Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Auld Lang Syne, my friends...

Farewell, 2008...

"Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
- Frederick Buechner



May you all measure your life in love, joy,hope and peace.

Love and blessings from our home to yours,
Mandy, Matt, Jackson, Cooper and Edgar Flemming

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...


...FIVE BAD IDEAS!!"

1. Staying up until 3:30 am working on nonsense (i.e. blogging) because it's the most time you've had in your house, unfettered and unneeded by anyone else in what might be weeks.

2. Being awakened at 6:50 a.m. and trying to convince 2 year old and 4 year old that it's really not wake up time yet and everyone needs to go back to sleep. Foolishly whisper the word "breakfast... mrphle... later" in hopes that they will take the hint and nod off for a few days. Oddly, this encourages them to begin shouting for breakfast sooner rather than later. Cave.

3. Once again, cramming too much work into too little time in hopes that there will, someday, be a wrinkle in the fabric of the time-space continuum and a bonus 20 minutes will appear on your watch. Feel mystifyed when this doesn't happen.

4. In the balmy afternoon, taking the children on a walk down our street to the dead-end where a trail leads to Dearborne Park.
Okay - this was actually a great idea, but it has three bad idea sub-categories:
a. Allowing oldest boy to wear beloved Buzz Lightyear costume on said walk. With crocs. And no socks. (What could possibly go wrong?!)
b. Encouraging both oldest and youngest boy to come out and play on the large rock in the middle of a pretty fancy creek, so as to float leaf boats down the current.
c. Not having dry clothes on hand for both boys when they, inevitably, fall down on large, slippery rock and flail about in the 1/8" of water that has rendered their balance unattainable and their clothes unrecognizable.

5. Making Huevos Rancheros without any frijoles. The fried eggs were delicious, but somehow the "whole wheat tortilla/refried pinto bean/conspicuous-in-its-absence salsa" combination was not a resounding success.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's episode when Mandy visits her college roommate and suitemates with their collective NINE CHILDREN (ages five and under) in tow. Hilarity ensues!

Monday, December 29, 2008

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...

A blog post!

Friends and loved ones... the day of Christmas has come and gone, but I am still reveling in the season that is with us. As my dear friend, Kara, commented in her sermon yesterday, Christmas is not an episode - it's an ongoing event. And, as one who frantically scrambles to get it all together by Christmas morning, I'm glad to have these days to revel in the fact that though the Christ child has been born and laid in a Manger, God is still with us and we can still sit back and relax just a little before the Wise Men come to chase us back to work.

The days and weeks leading up to Christmas were for me as they were for you - filled with too much. Too much awake time, too much preparing, too much stress over what was and wasn't getting done. For some reason, I am drawn like a lemming to a cliff to preach on the Sunday before Christmas. In years past, this has been somewhat catastrophic for my last-minute planning self, and the quick turn-around between 3-services-on-Christmas-Eve-wake-up-PRESENTS!-wait-there's-more-church-AAAAAAA has been too much. But this year, there was a slight and merciful gap between Sunday, Dec. 21 and WEDNESDAY, Dec. 24. I could not have been more grateful. I had two whole days to wrap, finalize presents, bake, and finish up some work stuff before lifting my candle high and singing the final stanza of "Silent Night."

You can see it coming, can't you?

Sunday, after worship, I headed home after Jackon's final dress rehearsal for the Los Posadas pageant, in which he played the world's most compliant and brilliant sheep. He behaved. He "baa"-ed on cue. He wore a croched hat with floppy ears. He was doe-eyed and lovely. But more on that to come. Once arriving home, I crashed. After days and weeks of wonderful parties and celebrations of all kinds, meeting Matt's colleagues and friends, deepening friendships with St. Markers, I was completely spent. I just needed the afternoon to sleep.

I woke up at 7:00 p.m.

On Monday, it hit me. Something was coming. I stayed home to wrap, rest, clean, and apparently wait for things to improve. And, they did. By evening, I was feeling a little better and terribly optimistic about all there was left to do before the morrow. Ah, the morrow.

You see, on that morrow, I awoke with the awareness that my throat was now playing host to a thousand colonae of the streptococcal bacteria, who were apparently celebrating the holidays by aiming their creme brulee torches at my vocal cords. Lovely.

I am not one to complain about pain or sickness, or ... childbirth, or whatever. But this was too much. I was brought to my knees and begged for drugs. Matt got me to the nearest clinic, and within seconds of walking through their doors, they swabbed my throat, diagnosed me, injected me with steroids, and gave me lidocaine to gargle. Unfortunately, some of it got on my lips, so any attempt to communicate turned me into a drooling, sloppy mess. Sexy, no? I walked out with a prescription for a festive holiday cocktail: more steroids, antibiotics, pain relievers. Strained with a lemon and shaken with ice, it's the perfect way to ring in the new year.

