Monday, December 17, 2007

Where God's chillin'

There are lots of Christmas lyrics that make me wince, but this one (taken from "Santa Claus is Coming to Town") actually manages to find me with my mouth wide open in disbelief almost every time I hear it. I'm not actually sure who wrote this disturbing addition to an already sub-par song, but Bing Crosby sings it with such cool confidence that I can scarcely believe my ears.
Santa knows that where God's chillin'
That makes everything right
My challenge this week: to post Christmas lyrics each day. That should give you poor readers something new to ponder . . . several of you say you've been "reading my blog," and I can only assume that means you're reading and rereading old posts. Unsure of whether or not my writing can actually sustain that many readings, I think it would just be best if I write something new.
Jump in bed, cover up your head
'Cause Santa Claus comes tonight, tonight
Santa Claus is coming tonight

Monday, December 10, 2007

Diminutive snowperson



Compliments of our neighbors . . . we think they may have been trying to create an arctic version of Adam, what with the ivy leaf.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Work in progress

Because I am tired of everyone badgering me to post photos of our new bedroom . . . here they are. As you can see, we're lacking all the finishing touches: trim around the windows and doors, art on the walls, curtains, etc.

But we're really enjoying the carpet, which has a great texture to it, and our super-organized closet. Hopefully someday soon I'll be able to post photos of the completed project!




Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mr. Wonderful

Some of you loyal readers may wonder why my husband of almost five years is never referred to by name, but rather, "Mr. Wonderful." This mostly has to do with my overinflated sense of self-importance, since I am a celebrity after all, and I need to respect and protect the privacy and anonymity of my loved ones.

One of the bloggers I enjoy and respect the most (and have read the longest), James Lileks, has always referred to his best friend as "The Giant Swede" and calls his elementary school-age daughter "Gnat." So I thought I'd follow suit, and come up with a blogosphere designation for my husband.

And one of the first things that came to mind was "Mr. Wonderful," mostly because he' s, well, wonderful. When it seems like everyone else's boyfriends and husbands just never want to talk, share household chores, or cuddle, my husband is remarkably proficient (and interested) in all of these activities.

Which is why, three or four years ago, at a married couples' retreat, he was the proud winner of a Mr. Wonderful talking doll, which, a little too enthusiastically, says things like "Mmmm . . . you look beautiful in the morning," "Actually, I’m not sure which way to go. I’ll turn in here and ask for directions," and "You know, I think it’s really important that we talk about our relationship" -- all at the tug of a cord in his back.

He doesn't try to be a smooth, sensitive guy. He's actually quite a tough guy much of the time. Which, really, is much better than that stupid doll anyway . . . who would want a guy who's always asking if you want to go to the mall and buy new shoes?!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Truffle time

Thanks to a very thoughtful co-worker of mine who has relatives (and miles of bike trails) that lure him to Asheville, N.C. on a regular basis, Mr. Wonderful and I now have "truffle time" every school night. When I found out about my co-worker's Asheville connections, I immediately told him he had to check out The Chocolate Fetish, as we think theirs is the best chocolate we've ever had.

So when he came back from Thanksgiving in North Carolina, he brought us a sampler of some of their best truffles. We love them so much that we're savoring them--we eat one a day, cut in half so we can share it, for each day of classes that Mr. Wonderful has left in the fall semester. It's a great way to celebrate and count down the days!

This is a shot of us, giddy with the rich, dark, spice of "Ancient Pleasures," one of the most exotic truffle selections -- it's dusted with cayenne.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What American accent do you have?

I have said it for years: I don't have an accent. And now, I have an online survey to prove it!

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Midland

"You have a Midland accent" is just another way of saying "you don't have an accent." You probably are from the Midland (Pennsylvania, southern Ohio, southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and Missouri) but then for all we know you could be from Florida or Charleston or one of those big southern cities like Atlanta or Dallas. You have a good voice for TV and radio.

The Inland North
The West
The Northeast
Philadelphia
The South
Boston
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Houseguests, etc.

I already know I'm going to get in trouble for not having taken photos . . . I'm sorry! I just keep forgetting to pick up the camera!

We had the pleasure of entertaining some dear friends last night and this morning -- Mr. & Mrs. Smith -- and it was the first time we'd had guests since moving into our new bedroom. (It's so much nicer to have guests when it doesn't involve uprooting yourself from your super-messy bedroom to sleep on the futon, and washing the same set of sheets three times during the weekend. Not that it's not worth it when you have to do things that way; it's just not fun.)

