Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Favorite Things - p.38

I figured that in honor of my first week of CPE, I should post some of my favorite things about UAB hospital. You can expect to see more favorite things (and perhaps some not-so-favorite things) about CPE in the weeks and months to come

The Helipad - I got to go up and hang out on the helipad on top of the hospital. Not that I have any experience on any other helipad to compare it to, but it was an absolutely beautiful view of the city and a neat place to gain some perspective on the whole of the medical center. Definitely a great experience. I'm sorry the picture is so small and crummy, but google search "UAB helipad" and you should be able to see the bigger version. Obviously I was there in the daytime so this wasn't exactly what my view looked like, but you have to admit it's pretty stinking cool!

The walking path - As part of the whole "get healthy and stay healthy" initiative of the hospital (and probably also due to the fact that most of the people who work in the hospital practically live in it!) there is a good sized walking trail through all the main concourses and is designated by signs. It's a really nice thing to have. What's even nicer is seeing people taking advantage of it. It's encouraging.

The options - Because the hospital is a large campus and has the population of a small city, there are options for everything. Very few things are uniform or limited. Really, I think that's great. Variety is what keeps things interesting. And no matter what you want, the chances are pretty good that you can find something that, if it won't thrill you, will at least satisfy a need for the time being! That's a very nice thing to know.

The Meditation Garden - It's a very unexpected thing to look in the center of a building and see a garden in a little courtyard, but it's a really nice space. I have a feeling that when I need a little quiet time during the day I will probably go have a picnic out there at lunch!

McAlister's Deli - It's a good thing it's a bit of a haul for me to get over there. Otherwise this could be very bad. But it's a magnificent (and very tasty) kind of bad!

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Coolest Piece of Furniture EVER!

It's called a "Hobby Station" and it's made by Hooker Furniture. Have you ever seen something so nifty? Ok, so I'm a crafting goober. I can't help it that I'm easily amused by things that facilitate my addiction. We are in the process of choosing furniture for our unfinished basement room (once it is finished, of course!) We have been arguing and debating over what should go where. Jeff wanted to put in cabinets and a counter so I could have a little crafting corner. I appreciate the thought, but I'm funny about the space and access I need to work on things. Most of the time I have to be able to sprawl, and I usually end up sitting the floor now. If I'm going to work at a table or counter, I have to be able to get up under it so I can get right on top of whatever project is in front of me! Since we were going to put cabinets under the counter, that wasn't an option so I politely declined a craft counter. (Ok, so I might have screamed that it was worthless to me and I didn't want it. Let's just go with this "polite" delusion.) And then we found THIS! And it is the best of both worlds because it has all the wonderful storage space and slide outs for the printer *cough-cricut-cough* and lost of drawers, sections, and other lovely additions for all my little goodies.

In addition to the greatness of the hobby station, we found the perfect cabinet/bookshelf combo. You can see it here. We want two of these to go on either side of the doorway. We also need some kind of entertainment center, and being a little nuts like I am, it will probably match the bookshelves.

Our other furniture will probably include a leather sleeper sofa and a recliner. Jeff wants a swivel rocking recliner, but we'll have to wait and see what our budget allows and what we can find that we actually like.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My Final Week of "Freedom"

This was my final week of "freedom" for a year. I had all sorts of big intentions of doing grand things to take advantage of it, but it simply didn't happen that way. I was at least semi-productive!

Sunday after church we went to visitation at the funeral home and then had lunch with Jeff's mother and grandparents. Jeff washed the cars while Papa and I took a nap!

Monday I stayed in bed most of the day. I didn't feel good. I enjoyed being lazy.

Tuesday I pretty much finished up my Christmas shopping, picked up some things for the church from Cokesbury, and had lunch with my mother-in-law. We tried a new Mexican place that wasn't nearly as good as our old standard, but it seems our old standard has closed. It makes me sad.

Wednesday I went to a meeting at church and hauled in several boxes of "stuff" for the Fall Festival, watched Top Chef, and cooked dinner that we didn't even sit down to eat together.

Thursday I did all the laundry, picked 33 peppers from the garden, watched a marathon of Kitchen Nightmares followed by Grey's Anatomy, and cooked another dinner that only got picked at. I'm about to go on a cooking strike.

Friday I got gas, went to the bank, did the grocery shopping, got an external hard drive and cleaned off my computer, wrapped more Christmas presents, met some of Jeff's friends for dinner, went over to see some other friends and taught them to play chicken foot dominos.

Saturday I slept while Jeff went to get the oil changed and a belt replaced on my car, put my new audio book on my iPod, applied for health, vision, and dental insurance, went to Belk and got some tights to go with a cute new dress (and got extremely miffed at the lack of customer service!), went to Harbor Freight so Jeff could give me some ideas for Christmas gifts, had dinner at Golden Rule where they were out of baked potatoes (how does that happen on a Saturday night when it wasn't even 6pm yet?!?), and wrapped a few more gifts that came in the mail.

What I DIDN'T do this week - I didn't make the bed. At all. Ever. Even when I didn't spend all day in it. I figured that would be my little bit of rebellion.

