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Date:2010-01-01 10:21
Subject:Happy New Year!!

Happy NEW YEAR!!  Mark and I rung in 2010 with our friends Craig and Jacque, opting to stay in town rather than brave the cold to join Erin in Clemson.  We ended up cooking up a storm: baguettes, beef empanadas, carrot salad, cookies, and a massive cheese and olive plate.  We spent most of the day watching movies and playing chess, but we walked down to the town square at ten o'clock to watch some friends drop a giant silver ball from the clocktower.  (Yes, at ten.  Also, it was on a fishing line. So, so awesome.) 

I have much to write about, but I'm in the middle of preparing for the GOEs.  "Preparing" in the sense of having bad dreams about the exams and occasionally reading some of the recommended review books.  I'm about halfway through Pritchard's A History of the Episcopal Church.  I know these exams will be extremely difficult - but I'm only taking four of the seven exams on account of the work I already finished when I did this stuff for the Methodists.  The tests are: Theology, Liturgy and Church Music, Practice of Ministry, and Church History.  

Please pray for some clarity of mind and peace about this whole ordeal, and for my classmates - I'll see you on the other side! 

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Date:2009-11-03 21:55

One of my greatest regrets right now is not being able to take the Pastoral Spanish class offered here at SofT.  I thought about auditing it, but chickened out at the last minute.  

I have wanted to learn Spanish for a few years now, but have never made it a priority.  It definitely would have come in handy at the hospital last year - especially the night I baptized a Hispanic baby, surrounded by family members and being the only English speaker in the room.  It would have been nice over the past few years of travel with Mark, especially in Latin America.  And I would have loved being able to chat with some of the Sunday morning worshippers when Mark and I visited La Capilla one Sunday morning.   Mark even went so far as to buy me CD ROM versions of Spanish lessons, and for awhile I was collecting vocabulary words here and there.  (La perro!  La gansa!)  But I'm just so damn lazy.  It's hard to be motivated when you don't have an immediate need to learn something new.  

Today I rushed into chapel at the last minute for the noon-day Eucharist service, picking up a service leaflet and finding a seat as the opening acclamation began.  I hadn't realized it was the once-a-week Spanish service.  Everything's in Spanish - lessons, prayers, even the sermon. Though they print English translations in the margins, the Spanish takes precedence.  No one slows down to make room for a non-Spanish speaker.  The service pressed on with the same pulse as any other, as I awkwardly stumbled through reading the prayers aloud.  

At some point, I gave up shuffling around between the Spanish BCP and the sermon text and the service leaflets, and just let the unfamiliar language wash over me.  I felt like a blind person sitting in front of a window.  I was just so overcome with my own ignorance.  The symbols were the same, the altar and the bread and wine were all the same, but I was the outsider.  My lack of knowledge did not keep me from experiencing communion, but my lack of language enveloped me in a distracting haze.  

Without advocating for blithe complacency, I know I needed that realization on a spiritual level.  There are so many times I take such narcissistic delight in my own intellect - I LOVE knowing the right answer.  I get so comfortable with knowing the entire Eucharist service by heart.  But sitting in chapel today, I was clueless.  It was an important reminder that no matter how hard I work or how much I read, there will always be something I do not know.  It was a much-needed, humbling moment.  

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Date:2009-11-01 09:26

One of the delightful things about being apart from my husband for this year is the occasional long phone conversations we share.  (I would also say that the most infuriating thing about being apart is the stupid, stupid phone that drops calls and gets too hot in my ear and charges us too much money for over-using our minutes.)  Normally, our conversations are only about ten minutes long, about four or five times a day.  But every once in awhile, when neither of us are particularly busy, we have phone dates and talk for a long time.  Usually this sort of conversation springs up organically, when we're talking about a book he's reading or a lecture I've attended that sparked a discussion.  I really love talking with him about seminary life here, because he's lived it too.  

The other day, the topic of baptism came up in one of our longer conversations.  I found myself, for the first time, telling him the story of my baptism.  It was such a sweet moment for us both - I'd had no idea he had never heard my baptism story.  

We both come from Protestant backgrounds, mine Methodist and his Baptist.  In my church, babies are baptized along with adults, and as I continue to grow as an Episcopal minister, I find that infant baptism is one of those hot button issues for me - it's really, really important to my theology.  Mark was baptized as a little child in his father's church.  (I'll let him tell that story, since, after all, it is his.)  

After my youngest sister was born, my parents gathered us all together and told us we were going to be baptized on Sunday.  I was seven, and of the age where I could have refused, but I didn't.  It was never a decision I made for myself; it was a decision made by our whole family.  Mom and Dad showed my sisters and I how to kneel on one of the steps in our staircase at home, and they said Rev. Williams would pour a little bit of water on our heads.  It meant that we were going to be full members in the church, they told us, and that God loved us.  

The strongest memory I have of that day is of how many people came to see us be baptized.  My grandparents were there.  My dad's huge clan, all my aunts and uncles and cousins from all across the state were there.  Afterwards, we had a big party and the family took us to the zoo.  I remember getting lost with my Aunt Jane while we were looking at the bird exhibit.  I remember the picnic under a big, droopy tree.  I remember that all the people that loved me most in the world were there.  