Needless to say, my two extra days of prep were robbed from me by the Colonists in my Throat. Jerks. I hate to be inhospitable, but really - they could have called first. This was so not a good time for me.

We wound up sending my mom and the boys to a hotel for the night, since the PA warned that I was super-contagious, and if you want to know one thing more awful than me with strep throat, well, there's not much more awful. I'm pathetic. So, we were in no hurry to expose anyone else.

The nice part came when the meds kicked in, the Colonists allowed some air to pass through my windpipe, and Matt and I sat in peace watching "The best of 90s music!" on VH1 in front of the tree. Judge not, friends. Judge not.


I think this brings me up to Christmas Eve, which arrived in a bit of a drug-induced haze and made me worry that I might miss more of the festivities than anticipated. But, by 4:00, Mom, the Superstar Sheep and I were at St. Mark and ready for the first of three services that night. It was glorious. Matt and Cooper arrived, and I was able to offer my piece of the service then sit down and just be a mom in the pew, looking eagerly for her boy.

Unfortunately, Cooper has not yet gotten the "be quiet in church" memo, and he sat in his pew for 35 minutes saying, "WHERE'S JACKSON? I WANNA SEE JACKSON! OH! HI JACKSON! HI! HI! THERE'S JACKSON!"

Adorable, right? Arguably... until he softened, paused, looked at us and said in his best stage whisper: "I PASSED GAS!"

The surrounding pews all turned to see what precocious little child might have made such a mighty proclamation. Yup. Preacher's Kid. There was actual chortling - and I'm not even sure what that is.

The service ended, and we celebrated with the cast and crew by drinking hot chocolate and eating our first ever churros. It was a raging success, and Rev. Jackie seemed quite pleased with how all of it went. I've not even mentioned the stunning solo by a six-year-old girl, who belted one of the traditional Los Posadas songs ("En el nombre del cielo os pido posada") as the children entered the sanctuary. It was so pure and earnest, so honest a gift that the whole room gasped when they heard her.

It was compelling to watch as Mary and Joseph traveled from inn to inn, facing rejection at each point until finally being pointed to a stable where the baby was laid in a manger. There, the children all turned themselves and knelt before baby Jesus. This was remarkable because no one had to tell them to do this. It was instinct - there was something to this thing lying in a manger, and they were perfectly willing to sing with full voice and watch and see. These were children of Christmas, bursting with anticipation and ready for fulfillment. It was a beautiful service.

Seeking grace and understanding (and not having any desire to commune my germs with the Holy Elements), I went home for the 7:00 service and actually put my children to bed on Christmas Eve, which is a luxury I've not been afforded in some time. I even worked a little nap in with them, and Matt and I headed out to the 11:00 p.m. service for our last bit of worship for the week.

It was, and always is, a gorgeous service. I love the Lessons and Carols Service each year - the history of our salvation from Genesis to John, our fall and God's continued pursual of us is a story so compelling that I don't know any other story to tell. The church was beautiful, and packed to the brim with worshippers of all sorts, who have come at this most inconvenient time to welcome and celebrate and bless the Christ Child. Phillip prayed... that man can pray. We sang. There were trumpets and brass and choirs and solos. We lifted our candles, and sang "Peace on Earth," and went forth into the world with Joy and Hope.

Matt and I returned to put the finishing touches on the big presentation for Christmas Morning. We have a super-tiny living room, but it was filled to the brim with delight and wonder for the boys. This year, our Christmas was sponsored by Pixar (apparently), and I'd spent some significant time collecting boxes of Incredibles and Toy Story hand-me-downs from strangers and friends alike (thank you, Craig's List). The "big gift" was the Pixar collection, and we supplemented with cars, dolls, costumes and a fair amount of candy canes. We tried not to over-do it, but it's hard when it's just so ... much... fun.

The boys were popping out of their pjs to get downstairs and tear into the goodness. We don't really talk up Santa Claus, so there's no myth floating around. But kids are kids, and they know when something's going to be good. And this Christmas morning really was good. We opened our stockings and presents with Mimi and Papa Dow, and ate the traditional Pillsbury Cinnamon Rolls with homemade hot chocolate with gusto. Cooper looked like he'd never eaten anything more delicious, and actually took a break from the unwrapping madness to sit on the couch and just... eat.

Jackson's new prized possession is his Buzz Lightyear costume. I delighted in getting this for three reasons:

1. I knew he would love it. He's been asking for one since the big trip to Disneyland in November. It was a shoe-in of a success. Parenting paydirt.
2. I'm glad to encourage his imagination.
3. Cooper, who uses the letter "W" more liberally than it is intended to be used in the English language, calls this character "Buzz Wiper." I never, ever tire of hearing him say it.