I haven't gotten to the point of being so nervous I get angry. It's almost entertaining (as long as you are not the recipient of my angry letters!) I have started the pacing, so I have to be doing something I deem productive. I've been making lots of lists and playing with my calendar. Todays "to-d0" list includes packing my lunch for tomorrow and figuring out what the heck to make for dinner tomorrow night (it may be leftovers since we have two dinners we haven't eaten from this week!)

So here's to my last day before I become a Chaplain Resident!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Five - Singing

Today's Friday Five is all about music, singing in particular. As I have said before, I love music. Music in worship is especially important to me. But the music and the worship experience at my current church have been a big challenge for me. I am of the opinion that the planning of worship as a whole - integrating the music in with the prayers and the scriptures and the sermon and the other acts of worship - are incredibly important. Only recently have I had the opportunity (or the guts to stand up) and take on some of that responsibility. And a big part of that is because my husband has stepped into the role of music leader! The bigger challenge that I was not as prepared to face was attempting to change the attitudes of those who don't take as much pride or put as much concern into the use of music as worship rather than performance and are not interested in learning anything new or different. I'm still working on that one.

Do you like to sing or listen to others sing? In worship or on your own (or not at all?) - I absolutely love to listen to others sing in almost any setting. I do have a tendency to get a little judgmental because I feel that singing in worship is a responsibility to be taken seriously and not something to be approached with a "What the heck, why not?" attitude. So when people don't practice or take it seriously, I don't love it as much. I enjoy singing in a choir or as a part of the congregation (being the good Methodist that I am!) but solos are not my thing. That is simply not one of my gifts.

Did you grow up with music in worship or come to it later in life? Tell us about it, and how that has changed in your experience - I absolutely grew up with music in worship. I started participating in the Cherub Choir when I was three years old. I started learning the words to hymns before I could even read them, and they are some of the strongest memories I have of different worship experiences from childhood. As I have grown, my understanding of what is "acceptable" worship music has evolved. I was a young teen when my church jumped on the "contemporary worship" bandwagon and that changed a lot. Seeing the creative use of music through my experiences at Camp Sumatanga and other youth events continued to broaden my horizons and have helped me reach the point where I am today. My general attitude now is that almost anything can be appropriate for worship, as long as the context and attitude are there.

Some people find worship incomplete without music; others would just as soon not have it. Where do you fall? I'm a good little Wesleyan who believes in the importances of singing her faith. So I absolutely believe that worship is incomplete without music. I will even take it as far as to say that I think worship is incomplete without congregational participation in singing! When Jeff and I were planning our wedding, I was very clear that I wanted it to be a full worship service - including communion and two congregational hymns! I'm sure there were plenty of people who thought that an hour was too long and that didn't really like having to stand and sing, but I thought it was important and thankfully nobody complained directly to me so I've never heard about it!

Do you prefer traditional music in worship or contemporary? That can mean many different things! - I like using a combination of both. I love using traditional hymns because they are traditional. Because they tell the stories of our faith and help us to remember things in ways we probably wouldn't otherwise, and it helps us to teach those stories to the next generation. I also enjoy using older, classical pieces of music because, to me, they are familiar and comforting. I like "contemporary" Christian music (that is becoming more and more "traditional") because much of the "classic" stuff is what I grew up with as a youth and that music played an important part in my formative years. I don't keep up with the new stuff like I probably should but when I find something that speaks to me, I absolutely love it and will try to use it or share it where I can. And I think one of my favorite things to do is to use contemporary, "secular" music in worship because I love the way it catches people by surprise and then helps them to cross some of the lines that we are so prone to draw between the various parts of our lives! It helps re-frame the worship experience and carry it beyond the four walls of the sanctuary and into the world where it belongs!

What's your go-to music ... when you need solace or want to express joy? Well, when I'm feeling particularly stressed or thoughtful or need a little hug from God, Chris Rice is usually my default. "Smell the Color 9" was, is, and will forever be an important part of my music library and holds a very special place in my heart. When it comes to expressing joy, my only real constant is that I be able to sing along with it! Currently my favorite is "Blessed Be the Name" by LaRue. I hadn't really heard this one until camp this summer and I suppose because I associate that memory with so many wonderful people, experiences, and memories it is the perfect "joyful noise" for me!

Happy Birthday, John!

Today my "baby" brother turns 23 years old! I still remember his coming home from the hospital and helping make his bottles. I remember playing together and fighting with each other, just as siblings are supposed to do. I still get a bad case of the giggles when I think of so many things he has said and done over the years! I am so incredibly proud of the amazing man he has grown into and continue to look forward to the wonderful things he will continue to do in this world!

(And no, I didn't take that picture. A photographer in Chattanooga did. I have tried like crazy to find out his name again because I used to know it, but it will take a lot more digging!)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Favorite Things - p.37

These are a few of my favorite projects I currently have in the works. If there is something you are particularly interested in, let me know and I will make sure I come back and give some more details.

