Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fun with the Family: Merry Christmas

The lead-up to Christmas felt especially hectic this year. I ended up making several pastoral visits in the two weeks leading up to Christmas Day. These visits were important both for me and for the people I saw, but also took big chunks out of my available time. I also found there were a bunch of little things that needed to be taken care of at the last minute ~ both Christmas related and not. I put in more than a few very long days and skipped going to the gym more than I would like to admit. Having Christmas fall on a Sunday just added to the, um, excitement.

Even so ~ and maybe because of it ~ Christmas was wonderful. The Christmas Eve services were spirit-filled and celebratory. The Christmas Day worship was, as one parishioner aptly put it, filled with love. And in the midst of it all, I got to spend some great time with Gary and the furry family members.

After the Christmas Eve services Gary set up the tripod to try to capture our yearly holiday photo. After a busy, exhausting day this about sums it up. I love the smiles on our faces. (Well, Zeke isn't smiling, but.......)

Monday, December 05, 2011

Advent Expectation

I seem to be a little out of practice for Advent. Last year I missed Advent with my congregation since I spent most of it with my Dad in the days before his death. Dad died on December 18th and I didn't return to worship with my congregation until the Sunday after Christmas. Liturgically I went from Christ the King Sunday to Epiphany. Everything in between was a blur.

Spiritually I also missed out on Advent. It was difficult to wait with anticipation for the birth of the Christ Child while I was also anticipating the death of my father. Even so, I was able to draw the connection that, even in the midst of death and despair, Christ comes. A week after my father died we celebrated the birth of the savior of the world. That is the good news. Christ comes.

So this year I am trying to be present in Advent. Even as the Christmas tree and lights and cookies remind me of hospital beds and visiting nurses and funeral directors, I know that Christ comes. In fact, Christ comes right into our living rooms whether they are filled with presents or littered with medications and oxygen machines. Christ still comes.

This is the good news.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Renewal

I'm feeling a little low on spiritual-reserves lately, so it is a good thing I am getting away for a Spiritual Renewal Retreat this week. I am headed to the Weston Priory for a couple of days of quiet time to renew my soul and restore my spirit. I hope to return filled and ready for the Advent season.

It is easy for me to neglect this renewal time and think I can get by on empty for just a little longer. In fact, I am having trouble remembering the last time I got away specifically for spiritual renewal. Sure, I've taken vacations and attended continuing education events, but spiritual renewal is something different. Spiritual renewal is a specific and deliberate set-aside-time to spend with God. I feel blessed to work within a denomination that recognizes the need for such time. I am grateful to serve a church that encourages me to spend the time away from them to renew myself so I can be a better pastor.

So I wonder what God will have in store for me this week in the quiet moments we will spend together. I have a couple of books to bring and some writing I would like to do, but I am also looking forward to just "being" for a period of time. Just being and listening and opening myself to that still, small voice.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Friday Five (on Saturday): Uplifted Edition

The days are getting shorter and darker. It is easy to get down this time of year. The RevGalBlogPal "Friday Five" is an invitation to think about what gives you a lift. RevGal Sally writes:

"Over the last few weeks I have been struggling with depression, I know that from reading other folks blogs that I am not alone in this, and from time to time if not suffering from depression that everyone feels down. With that in mind I wonder what lifts you?"

So I'd like you to share 5 things:

1. A Scripture- it might be a verse or a whole book!

Psalm 126 always lifts my Spirits, particularly verses 1 & 2:

1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.

I can't help but smile right along with them! The Lord has done great things for us. Amen!

2. A piece of music.

My general answer is anything Dar Williams. Dar's music is funny and touching and poignant. I love all her CDs. I hear my own life reflected in her songs. Sometimes, though, I need something with a little more kick to it and that is when I get out Sheryl Crow or Meredith Brooks or Alanis Morissette. Other times something quieter and (more) spiritual is called for so I turn to my Taize CDs. I guess it all depends on the circumstances!

3. A place.

Home. I am a homebody. I love puttering around the house. I love the quiet of being home alone. I love reading on the couch and playing ball with Bady in the backyard. I even enjoy doing the dishes, cleaning the kitchen and washing the floors. If I am stressed or having a bad day give me an afternoon at home alone to clean and putter and read and I will soon be in much better spirits.

4. A person/ group of people

Gary. He's the one who has walked with me through my darkest days. He's seen me at my worst and he's stuck with me. He knows what to do when I'm sick or sad or grumpy. He's the one I want to have around no matter what. (Thanks Honey!)

