Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Christmas Card. . . sort of?

I hope this finds you fully engaged in Christmas week. It seems like it will never come and then BOOM it's here and ZOOM it's gone. A delightful  number of cards have found their way to my mailbox over the last couple of weeks and I want to thank all of you who made the time to send cards. It is a joy to see your family pictures and read about your year just ending. Please know that I cherish each of you, even if you didn't receive a card this year. It is lack of time and organization that caused that - there is no lack of loveIt takes effort to keep relationships alive - I am so thankful for the many friends and lovely family with whom God has blessed me. 

It's been a big year for me - a full year 1100 Miles North after thirty years in the Heart of Texas. This is my second Christmas here and I am basking in the settled-ness of my life compared to last year. It's been a year of learning, making mistakes, special celebrations, trying new things, and intriguing brushes with the past.

This second Christmas season affirms some key things I have long believed:
  • He came down that we might have LOVE!
  • You will find people of good-will everywhere.
  • If it's going to be cold, there should be snow!
  • Minnesota Public Radio leaves all other radio in the dust.
  • The more children one has in her life, the better life is.
  • You won't die from homesickness. And you'll never become immune to it either.
  • I-35 runs north more than south (thanks Mom and everyone else who has traveled in this direction.)

Looking ahead to the new year, I am energized by many plans and possibilities. I am looking forward to deepening relationships here, having another year enjoying geographically closer family, and relishing time with old friends. I'll be traveling east to Rochester, Madison, South Bend, Detroit and Providence, west to South Dakota, and south to Arkansas and Texas to various events with friends and family. In between I hope to spend more time with a pen in my hand, riding my new bike, welcoming visitors, and stamping again. I've joined a new group forming in my synod and that should prove to be very rewarding!

I wish each of you a Blessed Christmas and Joy-filled 2015 and hope with all my heart that our paths will cross and there will be time for a cup of coffee and a long chat when they do!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Blessed are the uncomfortable. . .

It's been a bumpy kind of ride lately - lots of things bumping into each other - ideas and events bouncing off each other like logs traveling downstream to the mill,

Shortly after I wrote my last post, a member of one of my on-line professional groups posted a rant to our network Facebook page. I can't find the original post but what stuck out to me was along the lines of "I am so sick and tired of people referring to their STUFF as blessings; as if God gave us more STUFF because we are so special. Jesus said blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek, blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. . ."  It hit me right between the eyes, just as Thanksgiving approached and I was counting my blessings at the same time I bemoaned my inadequate holiday savings .

Then the Grand Jury delcined to indict the policeman in Ferguson and protests quickly escalated into riots. I didn't, and still don't know what to think or say or do about the huge and overwhelming issue of racism in my country, but I felt as if I should say SOMETHING. Dr. King's words haunt me: "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy." And equally disturbing are these words from Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." I am not in any way condemning the decision made; I am just deeply troubled that racial divides remain so deep 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act.

Then, fortuitously, I bumped into this blessing of unknown origin but attributed to St. Francis:
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain to joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world. so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
And the blessing of God, who creates, Redeems, and Sanctifies, be upon you and all you love and pray for this day, and for evermore. Amen.
So, as Thanksgiving weekend ends, and I bid my happy and contented holiday feelings farewell and find myself tempted by the drama of self-pity as the family scatters again, I will instead give thanks for my discomfort, anger, sadness and foolish dreams. These are true blessings, and eventually I will know how to channel them. Onward through the fog - as they say 1100 Miles South!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Mulleygrubs (aka Mulligrubs)

I decided a while back to try to take this whole writing thing a little more seriously and learn how to do it a little bit better. So I pinned a lot of articles to a Pinterest board for eventual reading, and joined a couple of on-line writers' groups to help improve my writing. I'm pretty sure that all this reading hasn't improved my writing one bit, but it has brought me immense pleasure reading other people's thoughts, and in turn stimulated some new thoughts of my own. All of which is a context for what is about to follow - a post written in response to an irresistable prompt. . .

The Cure
Lying around all day
with some strange new deep blue
weekend funk, I'm not really asleep
when my sister calls
to say she's just hung up
from talking with Aunt Bertha
who is 89 and ill but managing
to take care of Uncle Frank
who is completely bed ridden.
Aunt Bert says
it's snowing there in Arkansas,
on Catfish Lane, and she hasn't been
able to walk out to their mailbox.
She's been suffering
from a bad case of the mulleygrubs.
The cure for the mulleygrubs,
she tells my sister,
is to get up and bake a cake.
If that doesn't do it, put on a red dress.
--Ginger Andrews (from Hurricane Sisters)
I have never heard of the mulleygrubs but a quick google search turns up three identical definitions for "mulligrubs" along with pictures of a band and a preschool that call themselves Mulligrubs. None of which was needed because I had already correctly inferred that the mulligrubs were "the blues."

I will confess that I have been a little blue with the early onset of ice, snow, and bone-chilling cold.  I am just not quite ready for winter, or the holidays, or the pressure I put on myself at the holidays.

I've only had my Fall wreath done for a few weeks! I want my seasons to come in neatly ordered three-month intervals, not the six-two-two-two of extreme north and south. While I'm whining and wishing, I would like my holidays spread out a little more: I need more than 30 days between Halloween and Thanksgiving and between Thanksgiving and Christmas. And since I'm rearranging the calendar, I would also like to move all the family birthdays to less populated months (except Mom's - she OWNS September!)

So to the prompt: What is my cure for the mulleygrubs? I do think that Aunt Bert is on the right track; when the mulligrubs arrive, bake a cake and if necessary, don a red dress. I have been baking (and eating) lots of banana bread. It's quick, easy, delicious and requires that I get off the couch at least three times in 90 minutes. Since wearing red tends to be a wardrobe staple for me, I have been sporting my gold and purple sequined Pashmina scarf under my purple car coat. It makes me feel exotic and warm.

I have also found a few other pursuits to keep the mulligrubs away:

  • Reading: I finished reading The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin yesterday. Not always escapist, and in some places very sad, it was an engaging book that sent me searching for more information on the subjects (Ann and Charles Lindbergh) and gave me lots of room to consider the whole idea of a "fictionalized biography." 
  • Silly TV: For the mulligrubs you need a special TV formula, one that's centered on the absurd.  My current absurd television watching is centered on Raising Hope. It's definitely low-brow: I love it. I love the characters, its goofy premise, the hilarious parental flashbacks, the happy daycare provider, and Cloris Leachman's unpredictable Maw-maw.
  • Crafting: I'm playing with wreaths these days instead of stamping. My sewing machine seems to be humming a siren song from it's cabinet in the corner and I kind of want to try something new. 
  • Lexulous/CandyCrush/Websudoku: and who am I kidding? Jungle Mahjong, various forms of Solitaire, BubbleSpin and Christmas Crunch as well. (Not sure this is good for the mulligrubs - it should actually probably be avoided when mulligrubbing.)
  • Showtunes: It's difficult to stay down while singing along with Spoonful of Sugar, Hello Dolly, Matchmaker, Matchmaker or even Climb Every Mountain.
  • Crockpot cooking: I have come to love my crockpot with a passion. And any day now I am going to break out the bread machine. I should probably set up a Pinterest board for the bread machine . . . then I could probably have company for dinner!