Christmas Shopping - I love buying gifts for the people I love. I can't get started on Christmas early enough and it's so incredibly rewarding to watch the stack of wrapped gifts growing. Plus it's nice to be able to finish early and actually enjoy the holidays. Stay tuned because a little closer to the holiday season, I'll be sharing some of my favorite gift ideas!

Vacation Planning - I know I'm a little bit nuts, but having something to look forward to seems to make all the weeks that run together so much more bearable! This is especially true since I'm still navigating the setting of personal and professional boundaries and working around the lack of traditional "weekends". I have two tentative getaways in the works right now (and will probably only end up getting to take one of them!) but in the meantime it gives me something to plan and prepare!

Worship Planning - knowing that my life is quickly speeding toward scheduling madness, I'm trying to get a jump start on planning as much of my worship "stuff" as I can for the next several months. This includes (but is not limited to) World Communion Sunday, All Saints, Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas Cantata, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Children's program. I already have most of my scriptures chosen, sermons outlined, and hymns chosen from now until the end of the year. I'd say I'm doing pretty well!

Knitting a scarf - In the process of cleaning out, I found all my old craft supplies, including my knitting looms and yarn. I've decided to try and knit one of those "magic scarves." We'll see how well that goes! No matter what, I'll end up with a scarf, I'm just not sure exactly what it will look like! Stay tuned!

What have you got going on in your life? Share a few of your works in progress. I'm always looking for inspiration!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What I Learned on my Summer Vacation

I officially start CPE in less than one week and the first "official" day of fall is tomorrow. I have shifted into "back to school" mode, which is almost like an autopilot for me. I guess that's what happens when you are a student for almost 20 years! And in keeping with that spirit, I decided to reflect on the many revelations I have had this summer.

Sometimes it's nice to simply float

There can be "too much of a good thing"

I need to loosen up and dance a little more (literally)

I need to eat less red meat

Being a pickle farmer is hard work

I really do love air conditioning

I can't wait to go back to camp next year

I have the best friends in the world

It's nice to have a place to come home to

Baking is actually very rewarding

My beach towel snuggie is awesome!

I really don't love swimming that much

I would probably be happy if I didn't have to ever drive again

Cheese grits are a magical food

Even though I know it's bad for the environment, I really like sunscreen in a spray can

The more I read, the more I am able to write

I don't think I will ever get over my hatred of ironing

Having very short hair seems to work best for me

Don't read trashy books before getting your blood pressure checked

My vision is better than I thought it was (but I still want new contacts)

Life is about the journeys and adventures

It's ok, and often necessary, to say "I'm pretty darn good at that!"

Happiness is a warm puppy

I am a control freak

It's fun to learn new things

Reading is a great way to pass the time

Wrapping gifts is really rewarding

Glitter will now and forever be banned from my craft supplies

It never gets easy to say goodbye

Sunsets are amazing

I am incredibly blessed!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Beach Reading

I absolutely love to read for pleasure. I really haven't done a whole lot of that lately, so going to the beach for several days was the perfect excuse for scooping up some new reading material. For the 4 days I was there (more than half of two of them, I was traveling!) I took 15 books. 6 were scooped up at the thrift store, 5 were free kindle downloads, and 4 were old re-reads that I took as my "backup" material in case I somehow finished everything else! It was an interesting mix of mindless and thoughtful material.

Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann B. Ross - I believe my family made the rounds through most of the Miss Julia books as they were first coming out, but somehow they never got to me. They appeared on my radar a couple of years ago, but I never got around to them. And I'm one of those folks that HAS to start at the beginning of a series. So when I saw this one hanging out at the thrift store, I scooped it up! I was surprisingly disappointed by it. It wasn't especially entertaining, and although the characters were pretty multi-faceted, it didn't grab my attention right off, and even when I thought I was getting into it, I wouldn't stay in very long before I was asking myself "is it done yet?" I admit to skimming a lot in the middle. I did finish the thing (although I kind of had to force myself!) and I'm glad I did because it ended well. I will probably try to read the next one at some point, but I'm not just busting a gut to get at it and if it drags like this one, I'll be done!

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant - This one was highly recommended to me by my friend and former pastor Diane Luton Blum. I had seen it at the hospital and meant to borrow it, but never got around to it and I think it went home with someone because I haven't seen it recently. I was thrilled to find it at the thrift store, too! In a word, AMAZING! Unlike Miss Julia, this is one of those that I couldn't (or wouldn't) put down. Even making a snack or attempting to do something else, I had my nose buried in it. I will probably keep this one and read it again and again at various times throughout my life.

Murder Makes Waves by Anne George - This was a re-read I came across when we were cleaning out the shed. I know I've read it but don't remember anything about it, so I figured it would be perfect for the beach. The Southern Sisters mysteries are always wonderful fun. Even though they're technically a "mystery" they are funny and relatively mindless, although not necessarily predictable and even though they're a series, you don't necessarily have to read them in order.

