dog days of summer (or not)

The way this year worked out, we had a slow and mellow beginning to our summer with lots of Active Wii games and Pokemon matches and afternoons at the water park.

2015_0717_14065100Last week Wordgirl did drama camp, so we were suddenly having to set alarms and make lunches and negotiate carpools. She seemed to enjoy it. She was Olaf Sr. in an all-60-participants-get-a-part version of something akin to Frozen. She was absolutely darling, of course.

On Saturday I picked my cousins and family up from the airport. We got to enjoy some cousin time before the masses gathered Saturday afternoon to spread Grandma’s ashes in a rose garden on the first rainy day we’d had in months and months. I suppose I am grateful for the participatory and physical nature of taking ashes in our hands and placing them as we wish, but I missed the sacredness of a liturgy. Then we all trooped together to the favorite spaghetti place and had a loud dinner gathering. So loud.

Sunday, I stepped out of family time for a big church day. We hosted the congregations first ordination service in several decades. We held a lovely contemplative prayer service in the chapel in the morning for those who needed 10:30 a.m. church (which I got to plan) that made me wish we could do that more often. We said 25 would show up. That was just about on the mark. At 4:00 was the ordination, and much of the congregation came as well as family and a few people from the Presbytery. Those who participated in the service were… wait for it… a balance of Teaching Elders and Ruling Elders, women and men. There was one hiccup, but we got it covered, and it was really a good service. The sermon was short and sweet. The charge to the candidate was personal and intentional and emotional. The charge to the congregation was specific and good-humored and thoughtful.

The family left Sunday afternoon for the big camping reunion. I will join them shortly.

The girl child earned an amusement park ticket this year that expires soon, and Computerguy has a birthday, so we are going to try to head out during one day of camping to the amusement park.

On Saturday we fly to the midwest to cruise down the Mississippi on a steam boat (St. Paul to St. Louis) to celebrate CG and his dad who both have milestone birthdays. This is his mother’s big dream.

When the cruise ends, CG will fly home and the kids and I will see road trip to see a cousin in Indiana and a friend in Tennessee.

Then we get back on Saturday and school starts on Tuesday and in between there is a reptile show that we have promised Wordgirl we will attend and probably get her her long-awaited gecko.

So… Let it begin…

Posted in About Me, Family | 2 Comments

late to the party


I have commented on other people’s blog posts, but haven’t written my own on To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman.

My story is not unfamiliar. I was assigned To Kill a Mockingbird in my sophomore English class, the first time I was in a school that offered an “advanced” English option. I read part one the first night. I read part two the second night and stayed after class to talk about the end with my teacher, partly because I was trying to understand it and partly to show off that I had finished the book. That was my best English class in high school, and I am certain I became an English teacher because of that class, and that book was a huge part of that. It has always been my favorite “book I had to read for school.” I also taught it a few times over a decade ago.

This is a book that mattered to me. It was seminal when I read it, and I taught it a few times later. I hadn’t read it since, though, so when I finally pre-ordered Go Set a Watchman a couple weeks ago amid the stirrings of controversy, I re-read TKaM. I still love the book, but what I realized as I re-read it with concerns about GSaW in my mind, was that I never read the book for Atticus. The truth is, he’s deeply flawed, even in TKaM. For those who think he isn’t, I think they’ve conflated a powerful movie with the more nuanced but no less powerful book. Gregory Peck’s Atticus in the film is much more flawless than the character in the book. Even in TKaM there is much benevolent, paternalistic racism, even from Atticus.

I never read the book for Atticus. I read it because I loved Scout. I have a special place in my heart for part one of the book, where Scout struggles with growing up mostly parentless (though with surrogates aplenty). I have always been struck by the Mrs. Dubose part, and have defined courage by it. The second part I love for the resolution of the Boo Radley storyline. The trial, the central act of the film, is way in the background for me in terms of the book, even though I will concede, it is the defining plot point.

