Monday, September 15, 2014

Back to Blogging

I am considering getting back to blogging.  In the past I have abandoned one blog and then another, and I really don't want to abandon this one.  But at the same time, I am not sure if I can just pick up after nearly  three years.  I am afraid that the person I have become won't be able to write in this space, that I will be hindered by my former self and her writings here.  Perhaps I am being too neurotic.  It wouldn't be the first time.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

during and after the evacuation

I awaken suddenly at 4:30 am. I hear sirens and see flashing red lights through the window. There's another noise, as well, which I am unable to place. I go to the window. Lots of fire trucks, I stand there looking to see what's going on. Craig yells to me, "It's our fire alarm, get dressed." These are the thoughts that follow:

(1) So, that's what our fire alarm sounds like, almost like a police whistle. [They have tested the alarm system, but never when I have been home.] It certainly is annoying.
(2) I need to get dressed. Where are my clothes? [In Edmonton, in the winter, you can't just go outside in your robe; you must bundle up.] I need a long-sleeved shirt. Where the hell are my long-sleeved maternity shirts? Oh, shoot, this is a nursing shirt. Oh well... How the heck do you put these on?
(3) OH MY GOD!! What would I do if I had a baby right now?!?!? [Aside from the obvious, get the baby out of there, I start imagining different scenarios and thinking how I would handle each.] What would I grab? Bottles? Blankets?
(4) Oh crap, I need to pee. Nothing can stop the pregnant woman from peeing.
(5) It's hard to move quickly when seven months pregnant. Even with the adrenaline rush I am getting, I move slowly.
(6) I wish I didn't have to sit down to put on the snow boots.
(7) Oh, I need to get my wedding rings off the table.
(8) Crap, I already have boots on, and we're not supposed to walk on the new floors in our snow boots.
(9) Got rings on. Did Craig grab his?
(10) Oh, look. Craig got a book. I should get a book. [I go back and grab my book. I tell Craig to put his in my backpack.] Why did I get a book? Of all the things to grab, that seems silly.
(11) Frack, I can't get this coat zipped up. Where is my scarf? There's my hat.
(12) [Craig has stepped into the hallway and smelled smoke.] Oh, it's a real fire. Shit!
(13) Craig goes to fetch his computer. I should get mine, too. [I put my computer in my backpack.] My computer really isn't worth that much, financially or sentimentally. Why did I grab this? Should I grab something else? What about those Chinese silk embroidery pieces hanging there? No, no time. Too big.
(14) [Craig calls to me, "Let's go."] Oh, grab keys. And car keys. In case we need to go somewhere. Should I grab my work keys and pager? No.
(15) Do we lock the doors? Aren't we supposed to leave them unlocked in case the firefighters need to get in and they don't have to break down the door?
(16) Thank God we no longer love on the 19th floor. [As much as I sometimes miss the fabulous view of our old apartment, I am grateful that at seven months pregnant, I only have to walk down from the 7th.]
(17) Where is everyone? How come the stairwells aren't full? [I hear noises on the stairwell above me.] Oh, people are coming.
(18) One more floor. Oh, here's the lobby. Why are people standing here? Shouldn't we be outside? If people are staying here, I'd rather wait inside.
(19) Oh, look, there's a baby. Not phased at all by the alarms. [I go talk to the dad.]
(20) [Craig wants to go outside. He makes a comment about putting on his coat and thus not needing to stay inside. He also says he wants to get away from the horrendous sounds of the alarms. I zip up my coat and we go outside.] Oh, it's snowing.
(21) Here's where everyone is. But shouldn't there be more? This is a big building. And really, this is not that many people. Maybe 50?
(22) Wow! I bet that woman's cold. Where is her coat?
(23) [Craig asks if the alarm has stopped. I can't tell. I tell him to open the door and see. The alarm has stopped.] Wow, that was fast.
(24) [Now everyone crowds into the lobby. The firefighter says that the alarm was pulled on the 16th floor, but there is nothing there. People all talk about how they smelled smoke. The firefighters announce that have checked the floors around there, but no fire. People start to groan.] Wait, but we all smelled smoke, so it's not like somebody did this as a prank!
(25) [The woman who pulled the fire alarm starts to defend herself, saying she smelled smoke, called 911, and they told her to pull the alarm.] She did the right thing. Was she outside? Where is her coat? She must've been one of the first people out there. I bet she was cold.
(26) Oh, there's another baby. I had no idea there were so many babies in the building. This one's awake. [I flirt with the baby and chat with the parents.]
(27) I bet I have bad breath.
(28) [The first elevator takes the first load up. The second elevator is still in use by the firefighters.] There's the lady I always chat with. What's her name again? Oh, she has cats with her. I'll go chat with her. Shoot, what is her name?
(29) [The firefighters come to turn the elevator back to regular use. We find out that they had also been to an actual fire on our street. It seems as if the smoke from that fire came in through our air intake system and that is what we are smelling.] Okay, that makes sense.
(30) We should get onto this elevator last since we are on one of the lower floors.
(31) [We've been chatting while riding up the elevators.] It's kind of amazing the sense of community and solidarity that can form at 4:30 am when everyone has to evacuate the building.
(32) [We come into our apartment.] I won't be able to fall asleep again. Too much adrenaline. But I should go back to bed and try.
(33) I should read. Oh, my book is in my backpack by the front door.
(34) [I see my computer while retrieving my book] Hey, it's good I took my computer. On it is all of the photos we've taken since we first met. It's like grabbing the family photo albums. I should make sure I have copies uploaded online.
(35) [I lay down in bed.] Oh, the kid's awake. Man, he's really moving. Can he taste the adrenaline or fear in the amniotic fluid. Don't worry sweet boy, we'll always take care of you. [I start to cry. I feel a sense of panic, once again, revisiting the idea of what I would do if I had a baby.]
(36) What if it were -30 degrees? Would I have time to bundle the baby properly? I'd need to make sure to get the car seat? We should drive somewhere. Would it be okay to call Heather and Justin [our friends and neighbours a few blocks away] at 4:30 am and ask them if we can come over to get out of the cold? [I imagine going to their place with a wailing kid.] Hmm, that's interesting that in my vision, our kid is crying, but in reality, the two babies we saw were taking it all in stride. What does that say about me and my confidence as a parent?
(37) What if Heather and Justin aren't home? Maybe I should grab my work keys. It's only four blocks away. Wait, when I am on maternity leave, I won't have my keys. I need another plan.
(38) Should we always have a diaper bag of necessities ready to go?
(39) Craig and I should make a plan as to who does what when the alarm goes off. We should have fire drills. Wait, that is so not like us. We aren't those organized, over-planning people. But, oh God, what if we should be?
(40) Oh, and what if I'm home alone with the kid when the alarm goes off? What would I do then? Ack!
(41) I need to stop thinking about this stuff and worrying. We are fine. We made it out. And we'll do the same when we have a baby should the need arise. Calm down. Don't stress out yourself or the baby. Oh sweet boy, I am sorry. I promise we'll always take care of you and keep you safe.
(42) Wow! I've been trying to fall back asleep for over an hour. Will I ever fall asleep?
(43) I guess Craig is over his cold. No more coughing or snoring. He's just sleeping peacefully.
(44) I wish I could fall back asleep and sleep like that. Should I get up and go read in the living room?
(45) It was snowing out there, wasn't it? Good, we needed to cover up the brown muddy snow.
(46) I hope it's not too slick when I run errands tomorrow.

