Monday, April 27, 2009


So, it would seem as if I have lost my cell phone - again. This is the third time I have ever lost a cell phone in my life. And it's also the third time I have lost my cell phone in three months. And this time, I think it's gone for good. So, for the next week or so, I will be sans phone until I can get a new one mailed to me.

I wonder why I have been so forgetful lately...

books, books, books

I received this meme from my friend Amber, who wrote, "I don't usually do these things, but as this is about books, I couldn't resist." I echo Amber's thoughts...

1) Which book has been on your shelves the longest? Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. I bought it in 4th Grade with the bookstore gift certificate I received as my prize for winning the book writing contest at Silbernagel Elementary.

2) What is your current read, your last read and the book you’ll read next?
Last read: Object Relations Therapy, by Sheldon Cashton.
Current read: The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman.
Next read: Probably Twilight, since I borrowed it from John and Juli and need to return it.

3) What book did everyone like and you hated?
I have known several people who have LOVED Ayn Rand. I have tried reading several of her books - Atlas Shrugged, Fountainhead, and We the Living - and I found them all incredibly boring. Her characters had no depth or believability, merely mouthpieces for her objectivist philosophy. I found her dialogue stilted. I could not finish a one of her books.

4) Which book do you keep telling yourself you’ll read, but you probably won’t?
The Idiot's Guide to Organizing Your Life. I actually have the book on my shelf. Seriously.

5) Which book are you saving for “retirement?”
Why would I put off reading a good book? If it's worth reading, it's worth reading now. Or at least when I finish the one I reading now.

6) Last page: read it first or wait til the end?
Once, when I was about seven, I happened upon the birthday present my sister had gotten for me (okay, I was snooping in her room - but I was not snooping for my present) and it was so disappointing, not because it wasn't a rad gift (it was - a multicolored notepad with each piece of paper on the last at just a slight angle so it made a funky swirling spiral) but because I didn't have the surprise to look forward to anymore (and I had to fake being surprised later on). So I would NEVER read the last page first. If it's a really good book, I will sometimes actually slow my reading down so I can savor the remaining time the book and I have together.

7) Acknowledgments: waste of ink and paper or interesting aside?
Depends. Some authors can make these almost as much fun as the book itself.

8) Which book character would you switch places with?
Probably Ista in Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold.

9) Do you have a book that reminds you of something specific in your life (a person, a place, a time)?
I read Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver when I was living in Nicaragua. Part of the book takes place in Nica. It was fun to read about places and think, "I was just there...". I have read that book a couple of times since returning, mostly because it has the capacity to take me back.

10) Name a book you acquired in some interesting way.
I have inherited the theological libraries of two ministers when they retired. I was pretty pleased to acquire Tillich's volumes of Systematic Theology from my pastor who had taken Systematic Theology from Paul Tillich. It has his notes from the class in the margins.

11) Have you ever given away a book for a special reason to a special person?
I "loaned" a copy of Deep River by Shusaku Endo to my friend Jason when he went to India. the book takes place in Varanasi, India, and Jason read it in Varanasi. So he didn't want to give it back. In fact, he refused. He was a dear friend, and I could see that the book (which is amazing) was obviously quite meaningful to him (see #9). Finally, I convinced him to let me "borrow" the book back for a while, so I could transfer my notes in the margins to a new copy of the book. He sheepinshly agreed. When I had it back, I saw that he had even scratched out my name and written his own.

12) Which book has been with you to the most places?
I guess that would be the Bible, since I have carried at least one copy of it back and forth to camp, college, seminary, and all of the myriad places I have lived.

13) Any “required reading” you hated in high school that wasn’t so bad ten years later?
I actually enjoyed all of our assigned readings. Some are still among my favorite books of all time (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, Grapes of Wrath, etc.). I am looking forward to rereading Canterbury Tales this summer in preparation to my upcoming trip to Canterbury.

14) What is the strangest item you’ve ever found in a book?
I like finding receipts from used bookstores from across the country from the used bookstore where I purchased the book. It's fun to imagine the stories the book could tell if it weren't so busy telling the story the author wrote in it.

15) Used or brand new?
Used. Or borrowed. Every time I move to a new place, I have a library card within a week.

16) Stephen King: Literary genius or opiate of the masses?
I honestly haven't read too much, and I have no strong feelings about him either way.

17) Have you ever seen a movie you liked better than the book?
Some. But they were usually not great books to begin with. Forest Gump, The Horse Whisperer, to name a few.

18) Conversely, which book should NEVER have been introduced to celluloid?
Oh, there are lots, too many to name. A couple I am worried about a few coming out this year are The Time Traveler's Wife and American Pastoral, both books I loved.

19) Who is the person whose book advice you’ll always take?
I would have to say Craig. Because he is in the unique position of being able to stack the books he recommends on my night stand. Eventually, I'll get to them.

Making Yogurt - Take 2


Friday, April 24, 2009

Epicurious in Edmonton 5

It's an unassuming storefront, simply signed "Cafe", so easy to miss as you pass by on Stony Plain Road. But Vi's for Pies is not one to be missed. I had heard about this place from Jodi, a social worker at the hospital, and my friend Lorenza, who lived in Edmonton for a while, confirmed Jodi's recommendation. So on Wednesday, Craig and I went decided to check it out with our friends Juli and John. And wow, are we glad we did!! When we first walked in, we were greeted by the sight of nearly 20 different pies on the counter. They obviously want you to see what's on the menu for the day and to save room for dessert.