Anyway, it was lovely to sit around the dinner table, enjoying Mexican-ish comfort food with an old friend and her husband, and then to hit the local bagel place for breakfast this morning before a little tour of CMU's campus and the surrounding neighborhoods.

And tonight . . . we were planning on going out on a date -- a super-rare occurrence -- but a couple from church just called and asked us to go with them to a Lebanese restaurant on the South Side. Do you think we could pass that up? I think not.

Weekends like this one make all the other days in between worth living.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Postgame carnage




Yes, those are napkins. I had a tight decorating budget.

And a lot of fun sniffing Sharpies.

The bedroom project -- before

This footage was taken a few weeks ago--October 14, to be exact--and boy, have we come a long way with this project! It's now painted, carpeted, and some of the trim is up, plus we have super-awesome organizer in our amply sized closet. So, since we were getting close to completion, and because the guest bedroom was getting increasingly small and cluttered, we made the move last night! All the bed linens were washed in preparation, and we spent our first night in a new, clean, huge bedroom!

I'll post the "after" photos soon--maybe even some video footage--but I want to wait until I can get some good morning shots of the room. Situated on the second floor of the front of the house, it gets some lovely morning light, especially in the colder months. But for now, enjoy my cinematography.

video

Thursday, November 08, 2007

stress

n. — the condition that results when person-environment transactions lead the individual to perceive a discrepancy, whether real or not, between the demands of a situation and the resources of the person's biological, psychological or social systems."
The Great Wiki
We talk a lot about stress in this culture. And because of us, other cultures are catching on, too—last year, my boss and I heard a story on NPR about the rise of see-tress—a phonetic approximation of the English word—in Vietnam, where business is good and stress is becoming a symbol of affluence, ambition, and success. [Last year, as a result of hearing this story on the radio, we ran an article in Seek magazine (PDF; see page 7) addressing the stress, and other North American cultural products, that are exported to the rest of the world with little thought to their effect on our global neighbors.]

Lately I've been thinking about stress from this perspective, but also from the perspective of someone who's been feeling quite stressed out lately, and I think this link between stress and consumerism is stronger than most of us would ever expect.

Think about it: if stress is the result of a discrepancy between expectations and reality, or the demands and the resources to meet those demands, then the potential for stress will increase anytime expectations and demands increase, because there is always some limit to our resources.

Now you'd think—and I believe many of us North Americans do think—that, at some point, we would have enough time, money, energy, whatever, to meet the demands that we and others have placed on us; that we could reach a point where stress levels stop rising and reach a sort of equilibrium. But that's exactly the flawed thinking that gets us in trouble in the first place; it's based on consumerist thought that isn't really aware of itself. The trouble with humanity is that, the more we have, the more we want. We can make a conscious effort to exercise self-control, to say "enough is enough," to be content with what we have. But unless we do that, the demands and expectations will continue to rise. And with them come stress.

There's nothing wrong with expectations or ambitions. Heck, the whole reason we uprooted our entire lives three months ago and moved here to Pittsburgh—that was all about expectations and ambitions. Expectations for an education that would allow my husband to better use his gifts and talents. Ambitions for him to make more money so that I don't have to—especially while we're raising a family, which we hope to do soon. Expectations that someday, we can have more time to pour into our community, our church, our family, and our friends. There's nothing wrong with us working toward these goals. But we need to understand that, in the meantime, we are going to experience stress as a result.

The key, however, is to halt the escalation of consumerism. We need to know where to draw the line. Because if we don't draw that line (and keep retracing it as each day passes), when we arrive there, we'll soon find there's more that we aspire to; further discrepancies between what is and what we think should be.

This is all fairly obvious . . . but what I think we really don't get—what we just don't realize most of the time—is that we all must make a decision to be content. Contentment doesn't come to us; we come to it. And—although this is unthinkable to most of us—for the most part, our neighbors around the world who have a lot less than we do are much better at drawing that line and choosing contentment than we are. How can they be content with next to nothing, we wonder?

In large part, our society is populated by the descendants of hardworking, hungry, and sometimes even deprived, abused, or persecuted people. Now don't get me wrong; I'm glad all our ancestors had the ability and the drive to "make a better life" for their families . . . I just think sometimes we take that whole "making a better life" thing a little too far. Because often "a better life" is defined by possessions, higher education, and even higher expectations—not by deeper relationships with God, family, and friends, or by being a person of character. And you have to admit, by and large, we North Americans are quite poor in spirit, whereas our neighbors across the ocean tend to be a bit better at focusing on what's really important in life.

