Friday, November 4, 2011

Happy Birthday UW!

One hundred and fifty years ago today , a young whipper-snapper bravely began teaching classes at the "Territorial University of Washington" in a rough and tumble mill town. According to the article I read this morning, Seattle was a shabby settlement where about 250 white folks lived in wood/mud shacks and spent their time gambling and boozing. When UW opened its doors, there were 2 distilleries, 11 drinking establishments, and one bawdry house (brothel) in the neighborhood. Ha! Seattle! Such promise. Such excitement! Clearly, this teacher had an inkling of all the possibilities that lay ahead. Microsoft and Boeing, send us your weary, innovative masses.

I am proud to say that my Alma Mater has come a long way. The first graduate was a woman, Clara McCarty, who went on to become the superintendent of Pierce County schools. Today the University of Washington is one of the oldest universities on the west coast and receives more federal research funding than any other public university in the nation. It is routinely ranked among the top public research universities in the country and the top-25 list in the world. Happy Birthday to the Huskies! Glad to be part of the story.

By the way, one of the primary reasons I went to this school had NOTHING to do with its prestige or academic rigor. No. I thought it was pretty. It "felt collegiate." Have mercy. That was my reasoning as an 18 year old. Whatevs.

It IS pretty.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Visiting the Land of Giants

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
-Annie Dillard

Clark and I flew to California last week to visit the fabulous Smith family who recently moved to Fresno after 4 years living in Zambia. Among many fantastic adventures, they sent us to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park where we visited some of the largest trees on earth. As we drove to the park Clark mentioned multiple times, "You will want to hug these trees. They are irresistible."

It's true. As you wend your way along the hillside, perfectly carved out as a safe haven for these beautiful monoliths, you begin to think you are shrinking. The bark of these wise old trees are rust-red and unbelievably soft.

And of course, I couldn't help it. I stepped off the path multiple times to press my cheek into the bark.

The forest is a nice place to listen. There were times Clark and I whispered as if we were in a library. These trees are thousands of years old and reverence is required.

We climbed inside one tree whose hulking mass had been completely burned out on the inside, but was alive and flourishing against all odds.

I feel like singing that Phil Collins song now.

There is a small post office in the park. I hate that this itsy bitsy post office is rarely frequented, so I insisted we send some postcards and strike up a conversation with the postman. He told us all about bears and bobcats that periodically peer in his windows and it was fun to imagine his life in this sometimes-lonely national park.

Nothing like visiting the land of giants to reorient your perspective. Such a magical place.

Monday, October 17, 2011


My friend Sarah taught me a new and helpful acronymn: WAIT.

Why Am I Talking.

This guy looks a cheery chap, right? The kind of warm, gentle man you'd like as your grandfather. His name is Charles Hodge and at Princeton he was considered a monumental theologian and purveyor of all things good and wise and Christian.

Today I was reading a fascinating little book and came across this startling quote by old Chuck:

"If women are to be emancipated from subjection to the law which God has imposed on them... If, in studied insult to the authority of God, we are to renounce, in the marriage contract, all claim to obedience, we shall soon have a country over which the genius of Mary Wollstonecraft would delight to preside, but from which all order and all virtue would speedily be banished.... There is no deformity of human character from which we turn with deeper loathing than from a woman forgetful of her nature and clamorous for the vocations and rights of men."

WAIT, Charles Hodge. WAIT.

By the way, what is wrong with Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley? Maybe he didn't like Frankenstein. I lived for a year in Hodge Hall in seminary and as I have been pondering this man this afternoon I cannot help but feel a little sorry for him. Amazing how a few harsh words can quickly fracture a legacy.

I hope he's loosened up in heaven, perhaps shared a martini with Shelley, and kicked his feet back in gratitude. Grace does a body good, Professor Hodge.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Words With Friends

I am a machine. A "Words With Friends" machine.

Playing this addictive game is one of the perks to living in what I have proclaimed to be "The Year of Semi-Employment" (think Chinese Zodiac, except more descriptive rather than predictive).

I've also been making time for real words with friends, gleaning a good deal of wisdom and sharing in friends' woes. I wish I could repeat the HILARIOUS phrase my friend Jennifer used to describe the early 30's for most of our girlfriends, but it made me burst out laughing on our walk around Green Lake. I cannot repeat it because it is full of crudity that potential future employers might not want to read on a blog. But it captivated me. Mostly because of this:

Life does not often turn out the way we expect. We all know this to be true, of course. But when you are 33 and educated and privileged and mostly happy and often disconcerted, you eventually slow down long enough to let this though sink in uniquely: MY life isn't as fabulous or important or deeply meaningful as I assumed it would be. Marriage, babies, religion, love, career.... Not exactly what I dreamed it would be.

