Friday, December 31, 2010

On Holiday

I have been on a blogging hiatus. Ever since my camera broke I have been feeling slightly uninspired. I like a fresh photo to accompany my posts. But tonight I read an article by a sharp-tongued little Snippit that reminded me that the world is a very big place, worthy of exploration, and I have absolutely no good reason to whine and fuss simply because I do not currently have a camera. Most folks in the world do not have a camera. So, appropriately humbled, I am back in.

Back to the Snippit. This woman recently returned from a two-year stint in Oaxaca, Mexico and is wrestling with rabid criticism of exploitative U.S. culture. Fair enough. But as I read the article I wondered, "When was the last time I was this vehement about something?" My mind wandered back to my college days and the first feminist studies course I took at the University of Washington. I returned home for Christmas full of spitfire and venom. I distinctly remember yelling at my Aunt and Uncle that year when it was suggested that women were created by God as lesser-beings. I am certain that I screamed the word penis at a family gathering. This is not a word one should yell surrounded by a large group of people.

My frustration came from a good and healthy place, but it found expression in a rather useless manner. Head down, I began shoveling a chasm fueled by fury that ten years later feels impossible to fill in. Instead I stand with my hands on my hips on the other side of the canyon, curious to know if my Aunt and Uncle still think about the year I yelled about penises.

Tonight I sit in the comfy guest room at my sister's house and relish the quiet. The wee one's have gone to bed and Aunt Carmen is off duty. I have many things to ponder these final hours of 2010. Wishing you goodness and delight as 2010 comes to a close and the New Year begins.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Nativity Scenes

I am supposedly very busy this week. It is the last week of Advent, two days before Christmas, and I work in a church. Yesterday I glued the giant head of a wise man back onto his giant body. I helped decorate the sanctuary of the church while one member banged out Christmas tunes on the piano. A few of us croaked along, irony in every syllable, as we sang the song "Silent Night." This morning I had breakfast with a woman who had me rolling with laughter about the war over tiny baby Jesus in her home-- baby Jesus is the dog's new favorite toy and her mother chases the dog around the house shouting "Drop baby Jesus, Hank! Drop him!"

Aside the wonder and the awe of the Incarnation, I like this time of year because it is so dang hilarious. One church Christmas party that will live in infamy: picture two old ladies adorned in plaid taffeta trying to out-do one another as "hostess" for the evening. Party disintegrates into a screeching fight that ends when one woman says to the other, "Take the %#$*ing Yule Log! Just take it!"

I love church. Most of the time. Or at least a strong 60% of the time.

I have only been in one Christmas pageant in my life and I am dying to run one. I love the idea of troops of kids acting out the Christmas story, adorned in bathrobes and foil-laden gifts creatively interpreting gold, frankincense and myrrh. My grandmother used to read us grandchildren "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" and it still has me in stitches every year.

Wishing you a blessed Christmas, whether you are a fierce believer in Jesus the Christ, a miffed Scrooge, a committed atheist or anything in between. Much love to you and grateful to be a fellow wayfarer on the journey!

"We shall awaken from our dullness and rise vigorously toward justice. If we fall in love with creation deeper and deeper, we will respond to its endangerment with passion."

- Hildegard of Bingen

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fa la la la la la la la la

I am roasting a chicken for the first time in my life. I am wearing an apron to legitimize the act (If you ever see me in an apron you can be certain I am insecure about whatever I am doing in the kitchen). It snowed for the first time today and my room-mate had a lousy day, so I decided to go all out and cook a very merry, cheerful holiday dinner. The kitchen smells like rosemary or thyme -- some lovely green thing. My walk to and from Whole Foods was exhilarating. Tiny white flakes, slick side-walks, and the frigid air made me feel arctic and adventurous.

My camera is at the doctor's, so this is a stock photo. I am certain that my chicken looks better. Fingers crossed this darn thing will be delish.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Baby, it's cold outside

I regularly bring some work with me to the Starbucks at Chestnut Street and 19th, a few blocks from my house. They have particularly cheerful baristas and a loft with comfortable chairs and tables. The loft is often full of scads of well-dressed college students alongside homeless people who have found a warm reprieve and rest. I like this Starbucks because no one is ever asked to leave, whether or not they are paying customers. The weather took a sharp turn today and it is bitter cold outside. No snow yet, but the wind is piercing. There is a woman sitting across from me, a worn Bible in her lap, and she has wedged herself comfortably into the corner of a big chair, eyes closed, shoulders twitching in sleep. On occasion she paws around her lap for the bag of chips that sits precariously at her side. Breakfast of champions.