So. With all that behind me, I wasn’t too concerned about losing my idol in Atticus. I may have been more concerned about losing my ideal in Scout. I didn’t. I liked the new/old book a lot. It was a fascinating lesson in writing (what do you change and what do you keep the same when you change the focus of a book) and in history (what was it really like in the South in the 50s). It was also a book, a narrative, a new storyline. Here’s the spoiler******: Scout has Atticus on a pedestal, too. If the entire nation has put Atticus on a pedestal, so had Scout (Jean Louise), and the book is about her coming to terms with his humanity. Maybe it’s time we all came to terms with his–and our–humanity.

My heart was broken, though, as was Jean Louise’s. I thought she loved them, too. And maybe she did. But now she can’t. How does that not break your heart?

Here is my favorite version of grown-up Scout with Atticus. I read this poem in Kristin’s chapbook at some point, and I’m pretty sure it became “canon” for me. In the run-up to Go Set a Watchman, I was absolutely certain Calpurnia and Aunt Alexandra had been “felled by the same kind of stroke.” I was a little disappointed that that wasn’t Harper Lee’s version.

(I keep trying to call it Go TELL a Watchman. Maybe from Go Tell on the Mountain. I dunno.)


Posted in About Me, Books | 1 Comment

summer monday musings

Once every 4 years, I become a soccer fanatic. I really enjoy women’s soccer, so I try to watch as much of the Women’s World Cup as I can, but I kept thinking it was recording on the DVR and it wasn’t. I finally figured out why: we didn’t get the channel they were being shown on. Duh. On Friday they were finally on a channel we get, so Wordgirl and I watched both matches: Germany vs. France and US vs. China. Germany vs. France was a tough match to watch. 1:1, overtime, penalty kicks. On Saturday, the matches went back to the channel we don’t get, so I figured out how to watch them through cable on-line, but that wasn’t nearly as much fun. We have a big TV and good sound. It makes a difference. (I actually fell asleep in the last few minutes and missed Japan’s only and winning goal.)

Saturday, we also finished our own Spring soccer season with Wordgirl’s soccer party. Her 18-year-old coach gave each team member an award. Wordgirl got “Best Role Model” for always being a good sport and listening and leading the others. It’s a good award, and fitting. My kid may never get one of the actual playing awards (sorry, kid), but she can work hard and be a good sport. Grateful for the younger AYSO teams where that’s what’s emphasized.

Sunday worship was really good. We had a guest preacher (who was already going to be there to celebrate her aunt’s 90th birthday on a week our pastor is almost always out of town), so I was on deck to make sure everything went smoothly and to do the welcoming and the prayer. We had a young adult lay reader. It was a crazy week, and we had for a couple weeks been trying to find a male lay reader to balance a female guest preacher and me (we don’t always do this, but sometimes we do), and no one was around that weekend until College Boy said Yes! and he turned out to be the perfect choice for the week. He really likes doing it, it’s a way to keep him involved, and he is a lovely reader and and inviting presence, the kind of kid everyone is fond of. The guest preacher was terrific (no surprise knowing her family), and the sermon was very different from our normal, but no less excellent (and our normal is as good as it gets).

We went out for Faux Father’s Day Sunday afternoon. We saw Inside Out which was really fun. Even Shyguy made it through about 2/3rds before he started asking to leave. Computerguy thought it was very well done. I think the prime audience, our 8-year-old girl, was most enchanted, but it was really good. I would like to see it again (and I’m sure I will, though probably not in the theater).

Now it’s Monday and we’ve been playing active Wii games which is a positive, and are heading to the library soon for a kids’  poetry program. I hope it’s done well. Last week was good, but it got long. I’m working Wednesdays and home the other days. We have libraries and waterpark passes and maybe we’ll do a beach day. We’ll see how it goes.

Also, it’s really hot and there are ants everywhere.

Posted in About Me, Church | 1 Comment

friday five: fast and furious cuisine

Deb brings us this Friday Five that appealed to me:

I know RevGals is not a cooking blog. But, I also know that we clergy balance multiple tasks, roles and responsibilities. And many of us want to keep eating healthy and serving with stronger, healthier bodies. At the same time, unless you are living with a personal sous chef, you’re throwing dinner together in between afternoon office hours and evening meetings, sometimes with a little homework and soccer practice thrown in the mix. So, for this week’s Friday Five, tell us:

1) What’s your tried-and-true recipe for picky eaters?