Other realizations: Beauty and charm-- limited. One's ability to affect meaningful change in one's own life let alone the lives of others stricken by injustice or cruelty-- limited. This can be denied until our dying day, or we can do something entirely more productive: take it in stride and allow it to shape a more true and gracious way of living.

Someone asked me this week, "What is the most amazing thing you have learned lately?" Like a cursor blinking on a blank page I looked back and thought, "Amazing? Unless you are talking about babies or nature, amazing is hard to come by." But then I thought longer and harder. This week I had dinner with a man in his early eighties. As I listened to him reminisce and make plans for the future two lessons came to the fore in a new way: one, we humans do not stop wrestling with our identity EVER. And two, life rarely turns out the way we expect. Most importantly, neither of things are one of life's tragedies. Amazing.

Foiled plans sometimes pave the way for unimaginably good gifts.

As this man's stories unfurled like the cigarette smoke he gave up decades ago, I was reminded that foiled plans invite resilience, creativity, regrouping, and a whole lot of humor. Dry bones resurrect. Some old dogs learn new tricks. And God continues to stitch and sew and hem us in. Amazing. And more amazing. And hopefully, probably, rest-assuredly more amazing some more.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Seattle Extravaganza

Mike Watson came to visit last week. Who is Mike Watson, you might ask? The man who is responsible for setting me up with the one and only, Sir Clark Scalera.

We provided an intense 56 hour tour of Seattle that included some mighty fine Pacific Northwest cuisine, good live music, tours of the best record stores in the city and some rigorous games of "Corn Hole" courtesy of Clark's craftsmanship and my meager sewing skills. I picked out fabulous fabric because one cannot make bean bags for a lawn game with lame solid colors.

I love this time of year. Clark is bewildered by all the gray, but I love it. The days are growing more cold and crisp and it is good to be home for the first time in years. I bought my train ticket for halloween and will go trick-or-treating with my nephews and niece for the first time EVER. It is so good to be Aunt Carmen just a short train ride away.

I'm helping lead a retreat this weekend, so have a bit more work to do today before traipsing up to the poetry store up the street. I love Wallingford. Who else has a store consisting entirely of books of poetry just 4 blocks from their house? I hope to find some work by the Swedish poet Transtromer (who was just awarded the Nobel for literature). I'll share some gems sometime soon.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dear Morgan...

... It was very nice to meet you today.

I doubt you will ever read this, but I just wanted to tell you that I think you are great. I have a sneaking suspicion that you don't have people remind you of this enough. You are sparkly and warm and obviously work really hard in your job. I hope you got your passport with ease and I hope you extend your 4-day trip to Bavaria. Soak up the beauty of this new city and time with your boyfriend and let it orient you as you figure out how to get out of the toxic job situation. Down with yucky bosses. Up with working collegially and growing professionally and living holistically!

Sparkly Morgan, may your life be full of riches and joy!

Carmen, the random girl you met at the passport office today

Thursday, September 8, 2011

September the Great

September in Seattle is magnificent. Cool mornings and cool nights give way to warm, sunny days. The air is full of optimism. Kiddos and teachers are returning to their classrooms and like Tom Hanks once said, "It makes me want to sharpen and give away bouquets of #2 pencils."

I took a tour of the Seattle University campus today and it was fun to see a few students draped across benches in this little oasis on Capital Hill. It would be a fantastic place to work- if only a position would avail itself (or I could manage to get a PhD in the next three weeks).

I've been doing a lot of thinking these days. Thinking and brooding and feeling depressed 27% of the time. Another 6% of my life is spent feeling guilty for feeling depressed. Unemployment is hard. Underemployment is hard. Trying to "let my life speak" (as the Quakers and Parker Palmer say) is hard. I'm doing my best to re-remember that smart lady that lives inside me and knows how to navigate difficult seasons.

In the meanwhile, poor Clark.

When I was growing up my mom would occasionally say to me, "I am going put in an advertisement for a new mother for you." Stretched out on the couch, she would say this with a laugh, but I suppose there was truth in her intention. Being who I needed her to be was just plain hard. Lately I have been telling Clark that I plan to put in an advertisement for a part-time girlfriend for him-- someone who will be a fun and easy-going companion (preferably semi-unattractive). They can go hiking and to the movies and she will make light-hearted conversation.

