Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Missing a Few

Well, a month of daily, consecutive blog posts has eluded me once again. There you go.
Once I missed the first post, suddenly it wasn't so urgent to write every day. Of course, last week we were at my parents' house two states away, and a daily post meant staying up later than was helpful each night (I took along a novel that never even made it out of my bag!).
Our annual Thanksgiving vacation was good: spending time with family and friends and hitting a few favorite haunts always feels just right. I could have tacked a few extra days onto our vacation with great gladness, but it also feels really good to be home. What is it about sleeping in your own bed - even if no one in the house sleeps very well, as last night - that feels so good?
We arrived home late-evening yesterday, and hit the ground running. G got the car unloaded (we came home with WAY more stuff than we headed west with, after more shopping than we should have done...) and I got the first load of laundry into the washing machine. This morning we all overslept after our night of horrible sleep, and I got to the office about 10am, was home for 45minutes of lunch, and didn't get home again until close to 8pm. G got to church for the first Advent midweek soup supper (he even made soup this afternoon!) and then led Evening Prayer and got home just as I was putting the Munchkin to bed.
 Of course we didn't manage to get the house very clean or tidy before we hit the road 10 days ago, so there's still plenty of work left to do around here. My hope is to get all the autumn decorations put away and the first Advent decorations up before the end of the week. We'll see... If the tidying and cleaning get done, and I can get the advent wreath out and the mantel "done" I'll feel pretty good...

What's the state of Advent/Christmas decorating at your house? How ambitious are you this year?

Oh, and before I forget: as promised, Santa Picture #39
My sister's family and my family. The tradition lives!
Too bad the little ones weren't happy about it!

Friday, November 25, 2011


Santa Picture #39: check.
I'll post it as soon as I get the email with the jpeg attached...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

So Much

There is much to be thankful for.
Today I am especially thankful for my husband, whose birthday is today. And I'm thankful we were able to get him a couple of gifts that were "just right."
I am thankful for my family, and that we get to be together from time to time.
I am thankful that the Munchkin has great cousins.
I am thankful that I have no pressing need to stay up late tonight or get up early tomorrow to go shopping for Christmas presents or other deals (though we do plan to hit a shop that's got half-price socks tomorrow morning. G's feet are pretty rough on his socks).
What are you feeling especially thankful for??

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'll take mine naked

Here's a great post about wrapping gifts, from Get Rich Slowly. I for one have purchased the last wrapping paper I'm ever going to purchase. And once it's all gone, and there aren't pieces big enough to salvage to do the job, we'll be switching to brown grocery bags, or better yet, the Sunday comics. Of course that may take awhile, since after a wedding 4 1/2 years ago and a baby 13 months ago, we are still swimming in oh-so-reusable gift bags.
If, by chance, you plan to ever send me a gift, please put it in something repurposed, recycled, or at least reusable. Or better yet, give it to me naked. :)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

New Do

It's amazing to me how much a haircut - even a trim - can improve the way I feel. It's not like I put a whole lot of time and energy into my appearance. It's been months since I've worn more than moisturizer and lip balm on my face. And my hair-product usage is down to the very occasional spritz of hair spray.
But I got my hair cut today, and I am loving it.
It's not really that radical of a change. After donating almost a foot of hair to Locks of Love back in February, I've been trying to grow the mop out to "all-one-length and off the shoulder." I've also been looking for a new stylist... mine moved home to San Diego (boo!). I was hopeful about the last one to whom I entrusted my no-longer-golden mane, but ended up with my least favorite haircut of all time.
But today, with a spur of the minute appointment and an unknown assailant "designer," I'm feeling good. So - perhaps there's hope!?!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sounds Good

Some favorite sounds this week:
Snoring dog, snoring (well, sleep-breathing) toddler, snoring husband.
The little beeps the coffee pot makes when the brewing is over and it's time for the drinking to begin.
The Munchkin trying out new consonant-vowel combinations.
Wind in the last few leaves on the aspen trees.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Counting Down the Days til Advent