It was a beautiful day and a beautiful morning, and SANTA CLAUS actually came to our house to deliver a gift (NB: Top Photo).

I know, I know...I already said that we don't really "do" Santa. But, Matt apparently is meeting all the right people these days, and he managed to pull some strings and ... at noon on Christmas Day, a knock on our door produced Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, and two reindeer bearing a toy car and the greatest fire truck EVER for the boys. They looked bewildered. Not only did we not *stress* Santa Claus, but we've gone so far as to say that Santa is pretend.

Then, he showed up. Here. With real toys!

I will never, ever get them to stop believing in Santa, and I think that they've fostered the right kind of attitude about it with this miraculous visit. It was good for the sake of good. It was giving and loving and holy and delightful. It was pure and happy and selfless.

Merry Christmas to all... I pray that the rest of your Christmas days are filled with light and hope and love.
Love,
Mandy, Matt, Jackson, Cooper and Edgar Beagle

Sermon: Let it Be with Me, According to Your Word

Rev. Mandy Sloan Flemming
December 20, 2008
Sermon:Luke 1:26-38
Let it Be with Me

Let it Be with Me, According to Your Word

Luke 1:26-38 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.

And he came to her and said, “Greetings, Favored one! The Lord is with you.”

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

Then the angel departed from her.

One: The Word of God, for the People of God.

Many: Thanks be to God.

Prayer for Illumination:
Holy God, it is you who is able to strengthen us according to the gospel and proclamation of Jesus Christ,
according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles,
according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith – to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.
*******************

She started feeling uncomfortable around lunchtime, and given that she was on vacation in Wisconsin, it was not unlikely to feel a little out of sorts eating different foods and keeping a different routine than normal. They had an outing planned for that afternoon, and she went to lay down so that her strength would return in time for mini-golf with friends. As she tried to rest, she changed positions a dozen times, finding nothing that could keep her comfortable. Her stomach ached. Her back was knotted. She longed for a masseuse to come and make all the stress melt out of her body. She slept fitfully and woke up feeling even worse. Her friends and husband grew more and more concerned, and as she moaned in discomfort, they finally stopped listening to her denials and helped her into a car.
As they raced to the hospital, Jennifer West, age 31, started to worry that this might be another ovarian cyst. Maybe it had ruptured, and that’s why she was in so much pain. Maybe it was her bleeding ulcer? Or, it could be a recurring fibroid tumor. Her medical history flooded back as they pulled into the hospital, and she was escorted to the E.R.

Once in, a nurse came in to do an ultrasound. Within minutes, the problem was diagnosed and Jen was rushed to another section of the hospital for treatment. An hour later, she delivered a perfectly healthy, 8 pound baby boy whom she and her husband named Robert. Like most reasonable people, Jen was the first to ask: How can this be so? She was an educated woman, who was aware of her body and circumstances, in a good relationship with her husband.

It was possible for this woman to completely miss a full-term pregnancy due to her complicated medical history. Because of her penchant to gain and lose weight regularly, she hadn’t noticed any of the symptoms of her pregnancy. She wrote off morning sickness as a virus, early on. She had a tilted uterus, which kept her from feeling the baby kick in the later months. This baby was truly a gift and surprise, and during his first week home, he slept, wrapped in t-shirts and lying in a drawer. Quite a story, isn’t it?

Today we encounter what is called the greatest story ever told. Today we gather, days before Christmas, hurried and frazzled, over-busy and under-rested, counting down the days until the Christ child gets himself born and we can stop working so hard to do so much and can just take a day to rest, for this year can’t be done soon enough.

I don’t know about you, but 2008 will not go down as my favoritest of favorite years as I think back on my time when I’m old and grey and sharing lemonade on the front porch with Matt, who will be just slightly older and grey-er than me, at least in my visioning of the scene. This has been a hard year for many of us. We have lost loved ones, family members, dear friends, fought battles and lost them, procured jobs and lost them, too. Our institutions have crumbled, our relationships have been strained, our finances have been jeopardized, and our future is uncertain. And we gather here today, during the festive holiday season to hear this story that we might be able to recite by heart – this, the greatest story ever told.

And how we need a good story right now. We need something uplifting, something magical, something hopeful. We need angels and archangels and unlikely heroines and puppies and babies that don’t cry. We need the princess to be rescued in the nick of time and live happily ever after. Yes, that is how I want my 2008 to end.

So our story starts out promisingly, with enough detail to ensure that this is no arbitrary day or time. “In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” Perfect: Angels! Engagements! Boy meets girl! We’re onto something here…

Then the angel starts talking.

You can be sure that when a messenger of the Lord comes for a visit, that he’s not just coming to make small talk. The angel speaks with intuition and calming words, knowing how his presence is typically received with fear and trembling and the like.

