Saturday, May 30, 2009

sun dance

-Going to a May Ball and enjoying dancing, eating and chatting. You can know people for a while, but busting a move on the dance floor together brings a new level of understanding (and ridiculousness)!

-The perfect weather: warm enough for a tank top and sandals and cool enough for jeans and a light scarf.

-Craving popcorn and thinking I was all out and then discovering a hidden little bag of my favorite kind from home in the cupboard. I did a little happy dance when I found it.

-Planting sage, parsley, oregano and thyme in a window box outside my kitchen and enjoying the convenience of plucking some fragrant leaves to add to my roasted vegetable couscous.

Friday, May 29, 2009

small wonder

-"You're tiny, but you're strong!!" from one of the other dancers at my carnival dance.

-Getting lost on the way to said carnival dance, and feeling great relief when I could hear the drumming and knew I was close.

-Wonderful dreams: first, of getting ready with all of my family to go to Mo Ranch and then, hanging out with my best friends (my "gnomies"). I woke up really feeling like we had all had the best time together last night.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

on cue, hello again and how much?

-Getting exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it.

-Going to a training thing and recognizing people from a reconciliation meeting last week. Yay networking!

-Seeing some kids I teach Religious Education to on the street, petting two adorable fluffly white dogs belonging to a lady. When they asked "Are they for sale?" I smiled, and so did she.

Monday, May 25, 2009

freedom, favorites & friendly felons

-All that this day stands for: those who sacrificed everything in service to others, and who continue to do so.

-Pierce emailing me a very thoughtful prayer.

-Sunday morning, I was going down the stairs and slipped on my slippers (ironic, I know) and fell down 5 steps, sending my favorite coffee mug that my sister gave me for Christmas a while back shattering down the stairs. This is not the glimpse of grace. Later, when I was telling Jessi about it, and that I hoped I could turn the handle that survived into something cool, she supportively said "Yeah, you would be great at that. You're so creative!" This is the glimpse of grace.

-Irish linen being sold at St. George's, and the charming but semi-aloof "this-stuff-markets-itself" attitude of the seller that was so quintiscentally Irish to me.

-Gorgeous vibrant flowers.

-Thinking outside the booth: this was scrawled on the floor right in front of a booth selling tea.

-A great saying on the wall of a pub. It stuck with me all day.

-The advantages of being an outsider. They're are certainly plenty of disadvantages to being a foreigner, but there are also opportunities a local wouldn't probably have. Saturday was one such opportunity. Lori and I were invited by friendly Republicans we met once, Fra and Spotty, to have a tour of the Falls Road in Belfast. This is the most Republican area in Belfast, where a great deal of the Troubles happened. They took us to a "museum" where Rebublican memorabilia are kept, including many things from Long Kesh (a prison where many IRA people were sent). They took us to a Memorial Garden and the cemetary where most who died through IRA involvement were buried and pointed out their numerous family and friends who died. Then, they took us to the "Felons Club," where only ex-IRA (or not-so-ex I'm sure) people who were imprisoned for more than 9 months and their families are invited to be members. Belfast has many, many sectarian pubs, but this one takes the cake. This tells you something about our tour guides, one of whom is now a prominent Republican politician. I was completely safe the whole time, in fact, I was constantly introduced to Fra's friends by him saying "This woman here's a Presbyterian minister" and was warmly received. I sat and sipped a pint of Harp, and was brought free egg salad sandwiches and sausages like it was the most natural thing in the world. It seemed that once I was found to be American, the whole Protestant thing wasn't such a hangup. Now my tour was extremely one-sided, full of propaganda and politics, but it was also full of real stories and experiences of these two mens' lives on the Falls Road. And a Northern Irish Protestant just wouldn't have been invited in, minister or not. And maybe that's part of the problem. It was a powerful experience. I just hope they're not equating American with "felon"... :)
-Fra, Spotty and Lori at the Falls Road Cemetary in what I can only describe as the "IRA Section." There was a palpable, eerie sadness about the place, not just because it was a cemetary. Being told that the average age was between 18-25 probably had something to do with it.

-Writing on one of the peace walls. As Fra and Spotty stopped to give us the chance to write on the walls they said "You can come back and see your writing there again!" and I thought to myself that I would rather come back to no walls.

-Roses drenched in rain.

-The infamous Felons' Club.

-A tranquil Sunday afternoon walk at Shaw's Bridge along the water. Belfast is a place of such extremes: from places of bitterly violent history one day to still, calm waters and tall-reaching trees the next.