Maybe it's because they're not stressed out by the daily grind of reaching for more.

For the most part, our neighbors in Africa and Southeast Asia and South America don't get to choose where they "draw the line" with regard to what they're striving for. I suppose you could say they're lucky they don't have to make that decision. But in a way, they still do—we all do. We all have to determine what's enough and be content if we ever want to have less stress.

And I sure as heck have had enough of that for one lifetime. How about you?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Update

We have heat!

The best thing about Halloween

Is that when you're riding the bus and the subway, and walking around town, you get to try to figure out if people are wearing a costume, or if that's their normal look.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

There are days.

Days when the sloppy wetness of the sidewalk beneath my flip-floppy shoes doesn’t bother me. There are days when the mundane softness of a corduroy shirt is a constant marvel. Days when the random ripples of the murky river refresh me. There are days when I don’t care that I dripped coffee all over my raincoat on the bus when I was trying to juggle my laptop bag, my overgrown umbrella, a defective travel mug, and the book I was reading. There are days when my well-worn ebay shoes are the only ones I ever want to own. And there are days when a brisk walk in the rain with a neurotic puppy, a trip to buy a used chest freezer on craigslist, and a late dinner of tortellini with broccoli sounds just lovely.

There are days when I wonder why I ever let any of the little things get under my skin. Because after all, these things are little, and I care about so much more than just soggy feet, a stained raincoat, or a dinner that’s later than my stomach would prefer. There are days when only the big things matter, and anything else is either a small pleasure, or else it’s immaterial.

Yesterday was one of those days. And it was good.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Full circle

I just found this photo on Friendship Community Presbyterian Church's websitethey're celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, which is a really neat time for Mr. Wonderful and me to be here, 25 years after I born into the community of this church. It's amazing how some things never changelike my mom and dad's appearance, the total and utter cuteness of my smile, and the warmth of the community at Friendship Church.

There are other things that don't change, toolike the way my mom has to hold that rubber ball because I can't maintain my own grasp of it, and the way my overall straps always fall off my shoulder . . . but I guess I don't feel so sentimental about those kinds of things.

Realization

Have you ever learned something about yourself that you really never wanted to know?

I think I’m the process of doing that now. I say “in the process” because I’m constantly waffling between accepting this new self-knowledge as truth . . . and discounting it as over-spiritualized crap. It would seem like an easy and obvious decision—you cannot ever fully deny the truth, after all—but the truth can certainly be ignored, veneered over; hidden for quite some time.

Either way, there is pain (on one hand, the pain of facing your darkest thoughts and feelings; on the other hand, the pain of dishonesty and stagnation). The latter, I believe, is a form of pain that is actually quite simple to medicate for long periods of time. And I suppose that’s what I’ve been doing for many years now: medicating. Mind you—following the pain metaphor—it’s not like I’d ever been given an accurate diagnosis before; I’d only ever seen and treated the symptoms.

But now that I have an inkling of what is really going on with me—why I seem to have so much trouble with stress and managing it—I think it might be better to face the pain and get it over with, rather than ignoring it for the rest of my life.

I don’t think I’m quite ready to face all of this yet, to talk about every detail. But I know I need to say this: I have never really thought about myself as a selfish, greedy person. But I have come to realize in the past few weeks that I care more about my vision, my goals, and my ideas of precisely how my life should unfold—I care more about these things than I had ever realized, and like a spoiled child, I am unwilling to accept anything that’s outside of my own plans and visions.

And when my life experience and dreams don’t match up closely enough . . . that’s when I feel stressed. Well, that’s the definition of stress, isn’t it? The trouble is, I suppose, that I haven’t really learned the art of reconciling these two things—a skill that all spoiled children need to learn.

There are probably several ways to do this. Stoics like Mr. Wonderful may choose to have no expectations at all (at least that’s what he claims sometimes), while seriously nerdy overachiever types just try harder to “do it all” (yes, that would be more my personality). But if you think about it, neither of these approaches is really that effective. It’s neither feasible nor healthy to empty yourself of all dreams and aspirations, and try as I might, I can never live up to my own expectations. I may be smart and talented, but it doesn’t matter how hard I try; sometimes I just won’t succeed in the way I want to.

Over the past few months, despite the fact that I threw myself, body and soul, into the task of finding a job that would pay well and make the best use of my skills, I failed. It didn't matter if I stayed up another hour to search for more jobs, or if I revised my resume for the eighteenth time; I just couldn't do it. And now, take the house: I can't really work any harder to suddenly make this house beautiful and perfect and 100 percent guest-ready; these things just don't depend on me like I think they do.