“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you!”


Poor Mary is hardly calmed. She is perplexed and wonders what sort of greeting this is: favored one? No one has ever called her favored. In fact, she’s not been the most highly celebrated of people in her village. She’s lowly and poor, a young girl. But the angel continues:

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David.”

Don’t be afraid, Mary. You, a poor girl who is engaged to a respectable man are going to have a baby out of wedlock and you will call him Jesus and the King of Kings. Don’t be afraid? You must be joking.

Our story instantly moves from fairy tale to impossibility. The angel delivers mind-blowingly startling news, and then, the punch line? Don’t be afraid!

It gets weirder.

Mary isn’t afraid. Somehow, in some way, she responds with amazement, absorbing the good of this news and allowing the circumstances of her time, place and station to be subverted. She asks one clarification question, “How can this be, since I’m a Virgin?” and accepts the angel’s response with peace and calmness.

My hope for a good story is certainly getting fulfilled – after all, this is the most unlikely of heroines. She has received the favor of God, but not because of anything she’s done. She is not powerful or well-known. She is, in the long tradition of many who are called to a particular vocation – called by God, but not qualified. She is gifted, but unprepared. Her role in this story is not just to fulfill the duty to which she has been called – to bear the son of God – but to model that when one experiences a powerful revelation of God’s presence, your only response is to say “yes.” “Let it be with me, according to your word.”

One of my favorite Christmas Hymns is “In the Bleak Midwinter,” which we rejoiced in singing together last week. The second verse begins with the words, “Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor the earth sustain…” If we’re qualifying this as the greatest story ever told, it seems unlikely that it would take place in the bleakest and simplest of settings with the most meager and lowly of characters at the center. And yet, when heaven simply cannot hold God any longer, it is this young maiden to whom God comes, and the power of the Most High overshadows her, and the child she bears is Holy, her firstborn and the only Son of God. This Holy In-Breaking doesn’t happen with thunderclaps and fireworks, but with a simple girl in a simple place. The greatest story ever told witnesses to an economy in which wonder is the greatest currency. When God breaks into the world, it is done gently and without fanfare or intimidation.

For us listeners, this begs the question of “Why?”

Why on earth would God choose to do such a remarkably unremarkable thing? Why would this girl be chosen? Why a baby in a lowly manger? Mary, our unexpected heroine, faces the annunciation with faith by her simple utterance: “How can this be?” Her words, carefully chosen, signify an openness to the possibility, and an awareness of the mystery of God. Her response is appropriate because it doesn’t, in any way, limit the possibility that God could do this. Had it been me, I might have offered a slightly different interpretation of these five words: “HOW CAN THIS BE SO?!?!?!?!” But this is why God is God and I am not the God-bearer - the theotokos.


Mary’s simple prayer of acceptance: “How can this be?” is the reminder that nothing is too good to be impossible. For many women, conceiving a child is their greatest dream, and for many women, conceiving a child is the most difficult thing they ever do. For many, they heartbreakingly give up their hopes and dreams of creating new life in the way they imagine and re-shape their lives to fit a new world order and expectation. This was true for Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin. She was well on in her years, well past the age where babies would be possible. And the angel of the Lord came to her husband, Zechariah, first to offer that she would be the mother of a son.

Zechariah’s disbelief led him to be muted for months, until the baby was born, but Elizabeth’s dream of becoming a mother was fulfilled, and she delivered a baby who was John the Baptist, the one who came to prepare a way for the one who was to come after him in all things – in life and in death. When God makes up God’s mind to do something, it’s nothing short of remarkable. In whatever is revealed to us, we can know that there is much more which remains hidden.

The angel remarks to Mary: “Nothing will be impossible with God” after giving her the news of her baby to be, he tells her one more piece of the story. She is not the only one having a miracle baby. Her cousin, Elizabeth, who was barren, has been given a baby in her late years. Elizabeth, too, was carrying a baby boy, and was due in a matter of weeks. This was not some isolated, inexplicable magic baby that was conceived by a girl not yet married. People are not dumb. They could work that out pretty quickly, and it doesn’t mean good things for Mary if their assumptions are true.

But God knew to make this experiment falsifiable. By offering another test case – Elizabeth who stands with Mary – then it makes their stories all the more probable. After all, one girl claiming that the Holy Spirit impregnated her while she waited for her betrothed to marry her is not a likely story. But paired with the tale of an old, barren woman suddenly conceiving her first child, then it gives both stories more credit. Without Elizabeth, Mary is written off as a hussy. Without Mary, Elizabeth is an urban legend. Without John the Baptist, Jesus would have had no path blazed for him. Without Jesus, John would have had no reason for being as he was in this world. The more complex the circumstances, the less likely they are to occur in harmony. The angel says to Mary, “Nothing will be impossible with God,” but those words are for us.

