Wednesday, October 24, 2012

seven quick takes

One of my favorite bloggers does this thing called seven quick takes. Short, off the cuff thoughts - a snapshot of a day or an hour.

1. President Obama really, really should not have said to Gov. Romney that bit about we have these things called air craft carriers. That was utterly rude. Had I been on the fence, he'd have lost me right there.

2. I got a raise today, I need to work more! It's nice to be edging away from minimum wage, and on toward being a bigger support. And I'm doing it without getting another degree (which had been my interest). Plus I can work in my pjs. It's all good.

3. I'm going on a date with my beloved tonight. Having recently gotten over losing my voice for a week, I'll be too busy talking to eat much. Sorry, honey.

4. A boy from my niece's high school was killed in a joy ride that ended badly yesterday. It hits very close to home, and I am praying that she remains safe through her life. I cannot imagine the pain those parents are in. I'm hoping to spend some time with her this weekend. Hugging will be on the agenda. Much hugging.

5. One of my best friends is in from London for the week - I think she took my profile picture in front of the Whole Foods in Kensington, where she indulged my need to stop in at the British mothership. I'll see her for lunch tomorrow. She's a poet. She's also funny, compassionate, wise and wonderful. I'm grateful for her friendship and so looking forward to wallowing in it in person for a bit.

6. I went to the Diocese of Quincy Synod two weeks ago. The bishop ordered me to keep talking. Within a day, my voice decamped, totally gone. So if you have something you'd like me to stop, or start, email Bishop Morales and ask him to order me to do (or not do) it, and we'll do an episcopal experiment. The worship at Synod was fabulous. Let those of us who know tell those who don't. Very, very mission oriented place to be for anyone who has decided to follow Jesus.

7. And finally, I love Hot and Spicy Cheez-its. I just do. They're not vegan, or organic, or even close to being good for me. But I love them. I will not buy another box, though, because I cannot resist them. Now it's time to brush the crumbs off my shirt and go to get my girl.

Living as the Spanish Do

These pictures were taken during the trip we took with my brother and sister-in-law to Barcelona in March. The four of us were wandering, which we did a lot of while in Barcelona, and happened upon this tapas bar around the corner from the beautiful Santa Maria del Mar. Let me just say, sometimes the best things happen to those who wander.

I'd been wanting to visit the city since I was 20 and drove through it on the way to catch the ferry to Palma. I hung out of the car window, soaking up the sights as my French maman sputtered at the drivers around us under her breath.

So my family indulged me, and dusting off my university Spanish, we rented an elegant flat in the old town, just off the Plaça Sant Jaume. It was beautiful, in the center of everything, and incredibly noisy. People filled the street beneath our balconies, laughing and carousing until the garbage truck came through at 3:00 a.m. and blessedly swept them all away.

We arrived in the afternoon, wading through a marathon to reach our flat, where we rewarded ourselves with a nice glass of Spanish red. We found dinner at a nearby restaurant, crowded with folks from all over, ate dinner and collapsed.

Being good travelers, we decided that while in Spain, we should live as the Spanish do and eat every two or three hours. Some mornings we went to the cafe across the street; some mornings my brave brother struck out alone in search of caffeine, God bless him. The ladies at the cafe didn't love on him, he speaks no Spanish, but hail the conquering hero, he came back victorious with coffee, warmed milk and pastries.

Each day we'd talk about what to do and then sight see until was time for the traditional mid-morning snack of a grilled ham sandwich with a beer. I am, for the record, hugely in favor of that tradition. I found it's really impossible to be a vegetarian in Barcelona, the ham is too good. Is there a classification for vegetarians who eat fish and ham? Yeah, I know, that would be "not vegetarian."

Anyway, a bit more wandering, and it would be lunch time! And lunch was a variety of courses, served with wine, leaving us ready to go back to the flat for a nap. A short nap though, as who would want to miss the 4:00 churros and chocolate? The chocolate is like melted frosting. Mmmm.... And get this, you're supposed to dunk the churro into it. Oh man alive.

All this eating pretty much forced us to walk in order to both ward off a sugar high and work up an appetite for tapas, which are served two hours later. We chose from a selection from the bar, ordered a beer, and continued sampling until we were full. Actually we were only supposed to take a few, to stave off any pre-dinner munchies, but we wanted to try a little of everything while we were there. So we did, paying for our tapas at the bar on our way out.

By this point in the day, we'd have had a beer at 10:30, wine with lunch, a huge dose of sugar, more beer with our tapas and our pace slowed considerably. Which was pretty ideal for popping our heads into churches and finding plaças that were tucked betwixt the buildings, rewarding us just for looking.

