Sunday, June 29, 2014

5 Favorites: Books I Read in June + other great links from this week

before the book list, here's a a favorite image from our week

a high-tech, low-production day at work this week

5 favorite reads in June 

-- 1 --

21  The Anglican Way: A Guidebook by Thomas McKenzie, 2014.

Friends who've a) journeyed with us many years and b) wondered why we've made the decision to not only be confirmed in the Anglican church but also for Brian to be ordained as an Anglican priest, may I suggest this wonderful new book? I'm loving that it's comprehensive over the history of Anglicanism (i.e., what the heck is up with Henry VIII??) but also that it is accessible and current in its description of a way of worship embraced by 80 million people across the globe today.

Here's a good review:  A Review of the Anglican Way by Thomas McKenzie at Anglican Pastor

-- 2 --

22  The House on Beartown Road: A Memoir of Learning and Forgetting by Elizabeth Cohen: (Random House New York, 2003. 270 pages)

Since moving across the country in 2011 my fascination for history and analysis of my hometown has increased.  After a conversation with my mother and sister-in-law during their visit, I got onto my online library catalog and searched by all the names of the little towns I grew up in and around:  Binghamton, Endicott, Johnson City, Endwell, Broome County.  Exactly 3 titles came up and this is one of them.

Read a summary at the book's Amazon page:  

And why haven't I read it yet?  It's well written -- both poignant and funny.  And the author is one of my favorite columnists from our hometown newspaper.  While it didn't do much for my historical understanding of the place that raised me, it did remind me that I come from such a small place that I actually knew almost everyone Ms. Cohen referenced in this book.  The sweet neighbors across the street are the in-laws to my mother's college roommate's sister.  The nanny was one of my customers when I made my living from sales.  In fact, the nanny brought the delightful Ava (Ms. Cohen's daughter and a primary character in this book) to my house one day when we were getting to know each other.  

Anyway, that's not the point of the book.  Except it is -- the neighborliness of small town folk plays a major redemptive role in this story and is one of the attributes I hope to take with me no matter where I go from here.  Hopefully, Ms. Cohen has done the same.

-- 3 --

23  Bodies in Motion and At Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality by Thomas Lynch(W.W. Norton & Co., 2000. 273 pages)

Oh my, I enjoyed these essays.  I read the first of the collection with my writing group a couple of years ago.  Really, how can you put down a book that starts with this sentence:  
"So I'm over at the Hortons' with my stretcher and mini-van and my able apprentices, young Matt Sheffler, because they found old George, the cemetery sexton, dead in bed this Thursday morning in ordinary time."
Thomas Lynch is a writer (essays and poetry) but he is also an undertaker -- second generation of an Irish Catholic family in an idyllic town in Michigan.  His work caring for the dead and their grieving loved ones provides a perspective most of us do not bring to our blank pages.  Grief informs him through his daily encounters at work, but also in his daily life as a single Dad, recovering from divorce and alcohol, teenagers and a hearty, hostile cat.  

This is a book I want to own and visit again often. 

-- 4 --

24  The Best Spiritual Writing 2010 edited by Philip Zaleski(Penguin Books, 2010. 1985. 30 essays, 239 pages)

-- 5 --

25  A World Lost by Wendell Berry (Counterpoint, Washington, D.C., 1996. 151 pages)

I forgot I'd already read this book until I got a few pages in.  Still I kept re-reading -- not necessarily because it's my favorite story Mr. Berry's ever told of the Port William folk, but it's definitely my favorite character description.

Don't you just feel like you know these people? The book has so much more delicious description, but here's a small taste:
I would hang up without replying, get in to my clothes as fast as I could, and hurry through the backstreets to the apartment, where Aunt Judith would have breakfast ready. She made wonderful plum jelly and she knew I liked it; often she would have it on the table for me. Uncle Andrew called coffee "java," and when Aunt Judith asked him how he wanted his eggs, he would say, "Two lookin' atcha!" singing it out, as he did all his jazzy slang.   
To me there was something exotic about the two of them and their apartment. I had never known anybody before who lived in an apartment; the idea had a flavor of urbanity that was new and strange to me. ... We would eat breakfast and talk while the early morning brightened outside the kitchen window, and they would smoke, and Uncle Andrew would say, "Gimme one mo' cup of that java, Miss Judy-pooty."   
Aunt Judith always asked you for affection before you could give it. For that reason she always needed more affection than she got. She would drain the world of affection, and then, fearing that it had been given only because she had asked for it, she would have to ask for more. 
For my thoughts last time I read this title, go here