And we can see it coming to fruition:
a baby born to a completely surprised mother? Unbelievable! How could she not know?
A barren couple given their first child after menopause! By no means!
A young girl given the responsibility to raise God-with-Us, a tiny baby? Impossible!

And yet…
It’s already happened.

So, then, how are we to make sense of all of this? How is this so??

Let us look back to Mary, who raises her fist to the powers and principalities of this world by saying, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word” (v. 38).

How would it be for us if we said to the God who continually seeks us out in impossibly simple ways, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word.”

Let’s try it: Consider the might of God:
“He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty,” (v. 51-53).

In this, Mary speaks to the power of God to do all things, including lifting up the lowly. And if God can lift up the lowly, fill the hungry, not just with something, but with something good, and send the rich away without so much as a crumb, then we must know that God is working out real and powerful things in our lives.

This mighty in-breaking of God into the dirt and messiness of our lives here in such a visceral way is un-believable. How can it be? That God would give us life in death, hope in the unknown, peace in trial? How can it be that God would be born to an unmarried woman? How can it be that death would chase this baby from his birth until his crucifixion on a cross and that in the end, it is not death that wins over life, but eternal life that cannot be killed, and in that eternal life, we receive our promise of hope – hope in God, and hope in Christ. That all things are possible.

Amen and Amen.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Adventageous!


Hi friends...

It's been a busy few weeks. There's been life, death, expectancy, snotty noses, short trips and good news. You know... just like every Advent.

I'm way behind on posting, though I feel like I have lots to write.

But my economy of words is limited. Maybe because I'm preaching this Sunday, and, in the manner of my Uncle Wayne, I'm only allowed so many words a day and I'm saving them all for some good, old-fashioned proclamation.

Or maybe, I'm just busy.

I have had it in my head to post about the Great 2008 Nativity Debate that's been raging on my Facebook page. Many of you have posted some great suggestions, some serious, some not so much. Redykle wins the prize for spending the most time and effort on finding the most wonderful and creative (and possibly offensive!) nativities for me.

First, here were my criteria:

* Nativity must be non-fragile, non-cheezy, non-artsy, and somewhat ethnically accurate.
* A stable must be included.
* Baby Jesus must be able to be lifted from his manger, so as to make his mystical appearance on Christmas morn.

Here were the suggestions that I received:

#1: A SEVEN FOOT INFLATABLE NATIVITY SEQUENCE! (Including a snowglobe?)



I did see one at Target that was much like this, only it included a huge LCD countdown-to-Christmas clock!



#2: Anachronistic, Reverent Santa Nativity!



This is wrong in so many ways. I don't even know where to start.






#3: Adorable, yet highly unhelpful and SUPER over-priced, if you buy from Amazon (don't be fooled by their free shipping!): Duckie Nativity!


Take note of the loving Mother Mary with her baby duck, which I sort of appreciate. Think about it - how often do you see a new mother just sitting around with strangers staring at her newborn baby in his bassinet? In reality, we cling to those little bundles with fierceness and pride, and it is next to impossible to put them down, even for a moment, because they sense your absence and immediately start SCREAMING.

Then again, maybe baby Jesus was different...

(N.B. This nativity "scene" wins the prize for being the absolute opposite of all the criteria I listed!)

#4: Mary, LEGO, and Joseph!!!!!!!!




Don't you just love that someone took the time, not just to MAKE these, but to write down the instructions in some incomprehensible code, and publish them on the internet. Ah, series of tubes, you give us gifts beyond measure once again!

My gratitude to the UVA Science Department.






(Even better are the Three Wise Men, who look more like Transformers than Astrologers)









My personal pick, if I didn't have children small enough to choke on or lose all but one of the pieces (most likely the baby Jesus himself) would be:

Playskool!



We had this set at my last church gig, where I served as the Children's Minister. It ruled. However, there were at least 89,230 tiny pieces that were all critical to the telling of Jesus' birth story, and if even one got lost, then the magic of Christmas would be destroyed. Or, at least, that's what I told them.




But, the winner by a landslide, of the Great 2008 Nativity Scene Debate goes to...

*DRUMROLL, PLEASE!*

FISHER PRICE! Ta da!



This was, by far, the most highly suggested set by parents and non-parents alike. It's affordable, somewhat accurate, fits 90% of my criteria (which is weird, 'cause I only had three), and the pieces are unlikely to get lost in the underbelly of my sofa. It's perfect! AND, a good friend has offered to put hers on loan to the Tiny Flemmings from now until Epiphany (Though I didn't specify which year... HA!).



I was leaning heavily towards this beauty from the Catholic Supply store:









but I think that the boys might be a little bit young for such delicate folks. Maybe next year...