Friday, May 22, 2009

just shy of a dozen

-A meeting with people I didn't know (chaplains at Queen's University) that began with laughter, setting the tone for an open, casual and informative gathering.


-Sleeping really, really well and wondering why I don't make sleep a priority more often.

-Being told by someone in the church "everyone just smiles when you get up to talk." What a nice thing to say.

-Having children from the primary school come to Fitzroy for their school concert and feeling like walls between the church and its community began to crumble in the process.

-A sandal-worthy day (almost--it rained later, but I wore them anyway).

-Getting a Rachael Ray magazine in the mail and reading it in one sitting--even doing the fun "foodie" crossword, which I was way more successful with than normal ones.

-I've brought about 100 corn tortillas back from my recent visit stateside (they don't have them here) and felt the need to be creative to use them up. My Mom suggested a sort of tortilla casserole and it was completely delicious. I didn't know what to call it until I pulled it from the oven all bubbly and spicy in the cast iron skillet and sliced through layers of tomato sauce, beef and cheese and said aloud "Mexican Lasagne!" There's no other way to describe it.

-Cool creamy fairtrade coffee ice cream with dots of ground coffee in it.

-Watching the Chelsea Flower Show with all its beauty and art on tv and deciding that I really do need to go next year.

Monday, May 18, 2009

waiter, there's a meal in my potatoes!

-Craving potatoes, asparagus and proscuitto and just putting them all together. I thought, if risotto can be a meal, why not fancy mashed potatoes? The combination of creamy potatoes, salty proscuitto, earthy roasted garlic and asparagus, tangy gruyere cheese and fresh bright thyme was just heavenly.

-Getting on the bus just as the rain began. I watched from a warm, dry place as the rain pelted down harder and harder but then it miraculously stopped raining by the time I had to get off the bus.

-Going to the movies with Liz and enjoying making fun of the intended-to-be-serious movie.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

St. George and Lady Londonderry

Remember St. George's Market, my usual Saturday haunt? I went after a tragically early 8:15 meeting and enjoyed the sights, smells, sounds and tastes of this great place. The weather is completely freezing right now and crazy windy, so it was nice to walk into a warm place full of familiar smells of spices, coffee, plants and even fish and sounds of live music wafting all the way up to the exposed rafters. I thought I'd share some of my favorite glimpses of the market.

-Delicate cupcakes (or "fairy cakes" as they call them here) neatly displayed in a swirling tower of colorful sweetness.

-Large wheels of cheese just waiting to be devoured. I tried a little of a wine-infused cheddar and it was so tasty!

-Colorful varieties of spices in warm rich tones that give off fragrant reminders of far-away places as you walk past.

-Little chocolate tarts decorated with my favorite celtic symbol. I think it's rather Trinitarian.

After the market, I went to the Mount Stewart House and Gardens for their Garden and Craft Fair with some friends and had such a whimsical time. I bought perhaps the most random assortment of things ever: a tiny plastic vase with a periwinkle filigree pattern on it that folds flat but opens and stands up when filled with water, a thyme plant, a handmade bohemian fabric clutch and a carton of delicious Thai green curry sauce. It was a fun adventure, and the best part was walking through the beautiful gardens of the house. Apparently a Lady of the Londonderry family still lives there and I overheard a worker say that "her parrot is the only thing older than her in the house--by one year."

Thursday, May 14, 2009

communal music

-Being invited by my friend Helen from my contemporary dance class to be a part of the dance group for a carnival in Belfast this June. I came, a bit nervous about what to expect, and found a massive warehouse full of about 20 drummers, drumming in unison and also having their own components to the tribal-sounding music. Sometimes the leader would hold his drumsticks in the air and pump them to the deep bass beats in perfect harmony, making it look like he was making the sound just into the open air. There was a carpet on the floor for Helen and I to dance (others will be coming next week). All of my fear left as I couldn't help but move to the beat of the drums, feeding off the energy in the place. We did a lot of samba-like moves in a line (so you can move foward in a parade while doing them) and it was really fun. It reminded me a bit of dancing at high school football games with the drumline thumping out a rhythm, but this time it was more free and relaxed.

-Discovering that I know Helen's cousin. This is a very Northern Irish thing--to know people in common--and we realized that we probably met before in my former life in Belfast. She looked at me and said "See, I knew you looked familiar when you first came to dance class!"

