Thursday, December 30, 2004

Home sick

It would be a good idea to be funny right now.

The new year is creeping up, 2004's been a doozy and I think a little holy humor is just what's in order.

However, I've been home all day with a sick husband and teething toddler watching Lord of the Rings extras on extended DVD (AFTER Boy bedtime, of course. Before that it was Finding Nemo for the 635th time. Not that I'm counting) and so I'm feeling both grandiose and morose, an unfortunate combination.

Maybe something will seem funny tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Big water

Cant stop thinking about the folks in the path of the tsunami. Here is something I got today via email - a report from a missionary who was vacationing in Sri Lanka. It's pretty long, but here's an excerpt where he describes the second wave.
As the swell of the tsunami raised the sea level (20 feet in our area, we are told), the same wave action we had seen before was active, adding to its destructive force.  An added problem was that, as the water level receded, the flow now rushed violently towards the sea sweeping with it a tangle of material and in some cases people.  The unfortunate people in the posh sea-side rooms had the entire contents of their rooms thus flushed out to sea including all their worldly possessions; some had nothing but their bathing suits.  Soon
everyone was searching far and wide for their things, but at the same time locals had come to the beach and began gathering valuable bits from the bonanza that lay scattered on the beach.  We were lucky, as we found a good portions of our things.  After a while another alarm was raised as the water began to recede far below low tide exposing rocks not normally visible.  I was on the beach looking for things when Brian and others shouted at me to come in and get up on the second floor.  Slowly the water came in again with each wave breaking higher on the beach till sea water almost, but not quite, entered the guest
house.  This time the receding water swept out any remaining things on the beach leaving it ristine and clean.  This happened a few more times including once at noon and then at 12:30.  We had been given a vacant upstairs room where we were collecting our things.  Many others had their belongings in stacks in the upstairs hall and verandah.  During this entire time the weather was beautiful with sunny blue skies.

Jeff found some equally disturbing first hand videos today - everyone on vacation on a "beautiful...sunny" day and then the slow, inexorable water.

Folks are going to need lots of help, which is going to take lots of money. Click Here to donate online through the UCC.

And pray. Keep praying.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Another reason to love Seattle in December

You just plain can't see a Garden Truck in your neighborhood if it's 15 below.


The light will shine in the darkness and the the darkness did not overcome it. (John 1)

Today we read in church some of my favorite words. And tonight we lived it.

The last couple of days have been those kind of Seattle winter days that make you think that you're living underwater, that maybe you never have really seen the sun, that maybe the moon is a dream you tell your children. It poured all day on Christmas (which, by the way was the nicest I could remember for a long long time - maybe ever. Good company, good work, good food, sweet sweet sweet little family. I keep waiting today for that day-after-christmas emptiness that sends so many of us to the mall or the fridge for leftovers. Havent had it yet.)

Someone told me when we moved to this neighborhood (as far west as you can go and still be in Seattle really) that we should look for the sunset on cloudy days. "The sun dips under the clouds then, and you'll get to see it," he assured me. I didnt really get it until today. Driving around in the still heavy Seattle cloud cover, across the sound I could see the sun shining on the mountains.

At 4:00, we got to Sunset Park - Elijah, who had refused a nap earlier, sound asleep on Jeff's lap and all of us bundled up. A little crowd of our neighbors leaned against the fence that saves you from tumbling the maybe 300 feet to the bottom of the bluff. We were all grinning like maniacs and when I say "leaning" I dont mean the kind that lazy people do at the end of a day's walk, but the kind that would, if it could, press the fence down, lift those leaners out over the water and send them flying right into the fire of the sun itself.

After a minute, the sun sure enough did dip under the clouds as it set. Elijah woke up slowly, first blinking at the "bwite," then as the sun fell below the horizon he started naming all the colors he could see, which turned out to be pretty much all the colors he knows. People poured out of cars, talked and laughed quietly, walked their dogs, some guys tossed a football around, and we all leaned against the fence with all our might. The sun blinded us but we didnt care - we drank it like lemonade on a hot day.

Strangers, we all understood each other completely for a few minutes. We were all post-solstice people who could have stopped believing in the sun until today. But the darkness did NOT overcome. And we were all converts.

Photos by Jeff Brownell, 12/26/04, Sunset Park in Seattle

Thursday, December 23, 2004

The Lord of the Hair

Just caught the last of the trilogy. Which it's hard not be compelled by even at 4 plus hours. But watching the third one, I have my usual distracation, and I wonder: does anyone else think that the real reason for the Lord of the Rings movies is actually to perpetrate Peter Jackson's hair? Here, he must be directing Bernard Hill to get a perm, dont you think? "Sorry pal, long enough, but not nearly curly or greasy enough. Get back in the make-up tent right away." (Check out the background of this photo, btw - even the crew are in it.) Even in Mordor they conform to The Style. Doubt if you want, but I remain convinced.