Zzzzzz...

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A word of advice

In the past month since I announced my pregnancy, I've learned that a growing belly is a sign that others read as "Please tell me what to do because I completely stupid and have no idea." Being pregnant means getting tons of unsolicited advice. I can handle this, to some extent. I mean, I was a single gal for a long, long, long time and dealt with all of the advice on how to snag a husband (I even wrote a satirical "how-to" paper on this as an undergrad, but that's another story). And as a young woman in ministry I learned to cope with the overabundance of advice from well-meaning older ministers (men) on how to handle life in the congregation (because women cannot figure this out on our own - ugh!). But the rate at which I am given unsolicited advice has picked up exponentially since I let word get out about my pregnancy. And there's only so much I can take.

Here I am. A woman in my late 30's. I have worked in health care for over five years of my career, two of those years in women's health, covering units for high-risk pregnancies and the neo-natal ICU. Terms such a subchorionic bleed, placenta previa, incompetent cervix, listeriosis, etc. are all part of my vocabulary. I am very well-educated, perhaps over-educated. I am a woman who has lost several pregnancies and gone through multiple fertility treatments. I had the very best fertility doctor in the province who has given me wonderful (professional) advice and referred me to his mentor as my obstetrician, who has also taken excellent care of me. And if he ever stopped taking good care of me, I have more than one obstetrician I would call as a back-up. And as a woman with a high-risk pregnancy, I have been well-monitored and taken care of. I work in health care, and I know of every hospital in the city, and I have known which hospital would be the best for me, my pregnancy, and my delivery long before I ever got pregnant. I know my shit. I have done my research. And I happen to be hooked up with a scientist, a professional researcher, and anything I haven't been able to find out, he picks up the slack and gets answers.

So, yes, I do know the old advice about abstaining from caffeine during pregnancy. And you know what? I also know that this is old advice. And yes, I do know that soft cheeses are to be avoided when with child. And I also know that this advice applies to unpasteurized cheeses, so not all brie is bad. Furthermore, I also know that it's the doctors in North America that are hyper-vigilant about this and that most European women wouldn't dare eat pasteurized cheeses, even when pregnant. And I know the risk of listeriosis is relatively small, even among those European women. And I know what they say about sushi. And I know what they say about smoked fish, undercooked eggs, alcohol, you name it. As I said before, I know my shit. I don't need you treating me like an idiot and assuming I don't. And if there is something I don't know, I'll freakin' ask!