Vi's has a decent vegetarian menu, and between the four of us, we were able to order four different vegetarian entrees. I ordered the quiche (remember, I have been on a quiche kick), and it was sublime - light and fluffy, better than my own. Craig got the veggie lasagna which scrumptious, not quite as flavorful as mine, but more saucy (and Craig liking it so much made me realize that he prefers as saucy lasagna; I will have to sauce mine up a bit). It was the spanakopita for John. The spinach was quite tasty, though the crust not as crispy as I would like . It seemed like it was baked earlier and then reheated. Still the flavors were excellent. Juli had soup and salad - fresh and light.

Then we got the pies. After another trip to the front to view the pies, and we settled in for dessert. John's key lime pie was the best I have had outside of Florida. Juli's strawberry shortcake was nice, though the biscuit was hard. Craig's pecan, caramel, banana, and chocolate cheesecake was OH MY GOD delicious. And my raspberry and lemon cream pie was light and tart and absolutely perfect. Yum. We will definitely go back!

It was hard to follow such a delicious dinner with a lunch out the following day. But our department had decided to take Lindsay out for lunch to celebrate her ministry with us as she prepares to move on the Winnipeg. We headed down the street from the hospital to a new noodle house, Thanh Thanh. I pass Thanh Thanh when I am lazy and/or running late and take the bus instead of walking into work. The place has caught my eye on a number of occasions (I love noodle houses), so I have wanted to check it out.

I would be interested in returning with a smaller group since our preordering and then arriving late during the busy lunch hour seemed to throw the staff off and the service was not ideal. The food was delicious (I had the lemongrass chili tofu), though it did make me a bit gassy. :]


In case you have missed the news all a-twitter around the blogosphere, Sean Hannity, conservative windbag (in my opinion) and advocate of torture, has volunteered to be waterboarded - for charity. Such an offer came about in this way...

Charles Grodin, political commentator and actor (The Great Muppet Caper), appeared on Hannity's Fox News show on Wednesday. After some teasing and banter, Grodin brought up the subject of torture, which Hannity supports.

Grodin: You're for torture.
Hannity: I am for enhanced interrogation.
Grodin: You don't believe it's torture. Have you ever been waterboarded?
Hannity: No, but Ollie North has.
Grodin: Would you consent to be waterboarded? We can waterboard you?
Hannity: Sure.
Grodin: Are you busy on Sunday?
Hannity: I'll do it for charity. I'll let you do it. I'll do it for the troops' families.

This exchange is disturbing to me on so many levels. I believe torture is wrong. I believe it's wrong to use torture as a means of protecting "national security" (I don't think it's effective and I feel it's a violation of basic human rights). And I believe torture is wrong if it's done for charity to raise money for a good cause. I feel that even suggesting willingly submitting oneself to waterboarding somehow reduces torture, the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering to punish or intimidate or coerce. To waterboard Sean Hannity for charity diminishes the severity this act of torture to the level of harmless prank, to reality television, and you know, this is not what torture is.

I am so disappointed with my fellow liberals, most of whom have advocated AGAINST torture, who seem to have jumped on the waterboarding Hannity bandwagon. "Woohoo! let's waterboard Hannity!! It's about time!!" And why do they want to waterboard Hannity? Because they don't agree with his politics? Because he's a jackass? The prisoners in Guantanamo have political opinions which differ from those of their torturers. And many of them are beyond the level of jackass and are downright nasty people. Why do we think "torturing" Hannity would be okay? Doesn't this undermine our very opposition to torture? I believe that we are finally getting close to having our nation acknowledge the criminality and evil of our recent acts, and I believe allowing Hannity to go through with this sanctions this type of behavior and feeds right into the line that it "really isn't torture anyway."

For a much more coherent discussion on this topic, check out:

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Now that I have my new passport...

...perhaps I shall go here.

I do believe that this is the best tourism promotional video series I have ever seen.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

the world is mine...

My new passport arrived today. My old one expires in May, so I learned just how ridiculously hard it is to expedite a passport renewal while living in another country, and I had it renewed.

It's a little sad to give up my old passport. It's been in my back pocket on transatlantic flights and flights across North America. It's the passport issued just before I took off for Central America in 1999. It's been to Mexico a time or two. And it's got all of the stamps from going back and forth between Canada and the US many, many times. There are stamps from our honeymoon, both Belgium and Spain. And while it wasn't stamped in Israel, there is an Israeli security sticker on the back. That passport holds so many memories of so many adventures. And the picture was just so darned cute.

This new one won't be able to stay in the back pocket of my jeans. It's new, stiff cover protects the special electronic features. The photo is not nearly as adorable. But the blank pages invite me to more treks and travels.

Interesting that it arrived the very same day as the invitation to Tania and James' wedding at Canterbury Cathedral this summer...

Two Mushroom Risotto (crock pot style - 2 hours)

Risotto is usually such a pain in the butt since you have to stand near the stove and stir and stir and stir and stir. But this recipe, found in Robin Robertson's Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker solves that problem by transferring the cooking to the crock pot. I love my crock pot. This allowed Craig and I to play Starfarers of Catan while dinner was cooking. (he won)

I goofed when making this, though, and didn't turn the crock pot to "high" until one hour into the cooking time. The dish was still done in two hours, and I feel, that with my crock pot, cooking for a full two hours on high would have burned the dish.

Here is the recipe with my tweaks:

  • ¼ cup dried porcini mushrooms
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1¼ c. arborio rice
  • 2 c. crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • 2½ c. vegetable stock
  • 1/8 c. dry sherry
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme (or 2 tsp. fresh)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ c. freshly grated parmesan cheese (or soy parm, for a vegan option)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • Soak the porcini mushrooms in boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving soaking liquid. Chop mushrooms and set aside.
  • In skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook about a minute or two, until slightly softened.
  • Transfer onion mixture to crock pot. Add rice, stirring to coat rice with oil. Stir in both muchrooms, the reserved soaking liquid, stock, sherry, thyme, and salt. Cover, and cook on high until all liquid is absorbed (watch this the first time to discern the exact timing on your slow cooker).
  • Stir in cheese and season with pepper.