When Mark and I were talking, he was surprised to hear how communal my baptism was.  I know it would have been equally meaningful if I had made the decision on my own and stood before the church to be baptized, just me and God, in the way that Mark describes his baptism.  And it was, for me, later, when I gave an affirmation of faith after I went through confirmation.  But I take such delight in remembering the huge body of people that were there to receive me into the communion of saints.  It was so beautifully communal and, to me, what church is all about.  

Today is All Saints Sunday, and while I reflect this morning on Mary Ellen, and Genevieve, and Jim and Emmanuel in communion of saints... I am headed to the university chapel to see a seminary family present their infant daughter for baptism.  She was born just shy of two weeks ago.  She will be surrounded by her parents, and her extended family, and the entire seminary community.  Her parents will tell her, as she grows up, of what happened the day she was baptized.  I hope, and I hope with all the hope of the kingdom to come, that she will reflect the faith that was given to her in her baptism.  I hope that she will, as I do, remember her baptism, and be thankful.  

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Date:2009-10-31 18:32
Subject:Comfort food

Mark left this afternoon, after a wonderful weekend here for the DuBose lectures.  We had so, so much fun - the Thursday night party was awesome.  Good food, good company, good wine.  I'll have to post some photos of us in our formal attire - and we danced!  We haven't danced in so long!!   

But now I'm sitting in the cabin alone with all my homesick feelings, and he's back in NC.  It's a chilly Halloween night outside, and I'm in need of some comfort.  So I made this amazing cabbage-apple gratin that's a combination of a few different recipes.  Check out my favorite food blog, Orangette, for further interesting things to do with cabbage.  

Over fall break, Mark and I visited my grandparents for an afternoon.  They own an apple orchard up the mountain from us, and I grew up visiting them in the summers and climbing their apple trees together with my sisters.  In recent days of living nearby, I've really loved getting to visit much more often.  Mark goes up and sees them now that I'm not in town as much, and he spent a day with them in September (I was gone, sadly) pressing apples into cider with their huge cider press.  We now have something like six or seven gallons of cider in the freezer, just waiting for the right time for fermentation.  

Grandpa and Grandma sent me back to school with a bag of crisp, lovely apples from their trees.  As I peeled and sliced one up for this gratin, it was a sweet reminder of family on a lonely autumn afternoon.  

Apple-Cabbage Gratin 
1 large green cabbage, cored and chopped 
1 large apple (I used a Winesap, any sweet eating apple would be good), cored, peeled and chopped 
3Tbs butter 
half a large purple onion, minced 
salt and pepper 
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock 
6-8 oz. Fontinella cheese, cut into small cubes 

Butter a casserole dish - I used a large, large cabbage, so I filled a 9x13" pan.  You might need a smaller pan if your cabbage is medium sized - this cooks down quite a bit.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  

Melt the butter in a large skillet, and add the onion.  Cook until it wilts and starts to brown.  Add the cabbage and apple, taking care to toss it well with melted butter.  Saute until it wilts and browns slightly.  Dump it all into the casserole dish, seasoning generously with salt and pepper.  Pour the stock over everything.  Cover the pan with tin foil and bake for about 45 minutes.  

Take out the pan and remove foil.  Sprinkle cubes of cheese over the top, and dust liberally with breadcrumbs.  Pop it back in the oven for five minutes or so, until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  Eat immediately.  

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Date:2009-10-14 21:36
Subject:Seminary thus far

It is now late October.  Wow.  

I hate writing on this blog feeling guilty for not posting.  So, I'm just going to give a brief update on things while I'm home for fall break and have a bit of perspective.  Then maybe I'll get back into regular posts.  Maybe.  

Seminary is good, great even, except that Mark's not with me.  I can't believe how much fun I'm having.  The community life at school is absolutely incredible.  I didn't realize how much I missed fun seminarian gatherings, the classes, the parties... I have met so many amazing ministers and I can't wait to be colleagues with them for years to come.  

I am now a certified bartender.  I've served at a couple of alumni parties over homecoming, and will probably do some bar-tending for Greek parties before the end of the semester.  It's a good way to make extra money, and honestly, at times can be a ministry. And it's great fun.  I make a mean martini.  

I'm preparing for ordination in the spring, no parishes on the horizon yet, but it's still early.  The bishop continues to be wonderfully supportive of me.  But we could really end up anywhere - Mark and I would like to stay in NC, but depending on the opportunities, I could get an offer to serve a church outside the diocese.  

I'm knitting my first sweater, and I am gleefully excited about it.  It's for Mark.  

I am thankful, nearly every day, of God's provision.  My last post sounds awfully bleak, and it was, back in mid-summer when I had no idea where I would find the money to go to school and to get home as often as possible.  And, without sounding trite to what was a VERY difficult journey, things gradually fell into place.  Our parish has been AMAZING.  Our diocese is AMAZING.  My husband is AMAZING.  

Most of all, I am extremely happy.  I love studying theology.  The writing of papers truly sucks - but I love what I do.  I get to argue about what's important for the church, and I'm constantly humbled by the insight of my classmates.  I have a cute study carrel at school where I get to hole up and read books about God all afternoon long.  There are chapel services three times a day, and we're expected to attend at least one a day.  So I also get to sit in silence, breathe, and catch up with myself every day.  The whole experience feels so deeply intentional.  I feel as though I'm truly being prepared for parish ministry.  

One final word - before I go back to posting recipes and other fun things - thank you for your prayers.  I was not in a good place for about six weeks this summer, and knowing that I had some people out there offering up prayers for me was comforting.  It's a wonderful thought to know that if I write on here about all my various dramas (self-created or not), there are some kind people who are truly concerned for me.  Thank you.  