I've mentioned him on the blog before and I really ought to introduce him to you more fully, but my words will not do Clark justice. Instead, take this picture for starters. This is the kind of man he is: the kind of man who will crawl into a bathtub, committed and in costume, to work on a movie for my nephews and niece (8 minutes of hilariosity). Clark is warm-hearted and creative and relentlessly good. He and I are making our way, trying to unearth a good life. One of these days we will be able to box up our wandering shoes in exchange for a season of rootedness.

Until then I'll do my best to minimize the time I spend with irrationally self-centered, sad Carmen and live into the jaw-dropping adjective assigned me this week: scintillating. Scintillating! A professor said it so it must be true. Scintillating is only assigned when one is capable and confident and compassionate. So, here's to it. Bottoms up. Drink it in. Let's radiate, people.

Monday, August 29, 2011

I owe you some cheer this morning.

I believe cheer can ALWAYS be found. Even in Moldova.

My friends Brett and Shelly served in the Peace Corps in Moldova and tell me it has been consistently rated the most "depressing country in which to live." I have a hard time believing it is worse than a place like Somalia where civil warfare, collapsed governance, and famine wreaks havoc. But, supposedly, it does not hold a candle.

In all of the chaos, I continue to be awed by the magnificence of human resilience. I know some folks who have received rough news lately. Rough. Devastating. Fill in your own adjective. And in the wake I have seen these very same people rise up to seize life a bit like a lion with its prey. They ravage it. Ravish. Ravage. Both. They receive its goodness and its trouble a bit like a bridge grasping the earth with its fingers and toes, bearing up over the chasms below.

Over the weekend Clark and I took time to play- really play. We ran around Green Lake under a bright, warm sun. We learned how to paddle board and went to the movies (this picture of Matthew McConaughey and his girlfriend really gives you a sense of EXACTLY what Clark and I looked like when we paddled). We went to church and met Angie and her kids at the park. My friends Peter and Cheryl sent me a gift in the mail and in their gesture reminded me that we live life in community for a reason. In community, we remind one another of what is true and what is good and what is hilarious and what is beautiful.

Remembering the sweetness of life in the midst of chaos is good medicine. And when you cannot do that, you must read Billy Collins poems instead.

Forgetfulness, by Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wait for the right fit.

This is the advice I have received most often of late.

Whether it is choosing a spouse or choosing a job, all of us are asked to navigate a cacophony of voices helping us to know what we want and what we need. In the midst, it is hard to unearth the voice within. Call it the Holy Spirit, call it your own still small voice, but listening for her is like leaning into the wind along 5th Avenue in New York City. If you have ever walked along the east side of Central Park you know you have a simple choice: you can click along the apartment-side of the street where you smile at doormen standing on pristine concrete only occasionally defiled by the urban dog (you can always tell a NYC dog—look deep into his eyes after he has circled and circled and circled, desperate for a blade of grass), or you can walk along the tree-lined portion of the park where uneven cobblestone threatens the heel and the ankle. Non-native New Yorkers often prefer this side of the street. This must be genetic.

Whichever side of the street you choose, you swim in sound. Horns, birds, barks, children chattering, cab drivers shouting, whistles blowing. Your own voice melds with the busy world and somehow the exhilarating clamor brings peace. But hearing your own voice? Good luck, Jack.

In the Presbyterian Church these days, there is a litmus test for the “right fit.” It is always embedded in a larger conversation about “Biblical Ethics” or “One’s Exegetical Hermeneutic” (swear to God, this is the heady, theoretical language that is used to describe the difference between Evangelical Christians and Christians of the more liberal slant). Christians supposedly have one or the other: an orthodox exegetical hermeneutic or one that is distorted by cultural/intellectual shifts. Ironically, I believe that both brands, both sides of the polarity, depend on something I would call ‘selective literalism’ when reading the Bible. All of us pick and choose which parts of our sacred texts to read authoritatively, which texts to interpret metaphorically, and which texts to carefully slide under the bed.

'Hermeneutic' is playing an important role these days in the debate about healthy sexuality (the litmus test used in determining who is in and who is out). Historically, here in the United States we separated the lambs and the goats based on who endorsed slavery and who endorsed abolition. Later we separated the lambs and the goats based on who ordained women and who exclusively ordained men. Now we are separating the lambs and the goats based on sexuality: not just who is gay or straight, but who has the right to enter into the covenant of marriage and who is disqualified. Hermeneutic aside, most folks have a knee-jerk reaction to this subject. Sex has a way of stirring up the most mild of souls. Yet, many of our knee-jerk reactions are ungracious. We fear variability, complexity, and the possibility of having it wrong.