Tacos. Put out ingredients separately. Make sure there are flour tortillas.
Pancakes, ham, scrambled eggs, fruit. There’s something there everyone will eat.

2) Breakfast for dinner: totally cheating or a lifesaver? Discuss.

See above. We don’t have time or context to have big breakfasts for breakfast. What people consider “Breakfast” foods I make for dinner All. The. Time. They are staples. I don’t think it’s fair to relegate them to breakfast. I tried not to call it “breakfast for dinner,” but just say we were having pancakes or eggs or baked eggs or french toast or whatever. The girl child has figured out it’s what most people call “Breakfast for Dinner,” but the boy still says he’s had “lunch” on the rare occasions we have those foods for breakfast. And yes, it is a lifesaver. Everybody likes it and it’s easy to make (though uses a lot of pans.)

3) Go-to casserole for potlucks, new parents or your family’s favorite?

Someone said the other day, “We know Bookgirl will bring some sort of pasta and red sauce dish.” It’s true. It used to be lasagne. Now I tend to “cheat” and make it ziti with the same ingredients (not sure why it’s so much less time consuming to make, but it is). Sometimes I do chicken and tomatoes with penne pasta. Every once in awhile I’ll do stuffed shells. Sometimes I think I’ll do something else, and in the end I revert to pasta and red sauce.

4) Favorite take-out place, preferably with a drive-through? (Let’s be real!)

With the kids: Jack-in-the-Box because… wait for it… they can get egg sandwiches all day long. My kids won’t eat hamburgers. They don’t eat more than 3 fries. They are okay sometimes with nuggets, but it can be iffy. One likes hot dogs; the other doesn’t. They gobble up egg sandwiches. So when we need to drive through or make a quick stop, that’s our go-to.

Without the kids: We take our opportunity for that California Classic, In-n-Out.

5) ‘Fess up! What’s your “bad-for-me-but-super-easy” dinner?

Fish sticks and applesauce. Again it’s about the kids. They learned to eat them in daycare, and they love them.
That or a steak thrown on the grill and served with fake mashed potatoes and canned fruit. No other garnishes.

BONUS: RANDOM!! REVGALS version of “CHOPPED” episode, starring you, the tired, harried, cook and pastor who has to feed everyone and get back to church for a meeting in 45 minutes… What would you make with:
a can of garbanzo beans
chicken breasts
sweet bell peppers and
some “Testa-mints”?

Sounds like a salad to me.

Play along on your blog and post your link below, or play in the comments.

Posted in Friday Five | 3 Comments

elder or not?

Disclaimer: This is a specifically PCUSA post. Also, it’s long. A more adept blogger might split it into parts. I really want it as a whole. Also, it’s really, really, really just my opinion!

In the PCUSA, there is technically no hierarchy of ministry. Teaching Elders, Ruling Elders, and Deacons.

There is no hierarchy of ministry in theory, but I am not sure that’s true in practice, and I wonder why and why it matters and how or if that should change or if I am making too big a deal of it.

Jan Edmiston writes a lot about this, actually (here is one specific post), and about how there are very few “lay people” in the PCUSA, and how congregations won’t survive if we expect the “Professional” Christian to do all the work. How do we change a culture to help this happen? How do we empower Ruling Elders? How do we help Teaching Elders see this and help us do this? How do we work together?

Teaching Elders

I was at an ordination service last week. The commission who were part of the service was made up of Teaching Elders (designated in the Order of Worship as Rev.), Commissioned Ruling Elders serving in Pastoral Capacity (designated in the Order as Pastor) and a Christian Camp Director (undesignated in the Order). So the only non-Pastor was a full time camp director. That commission was made up entirely of what Jan would call “Professional Christians.” (Also, only one woman, but that’s a different post.)

