Friday, January 27, 2006

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" --Mary Oliver

I am a procrastinator. I excel at it, and am proud of it--well, not really. It means tasks take twice as long as they should, because it takes up so much time putting them off. So, in an attempt to improve myself, I read a book on procrastination, and one of the suggested exercises was to wrote down 101 things you wanted to get done, from "the laundry" to "repainting the family room" to "getting that advanced degree" to "finding a new job." The idea was that you could start with the smaller, shorter term things, succeed at those, break the larger projects into parts (look at decorating magazines to get ideas, visit the paint store to get some colour chips, choose a weekend, etc.). Then one day I saw the above quote on a friend's email. Taking it as my guide, I sat down and wrote up those 101 things that I wanted to do, but that I didn't want to lose in the busy-ness of living. Actually, I didn't quite get to 101, but I'm almost there.

Here, then, is an edited list:
Plan worship for the rest of the year
Plan ministry for next year
Organize attic, especially books
Organize books on shelves
Read books on To Be Read shelf
Get 1 women’s clergy shirt (I need one more to have a decent wardrobe of them)
Hang pictures (yes, we've been here more than a year and do not have all our pictures up yet)
Get floor lamp for living room
Musings on sermons for rest of year
Repaint stairs and hallways
Start walking program
Use library for books (instead of bookstore...)
Clean office bulletin board
Detailed outline of body theology book
Replace living room blinds
Clean out closet
Read books on list
Put out church newsletter every other month (it's chronically late)
Visit Toronto
Write history of River City's GLBT community
Create Coming-out Guide for River City youth
Write a devotional for each day and publish on church website
Post sermons on website
Visit Mom regularly
Earn PhD

As you see, they range from the sublime (write theological book, earn PhD) to the ridiculous (lamp for the living room? So head down to Post One and buy one, RP!).

So, what's on your list?

If you play, let me know!

Five on Friday!

I'm beginning to feel human again, but now my head is so stopped up, my ears want to pop, and all sound comes to me through a layer of cotton (at least, that's how it sounds!).

I don't have the energy to come up with my own topic this morning, so I'm leaning on RevGalBlogPals once again.

Today the meme is about books:

1. If you received books as holiday presents, how many and what were they?
Not this year, although I usually do. I asked for a couple--does that count? I'll repeat those requests for my birthday in a couple of months, too. We'll see what happens then.

2. Did you buy any for yourself, and if so what are the titles?
Yes, I did. Chapters (Canadian for Barn and Hobble or Hoarders) had a Boxing Day Sale and I picked up "Collapse: How Civilizations Choose to Succeed or Fail" by Jared Diamond (who wrote "Guns, Germs and Steel," about the impact of colonization). I also bought myself a datebook titled (I think) "Strong Women," which I love. Every week has a photo of a not-necessarily famous woman who did something amazing. Each day has an event in women's history (some landmark, some not-so). I use it in my office so everyone else can keep track of my appointments and meetings.

3. Have you read any of them yet? What's next on your list?
Well, you don't really read a datebook (although I have certainly browsed through it extensively!). I am almost finished with Collapse, and it's great. I'm trying to see if Diamond's principles for civilizations can be applied to individuals as well. Next on my list is finishing some books I'm in the middle of: Women Who Run With the Wolves (Clarissa Pinkola Estes, on freeing women); Summer Queen (science fiction by Joan Vinge); and Generation to Generation (? Friedman, on how churches and synagogues act like families).

4. Do you have a favorite place to read a new book? And does the weather have an impact on that choice?
When I was in college, in Ann Arbor, I used to reward myself after tests by going to Hoarders (the original, thank you very much)and purchasing a new Jane Austen/Charles Dickens/Wilkie Collins novel, then going around the corner to Drake's (of lamented memory) for hot chocolate, a grilled-cheese-and-tomato sandwich and a sampler box of their handmade chocolates... That is my definition of the best way to read a new book. However, that no longer being possible, my favourite place now is in the barrel chair in the living room with my down blanket over my lap and the dog on the edge of the blanket, with snow falling outside. Alternatively, I like sitting on the porch with my feet propped up and a glass of iced tea sweating at my side.