Serve hot and enjoy.

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

I believe every day is earth day

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cream of Garlic Soup - Vampires, Beware!!

I was craving Spanish food last night. Craig and I went to Spain for our "honeymoon" and just loved the cuisine (well, what we were able to eat given that Spain is not the most vegetarian friendly of countries). I knew I didn't have time to make either my fabulous vegetarian paella or potatas bravas, so I decided to try for a garlic soup. I found a recipe in Robin Robertson's Vegan Fire and Spice. I have cooked from this cookbook before and found the recipes to be flavorful and with an appropriate amount of kick. I am a Texan, so I can handle a considerable amount of kick, and most of the time, this book delivers the heat in just the right dosage. However, in this recipe, as written, the fire was a little too much for this Texas gal. So the recipe was quickly adapted to a "cream of garlic soup". The addition of the milk made this soup resemble more closely the soups we had in Andalusia. And it brought the heat down to a more tolerable level. It also made it decidedly non-vegan. For a vegan version, use almond milk. At one restaurant in Granada, we had an amazing Garlic-Almond soup. Next time I make this, I will try to remember to have almond milk on hand and to use that instead. I also intend to try this with roasted garlic. mmmm...

Sopa de Ajo con Crema o Almandes

  • 2 heads of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 cups veggie broth
  • 1/2 tsp. dried sage
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 cups milk (I used 2%, since I had it on hand. I would suggest a little fat, but no need for heavy cream)
  • 3 Tbsp. dry sherry (something you would actually drink)
  • Mince garlic, either by hand(!!), food processor, or garlic press (I used a press).
  • Heat olive oil in large sauce pan over medium heat.
  • Add garlic. Cook, stirring until softened (3 min?). Be careful not to let it brown too much.
  • Add broth and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes.
  • Add milk and sherry. Cook, stirring, for around 5 minutes, careful not to let it come to a boil.
  • Serve with fresh croutons.

Be sure that both you and your significant other partake of this meal. Else you may be without kisses for a while. And probably not a good idea to take this to work for lunch if you'll be visiting patients in the afternoon.

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

Monday, April 20, 2009

looking closely at Looking Closely

I established this blog to "look closely", to examine my world, and to evaluate if my life is indeed indicative of the world I want to live in. The Alice Walker quote in the blog title box pretty much sums it up.

Recently, I have gotten off-track. Some recent posts seem to be motivated more by anger, hurt, and despair than by love, healing, and hope. Now, I want my writing to be true and to reflect my world, and I don't want to sugar-coat serious ills, problems, hypocrisy and even evils. At the same time, I do believe that words are powerful. And they do shape reality. And as I examine my world, and record it, I have the opportunity to use my words to shape the future I am constructing.

As I wrote in a response to a recent anonymous commenter,

I don't want my world to be one where I use sarcasm as a weapon. I don't want my world to be one where my past wounds and past hurts cause me to wound and hurt others. As I "look closely" at [some of these posts], I see my writing motivated by hurt and anger. And life lived in hurt and anger is not the "future I dream of".

I intend to be more mindful with my words, to continue to strive at becoming my better self, and to construct my dreamed-of future in my everyday life.

Making Yogurt - Take 1

This weekend, inspired by my dear friend Lisa's awesome blog, I decided to make yogurt. In response to my Facebook status, which read, "Rachel is thinking about making yogurt this weekend," I had lots of encouraging words from friends:

"Like from scratch??? Cool. I just buy it in the plastic tubs. Ha!" - Jen, college friend

"Don't think - do! Those of us who have tried and repeatedly failed will live vicariously through you." - Kyle, seminary friend

"I make it every week! I use a crock pot. You'll love it!" - Jennifer, high school friend of my sister

"it is fun and sooooo yummy!" - Jennifer, seminary friend

"I've made my own yogurt before. By accident." - Jennifer, college friend

These comments, in addition to revealing just how popular the name Jennifer was during the 1970's, gave my the support and motivation I needed.

I got all of the ingredients and supplies, including the litre-sized canning jars, which I found at Canadian Tire of all places. And I started the process. I carefully monitored the temperature of the milk, heating it up and then cooling it down. I added the started and began the incubation process.

Then I made the fatal mistake: I left the house.

Craig and I had plans to have dinner with my friend (and colleague) Lindsay and her partner Brian before they move to Winnipeg next week. I saw that the directions called for several hours of incubation. Lisa indicated that her crock pot kept her yogurt at the right temperature for incubation. So I put mine in the crock pot and took off.

When I returned, the thermometer read 50 degrees above the incubation temperature; I had overcooked the yogurt. It was curdled and gross. My first attempt at yogurt since 9th-grade biology class was a failure.

However, I am a very cheap frugal and resourceful chef. I don't like to waste ingredients (especially organic milk). And I don't like to fail. So I tried to salvage the mess. I strained the curdled "yogurt" through a cheesecloth and ended up with a delicious cream cheese-like spread. It's slightly sweet, spreads easily, and tastes amazing on some cranberry crackers we had.

So I didn't get yogurt. But I did make a delicious treat that I'll probably never be able to replicate. Perhaps next time I'll actually get yogurt. Craig has already purchased another litre of organic milk for me to try again.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I need a weekend to recover from my weekend...

Here are the makings of an exhausting (but fun and friendship-filled) weekend:

  • ICU nurses night out (good for the chaplain to join them, eh?)