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Date:2009-08-07 08:47
Subject:remembering hope

About halfway through the summer, I received my financial aid award letter from my school.  Or lack thereof, I should say - I was offered a grant that's given to every student, regardless of need, and nothing else.  I had about $6000 remaining to find for my living expenses, as well as roughly $3000 just to cover tuition and fees.  I was distraught, to say the least - one of those afternoons of griping the crumpled "award" letter in one hand and a box of tissues in the other.  

That same evening, Mark and I went to a friend's house for our summer choir party.   I was glad it was a backyard cookout, so I could wear my sunglasses and no one would see my red eyes.  The gathering was fun, with our lively choir-folks and lots of good food and wine.  I started to feel like I could breathe.  As the party was wrapping up, our parish administrator and lead soprano W stood up and announced that the church was going to be throwing me a send-off party in August.  They were organizing a live auction in order to raise money for me to pay for school, and would have lots of food and fun.  W said they hoped to raise about $2000.  

I wanted to just weep right there.  What an amazing gift!  And to hear this news on the afternoon of hearing such bad news from the school.  I am not one to claim to know where or what God is doing at a given moment, but that was such an incredible reminder of hope.  I am humbled by God's provision, which comes in such mysterious and powerful times.  This church has really lifted me up and supported me and Mark since we came here over two years ago, but sending me to seminary with such strong support is overwhelming.  The auction party is scheduled for next Saturday, the day after my birthday.  

My financial needs have continued to be answered over the course of the summer, in the form of encouraging emails from a couple of the deans, to opportunities to live with the Williams family for free.  I recognize how making this leap and going on to school this year is truly the right thing for me to do, I really do.  All signs are pointing the way.  I know once I get there, I'll be surrounded with a community of people who are also trying to negotiate their lives and their passions for serving the church.  I will make new friends.  I will learn great things about ministry.  

I guess I've only seen the difficult reality of changing my pleasant life here in North Carolina to fit the uncomfortable new plan of being apart from this wonderful church and my husband.  I need to find ways to believe more in the promise of hope that lies ahead. 

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Date:2009-08-05 10:24
Subject:Scene from my week

Last night, Mark and I were enjoying a quiet evening of watching Boston Legal and packing up my desk stuff and books.  And he comes across my big leatherbound copy of the BCP and hymnal, the one I use every Sunday morning at HC.  He asks me if I'm taking it with me.  My response?  I burst into tears.  


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Date:2009-08-03 15:30
Subject:Packing and Moving: A Rant

Today is Day One of a Very Long Week.  

Mark and I just returned from a pleasant couple of days at the beach, and now summer is coming to an abrupt end.  I am preparing to leave home this Sunday for the beginning of orientation at Divinity School the Second.  (FYI, for the sake of this blog, I will hereafter refer to this school as SofT - School of Theology.)  All summer long, I have not touched a single packing box.  My clothes have hung undisturbed in my closet.  I've collected boxes, and bags, and had my eye on a few random things I knew I'd need, like twin-sized sheets and extra towels -- but I have not really packed a single thing.  

I guess packing up makes it real, and that's a little scary for me to consider.  A few random times this summer, like when I'm cooking a meal or watching TV or falling asleep in bed next to Mark, I'll think to myself that, huh, I'm not going to be doing this for much longer.  I'll be doing all those things in a town about five hours away, by myself.  Hmm.  I'm a big list-maker, too, and when I sat down just now to write out what I'll need and what will go in which box... it just hit me all over again that I'm really doing this.  

My feelings about this new venture shift from excited and hopeful to dread and anguish, sometimes within the hour.  I know I need this new challenge, and I need to be back in community again, but that doesn't make it any easier.  I can't believe I've decided to live in a town 310 miles away from my husband for a year.  I can't believe I'll be living amongst strangers.  I can't believe I'll be a student again - sitting in class, studying for exams, reading all the time instead of waking up and going to work.  

I can anticipate the homesickness, and the loneliness; I just can't know what it will really be like.  This feels like a big commitment and a real sacrifice, bigger and more real than div school at Duke ever was.  I guess it's because now I'm married and have a life and a home.  To be honest, going to SofT feels like one big disruption to a career I keep trying to enthusiastically begin.  I am trying hard not to sound like the jaded second-career students we met at Duke, ones that upheld practical experience over book learning, who rolled their eyes with every challenging point the professor mentioned in lecture.  But I understand them a little better now.  I'm seeing how hard it is to go from the world of the church to the world of the academy, knowing that these two institutions don't always know how to talk to each other in practical terms.  If I've learned anything in the past four years since seminary, it's that the church needs people who are both well educated and able to talk to ordinary people about everyday faith.  I never learned how to do this by sitting in a classroom, I learned how to do it sitting in a hospital waiting room with a family.  

All that is to say, I am sorting out how I feel.  I know I still have things to learn, and I certainly don't have every theological point figured out.  But why do I have to go back to school, when all my energy and love right now is in the parish?  I feel so completely and frustratingly humbled at this situation.  I want to see my time at SofT as an opportunity for growth, but I'm having a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel right now.  

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Date:2009-07-20 14:43
Subject:Food - ghetto version; and some fun news

Okay, after a read through of my last post about quality food, it seems a little bit pretentious and pious to me.   Our lives are definitely a little more even-handed than that, though we do care a lot about what we eat.  Let me offer a counter post - a list of all the foods that I'm embarrassed to love.  I'm so excited to enjoy many of these in the coming weeks of being a single girl at school - Mark wouldn't touch any of these with a ten-foot pole.  

