the church that I attended before I received my first appointment. When Jay and I made our home in lovely Joliet, I had a new question every minute. And of course I addressed them to my pastor. E-mails were answered in a matter of minutes, even if I sent them on a weekend. Phone calls were always taken. I never felt that there was a question that I couldn't ask, or that he was going to be guarded in his answers for fear of how it might affect him (or me) politically. He knew the system and he was going to help me through it, from my first Church Council meeting to my interviews for probationary membership. There was simply nothing I faced that he couldn't walk me through. He was a friend and a pastor and a cheerleader. When I left the bounds of the Northern Illinois Conference I knew I wanted to keep my membership in the conference until I figured out what I wanted to do next (which is still up in the air). So I am lucky enough to still be a member of that church. He is still my pastor.

And now he is sick. And he has turned all preaching, teaching, and pastoral care over to the Associate Pastor. And she is wonderful and will do a fantastic job. But it is still such a huge loss. The congregation, as far as I know, has always been a progressive and welcoming group. But it is the pastor who has managed to let everyone know, from the immediate community to the whole country, that anyone and everyone is welcome inside those four walls. The institutional church has done an awfully good job of making Christians look like finger-pointing, hate-spewing bigots, but I can't imagine that there is one person in that entire neighborhood that doesn't feel totally comfortable walking into that church for any reason.

One of my favorite events each year was the Pride Parade that passed right by our church and the parsonage. I liked sitting on the parsonage steps to watch. It was unbelievable to me how many folks marching in that parade would look for my pastor as they walked by...from city and state elected officials to PFLAG members to high school students to people he has never met before. And as they caught his eye they waved, or nodded, or mouthed (or even yelled!) Thank You.

It never ceases to amaze me how fortunate I am that he is my pastor. He is wise and articulate. He is compassionate. He is absolutely secure in who he is and what does. He saves lives daily. He makes people squirm and feel uncomfortable and question everything they thought was true. He makes people want to say Thank You...to him and to his Creator. And at the end of the day he's never happier than when he can sit around with the people he loves and share a story and a belly-laugh.

And he is my pastor.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Tennessee Waltz

I'm obviously a happy camper tonight. No, it doesn't make a bit of difference in my life, but it's fun to watch them play. This game wasn't nearly as exhausting to watch as the game against North Carolina on Sunday night, but it was great to see how each woman contributed their own gifts and talents to the team.

On the other hand, how is it that Mike Patrick still has a job? I've been trying to figure out how long he's been with ESPN and how long he's been a commentator for the women's tournament and I can't find any concrete information. Anyway, I can't remember a championship game when I haven't heard him totally blow it. For several years when Tennessee and Connecticut met in the championship game he consistently called players by the wrong names and even got the teams and coaches mixed up. It's almost like he can manage his job for about 20 minutes and then he gets so flustered and flummoxed that he can't keep anything straight.

Tonight he announced that Brittany Ray was coming in for a Tennessee player that was benched. I sat straight up. "Who?" I don't study UT's roster but I was pretty sure I'd never heard that name before. Know why? Because she plays for Rutgers. The two women don't even share the same number. To his credit(?) his blunders weren't as bad as I've heard in the past, but why not get somebody who can concentrate on the game and get information correct? Grrrr.

But what a game!


Sunday, April 01, 2007

I Got the Golden, er, Black Ticket!

I get the privilege of standing in the Hogwarts Express Lane on July 21st to pick up my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows! wOOt!

Harry and my children (both born and unborn) are somehow synched. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was released in theaters on November 18, 2005. Since Joshua arrived on November 13 I had to settle for watching it on DVD, which I bought as a gift to myself after passing my commissioning interviews.

Now the new book will be released only nine days before BGB is due to arrive and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will be in theaters on July 13, just 17 days befor BGB is supposed to show up. Hopefully she stays put long enough for me to see the movie and read the book.

I think I need to go back and do some catch-up reading to prepare for all of this.