So if I can’t just try harder, or do much in the way of lowering my expectations, what is the solution? It might just be that I need to accept someone else’s expectations and vision for my life, instead of my own. Someone who has a broader perspective. Someone who “works for the good of those who love him.”

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The unforgivable curse

So I've been thinking a lot about photocopiers lately, and why exactly they give me the creeps.

Today I finally figured it out: it's the green light.

You know, that eery green light that is just barely contained by the lid -- that light that can make you go temporarily blind? Well, doesn't that remind you of something? Something Voldemort-ish?

It's the same flash of green light that you see when someone issues a killing curse in the world of Harry Potter.

Weird, huh?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Highland Park: a photo tour

Hooray for Highland Park! This week, our neighborhood got itself on the National Registry of Historic Places -- and it's not hard to see why.









Wednesday, September 12, 2007

September hope

There is something about these early autumn days that just invites dreams and wandering thoughts that have very few practical elements. Autumn is the season of renewed hope -- of gathering up all the pieces of your life and actually believing that something good could come of them.

It's not spring, by any means -- there is nothing poking up through the soil for the first time, and the pace of life is not quite so frantic or harsh as the rapid growth of spring. In early fall, the time for growth has come and gone, and some things haven't quite turned out like you thought they would. If spring is hopelessly, naively optimistic, then autumn is the season of mature hope, when you've seen hard times and know they will come again but you have renewed energy to press on in spite of the past. Failure and a general sense of doom may be looming in the distance, but autumn is the time for squinting at it from afar and saying to yourself, "I think I just might be able to beat this" -- whatever it is, it seems there's always something like that in my life come September.

This September, of course, there are a number of things -- among them, just surviving in this new environment. And so, on this sunny, cool afternoon that's driven me to sip steaming coffee and pull on a waffle-knit henley . . . I am staring down the loneliness, the financial discomfort, the frustration with the state of our house, the fear that I might keep worrying and hating myself for the rest of my life, the thought that this whole Pittsburgh experiment might just fail miserably . . . I am staring it all down from afar with that against-the-odds optimism, and thanking God for His renewing strength this September.

A random thought about music
I was listening to the radio today, and was again annoyed by the trend that music artists are taking to calling themselves by singularly band-like names. If you heard a song by Feist or Iron & Wine for the first time, would it be instantly obvious that these are individuals, rather than bands? And if you heard a song by Rilo Kiley, would you guess that Rilo Kiley is a band? Of course not! So why do they do it? I have a theory: they are setting us all up to be mocked and ridiculed by their nerdiest, most dedicated fans who laugh and say to each other, "ha ha, she doesn't even know that Rilo Kiley isn't a person; Rilo Kiley is a band!" Music artists like this are drawing boundary lines between "true" fans and casual listeners who aren't absolutely obsessed with them yet.

Now, I know what you're saying: "But Dulci, you like Sting." And for those of you who didn't know I like Sting, please don't feel like this has to come between us. I know most people don't like Sting, and that's O.K. -- I won't try to push old Police albums on you or anything. Anyway, I realize Sting is somewhat of an ambiguous title for an individual music artist. But there's a bit of a difference here; most people have no idea that Sting's real name is Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner (I can see why he changed it -- Gord Sumner doesn't quite have the 80s rock appeal that Sting does). Whereas people like Leslie Feist have a sort of dual public identity; they have no qualms about telling people their real, full names, but on their albums, they go by their enigmatic stage name. See? There is a difference.

If you asked me to suggest an underlying social change that is contributing to this shift in the way that musicians refer to themselves, I could probably come up with some kind of B.S. about how today's artists are much more willing to openly admit that they lead a double life; that the person on stage and the person on the street are not the same by any means. But I'm afraid I'd have to do a great deal more research in order to really confirm that hypothesis, and like I said, it's B.S. anyway.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What I'm reading

Thursday Next: First Among Sequels
by Jasper Fforde

This, I think, is the last of the Thursday Next series, and I can't wait to find out how it ends! (Of course, if I stopped reading four books at one time, I might find out sooner.






Moon Handbook: Pittsburgh
by Dan Eldredge

A good guide to Pittsburgh, with a surprisingly casual, insider's perspective (usually these things are all ads and endorsements).