(feel free to comment on your own loves for all things processed and unhealthy) 

- Kraft macaroni and cheese - with the powdered cheese and thin noodles... 
- Spaghetti-os 
- Totino's pizza rolls - oh man, a bag of the pepperoni kind were a GODSEND after a long night of being on call at the hospital 
- also, Totino's pepperoni party pizzas, with the thin crust 
- frozen bean burritos 
- Campbell's chicken noodle soup 
- hot dogs - with slaw and pickle relish and like, a quart of mustard, yum 
- cheap Chinese food - okay, to be fair to Mark, he does share this love with me.  A big container of kung pao chicken and several egg rolls really hit the spot with a beer and a funny movie.  These are the details that hold our marriage together.  

I do have some fun news to share - I visited the school this weekend while Mark was at a conference, and met with a lovely family who will let me live with them for free!  I will be giving rides to school to their teenage daughter, in exchange for a small room in a cabin they're renting.  

This major detail is a God-given moment of grace.  For me to rent a one-bedroom apartment for ten months, I'd be spending about $6000 that I definitely don't have.  Finding a free place to live is such a huge step in making this year work, and I feel humbled and blessed and lucky.  I am praying for a smooth transition come moving day... and hoping for some good time to connect with my new housemates.  

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Date:2009-07-16 11:38

Because I am out traveling and visiting family this week, today's post is short and sweet.  (One thing I neglected to mention in my last post; I am currently unemployed.  I spend most of my long days reading, talking to the cats, knitting and cooking.  It might sound lovely to some of you employed-types out there, but believe me, it's getting old.)  

We in the A-G household like good food.  You might even call us food snobs.  We drive about 45 minutes every month to buy quality meat from a local dealer we trust.  We buy our summer produce exclusively from the town farmer's market, and our eggs from a local farm with free-range chickens.  We have more cookbooks than I can count, and I subscribe to lots of food blogs.  I also just finished Julia Child's My Life in France, and can't wait to start learning her techniques for braising and sauteing and baking.  

The recipe below is my altered version of a frittata from the Durham restaurant Foster's.  I made it just last night with fresh summer vegetables for me and my parents. 

Garden Vegetable Frittata 

butter or oil 
two strips of bacon, cut into small dice
three or four small red potatoes, sliced thin 
half a purple onion, sliced thin 
bell pepper, chopped 
pattypan squash, chopped 
2 cloves garlic, minced 
generous stalk of fresh rosemary, minced
an enormous bunch of kale, washed and deveined 
8-10 eggs, scrambled with a bit of salt, pepper and Italian seasoning
cheddar cheese, either shredded or cubed 
parmesan cheese, shredded 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  

Saute the bacon in the oil or butter, until browned, in a large oven-proof skillet - no wooden handles!  I like cast iron, myself.  Add the potatoes and cook for ten minutes or so, until they are browned on both sides.  Add the onions, peppers, squash and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes more, until well sauteed.  Add the rosemary and heat until fragrant.  Add the kale and still until wilted, about 2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour the egg mixture over everything.  Shake the pan from side to side to get everything settled.  Sprinkle a heavy layer of cheese over everything.  

Bake in the oven until the eggs are as done as you like them.  For well done, give it about 20 minutes.  I like runny eggs, so I leave mine in for about ten minutes.  For a cast iron pan, peek and watch often - the edges will cook faster than the middle!  

Slice and enjoy.  

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Date:2009-07-15 00:17
Subject:The start of something brand new

Hello there.  

I realize that my last post was sometime in February, and here it is late July.  So I have some major catching up to do.  In the span of the last six months of my life, I have: 

1.  moved.  again.  (down the street, to a house we adore and where we will live forever and ever, amen.) 
2.  finished my CPE residency 
3. discerned a call to Holy Orders
4.  applied, visited, and debated about seminaries
5. finally decided to attend one of them
6. struggled to find the money to pay for it
7. saw my sister graduate from college
8. enjoyed a kick-ass organ recital by my dear husband, after which we threw an equally kick-ass reception with friends from all over
9. celebrated my first nephew's first birthday
10.  mourned the departure of dear friends Molly and John from our area, which leaves me feeling isolated and lonely for familiar faces, especially this summer. 
11. took a vacation to Antigua with Mark, where I happily gained several pounds and read many trashy books. 

Whew!  I have been busy.  

This LiveJournal account has really served me well over the last four years, and seen me through a lot of life changes. I journaled here when I was in Div school at Duke, when I was first engaged, first married, first employed. I hope I'll pick it back up.  I gotta be honest, though - journaling has become like work to me.  It's a real struggle to find something worth writing and putting out there.  So I'm going to try really hard, since this is such a nifty way to keep people updated about my life these days.  And especially because of this new upcoming phase - going back to school.  

I have mixed feelings about doing this, but it's a necessary part of my new ordination process.  For those interested in the technicals, as clergy from another denomination, I need to complete an Anglican studies certificate at an Episcopal seminary.  The program is just one year (nine months, really), and I'll be taking classes on polity, theology, liturgy and history.  Halfway through the year, I'll take the General Ordination Exams, and if I pass, I'll be ordained.  The priesthood ordination will probably take place about a year from now.  

