Thursday, May 29, 2008

I am not Eliza Doolittle

Eliza, in My Fair Lady, sings "Words, words, words, I'm so sick of words!" It's a great song, but I don't share Eliza's feelings. I love words. And my love of words makes me a lousy Scrabble player.

My favorite moment in Scrabble was when it was my turn to begin a game; I realized I had exactly the right letters -- using all 7 tiles at once -- for the word HEAVENS. I'm always set on placing tiles so that they form unusual or fun words, and I've never cared to see if these words will advance my score. (At our house, we don't even play for points; we just create words that are meaningful or melodious.) So, I am not a competitive Scrabulous player -- it is only during the most recent game that I thought maybe I should look up what the pink, red, and blue squares signify, because I sure didn't remember. Maybe that makes me a dork, but I love good words too much to care much about their numerical values.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What's the big deal?

That's what my mom says about her 80th birthday tomorrow. It's a big deal because, given her major health issues over the past 20 years, she's still here, which may surprise her. Her numerous mini-strokes have caused her to forget the things she's supposed to worry about, and she's lost her hard, even scary, judgmental edge.

Over the years, I've lamented that I didn't have a mom that finished high school or attended college, doesn't read books, can't type or use a keyboard, is afraid to travel further than a few miles, can't carry on a conversation easily, and is too fearful to be left alone in the house. I admit that I've said, "I wish...I wish..." about my parents, and laughed when people said about me, "Where did you come from?" after meeting them.

But I'm lucky to still have them -- that's the big deal. I have a mom who supported me when I wanted to learn languages and musical instruments, eat weird food, wear long skirts, marry a Lutheran, go back to graduate school, study for the priesthood at age 50. For that confidence in me (no matter that they never understood a thing about those interests), I'm grateful. So when we pack up tomorrow with a cake, candles, and presents, I hope that the day turns into a Big Deal. This lady deserves a party.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


On this Mother's Day, I chose something from childhood to help me remember to pray for the University of Iowa students who, very soon, leave for the summer. I asked the ones who came to church today to trace their hands on a large sheet of white paper, using any color marker they liked. Then they each signed their names inside the handprint. I like seeing the outline of their hands on my desk, the curve of their writing, the colors they used. I'm happy as I think of the playful way they left my office after a round of hugs. It was a good day all around. After two long days at church culminating in a rousing Pentecost celebration with our bishop, I came home to a unexpected, cherished phone call from N in Sarajevo, wishing me a happy day.

And a small child wished John a Happy Father's Day today at his parish. ;)

Friday, May 09, 2008

In the air

I have a couple of funny stories to tell, but what's really on my mind is Noah's trip (starting today) with the Institute of Sacred Music. Right now, the group is in the air from New York to Vienna to Sarajevo. By tomorrow sometime, they'll start their two-week adventure in Serbia touring churches, playing organs, and seeing a fascinating part of the world. When we talked last night, I wondered which faculty were going along. "Oh, Thomas Troeger and Miroslav Volf," he said. Tom Troeger taught his favorite class this year in the Divinity School, one on hymnody. And Volf...well, as a native Croatian, his presence on this trip makes all kinds of sense.

I'm excited for them all. But I have to call it as I see it: I am envious. Envy! I remember Handel's oratorio "Saul," in which the chorus repeats, "Envy! Eldest born of hell!" But I'm okay with admitting envy. I'm also grateful for the opportunities given to these young people, as I keep praying for their safe arrival into a world very far away from home. (I would be okay with some of you adding prayers for continued safety on this trip as well.)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Occupational hazard

Today in yoga class, our instructor concentrated for a while on our feet. "Focus on your soles," she said, and "Pay attention to your soles." But what did I hear? I spent the next hour lost in contemplation of souls. That's all right, but the class is meant to take participants away from the cares of their everyday work.

I'm happy to report, though, that for the second week now, I was able to sustain a shoulder stand position for several minutes. (For non-yogis, this means supporting the weight of your body by rolling onto your back and slowly extending legs up in the air until only your shoulders and head remain on the mat. In this position, your soles lift toward the sky, if your class meets outdoors.)

Saturday, May 03, 2008

One potato, two potato...

A week ago, nine of us stood in line for an hour at Sally's Apizza in New Haven for what we were told is the best pizza most people have ever eaten. Apparently, it's normal to stand in line for 1-2 hours for this pizza.

One of the three pizzas we ordered was a potato-rosemary pizza. It looked and smelled amazing, but -- alas! --I must not be enough of a potato lover. It was okay, not great. But everyone else just lovvvvvvved it. The other two pizzas were awfully good, though.

This evening, Chef Johannes made his own potato-rosemary pizza, along with a mushroom pie for me. Again, I just found potato slices to be incredibly dull, even with such a lovely herb. What is it with me and potatoes, anyway?

Sometimes it's great to blog about trivia like this, especially after an intensive, two-day liturgy camp (with my former liturgy professor as keynote speaker)!

Friday, May 02, 2008

On the green

The New Haven trip was so packed with events that I'm still processing it, but as I think about "green side up" from my previous post, United Church on the Green (where Noah's recital took place) comes to mind.

As we walked from the Yale campus through the green, we passed two rallies on either side of the church: one pro-Tibet and one pro-China. The pro-China group, a goodly number, gathered closer to the church. During the third piece on the program, in the quiet, hymn-like second movement, drums and music and chanting rose up from the rally. Of course this happened during the most delicate part of the recital! But N carried on, somehow able to ignore the outside world.

Life in New Haven seems noisy at all hours, bustling with activity we don't see in Iowa. One moment we were at the coffee counter in a great bookstore while two men to our right discussed The New York Times Book Review; behind me a woman carried on about the shortcomings of a foreign film. Street vendors sold flowers and hot dogs. A young man was being handcuffed on the corner.

We enjoyed a tour of the divinity school and I noted how well the buildings are kept up -- they're attractive and light-filled and the ceilings aren't leaking. Clearly, there's enough money, and the facility receives the care it requires. At the Yale bookstore I found J all but drooling over an entire wall of the Loeb Classical Library volumes, with Greek on the left and English on the right-hand pages. We bought volumes I and II of The Apostolic Fathers and the first volume of Basil's letters. We don't find a collection like this just anywhere.

And yet...for all that was stimulating and exciting at Yale, there's something missing. The open friendliness and simplicity of the Midwest didn't travel East with us. While I'm eager to go back to New Haven this summer, I'm glad to be home in the quiet with my sleeping dog.