5. Something you do...

I could be having a difficult week at work or a challenging time at home, but when I get out on the Schutzhund field with Bady and my training friends I forget all about it. It is a place completely apart from the day to day stressors of my life. Schutzhund challenges me in a completely different way. After an afternoon or evening of training ~ in the rain, in the heat, in the snow, in the cold ~ I am rejuvenated and ready to face whatever challenges await back at home or in the office.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Eating Local

This year we signed up for our first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). We started receiving our weekly boxes of veggies in June and I'll pick up our last box next week. It has been an interesting experience. We definitely threw away more food than I would like to admit. (How many tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini can one eat in a week?) We also experienced some new vegetables and some new ways to cook familiar ones. I made mashed celeriac for the first time! We also ate a LOT of squash ~ acorn, butternut and delicata!

We wasted a lot of greens (kale and collard, for example) because we just didn't know what do with them and they wilted before we figured it out. Next year I would like to do better with preserving food so that it doesn't go to waste as well as figuring out how to eat the more perishable stuff in time.

All in all, we enjoyed it. We had fun pointing out all the "Vermont grown" food we were eating. It is nice to know that the food we enjoyed was not shipped across the country, but came from just up the road. It was also good to know that we were supporting a local farm through our share commitment, especially with all the flooding both in the spring and fall. And who knew that Vermont jalapenos would be so hot!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Five This Fall

I haven't been great about keeping up on things this fall! So here are five things that have happened so far this September and October.

1. At the end of September we participated in our second Walk to Defeat ALS. So far the walk has raised $50,000. Amazing! There seemed to be more walkers than last year. This, perhaps, means that there is more awareness of ALS in our community. It could also mean that more people are being diagnosed. Last year we walked in honor of my father. This year we walked in memory of him. It was a bittersweet day and I hope that the donations we raised can bring us closer to a cure so families no longer have to go through what we went through.

2. This week I've enjoyed a little vacation visiting with some of my favorite girls including this little cutie!

3. And this little cutie too! It was so much fun to be "Auntie Krista for a couple of days.

4. After my visit with the girls, Gary and I spent the night in Springfield with his landlord family. They treated us to a delicious dinner of chicken vegetable soup and tamales! It was my first time ever having a tamale. After I figured out how to unwrap them from the corn husk they were very good. The sauce was a little spicy for me, though. After dinner we snuck out for an ice-cream sundae. I had peanut butter ice-cream with peanut butter topping and peanut butter cups. Yum! On our way back to Burlington on Friday we stopped in Killington and watched some of the Dock Dogs National Championships. The jumps these dogs took were amazing!

5. Our most recent adventure this fall was running in the "Four Paws for Lacey's Cause" 5K. Lacey's Cause is a non-profit that supports the medical care of retired police dogs in Vermont. It was my first 5K and I was pleased not to come in last! At at 77 degrees it was very warm for a Vermont fall day. I was glad to support Bady's "brethren in blue." After the race we saw some K-9 demos from local and state police K-9s and their handlers.

So far it has been an eventful fall!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Musings

Here we are on September 12th. Where has the summer gone? It still feels mostly like summer, with warm temperatures during the day, but the nights do get chilly and the leaves are starting to turn! For the most part I would say we had a fun, productive summer. I wish I had gone bike riding more often, but there is only so much one can do with one's time. Perhaps there will be opportunity for a fall bike ride or two!

Church life has definitely transitioned to the fall. Church School kicked-off yesterday and there was a palpable increase in energy in the sanctuary. It felt good. Our ministry teams are gathering back after a little down-time and Charge Conference is even on the calendar! I do have a fall vacation planned and a fall visit from Mum to look forward to as the days get shorter.

Bady and I are enjoying fall training with our Schutzhund training group. The sun is setting earlier, though, which presents a challenge on the field. Our hopes for another title this year were a little beyond our reach so we are focusing on our Schutzhund A or Schutzhund 1 for next spring. We have a lot of work to do over the winter ~ training with our group and training at home and training at the park ~ to prepare.

I give thanks for family and friends and meaningful work. I feel blessed and lucky to be able to connect with some community workers doing good things in the field of domestic and sexual violence. I am learning much from them. I will continue to meet with the Country Domestic and Sexual Violence Task Force as I seek ways to share what I have learned from my journey with PTSD and my continued journey of healing from trauma. Reading about PTSD helps to put my experiences into context and build my knowledge base.