I did a lot of thinking, online shopping late at night, and wondering about why this particular thing has grabbed me this year. Maybe it's because the little cloth nativity scene that we have is missing some fairly significant figures, like... Joseph, who appears to have run away with one of the Shepherds (I wish them nothing but happiness). Baby Jesus has recently taken a leave of absence from his little cloth manger (See! That's why Mamas never put their babies down! Think of what could happen!), and unless he makes a surprise reappearance on Christmas Eve, this nativity scene is now weakened as a teaching tool.

I'm wondering why this image of the inbreaking of God renders so many different - and yet highly similar - productions. We were reading the Christmas Story to the boys last night, using a new illustrated book I'd picked up at Cokesbury. Jackson was way into it, and Cooper would stop occasionally to check out the pictures. J stopped as we breezed through the part where Jesus gets himself born.

"Why," he asked, "isn't there a picture of Jesus coming out?"

[Pregnant pause.]

"Um..." Matt cautiously replied, "because this book only makes pictures of a few events, and that wasn't one of them."

[Me: Scampering around to get our copy of Lennart Nilsson's A Child is Born so that I can produce photographic evidence of an actual baby getting born. I'm completely insane, I know.]

Me: (Flipping to page where baby is being apologetically pulled from mother's body): THIS is why there's no picture.

Jackson: Oh. Ohhhhhhhhh.

Cooper: WHAT'S DAT?!?! (Pointing at baby's partially exposed head)

Matt: Hey! Look! It's bedtime! Lights out, boys! Away in a Manger, no crib for a bed...

This in no way captures why I think the Incarnation is so imporant to teach to our children now, and my prayer is that they start to get it in some way. Maybe because it took me a long time to really get it. In my Facebook fretting over this nativity as a teaching tool, one of my friends wisely commented, "Keep in mind though that YOU are the primary teaching tool too and even if it isn't accurate, you can use that as teaching tool as well. Those teachable moments will pop up."

How right she is.

I hope that all of us find some sort of appropriate and inappropriate way to experience the beauty of the Incarnation this year. I pray that you know that God is with you.

God is with us.

God is with YOU.

Amen.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Pastor's Prayer for her People - Second Sunday of Advent, 2008

Almighty God, who shows us favor:

We come to you this morning with praises on our lips that are muted by the cold of this world. This morning, Loving God, we want to worship you. We want to stand up and praise your Holy Name, but we are weak with fatigue and sadness and sorrow. We hear of the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, brought to us in words of preparation and urgency, and we are ready for this good news. As you incline your ear to our supplications, our prayers for mercy, food, shelter, healing, understanding, clarity, vision, truth, peace… you hear a cacophony of sound resonating from us, your people, who are crying out in the wilderness for your Word of Good News.

Comfort, O Comfort your people. As we shout out with voices of anger, rage, and misunderstanding, whisper back with a voice of tenderness and mercy. As we wade through the valleys, give us the promise that our valley will be exalted, and our stumbling blocks will be made low.

Holy God, we are as grass that will wither - we know all too well the frailty and fragility of our own selves, our own bodies, our own relationships, our own institutions.

We give you thanks when we are healthy, but a virus gets the best of us.
We praise your name when you give us connections with sisters and brothers, but then we feel disappointed, betrayed, abandoned... alone.
Our governments, financial systems, churches and businesses take our money - our investments - our very trust, and waste it, leaving us desolated.
We are withering, and we want to cry out, "Where ARE you, O God?!"

And a voice responds:

"Prepare the way of the LORD.
You may wither and fade and become faithless,
but the Lord your God will never wither.
The Word of God will last forever.
Your bad news will come and go,
but the Good News of God will never fade away."
In you, Mighty God, we are gathered up and comforted as we listen to your voice say, "I AM."

Thanks be to God.

Amen.

Friday, December 5, 2008

LOOK AT THE TREE!



In loving honor of all my Jersey brothers and sisters...

HAPPY HOLIDAYS.

(P.S. To satisfy my ministerial inclinations, a lengthy lecture about the nature of Advent will follow, but this video is too good to pass up. The Flemmings are off to get our tree, so that we can subsequently bark at our children to get away from it and then clean up after it. Ah, the joy of the season!)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

We Gather Together... in California! (New, Bonus Footage!)

This post will rival some of my longest, because we've packed so much into the last few days, that each one deserves its own devoted entry, but with the lack of time and the abundance of fun we've been having, we'll just go with this.