When I get advice like this, I try to be gracious. I say, "Thank you." Or "I did know that, but I appreciate you telling me." I don't contradict them or tell them if I plan to do something other than follow their advice. But inevitably, online, this response invites other unsolicited advice along with attacks on the original advice giver. When I have tried to graciously receive the advice of one Facebook "friend", another jumps in, "Don't listen to that! It's just bad advice or the science has changed or your friend so-and-so is stupid and so are you if you listen to her." Yes, I know the advice given to me might be outdated. I have no intention of following it. But I also have no intention of alienating my friends. So, how can I win?

I've come to accept that I can't. I am just going to be inundated with advice. And to think I have five more months of pregnancy! And I can only imagine the advice gets worse with parenting. But at least there, I feel as if I might need a little more advice. I don't feel as educated on every issue that could arise with parenting.

I don't want this to sound like I don't appreciate hearing from people who have been through what I am going through. I truly love making connections around shared experiences. And it is such a joy to hear from somebody who understand what is happening to me, someone who's been there and done that. But instead of telling me what I should be doing, I wish more folks would be like a friend of mine who said, "Man, when I was pregnant, they told me not to eat sushi, and all I was craving was sushi, and it was so hard. Are they still advising pregnant women to stay away from sushi?" She didn't jump on my case when I told her what I was craving (it was chili con queso made with pure, processed Velveeta), telling me how the chemicals would be bad for my baby and how I shouldn't even expose my kid to the fumes of processed foods, etc. She just got that I was having a craving and shared her experience. She didn't tell me what I should do or shouldn't do. She didn't try to make me feel stupid or bad for even thinking what I was thinking. She just let me know that she was with me. And I appreciated that.

And then there was the friend who lifted her shirt and said, "If there is anything you can do to avoid stretchmarks, I hope you find it." And when I replied, "I'm hoping Craig rubbing cocoa butter on my belly each evening does the trick," she said, "I hope so, too." No advice, just comradery. Just somebody who has been on this journey and wants to walk it with me. If more people were like these friends, well, then I wouldn't be writing this rant, I guess.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Freezing

My Beloved and I have been contemplating purchasing a deep freezer. On one hand, a small, apartment-sized, energy efficient freezer seems like a smart purchase, allowing us to make larger portions and freeze left-overs. On the other hand, such a purchase seems extravagent for spendthrifts like us. I mean, we live in Alberta. Couldn't we just use our balcony as a deep freezer for like eight months of the year?

Well, we ended up making the purchase. And once we got it home, where did my sweetheart wish to put our newest appliance? On the balcony!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ah, to have learned more math...

We have house guests staying with us. Here is a snippet of conversation we had tonight:

"Life would be boring if everyone got along." - Stuart.
"Would you actually learn anything?" - Jeannette.
"Sure, you'd just learn different things. You'd learn more math." - Craig

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Stars

Let me introduce you to Cassiopeia A.


Isn't she beautiful? Too bad, she's dead, eh? She is a supernova remnant, the remains of a star, very much like our sun, that died a dramatic death about 11,000 years ago (though we only received word of her passing in 1680).

Not only is she beautiful, she is is mysterious, too. She first flirted with occupants on our planet as she died about 330 years ago. She briefly flashed her light and caught the attention of English astronomer James Flamsteed, but then she coquettishly disappeared, hiding for centuries behind a veil of cosmic dust.

Then in 1999, NASA launched the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and we got to see the beauty behind the veil, since the x-rays she radiates can penetrate the cloak in which she had shrouded herself. The first Chandra image released to the public revealed Cas A's tremendous beauty, and further intrigued scientists with her enigmatic personality. She obviously didn't want to be fully known, and she refused to divulge secrets of the very nature of her being. Was she a neutron star? A black hole? Nobody could figure her out; she defied all expectations.

For ten years, she continued to tease, extending her enigmatic nature. She closely guarded the jewel at the center of her being, and remained taciturn when it came to revealing her secrets. Then in the summer of 2009, she allowed herself to be known as she permitted two brilliant scientists to unravel her mystery, and through various investigations, to uncover her identity as a recently deceased star, in a sarcophagus adorned with diamonds. (In other words, she's a young neutron star with a carbon atmosphere.)


I tell you of this rare, mysterious beauty because Cas A has been a guest in our lives for the past few months, and I feel as if I have gotten to know her quite well. You see, my Beloved is one of the two brilliant, young astronomers to whom Cas A has chosen to reveal herself. He and his collaborator have been studying her and trying to discern her seemingly impenetrable nature. And the revelations of Cas A's true nature have now been published in the journal Nature.

And now, my Beloved is a star. Not a dead one to be studied. But a living one, to be interviewed. He's on TV and the radio, in our local paper, and various media around the globe. It's been a fun week watching him shine.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This

As I write this, it's not the Eurythmics song I have running through my head (though it's probably running through yours now, sorry). No, I am singing Patty Griffin's song "Forgiveness":

It's hard to give
It's hard to get
It's hard to give
But still I think it's the best bet
Hard to give
Never gonna forget
But everybody needs a little forgiveness

The other night I dreamed of forgiveness.