Advent begins a week from today. And while I know the season of Advent is intended to help us prepare not only to celebrate the coming of Christ the first time around during the 12 days of Christmas, but also to prepare for his coming again, I always end up feeling like I need time to prepare to prepare. I need more time to get ready for Advent than I'm going to get, once again.
I need time to clear some spaces out around the house, to make room for making a welcome, to unclutter so that there's room enough in space and time to wait and watch and be ready.
I'll keep you posted on how it goes...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanks 4 Giving

This morning G came home a bit early from the weekly men's breakfast and Bible study he participates in. I wanted to get out the door to try to get into town and parked by 9am. Today was the first day of a new Bozeman tradition: the Thanks 4 Giving Clothing Give Away.
I heard about it last year, but with a newborn I didn't make it out the door to check it out. It's a great event. People donate clothes, from newborn to adult xl, and then they all get sorted and piled high on tables and racks in an old school gym. Then the doors are flung open and anybody who wants to can go and take whatever they want. For free. Anybody. It was a little bit of a zoo, but I'm glad I went.
Unlike many of the others (mostly women) waiting in the line in single digit-teen temperatures, I didn't have a bag in hand. The list of items I was hoping to find included a couple of long-sleeved onesies or shirts for the Munchkin to wear now- somehow we didn't have enough long sleeve first layers to get from laundry day to laundry day. Needless to say, we do now.
I came home with a plastic grocery bag stuffed with previously loved clothing, including a pair of pediped shoes and a pair of Stride Rite shoes. And the great thing is, if anything doesn't fit or work for us, I can just donate it back next year and put it back in the mix.
Today I am thankful for living in a generous community. (Remind me later to write about my first 'GGHAC' meeting a week and a half ago...)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bowling Luck

We had a youth event this evening, of an interesting variety. The congregation's Family & Youth Ministry Team decided to make it a combined middle school and high school event, but didn't realize tonight was also the opening night of the high school's musical, and several of our youth are in it. As a result, we had the youth group equivalent of a bowling split: a handful of 6th graders, a handful of seniors, and a lone 8th grader in between. The bowling was quite fun: 4 youth and 1 adult on each lane, cheering each other on, with some friendly competition. (I bowled surprising well, considering it's been 5+ years since I picked up a bowling ball, I think. In two games I bowled 253!)
After bowling we returned to the congregation's building for some dinner, albeit a late one. The games that followed revealed the age differential and the seniors excused themselves (pesky kids with driver's licenses...) Can't say that I blamed them, really.
Overall, I think a good time was had by all. I'm pooped, but glad I participated. I relish opportunities to hang out with the youth outside of more structured learning times. They're hilarious, and most of them have no idea how great they are.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mid-month writers' block?

I've got nothing. The to-do list is plenty long: sermon and worship prep, youth event tomorrow evening, loads of housework and holiday prep, gifts to wrap, etc. And it was an interesting enough day: lunch with a parishoner, dinner out with G and the Munchkin (free pizza @ Old Chicago since it's G's birthday month), and we got something close to 5 or 6 inches of snow this afternoon and evening.
But I've got not much to say and am looking forward to an imminent date with my pillow. :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I Know Where She Gets It

Today the Munchkin did a new trick: after emptying the little basket we have our random assortment of coasters in, again, she put. them. back. in. She didn't quite get all of them back in the basket, but I'm not complaining. It's so fun to watch her figure things out, and she was so proud! She held the basket out for me at a full-arm stretch and a goofy grin on her face.
The Munchkin's momma (that would be yours truly) had a bit of an "aha" this evening. I spent about 90 minutes sitting on the floor in our bonus room, sorting through bin after endless plastic bin of photos, rubber stamps, paper ephemera saved (and some even purchased!) for future uber-artsy collage projects. And when I got up, I saw exactly where the Munchkin gets her Entropy-Girl skills. In my experience, such sorting always makes things look worse before they look better, and there was a momma sized empty space surrounded by piles and bins, a recycle bag and a garbage bag. I didn't take a photo- the evidence would be far too embarrassing. But you can get the general idea here:
Increased entropy achieved, the Munchkin moves on to new targets.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Entropy-Girl in Action