Does reading in bed make you sleepy?
Yes.

Your turn!

(Edited to add--I don't know how all the typos got in there! All gone now (I hope)!

(Edited again to correct the name of the datebook to "Women Who Dare" which is a much better title!)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Better? Maybe?

Well, I trudged on over to the doctor yesterday, and she says I have a sinus infection. She thinks. Anyway, got some antibiotics, cough syrup so I can sleep better at night, and some stronger pain meds for my back. And she sent me for a chest X-Ray. Results to be determined today. And that is where we stand--or sit, as the case may be.
I still sound like Mae West in a snit, but I'm not coughing so much, and I don't think I was hit by a Mack truck anymore.
Many thanks for all blogged good wishes...I wish I could take all the good advice about taking a day off. It's looking like maybe Saturday will be the day--or Friday if I'm lucky.
Now to all those meetings that keep me eating cough drops!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Now I Understand...

...why I felt so rotten the other day and had my very own UGH day... A terrible cold, which has left me sounding like Mae West on a bad day. My throat hurts, my sinuses hurt, even my back hurts (OK, that's from taking Christmas ornaments down and moving the boxes around, but still).

I think I'll ask the deacon to lead prayers and consecrate Communion today. I have another busy day tomorrow, with meetings and appointments all day that I really can't miss. I need my voice back!!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Five Pleasures...

Once again, taking my cue from RevGalBlogPals, here are my five pleasures (some small, some guilty, and some both):

1. Watching TV in bed. (small, guilty)

2. Pedicure/acrylic nails. (guilty)

3. Reading Jane Eyre and eating Stauffer's Mac n Cheese.(guilty)

4. Lighting all the scented candles in the house and enjoying the scents.(small)

5. Clean sheets (I had one friend who swore that if she ever won the lottery, she would use her winnings to pay for someone to come in every morning, wash the sheets, and put clean ones on, so that she would have clean fresh sheets every night) (small)

Those are only five of my small pleasures.I have many others: finding all the Reese's Peanut Cups in the Halloween candy; lemonade on a hot day; laughing with friends; finding a ten dollar bill in my pocket; waking up to the smell of coffee brewing and bacon frying; having my head massaged/shampooed when I go for a haircut; watching my cat "dance" as she plays with her catnip mouse; the sound of Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas music as snow falls gently outside; daffodils and tulips popping up out of the ground...

And then there are the larger pleasures--watching my son, at the age of five or six, playing on the keyboard, making the most amazing melodies; creating a garden out of a boring yard; reading a book and finding the author, unexpectedly, agrees with me and puts my opinion far more succinctly than I ever could; someone saying that the church has made a difference in her/his life.

There is much to be thankful for.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Ugh Day

I'm declaring today my own personal Ugh Day. I got nothing of importance accomplished, felt slow and draggy and incompetent all day, and ended up taking a nap in the middle of the afternoon, after which I managed to get one thing of importance done.

Blah.

I hate days like this--when I seem to have no energy, no motivation, no get-up-and-go--and yet I have to get up and go because there's much to do. I can't just take a day like this off, much as my instincts tell me to do so. I would be so far behind the next day!

Blah.

At least I got one thing done. And I'm hoping to get the tree down and ornaments put away tonight. That would be two things. That's better than nothing, I suppose. Perhaps I'll do something mindless, like update my address book. That would be useful--and it would make three things.

Blah.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Where Will You Go? Parts I-V



A few days ago, RevGalBlogPals asked the question, "What were five trips that made a difference in your life?" Being, as usual, slightly behind the power curve, I'm answering now.

Well, here goes!