I stupidly (intentional adverb) used to refer to Starbucks as 'the man.' And while it is ridiculous that franchises are taking over the world, I have softened my verbage. When I was in the Doi Sutep Mountains in Thailand a few years ago, I drank coffee with villagers who sell their coffee to Starbucks, fair trade, and it seems that the whole enterprise is legit, improving the lives of the community. So, I toast my Americano to thee, O Starbucks. Thanks for providing some warmth and comfort for some folks.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Mortician

I need to consciously integrate some festive, holiday cheer into my life this month. As I sit here, some candles are lit and Nat King Cole is crooning in the background. This is a good start. I plan to dig out my nativity set, the beautiful collection of white soapstone figures I bought in Zanzibar a few years ago. I think the best Christmas decorations have sentimental value- like the ornament I made my mother in the 1st grade, the one my sister is likely hanging on her Christmas tree as I write this. My poor sister is exhausted these days. The third baby refuses to sleep, so she navigates her days in a bit of a fog. She could use an extra set of hands to string popcorn or distract busy boys, a job best done by a sister, but instead I sit here crunching sun chips, writing liturgy, and trying to rationalize the purchase of a new holiday dress.

Tonight I was riding the trolley back to Center City and sat behind a woman who works at a morgue. She told me a little bit about her job and the precision it demands. She told me she was raised by a mortician. As a little girl, her daddy used to bring her to work where she learned how to prepare bodies for burial. I couldn't quite figure out why she wanted to chat with me. Engulfed in my puffy coat, I was mostly all yoga mat, down, and grocery bags. She flipped around at one point to tell me about a suicide she witnessed earlier in the day. A man had jumped in front of a train. She mentioned something about the Bible and what it says about suicide. If she was watching carefully, she might have seen the flicker of surprise that crossed my face. But I said nothing, of course. I imagine God Almighty would be surprised to know what people attribute to His Holy Book.

Me and this mortician, we deal in the art of life and death and the rituals that accompany it. Weird that I have quite a bit in common with a mortician.

Life can be hard. I am sad for the guy that ended his life today. I am sad for the lonely minister I met tonight and the homeless folks that are curled up outside. "The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise: I will cause a righteous branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness." May it be so.

Hope you're finding time for warm drinks and cozy evenings at home. Here's to savoring life, my friends, and the gift that it is.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I feel like death warmed over. It will pass, but I just got back from the gym and am certain of two things: one, I am dehydrated; two, I am out of shape. Since August my work-out schedule has been sporadic at best. Tonight I planned to slip into the back of an aerobics class, but accidentally entered the wrong room and found myself in a one-on-one cardio and weight training session. Eeesh. Afterward I sat in the locker room with a towel over my head concentrating on not being sick.

I walked home tonight and paused in the middle of a cross-walk, caught off guard by an overwhelming urge to call my mother. That hasn't happened in a long time. I miss my mother's advice and compassion these days. She was a wise one. I have a box full of letters she sent me when I was in college that are are organized by date. I think I will find one marked November 23rd and read it tonight with an appropriate nightcap. Tea.

I had a lovely weekend in beautiful Boston where lobster reigns and young, good-looking brainiacs hang out in Harvard bars (pronounced 'Hahvahd'). My friend Stephanie and I spent two gorgeous fall days traipsing around the city with our friend and host Adam who recently moved to Boston from Philly. We took a night bus, so we were delirious and ridiculous by the time we arrived. I like Stephanie. She has the capacity to be sparkly and zesty and hilarious and she is also deeply reflective and wise. Adam is a cool cat. He wears designer sunglasses, has excellent taste, a wicked sense of humor, and a tremendously generous spirit. These are good people. I am lucky to know them.

In two short days we will be celebrating my favorite holiday. I will be heading to Princeton to be with good friends for a couple of days and look forward to some long walks, some lawn games if the weather plays along, and ridiculously good food. Happy Thanksgiving to you, dear friends.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Adios a mi Camera

I watched a Brecht play a few nights ago. Upon arriving home I had two options: stew in despair or browse facebook and ponder a newsie blogpost. I choose option two. One should make room for nihilism, but only in small doses.