The Moving Finger
by Agatha Christie

One of my guilty pleasures. Actually, this one is quite well-crafted--one of Christie's favorites, and not nearly as formulaic as some of her other works. It's a Miss Marple mystery, but I'm halfway through and Miss Marple hasn't shown up yet, so that's a pretty shocking change of pace. Seriously, I love Christie's mystery novels, and this is a great one.




Food and Faith: Justice, Joy, and Daily Bread
edited by Michael Schut

With a collection of essays by the likes of Wendell Berry (yes, that was a huge selling point for me), this book explores . . . well, justice, joy, and daily bread. Heh heh. So far, I've read a thought-provoking piece on food as sacrament, and I thought it was very well done. I can't wait to read the rest of it. I'm sure it will be a blog-entry starter for me for the next few months, given that food and faith are two of my favorite topics!

Hired.

Well, it's finally happened. I'm no longer unemployed! I got a job at McCrory & McDowell LLC (that's right; a company with a suffix!), which is an accounting and consulting firm in downtown Pittsburgh. I'll start work there on Thursday.

It's an administrative support job, which of course I know everyone thinks is a step down from editor . . . but it's also a step down in responsibility, and that will be a welcome change. The compensation for this position more than provides for our needs, and I feel good about the work environment, so I'm looking forward to it. They're actually going to let me do some editing and proofreading, too, so I'll get to use my editorial skills a bit, which is good.

I promise I'll put up a real post sometime soon . . . I know the Pittsburghy updates are getting old!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The coffee stirrer man

So there's this guy at my temp job who cracks me up. I think he probably has more degrees than a mercury thermometer, but each time he walks past my half-cubicle (which he does approximately 500 times a day), he is chewing on a red plastic coffee stirrer. Is it his personal version of the boy sitting on a fence with a blade of grass in his mouth? Is he so addicted to coffee that chewing the stirrer is the only way he can safely channel all the caffeine he imbibes each day? Does he think that red plastic really suits his pink and green striped button-down shirt?

But most importantly, perhaps, does he know he's doing it?

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

And now, it would seem

I have job opportunities coming out of my ears. Well, maybe not quite, but compared to a few weeks ago, yes. Out of my ears. I just had a second interview today for a job downtown, and that went well . . . we'll see. Then I have another interview on Friday (only a part-time position, but still worth going to) and I got a preliminary offer from the place where I'm temping! Sheesh! :)

Friday, August 31, 2007

Highlights from corporate e-mail signatures

1."Think about the environment before printing this e-mail."
Umm, try thinking about
why you would print a piece of electronic mail at all. Sorry, this is just a pet peeve of mine -- I've worked for so many people who print out all their e-mails and file them.

But even better is this:

2. "My leadership causes power and passion in everyone I touch."
Maybe, but your e-mails cause nausea and disgust in everyone who receives them.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Sending down roots

Mr. Wonderful is at school right now, experiencing anew those glorious days known as freshman/transfer orientation week. Part of me pities him the 18-year-old folly he'll have to deal with over the next few days (and years); the other part of me is very proud of him for taking the plunge and going back to finish college.

The house is looking and feeling a bit more like home, as you can see from the dining room photos . . . and although the master bedroom had to get a lot worse before it could get any better (it's currently ripped apart!) we're definitely on our way to transforming our new sleeping quarters into a peaceful, organized haven.

Lewis seems to be struggling with the transition -- he's been displaying all sorts of unpleasant behavior lately -- and I'm not quite sure what to do with him. If you think of it, please pray for him and us; we're just not sure yet how to help him.

We're getting used to riding the bus now -- learning the subtle art of when to pay, where to get on and off, and how to walk steadily and gracefully up and down the aisle while the bus is lurching forward.

We're also trying to figure out precisely what neighborhood we live in; we seem to be just barely on one side or the other of several dividing lines. Does that mean we're in a neighborly no man's land? Or that we have multiple citizenships?

I'm still looking for a job (and not being too successful -- at least, no one except for Trader Joe's has called me for an interview). But I'm holding out hope that something will come through soon. Specifically, I'm hoping and praying for a phone call or e-mail tomorrow, because as much fun as it would be to work at Trader Joe's, I'm pretty sure it won't pay the bills for long. Anyway, I'm committed to working for the good of this city, and I will give just about any job my all -- so it's just a matter of time before someone sees that and decides to try me out.