So, in a nutshell, I think the cure is to do something, anything, when the mulligrubs threaten. Doing something distracts me and helps me move past the can't-get-going burden of the mulligrubs. The list looks pretty much as it would have back in Texas, with one glaring ommision: swimming. Swimming in November is just not an option in November when one is 1100 Miles North.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Regret and Rejoice

As I shared my plans for the next few months with a group of new friends here in Blooming Prairie, one of them asked me if I ever regretted coming here. As I pondered the most diplomatic way to respond, the phrase "regret and rejoice" came to mind and I said "I regret and rejoice in that decision every single day." And I do! The scale seems perfectly balanced.

Most days there is some inconvenience that makes me wish I were back in Austin (or at least living in a city):
  • The local grocery store is out of some kind of fresh produce
  • I can never go anywhere without running into someone I know
  • I want BRUNCH on a Sunday and the only local choices are Subway and Dairy Queen (which don't change their menus on Sundays)
  • I haven't found Tex-Mex food that's up to my standards closer than the south suburbs of Minneapolis
  • People are too modest to volunteer for stuff - they wait to be asked (and I don't always know who to ask)
Likewise, there isn't a day I don't rejoice in my new life because:
  • People are so helpful! If my car gets stuck I will have all the help I need to push it out!
  • There's a huge sense of community - when they cheer on the Blossoms they are cheering for kids they actually know.
  • People work hard to preserve each other's dignity - they don't gossip, but they will privately share information that might contribute to my understanding (this one had a tough home life growing up, that one lost their job two years ago and is still trying to recover financially)
  • The members of the community are entirely accountable - if they say they will do it, nothing will prevent it from getting done. They find their own subs, step up for each other, and just make it happen.
  • I get to see my church kids in their context - riding their bikes past my house, playing at the park, waiting for the bus, and almost every one of them will wave when I go by!
The cost benefit analysis is endless and probably, in the end, pointless. I am here and there are things I treasure, and things that frustrate, which is exactly how I felt in Austin. And the people of both places always tip the balance to an overall good feeling.

And for those of you who read this for a taste of my small town life:

The Awesome Blossoms (coached by people from my church) are playing in the semi-finals for the state 1A Title in football tonight - against Minneapolis North. It is characteristic of this community that after seeing this video the kids formed the conclusion that even if they lose, this will have been a great game.

And, also characteristic of a small community, tonight's performance of South Pacific had to be cancelled because of tonight's game. Not because of audience drain, but because so many football players were part of the show, including the quarterback - who has an important role in the show.

After Tuesday's elections, our precinct was the last to report its results because there were 34 write-in votes in local races. I need to explore whether there's ever been a successful write-in campaign here - I'm guessing there has.

Anything is possible - I'm 1100 miles north!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Anniversary!

I have been trying to think of something profound to say as I celebrate the completion of a full year in Blooming Prairie. While I don't think I have anything profound to say, I am happy to spend a little time reflecting on the year past, and wondering a little bit about the future.

It has been quite a journey. Just for fun, here's the year in numbers:
  1. One new home. I am still loving my little apartment here - it's funky and cozy and it just got a new coat of paint so it's looking kind of spiffy outside.
  2. Two daughters much closer and sharing the same seasons.
  3. Three visits from my mom! (Although I was only the main draw in one of those visits, I still got to see her, and since I have been to visit her twice, I have seen her five times in one year!)
  4. Four different visiting individuals or groups from Texas - thank you so much! You can't imagine how much more it feels like home now that my friends have been here.
  5. Five books with  my new book club. 
  6. Six months of parking in the garage.
  7. Seven visits with my sister (I think. . . including one lunch intersection on a road trip.)
  8. Eight Sunday School classrooms prepped, staffed, and supported.
  9. Nine new crock pot recipes worthy of repeating.
  10. Ten kids who get get excited when they see me. . .
Some colorful ways to look at the year:



Fall - everything I'd hoped for - cool, leaves changing, apple crisp, pumpkins, small town Halloween, Reformation/Confirmation, soup, football with sweatshirts and hot chocolate. . .







Winter - everything I dreaded and more. Cold. Brutal. Harsh. Feet trapped in socks and shoes all day, every day. But also hushed, clean, sparkly, and beautiful. Baking and cooking, Christmas as it always is in my imagination. . .




Spring - filled with blossoming trees, crocus poking up through the snow, the days growing perceptibly longer. Shedding coats, jackets, sweaters and socks. And green, green grass, soft and begging for bare feet. . .



Summer - filled with festivals, food on a stick, parades, music, and picnics. The length of the days is incredible, sun rising before 6am and sunset not arriving until nearly 9pm. And sunshine nearly every day. . .



It's been a monumental change. Some days I have feared I was too old. Some days I have wondered what possessed me. But most days I have marveled at God's abiding presence, and the general goodness of people everywhere and been thankful to have landed so well. 

For those of you who have traveled through this year with me - I am grateful for your friendship and your prayers. To Janis who inspired me to look for things to love in my new place in the world - a million thanks. To my 36 new facebook friends from Blooming Prairie - I'm so glad we met!

So I'll close out this year with some words from Joni Mitchell:

And the seasons they go round and round,
And the painted ponies go up and down,
We're captive on a carousel of time. . .
We can't return, we can only look
Behind from where we came,
And go round and round and round 
In the circle game.

Heading into another trip around the circle - forward, always forward. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Time Traveling

Well, another couple of weeks have slipped by without a post because I've been time traveling!

First stop: Luther Seminary. As most of you know, my dad was a Lutheran pastor. He studied at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN and the Luther campus is the seat of my earliest memories. At the end of June I spent a week there attending some continuing education. The campus and neighborhood had that eerie familiar/unfamiliar feeling that places get when you've been away.

Many of the people in the class came from far western North Dakota, currently the site of the next great American oil boom, and also the place where I went to first grade as my dad served his first call after seminary. Hearing about what Williston is like today and trying to integrate the descriptions of this boom town with my memories of the town we visited once a week was mind-boggling. Those conversations were little bit of time travel too!