*Go to my Book Pile page to see my reading lists from 2014 and previous years.*


Other good words online this week

          • How to Mourn Online at FT Magazine: This is something I've thought about a lot.  "Is it really ‘strange’ to announce a tragedy on Facebook? Or do we need to celebrate this as a new facet of today’s digital world?"

          and, on the subject of mourning...
          •  How not to say the wrong thing by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman at the LA Times: "If you want to scream or cry or complain, if you want to tell someone how shocked you are or how icky you feel, or whine about how it reminds you of all the terrible things that have happened to you lately, that's fine. It's a perfectly normal response. Just do it to someone in a bigger ring. Comfort IN, dump OUT."  (via The Well )

          lastly, you've all seen this right?  #LikeAGirl


          A grace-filled weekend for us all, dear ones. 

          Oh, and Catapult* magazine published one of my -- uh, snarkier -- prose poems this week in their Words issue:  Prick and Drone

          Friday, June 20, 2014

          5 favorites: Flour Baby, mama bragging + other good online words from this week

          Happy Friday, dear friends!!  What are you savoring this weekend?

          -- 1 --

          Last week I shared 5 favorite links for great stuff to watch on TV, film or video.  This week I'm retroactively putting this on the top of the list.  Flour Baby is the short film debut by Amber Bixby, one of our favorite comics (who also happens to be dating our oldest son).  

          photo credit

          Find out what happens years later when a woman never gave up her flour baby after high school home ec class.  We were already impressed with Amber's quirky + adorable + hilarious comic skills, and now we're impressed with Voltaic Video also.  That we're impressed with Andrew's contribution to this short film probably goes without saying.

          Flour Baby from Voltaic Video on Vimeo.

          (Note: if you're thinking about watching this with your younger kids, know there's a small bit of language)

          -- 2 --

          So this week I had the fun of seeing both of my sons on television/film.  The juxtaposition of the formats says so much about the difference between these two, who manage to remain best friends.  The truth is -- even though their pursuits seem entirely different from the other -- they each could easily slip into supporting roles in the other's quest.

          Alex emailed yesterday with the subject: "If you want to see me on C-Span..."  And there he is -- sitting in the background during a legislative hearing with the Committee on Indian Affairs.  He is interning with the Department of Education this summer and living in Washington, D.C. If you are even a little bit as interested as we (his parents) are in seeing our son on television, you can see his boss, William Mendoza, give testimony that Alex helped to research and write at about 23 minutes and then at about 29 minutes you can see Alex (more clearly at 1:37:50) sitting in the second row behind those giving testimony. 

          United States Senate Committee Channel: Center for Indian Affairs

          -- 3 --

          Keeping with the theme of delighting in my kids' passions, here's one of my favorite pictures from Natalie's week of counseling at Camp Nikos. This year marks her third working with Mission: Possible Austin's Project Intercept program and she is never more herself than when she's serving these beautiful, energetic, courageous at-risk kids.

          Thank God, Natalie's knee has healed almost completely since that scary car accident a few weeks back.  Just a couple more physical therapy appointments and it seems she'll be as good as new.  Thanks be to God!

          -- 4 --

          Of course I've already been talking about Kendra here quite a bit lately, her party and our marvel of her stunning life.  I find this experience of seeing my child in a cap and gown to bring an exceptional clarity of mothering insight.

          -- 5 --

          Not to be left out, my main squeeze celebrated a birthday this week.  I love celebrating him even though I don't feel like I'm very good at it.  


          Other good stuff online

          • Controlling the Narrative at The New York Times opinion page: Thank you to Andrea Dilley for passing this link on.  If you write or read this is excellent insight into the 
              • How Could This Have Happened by Dr. John Stackhouse: In a flurry of trying to not spew my fairly uninformed opinions in a the handy outlet of a Facebook status, I asked a few trusted theologians to share with me what has informed them on the issue of gun control.  This is piece is brief but intelligent and reasonable and helpful.   Even though it was written in response to the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, in the timeline of humans using weapons to kill humans it's practically hot off the presses.


