Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thanking God for Bad Sushi

Remember that Anne Lamott story where she talks about how God broke her car, so she could be with a dying friend at the right time? I was thinking about that today in the hospital cafeteria.

I went to visit a friend of a parishioner, but when I got there it wasn’t a good time and she asked me to come back in half an hour. It being the noon hour, I went for lunch in the cafeteria. It being the Year of My 20th High School Reunion (yes, I AM still talking about that - it’s my blog and I can cry if I want to), I went to the salad bar. It being me of the large anxious appetite, I also picked up one of those little boxes of pre-made sushi you can get anywhere on the west coast.

I ate the salad. I opened the sushi and it was just not right. I don’t know much about sushi, but I do know that if it looks both wilty and stiff simultaneously, you should not eat it, so I didn’t. I took my empty plate to the dishwasher’s window and thought about throwing the sushi away, but it DID cost five dollars and I AM trying to be a better steward of our family’s resources, so I wound all the back to the other side of the cafeteria and presented it bravely back to the cashier for a refund.

The cashier had to call a manager – thankfully wilty, stiff sushi is not an everyday occurrence. Then, behind me, I heard someone call my name. I’m not actually named Juniper, you know, and I just happen to have an extremely common name, a name which I often hear shouted out in public places, but this time it actually was for me.

Turned around to see a woman I’d met months before at a retreat – in fact, she had been a kind and discerning leader of a small group I sort of grudgingly attended. I was glad to see her, but surprised, since she lives in a city a couple of hours away. But was here to be with her partner, having surgery today. So we sat down over food and talked for a while. It’s a tender time, a time of worry and hope, both confidence and despair were spoken. Our conversation was short, but it was such a gift, a reminder of the power in faith and community and love.

And if I hadn’t had to go back to the cashier, I would have been out the door on the opposite end of the cafeteria before she arrived. Which is why I’m thanking God today for a box of bad sushi.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Why I Love the Internet - #278

Based a vaguely half-remembered story I heard in a church one time, I just googled the words "monastery the messiah is one of you hermit" and the story I was thinking of came up as the second hit. That is so cool.

Oh, and in case you were curious, here's the story. I dont know where it first came from, but I borrowed it directly from Father Munachi, cssp.
A certain monastery discovered that it was going through a crisis. Some of the monks left, no new candidates joined them, and people were no longer coming for prayer and consultation as they used to. The few monks that remained were becoming old and depressed and bitter in their relationship with one another. The abbot heard about a holy man, a hermit living alone in the woods and decided to consult him. He told the hermit how the monastery had dwindled and diminished and now looks like a skeleton of what it used to be. Only seven old monks remained. The hermit told the abbot that he has a secret for him. One of the monks now living in his monastery is actually the Messiah, but he is living in such a way that no one could recognize him.

With this revelation the abbot goes back to his monastery, summons a community meeting and recounts what the holy hermit told him. The aging monks look at each other in unbelief, trying to discern who among them could be the Christ. Could it be Brother Mark who prays all the time? But he has this holier-than-thou attitude toward others. Could it be Bother Joseph who is always ready to help? But he is always eating and drinking and cannot fast. The abbot reminded them that the Messiah has adopted some bad habits as a way of camouflaging his real identity. This only made them more confused and they could not make a headway figuring out who was the Christ among them. At the end of the meeting what each one of the monks knew for sure was that any of the monks, excepting himself, could be the Christ.

From that day, however, the monks began to treat one another with greater respect and humility, knowing that the person they are speaking to could be the very Christ. They began to show more love for one another, their common life became more brotherly and their common prayer more fervent. Slowly people began to take notice of the new spirit in the monastery and began coming back for retreats and spiritual direction. Word began to spread and, before you know it, candidates began to show up and the monastery began to grow again in number as the monks grew in zeal and holiness. All this because a man of God drew their attention to the truth that Christ was living in their midst as one of them.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Goofiness from our Friendly Pals to the North

(thanks Pastor's Husband)

Friday Five

From Reverandmother - we are two souls with one mind these days it seems, since she writes what I have been thinking:

As many of you know, I have been experimenting with some severely curtailed Internet usage. I realized that I had gotten into some bad habits, which got me thinking about habits in general. I understand that a habits/random facts meme has already been going around. In the hopes that it hasn't hit too many of us yet, be as lighthearted or as serious as you'd like with the following:

1. Have you ever successfully quit a bad habit, or gotten a good habit established? Tell us about how you did it.
Lately, we've been thinking alot about bedtime here. We have gotten a good routine going with our son, based on one of those little charts with stickers. He loves stuff like that. However, my husband and I can't seem to establish one for OURSELVES. I start to bed, and walk by a sink of dirty dishes and think "I'll just throw those in the dishwasher" and an hour later, I'm folding a third load of laundry, having gotten a second wind. Or we'll watch a TV show on DVD, since it's shorter than a movie and we can to bed earlier, and then we'll watch another one and then one more and then... And, yes, that is us surfing the internet at 12:27 am.