The next stop was 1974. Pictured at the right is about one-half of the Selby (SD) High School class of 1974. It was a 40 year class reunion and hats off to organizer Ivy who pulled it all together. The weather was wet but the atmosphere warm as we wandered backwards in time and laughed at our younger selves, and then met again, almost as new friends. We are quite scattered, most of us coming from someplace else. No one's life was unmarked by experience over the past four decades:

  • We've had jobs and careers, families and travel. 
  • Most of us have kids. Many of us have grandchildren and one of us just became s a great-grandmother!
  • All of us had lost at least one parent, and some of us spouses and siblings as well. 
  • Some of us are retired, and one of us has retired and then un-retired!   

Together we remembered three who didn't live to see this reunion. Most of us had someone to visit in the nursing home (where, by the way, I had my first real job) and a surprising number of us no longer had family in town. Our high school has been demolished and replaced with a new, single-story building and classmate Kim, who recently came out of retirement to teach math there, gave us a tour that started at the kindergarten door. I heard many stories new to me since I didn't arrive until 7th grade.

Sunday morning I worshiped and was warmly welcomed at the church where I was confirmed. I was blessed to stay with my mom's good friend Vi (and my dad's former secretary) and wrap up my weekend with a buffet lunch at the Berens Cafe on Main. All in all a great weekend - except I forgot to drag Main with Deb & MariLynn!

I traveled home to Blooming Prairie for a few days of work before making the biggest time leap of all: back in time to a Fourth of July celebration of yesteryear! I've been hearing stories about Blooming Prairie's annual celebration yet I really wasn't sure what to expect. Our lovely city park was completely filled with vendors, games, a stage, and lots of people beginning Thursday night. A street dance for the adults and a teen dance at the Servicemen's Club rounded out the local celebration on the third. Friday, the Fourth, was all about the parade. I joined Pastor Heidi and her family on Main for the
spectacle. We were well down the parade route so it took some time for it to arrive but once it started it went on and on:

  • Marching bands, antique cars and tractors, 
  • Mayor and first lady of Blooming Prairie (to the right) who are my friends H & Jean, 
  • Stix of Fury, the local drum and flag team, 
  • Shriners from most of the nearby towns came in clown make-up doing great tricks on motorcycles or driving tiny cars, and 
  • Mower County Sheriff's Department horse deputies were amazing.
  • Princesses in flowing gowns from every area festival and pageant were pulled through town on floats.
  • Most local businesses were represented with a float or an interesting vehicle and everyone threw candy to the kids. Except the dairy princesses - they threw cheese sticks!
I had a ball and at the parade and cookout afterward. Shortly before 10pm I wandered over to my friend Kari's front yard for the closest view of fireworks I've ever had - it was fabulous. I had a star-spangled 4th, reminiscent of my favorite childhood movie Pollyanna, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience!

Zig-zagging through time and memory this month, and realizing the gifts of both, it's been interesting to reflect that most of these trips wouldn't have happened if I weren't 1100 Miles North.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Putting things off. . .

So I bit the proverbial bullet this week and went to the dentist. Some of you know that I've been putting this off for a long time . . .

Blooming Prairie may be small but we have first rate dentists. They used equipment so state-of-the-art that I had never even seen some of it before!

So I'm smiling because a) I finally started something I've been putting off for a long time and because b) I got my chipped front tooth repaired.

Some people in my circles would call this procrastination. And they would probably be right except every time I start to get cured of my procrastination it pays off again. . .

A couple of weeks ago my cousin scored a second-hand window air conditioner for my apartment.  It was raining when we got it here so we stowed it in the garage. On Friday, the warmest day we've had so far this year, I was kicking myself for putting off getting it installed.

Then there came a knock at my door. It was my landlady and she came bearing a gift: a brand new, energy efficient combination de-humidifier and air-conditioner. And she had reinforcements who got the whole unit installed in about the amount of time it took me to find and use a screwdriver to open the remote control and install the batteries.

So, dear reader, what do you put off? Or, if you are one of those git-r-done types, how do you put off the urge to put it off? Do you think it is habit? Temperament? Attitude? Fear?

Life is funny. . . As I wrote git-r-done I wasn't sure of the "proper spelling" so I googled it. (Google can be a procrastinator's very best friend!) Guess what? Comedian "Larry the Cable Guy" has a foundation called, appropriately enough, "Git-R-Done" which raises and contributes money to children's charities. Now, I'm sometimes really put off by ol' Larry's humor, but turns out we both have a soft spot for kids and hail from the Midwest. Who knew?

OK, I've put off my other reading and writing tasks for this evening so I need to stop meandering and say goodbye for now from 1100 Miles North. . . but I'll write again when I get around to it!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Tortilla is Mexican Lefse

I couldn't believe what I was seeing! My worlds collided in the grocery store this week; I may never see this again, as long as I live, but it was a memorable moment. Lefse and tortillas sharing space in the cooler! If I had a dollar for everytime I explained lefse to someone in Texas by saying "Lefse is like a Norwegian tortilla. It's made from potatoes and rolled much thinner" I would be RICH. Now I find myself explaining about tor-tea-ahs (not tor-till-as) that they are Mexican, kind of like lefse but made from flour or corn.

It's mid-June and summer has not really begun yet. The corn is up and will likely be knee-high by the Fourth (of July) which is a good thing. Sweet corn from points south is starting to show up in the store but I'm holding out for local. This is, after all, where the Green Giant gets his corn. Just up the road in fact! The days are sunny and cool and the nights are perfect for campfires. I've been enjoying a weekly campfire worship on Wednesday nights at church, plus an occasional lazy evening around the fire ring with my neighbors, in my very own back yard. The sun stays up late (official sunset tonight is 8:53 pm) so we don't wait for dark to start a fire. Here are a few pictures from around 7pm last Wednesday:


The door you can see in the upper left side will take you into the hallway where you'll find my office. As these helpful guys built the fire, we were having VBS in classrooms up and down the hall. Parents and children have three 20-minute faith experiences together in the 6-7pm hour while the fire is being built in preparation for our campfire worship. So far it's been fun, and well-attended.




Our musicians are getting tuned up and ready to go. It's a very intergenerational evening - so far our youngest attendee has been around four months old, and our oldest (who drives himself and arrives in a sporty, red, brand-new Cadillac) is 95. The worship service is built around the FAITH5 exercises for families: Share, Read, Talk, Pray, and Bless. It's fun for all ages. 