In no particular order:

1. A seminary study trip to Poland, on which we examined Biblical exegesis and how it affects our theology in a very concrete way. We visited the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps and the Treblinka extermination camp. As a contrast, and to learn about Polish culture, we also visited several palaces in Warsaw and toured the castle in Cracow. Every evening we had a debriefing, in which we discussed what we had seen, the contrasts between the history and the present and the terrible, terrible events of the Holocaust. It was a deep conflict for me--see below--between what I knew Germans had done, and the positive experiences I had had with modern Germans. We talked about the shades of grey, and how no one is all good or all bad--whether a nation or a person. We began to understand our role as pastors in fighting anti-Semitism and the link between that and all the other -isms and antis-s and phobias (sexism, homophobia, racism, etc.). It was a powerful ten days, and almost every hour of every day made an indelible impression that I will never forget.

2. Five years spent in Germany, in a wonderful Bavarian city. I came to know another culture from my own intimately and well. I still wax nostalgic over the food, architecture, parks, people, museums, music, festivals and general atmosphere of my adopted German home.

3. A week spent near Los Angeles with dear friends who totally spoiled DP and me--lovely home, refrigerator stocked just for us (all our favourite indulgences), loan of a luxury SUV with GPS system (which came in very handy!), company on a couple of day trips, eager ears on the other nights to hear our adventures, and hot coffee every morning waiting for us when we came downstairs (they're tea drinkers...). It felt like a week in Paradise, and it was a care-free week we needed badly at that point in our lives.

4. A week in Florida caring for my parents (who managed to both be injured at the same time). I had a lot of time away from my usual responsibilities at work, home, and church, and was able to sit and listen to God. God was saying the same thing God had been saying for a long time, but now I had time to hear it--and I responded to that call to ordained ministry. See what Florida will do to you!

5. The move to Canada! The drive itself was a nightmare--flat tire on the car trailer, a 30-foot moving truck jammed full, my car likewise, DP's car on the aforementioned trailer ditto, two cats and a dog, pouring rain on the turnpike, Canadian customs and immigration, unpacking one night and preaching my first sermon the next morning! But it's been an amazing year, and I'm loving what I'm doing!

There. Top five trips of my life--so far! We love to travel and will be doing more. There are so many places we haven't been to yet!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Hair! Lots of Beautiful Hair!

I got my hair cut last week.

That might not sound like much, but a friend of mine who is a stylist has been itching to get his hands on my scalp for almost a year now, and I’ve resisted. Why? Mostly because of cost—he’s one of the best stylists in the city and his prices reflect that. Also because he’s—well—high-style. Very Vogue and Glamour and so on, and I’m Just Not Like That! To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure I could live up to whatever style he gave me.

But another friend (Car Man) pointed out that The Stylist has been good to me in many ways, and very supportive of the church, as well as me personally, and perhaps I owed it to him to visit the shop and at least give him a chance.

So I did.

I told The Stylist I had three things for him to remember:
1. I don’t like to fuss with my hair. I’ll blow it dry sometimes (like on Sundays and for weddings and funerals), but I refuse to use a curling iron or any of that nonsense—I don’t have time. I don’t want to fuss with my hair every morning.
2. I like it clipped short on my neck, slightly longer on the back of my head. This is non-negotiable.
3. I wear glasses. I always wear my glasses (I’m practically blind without them). Whatever the style, it has to look decent with glasses, not stupid. I'm tired of having styles that look fine until I put my glasses on and then look like a geek's idea of hair style. Of course, having said that, I’m now considering going back to my contacts…

He looked at me sideways at first, when I told him I had three things he had to work with, but then he accepted them. He clipped and cut and turned me around while we discussed various activities in the community (we work together on a couple of projects and groups). And then he turned me back to the mirror, said, “Put on your eyes, sweetie,” and voila!

I like it! I really like it! It has shape to it and—dare I say—style! It’s very very short, much shorter in front than I have worn it for a very long time (perhaps ever). But it's a bit sassy (never did I think I would be saying that about myself in public), and yes, even cute.

DP thinks it’s too short. She’s not sure she likes it. I’m praying she comes around.

I’m sticking with it for the present (not that I have much choice, until it grows out). I’ve gotten many compliments on it (PF, church members, friends, etc.). I don’t even brush it anymore (orders from The Stylist), just run my fingers through it. Now that’s easy! If I want to, I blow it dry and it looks fuller. If I want to get really fancy I put some styling cream on it and dry it--it holds the hair in place and gives it a finish. For the first time in a long time, I really like my hair. It looks like it belongs to someone who isn’t clueless about style and how her hair looks to the general public.