Monday, December 20, 2004

music is what does it

So, my pal is coming over on Christmas day to have breakfast with our little family and she called today to make sure that we have a copy of the Grinch, so she can do a reading of it. Which is what makes the day for her. And that is such an easy one (thank god it's not "Can you please make this plum pudding from my grandmother's recipe?) that I'm happy to oblige.

What is it for me? Well, church of course, and I'm loving that part this year. Not baking anymore, or cutting my own tree. Not presents. Absolutely NOT a visit to Santa.

I think it's a celebration because of the music and this year I'm REALLY getting filled up. A toddler-length visit to the Seattle Mandolin Orchestra annual Christmas concert at Ballard library. Caroling with folks from church to some of our shut in members and remembering "Oh! This is what church is for!" in the sweet voices and the tears in the eyes of the singers and the singees. A date (!) with Jeff to see the Total Experience Gospel Choir (on their ONE NIGHT OFF from Black Nativity) rocking the house - even though it WAS Shoreline. And the Blind Boys of Alabamain the car. (I challenge you to listen even once to that CD and not be humming In The Bleak Midwinter all day long.)

Oh boy, writing all these down, I see what a long list is! Thank you Jesus for this abundance! Whatever happens the rest of the week is icing on the cake.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

You are getting sleepy

I was up last night until 1:00 or so (yes, that IS late for me, bucko), puttering in the kitchen, folding laundry and watching my favorite moments from Amelie mostly because I was trying not to go to bed mostly because Jeff wasnt there. But he had it worse than me, probably. HE was the hospital at the sleep clinic getting a sleep study done to see if he has sleep apnea. Which is where they hook you up to somewhere between fifteen and a thousand wires, aim a big camera at you and say "sleep well." Which he actually did. And when they monitored him, they estimated him to be having these episodes where he chokes, stops breathing and wakes himself up without really waking up 40-60 times PER HOUR. Yikes. He's there tonight getting monitored again, and this time they're hooking him up to a cpap to see if that helps, which everyone we talk seems certain that it will. So he'll probably have to sleep with an oxygen mask, which is not all that sexy. But if you think about it, oxygen deprivation isnt really all that sexy either. The bottom line is I'm hopeful this will really help him.

But I'm still procrastinating going to bed.

Pretty is Hard by Veronica Markey

Here's a poem by 5-year-old Veronica. Check out the rest of the article about her too.
Thanks for the link, Jules.


I dont know,
If it were me,
I'd have gone back
For that shoe.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

More on Moore

One thing that happens if you never actually get OUT to a movie is that the only movies you can review are the ones that just came out on DVD. So I saw Farenheit 911 last night for the first time. You already know everything you have to know about it, so I won't say much more except that after I stopped shaking and crying, I logged on to and gave the big donation I should have given three months ago. Then I didnt sleep all night. I'm hoping it's not too late.

This morning I tested myself at church by walking through the room where the republicans who rent space from us were ending their meeting and seeing if I could extend unconditional love to them. I most definately could not.

I want this to have a happy ending and write now that it I will add the republicans to my prayer, and espcially George Bush, and that I will pray to Jesus to help me love them. But I'm not quite there yet. So if you think of it, maybe you could pray for me. Because I'm not much of a fundamentalist, but when he said Love Your Enemy, I dont really think he meant that metaphorically.

Monday, October 25, 2004


Since Elijah's been in daycare, I've been looking for evidence.

When I pick him up at the end of the day, he has no bruises, his diaper is clean and he's giggling with another kid while they send marbles down a little maze. He shows me what he made today - a cock-eyed construction paper pumpkin face. He points out the face parts and names them. I am delighted. He's learning something, he's having fun, he's making things. It must be going well.

Once, he makes a little wimper in the car on the way there.
"What, honey?"
"No yike Diane's house."

Is that evidence? Or just testing boundaries and learning to say no? With a two year old, how much do I repeat what I've said to him since he was born ("OK. If you dont like it, you dont have to do it") and how much does he just have to suck it up because learning to do things you dont yike is part of the human condition?

While Eli's at daycare, I go to visit some people at a nursing home. Without meaning to, I find I'm looking for evidence there too. Not too smelly? This must be a good place. A nurse greeted me with a frown, and then couldnt find a pen so I could leave a note for someone? This must be a bad place.

The truth is, I dont know any more about what's going on in the nursing homes I visit then I know what Eli really does for the seven hours between goodbye kiss and hello hug. The evidence provides the roughest sketch. I'm filling in the rest of the picture with my big box of 64 colors - imagination and experience and trust.