And then, as singing and blessing wrap up our worship experience, and the sun begins to dip closer to the horizon, one last favorite summer experience remains:



In between these wonderful Wednesdays, I'm fitting in a lot of continuing education: a half-day last week, a full-day next week, and a four-day class at Luther the last week of June. I'm spending a lot of time reading ahead for the class at Luther. In addition to re-reading Almost Christian by Kenda Creasey Dean, I'm also diving into a book by Sharon Daloz Parks called Big Questions Worthy Dreams which is focused on mentoring young adults. The other two books are on Romans and are written by Terry Fretheim who will teach that section of the class. This has to be one of the biggest pluses of my move north - the density of Lutherans here allows for a lot more opportunities to refine my work skills and recharge my batteries.

I still get homesick for Texas - just seeing tortillas at the store make me long for Chuy's and Torchy's and all of you who made those meals so festive but at least my life is filled with lefse and Lutherans - these are also my people. I don't believe I'll ever stop being partly Texan, but in the meantime, I'm eating both tortillas and lefse 1100 miles north.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Excuses, excuses

Seven weeks without a post. . . time to get back to my keyboard. This last stretch has been full to overflowing nearly every week - and most of it has been about family:

  • Oliver, the first member of the next generation of my family, arrived just after Easter. I am not a grandmother yet, but my sister is, (and I have envy issues.)
  • My mom, now a great-grandmother, arrived about 10 days later to officially welcome the sweet young man. We spent a few days together and then on Mother's Day we left right after church to drive out to South Dakota and met him in person. She stayed on, and I came home on Monday to work.
  • My sister Laurie brought her back at the end of the week and stayed over briefly before returning to her growing flock.
  • Mom left for home on Tuesday, and I returned from the airport to visit with Clyde and Joyce, part of my Austin/TLLC "family". It was fun to catch up a bit and hear about their planned summer adventures.
  • On Wednesday I hopped a plane Washington, DC where Gracie is clerking for a law firm this summer. She didn't start until the day after Memorial Day so we had a couple of fun days playing tourist. The Millses were great hosts and I had a wonderful time. 
  • Came home on Memorial Day in time to hang out with my wonderful cousin Jane who was kind enough to pick me up from the airport and indulge me with a trip to IKEA for towel racks. (I am still getting settled. . .)
  • Jane came to Blooming Prairie on Wednesday evening so we could make a surprise Koi delivery (long, convoluted, fun but irrelevant story.)
  • Friday night Emily and Paul made an overnight stop on their way home from a camping trip to Yellowstone. It was brief, but oh so wonderful!
  • So, those are my excuses for my long hiatus. I'll try to get back on some kind of schedule and stick with this for the full year I intended when I started.
Yesterday I attended the Blooming Prairie High School graduation and was amazed to realize that I recognized three of the four people handing out diplomas, ten of the graduates, many faces in the crowd, and probably one-third of the students in the band and the choir. I am not as much of an outsider as I sometimes think I am!

I also jumped aboard the 100 Days of Happiness project yesterday. I am tweeting @jklock228 #100happydays if you care to follow. I'm sure a substantial portion of those pictures will also show up in my blogs so if you aren't on Twitter, don't worry. This just seemed like a fun way to learn to use my camera and my Twitter accounts better - Lord knows there are plenty of things to be happy about!

One last note - the snow is gone. In fact I bought a fan on Friday because it was so warm and humid. The joke is once again on me. Saturday night brought severe thunderstorms and we now are going to have about 5 days of rain and cool temps. . .   

As I pass the one year anniversary of the personal earthquake which sent me here, I can only marvel at how God has blessed what seemed to be a devastating event. Even as I continue to miss my Austin "family",  my new/old family connections abound, 1100 Miles North.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Growing Edge

I enjoyed two accidental discoveries this week. The first was Tiger Lilies coming up outside my bedroom window. My landlady had mentioned them to me when I moved in, but of course it was fall and they were pretty sorry looking. I didn't remember then how powerfully the signs of life impact a person after the winter is done. Walking in from the garage and spotting these on one of the first warm days this spring made my heart sing.

The second delightful discovery was a quote from a 20th century theologian whose wisdom I had not visited in a long time. Hello, Howard Thurman. You are brilliant as always!
"Look well to the growing edge. All around us worlds are dying and new worlds are being born; all around us life is dying and life is being born. The fruit ripens on the tree, the roots are silently at work in the darkness of the earth against a time when there shall be new lives, fresh blossoms, green fruit. Such is the growing edge! It is the extra breath from the exhausted lung, the one more thing to try when all else has failed, the upward reach of life when weariness closes in upon all endeavor. This is the basis of hope in moments of despair, the incentive to carry on when times are out of joint and men have lost their reason, the source of confidence when worlds crash and dreams whiten into ash. The birth of a child — life's most dramatic answer to death — this is the growing edge incarnate. Look well to the growing edge!" —Howard Thurman
Some days I feel as though I have been at the growing edge for the past 16 months. Hope and expectation have sustained me; the certainty that life is a circle, not a straight line, has kept me moving forward into the unknown. And now, as spring approaches and new life pushes up from the recently frozen dirt, I know that I was RIGHT, not just a cock-eyed optimist.  Thanks be to God!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Embedded

I went galivanting last weekend so didn't get around to blogging. I attended a shower for my niece Liesbeth. One of the best parts of being up here is being able to spend more time with various family members. It was so much fun. I felt like I already knew some of her friends from watching them interact on Facebook, but it was great to meet them, and some of my sister's friends, as well as cathcing up with members of her extended family who I have seen many times over their 30+ years of marriage. It was a lot of fun, and a road trip with my cousin Jane too.

Here's my big accomplishment from the weekend: I ran into people from Blooming Prairing in South Dakota and a) recognized them, and b) could summon up their names!!!  I have been so overwhelmed learning faces and names since I got here that this is a major milestone for me. I think it means the learning curve has finally started to level off.

Tuesday I had a thoroughly enjoyed visit from Beth and Niel Wiegand and was able to demonstrate to them that, unlike their previous visit, I can actually find my way around without having to start from either home or the church. It was great to catch up with them. I haven't been going to Rochester much since it got so cold. I guess the hints of spring are getting us all moving a bit more.

Yesterday I had my first stamp camp in Blooming Prairie. There will be an evening repeat on Monday. Here's what we made (because no event is too minor to talk about or post pictures.)

Again, it felt good because everyone who came had been here for my open house, knew the way, and where to park. And I, although almost too late, remembered to shovel the sidewalk (we got about 4 inches of wet, slushy snow on Thursday night.)

I guess you could say I am feeling "embedded". I am starting to carry this community with me when I go places, and to be one who welcomes besides being welcomed.