Montessori: A Modern Approach by Paula Polk Lillard- This one was not my typical genre, but it was something I couldn't pass up when I saw it at the thrift store. I am really getting curious about alternative educational options, and although I've read a few brief summaries about how the local montessori school "works" I wanted to explore a little more. I suppose I should have been paying a little more attention, and I will tell on myself. I absolutely made a judgement about this one based on the appearance of the exterior. It was in good shape and not obviously worn or dated. Turns out, it was first published in the 70s and part of me wonders if this wasn't someone's dissertation that had been published. Because of the age, the "modern approach" is a matter of opinion. I had a really hard time getting into it, so I put it aside for a little while. It required a little more thought than I was willing to give it. At the end of the day, I think I want to simply get Dr. Montessori's work and read it for myself!

Somewhere to Belong by Judith Miller - This was a free Kindle download. The summary sort of reminded me of some of the Beverly Lewis books I used to read (and would like to read again) but with a twist because it was set in a "colony" of communal Christian living and with the plot circling around a girl transitioning into that world. I was expecting it to be slightly more modern, but overall I've enjoyed getting started on it. I think it will be good.

Full Scoop by Janet Evanovich and Charlotte Hughes - This book is the precise reason I like to read books in order. I picked this one up and read it circa 2006, but the whole time something felt a little "off", like I was missing something pretty important. Turns out I was - about five books! Now that I have some of the back story and a framework for the majority of the characters, it was a much easier re-read.

The Florabama Ladies' Auxiliary & Sewing Circle by Lois Battle - This is another one that sounded vaguely familiar to me but I had never read so I scooped it up at the thrift store. As a general rule, I'm a sucker when it comes to books set in Alabama. I didn't get to this one, but I will soon enough!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Baked Beans

Jeff's friend Eddie has been in Afghanistan for the last year and is finally home for good! To celebrate, we had a bunch of people over for a cookout. Jeff and I got the burgers, hot dogs, and bratwurst but I let the men-folk take care of charring the mammal flesh. I made some of my salsa to go with chips, and some baked beans. Other people brought potato salad, tea, cupcakes, and all kinds of other yumminess.

So without further ado, here is my recipe for baked beans:

2 cans pork and beans
1 onion, chopped
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. yellow mustard
1/4 c. ketchup
4-5 strips bacon, cut into thirds

Mix together everything but the bacon, put the bacon pieces on top, cover and bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes. I ended up un-covering mine for the last 10-15 minutes to let the bacon on top crisp up a little bit, but that is strictly a matter of personal preference.

This is about as easy as it comes. Everything got mixed in the casserole dish and as soon as it came out of the oven it was ready to go!

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Original Oyster House - Gulf Shores, AL

The Original Oyster House is a place that was always a staple with my family on trips to Gulf Shores. It was nice to discover that the same is true of Jeff's family! In fact, on extended trips, it was not uncommon for either my family or his to go more than once!
Although the name implies that Oysters are their specialty, they are known for doing all their seafood very well. And although I'm not a huge seafood fan, I do really enjoy their crab claws. I have also tried the Butter Pecan Mahi, which was surprisingly good. But even more than that, I love it for something totally unrelated - the cheese grits! They are hot and creamy and satisfying and absolutely beckon me even when it is a million degrees outside!

As far as the atmosphere is concerned, it's a pretty typical beach place, with pictures of fish and fishing paraphernalia all over the walls. Still, it's fun and personal. The service is usually very warm and friendly, although I have encountered a few servers who seemed to be easily irked with us "late lunchers". I have a little message for those servers: I'm sorry we have the nerve to come and enjoy a meal when we don't have to wait an hour and can hear ourselves think! Rest assured, your tip will reflect your desired "quiet time".

One of my all-time favorite things about dining here is the gift shop! Sure, they have the typical t-shirts and shot glasses, but they also have lots cute boutiquey things (which will, admittedly, appeal more to girls than guys) and although there is generally a "beachy" theme to a lot of what they have to offer, there's lots of cute gifts. At one point several of us stared for at least 10 minutes at a toy puppy dog that was rolling in the floor laughing. I have no idea why that amused us so much, but it did!

Go check it out the next time you're down for a visit, and let me know what you think!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Five - Baby Showers

Today's Friday Five talks about baby showers, which is sort of odd for me since I have a bad case of the baby bug, but am not ready to do anything about it anytime soon. For some reason, that knowledge only serves to feed my OCD and my need to plan and prepare, so in addition to the usual daydreams about names and nursery decorations, and cute matching outfits, I have also done a lot of very specific dreaming about what I would like my baby shower to be like!

What were baby showers like for you and your friends in the past? - Although none of my close friends have had children yet, I have attended plenty of baby showers from the time I was very young. Most of the baby showers I have been to have been pretty sedate - lots of disposable diapers, tiny clothes that aren't especially practical (this is especially true for baby girls!), cute little finger foods, and plenty of cooing and giggling.

Did you play games? What kinds? - I have actually never been to a baby shower where we played games. I've seen or heard of games like putting the melted candy bar in the diaper or tasting the baby food or baby gift bingo but I'm not terribly fond of any of them and I'd really prefer to never have to participate in any of them!