Oh, and Mark is staying home and keeping his job.  I'll have an apartment in Sewanee and come home every other weekend.  That's probably the worst part of all of it, not having my anchor close by.  

I want to spend some intentional time over the next month, before I officially move, writing and praying and thinking about this next step.  So I'm going to try to write as much as possible, hopefully every day.  I'm in desperate need of some outlets for a lot of anxieties and worries about this decision, as well as a place to let out my weepily thankful moments for the amazing statements of grace that my church, my diocese, my husband and family have offered me.  

I could not be more humbled by this process, and I mean that word in the most stark and demoralizing way possible.  I need to sort out some anger, and some frustration.  I need to take stock of where I am, and how far I've come.  I need to say thank you, and look for the helpers.  If you're willing to read and comment on what proves to be a messy process, I'd be glad to have you along.  

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Date:2009-02-04 10:45
Subject:This morning, I am hungry

I didn't eat breakfast this morning, so I am dreaming of my favorite noodle salad that's sitting in my fridge at home.  I make this whenever Mark's out of town (or even when he's in town) - it's so healthy and fresh and good.  There are a million recipies out there for something like this, but this is the A-G method.  I think I've finally tweaked the recipie to the point of perfection.  Maybe.

Thai Cold Peanut Noodle Salad
(Makes 4-6 servings)

2 bunches udon or soba noodles, cooked and rinsed with cold water
1/4 a Savoy cabbage, shredded in small strips
1 carrot, shredded
I green onion, sliced thinly on the diagonal
1 cup sugar snap peas, boiled with the noodles and rinsed with cold water

3 Tbs. smooth peanut butter
2 Tbs. soy sauce
pinch of red pepper flakes or a splash of sweet chili sauce
2 tsp of Naturally Fresh ginger salad dressing (or, a 1/2 tsp ground ginger and a teaspoon of rice vinegar)
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs. dark sesame oil
3 Tbs. hot water (or more if needed)

Combine noodles and raw vegetables in a big bowl.  Combine dressing with a wire whisk.  Pour dressing over salad.  Mix thoroughly.  Eat. 

You can also garnish with sesame seeds or peanuts.  Mark likes sesame seeds that have been toasted just a little bit.  I was thinking that an extra splash or two of lime juice would be good in the dressing, too. 




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Date:2009-01-04 13:46
Subject:2008 Year-In Review

What did you do in 2008 that you've never done before?
Joined the Episcopal church.  Adopted two cats. 

Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don't remember any from last year... I think this year's are to pray more, judge less, learn how to make perfect pork roast and a demi-glace and osso bucco and finally learn to make clear, brothy soups from my amazing soup cookbook...

Did anyone close to you give birth?

Did anyone close to you die?
Mark's Uncle Michael.  My friend Kelly Jo from camp. 

What countries did you visit?
None - this was an unusual year for the A-Gs, as we usually take a trip once a year to a new place. 

What would you like to have in 2009 that you didn't have in 2008?
A gym membership. 

What dates from 2008 will remain etched in your memory, and why?
Election Night - smoking a cigar on the couch and crying with half the country.  Oversleeping on Easter morning.  Quitting my job in May.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Tackling a CPE residency when I was so frightened of hospitals not too long ago.  I feel like I can experience crisis now in a way that I was never able to before. 

What was your biggest failure?
Not keeping in touch with friends from school... recognizing that some of those relationships are slowly drifting out of my life.  

Did you suffer illness or injury?
Thankfully, nothing serious - but my TMJ has gotten extremely painful.  This was the year I finally did something about it. 

What was the best thing you bought?
I started a wine cellar this year, and it's now my new favorite hobby.

Where did most of your money go? 
Rent.  Wine.  Yarn.  Gifts for family and friends.

What did you get really, really, really excited about? 
Becoming an Episcopal priest. 

What song will always remind you of 2008?
"Astair" by Matt Costa.

Compared to this time last year, are you?
a) happier, or sadder?  Um.  Definitely happier.
b) thinner, or fatter? About the same.
c) richer, or poorer? Richer, now that I'm not working for poverty wages.

What do you wish you'd done more of? 

What do you wish you'd done less of? 
Puttering around the house.

How did you spend Christmas? 
Pre-Christmas was in Irmo with my family, and we spent a couple of days laughing and catching up and dancing.
Christmas Eve was at Grandma and Grandpa's and to HC for two services.  We got to bed at about 1am.  Christmas Day I was on-call at the hospital, and Mark came to eat lunch with me.  I only had five calls that night.
Post-Christmas was with Mark's family in L.S., and we went to church at Glenn's new preaching post that Sunday. 

What was your favorite TV program? 
Current favorites are How I Met Your Mother, and 30 Rock.  Though 2008 favorites would have to include Boston Legal and Arrested Development.

What was the best book you read? 
The Brothers K.  Without a doubt the best book I've read about the ever-changing dynamics in a family and sibling relationships.

What did you want, and get? 
A beautiful dining set. 

What did you want, and not get? 
A Cooper Mini.

What was your favorite film of this year? 
I hate to admit it to Mark, but I really enjoyed the BBC Planet Earth series. 

What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? 
I turned 28 - Mark invited lots of people to our house for homemade pizza and drinks.  Molly and John and Heather and Brian stayed late talking theology and ministry.  I met Mark Mullinax. 