Now this particular person is kind of extreme on this. To his final day as Youth Director in our congregation he did not understand that he was brought to the church and hired by the Session and not by The Pastor. Part way through his time, there were some parents who wanted him let go. He never got that it was the Nurture Committee led by Session Members (Ruling Elders) and not The Pastor who chose to ask him to continue (and work with him and with the parents). A year ago, at his final service, he decided that rather than having a congregation member stand with him on the chancel as lector he wanted his visiting Reverend Father-in-Law to have that place. (And there was a long conversation about whether he should be asked to choose a congregation member or whether we should respect his wishes for his farewell service, but the discussion was not with him. And there is no rule that says a congregation member should be on the chancel every week; it’s just a strong statement.)

Here’s the thing: who is teaching him? Who did not sit down with him and say, “My friend, your commission should be made up of an “teaching and ruling elders” and your commission members should participate in your ordination service. On our Presbytery’s documents, “an equal number of teaching and ruling elders” is stated clearly. I assume this is a representative document. So someone dropped the ball. Was there not a single ruling elder in any of the three congregation in which he has served whom he wanted to stand with him? I know there were good people in our congregation who stood with him and served with him. I’m certain there were in his other congregations. Why can’t he see them? Why do we give in to that blindspot? Do we really believe there is no hierarchy of ministry and that should be visible? He is extreme, but he is also young and learning, and there were Teaching Elders helping him plan this. Did none of them say, hmmm, wait a minute?

There are other places this shows up. Currently, our General Assembly Moderator is a Ruling Elder. The Vice Moderator is a Teaching Elder. When the elections happened during the GA, though, the Teaching Elders who stood for election had chosen Teaching Elder Vice Moderator candidates to stand with them. They differed in age, gender, and ethnicity, but not in ordination. I wonder what that means?

Ruling Elders

On the other hand…

When I was ordained as a ruling elder, a young adult who was in my “class” said, “well, yeah, I said yes because my mom said I would have to do it some time and I might as well.”

I sat in my Circle Bible Study talking about leadership and several women who either have served or are serving as Ruling Elders on Session and Session Committee Chairs said things like “I don’t really think of myself as a leader. I don’t really do that.” WHAT??? One of these women has been on Session 8 of the last 9 years. Seriously. (I think these people ARE leaders, but why don’t they think of themselves that way? And what does it mean to them to be a Ruling Elder on Session if they don’t think of themselves as leaders. Also, is this a gender thing? How do we help?)

A nominating committee member says things like, “Well they’ve never been asked so they don’t get to serve communion so we should ask them so they can be ordained and serve communion.” That’s why we’re nominating them?

The Nominating Committee Chair says, “We can’t cut down on the number of elders because there’s too much work to do. Who would do the work?” and then struggles to find enough people who will say yes.

Twice this year there has not been a quorum at a Session Meeting. Why isn’t this important enough to its members to be made a priority?

A communion sign-up sheet was passed around Session, and of a 15 member Session only 4 people signed up and one of those backed out.

People do take being a Ruling Elder very seriously, are honored to lead, and believe themselves to be leaders. Even some of these people work in a world where other things come up.

Some of my thoughts

We say Ruling Elders are called by God through the nominating committee and the congregation, and we give them a sheet that talks about being called and what that means, but unlike the Pastor/Teaching Elders, we don’t have people saying, “I think God is calling me to be ruling elder. What do I need to do?” We go to them and ask, Is God calling you to this? I’m not sure that’s something we can change, but there it is.

We do a lot of things right. We give people descriptions and explanations and ask them to discern. We have study and prayer and contemplative time in Session meetings. We eat together so we can become a community who discern together. (I’m not on Session and have been ruled out as long as I am in a paid position created by Session, but I served a 3-year-term from January 2011-December 2013, and I still serve on 2 Session committees, and I am still a Ruling Elder not currently serving on Session.)

I wonder what would happen if we had fewer Ruling Elders, and they were truly the few people who were called (by God through the nominating committee and congregation) to discern and lead for a time (keep the rotating classes and term limits.)