In your job, especially if you are a pastor, do you get invited to a lot of baby showers? What do you do about them? - I have only had one church-related baby shower so far and it was on a Sunday evening immediately following service. I am pretty much of the opinion that what you do for one you should do for all, so if I were in a church where I might invited to go to several and I knew I couldn't attend some of them, I wouldn't go to any. I would probably try to send a card or something.

Are baby showers different for our daughters (or younger friends) than they were for us? - Obviously this isn't something I can answer because I AM one of the younger ones! What I know of the showers for my mother and my husband's mother, I don't expect mine to be much different.

Do you like hosting baby showers or do you avoid that responsibility? - I generally like hosting almost anything, but a lot depends on who you are hosting for and who you are hosting with. I generally feel like having more than maybe two people host something like this, things get too complicated. If I can just hunker down and run with it, I love it. If I have to try and coordinate with six or eight other people, I'd rather avoid it.

Bonus: Any silliness about baby showers you wish to contribute? - Nothing that would benefit anyone.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hashbrown Casserole

This is one that was always a staple in my home growing up. We always called it "potato chip casserole" because my mom would crumble potato chips on top. Unfortunately, we never really had a written recipe for it and a few attempts over the last few years have been less than successful. However, I think I have FINALLY mastered this wonderfulness. By the picture you can tell that it probably won't be gracing many magazine covers anytime soon, but it's cheesy deliciousness, so how can you go wrong?

1 package frozen hashbrowns (I alternate between preferring the shredded and the little cubes, shape really doesn't matter)
2 cups shredded cheese (growing up it was almost always mild chedder, but now I generally prefer a blend like colby jack)
1/2 cup onion diced very fine (this was not a part of it growing up but I prefer it now. If you would rather you can use a little onion powder, trust me!)
1 can cheddar cheese soup (or cream of whatever. growing up it was always cream of chicken)
16 oz sour cream

Mix everything together and put into a greased casserole dish. Feel free to top with extra cheese, bread crumbs, potato chips, or whatever else you think would be tasty if you think it needs a little something extra. (I personally don't, although next time I might have to put some of those fried onions from a can on top, just to see what it does for me!)

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. It makes excellent leftovers.

I suppose if you really wanted you could add some chicken or turkey and a few veggies for an easy-cheesy casserole, but I'm not sure I would want to mess with this greatness. Throw a few chicken breasts on the grill or in the oven, steam up some broccoli or toss together a salad, and it's still just as easy!

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


So I've been dealing with "the authority thing" within myself again, but this time it has a very new spin. Recently I've been exposed to a few examples of ministers in lots of different shapes, forms, and fashions (both real and fictitious) that are absolutely humiliating. That I am so totally mortified to be even remotely associated with what these persons are trying to pass off as "care".

The first was from a website called "My OB said WHAT?!?" that was actually a comment from a hospital chaplain that made me physically ill. You can read about it here. At first I tried to make myself feel better by saying "Well, maybe this wasn't really a chaplain, but some sort of community volunteer who didn't know what they were doing." But the fact of the matter is, it very well could have been a trained (and possibly even board certified) chaplain. And I wanted to assume that it was a male and therefore use it as the perfect example of why women are so crucial in ministry. But I can't assume this was a male because sometimes the women think even less before opening their mouths, which is also appalling. Bottom line - this person was representing the presence of God in the midst of an incredibly painful situation and mucked it up royally. And as someone who is passionate about providing pastoral care to those in need and has been that "official representative" of the chaplain's office to women experiencing similar difficult times, I can feel nothing but shame and humiliation to have something in common with this person, whoever he or she may be!

What was really important to me was reading some of the comments that were left, and how many had responded to similar situations they faced, which unfortunately emphasizes the fact that there are too many people who seem to have lost the connection between their brain and their heart (but seem to have incredible flexibility when it comes to their feet and their mouth!) And what is even more unfortunate is that they seem to have very little concept of their authority and influence.

At the same time as I'm trying to process all of this, I was also reading Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I picked it up. For the most part, I love Miss Julia. But there were so many times when I wanted to put the book down and say "I don't like this, I don't want to read anymore," because of Miss Julia's pastor. It was a stab to the gut to read. The only redeeming factor is the way Miss Julia handles the whole thing (and that she recognizes that what he is saying is absolute cow-puckey). Yes, I know that this is fiction. But that's just this example. And if there is one thing I have learned from working in the church, it's that you can't make half of this stuff up! It's not too much of a stretch to see and hear someone saying this very same sort of thing. If you want the juicy details you'll have to read the book. But it's embarrassing, because these are the bridges that are burned by others that those of us who come along afterwards have to try to rebuild.