Tonight I will be taking kids to Mankato State Campus Ministry for a Lock-In and next week I will be at the Synod Office in Rochester for some training. Gracie and Tony will be coming for Easter. My connections are strengthening each day. I guess I've been planted and have finally put down enough roots to grow a little bit. Or maybe it's just the promise of spring talking. Whatever it is, it's worthy of celebration!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Generation to Generation

Last week at council, for the first time, the Youth Board was represented by a youth. And he did well. More than once I wanted to jump in, to introduce, to adjust expectations, to make him more comfortable but as the meeting progressed, I realized something. He was more comfortable there than I was. Everybody already knew who he was, who his folks were, and more or less his life story.

The familiarity of community can be a two-edged sword. It can create understanding and context, or it can create labels. My greatest fear, coming here, was that this would be a labeling kind of community. A community where the class clown keeps joking until one day he blows his brains out - worn out from being a caricature of the person he really is. A community where someone grows up to run for mayor and gets defeated because 30 years ago she cost the home team the game by turning in the quarterback for smoking. Or where some well-meaning business owner won't hire someone because the kid's dad embezzled money from the co-op 20 years ago.

Blessedly, this doesn't seem to be the case here. It seems that it is more in the creating context mode. I have learned some personal history here but only what I need to do my job. Much of it I have had to ask for because I have clues, but no facts. People are reticent to share anyone else's story. They really don't even share their own stories unless you ask. That's partly ethnic: say as little as possible in as few words as possible is the creed of all good Norwegians. Still, having been in communities where gossip was the chief form of entertainment, this creating context transmission of information is welcome!

The one place where people will share stories and history freely is in talking about their homes. People know who lived in their homes before them, where they worked, where they moved to, and what architectural features are specific to which former residents. I don't know the significance of this community characteristic but it plays out in funny ways. Often people will answer, if asked where they live, "in the Baxter house" or "across the street from where so-and-so used to live". This is not helpful to newcomers, but eventually these will become familiar as well.

The boy in the first paragraph? I know his dad, his grandmothers, his sister, his step-mom, some of his cousins,and his girlfriend! (Only I didn't know she was his girlfriend. . . but I know who her best friend is because they went to a youth event together recently. . . and she lives over in the Smith's old house.) OK - truthfully, I have no idea where she lives, but it's approximately 1100 miles north of Austin, TX.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Blowing in the Wind

Spring is trying to find her way to the Prairie and that means wind. As many of you know, when I lived in Texas the times I was most homesick for the mid-west were the days when the wind howled. There is more wind up here; especially where it is flat, and especially in the spring. And thank goodness because there is a lot of melted snow to dry up. (Don't get too excited for me. There are still five foot mounds of snow outside my front windows at work and at home, and we expect a little more snow this week, but the street is dry - thanks to the snow-plows and wind.)

Full Worm Moon over Lake Superior 3/16/14
Last night was a full-moon night. This particular full moon of spring is called the Full Worm Moon because this is the month when the ground thaws and the earthworms emerge, inviting the robins to return. I can't help but wonder if the wind might sing to the robins a little bit as well.

Someone told me on Friday that she was going to hang her laundry because it was warm and windy enough to dry. I love sleeping on sheets that have been dried on the line, but I have no love for the activity of hanging clothes, nor the scratchiness of clothes and towels dried this way.

The wind blew a little romance into my life this weekend (NOT WHAT YOU'RE THINKING!) My neighbors across the hall got married in a long-awaited wedding. It was a second marriage for both,with just their family on Sunday. I got involved because I helped arrange for them to use my church, which they have visited but not joined. Their families blew into town for the weekend, and blew out again this morning, but there was so much joy. The wedding cake had FINALLY written in big letters across it. It also had an adorable Leggo topper, complete with a bride and groom, much to the delight of their YMO (yours/mine/our) children who range in age from 4-20. It was sweet and happy and I was glad to have a tiny part in all of it.

Starting next Sunday I'll help the spirit blow on our fifth graders as we start their communion instruction. This was the first group of kids I met here when they were trained as acolytes in October. I was too overwhelmed. After getting used to doing this with first graders, raising the level is a challenge but fortunately this is a well-thought out and documented (one thing that has been done in stellar fashion by this congregation) program so I can follow the wisdom of leaders past. Unless the spirit blows in a few new ideas. . .

I fussed a lot about finding someone to cut my hair and ultimately found someone right here in town. She cut it beautifully and it shakes out great when the wind whips it around. It didn't fit with my plan to go to Rochester for a haircut and lunch with Beth and Niel every month, but I guess I'll just have to make a date and go without the artificial discipline of an appointment.

The one thing I wish would blow my way is some kitchen inspiration. I am very tired of my own cooking. I've been scouring Pinterest for some new ideas but nothing seems worth the effort. Wish that meant it's a good time to go on a diet but I still get hungry and then wind up eating the same old spaghetti I made last week.  And knowing that I have nothing bigger than this to worry about these days, I am very grateful to be 1100 miles north!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Leading and Anticipating CHANGE

On Sunday, together with members of our church council and some of my co-workers, I attended a synod event that laid the groundwork for a six-year initiative on hunger. Local hunger. The guest speaker has written a book called "Finding God in a Bag of Groceries" and she made some very important points about how we deal with hungry people. There were at least 200 people there, and Zumbro Lutheran, the church in Rochester that hosted us, pretty much let us take over their entire facility. We were greeted at the door by young people dressed as fruits and vegetables who were handing out packets of seed. Upon check-in each congregation was given and EFFA bag (Enough Food For All) filled with paperwork, a copy of the book, and a can of tuna. We were then welcomed by the Bishop and Synod Staff, heard Laura Willis, the author, speak, then were generously served coffee and home-made treats, and broke into groups for discussion of what and what more our congregations could be doing.  After this hour long break-out we returned for the wrap-up which included a personal story from the bishop about why this matters to him personally, and how starting with food will uncover other issues of poverty. Then in the best camp fashion, there was an adorable skit that outlined the groups already in place to address this issue from a variety of perspectives and planted ideas for congregations to consider, and we were sent on our way with a few more opportunities to talk with the speaker, make contributions, etc.

I came away inspired to incorporate this initiative into my work over the coming months. I also realized that I had just had an opportunity to observe Leading Change at its best. I've read the books about leading change, but I've never been this close to a fully realized campaign before. This initiative is actually almost a year old. The Bishop has been talking to the clergy about it since before I arrived. The Synod staff has been "forecasting" the kick-off of this at every event I've attended so far. This event, designed for church council leaders, was held during the Minnesota Food Share March Campaign to restock the food shelves. Apparently this campaign is familiar to everyone, so the attendees were pre-disposed to hear what was being said.