              A grace-filled weekend for us all, dear ones.

              Tuesday, June 17, 2014

              We belong to that one over there and isn't she marvelous?

              photo credit*

              So many anecdotes come to mind these last weeks when I'm pondering all your days.  Actually a billion stories, but two that rise to the top.

              The standing on your chair and hollering during a school play story:  When you were around the age of 3 your Daddy's friend -- the same friend who said you had personality times three, at least -- taught you to mimic a popular television commercial in which animated characters heckle each other with the call "You stink. Get off the stage!"  It was a punch line you repeated often for laughs.  We never expected you to translate the smack talk into real life context though.  Imagine our horror when we took you and your brothers to an elementary school play in our new town to see a neighbor kid perform.  At a perfect, quiet moment you stood right up on your chair and hollered, "You stink. Get off the stage!".  Oh, yes, you did.

              The wearing a glove on one hand all summer story:  You were my only child to suck her thumb.  It was a rather adorable habit when you were a baby and still kind of cute as a toddler.  As a preschooler we felt obligated to be concerned, but no matter what we tried you could not kick the habit.  The summer before you were to enter "real" school (as opposed to the year of kindergarten we schooled at home) you took matters into your own hands -- literally.  

              Your great-grandmother offered you a suggestion and you made it work.  Wear a glove on the thumb-sucking hand until you don't have the urge to do it anymore.  In every picture we have from that summer, there you are short-sleeves, shorts and one winter glove.  We did not ask you to do this -- it was all your own 5-year-old initiative.  Night and day, in preschool, at church, everywhere we went you wore that glove.  And it worked.  We knew then we were parents to a genius.  

              You used that same determination to teach yourself how to read and ride your bike when you got tired of waiting for your distracted parents to do the job.  You used that same organizational focus to pack your preschool bag each Tuesday and Thursday -- the snack, the glove and a ragged little New Testament Bible you wanted to have with you at all times.

              May it be so now and forever, amen, sweet girl.

              So maybe what I'm trying to say is that these tales I'm pondering I feel like I barely know my own girl. You are so self-contained, you often elude me.  You are a mystery I am trying to name and, for now, I'm using stories.

              You are my third child. When you were born I felt peace for the first time that I could do this -- mother a newborn. Your calmness as an infant led me to believe I finally knew what I was doing.  Now I think it was more like, "No worries, Mom.  I can take care of myself."

              I'm pretty sure you got the natural, self-confidence from your Dad. That sort of fearlessness is so foreign to me it has to be from your father. 

              My memories of your first year come back to me gentle and warm, wrapped in a feeling of calm delight.  Calm even though that same year Dad was finishing his bachelor's degree with 3 kids under 5 running around his study space, even though we didn't yet have a regular salary or health benefits, even though we outgrew our second-story apartment and had to move a few days before Christmas.  

              You were the first child I felt like I might know something about caring for an infant. So maybe some of that confidence came from me after all?

              Either way, this tenacious spirit fueled you for the many challenges you've faced the past few years. You've made a whole bunch of new stories:
              The persevering through three different high schools in two different states in four years story. 
              The falling in love with Jhostin and Potter's House and Guatemala story. 
              The singing your heart out even when you weren't recognized by your choir director story. 
              The loving on little kids in Austin even when you didn't have friends your own age yet story.

              Now you get ready to leap into this new season of life with that same determination -- calm and fierce.  

              Dad and I cried when we watched you process into the arena last week.  "It's the song" everyone told us.  Probably.  But it's also the knowing that there's a fire lit in you that is not fueled by our ability to be good parents.  You sort of entered the world with it and we've been lucky enough to be warmed by its light these 18 years.  

              During the ceremony I cried again at the press and rush of familial energy in the stadium -- each tribe wanting desperately to be known as present and connected to their own blue-gowned child in the center.  It's something to behold, this sort of anthemic devotion.  When your name was called we hooted and hollered.  And I shouted -- without premeditation -- "THAT'S MY GIRL!". It's our own last opportunity to claim you before you toss the cap, shrug off the gown and slip into the world as your own solid self.

              We holler to hear the echo in our own ears.  To remind ourselves that we had a part in the unfolding of your life and it's something to celebrate.  We hope you heard us, yes, but we mostly needed to remind ourselves.  We belong with that one there and isn't she marvelous?!?