I guess those are my Monday Musings for the moment! Thanks be to God for all the little things that make up life!

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Calm after the Storm

Today is an absolutely beautiful day. You almost wouldn't know that there was a hurricane yesterday! Irene blew through with high winds and torrential rains. Up here in northern VT we didn't get the worst of it. Flash-floods, though, in the southern part of the state continue to be very severe. My thoughts are with my fellow New Englanders struggling with the effects of the storm. My biggest inconvenience has been picking up sticks in our yard. We have two trees that shed branches in a mild breeze. I was actually surprised there weren't more branches down after the howling winds of last night. This afternoon I spent 30 minutes gathering sticks I only cleared about 1/8 of the yard. I'll keep at it and I'm sure there will be some left for Gary to pick up when he gets home at the end of the week!

The sky is an amazing blue today and the clouds are white and puffy in the sky just like a painting. The only give-away of the hurricane is the slightly tousled look of the trees, like they haven't quite gotten their branches and leaves back in place after a hard night.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

Today marks three years of Bady and I working together! He came home to live with me (after two months of training at the kennel) on August 24, 2008. On August 25, 2008 he went to the office with me for the first time. I often say that the first night he came home was the first night I was able to really sleep in seven years. It took us a little longer to settle into our work routine, but his coming to work with me has allowed me to focus on my work and be a much more effective and engaged pastor.

Before I got Bady, when I was dealing with worst symptoms of PTSD, hyper-arousal (feeling constantly "on guard" or being jumpy or easily startled) kept me from sleeping and concentrating well. Working with Bady has relieved that symptom since he is the one who's job it is to be on guard.

And it hasn't been all work. We've had a lot of fun together too!

Monday, August 22, 2011

There is a day...

There is a day when summer seems to tilt into fall, and I think that day was today. There was a definite chill in the air when I brought Bady to the backyard this morning. The temperature warmed, but there was still a chill on the wind this afternoon as I ate ice-cream outside with some friends. The morning low tomorrow is predicted to be about 40 degrees.

In some ways it seems that summer has slipped by too fast. Ben's visit has come and gone. Campmeeting is over. The church leaders are putting their eyes towards the important business of the fall ~ Church School, Music Programs, Charge Conference. The lazy days of summer, if not over, are coming to an end. And I think I am glad.

I'm find that the first year after losing my Dad is painful in ways one cannot predict. Of course, this is what everyone tells you but it is hard to understand until it is experienced first hand. Did I have a good Campmeeting? Yes, I did. (But it was different because my Dad was not there as he always had been and, as I thought, he always would be.) Even things that don't directly relate to my Dad are different because I don't have a Dad. As Anne Lamott wrote in one of her fabulous books, "Life is better when you have a Dad."

So this has been my first summer without my Dad. And some other things have happened that I am not prepared to blog about yet.

So I am ready to transition into the fall and watch the leaves turn brilliant colors and die and fall to the ground. And I am ready to watch the first snow fly and prepare for Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I am ready to enter another new year and it will be the second year of not having a Dad. And it may not be any better, but it will be different.

There is a day when time begins to heal, and I don't want to rush it.... but I'll be ready for that day when it comes.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Five ~ Decisions, Decisions

It's been a long time since I've participated in the Friday Five. I think the last time was before I moved two years ago. It feels good to be back.

RevGal Sharon asks:

How do you decide? Check out the following pairs and tell which one of each appeals to you most:

1) Sunrise or Sunset

Sunset! I haven't seen too many sunrises, but I have great memories of sunsets. The most beautiful sunsets involve pick clouds to which I always proclaim, "Red at night, sailors' delight!" Last year Gary and I witnessed a beautiful sunset on Marco Island, FL from our hotel room balcony. We ran down to the beach to try to get a better picture and by the time we arrived the sun had melted into the ocean.

2) To the Mountains or To the Beach

Mountains! Marco Island vacation aside, the mountains are where my heart is. I would much rather be taking in the view from the top of a mountain than sitting on a beach all day. This probably has to do with the fact that most of my childhood vacations involved camping and hiking. Each year we would head to Baxter State Park and chose a new peak to climb. Living in Vermont I love that I am surrounded by mountains and can see them (weather permitting) every day.

3) Coffee or Tea

Both! One cup of coffee when I first get up is essential. One cup of tea mid-day helps me focus. I could not get by with out both!