I am really amazed by this: amazed that Bishop Delzer has the conviction to mount a campaign of this magnitude; amazed to see each careful step unfold; amazed at the possibilities a network of 300 churches can generate; amazed by the power of those churches to lead their whole community, not just their congregation. 

On the other end of the spectrum are the other, far less well-thought-out but no less delightful events of the weekend. On Friday I had my first stamping event in Blooming Prairie which was well-attended, and fun. Friday night I went up to church and sent off 33 kids with 4 adult volunteers for a night of fun and games at the Rochester YMCA and other venues. (I didn't go, but I met them with glasses of milk and fancy doughnuts at 6:30 Saturday morning.) Then, on Sunday morning, we had our first Parent Meet-Up. This is an idea that grew out of a conversation at the Parish Ed Board meeting - to open a space where parents could talk about faith and parent issues, and also corral children who were too young to be in Sunday School. We did some minimal publicity, and people found us! I have high hopes for next week. 

Of course the week also included Ash Wednesday services and Sunday morning worship (including a very meaningful baptism of a very tiny baby) and background awareness of spring break, SXSW, the time change, and SPRING FEVER! We have had a couple of days above freezing this week and so the messy business of melting the snow is underway. This creates some incredible ruts in the roads and some really fantastic icicles. I'm sure there will be some new snow before spring fully arrives, but the relative warmth and the smell of wet earth bring hope. . . I think that I can say that I have survived my first winter back in Minnesota!

So, one last highlight from the past week, a little song/poem from Garrison Keillor about waiting for spring in Minnesota.There's a short request for a donation and a little musical interlude for about 30 seconds before it starts. Click here to listen and enjoy. The clip unfortunately leaves off the last line of the poem which is "nothing says spring like the smell of manure." Hope you'll enjoy this little snapshot of life 1100 miles north.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Social Life

I'm finally starting to socialize in my new hometown. I've made a few stabs at it, but mostly when someone has offered to take me to something.

Two weeks ago I finally committed to join AAUW and jumped in with both feet and agreed to be on a committee. The scholarship committee gets to read and discuss the essays the student's write in their applications. I think it will be a worthwhile use of my time, will be useful to the group, and will give me some insight into the youth of the community. I hope I haven't gotten in over my head, but since I don't know anyone in town I might bring a different point of view to the deliberations. Two years from now, when current confirmation students are applying, I won't be so objective!

On Thursday, my first Blooming Praire friend Dianna took the initiative to get a book club started. I had briefly met a couple of other people, but most of them were brand new. Of course, once we started talking books we found our connections easily. I left feeling really excited about having new friends.

Last week also held two events that made me realize that I'm getting settled a bit. First, a baptism of a baby I had snuggled with! That wasn't unusual in Austin, but it was the first one here so it really warmed my heart. The second event was a funeral. I didn't know the individual who passed away, but I knew his wife, and his brother, and his daughter. Another indication that I'm starting to be part of the community.

Also, my birthday on Friday brought in a remarkable number of greetings from people everywhere. I enjoyed lunch, shopping, and a movie with my cousin Jane too! I am so grateful that God has blessed me with so many lovely people in my life!

This Friday I'm hosting a stamping open house. I have two projects planned and invited a boat load of people to come and try it out. I hope I can find at least a few people who want to get together regularly - I've done a lot of stamping since I got here, but most of it solo. Plus, I have to decide if I'm going to stay a demonstrator by mid-summer, so I really need to figure out if there's a market here. Not really sure.

Well, this is not the most elegant nor eloquent post I've ever written, but I missed last week so thought that done would be better than perfect! Lent arrives in two days, and with it, some extra obligations on my time so best to get on track right away this week.

Until next Monday - or 'til I run into you on Facebook - take care, and take a little time to socialize whether you're here with me, or 1100 Miles South!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

It's Local!

Living in a small community is a lot like sitting near a pond and dropping pebbles to watch the ripples move outward. It is possible to see the effect of events ripple across the community. It invokes a certain solemnity to important life events that can be lost in the impersonal life of a city.

Last week there was a fatal car accident at the edge of town. I first learned of it on the church's Facebook page where one of my pastors posted:
"Hearing reports of a fatal car accident in BP this morning. God who shines light in the darkness, we pray for those involved and their family or families...and thank you, God, for our local first responders who answered a difficult call to serve today. Lord, in your mercy,"
The post elicited a flurry of  Hear-our-prayers responses, and undoubtedly set many people to praying. I was one of them. The local news reported that there had been a one car accident and that there were three people in the car, and one was killed, one was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and one person was uninjured.

Later in the day I heard more details: It was a woman and a couple. . . The man had died at the scene. . . He hadn't been wearing a seatbelt. . . The woman was their daughter. . .They were from a nearby town. . . The helicopter had come from Mayo but was too late. . . The victim wasn't wearing a seatbelt because he had a colostomy bag. . .  Thursday morning I learned that one of the EMTs who responded was the woman who teaches 8th grade confirmation. She said it was a very difficult morning. And that it had been her third morning ambulance call that week.

Thursday night I went to hear a biologist speak on the prairie bio-sphere. (Coincidentally, he also teaches 8th grade confirmation!) His talk was mainly focused on the plant life of the prairie but he couldn't resist sharing some information about cowbirds. Cowbirds are those big birds you see where ever there are cattle (or bison). They follow the herd, and so never build a nest anywhere. Consequently, they lay their eggs in other bird's nests, and the babies are hatched and nurtured by other birds. The nests are carefully chosen, and the cowbird incubation period is slightly shorter than that of the other eggs in the nest, so the cowbird is almost always the first hatched and gets the best care and feeding of the nestlings.

It would seem that one more egg in the clutch wouldn't make a bit of difference - but anyone who has raised a family knows that every time you add another child, yours or someone else's, there will be ripples (and sometimes tsunamis!) The same is true for the cowbirds. For healthy species of birds it poses few problems, but for certain endangered species the presence of even one more egg can have a very negative impact so the cowbird eggs may sometimes have to be relocated again, by people, to protect the other eggs in the nest.

Small changes can have a big impact. A tiny patch of ice, an adopted egg, and confirmation teachers who are intimately involved in life and death, can spread ripples that will go on and on. Perhaps a Texan dropped into a small town in Minnesota will cause a few ripples too. What we do matters. Thanks be to God!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Winter Get-Away

This week I attended a great retreat/continuing education event at Good Earth Village, a summer camp and retreat about an hour from here. The cold was brutal, but everything else was comfy and cozy. I think I found my perfect retreat setting! I just wish I could invite you all to Minnesota to go to Good Earth Village with me. The shot on the right is the meeting space at the Log Lodge where we met and stayed. Everything was very "North Woods-y" and very, very cozy.