-Great banter at Nightreach, where we gave soup and bacon sandwiches to people out late near the church. Everyone was really grateful and friendly, and the conversation varied from studying to faith to (even) Crocodile Dundee. At one point, we were all trying out our best Aussie accents. People may say we're becoming increasingly individualistic as a society, but last night, I witnessed and participated in warm community being formed.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


-Walking in the p5 (9 yr old) class to teach religious education and having all the children cheer.

-Making delicious peppers stuffed with basmati rice, parmesan, basil, pine nuts and tomatoes. So tasty!

-A meeting where people used their democratic power in responsible, edifying and inclusive ways.

Monday, May 11, 2009

strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow

I've been on a children's retreat this past weekend, but I'm back! :) It was in Newcastle (at the same camp as the youth retreat a couple of months ago).

Here are some glimpses of grace from the weekend:

-Sitting on the balcony of our chalet in the morning and drinking coffee and thinking. For some reason, words from one of my favorite hymns came into my head: "Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide; Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!" I think I might make a painting that includes some of those words, because apparently God wants them to stick with me.

-Watching waves lazily glide across the beach in perfect rhythm.

-The joy, laughter, energy, wisdom and faith of children.

-The intricacy of a jellyfish (looked at and not touched), with it's veiny lines that look like little glowing hairs.

-Very encouraging words from Sheena.

-Bouldering up a freezing cold river and climbing up its waterfalls with the children. At one pause waiting for everyone to catch up after a particularly challenging waterfall climb, I thought of one of my favorite movies--The Mission--and its famous waterfall climb scene as the missionary climbed to meet the people he came to serve. I smiled to myself as I decided that this freezing bouldering was my version of that...minus the nasty colonialism, of course.

**I'll try to get pictures up. Right now, blogger won't post them for some reason.**

Friday, May 08, 2009

spring inside

-A delicious breakfast-for-supper dinner of pancakes and bacon that warmed me right up after a really cold, wet night. It does not feel like May here at all!
-A very timely passage of scripture. I get emailed the daily lectionary of the PCUSA every day and honestly don't always read it, but this morning I did. And it spoke volumes to me.

-Roberta bringing me gorgeous purple tulips to brighten my day. It may not feel at all like spring outside, but in my room these cheery stems remind me that it is.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

look both ways

-Visiting a wonderful 80+ year old in the church for lunch and asking how she and her husband met. It turns out, they met crossing the street on the way to the Chelsea Flower Show in England. She told me the story and then sat back in her chair, smiled and said, "isn't it romantic?" Let's just say I'll be definitely looking both ways before I cross the street. :)

-Coming in from the rain and being offered a crisp glass of white wine.

-Having the courage to point out something that's really important to me and having it acknowledged and heard. (In this case, it was pointing out the importance of gender balance in preachers for services and that only 3 out of 25 upcoming services will be led by women--and I'm 2 of the 3.)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

chillin' with my gnomies

I spent the last week hanging out with some of my best friends from seminary in New Jersey and New York. Words can't really express how wonderful it was to sit in a room with people who completely know me and just be. We drank coffee in our pj's, played games, talked church and theology (a lot), laughed (a lot), travelled around NYC, ate tons of food and just enjoyed each other's company. I have so much love for my great friends (and was sad I couldn't see everybody on this trip) and feel so supported and cared for by them. So, thanks guys, for being there, back massages, deep conversation, laughing at my corny jokes, monster hugs and just being who you are (and so inviting me to most fully be myself). You're the best. I miss you already, but I have lots of pictures to remind me of our good times.

**If you have a serious amount of time on your hands, you can see all of my pictures here and here.

Meet McGnomy everbody! This is our little companion on the trip. He's now living with Karen, Rob and Abby for a while, and then he'll travel to stay with another one of us.

The girls

Rob looking out at the Statue of Liberty

I love the guy's face in the background! You don't see gnomes in Penn Station very often.

I went on a Sex & the City tour of NYC (of course!) and this is where Carrie's engagement party was in the movie. If you're as obsessed as me, you'll also know this is where the "last single girl kiss" happened. :)

No tour would be complete without a cosmo at Steve & Aidan's bar.

I loved Greenwich Village.

And I loved the cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery even more.

An Audrey moment.

McGnomy at Strawberry Fields in Central Park.

Lovely, lovely 5th Avenue Presbyterian Church in NYC.

Did you really think a bunch of minister-types wouldn't find a church to hang out in?

Little Italy. Oh, the joy of Chinese food in Chinatown chased by cappucinos and eclairs in Little Italy.

View from the top of Rockefeller Center.

The rain didn't arrive until we got to Times Square.

What a perfect trip!