For the rest of my life, all I will have is this: A little bit what I see, a little bit what he tells me, a little bit what I hope is true. It's gonna have to be enough.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Popular Vote

So I got this link from MPR that lets you take a little quiz to determine which candidate you should be for. (Thanks Deanne.)

4 years ago, I backed Nader the whole time, then made a voting booth switch and voted for Gore, crying while I did it. It just seemed so unfair to have to vote for someone who so clearly did not represent me, but I also was taking a lot of heat from people I knew to defeat Bush, and that really seemed like a priority.

Now in taking this little quiz, I find that I back Nader %100, and Kerry only %38 (Bush %0, at least) - but I'm still voting for Kerry.

The question is: is this the compromise that is the inevitable result of a political system in which everyone's needs are only met a little OR have I just totally sold out in choosing the lesser of two evils?

It's not like the old days (now that I'm 35, I can have "the old days" I guess) back in Minnesota, when I was thrilled to check the box next to Paul Wellstone's name. I sure miss him this time of year.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

More about Christopher Reeves

Today Christopher Reeves is pretty much old news. If I wanted to be of the moment, I suppose I would have something clever to say about Jon Stewart. But I don't.

So, for the last decade or so, I've been pretty much as cranky about Christopher Reeves as the average disability rights activist. "Yeah, anyone could make 'amazing progress!' who had 3 nurses caring for him around the clock," I've scoffed. But I didnt think about him much, until recently, when I read a letter to the Sun in which woman married to a quad admits that she didnt like herself very much when she laughed at jokes about Christopher Reeves and his wife. And he kept coming up in other conversations too.

And then he died. You must have read at least one article gushing about what a hero he was. So, it was with some sceptism that I read my daily dose of humanity from Babara Crafton at the Geranium Farm and a link sent by Jeff about him. What did Superman's life have to do with the average person with, for example, my husband's disability?

Both Barbara's stepson and Daniel's dad died years ago - infection took them long before they could make any "amazing progess." And although they talk about him in different ways, both of them marked Reeve's progress over the years. With each of his accomplishments, they didnt scoff like I did. They cheered. "Here's what would have been possible," they thought.

I've not lost someone close to me. How can I know what that is like? But I can recognize in Daniel's writing, and in Barbara's, the longing to see in a person of accomplishment something that is no longer possible in someone we love. Maybe fame isnt all about looks (Reeves certainly had them) or talent or money or power or just plain shallow materialism. Maybe it's about seeing in another human something that is both just like us, and at the same time something more than we could ever imagine.

When I read their writing, and got knocked a little off the high horse from which I was looking down at unfamous people who have to get their life's meaning from famous ones, I was reminded of something else. I was reminded me of why I'm even a person of faith in the first place. Because other Christians before me and around me, and across the whole world are both the same, and are more. More loving, more spiritual, more of a mess and more graceful at admitting it, more willing to talk to God, more in touch with their own humanity (and other people's too), more humble, more courageous, more simple, more complicated.... And I want to get a piece of that beautiful, eye-opening, heart-stopping more.

I used to scoff. But I dont now. Thanks Barbara. Thanks Daniel. And thank you, Mr. Reeves.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Actual Church Sign

For a few weeks before we moved, this church in our old neighborhood had a sign in front that read:

Worry is fruitless, fruit is fruitful.

I kept waiting for someone to change it to

Worry is fruitless, FAITH is fruitful

or something like that, but no one has. I drove by it again today and it's still there.

I have no idea what this means. But I'll tell you what, I havent been able to stop puzzling about it. I actually want to go there and find out what it could possibly mean. Or at least call.

Let this be a lesson to you, mainstream Christians who want to take all the mystery out of church.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

"God would not say THAT!" -Ralph Richardson

Watched the movie Time Bandits this week.

Seeing as how I pretty much memorized Life of Brian when I was 13, it seemed weird that I had never seen it. When I was 13, I would have laughed at this movie until milk ran out my nose, and I was nostalgic for finding things that funny.

Now, ruined by 5 years of seminary, I must say I was a little distracted by the theology. I dont want to take this really silly movie more seriously than it needs to be, and I truly understand about satire and irony. That said, it makes me sad that in churches we are always talking uphill against the image that most people seem to have of that old white banker God guy in the three piece suit. No matter how often we invoke Luke 13, no matter how often we remind folks that God comes to us in many ways and has infinite faces, no matter how nicely those folks nod and agree that's a good idea - they still have that picture of Ralph Richardson in their heads.

Maybe it's from the church they grew up in. But probably it's from when they were 13, and watched Time Bandits every day.

Everything Jen Lemen Says Rocks

Read for yourself.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

What today was like

Never never never start a new job, pack to move, and start your son in day care in the same week. Here's what I mean. Today I:

1. Dropped Eli at daycare. Waited for the second day for the wails and drama which were NOT forthcoming. So I felt sad that he was so non chalant about the the whole thing, then guilty for feeling sad, then angry for feeling guilty....It was not a helpful emotional loop with which to start the day.