We visited a new church today -- Eastminster Presbyterian. Sometimes I think the Pittsburgh church situation is a little like the scene in The Blues Brothers when Jake and Elwood enter a bar and ask what kind of music they play there -- "Oh, we've got both kinds: country and western," is the reply. Well, here in Pittsburgh, they've got lots of church diversity: there's Reformed Presbyterian, Presbyterian Church in America, Presbyterian Church USA, and even a few Orthodox Presbyterian congregations. WOW! It's a good thing I'm basically O.K. with Calvinism (Mr. Wonderful, however, is not -- he's an Arminian through and through, hence the dozens of late-night arguments we've had over the past seven years regarding predestination, free will, and the sovereignty of God. So this should be a little challenging for him).

Anyway, Eastminster seemed like a friendly church, and I like its tagline -- "Christ-centered and intentionally cross-cultural." However, today was an atypical service, as the pastor was on vacation (August is a terrible time for church-shopping). So we'll probably go back some other Sunday, and see what we think then. I'd still really like to go to Friendship Community Church (also Presbyterian, heh heh) but we promised ourselves we'd look around first, so we will.

It's easy for me to feel down -- and alone -- here in our new place, with no co-workers or small group or good friends nearby, and the house in such a state. But tomorrow will come, as fresh and full of surprises as the farmer's market I go to on Mondays. And thankfully, the God who surprised me last week with the sweetest and most tender beets I've ever tasted -- purchased from a rough-looking crowd of teenagers in a torn-up parking lot -- that God has an imagination vaster than mine will ever be. So if I can find farm-fresh beets in the hood, who knows? Maybe even I will find a place here in Pittsburgh to send down roots of my own.

The dining room: before . . .

. . . and after



Sunday, August 05, 2007

Trying to decide if I like it here.

It occurred to me today, when I was asking my husband for the millionth time if he was O.K., that maybe I'm not sold on living here. Me--the change addict, the person who's been so optimistic about moving to a new city--could it be that I'm having a little trouble adjusting?

Yeah, it's possible. I don't want to admit it, though. So I guess that's why I'm posting it on my blog?

Lewis and Mr. Incredible are doing well so far. The move was rough, but we had so many great friends and family members helping us, and they kept us from completely losing it on multiple occasions.

We're basically moved into our new house now; at least, we're not really camping anymore! Tomorrow, Mr. Incredible goes back to work (from home) and I pound the pavement, looking for a job. I'm looking forward to it; resuming the job search will give me something to focus on other than the fact that our whole house needs to be remodeled. Hopefully this week we'll be able to start work on the master bedroom; we may actually end up blowing in insulation, drywalling over the plaster walls, and redoing all the electrical work before we even get to the fun cosmetic stuff . . . but if we can accomplish it, I'm sure we'll be very happy with the result.

On a more positive note, however, I am absolutely loving our neighborhood and our location here in the city. Our walks with Lewis are the perfect opportunity to take in the incredible architecture that surrounds us on all sides. From the dramatically sloped roofs of English-style cottages to the bricked arches of 1900s-era stately homes, it's hard to be bored when walking the dog. And, as I suspected, one of my big budget downfalls (although perhaps a good thing for my health) is Whole Foods. We never had one within driving distance at home in Central Pa., and now we live closer to Whole Foods than to Giant Eagle, the "normal" grocery store. There's supposedly a farmer's market tomorrow in our neighborhood, so I might just have to check that out, too.

As I write this, Mr. Incredible is excitedly watching the Steelers' first pre-season game. It's been a highly anticipated game ever since their coach of many years (I think more than 12) threw in the towel at the end of the 2006 season. With a new (and very young) coach, everyone is watching and waiting to see what the Steelers are going to look like this year. Mr. Incredible, a devoted fan, is enthusiastic--but only time will tell. That's basically how I feel right now. This move feels like the right thing to do, and while I may have lots of high hopes for our life in Pittsburgh, I just need to wait and see how it all plays out.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Fitting my life in a U-Haul truck

Tomorrow is the day. Not the day when we actually leave Central Pa., but when we finally forsake the comfort and ultimate suburbanness of this place we've renovated, decorated, and laughed and cried over for more than two years. I'll admit that it's hard, now that I'm faced with the full reality of the situation, to leave this clean, comfortable home for one that will require serious scouring before we even begin to think about repainting and unpacking our boxes.

But we are blessed to have this opportunity, and I know the Pittsburgh house will someday feel every bit as hospitable and homey as our little starter home here in Lewisberry.

Just as I haven't been blogging for months and months, I still probably won't be around much, at least until we get unpacked in Pittsburgh, and I find a job. But everyone is welcome to visit--there's plenty of space in our new abode!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Psalm 42.8

By day the LORD directs his love,

at night his song is with me —

a prayer to the God of my life.