Funny thing is, ask anyone, the church has been a disaster on the subject of sex. Here in the U.S. we live in the most hyper-sexed culture in the world. We are experts in commodifying bodies, exporting pornographic material, and our homes are more silent on the subject than ever. Churches are just one step above silence: “Humans are not sexual creatures until they are married, so either get married or pretend you are not sexual.” Eeeesh. The brave ones among us, spend time reflecting on the God-given goodness of intimacy, the art of loving, and the lessons derived from commitment.

I should move to Sweden.

I am living in a city where the most popular, populated church is rigorously black and white on the subject of sex ( But I have a hunch it is all far more complicated than Mark Driscoll suggests. So, I will live in the complexity of the conversation because I am just an idiot 33 year old that wants to enter into it more fully and with deeper integrity. Guess who probably won’t get a church-gig in the Emerald City.

But I'll keep on keeping on. Looking for the right fit, right?

Who knows. Maybe we will all begin to make more room for each other, for the parts of us that flop over the edge of the cookie cutter. Stupid cookie cutter. I suspect the cookie will be tastier for it.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pull, pull, pulling my hair out

So, I have come to discover something about myself. I am a worst-case-scenario kind of cat.

When I apply for a job the same patterns erupt:

1) Position reviewed. Application submitted.

2) Investigation period takes hold and I talk to a few people about the hopes/expectations of the position.

3) A dark cloud of unrelated warnings, red flags, noisy beeping explodes in short succession:

"Your boss will be a narcissist."
"You are overqualified for this position."
"You are a loser and you have no tangible skills to offer an organization."
"Maybe you should move to Europe."
"Starting over in a new city will be exciting."
"Moving across the country will make your family sad."
"I am hungry."
"You are crazy, so you should go run before you go insane."
"Maybe you should start a business cleaning houses."
"Hang in there. You are doing fine. You are awesome, fun, and will find a great place to serve."
"But your co-workers might be crazy."
"That will be okay because most people are crazy."

Now, being a worst-case scenario kind of person has its upsides. Nothing is as bad as I create it in my head.

O Carms, ye of little faith, "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?"

It is a fabulous, beautiful, warm day in Seattle! It is high blue sky and this sunshine might call for some paddle boarding with Clark later today (who is making bread this instant!). Not bad. Not bad at all. The Hairless Wonder will go forth into the sunshine and play as intensely as she broods!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Earth's crammed with heaven...

...And every common bush afire with God,

But only he who sees takes off his shoes;

The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.

— Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Can you believe this is a word? Humdinger. It means "a remarkable or outstanding person or thing".


I am stressed out. Clark, from 1500 miles away, is good at encouraging me despite my erratic bouts of freaking out. Thanks, babe. I know I must make you mad as snakes sometimes.

In case you were curious, there are 2,316 ordained Presbyterian Professionals (pastors, christian educators, etc) officially looking for positions in the Presbyterian Church (example of said clergy pictured here). There are 495 positions posted. I have been referred to 51 of those positions. I have had 4 phone interviews and have been a finalist for 2 of those positions.

Anyone dumb as a doornail can see, the statistics aren't good.

So, I have been exploring using my gifts elsewhere. I have applied for university "gap program" coordinator positions, chaplaincy, and staff administrative positions. I would be eager to translate my gifts to global development programs with a non-profit or academic program. So far, no dice. In fact, I have had multiple people tell me, "I know this is bizarre and unfair profiling, but is there any way you can drop the church stuff from your resume? Universities are going to run from you."

BTW, look up the word "pastor" on google images sometime. Do it. It'll kill you.

According to NPR, I should have been a computer programmer or scientist. There are scads of positions available. Too bad I was always bound for the social sciences. I only passed high school physics because I convinced Garrett Barnum to build me a mouse-trap car.

The fact is this: I want to do meaningful work and that isn't easy to come by. I know this longing is nothing new under the sun. There are plenty of immigrants making beds at hotels or driving taxi cabs that would rather be doing something more MEANINGFUL. Well, maybe I have a new opportunity ahead: live a meaningful life and get a job to pay the bills. Sometimes work is work.