In my dream, I ran into my old college boyfriend in a hamburger joint in our college town. I have not idea why, in the land of dreams, we met up in that particular place; I don't think it's a restaurant we ever visited together during our year-long romance as it was a little too far from our university campus. And I don't think it's a place I'm likely to visit now, even when I head back there to visit friends when I am in Texas for the upcoming Christmas holidays, given that I am a pretty strict vegetarian these days. Still, in my dream, there we were, our contemporary selves, bumping into each other at Fuddruckers.

I saw him before he saw me, and I took a moment to take in his grow-up self. Somehow in my mind, whenever he crossed it, he had remained that angst-ridden, angry 20-year-old. But here he was, a self-assured grown man. He seemed shorter than I remembered him, though that's probably just because I had made him into such a huge monster over the years. This was one of those dreams filled with visceral emotion. My stomach knotted with nerves, fear, and dread. I didn't want to face him. I debated trying to hide from him as I had once done at a bookstore when I nearly ran into him a few years after college. But I didn't. In my dream, I did what I have not done since the nasty break-up that lasted longer than the relationship. In the dream, I faced him. I called his name - first and last - trying to sound as light and carefree as possible. He looked up, and as dawning recognition came upon him, I could see his mind taking in the adjustment of what 15+ years have done to me, just as I took in the growth in him. His response was something along the lines of, "Well, wow. If it isn't Rachel Rev."

We spent a few minutes catching up. What was he doing? What was I doing? Specifically, what was I doing there? I assume he told me about his life, though I can recall nothing of what he said (probably because in real life, I have no clue). I told him I was living in Canada, recently hitched, and that we (I nodded to Craig over at our table with my friends) were "home" visiting for the holidays. When I told him what Craig does professionally, he made some comment/joke about me and my scientists, and I thought (or maybe said) that, no, he and Craig were the only scientists I had ever dated. The conversation then went a little deeper. Was he happy? Yes. Was I happy? Yes, indeed.

Then I saw the sadness in his eyes. And he brought up the messiness and nastiness and hurt and rage and sorrow in our shared past. Again, that trepidation and worry gripped my gut. This was why I had been tempted to sneak out without approaching him. Ow, I really didn't want to go there. But I acknowledged that yes, it was there, in our past. "I am so sorry," he said. I am sorry. Words which I had never heard from him. Words which, in my memory, had never come across his lips. Most likely, they were words uttered at one point or another, but never accepted by me, since I did not wish to forgive him. I wanted to hate him. I wanted to create him in the image of a villain - an unfeeling, uncaring, heartless bad guy. You know, memory is funny that way.

But there they were: "I am sorry." It was hard to hear them. Even in my dream, it was difficult. Because accepting those words would mean acknowledging the pain, walking through it again, even if just briefly, and then, finally, letting it go. I was tempted to laugh it off, to say no apologies were necessary, to say, "You know what, I am who I am today because of all that we went through. And I really like where I am. It hasn't always been easy, but I'm a better person because of it, so no worries. No apology needed."

Yes, there is truth in such a statement - the choices I have made have led me to my current place in life and the heartaches I have endured have helped to shape me into the woman I have become. Yet despite those truths, apologies were necessary. And not just his. I also needed to own up to my faults, to the hurt I brought to him. I needed to face my shadow side and acknowledge that I had was not a passive victim in our turbulent romance. I had said hateful words to him. I had employed volatile mood swings to manipulate him. And I had schemed and connived to bring out the rage in him. Not exactly behaviours I am proud of. Definitely not the me I would want revealed on a job interview or first date. It's a side of myself I have rarely revealed to my closest friends or even my life partner. Only this man has ever really known that version of me. This was exactly why my apology was necessary, not only his. (You know, I think my apology was harder for me to accept than his apology, since it meant accepting the part of myself I have kept under lock and key for so long.)

In the dream, I was tempted to laugh off his apology, stating it wasn't necessary. And instead, I accepted it. "Thank you," I replied, "I am sorry, too." He thanked me. And he forgave me. I forgave him. And then he went his way. And I went mine. Back to my table where my Beloved inquired, "Who was that?". I replied softly, "A guy from college. I'll tell you later."

I dreamed of forgiveness. The man in my dreams was a boy I had loved, a fiend I had hated, and now a man I had forgiven. Had I actually forgiven him? Had he forgiven me?

When I awoke, I felt forgiven. But I didn't feel all light and free. I woke up feeling as if I had been crying for hours, that type of crying that sucks the life and breath out of you, leaves you gasping and dry-heaving with puffy eyes and blotchy skin. Only no tears had been shed. No, I didn't feel light and free. I felt raw. Like my heart had been scoured and boiled, scrubbed on an old-fashioned washboard, and slapped against the rocks, then twisted and squeezed and wrung out, and then strung up on a line. Clean, but whipped. Forgiveness is really hard work, even in dreams, I guess.