What kept you sane? 
Cooking with Mark at the end of a long day.  The first sip of a Tangueray gin and tonic.  The cats crawling in my lap.  Windy storms blowing through Tryon.  Trips to Asheville on Saturdays.

Who did you miss?
The circle of friends we had in Raleigh and Durham.  My Good Shepherd teenagers. Div school folks.

Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.
Never try to force a terrible job to work out just because you need the money.  Be willing to quit, even if it feels like failing. 

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Date:2008-11-04 19:14
Subject:Election Night

The talking heads are on the TV, and pretty soon we'll stay glued for glimpses of maps with blue and red states.  I am drinking an Election Night Martini - A-G style, with no olives.  Yum.  And, later, Mark and I will celebrate (or mourn) the status of our country's future with some wonderful cigars from a cute little place we found in Asheville last weekend.  The owner, in his smooth double-breasted suit, stood and talked with us for awhile, and gave us a free cigar with the four we'd picked out.  He made sure we knew that the tobacco we were smoking was GOOD for you, since it was grown with no pesticides.  Heh.  And then he talked about how he was voting for McCain, being a former Marine himself.  I was reminded of four years ago at about this time - when one of my roommates at the time waltzed in the door around midnight holding a twelve-pack box of Coors (in cans), claiming loudly she was drowning her sorrows, thank you very much, as she cracked open another one.  I was reminded of how bitterly divided the Divinity classrooms were the next day when we arrived for class, between either the smug or the somber.  I was reminded of how everyone was convinced of how RIGHT they were, blue or red.  

I don't have eloquent answers for all this division - only that I have found grace to exist in the gray areas, the places where people are willing to share their differences and honor the differences in others.  I pray that tomorrow I will wake up, and regardless of the outcome, will find those gray places again. 

Speaking of gray, haaaaaaave you met my cats? 

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Date:2008-09-26 11:30
Subject:"Back," of course, being the operative word.

Well, hello there. 

I call it the CPE Vortex.  I have been sucked in.  I am behind on everything - and not just in the sense of, like, oh my job, my job BLAH BLAH is soooo hard BLAH BLAH and I'm sooooo busy BLAH BLAH.  (Not that that argument isn't used plenty of times of this here blog.)  More like, in the sense of: I have not talked to a friend or a family member on the phone in weeks.  I sure hope my parents are still alive.  I feel like every day I am constantly coming home, drinking a glass or two of wine, and falling asleep on the couch at 8:30pm.  I live at the hospital. 

There are several wonderful things I've witnessed and seen throughout the last month, and a la Martha Stewart, here is my list of  

Good Things
1. Brewgrass in Asheville.  Read about the A-G experience on my husband's beer blog, Permspicks.  It was the first time I think I've been truly relaxed in weeks. 

2. Yarn from Sheri at the Loopy Ewe.  It's all about socks this autumn, here at Chez A-G.  I finished the On-Call Socks I'd been working on through the summer, and I'm launching into my first pair of ankle socks as we speak.  Ahh. Wool to keep the toes warm.  And speaking of,

3. The first day of fall.  The other night, after choir practice, Mark and I split a Wolaver's organic farmhouse ale and sat on the front porch for, oh, two or three hours straight.  There's something about the chill in the air that makes me very sappily nostalgic for Duke and fall break trips to New England.  It was around this time, five years ago, when Mark and I were driving to DC and first began talking about getting engaged.  It was around this time, two years ago, when some of my favoritest people in the whole world were in Durham all at once for Convocation and the World Beer festival. 

4. Kittens.  Meet Lily.  She was found by some folks from HC after a huge thunderstorm, in a tree.  We adopted her as a pet for Clair.  (Clair mostly hates her.) 


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Date:2008-07-30 19:30
Subject:I'm back, baby.

Wow.  Has it really been almost two months since I last posted?  Crap.  Well, I have no real way to update all you dear, beloved readers on the comings and goings in my life over the last eight weeks, at least not without writing a lengthy (and probably boring) treatise of sheer blabbering.  So I'm opting for the way one of my favorite bloggers updates her blog occasionally.  Let's play: Awesome, or Not Awesome?

Awesome.  New job as a CPE resident.  Holy crap.  I've learned more about ministry in the last eight weeks than over the last five years serving churches.  I really, truly love what I do.  There are days when I want to race home and uncork a nice Bordeaux and drink the entire thing while wallowing in a lukewarm bubble bath, but, the majority of the time it really is fabulous.  Minister friends, am I weird? 
(In short, if you hadn't heard this before - CPE is short for Clinical Pastoral Education, and I'm basically serving as a hospital chaplain for the next year.  I work about fifty hours a week and frequently am on-call, which means I sleep at the hospital and answer all trauma and death calls on my pager.  I also spend my mornings in seminars and small-group sessions, trying to learn as much as possible about who I am and what I bring to others when I step into a room as a ministerial presence.  I also visit hospital patients in the oncology center, and in critical care/ICU areas in the afternoons.  It is scary, thrilling, frustrating, and good all at once.) 
Not awesome.  Driving 30 minutes to work everyday.  I realize that many of you might be paying even more for gas than I am, but guys, holy hell, this sucks. Luckily, I carpool (when I can) with a church member. 

Awesome.  Babies.  Mark and I met our brand-new nephew this past weekend.  He is the first baby I have ever held that I felt like I could hold forever.  I seriously did NOT want to put him down.  Father and Mother are doing great - they seem to be naturals at this!!  I also met, for the first time, my seminary roommate's child while we were in town.  Oh my GAWD this girl is gorgeous.  I loved how directly she would look at people, especially her mom.  Wow. 