The workshop was about Multiple Intelligences. There were three main segments devoted to: 1) getting to understand the theory of multiple intelligences,2) learning about our individual strongest intelligences, and then 3) figuring out how to use this information in a congregational setting. Good stuff!

Since I'm blogging about this, it's probably no surprise to hear that Linguistic (Words) is my favored learning style/intelligence. Reading, writing, talking, listening . . . all my favorite ways to LEARN. Learning is really what multiple intelligences are all about.

So far researchers have identified eight separate ways to learn. These are the "intelligences": Linguistic (Words), Logic (Math/Patterns), Visual-Spatial (See/Visualize), Body-Kinesthetic (Move/Touch), Musical (Music), Interpersonal (Getting along with others), Intrapersonal (Going within), and Naturalist (Animals/Outdoors).  We all have all eight,  but each of us leads with some more than others.

We took a simple assessment where we gave each statement a score of 1-4 from Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree. I made some predictions before I took it and got one surprise from my final score.

Music rose to the top and surprised me. While I have made music for most of my life, I don't usually think of it as a way that I learn. As I thought about it I remembered something I discovered at another retreat long, long ago. My faith life has a definite sound-track. Every major milestone as I have grown in faith has a theme song. The first was Oh Who Can Make A Flower? from my very first Vacation Bible School experience (I'm told I sang it in my sleep in the camper on the family vacation that immediately followed) to the most recent background music of the Kyrie we sing here every Sunday. My kids have long teased me that unlike most people, I do actually live in a musical. It is not unusual for me to accompany daily life with a bit of song so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. I just need to remember how easily I learn things set to music and seek out more music in my life! Sadly, rhythm, which is spatial, did not rise to the top.

My roommate for this event was a Children Youth and Family person from a nearby congregation. We had previously met but I really enjoyed our time together and made plans to travel together to future CYF events and save the gas and the planet (that's where Naturalistic Intelligence shows up.) She got engaged two days before this event (Interpersonal) so we are also getting together to talk about stamping and DIY weddings. It was a very happy pairing. We also had a great room with a private bath. Check out the picture on the right.

There are nine rooms with this set up in the Log Lodge. It would be so perfect for a women's retreat. I'm mentally working on how to build interest in a retreat for the women of my congregation.

One other thing made this the retreat center of my dreams: a double-sided fireplace in the center of the upper level. We kept it roaring the whole time we were there. Welcome heat in the cold winter!  
                    
Saturday night I went to a heart-warming event at the Servicemen's Club - a gala to raise money for the local Boys & Girls Club which is a very important organization in Blooming Prairie. The Club provides a lot of child-care in the summer and after-school care all year round. It won't be quite the scale of the gala for the New Life Center that many of you attend, but it should still be an evening of fun for a very good cause.

Another familiar thing to warm my heart here in the cold north: I looked out my front window this weekend and saw that the minivan that lives across the street is FILLED with Girl Scout Cookies! It filled me with fond, and not so fond, memories, and a longing for a cookie. I'm very much looking forward to keeping cozy with a side of Thin Mints, 1100 miles north.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Wild Life

Far too quick for my camera to catch him, a jack rabbit hopped past my office window, across the street and into a neighbor's yard. He looked like Thumper from Bambi, with a huge white puff of a tail and a happy, hoppy demeanor. Watching him I remembered the funny tracks I saw in the fresh snow on my way to the garage the other day. Pretty sure those were from my resident gray squirrel, but they were very funny looking tracks and the route was very squirrel-ly: curious, circular, and ultimately disappearing, presumably because he went up.

There's a bird's nest in a small tree out in the courtyard that perfectly illustrates why birds fly south for the winter. This time of year the only birds I ever see are crows: big, black, ominous looking crows. They stand in such stark contrast to the white snow rather like black writing on a white page implies there must be something important here (which we know is not always the case!)

Sunday was Groundhog Day, and, according to Stephen Colbert, Superb Owl day. Two teams from named after wild life went head-to-head someplace cold and the birds won the day. I only watched the halftime show and the commercials so I can't really discuss the game. However, I did watch Groundhog Day, for the umpteenth time, which tickled my funny bone yet again. Here are a few comments on this movie from my weekly letter to the Sunday School teachers last Thursday.
Sunday is Groundhog Day and, I have to confess, Groundhog Day is one of my guilty pleasure movies. I watch it nearly every time it comes on and I always spot some new thing that just tickles me. For those of you who are too young or sophisticated to be familiar with this movie, the basic premise is that  weatherman Phil (played by Bill Murray), is sent to see the groundhog come out and gets stuck in a loop where he has to live the same day over and over. At first he is desperate to get out of the loop, but after a while he starts to have fun with it, knowing that he'll probably get to do it again the next day. 
Teaching Sunday School is kind of like Groundhog Day. Each week you encounter the same little tribe of kids. The incessant talker will talk incessantly. The shy one will volunteer nothing every week. The anxious mother will continue to hang around and make her kid nervous. You know what's going to happen. And so, one day, you start to have a little fun with it:  
  • You offer the incessant talker a pipe cleaner to play with for as long as he doesn't interrupt. 
  • You give the shy kid a sock puppet and let the puppet do the talking.
  • You invite the anxious mother to take all those dull pencils to the Parish Ed Office and sharpen them.
You just have to live into some things. 
I share this mainly as a glimpse into my daily life. In my new job I am charged with equipping church members to work with children, so I spend a lot of my time writing, coaching, and finding out what gifts people have, and far less actual time with kids. Some weeks I really miss being with the kiddos, and some weeks (like this one) I feel so excited to be able to help other adults experience the joy of being with them. This Sunday we had our very first closing music time with kids in second grade and younger. It was great fun (everyone sings here!) and hearing a little one loudly proclaim "And also with you!" in worship shortly thereafter made my heart sing. Small joys.

Lest you think there is no wild life in Minnesota, I would like to point out that hockey up here is called the Wild. I am delighted and amused by the fact that the best hockey player in the entire youth group is a girl who can apparently hold her own with the boys on almost any rink. And through the same window where I saw the rabbit, I sometimes see three boys, maybe 10 years old, walk by with skates around their necks and hockey sticks in their hands headed to the rink near my office.

It's been a wild adventure moving 1100 Miles North. May you have a little wild in your life this week!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Blizzard!

Two vehicles have passed my house this afternoon. One had 4-wheel drive. The other was a snowmobile. If anything else went by, it was lost from sight in the blowing snow. My photography skills and cold tolerance have made a real photo impossible, but it looks kind of like this:


Here's what the local weatherman said in his blog today:
There's no sugar coating it.  The next four to five days will be one of the most brutal stretches of winter weather many of us have ever seen.  There's two rounds of light snow.  Okay, we can handle that.  But, one of them will be a full-fledged blizzard.  Yuck.  An abrupt drop in temperatures from the low 20s to throwing a minus sign in front of that 20 by Monday morning.  Then we'll do it again Tuesday morning.  Still following what we have coming our way?  It's a lot.