I have bad news. On Sunday night I was carving this cute jack-o-lantern and while cleaning up I accidentally bashed the viewfinder of my camera into a radiator. SMASH. In one swift move its days of documenting the world were over.

On the bright side, it is one less thing to own. I have always found ridding myself of earthly possessions invigorating. Within reason, of course. It's like nihilism: everything in moderation.

And so, my friends, I must pay homage to my camera.

How should one give honor to any good and faithful companion? A montage, of course.

A tribute to you, my Camera. Thanks for the good times.

RIP 2007-2010

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Almost Everything Serious is Difficult

"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is,to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer."

-Rainier Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Monday, November 1, 2010

Love is in the air

I finally got back to the gym tonight after a long hiatus. I have developed a slightly pudgy layer around the belly, so the return was critical. Betsy, my aerobics instructor, was especially cheerful tonight. You can attend to these things in between circuit training, particularly because you are surrounded by unforgiving wall-to-wall mirrors. In between jumping jacks, squats, and push-ups I noticed her furtive looks out the door and by the end of the class I had no doubt that dear Betsy and the new front desk guy have a little romance brewing. Love is in the air. Three cheers for romance.

I went to the "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" this weekend. It was a bucket of fun-- nothing life-transforming or anything, but it was the perfect fall day to hang out with 300,000 of my closest friends on the Mall. DC is such a lovely little city. Horrendous traffic, but full of politicos and fresh-faced idealists, those weary of injustice and those eager for something new. I think I would like living in DC.

A few pics from a controversial event. A penny for your thoughts?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sour Puss

Be Ye Prepared: poor excuses lie in wait.

The world did not accost me in any particularly harmful way today, but rottenness took hold. My excuses: 1) I have been creeped out by a new relationship I see evolving. Do you ever get creeped out by the relationships your friends find themselves in? Creeped out. 2) I was driving today (a novelty in the city) in weird Philadelphia and flipped through the radio stations until finally landing on a Christian praise station. I recognized some of the songs from my youth and chose to listen for awhile. I soon felt a similar creepy feeling washing over me. Some of these Christian rock stars are dead-ringers for swoony pop-singers begging for love and fulfillment (sexual overtones abound) and I couldn't help but imagine these "praise" songs in darkened youth group rooms, lyrics subtly wafting their way over pre-pubescent boys and girls swaying to the music. I don't like the idea of God as Lover. Giant Cassanova in the sky.

Then again, there is warrant for this notion, people. All kinds of mystics have written about erotic experiences in their communion with the Divine.

I digress. I was feeling all sour pants on my way back home when I got stuck in some delicious traffic. Delicious, you say? Yes. I say delicious. Because lovely, darling, smoochy, smoochy Bradley Cooper was shooting a movie in Rittenhouse Square and my car got stuck directly next to him. I could have opened my car door and smacked him in the thigh. I did no such thing, but my raisin-face soon gave way to smirk-face as I reflected on the depth of my superficiality. My entire day was lightened because I saw heart-throb movie star Bradley Cooper. Guffaw, guffaw.

Please do not worry, sweet boy who I am dating, I do not plan to ditch you for Sir Cooper. He's like Taylor Swift, but a guy.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

West Virginia, Mountain Mama

Meet Anneke. Anneke is one of the better Philadelphians under the age of two. Mild, strong-willed, curious, careful, and methodical, she is my favorite companion in the nursery at church if I am in the mood for cheerios, grape-halves, or a little TLC. Anneke wears pencil-leg jeans courtesy of her stylish urbanite parents and rolls through the world with big blue eyes and a surprisingly serious brow for a sprite who has been in the world for just eighteen months.

Last weekend I headed to West Virginia with Anneke and her parents to spend a couple of days in the Appalachian mountains. It was nice to get out of the city. I spent my time pretending to read, traipsing through the woods, and pressing myself as close to the fireplace as humanly possible, trying not singeing my hair or the heels of my tennis shoes. The forest was a magnificent array of reds, greens and yellows and I am inclined to believe they should give out blankets and copies of Thoreau at the West Virginia border this time of year.

I was feeling very John Denver and folksy imagining what it would be like to live in this state, growing and preserving things, charmed by the lethargic hornets dragging themselves across the woodpile and the lemon-yellow leaves dropping into the river at the bottom of the hill. The dream came to a glaring halt when I was reminded of just what a city girl I have become. One cannot sit on a sagging porch boasting two confederate flags, a U.S. flag, and a hand-painted sign advertising live bait and beer with any authenticity while wearing designer jeans and a black sweater from Anthropologie.