4) Advent or Lent

Advent is a beautiful season, but I get much more out of Lent. I find that my focus during Advent is divided between all the church work that needs to get done and all the personal preparations for Christmas that also need to get done. Lent is a quieter and more spiritual time for me. It is also longer. I always feel much more spiritually prepared for Easter than I do for Christmas. (Maybe I should try to do something about that!)

5) "Raindrops on Roses" or "Whiskers on Kittens"

Whiskers on kittens. Those who read my blog know how much I love animals, so enough said!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Blessed or Just Lucky

Ten years ago today I was the victim of sexual assault and attempted murder. The anniversary date has always been inextricably linked to the Fourth of July celebrations. This year, like most years, I passed on the fireworks and treated the holiday like any other day.

But not quite like any other day. Each year the anniversary date hits me a little differently. This year I spent the days leading up to it reflecting on the past ten years of my life. In these past ten years I've married, become a stepmother, moved twice, been commissioned and ordained, met many wonderful people and made life-long friends. These are all things I never would have experienced if July 5, 2001 turned out differently.

The other day I began to reflect on how blessed I feel to have experienced all these past ten years had to offer. But then I began to feel uncomfortable with the word 'blessed.' To say that I was blessed would be to imply that someone who didn't survive a similar situation wasn't blessed. Yes, I feel that God was with me on July 5, 2001 when I survived. I also know that God would have been with me had I not survived. I don't believe God saved me for a particular reason, and not someone else, as part of a grand plan. Why one person survives a horrific event and another doesn't I don't know. There were certain things I did that night that aided my survival. Yet, had just one thing been different I likely would not be here today. In many ways I feel just lucky.

That is not to say that blessings can't come out of what happened to me. That is, I believe, the true blessing of any experience ~ what one does with it. The healing I have experienced is one of the biggest blessings that came from this situation. This week, as the anniversary approached, I began to feel my PTSD resurfacing and it was a blessing that I could recognize it and do something about it before it became overwhelming. The work I have done with Bady has been a blessing and, hopefully, the work of the Bady Partnership will be a blessing into the future. For me, the greatest blessing I can imagine is to share the hard work I've done to heal with someone else so they can experience that healing too. This is my prayer ~ ten years later.

Monday, June 20, 2011

We Did It!

Introducing Bady aus der Ritemberg, BH! Last weekend we earned our first Schutzhund title! You can probably tell by the look on that furry face that Bady is pretty proud of himself. And he should be! He demonstrated his ability to stay down under distraction, perform formal obedience, behave in traffic situations, interact with a crowd, and remain indifferent on a down (with me out of sight) as another dog walked by him. He did amazing!

Indeed I am very proud of both of us! Thinking back to where we were two years ago, this is an amazing accomplishment. We have worked very hard together and had great fun doing it. We are definitely a happier team ~ in life and in work ~ for all that we have done together.

Now we can move on to out next Schutzhund title, which will be our Schutzhund 1. There are three phases to the Schutzhund 1 ~ obedience, tracking and protection! We have done a lot of obedience and a fair amount of protection, but tracking will be new to us. Let's get started!

P.S. Joke shared at our Holy Humor Worship last Sunday: What do they call pastors in Germany? German Shepherds! (Woof)

Monday, June 06, 2011

Road Trips

This is the month of road trips! Memorial Day weekend we drove down to Merrimack, NH to watch our first Schutzhund Trial. Bady went with us and I was able to work him on their field. It was good practice for our upcoming trial! We made the trip in one day ~ three hours down and three hours back.

Last weekend we went up to Maine to celebrate our niece's high school graduation. At 5 1/2 hours the trip was shorter than I thought it would be. We went Saturday and came back Sunday. We had a great time celebrating with Shelby. (How could she be old enough to graduate from high school?) We also visited with Gary's parents and surveyed tornado damage!

This week it is off to Annual Conference. That will be another 3 1/2 hour trip but I will have good company. Two of our equalization members will be joining me for the ride down and back. The Conference is Wednesday through Saturday so we will have some time to recover from the drive before we have to head home.

The following weekend we will be going to our first Schutzhund Trial to participate! That will be held in Connecticut, so I anticipate meeting Gary down there and staying at least one night in Springfield. Along with getting our BH Title and cheering on our friend Ian as he goes for his Schutzhund 2, we hope to squeeze in a visit with Stephanie and Jake if it fits with their schedule. Then it's back for church on Sunday!