  • laundry
  • farmer's market (getting there so late they were sold out of decent onions)
  • search for canning jars, quart size (finally found at Canadian Tire, of all places)
  • attempt to make yogurt
  • game night with Lindsay and Brian
  • realization one shouldn't leave the house for several hours when yogurt is in the incubation period


  • brunch (and baby fix) with Sarah, Kevin, and Colin
  • conference call with the Peace, Justice, and Environment Project
  • grocery shopping
  • collapse, and watch a couple episodes of Battlestar Galactica (we started the series last month)

quiche me, quick!

Recently, I have rediscovered the joy, the ease, the simplicity, the versatility, and the yumminess of quiche. It started last weekend, Easter Sunday. Coming home from the church service where I preached, I was suddenly craving a good quiche. I suspect it had something to do with the myriad images of colored eggs bombarding me. Perhaps my body was just craving protein. Regardless, I wanted quiche. Having been reminded of how amazingly easy making quiche is, especially with a store bought crust (it was a last minute craving. besides, we don't have room to roll out a crust in our tiny, urban kitchen), I volunteered to make a quiche for brunch at our friends' house this weekend. Both quiches turned out spectacularly well. And this is (more or less) how they were made:


  • 1 - 9 in. pie crust (you can buy one like I did, or make your own and feel superior to me)
  • lots of fresh veggies, about 1-2 cups when chopped and cooked
    - for the Easter quiche, I used what vegetables we had on hand (zucchini, mushrooms, and spinach)
    - for the latest quiche, I used fresh asparagus
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped - onions are listed separately from vegetables as I consider them to be an essential base ingredient for most any dish
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 1/2 c. yogurt (or just a big serving-spoonful)
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp. dried or 2 Tbsp. fresh herbs (rosemary, basil, tarragon, you choose. I used tarragon; this is a new herb for me, and I am just discovering its versatility. I didn't use this in the first quiche, but it worked really well in the second.) (as always, meaurements are rough guesses/suggestions)
  • 1/2 c. grated cheese (we used mozzarella as we had it on hand, but cheddar, colby, or monterey jack would work, too) (and we didn't exactly measure the cheese. Craig grated it and it looked to be a little more)
  • 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and fresh ground pepper

Making the Quiche:

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Prick holes in the bottom of the pie crust and partially bake, say 5 min
  • Saute onion and garlic (with a little salt and pepper) on medium heat until soft, about 2 minutes
  • Add other vegetables, cook for another minute or two, remove from heat
  • Beat eggs and yogurt together.
  • Beat in nutmeg and herbs to egg mixture
  • Stir in cheeses and cooked veggies to egg mixture
  • Pour egg mixture into pie crust
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden and completely cooked in center


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

Thursday, April 16, 2009

take me to your leader

I am now, officially, the chapter leader of Democrats Abroad Edmonton.

I have the two big binders of stuff to prove it.

Epicurious in Edmonton 4

Our epicurious adventures this week were rather unintentional in that we had not made plans to go specifically to these restaurants, or even to go out. We just so of happened upon the occasions, and in the case of Pho Hoan Pasteur, we actually wandered into it...

It was Good Friday, and after taking our tire to get repaired, we found ourselves stranded at Canadian Tire, about 3k from home. It was a lovely day, the first lovely day (off) in a very long time, so we decided to walk home. But we were famished. I seemed to recall seeing a noodle house in the Kingsway Centre, down the road, and loving a good bowl of noodles, I suggested walking down that way, even if it was out of the way, to try it out. I seem to have a knack for discovering tiny gems in strip malls or hole-in-the-wall places. Pho Hoan Pasteur was just such a hidden treasure. At first, it was discouraging seeing the menu and finding not one vegetarian item on it. Fortunately, both Craig and I will eat seafood on rare occasions, so we decided to stay. The staff was very accommodating, they allowed us to get one seafood stew and to make a noodle dish without any meat and loaded with veggies. We also ordered avocado bubble tea (my first time to ever actually have bubble tea!) and the Edmontonian specialty, green onion cakes. The latter were the best we have had in E-town (and as Craig said, the most fattening). The bubble tea was delicious. And the entrees, when they arrived, were spectacular. The broth of the soup was delicate, yet packed with flavor. The restaurant has a wide selection of various sauces and condiments, but the soup didn't need them. The noodles were a perfect consistency, and the veggies steamed enough to retain their original crunch and bursts of flavor. We may not go back, since there are not many options for us. But it was certainly worth the single visit. And whenever we shop at the grocer in that strip mall, we may have to grab a bubble tea.

I wish I could offer a strong review of New Asian Village, especially since Edmontonians seem to love the place. But I cannot. We went there after my meeting with some of the leadership of the Edmonton Chapter of Democrats Abroad. The meeting ended late, we had not yet had dinner, and the thought of going home to make dinner (and eating after 9pm) was not appealling. I had heard about NAV, and since we were on that side of the river, I suggested trying it out. First of all, I did not realize it was a buffet. But I was sort of surprised and relieved since that meant we could eat right away. However, nowhere was the price of the buffet listed. The food was okay, but not necessarily good. The texture of the foods was mushy, more so the Indian food normally is. And the flavors reminded me of the prepackaged Indian sauces you can get at the grocery store, a little processed. Which surprised me since this place claims to have a tandoori oven. But it was decent, and I don't mind a so-so meal every once in a while, especially when it's late and I am hungry and too tired to cook. However, I do mind being overcharged for a so-so meal. And when the bill came we were shocked that this craptastic buffet costs a whopping $20 per person!! That was the same price as the really good Indian buffet (Origins India) we had driven past to get to NAV! And the food wasn't half as good as Origins. They did serve the most delicious mango lassi I have ever had. But a $5 mango lassi, no matter how good, does not make up for a $20 bland meal. And Craig was impressed with the selection of 150 beers. But if we go back, it will only be for the beer and lassi. Overall, New Asian Village is overpriced and overrated and not worth your time or money.