Three weeks' notice

The minutes and hours are passing me by, and I'm too stressed to enjoy them! At least, that's how I've felt recently. We'll be settling on our current house three weeks from yesterday, and from there . . . I don't know where we'll be! But I hope we'll end up here (just the right side of the duplex, not the whole thing):



It's a great old house, and hopefully we can move there in early August!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

46

Instead of apologizing for my unbelievably long absence, I'm just going to post. So don't try to make me feel guilty for not writing; just be grateful I'm here now. O.K.?

O.K.

Why do we even say that? It's not even a word.

O.K., focus.

Sorry. I'm really going to write now. O.K.?

The last few months have been an agonizing combination of waiting and preparing, working tirelessly on our house so we can sell it--but knowing for sure if we would sell it anyway.

Thankfully, God and Carnegie Mellon University saw fit to let Mr. Incredible know that he is accepted into their computer science program for the fall . . . so now obsessive mail-checking and "well, we don't know if we're moving or not" conversations are over. And we are so grateful!

There are still so many details to work out . . . how will we sell our little house? Where will I work once in Pittsburgh? Will we rent or buy? And as we consider the last question, we must always be asking, "where will Lewis poop?" Sorry, but it's a fact of life. The dog is going with us, and so is his business.

But in the meantime, I have 46 more days to work, to contribute to the Brethren in Christ. I have longer than that to be with friends and family while we're still here--but suddenly, three months doesn't seem like a very long time.

I'll write more later . . . I just felt like I needed to break the ice and post a little update. Here's a photo of our house--anyone in the market for a 1940s bungalow with a backyard view of Central PA farmland?

O.K., that was fun. Be back soon.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Wow, it's been way too long . . .

Here's something I wrote yesterday to share at a meeting with the BIC bishops:

I was at a conference last week and suddenly I realized why I have often felt so drained over the last year or so, why I so desperately needed refreshment:

I am a religious insider.

In the three years that I’ve been out of college, I have worked in communications for three different Christian organizations, which means I’ve not only been responsible for handling the Word of God, but also the message of each organization I’ve worked for. I’ve been privy to a lot of “inside” information, and I’ve watched how leaders and followers alike conduct themselves.

It’s easy when you’re a religious insider to become callous toward other believers; to be hard of hearing when it comes to the still, small voice of God; and to read the most powerful portions of Scripture without being moved. And I have to say . . . that’s kind of where I’ve been.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with being a religious insider—it is a privilege, an awesome responsibility—but the problem is, when you’re making your living with the Gospel, any frustrations that you face, any apathy that develops as a result of your job will negatively impact your faith. Unless, that is, you’re careful.

And although it seems a little late in the game for me to be coming to this realization (after all, I am leaving in July), I do need to be careful to think of my job as a ministry, to be sure that I am refreshed enough by God and others to share and shape the wisdom that we publish in denominational communications. I need to be refreshed enough by God that when people at work disappoint me, I don’t become hardened against them as spiritual leaders. I need to be refreshed enough by God that the busyness, connectedness, and the celebrity that make up the lives of religious insiders—that I would count all these things as loss. Because without my faith in Christ, that’s exactly what they are.

I have come to the realization that, being a religious insider (as all of you are), I have an especially great need for God’s refreshing power. Because without it, I could not only be empty of wisdom to share with others; I could lose my faith altogether.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Confessions of a workaholic

Since I've been such a crappy blogger of late, I thought I'd post this little piece, which I recently wrote for my church's newsletter.

I was born with an underdeveloped sense of fun. As a kid, I was always the serious one, the nerdy one, the cautious one—the high-anxiety kid who was always quite sure there was something better to do than play and laugh. I always saw past the fun of frolicking in a sprinkler system, for instance, to its natural consequence: I might get muddy and wet.

My brothers, on the other hand, were first-rate frolickers. They made toys out of everything, and spent a good portion of their childhood laughing. As their overly serious older sister, I thought they were just wasting time. After all, I didn’t see grown-ups running around all day, wrestling and pretending they were cowboys.

And then I became a grown-up myself. My Anabaptist work ethic made it easy for me to succeed in college, and later, work situations. More than ever, fun and celebration seemed like an intrusion. If I was going to do something other than work—something I deemed “unproductive”—it should be a relaxing activity, something that would recharge my batteries for another day of work. But something was clearly missing: joy.