Peg got a couple of new cameras for a photography class she is teaching this fall and she is letting me borrow the beauties. I think I'll go out and snap myself some pictures. I might find a humdinger or two. It's possible. Anything is possible.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Reasons why the world might not be so bad

This place warms my heart. It is just two blocks from where I live and tonight I spent a couple hours here drinking coffee (courtesy of David Hallgren, thank you very much). I spent some time writing and researched a few new job opportunities. Does 44 inches of snow a year sound like a legitimate reason for NOT applying?

This cozy neighborhood coffee shop boasts delicious "pay what you can" pastries and beverages. I got sucked into Youtube this afternoon-- seriously spent an hour and a half perusing Mark Driscoll sermons (I do not understand why this guy is the MOST downloaded preacher in the world-- enlighten me if you must). I needed to get out of the house, so I took the dog on a walk and found myself here.

One of my favorite bloggers is Annie Parsons and she has something called "Bosom Friend Fridays' (reference not lost on Anne of Green Gables fans). I have decided that today is "Reasons Why The World Might Not Be So Bad Wednesday(s?)." The title is too long, but never mind that.

Here it is- reasons why the world might not be so bad, this fine Wednesday afternoon:
1) Yoga studios and coffee shops where you pay what you can
2) New friends
3) Old friends (that know how awful you are and still like you)
4) Boyfriends who find ways to play Words With Friends in the middle of nowhere to appease neurotic girlfriends
5) People who help make the world more gentle and passionate and beautiful
6) The story about Margaret Shoop playing air guitar for The Edge

Okay, that's all I can think of because it has been THAT kind of day. Feel free to add to the list. Would love to chew on your nuggets of inspiration as well.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Spanish Lessons Guy

When I first arrived in Seattle I was eager to get back to Green Lake, my favorite place to run in the city. When circling the lake for the first time I recognized a number of "regulars" including the Spanish Lessons guy. Nice to see him meandering the lake 8 years later.

Except he wasn't wearing his Spanish Lessons pinny. This perplexed me. He seemed to be walking a bit slower and he was not accompanied by a spanish student. Bummer. I spotted him a second time and again he walked alone. Drat. But today sweet victory! I was pleased as punch to see him, bright white and red pinny in place, chattering with an eager mustached student speaking extra loudly to make up for his poor grammar.

For some reason I found this soothing. The world changes, changes, changes, but some things stay the same. Like the friendly Spanish Lessons Guy.

I'm applying for jobs like a mad woman. Even jobs that are ridiculous. This whole unemployment thing gets annoying. I had to say to my self, "Self, do not flinch" when an employed doctor said to me, "I have no money." It is all relative, people. All relative.

I've had loads of encouragement these days. I have hung out with some amazing pastors who are reminding me of why I got into this business in the first place. And despite the fact that a handful of them have made it clear that they would NEVER hire me because some of my new-fangled liberal beliefs, I like them. And I happen to think Jesus likes them as well. And me. And the gays (seriously, swear to our heavenly father (even though we aren't supposed to swear), that a guy interviewing me referred to folks who self-identify as homosexuals as "the gays"). So, I am okay with being ousted from some circles. There will be others to join.

I am starting my mental list of "things I'd like to have once I have a job." Top of the list? A cat. But not more than one. I will not be a crazy cat lady. Second on the list? A pedicure. And after a significant number of paychecks and the illusion of stability? A camera. This list is subject to change on a moment's notice, btw.

All right. Herein ends the news. Hope you have your own version of "The Spanish Lessons Guy." Some things really do stay the same.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sum-sum-summa time

The cold weather has finally given way to blue sky, sunny days, and summer barbecues! Returning to Seattle has allowed for some fantastic reunions, trips to visit the fam, new friends, and plenty of time to introduce Clark to the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. We've hiked, chatted late into the evening around a campfire or two, planted a garden at Peg's house, ferried around the Sound, travelled east across the mountains to visit the Smith family (back from Zambia!) and some seminary friends, went to a rodeo and an MLS soccer game, and plenty of other adventures.

Not bad for some unemployed folks. I am still the Reverend Secretary (doing Admin work at a church nearby), but doing my best to savor the summer. Here are some of the people I have been spending time with:

College room-mates Ryan, and Angie and Clark the Great

Fantabulous Peg who is hosting me in her home

And of course my sister Tamara and her kiddos Tate, Tyson, and Alyssa. I will be in town for the birthdays for all three kids this year. Such a gift!

I was going to write a blog post...

...but I decided to read poetry instead.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

If you can't say anything nice...

... then don't say anything at all.