discernment (Facebook style)

Yesterday, I took one of those quizzes that are all the rage on Facebook these days (you know, the ones, the results of which, the new Facebook platform plasters all over your friends' home pages*). No, I didn't take the quiz to find out which Twilight character I am or what my easter bunny name would be or what Southern city I should live in or my "true" age or even what color crayon I would be. Rather,t he quiz that caught my attention was "what is your ministerial calling?". I took the quiz mainly so I could mock whatever answer came back. However, the results were interesting and surprisingly accurate:

Missions and Outreach Minister
"You are called to make a difference beyond the walls of traditional church.
You think Sunday morning church is important, but how you live out your beliefs
is even more important. You may be called to share the gospel by building
communities for Katrina Relief, or Habitat for Humanity. You may be called to
start a volunteer program to help out your local schools. You may be the person
in the walls of the church who advocates for justice and peace. You are called
to reach out and make a difference."

This does depict my passion for justice and my hope for the world and the church. However, after years of trying to be this voice for justice and peace in the church, I know how truly exhausting this role can be. And, as a result of my years of serving in this very position, I have come to doubt seriously that the church, despite its protestations otherwise, has has any intent or desire whatsoever to be an agent for change or good in the world. I may be "called to reach out and make a difference" "beyond the walls of the traditional church", but I don't think I can do that from within those walls.

*If you want to learn how to take those quizzes without bombarding your friends with the results, let me know. I have figured out a way to do so, and I will gladly teach you.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

tea parties

I wanted to post on the sheer stupidity and desperation of the tax protest "tea parties" around the US today, but first, I had to stop giggling at the ridiculous and seemingly oblivious moniker given to these "protests"; seriously, do they not know what "teabagging" is?

Then, my friend Scott, a brilliant ethicist in Chicago, said it so well my writing would just be redundant:
First of all, let's remember that the heart of protest in the Boston Tea Party was "no taxation without representation." But the teabaggers are represented! In some cases, owing to the unrepresentative character of the U.S. Senate, they're overrepresented, given the size and population of their states. Far from being an undemocratic and non-consensual imposition on the U.S. people by a distant and disinterested foreign government, this is the legislation that their own elected legislators passed, and that their popularly elected president signed. This is is all the opposite of taxation without representation.

Second, although these protests are demonstrations of inchoate anger toward Barack Obama, it's worth noting that the current tax code, the one that people are out protesting today, has got nothing to do with Barack Obama, but is in fact the tax code as it was enacted under largely Republican congresses and signed over the past eight years by a Republican president. So to the degree that this is directed toward Obama and the Democrats, it misses it's desired mark.

Third, and more to the point, the Democratic Congress enacted, and Barack Obama has signed, the largest middle class tax cut in America history, of which most of the protesters today will be the beneficiaries. Far from protesting today, many of these people should be thanking the U.S. government.

Fourth, the complaints about deficits are inane. Under Bill Clinton, when the economy was booming, we actually had a chance to reduce and even eliminate the deficit. Under George Bush and a Republican Congress, the deficit exploded, along with thousands of bombs in an unjust and immoral war in Iraq, which contributed to the deficit. To the degree that Barack Obama and the Democrats are adding to that deficit, it is, and it is intended to be, a short term means of stimulating the economy in order to spark businesses to produce and thus employ workers, and banks to start lending again. In fact, for this purpose, the stimulus package was actually probably small, and so we ought to be spending more.

Finally, where were all of these people when Bush was running up those deficits?They were nowhere to be seen! So to complain now in a crisis, about deficits when they were silent for eight years when their own guy was in power,
is a prima fascia demonstration of their hypocrisy.

The only thing I would add to Scott's analysis is the assertion that these teabagging (hee hee)parties are hardly the grassroots uprising the media is making them out to be. Why won't people realize they are just being used?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Doctor, Doctor

For the most part, I have been very pleased with health care in Canada. Having worked in hospitals in both Texas and Virginia, I saw how horrendously unjust the American health care system is. Immediately upon beginning my work here in Canada, I realized that I was not counseling a single patient or family member who was afraid of going bankrupt or losing their home due their the escalating costs of their care. I saw this ALL THE TIME in the States. Canadian health care is not without it's problems. I have heard stories of long waits in emergency rooms, shortages of physicians, and problems with standardized assessments. But everyone here has access to care. Everyone here will be treated, eventually. And your place in the health care system is not determined by your ability to pay.

I have been particularly impressed with the focus on preventative medicine. It makes sense, when you have the same entity, the province, both paying for service AND providing the service, they are more likely to see the long-run cost benefit of preventative medicine. Whereas, if you have two separate entities paying for service (insurance companies) and providing service (physicians, hospitals, et al), both are trying to make/save money, so the insurance company is going to try to avoid payment for treatment for as long as possible, and the physician isn't likely to provide treatment unless s/he is certain of payment. Thus, illness, ailments, conditions, etc go untreated until they become life-threatening (or until the life is taken and treatment is no longer needed, which seems to be the insurance companies' ultimate goal). In my role as a chaplain here in Canada, I have seen people hospitalized for conditions/symptoms that would never warrant a hospital stay in the States (simply because no insurance company would cover it). The reasoning of the Canadian hospitals is that treating the person now will save money down the road. Even if the focus is still on finances, at least here, the patient is treated.

As a patient, I've had no complaints about the health care system, with the one exception that it's extremely difficult to find a primary care physician. Canada has a doctor shortage, so most physicians are not accepting new patients, and one doesn't go to their PCP for immediate concerns (colds, broken limbs, stitches, infections, etc.). People go to their PCP for physicals, paps and the like. For any immediate need, you go to a walk-in clinic (for non urgent medical needs) or the emergency department of the hospital (for the urgent concerns).