The Munchkin (aka Entropy-Girl), Master of Mayhem & Chaos
Here she is, doing what she does best. At least today I finally managed to get that very full basket of laundry into the washing machine!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ready to go nowhere

Tomorrow is our Sabbath. And I can hardly wait. It's not that we've got a day of amazing restful and renewing things planned; for the most part it will be like any other Monday - a more leisurely breakfast than usual, perhaps a few household chores (I didn't manage to do any laundry today), connecting as a family. I'm especially looking forward to it, though, because we have been on the go a whole lot more than usual over the last few days. G went to our bishop's convocation in a town 3 hours away on Friday, then yesterday I spent 90 minutes each way getting to and from a campus ministry board meeting, and this afternoon G headed out again for an outdoor ministry annual corporation meeting.
I do like being involved, but three big meetings requiring so much time in the car, three days in a row, is enough, thank you. I am no longer accustomed to spending so much time in the car.
I really appreciate our minimal commute of 0.9 miles - after spending hours commuting in Phoenix, this tiny commute is a major uptick in quality of life for me, even if it does mean I miss a lot of the news on NPR (tomorrow morning will likely find me streaming Morning Edition while I make buttermilk pancakes). I'm ready to pretty much go nowhere tomorrow.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A touch of summer

It seems winter has arrived to stay after all. We had some snow last Saturday, and though we didn't get any more snow until today, the grass stayed white all week. Another couple inches got added today, and I'm thinking we may not see the lawn til next spring. So much for planting the iris rhizomes or the last super-cheap perennials I picked up.
I'm not quite ready for winter. A couple more weeks of autumn would suit me just fine.
It's hard to believe this picture of one of G's sunflowers was taken only two and a half months ago. Ah, summer sunshine...
There are always sunflowers in our garden.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Super Power Revealed

The Munchkin's super power has been revealed in our home: entropy. The girl's got serious skills in chaos-creation (and it's not like G and I are the king and queen of order, tidiness and a-place-for-everything-and-everything-in-its-place). BUT - we do have a handful of containers intended to keep a few things in certain spaces. There's a basket under the end table into which we put the daily paper and junk mail before it all gets schlepped to the garage; there's a big wicker basket for all the kitchen laundry (our laundry room is upstairs, the kitchen is downstairs, and we generate an insane amount of kitchen laundry with cloth napkins, bibs, towels, washcloths, etc.); and we have a small bookcase in the kitchen filled with cookbooks. The Munchkin can systematically, and with great stealth, remove the contents of all of these containers in no time flat.

Entropy-girl. That's my daughter! (pictures forth-coming, I hope).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

All I Want for Christmas

It's wish-list season. My family has a long history of wish-lists, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, as we've also got a long history of buying extremely practical gifts - so practical that sometimes the wisher goes out and gets said item for him- or herself before the gift-giving occasion rolls around. That could happen to me this year: this afternoon the Munchkin and I ventured to the mall to get her mormor (that'd be "mom's mom" in Norwegian) a Christmas present: eye make-up remover from a particular cosmetics counter. I won't be surprised in the least if it turns out that my mom has acquired her own new bottle of this stuff before the calendar hits the 24th of December.
One of the benefits of the wish-list is knowing that family will be spending money on things we actually want/need/will use, and that we'll be giving them gifts they want/need/will use, which certainly beats the alternative. There's not much point in spending money just for the sake of spending money, and I hate the feeling of having NO IDEA what to give someone.
However, this year, when asked what I want for Christmas, the answer is LESS STUFF. I not only don't really want any STUFF, I'd love it if someone would come over and help me (us) let go of some of the stuff that lives in our house already. Of course, given that we live states away from our families, and they really do want to give us something for Christmas (evidently - if any of my relatives are reading this and you don't really feel like getting me something for Christmas, then please donate the money to your food bank or something instead!!!), I also need to have a couple of "real" things on my wishlist. Here they are:
Aveda Hand Relief lotion (I go through one of these a year since SW Montana is a semi-arid climate and my hands do not like winter weather very much).
A new box of chargers for my most excellent whipped cream dispenser (go through about a box of those a year, too).
Origins Ginger hand lotion and hand cleanser (that way there's lotion in the downstairs bathroom too! And, Origins Ginger is my favorite scent - even though other than that I'm mostly moving away from smelly products...).
After that, there are some big-ticket items I'd like for our household to have: a camcorder to capture the Munchkin's hijinks, an external hard drive to back up our photos, etc., a telephoto lens for taking stealth Munchkin pictures. But I don't expect anyone to get any of these things for me. At this point, the exercise of writing a Christmas wish list helps me think about savings goals for the weeks and months ahead. And that's okay.