The Israelites don’t seem to share my problem with joy and celebration. Every time I read through the Old Testament, I’m surprised that such a creative and productive God would prescribe so many lengthy feasts and festivals. Surely God would not promote laziness and excess, I thought—but that’s exactly how these feasts seemed to me. Lots of people slacking off, eating gluttonous amounts, and . . . dancing? What a waste of time. What silliness! Besides, it’s not realistic for everyone to be celebrating at the same time; someone had to be working; otherwise, they would fall far behind on their tasks.

We modern-day North American Christians aren’t used to being told to rest, or feast, or celebrate. We set our own individual schedules, sleeping, eating, worshiping, and buying whenever it’s most convenient for us. But when the Israelites entered the Promised Land, God was surprisingly specific about how they ought to spend their time.

In Deuteronomy chapters 15­–16, God establishes a rhythm of sacrifice, mercy, worship, celebration, and feasting in the lives of this tiny nation. He tells them when to cancel debts, free servants, sacrifice animals, commemorate the exodus from Egypt, and celebrate the bounty of the harvest.

What really strikes me about this passage is that God doesn’t tell the Israelites when to work, how to work, or how efficiently they should work; rather, He tells them when to stop, when to rest, and when to celebrate. In His infinite wisdom, God knew humans’ penchant for workaholism, and He commanded His chosen people to make room in their busy lives to slow down, reflect on His provisions, and celebrate together.

Those are hard things for me to do. What if I don’t complete all the tasks on my to-do list? What if other people at work, at church, or in my family perceive my slowing-down and celebration as laziness? And perhaps, worst of all, will God still love me just as much if I’m not working or doing as much?

Yes, of course He will.

And if God loves me either way, my own and others’ opinion of my work ethic suddenly don’t seem so important anymore.

As I write this, I’m packing up for a little getaway to celebrate Mr. Incredible's and my fourth wedding anniversary. And while we need rest, and will probably do lots of reading, sleeping, and soaking in the jacuzzi, we’ll do our best to make this a time of actual celebration—to give thanks with joyful hearts for our lives together. Who knows? Maybe we’ll even splurge and do something really fun like snowshoeing or skiing. But we’ll see. I wouldn’t want to overdo it.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Pursuit of Happyness

Note: I'm posting this because I am feeling a little overly attached to this version of an article I wrote for Seek magazine. I've been asked to revise it significantly, which part of me realizes will improve it beyond all recognition, and part of me is just fixating on the fact that it will be changed beyond all recognition.

I really try to keep my attachment in check . . . but sometimes, I act just like a moody artist. I figured it would be somewhat consoling to know that the article was "getting out there" (at least, to the four people who read my blog), and that would help me feel a little bit better about starting over again. Without further ado, I give you a film review.


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A picture of poverty
Recent film prompts discussion of homelessness


Chris Gardner met his father for the first time at the age of 28. He saw him only one other time: at his father’s funeral. So when he had a son of his own, he was determined to stay in Chris Jr.’s life—no matter what.

Starring Will Smith, the 2006 film “The Pursuit of Happyness” brings Gardner’s story to light. The movie chronicles this father’s struggle to provide for his son without his wife, without a steady job, and (many times) without a place to call home.

On an interpersonal level, “The Pursuit of Happyness” offers a beautiful example of a father’s commitment to his child, and of nurturing care in desperate circumstances. But it is also a detailed look at the economics of poverty.Gardner wasn’t always homeless. In fact, at the beginning of the film, he and his wife and son share an apartment with running water, electricity, and the basic comforts of late 20th-century life in San Francisco. Always clean-shaven and respectably clad in a suit and tie, Gardner blends in with the middle class. But for him, as it is for so many people in our communities and in our churches, homelessness was only a paycheck away.

“The Pursuit of Happyness” is an important reminder that many of the people we see sleeping on park benches and dining at soup kitchens are not so different from us as we might think: they used to have jobs, homes, and families just like ours. No one can ever be 100 percent poverty-proof. Given the right circumstances, it could happen to anyone.

As portrayed in the film, Gardner’s pursuit of happiness was a fight for the right to work, to earn money to provide for his son. All he really wanted, all he struggled for, was a steady job that would enable him to have a permanent address, a place where his son could eat and sleep in safety—a home.

There are millions of people in our own neighborhoods and overseas who, like Gardner, are caught in poverty, without a place to sleep or the means to provide for their families. God’s love compels us to befriend, feed, clothe, and give shelter to all who need it. And when we do, Scripture reminds us, it’s all for Jesus.