As I reflected on this dream, I was surprised that I had dreamed it at all. You see, I thought I had "dealt" with all of this years ago. I thought I had dealt with the pain, the anger, the heartache of that tumult. To a large extent, I had. I mean, I've developed the capacity to be in healthy, life-giving relationships. I am able to communicate like a grown-up (on most days). I have stopped blaming this man for my commitment issues and have instead recognized that perhaps my fear of commitment, concerns with the institution of marriage, and ambivalence about having children were all contributing factors in the mayhem of our love. So, yeah, I had really "dealt" with it.

But I don't believe I have ever forgiven him. Or if I have ever forgiven myself. And I know that I have never said, "I am sorry" to him.

The other night, in my dream, I did. I heard his apology. I offered my own. I forgave him. And I forgave myself. It was only a dream. But as I awoke to the new dawn, I knew I had finally forgiven him. And while I may never know if he has forgiven me, I have finally forgiven myself. And in that, I experience absolution and release.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cohousing!!!

For nearly a decade, I have been interested in intentional community. For a little over a year, I had the opportunity to live in community at Bowers House in Chicago. Day to day living in Bowers caused me to shed my rose-coloured glasses and see that living in community is not the utopian, resource-sharing, hand-holding, Kum-Ba-Yah-singing, isn't-it-great-we-all-get-along? ideal I must confess I held. Managing chores, debating the benefits of composting, fighting over lentils, and arguing about somebody using too much bandwidth are just as much a part of life together as planting gardens, working side by side, lending a helping hand, and sharing in communal meals. But while I may have lost a bit of my romanticism, I remain even more passionately committed to intentional community.

I am particularly drawn to co-housing a form of intentional community comprised of private homes for individual households sharing common spaces (larger kitchens, children's playrooms, gardens, music rooms, libraries, guest rooms, et al). Before and since moving to Edmonton, I sought out co-housing opportunities, but nothing existed here. Until now.

Last night, Craig and I attended a Co-Housing Meet-Up where we met other people who are interested in co-housing, particularly in developing a co-housing community close Edmonton's city core. Developing a community takes time. We are still likely 3-5 years from move-in. But we are ecstatic that such a plan is beginning to emerge. We are delighted to find others who share our values and commitments to community and sustainable living. And we are thrilled to be in on this project from the very beginning.

yea!! Co-housing!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

radical hospitality

Here is the welcoming statement from the front of the bulletin at Robertson-Wesley church:

In response to God's call, we, the congregation of Robertson-Wesley United Church, declare our commitment to opening our hearts and our church family to all people in our community, regardless of sexual orientation, age, gender, differing abilities, ethnicity, or economic circumstance. We recognize that many people's lives continue to be devastated by hatred, prejudice, and inequality, therefore, as a compassionate and caring spiritual community we will stand with those who are adversely affected by injustice, alienation and oppression.
Now, having served as Co-Leader for the Open & Affirming Ministry Team of my denomination, I have seen many powerful statements of welcome and inclusion. One thing these statements all have in common is naming who is included in welcome, naming groups that have often been excluded from communion and ministry within the church. What makes this statement particularly strong is that it acknowledges that just because RWUC welcomes all people does not mean that justice prevails. Instead it says that there is still much work to be done, both within the church and in the outside world, and this community is committed to doing that work.

Understand why I feel so comfortable there?

a place for my soul to rest

In the past three years, I have moved as many times, crossing state or national borders each time. This last move was especially hard because I did not have a supportive faith community. My denomination does exist here, but it is not the same denomination I came from in the States. And most often I do not feel as if there is a place for me (a liberal, heretical, WOMAN pastor) here within my church.

This has caused much grief and sorrow as my denomination was one I CHOSE as an adult, one that allowed and encouraged me to bring my questions and my doubts, one that didn't require me to check my brain at the door, one that nurtured me and sustained me through my education and first decade of ministry. And now, I fear I may have to leave.

In many ways, the Unitarian Universalist Church would be an obvious fit for me. 1) On days when I profess a belief in god, I am more unitarian than trinitarian, and 2) If I consider the possibility of heaven, I would have to put myself into the universalist understanding of salvation. Unitarian? Check. Universalist? Check. And the UUs are so lefty and liberal. I love their commitment to social justice and to peace and the environment. And my Beloved is UU. So it should be a perfect fit. Except...

I am christian. At least, I am culturally christian. I may not take the stories in the christian scriptures to be literal truth, but they are my stories, the ones I grew up with, and the ones that resonate with metaphorical truth within my soul. Some of the christian stories I adore. And many I abhor. But they are the stories I know. I appreciate the sacred stories of other traditions, and I can find truth and meaning within them. But they are not my stories. They are not the ones which quiet the storms in my life or sing to my soul.

And I love christian liturgy, the hymns, the candles, the smells and bells, the familiar words, the stand-up-here-sit-down-there. There is a rhythm to it, and it matches the rhythm of my life. It's what I know.