What do YOU want for Christmas this year (besides world peace, of course)?

PS - This post was inspired by today's testosterhome post. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

One of THOSE days

Some days it is very clear to me how much they DON'T teach you in seminary. Today was one of those days.
No major crises, nothing overly urgent, just an accumulation of issues I haven't had to deal with before and am quite confident are not on any MDiv syllabus (or at least weren't on my syllabi between 1997 and 2001).
Fortunately, I was inspired to call my Dad (of all people!) and he could actually help with one practical congregational detail. Gotta love it when that happens.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Mutual Ministry and Preparing for Advent

We've got a Mutual Ministry Committee, and more often than not, it's a pretty good thing. I've heard the occasional horror story (though it seems most are second or third hand) about such committees that are constitutionally required in many congregations, but which end up having whining/complaining/fix-the-pastor meetings, more than anything else.
I really like all the parishioners on the committee, and value the time we get with them, though sometimes I wish we had an excuse to have the kinds of conversations we do with other small groups in the congregation, too. Tonight I asked them what they need from their community of faith during the seasons of Advent and Christmas. I want to make what we do as a community meaningful and faith-forming, not just one more thing people feel stressed out about when they commit to participating, or feel guilty about when they don't participate. I think sometimes less can be more, but only if we slow down enough to recognize the more - and I want to help people notice what's going on around them, and within them.
What do YOU need during Advent this year? Who could help you find/have it?

Monday, November 7, 2011

It never rains...

It never rains... but it pours - invitations to dinner, in our case.
We've been trying to invite folks from the congregation over for dinner at our house on a fairly regular basis. Not only is it nice to get to know folks in different circumstances, but we also enjoy entertaining and offering hospitality - and knowing we have company coming is one of the best motivators for cleaning I know, which is a serious bonus.
When we first arrived here, we were invited to several members' homes for dinner, which was nice. For the most part, though, it's been a while since anybody has invited us over for dinner. I suppose having the Munchkin is a significant factor in that. However, yesterday after worship G and I each accepted a dinner invitation for the end of the week (on the same night). We decided to keep the invitation that he accepted first, and asked for a raincheck for the second invitation, which was graciously given to us. And then, this afternoon, mid-diaper-change, I answered my phone only to receive ANOTHER invitation for dinner, ON THE SAME NIGHT!
I don't think we're looking underfed (I'm looking extra-pudgily over-fed,  if anything), so I'm not sure how to account for the sudden arrival of so much meal-time hospitality. I'm not going to knock it, though. Let the parties begin!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Economic Thoughts on a Sunday

Today was "Commitment Sunday" for a capital campaign in the congregation we serve. The leadership team set an incredibly hopeful goal back in September: $600,000. The rationale behind this huge (given the smallish size of the congregation) number was that over the three-year duration of the campaign, enough funds would be received to give away 10% to other ministries and organizations, use 10% for ministry enhancing projects in the facility, and use 80% to completely pay off the congregation's mortgage.
After today's service, the initial gathering of commitments totalled less than a third of the goal. There are still opportunities for folks who were not in worship today to make commitments, and there are additional request letters - to friends of the congregation and folks who've moved out of town - yet to be sent.
I think it would be easy for me - and for the congregation - to feel like we have failed somehow (I'd hoped to hit the 1/3 mark today) - but it's not a failure. A group of people have made a commitment, not just with words, but with finances, to continue in mission and ministry together. The leadership team worked hard and well and has renewed a conversation about what faithful stewardship looks like in real, regular lives. A couple of the members of that team have been so inspired and motivated that they want to keep meeting. (!!)
Over the last several weeks, and again this morning, several people mentioned to me that the timing of the campaign feels difficult to them - good jobs remain scarce, the stock market is volatile enough to inspire fear, coming into winter the ancient fear of scarcity rears its head, and the economic anxiety around the world certainly trickles down, even if economic prosperity rarely seems to.
As people of faith, I believe we are called to recognize the abundance that surrounds us, and to live in faith, not fear. Yes, we may not have enough cash for all of the things we WANT, but it seems like a lot of the time getting the things we want doesn't bring real satisfaction or fulfillment anyway. When we live with the community in mind, and are as discerning as possible when it comes to how we spend, I believe there is reason for hope, and fulfillment to be found outside the shopping mall.
One of the things that has made me crazy for a few years now is the constant reference to Americans as "consumers" instead of as citizens. Here's a great artcile from Abundant Community (I came across the website after reading the book by the same name). Hope it inspires some good thinking and conversation at your house!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Not quite treasure