Today as I stood out in the rain, car alarm blaring, perplexed as to why the engine of the darling borrowed beauty refused to start for the third time, I could not help but feel a bit sorry for myself. To lighten the mood Clark and I ran errands. We got lost on the way to the library and walked in the door only to be told it was closing for the evening. Walked to the bank and realized that I had forgotten my bank card. 45 minutes later and empty handed we finally made it to the grocery store. At least Trader Joe's had that nice cilantro salad dressing I like. Being unemployed and unsettled and having everything you own in someone's garage 3000 miles away has the capacity to depress you. But like any rational creature, when you walk home from the grocery store and pass a man struggling to refasten his velcro shoes and six different homeless men asking for money, you realize life isn't so bad-- even if you don't have health insurance or look cute in a bikini top like that yoga instructor you saw through the window. Life is so weird these days. I feel disoriented. Wonderfully encouraged and supported by good friends and family, but I am 13 for 13, people. No dice.

Now that I have ranted I am sure I will feel much better. It is a pretty night in Seattle. The veil of rain has lifted and the sun is peaking through the windows. This blog post will come down in t-minus 3 days when I will apply for the next round of jobs and will re-post something cheerful and reflective and tasteful. As mama always used to say, "Things always look brighter in the morning." Here's to it, mama.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Apocalypse Nope

I thought I might be the only one in a blogging slump, but I've noticed recently that most of my blogging buddies are sharing less and less these days. What's with the lethargy? Have we finally decided that full public disclosure is really a needless contribution to the mad cacophony in the world? Maybe we have we realized our thoughts and observations of the world are intensely ordinary and aren't worth talking about. On a more hopeful note, maybe some of us are standing back in awe these days? There is plenty in this world worth quiet reverence: love, loss, and the intense, magnificent weirdness of people.

Por ejemplo, i.e., the Apocalypse prediction. God Almighty. I fiercely ignored the talk of the earth's immanent destruction because anyone who knows anything about Jesus or the New Testament knows that this was a stupid prophecy. Some old radio evangelist predicts the end of the world and a bunch of people sell all their goods in preparation for the big day? Who ARE these people? And why doesn't anyone actually know ANYTHING about the Bible? Redemption and healing, people. That's the message.

I spent Friday afternoon with my hands in the dirt. My friend Peg had bought a bunch of plants that needed planting, so I weeded and watered and moved earth around while I considered some of the conversations I have had in the last week. I am amazed at some of the advice people bestow in the midst of a job search. "If you are faithful like me, God will guide you into the right situation."

Seriously? I suppose, much advice comes from the same place in people. Whether you are warning folks of immanent apocalyptic death, interpreting honorable living according to Scripture (gay ordination debate), or explaining why I am unemployed and they are employed (or why your baby died and mine did not), it comes from a longing for control and a fear of the unknown.


Perhaps this is where I end and go take a shower for the day. I'm meeting my Dad in Olympia for a date. I've got bigger fish to fry than sit at a computer right now- heck, according to that radio prophet we've all got a new lease on life! It is May 22, 2011 and the world has not come to an end. Selah.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Dear Seattle,

I love you. I love the Ballard Farmer's Market. I love all the people here who care about the earth and drink coffee and sing sad songs on the street corners. You're weather is unimaginably grim this time of year, but thank you for the generous glimpses of spring. You do an excellent job with Evergreens and I really think you should show off your mountains more. No need to be shy-- they are truly one of your best features.

Love, Carmen

P.S. I am about to post pictures of my trip to Florida. Don't be jealous. Do not feel that I have abandoned my love for you in exchange for warm, sunny skies and white sandy beaches. You are BOTH beautiful. Just saying.

What I was doing last Monday:

What I am doing this Monday:

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Thoughts on Mom

Mother's Day. Not my favorite. Today at church someone tried to pin a red carnation on my sweater in honor of my mother. But red carnations were "given in honor of living mothers," a woman said. I snatched a white carnation instead and pinned it to my chest. My mother is dead. White carnations are for the dead.

I was feeling sour as I marched around the church, ever mindful of that spindly white flower drooping over my heart.

My mom died almost 11 years ago. 4,001 days without a mom, to be exact. There are many things I miss, of course. Today I miss her laugh. Wish she could have been sitting with me in that little church this morning. I preached today and I rather think she would have enjoyed hearing me preach.