The Stylist gets full marks for knowing what would look good on me. He listened, but then he was able to use my criteria and turn them into something that didn’t look like a hamster had died on my head (one cut I had made me look like a mutant poodle…). He gave my hair shape and attitude (and a bit of altitude). I have to say, I’m sold. He’s got my head for the foreseeable future.

Did I mention he has plans for colouring my hair?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Brokeback Mountain—review

DP and I went to see Brokeback Mountain this weekend with a group of friends. I had read the short story when it was published in The New Yorker and had thought it amazing—an incredible moving story, and amazing that a mainstream magazine had published it. So I really wanted to see how well it had transplanted to the screen. I had some confidence in Larry McMurtry, one of the screenwriters, but I was still uncertain. And the reviews were so mixed—some praising it, others seemingly so caught up in homophobia that the movie became unwatchable (for them). So I knew I wanted to see this for myself.

It was, in a word, stunning.

First, a brief plot summary in case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard. Two down-on-their-luck ranchers are hired to watch a herd of sheep summering on US Forest Service land in the Montana mountains in the early 1960s. They fall in love, much against their conditioning, and begin a relationship. After the summer is over, they go their separate ways—Ennis to marry Alma, and Jack to go back to bull-riding in the rodeo, where he meets and marries the daughter of a wealthy farm machinery dealer. Six years later Jack contacts Ennis. They go off “fishing” together, and find that their connection is as strong as it was that summer six years ago. For the next twenty years, they “go fishing” or “elk hunting” several times. And always, they come to the same conclusion—this is all they can have, these furtive meetings at long intervals. They are married, they fear the opprobrium of society if they buy a ranch together (Jack’s dream). In the end, all Ennis has is his memories and the view of Brokeback Mountain.

The simplest first—the scenery (which I think was Alberta—Canada once again standing in for the US West) was incredible—starkly beautiful, huge and open. The cinematography let you take it in, let it become part of the story, as in fact Brokeback Mountain is, without letting the mountains and sky take over.
Then there’s the acting. One of the things I appreciated about Annie Proulx’s story was that she showed everybody’s pain—not just Jack and Ennis’s pain, but that of the wives and the children. It wasn’t simply a matter of “poor Ennis and Jack, in love and unable to show it,” which is tragedy enough. Proulx also showed the pain of Alma—who loved Ennis but knew he could never love her, and that he had a side to him that she found repugnant and she could not accept. We see that pain—Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllanhaal did a wonderful job of that. And their love scenes are equally well-done. I have read in a couple of interviews with Mr. Ledger that they did not rehearse those scenes, plan them out—“OK, Jack does this, and then Ennis does that.” They simply let them flow. It says a great deal for these two (straight) actors that they were able to infuse these scenes with the tenderness and love they called for without squeamishness or calling for body doubles or planning them to the point of vapidity. And one of the scenes is pretty graphic, by the way—you are left in no doubt that this relationship has a physical component to it!

Heath Ledger is especially amazing. Ennis is a man of few words, so Ledger can’t use his speeches to convey Ennis’s character. When Ennis does speak, you learn about him—but you learn as much or more when he is silent—from the way he touches a shirt, or eats his pie, or carefully stubs out a cigarette for future reuse. This is brilliant.
The audience surprised me, too. I hadn’t thought there would be much of a crowd, even in Canada, even for a movie with a lot of hype, even for a Heath Ledger movie, when it was about a pair of gay cowboys. I was wrong. Not only was the theatre full, the audience was totally sympathetic. There were no disgusted moans at Jack and Ennis’s first kiss, and there was total silence during their first sexual encounter. The only loud reactions came at junctures when you would expect them—when Alma witnesses Jack and Ennis’s reunion kiss, unseen by the men; at the gruesome shot of a disembowelled sheep (done by a coyote); and so on. There was a real sympathy for Ennis and Jack.