It's snowing. It's been snowing. Since before I got up a little before 7:30 this morning. For the 5th of November - that's a lot of snow. Fortunately, it hasn't piled up too high yet; I'm not quite ready to hear the roar of the snow thrower...
One of the joys of the onset of winter, besides already drying out skin and hair, is the return of outerwear to my regular wardrobe. I can get by with my 18 year old Patagonia fleece for quite a while as the temperatures start to drop, and having grown up in Seattle, I can walk through a lot of rain before I would classify the weather as "wet" instead of "damp."
That said, I do not especially enjoy being cold, and so this evening on my way to worship I pulled my red down vest from the coat closet and put it on for the first time in months. And what to my pocket-seeking hands did appear? But a whole pile of junk that hasn't seen the light of day since the last time I wore the vest, last winter... including: a wad of Kleenex (not used, thank God), a starlight peppermint, a couple of peppermint wrappers, and one of those not-even-bite-sized Three Musketeers nuggets, which at this point could probably break a tooth. Not exactly buried treasure. Not even some spare change!
These spontaneous treasure hunts happen every year, and with just about every coat, jacket or vest I own (which I would have to admit are greater in number than one girl actually NEEDS). You'd think I'd manage to clean out my pockets before relegating the warm stuff to the back of the closet in the spring, but I never know the last time I wear something will be the last time I wear it for the season.
I remember something similar happening when I was growing up. As the oldest of two sisters, I was the one who handed things down, not the handee. The upside: lots of new clothes, including beautiful wool coats thanks to a Grandma who also did not enjoy being cold. The downside: I rarely cleaned out those pockets, either, at the end of winter, and when they became hand-me-downs, the ownership of pocket contents transferred to my younger sister along with the pockets. Maybe that's why I rarely find any money in my own coats winter to winter these days...

Friday, November 4, 2011

For blogging's sake

Yep, I've done it again, as I guess I do have a tendency to be an all-or-nothing kind of blogger.
It's November, which means it's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). And while I have absolutely no intentions of doing THAT again any time soon, I did sign up for its cousin: NaBloPoMo, National Blog Posting Month. The theme for this month is blogging for blogging's sake. And that's about all this post is going to amount to. We actually watched a movie tonight, and now I'm feeling rather tired. Think I'll head to bed!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