Before you can build a new bridge, you have to take down the one that's damaged, but may still be holding on in spite of all those scars and whatever other problems may have come in during the meantime. You salvage what you can, but sometimes there is nothing to be salvaged and you have to start fresh! It takes time. And energy. And even then the bridge doesn't do any good unless someone is willing to step out onto it and venture across! It's unfortunate. The hardest thing I have had to learn how to do in my pastoral life is demolition. Unfortunately, there are weak foundations (or even missing ones) or pieces that have been damaged that I have to come in and try to un-do so I can begin the process of building, and it seems contrary to what I thought I needed to do, but it is important and necessary and must be done with a certain level of care. Sure, anyone can come in swinging a sledgehammer and knock the heck out of something. That's the easy part. But that really only works if you want to take out the whole house and don't give a rip about anything that exists (or once existed)! Otherwise you're going to end up with more damage than you bargained for, and no good way to fix it. But if you take your time and know what you're doing, not only can you demo the things that need it, you will probably be able to salvage the pieces so that they can be put back later, but with the correct support (and maybe a little face lift!)

But let's take a step back and rewind a little bit here. Because let's look at what I've already said about all these things and why I'm so upset. Do you see it? I am absolutely asserting my authority and my role as a pastor and leader and caregiver. And the best part is, I don't even have to try. It has become so much a part of my identity that it simply happens, even when I'm goofing around online and dreaming about my future baby or when I'm on vacation reading a book that's supposed to be light and fun.

So first of all, let me say a huge "I'm sorry" to anyone who has been hurt by those in these ministerial authority roles. Maybe the fact that I've been there is what makes me so stinking determined to be a better example of what ministerial responsibility is all about.

Secondly, I can't believe how much I have grown and I am looking forward to growing even more. Stay tuned for more on this awesome journey and thank you for being a part of it!

My Favorite Things - p.36

I just realized that, as much time as I have spent at the beach this year and as much as I love it, I have never done a "favorite things" about the beach, so here it is. This isn't about Gulf Shores specifically, but any beach!

The smell - I love the combination of salt water, a little bit of seaweed, sunscreen, and car exhaust. I know it sounds a little crazy, but that is exactly what you smell at the beach! And it reminds me of lots of wonderful family vacations.

Crab claws - I'm not a huge seafood fan, but I do love really good, fresh crab claws. They're especially good with a baked potato and a very large margarita on the rocks!

Souvenir shops - They're everywhere! And I can't go to the beach without visiting at least one! I rarely buy anything, but I still have a good time looking!

Reading - I seem to read about three times as much when I'm at the beach. Particularly, things I probably wouldn't read otherwise. It's a wonderful treat! Stay tuned for more about WHAT I am reading!

People-watching - This is a favorite activity almost anywhere, but it's so much less conspicuous (and so much more entertaining!) when sand and surf are involved!

Now it's your turn to tell me some of your favorite things about the beach (or any other favorite vacation destination you may have!)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Zoe's Kitchen

I have had food from Zoe's Kitchen in the past at various events, but had never actually eaten in the restaurant until recently. I was actually a little apprehensive about it. I'd looked at the menu and wasn't sure there was anything that jumped out as looking great, but nothing I had ever tried was bad so I figured I could find something I would like.

I met a friend, Ashley, at the Summit location at 11:30 on a Wednesday. I figured it wouldn't be too busy that early, but I was very wrong! I was early so I walked inside and it was immediately overwhelming. The line to order at the counter was nuts, and it was almost impossible to walk around! I decided it would be better to wait outside rather than in the middle of all that!

When Ashley arrived, we went inside and the craziness had vanished, which was pretty impressive. We ordered our lunches, got our drinks, and found a table. I got the greek chicken pita and she got the club pita. We both got rice pilaf as a side. Our food came pretty quickly and we both had the same response - start digging the lettuce out! I had ordered my pita without tomato because, based on the picture on the website, I figured the lettuce would be easier to remove. I know, I'm strange that way. Well, I was wrong. The lettuce was lots of tiny pieces rather than a big leaf, and a pain to try and dig out. I didn't feel too bad because Ashley did the same thing!

As for the sandwich itself, it was pretty good. The chicken was cooked well and seasoned well. The caramelized onions were good, although a few were a little tough. I thought there was a little too much feta, but that was more of a personal preference because I know some people can't get enough of it. The biggest disappointment was the actual pita. It was really dry and as a result, the whole thing fell apart on me! We didn't get knives so cutting it up to eat it wasn't an option. One thing I didn't try was the house dressing. There was a bottle on every table and I saw several people with takeout orders stopping to open their orders and add a little (and one or two even buying bottles!) so I'm guessing it was probably pretty good!

The rice pilaf was excellent! I really loved it and could have eaten a ton of it! I would definitely go back just for that.

One thing that seemed a little "off" to me was the use of styrofoam. I don't know why I was so shocked and disappointed to see our sides in giant foam cups, but I was. I'm still trying to process that part of it. The general atmosphere was nice. Even though it was busy, it wasn't so loud that you couldn't have a great conversation. The service was friendly and prompt and it was a nice lunch place. I do understand why I have heard it described as "girl food" but that isn't necessarily a bad thing!

Overall, it was nice. I'm curious about some of the family dinners and the chocolate cake so if you've tried either of those, let me know what you think!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Last Hoorah

Tomorrow I am leaving for Gulf Shores for my "last hoorah" before CPE. This will be my third trip to the beach in as many months. Crazy! This will also be the longest of the trips. I am leaving tomorrow evening and staying until Friday.