Finally, the last week of June we will make a trip to the Grove to celebrate my Dad's life. Ben will be with us by then and we will spend a couple days at our camp attending Dad's Memorial Service and visiting with family and friends. I anticipate it being both a happy and a sad time. Turning into the Grove knowing my Dad isn't there (at least not in the same way he had been before) will probably be the hardest part.

After that I hope we can spend a couple of weeks at home. The cars (and our suitcases) will need a rest!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fostering Life

Today I spent some time with a congregation member who recently moved into a nursing facility for those dealing with dementia. The last time I saw her was before the move and she was looking drawn, sad and seemed very confused. Today when I walked in a smile spread across her face and she said, "There's my minister." While it was probably the case that she could not remember my name, I was pleasantly surprised that she recognized me at all.

In the small room she now occupies she is surrounded by her belongings and pictures of family and friends. The nursing staff that stopped by during my visit were very pleasant, seemed glad to meet me, and expressed joy at knowing my congregation member. She told stories of jokes, fun times, and field trips she has already shared with fellow residents and members of the staff.

During the time that we spent together she barely stopped talking. She was more full of joy than I had ever seen her. It seems clear that the place where she currently lives is a place that is life-giving. At one point during our conversation she referred to a friend who "also has Alzheimer's, just like me." I was particularly pleased to hear that there was no shame associated with her diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. It was just a fact of life that wasn't going to stop her from living.

This visit definitely gave me hope. (Isn't it often the case that we go with the intent to give something to someone else and end up walking away having received a gift?) That all places ~ our homes, our churches, our care-giving facilities ~ could be places that foster life. What a world that would be!

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Places You End Up

When the path to your goal is narrow
and the way is easy to lose,
may all the places you end up
be just as interesting.

~ Steve Garnaas-Holmes

I subscribe to Rev. Steve Garnaas-Holmes blog "Unfolding Light" and am often moved by the reflections he shares. The above is part of today's reflection. I love the second part of the sentence; "may all the places you end up be just as interesting."

I feel like I am on the path of a goal, or at least the path of a dream. The way does feel winding and narrow, and I have ended up in some unexpected places contemplating some unexpected things. While I could not foresee that I would end up in the places I have as yet, they have been interesting and my perspective has been broadened. Perhaps this is another way of saying that the journey is often more important than the destination.

And sometimes the places you end up are even more interesting than the places you intended to go.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Nicky's Stone

Last fall we said good-bye to our beloved Border Collie, Nicky. Since then we've all missed Nicky a lot. While we wouldn't wish him back in the condition he was in, we remember those joyful times when he was a younger pup who enjoyed walks, playing and treats!

After Nicky died we brought his ashes to Empire Grove where we sprinkled them on the ball-field where he enjoyed running around. Nicky had lots of good times at Empire Grove. My favorite remembrance of Nicky at the campground is of him running beside my Dad as Dad drove along on the golf cart. The first time I remember realizing Nicky was getting old was when he could no longer keep up with the golf cart as Dad sped around the circle.

With Nicky's ashes at Empire Grove (where my Dad's ashes are as well), we decided we wanted to have a remembrance of Nicky we could keep at home. We placed this stone (Vermont granite) in our garden last weekend. (The garden looks a little sparse now, but will soon be in blossom!) It is a good size stone, but small enough for us to take with us when we move so "Nicky" can always be part of our garden! It is placed near an iris which was Nicky's 'flower.' Every year we took his picture next to the yellow iris at our parsonage in Connecticut. Nicky will feel right at home here.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Age Question

Yesterday we had a lovely Easter dinner with two families from the church. The food was great and it was nice to be together in an informal setting to relax and celebrate the Resurrection.

After dinner the conversation turned to age and one of the folks at the table, whom I know relatively well, guessed my age as late twenties. While it is certainly flattering, it is a little bit frustrating to constantly be thought to be younger than I am. (As you blog readers know from my birthday post, I am a proud 36!) I think I have grown and matured and changed with age ~ both as a person and as a pastor. I am proud of my nearly eleven years of service in Christian ministry. While there are benefits to being thought of as younger, it sometimes seems my appearance overshadows my experience.