This day is full of goodness, of course. We have good reason to celebrate the sisters who love and nurture the human race, but to all of you who feel a twinge of sadness this day, peace be with you, my dears. Peace.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Return of the Vicar

I am working as a church secretary these days. Yep, queen of the church newsletter, master of the weekly bulletin. Door locker, phone answerer, copy machine trouble-shooter, and occasional preacher. I will add this to my already-impressive repertoire of random church skills like thermostat installer, hardwood floor refinisher, and boiler expert. Being a pastor can be mega-glamorous. “MEGA!” she says with vigor.

Recent conversation I had with the church custodian over the phone:

Me: You won’t believe it. My car won’t start.

Custodian: Bummer! What’s going on?

Me: I don’t know. My battery is drained, or something. Can you come over and jump me?

Custodian: (slight pause) I don’t think you should ask me that.

Me: (lengthier pause) O, have mercy. Sorry…

Swear to God. That’s what I said. I asked the custodian to jump me.

In other news, I gained 6 lbs in Italy. Any day now I’m going to start running. Soon and very soon I will shed these delightful prosciutto and gelato inspired layers, but in case you had not heard, Seattle is in the throes of an arctic freeze. I am considering getting a pet penguin. Wee Penguin and I can take up arctic sports and together trim down. Could be more viable than running. I’ll keep you posted.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


There are several strange things I have noticed thus far in this season of unemployment:

1) What happened to all the emails? I check my email account thinking, "Surely there must be more than this handful of junk messages."


2) I have no keys. I currently do not have a car, apartment, nor job. So, no keys.


Beyond all this weirdness I am actually feeling quite cheerful. I am visiting my friend Jessie today and all three of her children are currently crying (I'm a big help as I sit here at the computer). Today I go to my nephew Tate's 8th birthday, which feels pretty fantastic. Last time I was home to go to a birthday party was at his 1st birthday.

Wishing you a good day from the gray-sky-per-usual Pacific Northwest!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Perfect Ending

One of the glories of vacation, and unemployment, is the gift of time. This morning after I stopped to get a cup of coffee in Suburban Station for the last time I sat down on a bench and lingered. I lingered on my coffee: not enough milk; lingered on the stairwells that belched out busy people crisscrossing one another. Magnificent bedlam it was, and I had a front row seat. For whatever reason, hanging out in the train station this morning felt good. Nowadays people spend so much time on those da%# smart phones we hardly take the time to greet one another on the street, or acknowledge one another's presence on the bus. I think I should make sitting in a train station a habit, employed or not.

My time in Philadelphia has come to a close and last night supplied the perfect bookend. Nearly two years ago I bundled up and met Stephanie Kleven near 21st and Locust, a Seattlite new to the area who was also adjusting to life in the City of Brotherly Love. Last night it ended nearly the same way it began. Very close to the same intersection, bundled up and full of optimism, Stephanie and I embraced for the last time as fellow Philadelphians. I cannot tell you how many times that woman and I cried together over ex-boyfriends, our own self-indulgence, the troubles of the world, and the strong, vibrant thread of faith runs through it all. Strength and wisdom are hard won and I think she and I have gained a little of both these last two years.

Off to Portland to hang with the fam for awhile. I am temporarily relocating to the Pacific Northwest while I look for a job. My boyfriend Clark may be joining me for awhile (yes, totally publicly acknowledging the fact that I am dating) and am feeling refreshed and ready to jump back in the game. Six weeks in Europe does a soul good. More on that soon. I have some good stories, people.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A word from Europe

I worshipped in a tall, wooden church in Stockholm tonight. Do not ask how I got from Italy to Sweden. Long story. I am visiting a friend I met in Zambia and though he claims to be a part-time atheist and part-time agnostic, he likes going to church on occasion.

As I looked around the room I was surprised to see so many crucifixes (Jesus on the cross). The Church of Sweden is Protestant, descendents of the Lutherans, and usually crosses are empty in the Protestant church (symbolizing Jesus´victory over death). I did not understand the words of the priest, so I had time to notice such things. I love being in church and it felt good to be nestled in tightly between two good atheist friends and listen to the strength of the congregation as they spoke the liturgy in harmony.

The priest wore Converse shoes.

I learned yesterday that 1 in 5 Swedes are in a choir. That is a pretty impressive statistic. Clearly this is what fosters greatness like the gift that Sweden offered the world: ABBA. And Roxette. I think the first CD my sister ever bought was a Roxette album.

Stockholm is buried in snow. The sky has been dull much like the snow that is old and tired, but I cannot help but pause in awe at such an old, magnificent city. Tomorrow I plan to go to a traditional Swedish spa with a girlfriend and supposedly we must dip into a frozen lake in our birthday suits. Eeek!