My first experience at the walk-in clinic (for an infected cut on my finger) involved absolutely no wait; I was home with my prescription of antibiotics within an hour and a half of walking out my door. I had about a 30-minute wait on my second visit (for a sore throat). Nothing like the rumours of 30-hour waits that fearmongers spread throughout the States to warn people about the "horrors of socialized medicine".

Seriously, the only complaint I have is the doctor shortage. I needed to go for my yearly physical and pap smear. With the shortage of physicians here, you only go to a gynecologist for gynecological problems; you go to your PCP for your routine examinations. Only I didn't have a PCP yet. And with the shortage, I didn't have many options. So I went with the one closest to my home. And he was terrible. He wouldn't look at me when asking me questions. He seemed disgusted at my body and the thought of having to actually touch me. And he answered my questions is a condescending tone as if I know nothing about health, anatomy, medicine, etc. (I am the daughter of a physician. I do work in health care. I am an intelligent woman. And I do know a thing or two about medicine and my own body.) It was such a dehumanizing experience. I refuse to go back to this doctor.

Luckily, I don't have to. For most concerns, I will go to a walk-in (there are about six within a 10-minute walk of my home). And for anything more serious, I will go to a specialist. And I won't have to go to another PCP for a year.

I won't let a bad experience with a bad doctor become an anecdotal justification in support of privatized medicine. The States has bad doctors, too. I have been to a few. (And worked with many more.) While I would prefer a doctor who would actually look at me and treat me as a human being, I will accept a system that actually looks at everyone and treats all people as human beings. Dr. R is just a jackass. And I would rather be abused by a single jackass than an entire jackass system.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


So, I actually preached an Easter sermon in which I never once asserted that the resurrection took place. And the crazy thing? I don't think anyone (other than Craig) noticed.

I have no problem with the resurrection story. It's a powerful story. And there is truth there - truth that the message of one who broke down barriers of class and ethnicity, who preached justice and and the end to oppression, truth that this message cannot be contained , even by death.

Here is the text I used:
When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 4When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 8So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. - Mark 16:1-8a (NRSV)
What I love about Mark's version of Jesus' resurrection is that we never get to see Jesus risen from the dead. Instead, the women are told to return to the beginning, to go back to where Jesus commenced his ministry, go back to the Galilean poor, continue the work he started there, serving the poor, working for justice. And there you will see him.

Mark's version allows more room for myth. And when I say myth, I don't mean an untrue story. Rather, I agree with Dr. Tony Nugent, Presbyterian minister, who describes a myth as "a story that, at least at one point in time, had a very powerful spiritual resonance." With the other gospel accounts, it's easier for folks to read the accounts as literal, historical fact instead of "theologically constructed history". But Mark's abrupt ending (the likely original ending, not the two that were added later by folks who couldn't stand the ambiguity the author seemed to intend), "and they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid", is actually one that allows the readers to interpret various layers of meaning for themselves. And it can be read as an opportunity, even a imperative, for the reader to finish the story, to answer the call of discipleship and to do as the man said, to go, to tell, and to follow.

  • from our places of comfort
  • into the hurting world
  • to the people
  • to the authorities...
And tell...
  • of his death (at the hands of the empire)
  • of his life (lived serving the "least of these")
  • the message of hope, of love, of justice, of reconciliation
And follow...
  • his teachings
  • his example of living and loving
  • to Galilee, to live and serve among the Galilean poor in our world
To Galilee. There we will see him.

Do I believe in the resurrection? Absolutely. I have seen it again and again when people (the body of Christ?) rise up and speak truth to power, work for peace, fight for justice. As Carlos Mejia Godoy writes, "I believe you are resurrected in every arm raised against injustice." So yeah, I believe in the resurrection.

Do I believe the man Jesus was physically raised from the dead? I don't think it matters.

Friday, April 10, 2009

and a tradition commences

In Canada, different holidays are celebrated, and holidays are celebrated differently than in the States. For example, there's "Family Day" in Alberta in February. It's a day when schools are out and businesses and governmental offices are closed so that families can have a snow day together. Also, Thanksgiving is celebrated in October (which makes sense if one considers when the harvest occurs way up north, but it's still weird for us ex-pats). There's Boxing Day (December 26) Canada Day (July 1), Victoria Day (in May), and Good Friday is an actual governmental holiday. (Canada has so many governmental holidays, it hasn't even bothered to name them all. For example, the holiday in August is simply Civic Holiday. Seriously.)

Craig and I have started our own traditions for celebrating Canadian holidays that aren't necessarily holidays in the States: we get tires and root beer. And we walk. A lot.

Back in October, on Canadian Thanksgiving, we needed to have all new tires put on the car in order to pass Albertan inspections. We drove our car to Canadian Tire, and intended to take the bus back home. We hadn't anticipated the buses being on a holiday schedule, so we ended up walking and walking to find a bus stop where we could actually catch a bus. As hunger came on us, we headed to the nearby A&W.

Last night, we came out of the church to find one of our tires flat. We had run over a screw. Our spare also had a hole in it. So we took our tire home (by taxi). Today we dropped the tire off at Canadian Tire for repair (it was still under warranty), walked home, walked back when it was ready, and took a cab back to the church. After changing the tire, we noticed the A&W across the street. Sensing a tradition in the making, we went for a root beer.

Driving away from A&W, our fixed tire securely on our rear wheel, root beer in our cup holders, I noticed Craig folding the receipt from Canadian Tire, tucking in the screw that had flattened the new tire.