I'm no mountain mama, but I like this state.

P.S. Mock the orange. Do it. We deserve it. It was hunting season. We wore it because we did not want to get shot. And because we are ridiculous.

Monday, October 18, 2010

To Princeton and Back Again

I read a lot of blogs of women my age who are married with children. On occasion I feel weird that I cannot relate to mortgages, dirty diapers, and kiddie soccer games. When I see pictures of spectacularly beautiful children and anniversary celebrations I get that 7th grade feeling -- standing on the side of a gym, lights dimmed, pop music throbbing in the background, wondering if Kevin Ramonis is going to ask me to slow-dance. I'm the awkward outsider that buys shoes and gears up for lame dates and drags in my own groceries-- scads of dinners for one. This does not make me feel sad. My journey has other riches, as my friend Scotty reminded me this weekend. My life is rich, indeed. Not much money, but when I've gone down I've gone down big. And when I've won I've won big. I'm no magician, but I know magic. I have tasted and felt it.

We've had different journeys, but I find that blogs are the great equalizer. Best described as "online scrap-booking," I have a slew of favorite writers who share tidbits about their lives and somehow I feel close to them despite the miles.

This weekend I went apple-picking. Autumn is my favorite time of year and October is especially delicious. I love pulling on a sweater and a scarf. I love drinking hot apple cider and the unique golden light that brightens crisp cornstalks and flaming red leaves. I drove up to Princeton to meet my old friend Scott. I met Scott when I was 19 and full of idealism and dorky ideas about the world. Old friends provide good orientation and it was nice to ease into a seamless conversation that has been going on well over a decade. Scott came to Philadelphia on Sunday. He had not been to church in awhile and had never seen me in a leadership position. He said there were multiple times during the service he wanted to stand up and say, "Carms, come down from there."

Me too, my brother! Me too.

Church can be so very strange and even a little disappointing at times. It is not always the community it should be. After I waved goodbye to Scott on Sunday I hurried to change my clothes for a funeral. As I stood at the graveside of a young man who left this world far too early, I was reminded again of the sweetness of friendship-- those people who help us tell our stories. There was a group of Boy Scouts who grew up together and cried tears of grief at the grave of their dear friend. The weather was kind and someone whispered to me after the service, "I am glad you do this job." I pondered this for awhile. I'm not sure that I always agree, but If nothing else, I hope I will always be a good witness. A good witness, a good storyteller, and someone who treasures the stories of others.

Thank you for sharing yours.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happiest Place on -Erh-


Old Walt had a dream of creating a place where dreams come true. Mickey Mouse, Minnie, and Donald Duck live side by side in charming Tune Town where tourists can buy churros (fried bread dipped in cinnamon and sugar), ice cream, and endless kitsch. Disneyland is great and truly weird. I spent five days with my fam in Southern California and we milked it for all it was worth. My poor sister was sick with a sore throat, but we all rallied.

Being an Aunt is one of my most favorite things in the whole world. I loved watching Tyson throw his arms around giant, life-sized chipmunks in true adoration and staying up late at night reading books with Tate. Tiny Alyssa is her mama's girl, but in stolen sweet moments I won a few of her smiles and cuddles.

Little known fact: my dad ran into Walt Disney once. Literally. He was on a street corner in Seattle for the 1962 World's Fair and my dad accidently bumped into a man, apologized and quickly added, "Walt Disney... Excuse me, Walt Disney!"

I am not convinced a fictitious land filled with bawling babies, long lines, and a hefty helping of gluttony deserves the title of "Happiest Place on Earth," but it was a marvelous place to visit for a few days. Thanks fam for a great vaycay!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

One Magical August...

I tried to keep this video short. No need to overload you, but perhaps this will tantalize you into purchasing a ticket to Europe!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Primum non nocere

First, do no harm.

Thus sayeth the Hippocratic Oath. I have been at a mission conference all day, listening to folks invested in international development in some way, shape or form. Lots of good-hearted souls have gathered to talk about ways to make the world a better place. But we are a surprisingly sedate bunch. Probably because we are Presbyterian. I think we need to get a little more riled up about all the injustice we witness.