First let's start about how this winter has gone so far.  There's no surprise it's one of the coldest we've seen in decades.  For Rochester, MN (the official climate station for SE Minnesota) the last time we started winter so cold was the 1983/84 season.  So far we've had 25 days reach subzero readings.  That puts us in the top ten for number of subzero days to start a season (Thru Jan 24)  In comparison, last winter had 12 for the entire season. 
Even though I was in Texas in 1983/84 I can attest to that winter also as Emily was born on the day in 1984 that Austin got SIX INCHES of snow. They even offered to let us stay an additional day in the hospital so the snow could melt.

I will share this photo of my parking lot, which I snapped upon my return from church:

If you're wondering - yes, that's a six-foot privacy fence behind those piles of snow. And the snow to the right of the big piles is the actual depth of the snow now. It' about knee-high on me.

Sunday morning I faced my first real work crisis. I had several Sunday School teachers who couldn't get into town to church because of snow, drifts, or unplowed roads. After fretting and worrying a bit, it all got sorted out, thanks to flexible and agreeable volunteers. However, this is a reality of my new job that I should probably spend some time thinking about.

All of this follows a wonderful couple of days off with my sister Laurie and my cousin Jane. It may be bleak outside, but inside there was lots of color. We made several of these fun box cards:


My WaterWings blog was added to First Lutheran's blog roll this week and I got lots of warm fuzzies from new readers at church. . . hmmm, that blog recurring references to water. This one seems to have an awful lot of warm and cold going on. I'll try to post next week with no mention of weather (but no promises when things are this dramatic!) Livin' la Frio Vida  in Minnesota!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Acquired Memories

"The business of life is the acquisition of memories." That's my nominee for the best line from this week's episode of Downton Abbey. Thank you Carson-the-Butler.  I must admit, this week's Downton experience paled after my adventure in millinery before last Sunday's episode. Watching with Texas girlfriends while wearing hand-crafted bands ala Roaring Twenties is only one of the memories I have acquired since I last wrote. Last week's trip to Texas did not happen as anticipated in last week's post:
  • It will be remembered for the most boarding passes accumulated on a single journey. Thanks to the polar vortex's visit to Minnesota I got two from Rochester to Chicago, five from Chicago to Texas, and three for the Megabus from Austin to Houston. I kept reminding myself of Louis CK's routine about air travel: Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy (if you haven't heard it, and you can tolerate a little bit of vulgarity, you can watch it here.) Even with all the delays, I got to Austin in 10 hours, had two meals, and passed 22 levels of Candy Crush Saga on my phone and read a book on my Kindle. 
  • My wonderful friends Pat and Len met me at the airport shortly after midnight, gave me shelter, and then had to deal with a dog and a skunk episode less than six hours later and other out of town visitors throughout the weekend, along with stray friends I invited over at random times. 
  • I had breakfast, and lunch, and wonderful talk time in favorite Austin restaurants with daughter Gracie and son-in-law Tony while waiting for my luggage to catch up with me.
  • My first Megabus experience - WiFi, outlets for charging up electronics, cheap seats (all three tickets added up to $25, which is less than a full fare ticket on Greyhound) and only one stop between UT and downtown Houston! I'll definitely try that again. . . and if you ever need a taxi in Houston, be sure to call Fiesta. Fantastic service!!!
  • I had a personal encounter with Shelley Gardner, founder and CEO of Stampin' Up! at the Downtown Aquarium before all the other demonstrators arrived followed by an amazing private evening at this wonderful venue. I even petted the stingrays! Then I spent two days learning about my stamping business and hanging out with friends from Illinois and made a new friend from St. Louis who shares my passions for stamping and Christian Education - what are the odds!
  • Visited my former church in Austin and was hugged enthusiastically by kids I've been watching grow up for many years, and old and new friends I've been missing. Had a chance to visit with former collegues and an unexpected encounter with someone I've known since I was a young mother. Coffee with Nick and Barb who moved me to Minnesota in September.
  • Lunch with my bookclub gal pals at Beth's, with my stamping downline at Melanie's and with my old Brown BagBible study group at Schlotzky's. . . great food, great conversation, lots of old and new memories made and discussed! Breakfast tacos at Rudy's with my accountability group of the past 13 years who I miss every single Saturday morning, and often in-between!
  • And the familiar warmth of chatting in the hot tub in the dark with Pat who has been present for pretty much every important moment of my life over the past 30 years.
So, to quote another diva, "but it's the laughter, we will remember, whenever we remember, the way we were." I really nailed that acquisition of memories thing. And I hope my memory holds up because I forgot to take a single picture while I was there . . . but here's a moment at the Aquarium that someone captured and posted to Facebook:


Definitely a week to remember! And one final memory - when it was time to return to Minnesota, I felt like I was coming home, and I treasure that feeling. I feared the trip would trigger a deep sense of loss or doubt about my decision/discernment to come here but I returned with the deep certainty that this is home now, polar vortex and all! 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Heading South. . .

This is what a bubble blown from a child's wand looks like when the temperatures reach sub-zero depths. It freezes instantly. It will shatter like glass. Still, it's really lovely to look at, if you can stand to be outdoors for a few minutes.

A Minneapolis television station highlighted this fun experiment over the Christmas holidays and I've been wanting to try it for myself. Today would be perfect! At 9AM it is a "brisk" -24 degrees outside. Since a person can quickly freeze to death in these temps I believe I'll try it another day.

I will be going out today though; I am driving to Rochester to stay with friends Beth and Niel tonight, just to make sure that nothing interferes with my escape tomorrow! I'm headed for Texas: some work and some play, some family and some friends, and a wonderful opportunity to thaw out.

Here's the ultimate measure of the goodness of the people in my new community. Every single person I told that I was going was delighted for me. Not one person expressed jealousy or mocked me for being a wimp, they just cheered me on. They willingly stepped up to do the small tasks that need doing each week, and wished me well.

Once again my gratitude is overflowing. To have people waiting to welcome me in Texas and people here in Minnesota helping me to feel good about going is a rare privilege. Grace upon grace!

So, wherever you may be on this blustery morning:

  • may you be warmed by the sun, the fire, the furnace, 
  • may you love the people around you and let them love you back,
  • may you wrap yourself in the comforter of happy memories and enjoyable pass-times, and 
  • may the warm breath of the Spirit fill you with passion for life itself. 
Hope to see many of you this week!