Not awesome.  The rectory's in terrible shape this summer.  We are discovering so many things wrong with our home - terrible bug problem (which, please, please, please Jebus I hoped we've solved), water pressure in the showers gone down, air duct/ventilation problem.  And, even worse, the church is not proving to be a stellar landlord.  There are any number of people who claim responsibility for facilities and upkeep - so we never know who to turn to. 

Awesome.  Mark and his dad went to see some baseball games for the next couple of days, and I am ALONE and FREE to do whatever I want.  Seasons 2 &3 of Boston Legal on DVD?  Yes please. 

Not awesome.  Got my hair cut today.  Yeah.  WAY shorter than I'd intended.  No, you can't see pictures. 

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Date:2008-06-06 19:59
Subject:Sex and the City movie review

Really, it's impossible to write your thoughts about a movie without revealing a few spoilers.  So be warned...

I really, really liked this movie.  And I am generally quite critical of popular movies - especially those with a saccarine-sweet "chick-flick" feel.  But I adore Sex and the City.  Watching this show brings back all these memories from my college days with friends and cocktails, watching these stylish and successfully women navigate the single world in New York.  The stories were all so fun, and I just wanted to be a part of this close-knit circle of friends. 

Oh, and I caught a matinee show on a Wednesday - there were about twelve people in the theater.  Every single person was a woman over the age of fifty.  It was marvelous.  I suppose a great date would be you and your awesome sister, or you, your best friend and a hot gay friend at a theater that serves alcohol, but I thoroughly enjoyed the time to myself.  I surely didn't want to bring the Husband with me.  There are few things upon which Mark absolutely refuses to do with me, and one is watch Sex and the City. 

I do have a few random things to comment on:

1.  My favorite moment in the entire movie was when Carrie and Big were fighting, and her friends pull her away from him.  As they're walking her away, he moves back toward her in a gesture of reconciliation - and Charlotte intervenes with a sharp "NO" and moves Carrie farther away from him.  You see this wildly angry look on Charlotte's face, and you realize how much she is trying to protect Carrie from any further conflict with Big.  It was such a fierce moment of love and anger on Carrie's behalf that I teared up.  I thought - I want girlfriends like that.  What an amazing moment. 

2.  What the hell was Carrie wearing on her head at the wedding?  There's this fantastic scene when the girls are in Mexico, drinking margaritas and talking about the event.  Carrie drunkenly slurs, "I did everything for him.  I even put a bird on my head for him."  Miranda is all, "What? I thought that was a feather."  And Carrie affirms, "No, oh, no, it was a bird."  Ha.

3.  The fashion did get a little ridiculous, I will admit.  I've always admired how these characters will wear the most outrageous clothes just like they're gorgeous (when the clothes are downright HIDEOUS), but come on.  It got a little too obvious that the costume director was little too smitten with flaunting some labels.  The brightly colored knee-high socks?  The huge earrings?  The over-sized flowers pinned on the dresses?  I never see regular New Yorkers dressed like this when I visit there.

4.  Joanna Gleason has a cameo as Miranda and Steve's marriage counselor.  I effin' LOVE her. 

5. The New Year's scenes and the playing of "Auld Lang Syne?"  I DEFY you to not cry. 

6.  Okay, here's the rub: the reason that I liked this show so much was its edginess.  That HBO-ishness, that raw honesty and graphic discussion of sex, the real ways the women are committed to their friendships with each other, and the jerks and good men who stepped up to love them.  But the movie loses some of that edge.  It's a little less unexpected.  You know it's a movie and it wouldn't be complete without a happy ending.  I guess I always want characters to deal with a real sense of loss that's never restored in the same way again - and it seemed like all that happened for each character was a momentary life shake-up, and then everything is restored to normal.  Happy ending.  No real growth.  No real sacrifice.  No edginess. 

Oh, but I will admit and applaud the way they embraced the concept of forgiveness as Miranda and Steve began to repair things.  I liked the counsel of:  you need to realize that everything that once happened is all over, and you can finally choose to let go of the past.  That in one simple moment, you see the other person clearly and you can choose to love one another again.  It reminded me of the note taped up in my friend Ashley's dorm room in seminary: "Love is a choice." 

Good movie.  I would see it again.  Preferably with a martini in my hand next time. 

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Date:2008-06-02 14:29
Subject:Catching up

I am way, way overdue for a posting, mostly because things have careened back and forth between insanely busy and slow, slow, slow.  Where the hell did May go?

First, Mark and I had a fabulous trip to Asheville.  We both needed a break from life at home, and Asheville is just far enough away that we were able to get some space and time to ourselves.  Gorgeous weather, good food, lots of time to read books and talk and take walks through the mountains.  It was such a gift.

As our anniversary trip was wrapping up, we stopped at the airport and picked up Jenn for a family visit.  We were soon joined in Tryon by Glenn and Cindy, Brian and Beth, and many others who shared in a celebration of B&B's soon-to-come family addition!  It was a great gathering and time to see each other before the baby is born this summer.  While Jenn was in town - Mark and I took her to Hendersonville to see the new Indiana Jones movie.  (Ugh, I said, but Mark and Jennifer were a bit more gracious in their criticism.  See Mark's blog for a full review - he really makes some good points about the movie.) 