Anywho, I'm feeling quite chipper despite the madness of life these days. It is fall and I love this time of year. The trees are tired after a long and hot summer, so they are fading in spectacular glory. The last few months have been full of good travel and adventures. There will be Turkey stories and pictures soon. Promise. Ahhhhhh, Turkey. Now THAT is a spectacular place.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Holy Shamoly

All right. I have been a crappy blogger of late. I absolutely must share some more pics from extraordinary Turkey, but please be patient, my pets (all six of you who read this blog). It is fall, thank God, and I am delighting in cool weather and weekend excursions. Went to Valley Forge and NYC and this weekend plan to go to Washington DC. Got a lot on my mind these days, so the blog has been neglected. But wishing you all heaps of love and promise to be back with a few tidbits soon!

Friday, September 10, 2010


I crawled into the car yesterday and I wanted a little magic. You ever have those days? I wanted to roll down the windows, turn the radio on, and listen to some fabulous playlist that the DJ would miraculously assemble.

Instead, I crawled into the car yesterday, flipped on the radio and the first thing I heard was some irrational woman screeching about burning the Quaran alongside a litany of hateful slurs. Eeek! What ever happened to religious freedom and mutual forbearance?

But then there are people like this:

"We came to have a peaceful conversation with the pastor, to hear his grievance, to ask him to follow his own Scripture about his enemies. His Scripture teaches him to love his enemies." Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida after meeting with preacher Terry Jones, whose church is planning to burn Korans on Saturday. (USA Today)

There is hope, Ms. Carmen. There is hope.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A magical city, indeed

On my last day in Istanbul I stayed with a wonderful Turkish family who divides their time between Istanbul and Philadelphia. For decades, they have had a lovely home high in the hills of Ortakoy overlooking the Bosporus River. The Bosporus River divides east from west, Europe from Asia, a critical waterway between the Black Sea and the Sea of Maramara. As the moon rose over the opposite shore, we ate fresh figs and peaches and drank Turkish coffee on the porch. Fisherman and drunken boys argued on the water's edge while a welcome breeze finally offered a reprieve from the August heat. I asked my host, Mr. Eroglu, what he thought of Istanbul and he replied without hesitation. "In Istanbul I feel old. A thousand years old." He gestured to the palace of a sultan across the river and then a fortress built by Constantine. Centuries of architecture and war, religious and cataclysmic ideological shifts have transformed the hills and soil and water of Istanbul and my host said that he felt that somehow his life was a continuation of all those lives and events that had come before.

On my first day in Istanbul, an old man holding two white rabbits asked if he could read my fortune for 1 lire. I found he and the bunnies rather charming, so I placed a coin in his hand and watched as he and one rabbit carefully selected and unrolled a blue piece of paper that provided wisdom for my life, much like a Chinese fortune cookie.

All kinds of superstition is woven seamlessly into the culture. To ward off evil spirits, a person can buy a blue medallion representing Medusa's eye (to deflect evil thoughts). I am my mother's daughter, a woman who happened to be surprisingly superstitious herself, so I happily offered the remains of my Turkish coffee to Mr. Ergolu when I was told one could learn about the future from the sediment at the bottom.

Istanbul is a wildly fascinating place. Boasting a population of 20 million people, this massive, throbbing city is home to Kurds and Turks, Muslims and Marxists, all of whom stumbled across my path throughout my visit. Such a friendly place where gestures of hospitality are offered through Chai tea and banter. Ramadan kept things rather quiet during the day, but could not keep the smokers at bay nor the carpet sellers from aggressively selling their wares.

The pictures are from the Blue Mosque, the Aya Sofya, a boat cruise on the river, a Kurdish neighborhood near Taksim, and a carpet shop in Sultanahmet.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

VayCay, Day 3

The only thing better than visiting charming Nuremberg? Visiting charming Nuremberg and staying with your friend's Amy and Jeff who provide gorgeous lime/plum/coconut cake for breakfast. Today I had a leisurely morning that involved learning two things about spiders while drinking a cup of coffee on the porch:

1) Spiders gather in their webbing into a little ball when you mess it up.
2) After they do this they need a break and curl up for a nap. This morning I thought for the very first time in my life, "Spiders are cute."

This is what vacation does to you. It gives you the time to notice the way spiders spin a web and how they nap.

I traipsed about the city with my lovely friend Saskia yesterday morning and learned lots of its secrets with my old friend Udo last night. Thank you both, for a remarkable day.