Lately I've been reflecting on my work style and am noticing some changes. When I was new to pastoral ministry (at 25) planning ahead was not one of my gifts. I rarely looked more than a Sunday ahead. Bible Studies were prepared on the fly hours (or even minutes) before they were to start. Over the years I've become a much better planner. While at my last appointment I made worship plans months ahead. Confirmation classes were planned at least a week in advance. Bible Studies were developed with plenty of time to spare. However, I was still very much a Saturday sermon-writer.

These days I've been working hard at finishing my sermon on Thursdays. And I find I really like not having that stressful Saturday night. For a long time my excuse was that I needed the adrenaline to make it happen, but I am finding that not to be the case. This past Holy Week the changes in my work style really became evident.

I actually started working on my Holy Week services back in February. The Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunrise services and sermons were done before Holy Week. I finished my Easter Sunday Service on Thursday. I even had some time on Thursday to work ahead on our Holy Humor Sunday in June. With all this work done ahead of time I was able to enjoy the Maundy Thursday Service, to relax a bit and reflect on Good Friday and to participate fully in the Easter Egg hunt. That's not to say that it was not a busy week. It totally was! But I was able to be 'present' in it much more without the stress.

I think these changes are partly do to age, maturity and learning from mistakes. There will always be those stressful weeks when things get pushed to the last minute, but, at 36, I feel I have found the rhythm that works best for me. And that is just one of the reasons I love 36. (I wonder what 46 will bring?)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Fabulous Day

Yesterday was Palm Sunday and our pre-service preparations were a bit hectic. The big thing was the Palm Parade! Our Church School youth and children planned a parade complete with chanting and waving of palms. There was also a reading and music involved. In addition to the Palm Parade, preparations were being made for our after worship lasagna lunch.

After running (in heels) up and down the hallway a few times to ask questions and make sure were were all on the same page for the parade, I limped exhausted into the Sanctuary where I ran into Joe. Joe also was wearing many hats yesterday ~ liturgist, power-point coordinator, fudge-maker for lunch, etc. I said to Joe, "This is a busy day!" To that he replied, "It is a fabulous day!"

That was just what I needed before worship. Instead of going into worship exhausted, Joe's comment allowed me to enter the worship moment filled with anticipation. It was a fabulous day and we were all there ~ with our many hats ~ to share it. Fabulous!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mondays at Barnes and Noble

Part of my ministry at Faith UMC is hanging out at the Barnes and Noble Cafe on Monday afternoons. I hold my "Open Hours" from 3:30-5:30pm. This started as an opportunity for church folks (and others) to chat with me in an informal setting. I got the idea from blog-friend Elizabeth Quick who held similar open hours at a Panera near her church. Most weeks I drink hot chocolate, get a snack and do some work on my computer. And most weeks I get at least one visitor.

Over these months I've found that folks stop by to visit me at the Cafe who would never stop in to talk to me at the office. The conversations are often very deep and meaningful. It is, somehow, easier for folks to talk with me over a cup of coffee, over the din of other coffee drinkers, rather than in the quiet of my office. And on the weeks that I have no visitors I am able to catch up with my reading, e-mails, blogging, or whatever I'm falling behind with at the moment!

One of the side benefits of this practice is that it gets me out of my office and into the community. It is surprising how many other people I regularly see at the Cafe on Monday afternoons. I've developed a passing friendship with two older gentlemen who meet for coffee every week. Others are in regularly offering tutoring services, catching up on reading and meeting friends. I feel like I am part of a fellowship of coffee drinkers (or hot chocolate drinkers) and readers who form a small community.

Sometimes I get questions from parishioners asking, "Are you still doing the Barnes and Noble thing?" My response, "I wouldn't give it up for the world!"

Monday, April 04, 2011

Dreaming of the Field

Well, the weather might not be cooperating with Bady and my goal of going for our BH Title on April 30th. We train as much as we can inside and around our house and the church, but there is nothing quite like getting out on the field. There are several exercises we have to practice that require field time. I did a field check with our trainer today and learned that it is still pretty snow covered. The areas not covered with snow are soggy and wet. We need several more days of sunny, warm weather (along with no precipitation) before we can get out on the field.

Such is life in Vermont, but that's okay. There are a number of Trials coming up in the Spring that we might be able to attend. Trials we be scheduled for the fall as well. In the meantime, we enjoy our training and I continue to study my rule book!

At four years old, Bady will probably be the oldest GSD going for his BH. I came late to Schutzhund as well, so we make a good team. Hopefully there is grace in Schutzhund, just like there is grace is the life of faith. We do the best we can under the circumstances we have before us, we acknowledge where we need to work harder, and we accept every new day ~ with its opportunities and challenges ~ as a gift!