              We holler to absorb the jolt of your stunning life processing outward to this needy, beautiful world.  We pin the moment down in hullabaloo, collect words and photographs from your childhood.  We do these things as a substitute for trapping the beautiful mystery of you. Your light already too bright to be contained in this house.

              Go in your fierce tenderness, my girl.  May the needy world be warmed by your steady light.

              * Thank you to the also marvellous photography duo, Stephen & Whitney Henderson at 
              The Habit of Seeing, for these gorgeous senior photos of our girl.*

              Saturday, June 14, 2014

              5 favorites:stuff to watch this summer that isn't about zombies, C-list celebrities or drunk suburban housewives + other good online

              before the favorites list, here's a a favorite image from our week

              Friends, aka 3rd Course Theatre, performing a staged reading of Stacey Isom's new play Dough & Cookies in a backyard in our neighborhood. So glad my sister-in-law JoAnn was visiting from NY and could join us for this lovely, magical evening!  (also if you look closely at the actor in the center of this picture you'll recognize him in the film trailer below...)

              5 Favorites: stuff to watch this summer that isn't about zombies, C-list celebrities or drunk suburban housewives

              -- 1 --


              Watch the film here or on Amazon Instant Video here

              From the website:  "In the comedic tradition of 'MODERN FAMILY' and 'THE OFFICE', CHALK pulls its viewer into the frenetic and awkwardly painful journey of three novice high school teachers as they navigate one memorable school year. Director Mike Akel provides a rare and realistic teacher’s perspective into the absurd, provocative and occasionally volatile world of public education, where “fifty percent of America’s teachers quit within their first three years.” Ultimately as touching as it is comedic, CHALK offers a hilarious and hopeful look at public education in America."

              Also, watch this brief intro: Morgan Spurlock Introduces Chalk

              (does it count as a "humble brag" if I say that we go to church with some of the people associated with this film?)

              -- 2 --

              Mr. Ginger

              Also brought to you by New Sky Pictures:  Mr. Ginger, a short form comedy series that follows the daily antics of the lovable yet politically incorrect Life Skills teacher, Mr. Ginger.  We're excited to share our work and through Patreon we invite you to subscribe and enjoy the show!

              (Ever hear of Patreon?  I hadn't either.  Maybe reading this will help.)

              -- 3 --

               (10 seasons on Amazon Prime!)

              (I don't know if this will help my cooking, but it sure is fun to listen to while I work on other things!)

              -- 4 --

              (5 volumes of "The Best of..." on Amazon Prime)

              (I do not want to like Amazon.  But then they go and do something like this.)

              -- 5 --

              Blank on Blank (with PBS Digital Studios)
              Famous People, Lost Interivews

              I'm utterly mesmerized with this series of lost interviews with famous people -- most of whom have died.  Blank on Blank combines audio files of interview excerpts with animation to re-frame the thoughts and feelings of actors, comedians, writers, musicians, innovators and cultural icons.  Somehow the whole thing adds up to a sort of profundity that I can't stop watching.  Try for yourself.  (you can subscribe to the YouTube series to be notified every other Tuesday when a new interview is released)

              Here's a few of my favorites:


              Other good stuff online

                  • The reason for the divorce* at  Yarn Harlot:  On the importance of caffeine to the cause of fidelity.  (In spite of the dire title, it's funny -- I promise.)

                  • Pop-Rock Worship, in 3 parts at Diary of An Arts Pastor:  David Taylor's presentation to a group of men and women gathered at the kind invitation of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship for a consultation on the function of pop-rock worship in contemporary church life.

                  • All (not each) of them were filled at The Christian Century: A beautiful reflection for Pentecost, "Rather than imaging Pentecost as a dove descending like it did on Jesus at his baptism, maybe we should picture flocks of birds, swarming and ready to move, mysteriously drawn by winds and season, to travel to new places. If I were directing the Pentecost movie, I would show the disciples with eyes wide open, focused on the gathering crowds, their energy and their speech drawing them outward into the world. I would try to portray the burning desire deep within them to find the explosive connection between Spirit, culture, language, and community, a movement that gathers until it reaches the ends of the earth."  Also, see my post I do not know the trick to conjure Pentecost flames


                  A good word and image weekend for us all, dear ones.

                  For more Five Favorites, visit Moxie Wife!

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