Most of all, I think, I was stunned by the way in which the story was told. It wasn’t played sentimentally, or luridly, or histrionically, or leeringly. Ang Lee simply gave us a narration and let us draw our own conclusions.

My conclusions?

In a more perfect world, there would be no homophobia, internalized or otherwise. If Jack and Ennis had felt from the beginning that they could share their lives, live together, be a couple, the pain of many of those around them would have been much less. As a result, Ennis and Alma would not have married, they would not have suffered the pain that they did. Jack and his wife also would not have gone through what they did. There would not have been the secretiveness, the hiding, the deception that, in the end, couldn’t last.

My hope is that straight people who see this movie will glean an understanding of the damage homophobia wreaks on real lives, in the small everyday things as well as the larger, life-altering ways. I hope, too, that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people who see it will understand how far we have come in many ways, and how far we still have to go. There are places in the world, in the US, where things have not changed much from the way they're shown in 1960s Montana. There are places where society is very different. Let us be glad for the changes, and work for continued change.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Uh-Oh...

You scored as Pelagianism. You are a Pelagian. You reject ideas about man's fallen human nature and believe that as a result we are able to fully obey God. You are the first Briton to contribute significantly to Christian thought, but you're still excommunicated in 417.

Are you a heretic?
created with QuizFarm.com



I'm in trouble now... But then, what else is new?

On the other hand, my runner-up was Chalcedon-compliant! And I am definitely not a Docetist or Albigensian! Or Donatist, for that matter.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Ups and Downs

Yeah, OK, so it’s been a while…TO’s visit, trying to get caught up with beginning of the year things—but now I’m (mostly) caught up and ready to roll!

It’s been a Tale of Two Cities week—the best of times and the worst of times, all in the same few days.

On the plus side, I cleaned out (mostly) my filing cabinet (no small chore, I assure you), had friends come over for dinner (we laughed for about three hours straight—well, as straight as we can), and had lunch with a friend from high school whom I haven’t seen for years. That was marvellous—it was as if we had seen each other a few months before, not almost 25 years. HSF (High School Friend) is as much fun now as he was then, and his partner and their son are delightful. High school friends in a way are like siblings, because they both knew you in your less-than-pretty stages! You don’t have to explain things to them as much, because you were both formed by the same things, or at least you saw each other formed, and so you know why they act the way they do. Anyway, it was a wonderful day!

On the down side, of course, was the sad saga of the West Virginia miners. I’m not related to any miners, I’ve never lived in mining country. The closest I’ve come is that some of my fellow-students in seminary were student pastors to mining communities, and I heard some of their stories. And yet this story grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. All week, through the minor crises and joys of my own life, I watched and listened to the news, saddened when the first lone body was discovered (and is anything sadder than the sister-in-law of the deceased saying stoically, she-roically, “We thought it was him before we were told that it was; it’s where he would be, to do his job, and he always did his job”?), then elated at the first news of survival Tuesday night, then waking Wednesday morning, shocked, to the stunning truth. I’m still trying to figure it out. You would think that after my visit to concentration camps in 2001, 9/11, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the tsunami last year, and Katrina and the earthquakes in Pakistan this year (not to mention the wildfires that threatened a friend’s home in California, the current wildfires, the mudslides, the terrorist bombings in Indonesia and elsewhere) and all the assorted other disasters, that it would all be ho-hum, or at best a detached interest. But I found myself teary-eyed when that first miner’s body was discovered, and crying when the rumour came through that the other 12 were alive. I cried again the next morning when I found it wasn’t true, and I’ve been teary again watching the family of Mr. McCloy on TV.

So what does it all boil down to? I’ve found myself repeating my Christmas Eve sermon again and again.

“We are not alone; we live in God’s world.” As long as I can hold onto that, as long as I remember that there will be a tomorrow—and not a Little Orphan Annie tomorrow either—but a tomorrow in which God is still present, still loving this world, then I can face the griefs and fears of today and tomorrow as well. And I can face the joys and good surprises and hopes, too—because “we are not alone. We live in God’s world.”