I wonder what would happen if our officer ordinations were the kind of Big. Deal. that our Teaching Elder Ordinations are. Each year we ordain and install officers in 15 minutes as part of a regular church service. The service is usually themed around service and serving. It’s not a small thing, but it can kind of get lost in the regularity and the sheer number of people being ordained/installed. In the Teaching Elder Ordination, the candidate chooses their Commission and plans their service. They send out invitations and are given gifts that are symbols of ministry.

We give elders gifts as they go off Session, but not as they come on. What would be an appropriate gift for an elder coming on to Session? A stole? We have started wearing stoles to serve communion. A special name tag? A leather notebook? Am I lame?

What if each incoming elder and deacon (or incoming first time elder or deacon, those being Ordained as well as Installed) chose a sponsor to stand with them and lay hands on them and give them a gift and mentor them for a year (as we do with confirmation students, I suppose)?

What if a Ruling Elder and/or a Deacon did a Charge to those being Ordained and Installed and a Charge to the Congregation that was written for the occasion rather than read from a book, as they are in a Teaching Elder Ordination?

What if we had a Reception afterward during Coffee Hour and sent invitations and encouraged people to invite friends and relatives for this special occasion?

I don’t know if any of this would make a difference, I don’t know if I am overthinking it. I’m just wondering out loud.

Posted in Church | 4 Comments


I am a re-arranger. I used to rearrange my classroom. A lot. Some students would groan audibly  when they would come in on Monday and I’d done it again.

While the kids are with the grandparents for 5 days, I began a big rearranging project. A couple months ago, I brought our extra dining room table* into the “Play Room” that is right off the kitchen and that we had never made great use of and we began to eat in there. The idea was that if we liked it, we would move the hutch into the kitchen/dining space and a couple bookshelves into the “dining room” and set up a study/project room in there. (Later, Mary Ann reminded us of the origin of her Blue Room (last paragraph of this post) and I went, “huh.” So if I subconsciously got this idea from Mary Ann, here is due credit.) So that’s what I’m working on, shifting these two rooms. And I am reminded of how much Stuff we have, and how much of it Never gets used. Is it time to get rid of it or time to use it? Or is it serving its purpose by being beautiful?

IMG_1398I pulled a teenager from church into helping me unload bookshelves and do a little moving. While we managed to get the top of the china cabinet off, there was no way we could get it back up, so right now, the bottom part of the cabinet is acting as a buffet, waiting for the top to be added. The only thing is, I really like it as a buffet. Last night I set our dinner out along it so we could make plates and eat in the living room while watching Big Bang Theory (a treat while the kids are gone. Also, the table is full of stuff due to The Big Project.) Computer guy commented that we could still use that surface as a buffet, but it is different with a big hutch over it. IMG_1396But we have a table full of wine glasses, tea pots and cups, special mugs, figurines that are displayed in the hutch. Could I let them go? Could I let other things go to make room for them? I’m not sure.

sliding-puzzles-1One thing I have said about the house (CG lived here for about a decade before I moved in, and I’ve been here a decade. There’s a lot of Stuff) is that it’s like one of those puzzles with 15 sliding pieces and 1 open space. One has to keep sliding pieces into a new space, adjusting along the way, never taking anything out, but shifting 7 pieces to get 1 into place. Every time I rearrange, I have to find a new place for what we have. I am trying to let go of that mentality and consider actually getting rid of pieces so there is more space. We’ll see if we can do it.

Meanwhile, my parents get back with the kids on Friday, so I at least need to have this mostly done by then.

*The extra dining room table was mine. It had been, I believe, my grandma’s and then my parents had it and I took it when I was single and living alone. I refinished it, and I love it, but it does not have a leaf, and it is small (though it’s round and we can get a lot of people around it, especially if we have a buffet space nearby). Computer guy’s folks bought a new, bigger table and offered us their dining room table that had a leaf. The thing is, I remembered wrong, and I thought it was round when I said yes. It’s not. It’s octagonal. Seating 6 (our most common number after 4) is awkward. I really want a round table. So for now the bigger table is going to be the project table and I am going to use the smaller round table in the eating space, and we’ll see what happens when we have company.