Monday, March 28, 2011

More Migraine Meditations

Last week I had a couple more migraines. I went around for a couple of days feeling pretty angry about it. And also feeling on edge because I didn't know when another one was coming. Would I have one during worship? During an important meeting? As I shared a couple weeks ago, there is really no predicting them because there are no definitive triggers. There is no controlling them.

After getting tired of being angry a question came to mind: Can I , somehow, give thanks for my migraines? One of my spiritual practices is to look for the blessing in every situation ~ even the really crappy ones. Maybe I could find a blessing in my migraines.

While I'm not sure if stress always brings them on, perhaps my migraines can help me take notice when my life is out of balance. Perhaps they are an opportunity for me to slow down and reflect on which area in my life might need attention. Am I sleeping enough? Getting enough exercise? Eating well? Am I having enough fun?

Each morning, as part of my devotions, I pray Wesley's Covenant Prayer. One line of the prayer affirms, "I am no longer my own, but Thine." If I am God's, then my migraines belong to God as well. And if my migraines belong to God, then what use is there in trying to control them myself? There is nothing I can do to prevent myself from having a migraine on a Sunday morning ~ or anytime ~ so what is the sense in worrying about it?

So this is my commitment: I release myself from worrying about my migraines and I give them to God. And I will use the energy I spend worrying about my migraines to taking care of myself so I can do God's work in the world. Because no matter how much I want to control things, the truth is that I am no longer my own.... in fact, I never was.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Late Thirties

It is official. I am now in my late-thirties. Well, I could probably argue to hold on to 'mid-thirties' for another year, but considering how long I held on to 'early-thirties' I should probably just accept it. I am well on my way to 40!

As a child, 'thirties' seemed so old! I thought my parents were hopelessly ancient when they were in their mid-thirties. Being around them seemed almost embarrassing. Yet I still feel young and.... well, probably not hip, but at least not totally out of it. But the truth is that I am out of it. I am not hip. I am not cool. Ben probably feels embarrassed when forced to be seen with me! But I am happy.

Last week I was visiting my Mom for my birthday. She still feels young, and I do too. My Gram still felt young when she was in her eighties. What a gift!

So, I am happy to be 36 this year. Happy Birthday to me! And 40.... here I come! (But first lets hit 37, 38, and 39!)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Migraines

Unfortunately I am one of the many sufferers of migraines. Mine are the ocular kind and it is a family thing. My mom, aunt, cousins and second cousin (all females) have them. Sometimes I can go months ~ even a year ~ without having one, but last week I had two. Last week wasn't a happy week. A variety of things can bring them on: changes in the barometric pressure, stress, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, dehydration. Besides the barometric pressure (over which I have no control) I try to monitor these potential triggers so to avoid migraine episodes. But sometimes they just happen.

Maybe the barometric pressure was doing weird things last week. Maybe I was stressed because last Monday would have been my Dad's 61st birthday. Maybe I was dehydrated from all the shoveling I had to do. Maybe it was a combination of these things.

The thing that frustrates me the most is the unpredictable nature of my migraines. I can be going along, feeling just fine, when suddenly my vision shifts and things I know are right in front of me disappear. Last week my second migraine came on while driving. I remember thinking, "I know there is a red light there.... I just can't see it!" It's a little disconcerting. The ocular part concludes with a mean little jagged line in the middle of my vision and flashing strobe like lights in my periphery. About ten minutes after the visual 'show' the pain begins. Sometimes the medicine mitigates it enough to be bearable. Other times not. Last week I was tucked away in my bedroom most of the day, room darkening shades drawn.

That is the story of my migraines. My migraine specialist told me that they often go away after menopause. That could be a reason to look forward to menopause, but I'm not holding my breath. My mother and my aunt still suffer from them. I imagine I will as well.

So I am trying to make peace with my migraines. I am trying to let go of the rage I feel when that mean little jagged line appears in my vision announcing the pain ~ and the change of plans ~ that will follow. Maybe I can see my migraines as a reminder to take care of myself. Maybe I can view them as an opportunity to free myself from schedules and obligations and deadlines. Maybe I can embrace my migraines. I don't think so .... but maybe :)

Monday, February 07, 2011

Goals

This is the year that Bady and I are going to attempt our preliminary Schutzhund title, the BH. (BH stands for some German words that I don't understand!) The BH tests for temperament and basic obedience. You need to pass the BH before you can move on to Schutzhund 1. The Schutzhund 1 title tests for tracking, obedience and protection. From Schutzhund 1 you can go on to Schutzhund 2,3 and beyond!