In a tiny, oddly-shaped square by the Plaça del Pi, we found a perfectly Spanish restaurant where we ate two of the five dinners we had in Barcelona. They were pleased to talk about wine with us, and we ate stunningly well. Lamb in a jammy, meaty sauce, fresh seafood pasta, and an incredible plate of Spanish ham left us content, but somehow still able to spend the rest of the evening watching street theater with a gelato in hand.

There was an article in the Wall Street Journal last weekend about selling your house and retiring to travel around the world. I'd love to do it for a year, with family and friends visiting as possible. I could happily spend months exploring Barcelona alone. But I'd have to keep wandering. Because the way they eat there, if I were to stop, I'd weigh too much to fit anywhere but in the cargo hold on the flight home.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Galena Vines, Branches and Roots

Every September I go to Galena with eight of my girlfriends. We've been going for years and we do as we like during the day; we shop, walk, or sit around and talk religion and politics.

But we always gather in the late afternoon at the winery, even when it's cold, as it was this year. We sit outside in big wicker chairs, tasting the current year's wines, talking, and petting the big golden retriever who settles by us, knowing we're softies.

This picture is taken from the porch where we sit. On the other side of the tree in the front yard, there is a single row of vines. They mark the start of the winery, separating the vineyards from the cornfields beyond.

For one weekend every year, we sit behind that row of vines, sheltered. We stretch out toward each other, like those branches joining vine to vine. We send fragile tendrils into each other's lives, learning the bits we didn't know before, sympathizing, enjoying, dissecting and knowing. And with each bit of knowing, those tender shoots settle in, find their place and take root.

It strikes me that this is how God wants us, why He plants us as He does, and I am deeply grateful.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Art of Compliance

Earlier this week I got to chaperone my daughter's AP Art History field trip to the Art Institute and the Oriental Institute. Walked my tootsies off and enjoyed myself thoroughly. I was under orders not to ask a bajillion questions with "child-like wonder" from my girl, and I tried to be compliant. Compliance is not usually my strong suit, but I think I did relatively well. I didn't lose anyone or say much that was embarrassing, at least not that I recall. The cool statue to the left is in the modern wing of the Art Institute if you're contemplating a visit.

Speaking of art history, we're looking at colleges for our girl. Columbia College in Chicago has a lovely campus and exciting programs, so that's on the list - plus it's very close, which perhaps puts it high on my list.

Next up is Juniata in Pennsylvania. Not quite as close, but another cool program and the journey we'll take to look at it in a couple of days coincides neatly with the changing colors - woot! It's about a 10 hour drive, which works out about the same as flying into Philly and renting a car, or slightly more than flying into Pittsburgh and doing the same. In either proposition, this is far less expensive and it's a road trip!

Last two up are in Minnesota and Oregon. One will come to us, the other I don't know about, it's pretty far away.

I'm under strict orders not to talk about such topics as a "job" or "salary" in connection with art history as an undergraduate major. Sigh. And I'm totally trying to be compliant there...but it's an art form, and I'm far better at appreciating art than producing it.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Showing Up

It's been a while - too long, really. But there simply has not been time to write something that wasn't either for pay or to remind myself of what I needed to do next. But I read a post by a writer who said that if you want to write, you need to show up and do it every day.

My last post was at Christmas when I wrote blissfully ignorant of the fun that the next six months would hold.

Mom went into the hospital multiple times for nausea and pain from right after Christmas all the way through to April when they wheeled her into an OR at Rush for back surgery. She came home today, two months and one week later. We've been through two hospitals and three rehab places during that time.

There have been upsides (may she never read this): Dad cleaned out accumulated years worth of papers. I'm waiting for the reaction about that, as Mom's a saver, let's just say. I've found I can have a political conversation with Dad and remain non-committal. I can also tell you that hospital cafeteria food has really gotten better. Rush has Au Bon Pain doing theirs and it's great. Edward Hospital's salad bar is quite good. The guest "beds" in the rooms at the new Rush facility are better than nothing, but not by a whole lot. They are better than the ones at Edwards, however.

And there have been downsides. I've not made my work quotas a couple of times (still employed, thankfully). VBS was a bit harried this time as there's nothing like having three days of Mom having a heart attack two weeks prior to VBS to liven things up.

And there has been joy.

A closer relationship with my family - stress can tear you apart or pull you together.

VBS - largest one ever, almost entirely carried by everyone but me, its director. Seventy-five children and babies, forty plus volunteers and no rain. When I left after the ice cream social last night, people were still hanging around talking.

The care of our church community in prayer and comfort.

The support of friends and wider family.

And the fact that Mom's home, when there were many weeks when we were certain she was not going to make it. Not only home, but planning to go up to the lake next week. Which I still cannot believe I'm typing, or even thinking. Wow.

Today summer starts, as far as I'm concerned. God is good. All the time.