I giggled and asked, "Father, why is it that on all other holidays, we visit family and celebrate with food and festivities, but on this holiday we get tires and drink root beer?"

Craig laughed. "Well, son, we get tires because..."

lacking communion

How many times have I come to this table? How many times have I taken this bread, blessed it, broken it, and given it out? How many times have I told the story of Jesus sharing the Passover meal with his disciples in that upper room? My theology, my understanding of God, is centered around this table. My ecclesiology, my understanding of church and community, is centered around this table. I have preached sermons about this table. I have composed songs about this table. I have written fiction and poetry about this table. So I should be able to crank out a sermon for Maundy Thursday with no problem, right? But you know, it doesn't work that way. In preparation for tonight's message, I have been pondering this table, reflecting on this loaf, contemplating this cup, and I realize: I have absolutely no idea what it means.
So began my sermon for Maundy Thursday. Somehow it all came together for a message that the few who gathered there seemed to find meaningful. But how I struggled with it.

It's hard to preach on communion when you feel as if you are not in communion with the folks gathered, with the tradition, with Church, with God.

Don't get me wrong, I feel tremendously blessed to have such rich communion in my life - with my partner, with our friends, with our COMMUNity, with my family. But I just don't get that from the church or from religion these days. For years, my spirituality has been shaped around communion. So with the face of communion changing in my life, I need to figure out what that means in terms of my spirituality. Or if I even want to articulate my sense of communion in spiritual terms anymore.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

my shoulders hurt

My new favorite blog is Unreasonable Faith, which tells of a former Christian's journey from fundamentalist faith into skepticism. Recently, guest blogger vorjack posted an amazing essay which resonated deep within me. It begins with this quote:
Most of the advanced schools of theology, feeling less adequate in a time of science's empirical miracles and permanent, mathematical truths, protected themselves with scaled-down promises and vague imitations of the scientific method....

Theology, which had once ruled all science as well as all being, was resorting to more and more elaborate shrugs.
Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters, 91.
Vorjack then goes on to describe his personal journey from "unreflective" moderate Christianity to the liberal Christianity he found when reading the writings of Spong, Borg and the like...
I have to admit, there was a sense of relief to the transition. Finally I was finding a way to be Christian that didn’t inflict cognitive dissonance. But the price of that was a Christianity that was vague and maddeningly complex. Spong called it a state of “radical uncertainty” — I called it exhausting.

Christianity had become a series of increasingly elaborate shrugs, and after four or five years my shoulders were worn out.

Wow, my shoulders are also exhausted. I have been journeying through liberal Christianity for well over a decade now. And while at times, the communities with whom I have encountered have been nourishing and supportive, right now, I feel disconnected and isolated. And I have experienced the liberal church being as dysfunctional and abusive as our conservative counterparts. I guess I didn't mind the shrugging so much when I was in the fellowship of other skeptics. Those reciprocal back rubs surely helped. But alone, my shoulders hurt.

political geeks

In case you are wondering just how dorky Craig and I can be, let me share with you this conversation we had this morning:

"Which do you want? Red or blue?" Craig asks, referring to the tops of the two pyrex containers holding leftovers to be taken for lunch?

"Guess," I answer.

He then proceeds to put the red into my lunch bag.

See, red is my very favorite color. In a manner, not unlike a nine-year-old, I surround myself with my favorite color. Red car. Red coat. Red cell phone. Red wallet. Red backpack. Red purse. Red. Red. Red. ad nauseum.

Craig's favorite color is blue. Though he doesn't feel the same passion for blue as I do for red.

This red/blue divide does not indicate any political divide within our relationship. In the States, we are both staunchly blue (with a tinge of green), so Craig's color "wins". Had we been living in the States, he might have muttered, "Republican" under his breath as he put made my lunch, just to get a rise out of me. However, in Canada, with the color divide inverted (here, we are so red, we're orange), he keeps silent as he hands me my lunch.

I can't resist though. As he takes his blue pyrex, I mumble, "Torie." He hears me, of course, and takes the bait, which then launches us into a debate as to weather it's better to be a "Liberal Republican" or a "Conservative Democrat". Is it better to be my former senator, Evan Bayh (whom I find to be a despicable, slimy, opportunist who doesn't hold values so much as a weather vain to determine which way the political wind is blowing), or to be Craig's former governor, Mitt Romney (whom Craig's sees as a despicable, slimy, opportunist who doesn't hold to values so much as a weather vain...).

At this point, my lunch made and a bus arriving in minutes, the conversation seems to end as we kiss goodbye. As I head out the door, I mutter, "Evan Bayh" once more. "Mitt Romney," he calls after me. Then, both repulsed by the insults we have hurled at each other, we apologize, kiss again, and I leave.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

the professor's wife

In the past year, I have had a number of labels put on me, in some cases even stamped into my passport: immigrant, settler, dependent, wife... And I have been struggling to figure out how these labels relate to words I have previously used to describe myself: citizen, activist, independent, feminist, partner...

Many sacrifices have been made in order for Craig and I to be together and for Craig to assume this amazing position and to fulfill the vocation dream he has held since he was six (he jokes that in 1st Grade, he changed his major for paleontology to astronomy). And some of those sacrifices have been tough for me.

But one thing I have realized is that I LOVE being a "professor's wife"*, although I struggle with being identified as anyone's possession (fortunately Craig would never see me as such). As a professor's wife, I get all of the benefits of the community of academia (stimulating conversations, fascinating community, access to lectures and concerts, etc) without actually having to get the PhD, without having to sit through departmental meetings, and without having to teach (though I think I would enjoy the teaching piece).