I could use some thawing. Perhaps most of us Northern Hemisphere folk are feeling the same way.

As my friend Bill Smith reminds me, "No matter your winter, Spring will come." Yes, indeed.

Monday, February 7, 2011


We don’t have hill country in the United States. Just north of Rome is the province of Umbria, a region known for its lush valleys and slow pace of life. There are hints of spring everywhere. Bright green shoots are pushing through freshly tilled soil and the olive trees are stretching and yawning in their fields. The mountains are old, rounded and tamed by centuries of farming. The tops are crowned by magnificent walled cities that burn gold and pink in the evening light.

I have been told that one must attend to detail in this country. Notice the finely crafted sculptures, churches, arches, and fountains. Do not miss the extraordinary detail. Savor each exquisite bite of pasta al dente and feel the unique density of the bread as you move from region to region. Wander the serpentine streets and feel the smooth roundness of the archway you lean into as you wait in line for a cappuccino, but do not rest easy in your languid reverie for too long. It is Italy’s discordance that makes it truly great. Take a brief jaunt through Naples, the birthplace of pizza, for a new perspective. Gritty and piled high with garbage and lovers, the fresh insult of mafia-fueled exploitation and embezzlement trickles straight down to the port, peppering the romantic coastline with dirty diapers and empty bottles, waves and trash rhythmically lapping the shore.

Remnants of empire may be found at every turn, but Italy’s historic decadence diverges from its decadence today. Italy truly satiates the senses. At times the food is so exquisite you think you’ve never eaten such a fine morsel. Espresso in a cafĂ© off the expressway rivals the espresso found anywhere in the country. The countryside is almost painfully breathtaking, the people cheerful and warm, art and architecture so complex and wonderful that much beauty goes unnoticed by tourists and locals alike as we drape ourselves over ancient steps eating gelato while watching the clouds shift and hasten off the blue landscape above our heads. But flip on the television and watch an hour or two and you will find just as much foolery in life and politics as anywhere else in this blessed world.

This is going to be a good trip.

Monday, January 31, 2011


Good bye Philadelphia! Hello Rome! Getting on a plane in t-minus five hours. Check out clips from my "Best of Philly" farewell shindig courtesy of my friend Steph:


It has been a good year. Thanks pals.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

C'est la vie

I had to shove a massive pile of clothes off my bed tonight to find my way under the covers. My room is a disaster. Moving boxes, strategic piles to be packed in various containers, and scattered letters of love litter the floor. Today was my final Sunday serving as the Minister of Evangelism and Discipleship at the Arch Street Presbyterian Church here in Philadelphia. In November I was told that the church could no longer finance my full-time position and the congregation learned of this news at the first of the year (this is rotten news by the way: El Rottino. No one likes to downsize and no one likes to be downsized. This decision makes you ask yourself, "Am I the downsizing type?" But soon you realize this is not a productive question, so you make plans to go to Italy -- or this is what you do when you are me).

More on Italy later.

Anywho, the last few weeks have been tumultuous. Philadelphia can be a course place, not without its unique prickles and stings, but man-o-man I have met some magnificent people and I will miss this lovely church community.

A generous crowd gathered for a reception after church and by the time the group dwindled most folks were exhausted. Good byes are the worst. The last of the emotionally sluggish crew decided to traipse over to the Bellevue Hotel and head up to the 19th floor where we sat next to a roaring fire and drank cocktails. Yes, cocktails. The view of the city was perfect this frigid winter day and I honestly could not imagine a better way to spend an afternoon: good friends, rich conversation, and mutual solace was to be found in some martinis and sparkling wine. Judge me if you will, readers, but I will heed you not. It has BEEN a big three weeks.

I just remembered you are never supposed to stress the word "been". My acting teachers from a thousand years ago would be annoyed.

I'll keep you posted, people. Major adventures will be had.

Thank you, Sandi for the wonderful poem. There is nearly no better gift than a poem. I leave you with Mary Oliver's words:

In Blackwater Woods

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Things I like

Good friends.
Snuggly, non-vomitous babies.
HEALED cameras!
Forgiving oneself for saying stupid things in conversation.
Traveling to Italy (yes, I might be revealing a wee little trip scheduled sometime in the near future).
Wasting time on the internet.
Getting rid of unnecessary stuff.
This place:

This is the short list-- things that come to mind at the moment. Thought I would share.

More soon. The blog WILL be full of new adventure and general fabulousness. Promise.

Things I don't like

Bad metaphors.