2. "If only there were a 12-step program for buttery cinnamon toast lovers!"

3. Share one of your healthy "obsessions" with us. I love to walk. I walk every day, whenever I can. Even with this wholesome habit, I'm already a couple dozen pounds over a really healthy weight. If I didn't have this habit, I can't imagine...I guess they'd have to move me around with a crane.

4. Share the habit of a spouse, friend or loved one that drives you C-R-A-Z-Y.
Without thinking even a little I can say "answering your cell phone when I'm talking to you!" Or pretty much most cell phone behavior - phones that go off during meetings, obnoxious rings and talking while driving (although Im guilty of this one sometimes). Lately, I've added one other phone irritation -- getting the same message from the same person at all of my phone numbers. Unless you are taking my son to the hospital or you want me to do your father's funeral tomorrow, there is just no reason for that.

5. "I'd love to get into the habit of going to bed at 10:00 every single night. No matter how many interesting Battlestar Gallactica DVDs or sinks full of dishes there are in the house."

Bonus: What is one small action you might take immediately to make #5 a reality?
We're basing our current bedtime experiment on some guy's steps for waking up earlier (cant remember where I read this now) but we are setting our alarm for 6:00 and plan to actually get out of bed at 6:30 every day. The guy (who WAS that guy?) suggests you do this every day (although he suggests 5! and 5:15! GACK!) , even on days off and that you get enough sleep, not as you might think by having a regular bedtime, but by going to bed whenever your body is tired. Since my body most likes 8 hours of sleep every night, I'm hoping that eventually I'll start to have a regular bedtime at 10 pm. BTW, we've done it since Wednesday and so far we are 2 for 3, which is not all that great. But habits of deep laze die hard, evidently.

Bonus 2: Try it, and let us know how it goes in a future post!
Just try to get me to NOT talk about it...

As always, let us know in comments if you play. Even better, get in the habit of posting a direct link to your blog entry in your comment, using the following formulation:
what you want the link to say goes here
For a complete how-to, click here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Cleaning my desk

Enclosed you will find some sweet spring photos that I meant to post on Easter Day as our Happy Easter e-card.

Now with only a few days left in the Easter season, I uncovered them under a pile of things. It's been the kind of a month, evidently, where Things Do Not Get Done.

But since in snowed in Minnesota yesterday, maybe in your part of the world you'd like a little reminder that spring is, in fact, on the way.

Oh, and while I can still say it: Happy Eastertide!

Getting over myself

Ok, I figured out why I'm feeling so squirmy about my 20th high school reunion. It has nothing to do with high school itself, and everything to do with my bad behavior at the reunion ten years ago, when I mismanaged an interaction with someone I hardly remembered after she shared a Very Important Memory with me (that was before seminary! I'd handle it so much better now!), tried to convince an unmarried classmate that he was probably gay (um, sorry, buddy) and almost certainly drank more than I'm used to (and since what I'm used to is like a beer a month, it doesn't take all that much).

Since that's all it is, I can get over THAT.
And go to the durn thing.
And maybe actually have a good time.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Seven Things About Me Meme - The Stream of Consciousness Edition

Thanks for the tag, Christine! This is 7 things you might not know about me.
I'm supposed to tag 7 other people, but I'll just say if you want to play, feel free to let me know in the comments. I would really love to read 7 things about YOU!

1. I didn't feel an emotion I could describe as anger until I was 30 years old. Have I told you about that day already? I thought I was sick - the flushed face, the upset stomach - until someone gave me a name for my collection of symptoms.

2. After that, I was angry for about 6 years.

3. It felt pretty good, but I think it was a little hard on the people around me. Now I'm enjoying having some other feelings, too.

4. Just so you dont think I'm hopelessly intense: We've had visitors from our Korean sister church visiting, so it's been very busy with the driving and the eating and the sightseeing and the eating and the worship and the conversations and the eating. And did I mention the eating? My favorite statement of the week: "We love to see your Hyundai, Jennifer. When we ride in your car, we feel intimacy with you."
I've been giggling about it for days.

5. I feel instantly at home in a library - any kind.

6. And speaking of home, I cannot decide if it's coincidence or a God Ordained Event that I've just learned that my 20th high school class reunion will be the same weekend that I already have plane tickets to visit my hometown this summer. Part of me wants to cry and then eat nothing but grapefruit for the next three months. But on the other hand, I'm kind of curious. I wonder if the super cool smart outsiders who would never go to a thing like that are going to be there.
Wendy Olson, I'm talking to you.

7. And speaking of cool, smart people that I've lost touch with - if anyone knows Laura Stolle Schmidt, can you ask her to email me? I've really been wondering about her lately. Also, I've been wondering lately about whatever happened to Mindy Lemons, who married some guy (maybe named Erik? Stone? was that it?) and went to Princeton so he could go to seminary. And of course, any time I could have a Katie Lawson sighting I would just be really happy about that.