Posted in About Me | 2 Comments

all good things

IMG_0638Today was kindergarten graduation. The last few weeks the boy child has been saying he likes school and today he said “school is fun.” I count this year as a win. Both kids had the same kindergarten teacher, and she was good with both of them, different as they are.

It was also the last day of second grade. After a tiny bit of a rocky* start, the girl child had a great year. She received the perfect attendance trophy to which she aspired. IMG_1382(Last year the only days she missed were when we went to Vermont and Montreal. She blamed us for her lack of trophy. We thought the trip was more important. I think she has finally forgiven us. :-) )

So another year draws to a close.

In the middle of all the end-of-year hoopla, my Dodge Durango died. It was my youth group car, one of the last vestiges of a former life. It was the year 2000. I had a sporty little Saturn that I loved, but I had grown-up friends who had to crawl into the back and I was doing youth ministry where we always needed more seats. I looked at the brand new compact SUVs, but realized they seated only 1person more than my sports coupe. I discovered the Durango that could seat up to 8, and that’s what I got because I figured if I was upgrading for passenger space I should get as much as possible.IMG_1388 I used that car to drive youth group members to Fresno. I used it to drive a car full of friends to Shakespeare by the Sea. We used it to drive to family reunions. I might not have bought the car if I had anticipated quitting my life and going to graduate school, but I used it to drive to Indiana and back twice. And most recently I have used it to drive a car full of kids home from school, every once in awhile even filling in the eighth seat. I came into the marriage with a cat and a car, and they both gave up the ghost this year. casperIt’s the end of an era, and I’m glad to move on (the air conditioning hasn’t worked well for years and the ride has been both rough and sluggish), but I am a little wistful at the same time.

Computer guy started doing research and decided he wanted a Toyota Highlander Hybrid. I had been thinking minivan (and so had he been until he started researching), but when he showed me the specs and the gas mileage, I was sold. He found a 2006 model on Craig’s List that had a fair price and surprisingly low mileage (70,000 miles compared to most others of the same year with 110,000 or 120,000). We made the connections and bought the car. I drove it home today. It’s a little smaller and a little smoother than the Durango, built onIMG_1391 a car chassis rather than the truck, but not so different. We did have to give up the 3rd seat in the front row. It seats 7 total, so I can do the regular carpool next year, but no extras. That hurts a little. I like being able to say “yes” to the occasional sudden need or spontaneous playdate. We also gave up the auxiliary iPod jack CG had installed in the Durango. Our Prius is a 2005 and it does not have one, but we had understood the 2006s do. Not so on the Highlander. And we discovered with the Prius that Toyotas are really difficult to install aftermarket. Now we have cassette adapters in both cars. (#FirstWorldProblem)

After I got home, I started cleaning the detritus of 15 years of good use out of the Durango. There were maps of Indiana and Illinois, a poncho, various toys, 3 first aid kits, an axe (???), other tools, etc. Underneath everything else in the back floor storage space (something else the highlander lacks, contained storage in the hatch area) was my original license plate from when I bought the car in California in 2000, before Indiana plates, before returning and getting new CA plates. I took a photo, and then I removed my soccer Mickey (an old gift from a friend: soccer for me; baseball for our other friend) from the antenna.

So we have a summer vacation and a new car and a promise to the girl child of a pet Gecko as soon as we have a few minutes to breathe, but that’s another story.

*Wordgirl had a longterm sub who was excited and kind and really liked the girl, but who also did the classic thing where she called on the boys noticeably more often and thus they got more participation points. It was a tough one for both of us. Because it was a longterm sub who was basically okay, I did not fuss, but let it be a learning experience that we could talk about at home, and we emphasized how much the regular teachers at the school work very hard to be fair and not allow accidental (or otherwise) bias to slip in, mostly by way of randomly drawing popsicle sticks. This was the first time in her three years there that this gender bias had been noticeably present. That’s not bad. And the situation allowed us to realize how good she has it.

Posted in About Me | 3 Comments