I really don't have a ton planned. We will be staying someplace different this time, so if I want to see the beach I actually have to walk across to it, but I suppose that will be good for me. I have a few fun books read, may watch a few movies I've been wanting to see, try to do a little Christmas shopping at the outlets (yes I have already started), spend some quality time with the family, and go eat at the Original Oyster House. So help me I am going to figure out what is in those stinking cheese grits to make them so good!

The one thing I'm not looking forward to is going by myself. Jeff won't be able to come with me, so I will have to drive down alone AND drive his grandparents back. I'm not sure which is making me more nervous. I know that I am going to take some "me time" and do exactly what I want to do. This will probably include stopping at Peach Park. And Priesters.

I think it's true that you don't know what you've got until it's gone, but you also don't know how much you have missed something until you return. I never realized how much I missed spending time at the beach until we came back this year. Even last year, going to Tybee Island, it wasn't the same as "my" beach at Gulf Shores/Orange Beach. I have enjoyed coming back more than I ever thought possible. Best of all, if I can make it home from this trip without much of a sunburn it will be a new personal best!

The availability of internet access is questionable at this time. Jeff's grandmother called and said they don't have wireless, but I'm wondering if they have it in common areas, just not in the individual units. We will have to wait and see. Even if I can't get online with my computer, I will have my trusty phone, and I have several good things scheduled for this week, so keep reading!
Have a happy week! And if your jealousy gets the best of you, come on down and see me! We can hang out!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Moving On

Thursday and Friday Jeff and I went up to Cullman to finish cleaning out the shed at the house. The house itself has been empty for a while, but we still had things in that shed that had to be removed. They finally sorted through all of the red tape and a closing date has been set for next Wednesday.

On some level I am relieved to finally have some closure to all of this. But it also hurts like heck. Don't get me wrong, I love having my own home and really have no desire to spend the rest of my life in Cullman. And even though I haven't lived there for over a year now, on some level that has been "home" for the past 17 years. I have moved from houses before, but I was young enough that it didn't affect me in the same way. I guess the accumulation of 17 years worth of memories makes it harder to let go of the brick and mortar. I know that no matter what, the memories will go with me. And having little pieces of that house in my own home now will help with that transition. But it's still hard.

One unexpected blessing in the whole experience was the fact that John came home and was able to help. It was nice to get to share memories as we went through things, and it was nice to have the extra set of hands and the extra truck! Even with three of us working pretty darn hard, it took about 7 hours to get it all done. It was a lot of stuff. It took two truck-loads to various dumpsters around town, and about two truck loads to be donated. We kept about 5 boxes to be stored with my dad and Catherine. And Jeff and I took back enough stuff to make Jeff roll his eyes and fill up the back of his truck. That's it.

After we finished loading everything up, I did one last walk-through of the house before we locked the doors. I didn't cry, which was surprising, but it was kind of sad. I think what really hit me harder was coming into town on Thursday and turning in town instead of continuing down the highway toward the old house. It's strange to know that I won't be back. But now I am moving on.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fear is Not the Only Force at Work in the World Today

This is an article I first wrote for my high school paper after I returned from a citizenship trip to New York City in March of 2002. As I reflect on today day, this article continues to be one of the best representations of my thoughts, emotions, and experiences.

"Sandy, get up. Jessica is out of the shower so itís your turn for the bathroom." Those were the first cheerfully spoken words I heard on Saturday, March 23rd. About twenty minutes later, as I debated whether or not it was cold enough to wear my leopard print hat, it finally hit me that I was actually in New York City. It was my first day to really be able to see the city. I was very excited to be fulfilling this dream not only for myself but also for my family. Our first stop that morning was to be Ground Zero. Everyone was in a very excited mood, mostly caused by an almost dangerous combination of sugar and adrenaline, but as soon as I saw Donny's face as we boarded the subway, my stomach dropped, and I knew it had nothing to do with the chocolate doughnut I had eaten for breakfast. Donny's uncle was in one of the towers when it collapsed, and the few of us in the group who knew this fact weren't in much of a joking mood during the subway ride downtown.

The streets were eerily silent as we walked down Wall Street. We passed several memorials along fences, and as touching as they were, I couldn't make myself look at them for more than a few moments at a time. Just as we neared a corner I heard myself gasp. Directly across the street from us was a Burger King that had been boarded up and signs spray painted on the boards and windows read "NYPD Temporary HQ" in bright orange letters. It was obvious that this makeshift office hadnít been used in months, but no one had made any effort to remove the signs. We walked slowly up to a fence just a few feet away from the rescue workers. The first thing I noticed was the iron cross, the only thing standing more than head height above the pile of nothing that was once two of the largest buildings in the world. The next thing to capture my attention was a line of at least five ambulances. As our group stopped to stare with morbid fascination at the pile of rubble, one of the ambulances pulled away with its lights and sirens on. Any semblance of composure I had managed to maintain until that point was driven away with that ambulance as its siren pierced the silence.