When I visit the UU churches with Craig, I love the engaging conversations. I love the passionate commitment to serving on behalf of the others and the world. I love the diversity of thoughts, opinions, and perspectives (though not too diverse, not many conservative attend UU churches). But I miss the liturgy. And while the conversations are challenging and engaging, they are not engaging my stories.

What I really want is the intellectually rigorous sermons I heard preached in the churches of my denomination back in the States. What I want is to hear somebody wrestle with my stories, really wrestle with them: to explore the historical and cultural context in which the texts were written, to examine the original languages and see what might have been lost in translation, to ask whether there is meaning in these ancient texts for contemporary followers, and to empower listeners (i.e. me) to respond.

~~~~~
From my apartment, I can see the steeples of two churches just blocks from where I love (when asked about my religious views, I should give this answer sometime). One of these churches is Robertson-Wesley United Church. Earlier this spring, I knew I wanted liturgy for the first Sunday of Lent, so walked down the block, through the park, and through an alleyway, and slipped into the pews for a wonderful reflection (by both ministers!) on the idea of "journey". In the bulletin, I saw an announcement for a bible study which I attended several times in cognito. I have worshipped there on several other occasions since.

I was initially disappointed on Pentecost (my favorite liturgical holiday) when instead of the Pentecost story, the minister began a series on, of all things, the doctrine of the trinity! But the sermon was fascinating - giving the history of the doctrine, acknowledging the lack of biblical support for the concept of a three-for-one, I mean three-in-one god. It was challenging, inspiring, uncomfortable, and I LOVED it. I may not be a trinitarian christian, but I can certainly appreciate how many people find meaning in understanding divine revelation in three different ways. I personally think the number three is limiting, but I get that others appreciate it. And this is pretty much what was said from the pulpit at Robertson-Wesley!!! "We don't need to chuck the whole thing out, but let's understand why people, why our tradition, thinks this is important, and you can decide for yourself if this is meaningful for you."

Yes, this is a place where my soul can rest. After these many years and many moves, this is what my soul is needing. And I think I may have found some companions for the journey.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Banff (in photos)

Lake Louise:



Yoho National Park (BC):



Johnston Canyon & Falls:




wildlife in Banff:



"artistic" shots from around Banff:


from Tunnel Mountain:


Epicurious... in Banff

While in Banff for our anniversary weekend, Craig and I did our fair share of picnicking, feasting on the breads, cheeses, olives, fruit and granola we either brought or purchased at the market. However, on three occasions, we did dine out, and here is what we thought of our (limited) exposure to the Banff dining scene (I'll be listing them in reverse chronological order):

Our final morning in Banff, we went to Wild Flour, "Banff's Artisan Bakery Cafe" for brunch. I ordered breakfast, and Craig ordered lunch, so it truly was brunch. The place is tucked away off Banff's main street, but easily accessible (as is everything in this tiny mountain town). A dog-friendly venue, many of the people on the patio had their pups along with them. We managed to snag an outdoor table among the pooches before heading inside to order. I ordered the toasted breakfast sandwich and a latte. Craig got the half panini and the daily soup, a promising chipotle tomato. I found the breakfast sandwich to be very bland, and I understood why it was served with ketchup; even though I dislike ketchup on eggs, it would have been a vast improvement. The latte however was perfect. Craig's soup tasted like Campell's tomato soup with a bit of picante sauce added, and I could detect absolutely no hint of the smoky flavour indicative of chipotle. Just when I was thinking that Wild Flour is not so good with the food, I tasted Craig's panini, which was spectacular. When we return to Banff, I may head back to Wild Flour as I appreciate their eco commitments (plant-based "plastic" lids, composting, recycling, etc.) and the coffee was darn good. But I will still with the paninis. And their baked good looked mighty tasty...

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On Sunday night, our anniversary dinner was at a most disappointing Chinese restaurant, The Silver Dragon. The menu seemed promising, with several authentic items listed. The view from the patio was spectacular. And the salt&pepper tofu appetizer was quite good. But the entrees were incredibly bland, atrociously so. My noodle dish was mushy, and the veggies in Craig's hot pot were obviously from a frozen "stir-fry" blend. I have had better food at Chinese buffets in strip malls in suburban Indianapolis. Do not go to Silver Dragon. It was the worst meal we have had in Canada 9thought the company was great and the dinner did not ruin our anniversary celebration).