You live in a beautiful part of the world and I am grateful to know you. Tschüß!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

T-18 hours

Deutschland, I cannot wait to meet you again.

Turkey, I am delighted we will finally make ourselves acquainted.

Reunions, frivolity, and new friends await!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I need me some flow!

I need the creative juices to F-L-O-W. But they aren't at the moment.

When it is 6 p.m. and you are waiting for a 6:30 appointment and eat a second big handful of cheddar sunchips and part of a chocolate bar and follow this up with a facebook brain-drain (you look through an entire facebook photo album of a concert you know nothing about, full of people you do not actually know) you might think to yourself, "This is when it is time to cut out for the day." More diligent people would take this extra half hour to go on a good walk around the city, do a little yoga, or even lean back and shut their eyes for a few minutes. But instead I chose lazy-shmazy vegging. And lazy-shmazy vegging does not promote creativity in the world of me.

You know what I have been thinking about lately? Human interactions as transactions. Go with me on this. People are so used to buying/selling and consuming products, I believe they are beginning to treat people like commodities almost exclusively. If I need something or want something from you, I am motivated to make some kind of connection with you. But if you aren't something I want or need for a particular reason, I will ignore you. In gym class for example. On Monday night, most women walked into the class, set up their mat and were hard-pressed to make eye contact with others, let alone say hello. Most people, upon exiting the class did not say thank you to the teacher. Why say thank you? We pay this lady!

This depresses me. I think we should practice noticing one another. Extending a kind smile or gesture toward a stranger just because. Just because every person deserves gestures of warmth and dignity.

I am going to be the next Pollyanna. The cursing, drinking, sinning kind of Pollyanna. I like this image of Pollyanna, by the way. Walt Disney is probably rolling over in his grave. Sorry, Walt.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Atlantic City

Did you know that the properties in the game of Monopoly are named after places in and around Atlantic City?

Well, bring on the gaming, baby. I spent the weekend "down the shore" and played a little soccer in the sand, swam in the ocean (although I am a serious baby and HATE spiky creatures touching the bottom of my feet, so my swims are more like dips), and enjoyed a night out on the town in Atlantic City. We met a bouncer named Reverend Rob who warned us of the evils of the city (and there are plenty, my friends). I sheepishly ignored his question when he wanted to know if I planned to gamble, since I had not ruled out the possibility.

My friend Clark and I decided to play with $50, just for adventure sake. I learned how to play the game of Craps and was thoroughly entertained traipsing from table to table meeting interesting people and learning the rules of Black Jack and Roulette. I find it amusing that I spent an evening in Caesar's Palace (irony not lost on me) alongside bazillions of dollars, scantily-clad women, and indulgences of every kind. I intentionally disallowed myself from thinking too deeply about the addiction and pain masquerading in sequins and expensive cuff links. Atlantic City is truly bizarre. Bizarre and a little sad. Bizarre and extremely entertaining.

It was well over 100 degrees when we returned from the shore. Made me want to turn right around and return to the beach. When I lived in New Jersey I occasionally wore a tee-shirt that said, "New Jersey: Only the Strong Survive." I think I need to get out a magic marker and draw a line through New Jersey and write "Philadelphia."

Aaaah, Philadelphia. Gotta love this place.

Wishing you a cool July evening!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Brides! Blah!

There are some pretty wonderful things about being a pastor. I love officiating at weddings and it is a profound privilege to be invited to speak words of hope in the midst of grief and sadness at funerals. But there are a bazillion weird and awful things about being a pastor as well (like most of our jobs, I suppose?). I am currently in the throws of an email exchange about money. Brides and grooms who plan to drop $15,000 on a reception will beg for a discount (so they don't have to pay the poor organist $300). Sheesh.

I think I need to stop being so churchy and pastory. This is practically all I talk about in this blog. Is that true? Maybe not. But maybe I should commit to writing some posts that are wildly juicy or at the very least, banal.

So, how about this: I love figs. Figs and gargonzola and crisp, Spanish white wines (names I cannot remember). My friend Steph and I enjoyed these things last night. The glasses sweat here like crazy in the summer. It is so humid that the glasses drip, even when you are inside. I like this. I like the stormy down-pours in the middle of the day and I love the lighting bugs and the sound of the secadas when I get out to the country.

But don't worry. I'm not in love with Philadelphia. I still make fun of the dirty river and the appalling lack of green space. It is troubled and corrupt, but it's growing on me. Slightly. So there's that.