As the tears rolled down my cheeks, I remembered a promise I had made to my cousin Mike a few weeks earlier. I told him I would say a prayer for everyone at Ground Zero, but as hard as I tried, I couldn't make the words come. All I could do was weep. As millions of thoughts raced through my mind I began to realize that my tears of sorrow were turning to tears of joy. I knew at that moment my way of thinking would never be the same and there was no way I would be able to return home the same person I left as. Suddenly the words of my prayer flooded my mind. I took a deep breath, wiped my tears, closed my eyes, bowed my head, and began to pray quietly. "Lord, I know there was a reason for this great tragedy. Please be with everyone that has been affected by this, even in the most remote way. Thank you for this amazing opportunity for growth, not only for me, but also for the world. Amen." As I lifted my eyes I saw a sign hanging on the building across the street. There was a picture of two hands clasped in prayer and the words "Fear is not the only force at work in the world today" printed boldly across the bottom for all the world to see. "You know," I thought to myself, "they're right." I took one final look at the cross and walked away with a smile.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Five - Insomnia

Today's Friday Five deals with insomnia and sleep. I like sleep. I have mentioned before that messing with my sleep is not advisable. But I am about to embark on a new adventure with CPE, and my sleep schedule will indeed be messed with!

Are you prone to sleeping challenges? -
I definitely snore, but it rarely causes me any problems unless I am sick. When that is the case, I have been known to wake myself up snoring! I do sort of have allergy issues and will often wake up with a stuffy nose. Overall though I can usually sleep pretty soundly.

When you can't sleep, what do you do? - When I'm not tired or can't sleep I will often watch TV or a movie or play on the computer. Occasionally I will read, but most of the time the computer does it for me. I will shop online, surf around, or play "Plants vs. Zombies". I highly recommend it as a way to waste time!

When you do sleep, do you remember your dreams? - I rarely dream or remember my dreams at all, and what I do remember rarely makes sense so they don't stick with me for very long.

Can you share a funny or confusing dream you've had? - I really haven't had any dreams recently that I can remember. Sorry!

When you don't sleep, how do you get through the day? - I am very lucky that, currently, I don't have to report to an office at 8am most of the time, so I can sleep late if I absolutely need it. I usually don't have a ton of trouble once I get going. I don't drink coffee but I will drink a soda of some sort if I need a little kick. If I slow down and start dragging, I will take a nap.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Playlist, Part 1

I love music. I have loved music for all of my memory. But I am not a trendy person. I've never been really "into" what was popular. I've barely been aware of what is popular, and I am usually at least a year or two behind trends. I had never heard of Justin Bieber until this summer. But I still maintain that I love music. I have been criticized for having the iPod of "a six year old", which I think is a bit of an exaggeration. And even if it isn't, I'm ok with that. Because it's what I have and what I like.

Would I like to have more music? Absolutely! Is there lots of stuff out there that I like and would love to have? You bet! But there are other things I would rather do with my money. I can't remember the last time I bought a physical CD, but it was probably about 4 years ago when I got the soundtrack to Mamma Mia after I saw the show in Atlanta.

I like music that lets me sing along. I like stuff that is generally peppy and fun. Most of the time when I am listening to music it is when I am in the car. My favorite playlist, titled "Fun Mix" now has about 114 songs on it. They are in alphabetical order by song title. There are show tunes, children's music, songs ranging from the 1940s - 2000s. There are some songs that are soft and fluffy and sickeningly sweet, and there are some that are hard and aggressive and It's an odd, eclectic mix. But I love it. It suits me.

One thing I have noticed about my music (mostly thanks to my wonderful friends and colleagues) is how profoundly spiritual and inspiring even "secular" music can be. And how much I think I value things that are truly inspiring, even more than I ever have. I think this is the biggest reason my music isn't particularly trendy and I don't give a rip! Music is so intimate. It reflects so much of my life and my memories and so many emotions that it is a hard thing to share and an even harder thing to leave to the control and opinions of others.

What is on your playlist right now? How often do you buy new music? Do you have anything particularly special you would be willing to share with me? I promise to give more details about what is speaking to me in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Favorite Things - p.35

Here are a few of my favorite things to do on a rainy day

Eat Macaroni and Cheese - I don't care if it's a thousand degrees outside, rainy days make me want comfort foods, but since I don't want to leave the house to get something like chicken and dumplings, I usually end up with Mac and Cheese from a box!

Watch Movies - Particularly movies I haven't seen in a while. I love that the chances of my getting interrupted or needing/wanting to go somewhere are substantially lessened during rain.

Take a Nap - Naps are always wonderful, but listening to the rain pounding on the roof somehow makes it so much better!

Write - Blogs, journals, fiction, sermons, letters, lists, it really doesn't matter. Something about rainy days inspire me and make me want to write even more than I normally would!

Organize - On the very rare occasions that I don't revel in the freedom to do nothing on a rainy day, I feel the need to be productive inside the house and do the things that are normally overlooked. Usually this means finding some sort of dark corner to organize, especially in the kitchen.

What do you love to do when the sky turns grey and the bottom falls out?