Back in the fall, I joined the Faculty Women's Club, which although it is open to women faculty, consists mostly of professor's wives. While my current job does not allow me to attend as many gatherings as I would like, I have enjoyed and appreciated the myriad gifts these women have given to me, namely the gift of empathetic support. These women know what it means to be uprooted for a partner's career. They know what it means to move across the continent or around the globe from one's family. They know the vulnerability one feels as a setller, an immigrant, a newcomer. They know the sacrifices I have made. They have bene there. They have survived. And indeed they have thrived.

The other gift these women give me is the sense that success and accomplishment need not be dependent upon employment. Many of these women had vibrant and thriving careers of their own, but many did not. Some held jobs that filled them with meaning and purpose, others simply worked for additional income, and still others did not draw paychecks for their activities. But all of these women are successful and accomplished. They have lived into their passions. They have filled their time and their lives with growth, learning, service, community, beuty, action, hobbies, and pursuits.

Last night, members of FWC gathered at Eunice's house as she showed us her Inuit art collection, shared her stories of working on various galleries across Canada, and imparted to us her love for and desire to learn about the Inuit people. On the way home, I was talking with my friend Sarah (another gift of FWC) and together, we were commenting on how inspirational these women who have been there are to us newbies who are just figuring out what it means to be a "professor's wife".

I don't know if I'll ever get used to the labels put upon me. I don't know when I'll stop feeling the sense of loss at the life I left behind (even while celebrating the life that currently brings me such joy). I don't know where I will find my sense of purpose, success, and accomplishment in this new world. But I do know I appreciate the wisdom, friendship, and support I receive from me community of "professors' wives".

* Despite the fact that I am not actually Craig's "wife", people still see me as such. Or, they see him as my husband:

Craig's Last Lecture

So, my Beloved will soon no longer be a new professor; his last lecture or his first term teaching is this afternoon.

To celebrate, we are going to the annual undergraduate physics majors' end of term party: Yuri's Night*. One thing I have learned since I started hanging out with Craig is that geeks can party. Woohoo!

*I'll give a prize to any of my US readers (either one of you) who can correctly tell me the the origin of the party's theme. And you're on you honor not to look it up on Wikipedia.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Holy, Moly, some Holy things happening this Holy Week

Last week, it was Iowa, right smack dab in the middle of the country, whose highest court decided that the gay marriage ban was unjust.

Then today, Vermont's legislature became the first to legalize gay marriage with a legislative vote.

And also today, Washington DC said it would recognize all marriages - gay and straight.

In 2004, when Massachusetts became the first state to allow same-sex couples to covenant their lives together in marriage, we saw justice, at that time just a tiny trickle, rolling down.

Now, my friends, I am beginning to believe that the tiny trickle can - and will - become a mighty stream. (Amos 5:24)

I know it's still Lent, but I just cannot wait until Sunday to say, "Hallelujah!!"

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Baby Fix

Occasionally, I just have this strong urge to cuddle up with a cutie-pie (smaller than Craig) and to flirt incorrigibly with a baby.

Fortunately, our friends Sarah and Kevin will occasionally loan me their new kid, Colin, to assuage this desire and supply my kid-fix.

Look at those dimples. Isn't he just the cutest?

Thanks, Sarah and Kevin for a wonderful brunch. And for letting me play with Colin this afternoon.

mmm, sushi

Making sushi is not as hard as it looks. In fact, I think we got a little carried away.

There were only four of us.

Sunday Morning

So, one of us is the heathen, the other the hypocrite. Guess which one I am?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

time out

Sally at revgalblogpals writes:
Holy Week is almost upon us, I suspect that ordained or not, other revgal/pals calendars look a bit like mine, FULL, FULL, FULL........

Jesus was great at teaching us to take time out, even in that last week, right up to Maundy Thursday he withdrew, John's gospel tells us he hid! He hid not because he was afraid, but because he knew that he needed physical, mental and spiritual strength to get through...

So faced with a busy week:
1. What restores you physically? Sleep. After a night on-call at the hospital which included a two hour call at 3am, I am in need to physical restoration. Also yoga. And walking. And sex.

2. What strengthens you emotionally/mentally? Friendships. Genuine, engaging friendships. Friendships filled with laughter, authenticity, challenge, vulnerability, acceptance, and love. The type of friendship Dar Williams sings about in her song "Arrival":
My friends give me purple flowers and orange tea
On goosedown spilling quilts and turquoise chairs
We greet each other in a wild profusion of words
And wave farewell amidst the wonderment of air
And in the laughing times we know that we are lucky
And in the quiet times we know that we are blessed
And we will not be alone
This verse always makes me think of my friend Amy's dorm room in Brown Hall.

3. What encourages you spiritually? Friendships (see above). And interestingly, the myriad skeptical/atheist blogs I read.

4. Share a favourite poem or piece of music from the coming week. Six years ago, I wrote a hymn for Palm Sunday. You can find the text here on my old blog.

5.There may be many services for you to attend/lead over the next week, which one are you most looking forward to and why? If there aren't do you have a favourite day in Holy week if so which one is it? My theology is very eucharistic, centered around the communion table. So I LOVE Maundy Thursday. Fortunately, I will be preaching at one of the two Disciples churches in Edmonton on that evening. It will be the frist time I have presided at the communion table in months. I have been feeling so disconnected from my denomination, the wider Church, and religion in general these days - utterly lacking in communion with my tradition, despite frequent church attendance. So, this could be a homecoming of sorts. Or it could be an affirmation that I can't go home again. Or I could realize that I no longer want to call that space home. We'll see...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fools

You know, these Canadians can't take a joke. Actually, they can take a joke, but only until noon. Apparently, if you play a prank after noon, you are the "April Fool" and they get to pinch you. I would have liked to have known this before 10am this morning. I was scrambling to get all of my pranks in by noon. And even had to call off a few.

Silly Canadians.