Latest life goal:

I was in Montclair with two of my cute high school girls (I was their youth leader for two years) and we were playing a photography game. Having a camera in hand always makes me more attentive to details. I found this sign on a shop and I found myself saying, "Yes, indeed. Me too."

Hope you're feeling open-hearted these days.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Melting Smelting!!

It is hotter than a mouth full of Haitian peppers. And it is raining. The weather in Swelter-delphia does not make sense to a mild-climate soul like myself. Black clouds are choking the tip-tops of the skyscrapers out my window and I'm crossing my fingers that we won't lose power for another three days. Seriously. We lost power for the entire weekend.

Last night I went to a going-away party for two fabbity fab people here in Philly and I stayed out late dancing and I cannot figure out why I wasn't entirely flattered by the guy who was hitting on me and has now called me twice. I must be getting old and crotchety. Or the weather is cramping my style. Of course there could be a million other reasons.

But I digress.

This morning I was running errands for church and I passed two different guys selling bottles of water on the side of the road. This seems to be a common summer business venture. Shirtless, often toothless fellows, drag big coolers to busy cross streets and sell bottles for a dollar. The way they fearlessly maneuver through traffic reminds me of the women at truck stops in Zambia who hold up baskets of produce for passers-buy to pluck up for a few hundred kwacha. It's a tough job and I cannot imagine they make much profit. I drove passed one ambitious salesman, brown and leathery, and I had the sudden urge to pull over and buy the whole darn cooler full of water. Across the street the parking lot of a strip club was jam-packed with cars at 11 in the morning and it gave me pause. The things we do for money are always...fraught. Yes, that's the word. Fraught.

I got a package in the mail today that made me cry. Some people are just so darn thoughtful! Thank you, Cheri!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Philadelphia Charm

I have no good excuse for the lack of blog postings lately. Lots of lovely things have happened since I last wrote. I went home to visit the fam, got to see wonderful friends in Seattle; I have read three trashy novels, watched a half dozen World Cup games, and have had some fabulous meals and coffee dates with friends here in the City of Brotherly Love. The world is chalk-full of fine folk and I seem to be crossing their paths left and right.

But I still feel some writer's block. I'm so uninspired that I stole this photo from a stranger's blog! For shame!

It is a cool picture, though, eh? Of all the things I like about living in the Northeast, this still ranks in the top three: lightning bugs. They are magical. Last night I had a wonderful dinner with three women in the suburbs and we lingered on a back porch savoring good food and drink and sorbet and best of all, the charming fairies with glowing green bellies. I love a good, sultry summer night and hats off to Philly. It does 'sultry' very well.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Sweet Carolina

I'll be honest. For most of my life "the South" has been a mythical place known only through country songs and movies about slavery and plantations and redneck ferocity distilled by female gentility and bourbon. There are lots of us non-Southerners that are truly afraid of the South. We don't get the whole confederate flag thing, nor seersucker suits and bow ties. Your accents and debutant balls, grits and greens are perplexing and I feel like a deer in headlights when I am called a Yankee or a Northerner. I was born and bred west of the Rockies and have no sense of where the Mason-Dixon line begins and ends. But I decided to expand my horizons this weekend and spend a few days visiting friends and camping in the mountains of North Carolina.

What a beautiful place.

The pictures do not capture it, but I was immediately smitten with the rolling hills, the red-clay soil, and the magnolia trees that perfume the air. Stereotypes were fulfilled left and right as I was warmly welcomed with a slow, sweet drawl everywhere I went. Do you know that in many circles the CIVIL WAR is referred to as "The War of Northern Aggression" (by the way, the word "war" is two syllables here)?! Years of unpleasantness in which the government infringed upon States rights. Yikes.

I was in the heart of the Bible belt and was amused (and incredulous) at the number of conversations amongst strangers that involved "the Lord." Spent a couple of days camping in the mountains Northwest of Raleigh and visited Winston-Salem (yes, the cigarettes) and Chapel Hill (UNC). My friend Clark and I hiked and played in mountain streams and swimming holes, studied trout and toads and snakes, and hung out in hammocks under a perfect Carolina blue sky. I especially loved that our food included brie, pepper jelly and homemade bread. This is my kind of camping.

I am feeling relaxed and refreshed and wonder why I don't do things like this more often? Lovely.

Thank you for your hospitality, friends!