*8 Things: A Gratitude Practice

Join *8Things Rachelle over at Magpie Girl is up to her lists of *8 Things again - and I've been thinking since last week that I might do my own list of *8 Things. But - Thursday has rolled around again, and once again it's time to list a new *8 Things for which I am grateful. Magpie Girl has been struggling with keeping up with housework in the midst of wanting more time for writing and creativity. While housework is always on the to-do list around here, it's not been the huge stressor it can be, at least this week. That said, I'm in the middle of one of my "is this really what I'm supposed to be doing here?" spats of vocational anxiety. So, with that in the back of my mind, here are my *8 Things, off the top of my head, and in no particular order. I am grateful for:
1. The amazingly tasty West Aftrican Peanut Soup we had for dinner tonight - the first time I've tried this recipe from Sundays at Moosewood. (I DO love all the Moosewood cookbooks. And maybe I'll share the recipe here sometime sooner or later).
2. The fact that even though we share a call and cut our income by half (or more) when we moved here, G and I have - since we moved here -  managed to start an emergency fund and save a little more on top of that over the last three years.
3. For the emergency fund, given that we had a water leak in our crawl space which required a plumber to come to our rescue on Saturday.
4. The Munchkin, who is working so hard to walk (15 steps tonight, without holding on to anything, though the last half were definitely "baby" steps) and is weaning herself.
5. The cleaned-out space in the garage so that at least one of our cars will be parked inside when the snow hits this weekend.
6. My husband who cleaned out said space, and who is so fun to watch be "Daddy" to the Munchkin. They are thick as thieves and she doesn't even talk yet - though the giggle can kill you.
7. The promise of time with family over the holidays. I'm not counting down days yet, but getting out of dodge for a few will feel incredible.
8. Every day in my life is different - there's rarely time to get bored - and while this can make planning a challenge, it also keeps me on my toes.

What are your *8 Things?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Highs and Lows

Wednesday nights during the academic year tend to find me in the congregation's library/conference room/makeshift office for our worship coordinator/director of music. With a group of very hilarious and wonderful middle school students. For ABC (= Affirmation of Baptism Class, aka Confirmation).
Middle schools house three grades here, 6th-8th, and so our ABC ministry follows the school district's lead and we use a three year curriculum: a year of Hebrew Scriptures, a year of Christian Scriptures, and a year of Discipleship in Daily Life (that would be Luther's Small Catechism). We're on the third year of the rotation this year, and the kids are getting in to the catechism pretty well.
Tonight we discussed the 8th commandment, with a couple of rousing games of "Telephone" - very funny. Whereas basic understanding (never mind real-life application) of the 6th commandment required some definition of terms (at least a third of the class members weren't sure what "adultery" even means when we started), they have no problem understanding how bearing false witness against one's neighbor makes a difference in life. They "get it" from their own bus stops and school hallways to American presidential campaigns.
As great as the weekly content of our conversations is, one of my favorite elements of our time together each week is a little life review of "highs and lows." Or "wahoos! and that sucks!" Or "roses and thorns." It's amazing to watch the level of disclosure and reflection deepen as the year goes on. And it is a privilege to be allowed into the minds and hearts of such a great crew of students.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Happy All Saints Day!

I hope you had a wonderful Halloween. And an even better All Saints Day.
(Yesterday we ran an errand to a new big-box-department-store (more on that another time) and there were already Christmas decorations up. Really!?)
Our Halloween was pretty mellow - we managed to carve a couple of pumpkins while the munchkin napped yesterday afternoon, the munchkin wore her (tags-still-on-it-79-cent gift from her Auntie) costume long enough to get a couple of photos snapped, and last night all of 17 trick-or-treaters landed on our porch to get bags of Cheddar Goldfish (something salty to balance all the sugar).

While we ate lunch yesterday, G asked me which saints I'd be remembering and giving thanks for today. I didn't give him much of an answer - asked him his own question, instead, but he did get me thinking. He mentioned a whole host of folks who were members of congregations he's served, and several family members. I thought of a couple of the great church ladies I've known and buried, but mostly thought of seminary classmates, colleagues, and friends who are very much alive and well.
I appreciated the emphasis on contemporary saints in this article, though I wish the author had suggested looking at the person sitting next to you in the pew as a saint for whom we can give thanks - or looking in the mirror and thanking God that God can turn even you (me!) into a saint.
Our congregation celebrated Reformation Sunday this past weekend. Our All Saints celebration will be this weekend. In addition to naming, and lighting candles for, members of the congregation who have died since All Saints last year, we've added the practice of naming and lighting candles for every person baptized in the past year, too, since in the 3+ years we've served this parish, only one member has died. And, everyone in worship will have the opportunity to light a candle in honor/thanksgiving/remembrance of the saints in their lives. The ritual action can be so powerful, and the solemnity of the day inspires awe and reverance in even the most pyromaniacal of kids.
I'm glad we'll have that time in worship, but I wish it could have happened today - so people would have a better chance of getting the connection between the EVENING of All Hallows and the DAY of All Saints.