Our original goal was to try for our BH last year, but a variety of factors got in the way. The dates of the trials didn't fit my schedule and I was traveling frequently to visit my Dad. The truth is that we probably weren't ready anyway. Honestly, I don't know if we are ready now, but at least we have a date: April 30th. Having a date gives us a goal to work toward!

Having a goal also gives me a reason to stay motivated. Bady is excited about training all the time, but it is hard for me to get excited about training when there are 3 feet of snow on the ground. But the only way we are going to succeed is to practice a little every day! And if we can't practice outside, at least we can practice in the basement and at church.

Studying, however, is something I can do snow or no snow. Did I mention there is a written exam? Obviously the written portion is my responsibility, but Bady does his part to support me as I study. He's happy to lay at my feet in front of the fire while the snow is accumulating outside!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Wherever I Am

Those whom we love and lose are no longer where they were before. They are now wherever we are. – St. John Chrysostom
Since my Dad died I have experienced a variety of emotions. Certainly there has been grief, sadness and loss. There has also been a measure of peace. While Dad loved life to the very end, his last few weeks were not easy. Living far away, I jumped every time the phone rang. While I didn't necessarily recognize it at the time, much of my emotional energy went into worrying. I worried that he would catch a virus or sustain an injury. I worried that he wouldn't be able to stay home like he wished. Much of his situation was out my ~ or anyone's ~ control.

There is peace in knowing that he is no longer suffering. There is also peace in knowing, as St. John Chrysoston affirms, he is now wherever I am. I laughed the other day when something funny happened that I know he would appreciate. I felt him laughing with me. I see his face when I close my eyes to go to sleep at night. Often when I see him in this way he is smiling. This tells me that wherever he is, whatever he is experiencing, there is joy.

I would trade all of this in a minute to have him back ~ healthy and robust. Yet, I know this is not possible. So I give thanks. Even though he is no longer where he was before, he is now wherever I am.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I Guess It's Time

I'd been putting it off, but I guess it is time to get back to blogging. Getting back to blogging requires me to acknowledge what has happened since I last blogged. My loving, handsome, courageous Dad died after living bravely with ALS since December 2009. Here is the last picture we had taken together:

And here is the obituary that makes it all so final:

Howard Warren Gary

Date of Death: December 18, 2010

Date of Birth: February 7, 1950

Biography:

Howard Warren Gary, 60, of East Poland, died on Saturday, December 18th at his home surrounded by loving family and friends.

He was born on February 7, 1950, the son of Wilfred and Dorothy (Thurston) Gary. He graduated from Edward Little 1968 and after high school he joined the Armed Forces where he received an honorable discharge Air National Guard 1974. He was a lineman for Verizon (previously New England Telephone and Nynex) from 1970 – 1996 and then he worked for Dead River Oil Company.

He dedicated his life to Empire Grove Campmeeting Association as manager and groundskeeper for more than 25 years. His multi-talents were inspiring to all who knew him and showed his vibrancy of living. He offered his stability, reverence, spirituality, and creativity with his own sense of humor. He was also part of the Recreation Dept., and involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Androscoggin County.

Howard could build anything and everything. He enjoyed spending time with his children and grandchildren and with his wife, with whom he built a house. He also enjoyed playing cribbage, hiking & camping, fishing with his friends, and Ice Hockey games

He was predeceased by his parents; Wilfred and Dorothy (Thurston) Gary, and his brother Richard Gary.

He is survived by his wife Deborah (Estes) Gary, daughter Krista (Gary) Atwood, three step daughters; Katie (McAllister) Libby, Kristina (McAllister) Wilson, Kayla Nowell, three sons-in-law; Gary Atwood, Corey Libby, and Eric Wilson, brother Arthur Gary, two grandsons; Benjamin Atwood, Cooper Libby, and many cousins, nieces, nephews and friends

A Memorial Service will be scheduled for the early summer.

Donations in Howard’s honor may be made to Empire Grove United Methodist Campmeeting Association PO Box 35, East Poland, ME 04230, or to The ALS Association Northern New England Chapter, The Concord Center 10 Ferry Street, Suite 438 Concord, NH 03301

Love you Dad.... Can't believe you're gone.