First of all, my prayers of joy and love on your Thanksgiving holiday. I'm at least three days overdue in sending my well wishes to you all, and I want you to know how incredible your readership has been in my life. This blog is about four months old, and is able to hold its own head up on its wobbly turkey neck, and can focus on bold objects across the room. It's even sat up on its own out in the real world, and gotten some praise and notice. This blog has been the new life in our house this year, and it's been so wonderful to have your support and encouragement through your comments. On the rare occasion when folks have gotten snarky, you've stood up for me and your own selves in lovely and brave ways. I am grateful. Our family has developed a narrative through this enterprise, and it's so nice to know that you're thinking and praying for us as we live out this story as its being told. Thank you. I pray that God has blessed you as you have blessed me and my family. You're good friends - and however much or little I may know you personally, this wacky internet ("a series of tubes," as I understand it) has connected us in a new way. For community, support, laughter, and connection, let us give thanks.

So, this year, for Thanksgiving, our family of four made a long overdue trip to beautiful southern California to visit the California Flemmings, who are Matt's brother John, his partner, Mark and their sons, Cody and Justin, ages 10 and 9. The flight was long, but uneventful, our day weird but not unmanageable, the time fleeting but not wasted. Wednesday was a bit of a wash with all of us adjusting and sleeping at bizarre times, but by Thursday, we'd made a full recovery. I got up early with the boys (and by "early," I mean 4:15 a.m. PST... which is early even by East Coast standards. But I digress...). By 6:30 a.m., we'd had breakfast, gotten dressed, brushed our teeth, and were in the car on the way down the hill to go to the grocery store. I felt like a superhero, and also had a boatload of time to kill before the rest of the house woke up, so we went on a quest for ingredients for pumpkin chocolate tart and pomegranates for my world-famous pomegranate salad (if you're expecting a hyperlink to a recipe, you are sorely mistaken. A girl must have her secrets, you know). We made three stops at varying grocers before finding everything, including a bounty of gorgeous pomegranates that were engorged with sweet jeweled seeds. And, as a bonus - calla lillies.

We returned, caffinated, stocked, flowered, and ready to face the day of cooking. Matt and Mark took over parenting of sons and nephews and Matt's brother John and I tucked in to begin working on the day's big meal. I love, love, love to cook - especially in my days pre-children, I cooked some lavish and wonderful dishes. When Jackson was a baby, I watched the Food Network all day long while he nursed, so that I could learn something while we passed our time on the couch. But my actual cooking techniques were all taught to me by my brother-in-law, John. It was something of an honor to be his sidekick (dare I say sous chef?) for the day. Since I had such an early start on the day, the pumpkin chocolate tart was virtually completed before anything else was begun, and I solidified my position as a fixture in the kitchen as a result.

While the boys were off at the park, or napping , or lunching John and I peeled, chopped, diced, drained, trussed, prepared and talked our way through the afternoon. At some point (at an appropriate hour), we also realized that sharing a bottle of wine was a fine treat for us to enjoy during our prep, and that made the time pass all the more delightfully. It also made us BFFs for life. I think, at some point, we spat on our hands and pledged our friendship to one another no matter what. All hyperbole and childhood fantasies aside, it was a great time for bonding, and when we all sat down to our delicious feast which fed fourteen people (including a kids' table for six!), I fully believed that we'd crossed some line between family that like each other with politeness and actual family who actually like each other. There was toasting, and laughing, celebrating and thanksgiving. And, some remarkably good food, including the greatest pomegranate salad ever (I'm not bragging here - I'm quoting, and it wasn't even someone directly related to me, so it must be true!).

We concluded our Thanksgiving evening in the way most American families do, I'm sure, by playing Guitar Hero and Wii Fit and challenging one another with semi-uncomplicated yoga poses (don't laugh... after splitting a bottle of wine and heavy doses of triptophan, this is much harder than you might imagine). The boys went to bed with ease, and only a little bit of screaming, and really, who could blame them? It had been an amazing day that was full of family, love, food and fun. I didn't want it to end, either.

Friday was pretty low-key (minor surgery would have been low-key after the day that preceeded it). In the late morning, we finally all got it together enough to pile into the car and head down the hill for Adolfo's nachos and a trip to the Ocean Institute in Dana Point. I took a bajillion photos, and will manage to contain myself to posting only a few.


As you can tell, it was a festival of men this week, and, on occasion, I was able to sneak away for some quiet reading time in the midst of boy-land. We also had amazing time with our nephews, Cody and Justin, who fell into a great buddy-role with Jackson and Cooper. They all matched up quite well, and seemed to genuinely like each other's company, despite a 5 and 7 year age difference. Cooper also restrained himself from demolishing all of their Lego ("Yego") creations, so that was a plus.