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However, on our first night in Banff, we had what was probably our best meal in Canada, at Nourish, a tiny vegetarian bistro tucked away on the top floor of a shopping mall off Banff Ave. Walking into Nourish, you immediately forget your are in a mall, as the funky, hippy decor (Batik fabrics, eclectic lighting, bold colors on the walls, etc.) transport you from a world of dreary consumerism to a land of culinary delights. When we saw the menu, we had a hard time deciding what to order. In most restaurants, it's easy, we order the one or two vegetarian items and that's it. But when the whole menu is veg, it's no easy decision. Ultimately, Craig opted for the shepherd's pie and I got the portobello burger. Both items had the most unusually delicious textures and explosions of flavour: the burger had brie, artichoke, and "wasabi ginger aioli" (OMG, yum!!!), and the pie was rich ans savory with nuts, lentils, carrots, coconut and a "strawberry pineapple puree". I also had one of Nourish's specially blended roibois teas, and Craig had a delightful mango peace frosty. We finished the meal with a spectacular bread pudding. Nourish may just be our new favourite restaurant in Alberta, indeed Canada...

Monday, June 15, 2009

covenant

On June 14, 2008, my Beloved and I hitched our lives together in a lovely and lively Covenant Ceremony. During the celebration, our presiding minister, Sandhya, gave a wonderful children's sermon, in which she defined the term "covenant" and told of the rainbow as being an ancient and biblical sign of "covenant" and promise. During the ceremony, she passed around rainbow colored ribbons and had the kids "cover [us] with the rainbow". Which they did. It was a lot of fun.

Here we are, covered by the rainbow:

On June 14, 2009, my Beloved and I celebrated the anniversary of our union with a weekend trip to Banff in the Canadian Rockies. While we were at dinner on the night of our anniversary, there was rainstorm on the mountain, creating a most beautiful, vibrant rainbow, a fitting symbol of our covenant and promises.

Here we are, once again, covered by the rainbow:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fiesta

We have learned that if you want good Mexican food in Edmonton (especially decent vegetarian options), you had better make it yourself. So, thankfully, Sarah and Kevin hosted a Mexican potluck dinner last night. Craig made his delicious guacamole. And I prepared Mom's famous green enchiladas and my own delectable chipotle beans. We had salsa, tamales, empinadas (more Salvadoran, but still), burritos, and quinoa and corn (more Incan, but still). And I cannot forget the margaritas. Sarah certainly provided the "top shelf" spirits. And John and I mixed up some tasty drinks. (I fear that, for some, the 'ritas were a little too tasty.)

It was a perfect evening. Good food. Good friends. Babies. Dogs. My two regrets from the evening were that I didn't think to get a piñata until way too late yesterday afternoon; not only is good Mexican food hard to come by in E-town, but so are piñatas. I also wish I hadn't forgotten my camera. Alas, no photos to prove summer has officially arrived in Edmonton.

Friday, June 12, 2009

(non-)wedded bliss

This weekend will mark the one year anniversary of our Covenant Ceremony (or non-wedding thingy). It's hard to believe it's already been a year. And it's hard to believe it's only been a year. What a year it has been. And I look forward to many more with my Beloved.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

bustin' my @$$

Oh, wow. I am so sore. My whole body aches. But the good news is that I know I could never have survived Tuesday's work out a mere two weeks ago. I am getting stronger.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Some belated thoughts on Dr. Tiller's murder

The murder of Dr. George Tiller has evoked a strong emotional response within me. First of all, I feel anger and outrage that anyone who is "pro-life" could murder in cold blood. I also feel such sorrow and sadness for this man's family, both biological and ecclesial. I cannot imagine the grief and trauma they could be experiencing now.

But I also feel wildly compelled to correct the malicious lies misinformation about late term terminations being propagated by the so-called "pro-lifers" who oppose such procedures, casting women who make such a "choice" as wanton harlots who cannot be burdened by a pesky little thing such as a living baby. But this is not truth. This is not reality. At least not the reality I know.

My reality involves holding the hands of grieving parents who have made agonizing decisions to terminated longed for pregnancies. My reality has been reaching into incubators and offered blessings/prayers/baptism to dying babies born with myriad fetal anomalies. My reality is comforting grieving husbands whose wives has just died due to complications from their pregnancies.

But my reality isn't what is being told. And my reality isn't what necessarily needs to be told. My reality is one step removed from the real stories of grief, anguish, and heartache.

Obviously, the protesters outside the Tiller's Kansas clinic have no idea the reality of the "choices" these patients make. How anyone can know the heartbreaking truth and still cast these women as sinners is beyond me. But then again, how anyone can call themselves "Christian" and "pro-life" and then murder a doctor in his church is also beyond me.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Epicurious in Edmonton 7

I realized that I have been remiss in recording our exploration of the Edmonton epicurean scene when we made plans to return to Langano Skies tomorrow night, and I had had yet to report on our visit there several weeks ago.

Three weeks ago, my friends Sarah and Kevin organized an outing to try an Ethiopian restaurant down on Whyte Ave., Langano Skies. Now I LOVE Ethiopian food, having had some fantastic dining experiences in DC and NYC, and Ethiopian is fabulous if done well. But I have also had some really bland Ethiopian cuisine, so I realize it can be hit or miss. Langano Skies was a definite hit.