Let's see, let's see... then I spent a good deal of last week bumming around.  I've been reading, I've been knitting, I've been tidying the house while my employed spouse is away.  I am reclaiming some breathing space post-job.  And developing new fears about the upcoming new job.  But that's a whole 'nother post in itself. 

Last weekend we drove up to Virginia to see Tasi and Kristen for a couple of days, stopping in Durham to pick up Tim.  It was likewise a good time together, a fun gathering, and some important decompressing in light of a big event.  Opposite the baby shower, though: we had a memorial service for Caleb.  It was a good service, a little music, lots of story-telling about Caleb, lots of tears and emotions.  Afterward, we had the 4th Annual Beer Festivus at their house, tasting about seventeen brews over the course of the rest of the day.  We certainly had fun - it was just a different kind of fun from the previous weekend. 

Now I'm back to bumming around at home, making plans about how to spend our economic stimulus money and washing clothes and playing on the Internets.  And reading, reading, reading. 

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Date:2008-05-21 09:50
Subject:In honor of the man I married

Today, Mark and I have been married for three years.  In honor of him, I present some fun facts about him that I've learned over the last three years.  (Now, posted on the Internets for all the world to see!)

Mark is extremely kind and generous, and hates being critical of people.  Our friend Craig calls him "a gentle soul." 

Mark bakes.  A lot.  He takes it very seriously... and recipes seem to be a hit or a miss.  He's working on sourdough, but makes a good white loaf, pita bread, and Indian roti.

In seminary, Mark took several Hebrew classes and did quite well.  (I, however, avoided all those crazy languages like the plague.) He is really good at memorizing characters, pronunciation, meaning... he's also quite good at subjects like history - remembering dates and importance and prominent figures suits him.  I am the opposite of this. 

Mark is the proud brewmaster of the St. Cecilia Brewery of Tryon, NC.  (In our basement.)  My favorite beer he's made so far is an IPA.  All of his brews are named after his favorite composers.  (NERD ALERT.)

Mark smokes a pipe on occasion, and lately, his drink of choice is an Old Fashioned.  (Other than beer, of course.) 

On Sunday mornings, Mark wears a Canterbury cross that I brought him back from England in 2006. 

When we were at Duke, and for a couple of years after, Mark played the lunchtime demo hour on the organs in Duke chapel.  Sometimes I would go with him and turn pages. 

Mark is very well traveled, and seems to adapt pretty quickly when he's in a foreign country.  He lived in Latin America for several years growing up. 

One of Mark's heroes is Dr. Indiana Jones.  The kick-ass adventurer SLASH nerdy anthropology professor. 

Mark cares a lot about good food and good stewardship of the land (a la Wendell Berry) and yet will still eat spicy chicken biscuits from Bojangles.

Mark was a part of a barbershop quartet in seminary called "the Sons of the Prophets."  This is par for the course with Mark - he has participated in musical groups like this for decades. 

My favorite date with Mark was on our honeymoon.  We ate a huge seafood meal at a brewery (Sea Dog brewery in Maine), and then played pool.  Mark is always a fantastic date.

Mark's nickname is "Big Perm."  (From the drug-dealer character in the movie Friday.)  I thought this was a joke until I hung out with his college pals - who still, to this day, refer to him as Perm. 

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Date:2008-05-16 10:27
Subject:In honor of my last day of work, something lighthearted.

 Today is my last day of work at this *BLESSED* job!  Hooray!!!  I feel like a burden is slowly being lifted from my shoulders, one stone at a time.  (I do have to make it to five o'clock, after all.)  In honor of this glorious day, I am copy-catting one of my favorite blogs, Messing with Texas, and am posting 


- Every time I fly on an airplane, I always order plain Bloody Mary mix as my beverage, sans alcohol.  I could drink spicy tomato juice every day. 

- Every single pair of sunglasses I use are random pairs that get left in our car.  Half the time, I look ridiculous because this collection of sunglasses covers a wide range of hideous styles.  Sometimes Mark gets free sunglasses from the company he orders his contact lens from, and I wear those.  Right now, I am using a pair of sunglasses that one of my teenagers from my church back in Raleigh left in our car after a beach retreat.  They are slightly too small for my big head, and have rhinestones on the sides. 

- Right now, I am knitting something called a "soaker" for a baby shower gift.  It's sort of like a little knitted pair of underwear briefs, meant to cover a cloth diaper.  I think "soaker" is a disgusting name for this handmade gift, but I guess it makes sense.  

- Over the course of the next month, while I am not working, we are traveling to Asheville, Virginia, and Folly Beach.  

- Our cat Clair meets me at the door nearly every day when I come home from work, like a puppy.  She also follows me around from room to room, and comes when I call her.  

- I am currently reading The Brothers K - because my friends Melissa, Amy, and Brooke all read it awhile ago and said it was good.  Thinking of these women reminds me that baseball season is underway, and I miss going to the Durham Bulls games with them over the summer.  I bought this book in a used bookstrore for a quarter. 

- Next Wednesday is my wedding anniversary.  We are not planning on getting each other gifts, but will eat and drink quite well.  At the end of the day, that's all I really want. 

- I do not blowdry my hair in the morning except on Sundays.  I also rarely wear makeup, except lipstick and moisturizer.  I have a hard time with mascara.  But I do enjoy wearing makeup - just hate going to the trouble. 

- I am a kickass pool player.  I once beat our friend Justin and his brother when we were visiting him in Boston.  The game was won after I ran the entire table.  

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