(Edited to add: Hey, I should have googled before I wrote this. Turns out Laura is pretty easy to find. Hey Laura! Can we come visit you and the dogs and the cats and chickens this summer? Will you still hang out with me now that I'm kind of a suburban housewife? Katie's got some stuff out there, although the trail pretty much stops in 2005, which is like the paleolithic in internet time. But Mindy has totally dodged the World Wide Web as far as I can tell...)

Thursday, May 10, 2007

On Not Being A Rock Star

Last year about this time, I had a series of dreams about famous people. Tom Cruise, Bruce Springsteen, Hillary Clinton were just some of the actors playing that interior stage. My dear dream group did what they are supposed to do - tried to help me see it as metaphor, but I knew what was going on.

Like every other American (welcome home, Sanjaya!) I just really want to be famous. Actually famous.

Hence the blog, for example.

Of course, I'm not headed for any kind of fame any time soon. But I'm still interested in it - even interested in those who are just little rock stars. It's not the fame itself, so much as the clarity of purpose and the aura of self-confidence that I find intriguing, I guess.

Recently I spent a few minutes with such a person - he's not famous not in a big way, but he's a person who seems all rock star-ish to me. And I told him he reminded me of my brother, which I realized later is not really true. He's actually nothing like my brother (who's reading, btw - hi M!) but I just feel the same way around them both - envy and admiration all wrapped up together. You'd feel the same, I bet, if you knew my brother who can train for a marathon, parent two toddlers, go to grad school, renovate a house, maintain his cool and work full time all while being married to the coolest woman in Minnesota. He can do everything, which seems like a prerequisite for the kind of guy who will be famous for something sometime.

But today, I was so grateful for my unfamous life. I went to a good lecture, but left a little early when the q and a got tiresome (because who would notice little old me?) and then walked for a long long long time in the springing afternoon. Then lay down on the grass at the park and put my palms on the earth and thanked God for all of it - everything in my small, gorgeous life. And I really meant it, too. I felt clear and confident, just as I've always imagined I would feel if I really were famous for something that I knew I was good at.

And then, because I could, because I truly had nothing else I had to be doing just then, I dozed off for a while in the sunshine.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Things I'm Noticing Lately, Part 2

Evidently the revolution has not started yet.

You can tell this by the fact that you willingly apply NUMBER FORTY THREE sunscreen (Number 43? Are you kidding me? Is that the same protection as full body armor??) to your preschooler every morning, and then you drive him there in your car, thus ensuring that global warming will continue merrily and unabated.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Things I'm Noticing Lately, Part One

Even though I've dropped off the face of the earth as far as the dear Chicken Fat blog is concerned (and it's true, I have not been dieting at all), I still am trying to eat a LITTLE better. We've been traveling quite a bit lately, which means more fast food than usual, and I lean toward getting a salad. No matter which fast food joint you drive through, a salad comes in it's own special bag, in a sturdy plastic plowl (plate plus bowl), with individually wrapped forks and napkins and also tiny packets of dressings and toppings, all individually wrapped. I know that eating less beef is probably good for old Mother Earth, and I'm certain it's good for old Mother Juniper, too. But all that packaging certainly cannot be at all good for anyone. Does anyone know of any studies doing a cost/benefit analysis of the danger to the planet of ordering a heavily plasticly packaged vegetarian meal compared to a ordering burger in a single paper wrapper?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Kid Stuff

1. Ok, since we had a baby 4 years and 11 months ago, I've noticed a lot of crap marketed to me and my Young Consumer, so much so that I'm almost immune. But when I noticed them on an endcap, I stopped in my tracks. Because the world really really really does not need the Spider Man and Friends Mr Potato Head Spider Spud. I'm just saying.

2. Conversation, the day after a rare episode of carsickness.
Mom: Ok, everything's in the car. We're ready for our trip to the desert!
Dad (whispered): Maybe get a bucket. You know, just in case.
Mom (also whispered): Good idea!
Child: What's that for? I want the bucket! Let me hold the bucket! It's myyyyy bucket! Let me hold the bucket! It's for my puke! In case I puke! I need a bucket for puuuuuuuke!
Mom: Nobody's going to puke. Or talk about puking. Or think about puking for the rest of this trip.
Child: That's ok Mommy. It's for the whole family. If you need to puke too, I'll just pass it around when I'm done!
Dad: Well, at least he's got the sharing down. We can be grateful for that.

3. Just so you know that sharing and puking are not his only talents, he's also recently nailed:
hopping on one foot, holding his breath under water, and balancing on that crazy hippie waldorf-y swing at his godsister's house that is really just a piece of wood with a rope tied through a hole in the middle.

4. Is it wrong that repeated readings of Commander Toad ("bright and brave, brave and bright") gave me a yearning for SNG so powerful that I actually went and bought the fifth season on DVD, just for old times sake? Yes, that IS me ending conversations these days with a brisk "That will be ALL!"

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I'm here...

I'm not really blogging right now, but I'm still around. Everything's good and I'll talk more about it soon.

In the meantime, go ahead and talk amongst yourselves.