First, let me comment on the service... we were a large group: Sarah and Kevin (sans little Colin, since Grandma was babysitting), Rachel and Piyush, Natasha and Semyon and Anya, and John (sans Julie). But the staff at LS took it all in stride, even the rambunctious toddler Anya exploring the entirety of the restaurant. Perhaps the most exceptional aspect of our service was our waiter. When the first two people ordered, she asked them why they had chosen the particular dishes they had. When they answered, she recommended other dishes. "If you want the curry, I would go with this, and if you were desiring the ginger, then this is a better choice." She said that while all the food was good, the particular dishes they had ordered did not have the rave reviews from previous diners as the ones she had suggested. When it was John's turn to order, he said, "Bring me your best vegetarian dish." Others also followed suit. The recommendations of our server proved to be fantastic. Which brings me to...

The food. It was delicious. The Shiro Wot, her recommended dish, was superb. As was the Atakilt Aletcha Wot. What am I saying, it was all good. The injera was warm and spongy. And the blend of flavours from the various wots was delectable. I only tried the vegetarian dishes, but the omnivores in our group raved about the meat dishes as well. I think I have found a favourite restaurant in Edmonton.

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A few days after Langano Skies, we went out to dinner with Julie (sans John, they had taken turns leaving town). We decided to try a new Indian restaurant that opened within walking distance of both of our homes. The Curry House, Indian Fusion opened in April to good reviews, and as Craig walks by there on his way to work, he has been eager to visit the new establishment. The restaurant is very cozy, only six tables or so, with elaborate decor of lush fabrics. We were the first customers there, arriving for dinner at 6pm, but the place soon filled more. Btu even with other customers, the owner/manager and wait staff were very attentive and offered good suggestions for food and drink. I was impressed that they serve a plain lassi, as most places only have the mango variety (or gasp, strawberry). I adore the plain, and this one was delicious. After our meal, I learned that they also have a savory lassi. Craig hates the savory ones, but I love them. So next time, I will be ordering that. Alas, I do not remember what we ordered (the problem with waiting so long to blog about a meal). But it was tasty. Not the best Indian ever (I have discriminating tastes, having enjoyed many, many delicious meals on Devon St. in Chicago), but yummy and satisfying and some of the better Indian I have had in Edmonton. I am concerned though, as the owner was saying they would soon be offering dishes with "low fat butter" and Splenda to "prove Indian food doesn't have to be unhealthy". If they change their menu to include these "healthy" options, we probably won't return. Even despite the promise of savory lassis. However, if they keep serving the quality of food we had this time, we will definitely walk that way again.

faux boeuf - my recipe for "beefy" seitan

Several folks have asked for the recipe for my vegetarian BBQ brisket. So, here is a recipe for fake beef (faux boeuf) seitan I adapted from several others I have. It makes a wonderful "beefy" seitan that looks surprisingly (and scarily) like actual beef and tastes yummy, though I can't say if it tastes like beef since it's been years since I have had beef. I have used the "beef" in a stir-fry, in fajitas, and my brisket, and all dishes were fantastic. Anyway, here 'tis...

INGREDIENTS:

Seitan:

  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups vital wheat gluten
  • 2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup warm vegetable broth
  • 2 tsp. Marmite (Craig was horrified when I bought this!)
  • 2 Tbsp. tahini
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. Liquid Smoke
  • 2 tsp. Kitchen Bouquet (or other gravy browner)

Cooking broth:

  • vegetable broth (amount depends on cooking method. For baking, 4 cups. For simmering, 6-8 cups)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup tomato juice
  • 2 Tbsp. Marmite
  • 1 Tbsp. Kitchen Bouquet
  • 1 Tbsp. Liquid Smoke

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. a. If using the simmering method, combine the broth ingredients and bring them to a low boil over med-high heat.
    b. If baking, preheat oven to 325.
  2. Saute onions and garlic in pan until onion is translucent.
  3. In bowl, mix together dry ingredients.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together wet ingredients.
  5. Combine onion-garlic mixture, gluten mixture, and liquid mixture in food processor. Run/pulse for several minutes until ingredients are mixed well and it forms a ball. (If you do not have a food processor, you can mix by hand, in which case, be sure to chop the onions finely before sauteing them. A food processor make the process much, much easier, but it can be done without one, though, honestly, I personally don't have the time for that.)
  6. Divide gluten pieces into a dozen or so sections. Knead each section and stretch into a flat "cutlet". For a brisket, use one larger piece of gluten to fit inside your baking dish. Let gluten pieces stand on a flat service for five minutes.
  7. a. If simmering, reduce heat of broth to med. low. Put gluten pieces into broth and simmer for an hour. Do not boil.
    b. If baking, put gluten pieces in a casserole dish, cover with broth, and bake at 325 for an hour.
  8. Serve however you wish. Cut into slivers for stir-fry or fajitas. Slice thinly for a Philly cheese-fake sandwich. Barbecue entire "cutlets" or brisket. Seitan will keep for about a week or so in the refrigerator and can also be frozen.

Enjoy.

Please leave a comment and let me know if you try this recipe.

making tortillas