2. Was almost in two separate horrible accidents. I was driving around in the rain on the lovely yet mind boggling streets of the neighborhood where I'm working, looking for a parishoner's house by watching the street names, the house numbers and the cute little directory that has everyone's name in it and NOT the road itself. Made a couple of u-turns that would have been disasters if the good people behind me had not been driving very carefully.

3. Went to my friend's storage unit to pick up the computer boxes and got the wrong ones so now we have to go back again and pick up the right ones. Like I dont have ENOUGH to do. And until Friday when I can do it, the boxes are just hulking in the living room, making innuendos, calling me names and blowing raspberries behind my back.

4. Had to take the car to the shop because it's making that teeth-on-edge metal grinding sound when I apply the brakes. Which my friend could hear too, when we were driving around on the useless box errand, which meant that I could no longer ignore it in the hopes that it would go away. After Eli and I dropped the car off, we stopped at a little crepe shop for a snack and since we were the only ones in the place I got talking to the guy who worked there.

"So you're moving huh? Pack your TV yet?"
"We dont have a TV."
"Oh, too bad because one of the girls who comes here is going to be on TV tonight."
"In what?"
"The Bachelor. She's one of the Bachlorettes. Alma."

Then he went on to show me another customer's CD that she (the singer, not Alma) had autographed. He's going to hang up the CD case and also a signed headshot of Alma in his restaurant. I offered to bring him my picture, since I'm a famous associate pastor in Magnolia, but he didn't go for it for some reason.

I have nothing original to say about the nature of fame, and I gotta admit I'm as intrigued by Roy's dramatic recovery from the lion attack as any housewife in America, but I will say that sometimes I can see right through the very thin veil that separates the regular folks from the famous ones and it's hard not to find our whole culture pretty absurd when that happens.

4. Tried to pack a few boxes. Got a big one ready for Goodwill that had some stuff from kitchen cupboards in it including things I had never seen like the cookbook entitled "A Taste of Tradition: A Collection of Recipes from the Valley View Women's Club." WHAT???

5. Picked a fight with Jeff when he came home from work which ended in giggles (mine) when he actually said, "I just dont understand your relationship with lentils at all."

There is nothing left to do now but read a psalm and go to bed. And I thank God for that.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Working Mother

Well, I started a new job today.

Which is kind of great, but the distractions are many. Elijah was down the hall it the nursery and I kept sneaking peaks through the little square window until he caught me. Then he wailed so I went in for a little snuggle. He actually did way better than I thought I would but this nursery is not gonna work out - in the hierarchy of childcare, it's sort of on the low-ish end. Drop-in care. So no lunch, no outside time, no real structure, different kids every time, and only 8 hours a week. Which is not really gonna work.

So now I'm trying to decide if I should:
1. Wait until the end of the week to see if a great house daycare we've heard of will work out. OR
2. Start right away looking for something else tomorrow.

See, if I wasnt working, I'd have lots of time for this decision making, but since I am working which is why I have to make this decision, my time must be spent thinking about other thing than this decision that I have to make because I'm working.

I remembered that question I always have about how working people get anything else DONE as I was trying to do a load of laundry and take out the recycling between bites of pizza.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Flying objects

A couple of days ago I was driving up Greenlake Way (with my car window rolled down about 4-6 inches) when something flew through the window and smacked me on the face. Later I found a tiny piece of asphalt in that well between the seats where the parking brake handle is.

About 9:30 tonight I was walking with my pal Rachel on a route we often take. "Let's turn here," I suggested, "this is a nice street to walk on." A few steps later a car drove by and a paper cup filled with water and ice came flying out. It only splashed me, but it hit Rachel. Neither of us had paid particular attention to the car as it approached, so we both screamed and jumped.

I cant remember being hit with anything unexpected flying through the air since the 1985 when boys followed us home in cars after East High School's Freshman Orientation and pelted my friend and I with eggs. That day we were pretty clear about their motives. But now twice in one week, I've been struck and then left bewildered.

The asphalt was a fluke, I suppose, something about the way the tire of the Honda spit that little rock up into the air shot it right through the window. The cup was POSSIBLY an accident, we were in shadow on a fairly dark street. But if it WAS an accident, what are the odds of that? And if it was an assault, then the annonimity of it is sort of baffling - the passengers didn't shout or laugh or squeal away. Just a silent, soggy cup right on target, and then the the car continuing serenely up the dark street.

I'm hopeful this kind of thing doesn't happen in threes. The rock was tiny, the cup maybe 20x larger. If something even larger is headed my way, it would have to be somewhere between the size of Hansa and a mid-sized Craftsman style home. If this is a sign of some kind, I'm hoping to get the message in a gentler way.