The Ocean Institute was a particular hit, because Cooper could run around pant-less, as he is wont to do, and it was a non issue. This great video captures the spirit of the day, with wardrobe and schedule freedom to run and play. At one point, Jackson inquired about where all the toys were at the beach. After choking a bit on our smugness, and half-joking remarks about how we were going to enroll him immediately at the Waldorf School, we convinced Jackson that the world was his toy, and suddenly the seaweed became a projectile. The sand became... a projectile. The rocks became... projectiles. Okay, we've got to work on our creative use of found objects, but it was a step in the right direction.

video

That night, we got a particular treat of having a dinner out with just the four grown-ups. We had real conversation, unimpeded by the needs or wants of our tiny and mid-sized people, and enjoyed some wonderful food that we had no hand in preparing. After a nice walk through downtown Laguna Beach, admiring the artwork of Dr. Seuss, in particular, we headed up the hill to find Jackson conked out on Justin's floor, lured by the promise of a slumber party with his cousins and the other three boys awake to greet us. This was fine for the elementary aged folks, but Cooper was in no hurry to fall asleep. To say that it took us some effort to adjust to Pacific Standard Time is a supreme understatement. We woke up freakishly early in the morning, Cooper napped for unsettlingly long periods during the afternoon and refused bedtime each night. But his bouyant spirit was undaunted by this wacky schedule, and he spent the week charming everyone in sight, in particular his uncles.

Before this trip, we talked up Uncle John and Uncle Mark a lot. But, the boys know that I work at Saint Mark United Methodist Church, and frequently make reference to it. Shortly after we introduced the idea of this trip, Cooper started asking about our visit with "Uncle John and Saint Mark." It was so cute that there was little effort to correct him, and Uncle Mark was particularly fond of the new nickname, or at least the idea of it. During the trip, this name stuck. At the Ocean Institute, Cooper was filled to the brim with energy that was overflowing and infectious. He ran around the beach, kicking sand, throwing seaweed, yelling "HI OCEAN!" at the top of his little lungs, and crying out, "CAN'T GET ME, SAINT MARK!" while waiting for Uncle Mark to catch him. All of us were quite taken with his spirit, and he really did make every outing all the more fun.

This was particularly true on Saturday when we broke the news to the Atlanta and California Flemming boys that we were going to spend the day at a boring library. A really, really boring library. With no lights. Or books with pictures. And it was three hours away. On foot. They were not thrilled, and looked about as excited as wilted plants. Somehow the Mickey Mouse pancakes didn't clue them in (although I was terribly proud of my culinary creativity).

We made good on this promise by packing up everyone and driving 30 minutes away to DISNEYLAND!!!! Which, as Jackson sheepishly pointed out, "is not a boring library!" but really was the happiest, if not most thoroughly fabricated place, on earth. The boys were totally overwhelmed with joy, and were incredibly well behaved and appropriately delighted the whole day long. To my great surprise, there was a Jamba Juice in Downtown Disney, which started our day with the right amount of fruit-filled nutrition and goodness. And, after getting the stroller tires re-inflated at the ESPN Zone, this made my day completely perfect.

It was hardly surprising, but Saint Mark and Cooper spent the day side-by-side. The three of us headed first to Dumbo, (pictured at left) which Cooper rode without a peep of nervousness. Jackson, always the more cautious brother, headed to Toon Town with his cousins to brave the Rodger Rabbit ride, after which he took an hour or so to brave up for a spin on the Winnie the Pooh ride, which features a lot of honey pots and Pooh's really trippy dream sequence with Heffalumps and Woozles.The photo to the right also proves that my children have gorgeous honey-colored hair, and that my stylist is a brilliant genius at matching mine with theirs.

Perhaps the biggest thrill of the day (for me) was when Cooper bolted over to the Gadget's Go Coaster, which was the only roller coaster in the park that he could ride, due to his small-ish stature. He was about an inch taller than the height minimum, and lept onto the coaster seat without a hint of concern. His uncles and cousins offered lots of encouragement as the train took off, and it was so fast that he didn't have time to be afraid. This thing is a true roller-coaster, but it only lasts about 20 seconds, so when we got off and caught our breath, Cooper exhaled and said, "DAT SCARY! I need to go POTTY!!" He was a little more cautious with his choices after that, but I wouldn't say that his day was limited in the slightest.

We made it through Jedi Knight training, Space Mountain (sans tiny Flemmings), Splash Mountain (ditto), Buzz Lightyear, and Star Tours, even squeezing a decent-length nap for Cooper in his rockin' stroller under the watchful eye of Uncle John. We stayed from close to the Park's opening until the 3:30 Parade down Main Street. Seated on the curb with ice cream and good company, the boys were the picture of contentment. They waved at their favorite characters, and when it was all said and done, we were all ready to leave and say thanks, Disney, for a wonderful day.
video


This morning, we woke to attend St. Mary's Episcopal Church, where, the last time we attended in early 2006, we celebrated the adoption and baptism of Cody and Justin. That was an amazing and remarkable day, where the Holy Spirit filled the room beyond capacity and all of us were brimming over with its power. Today, on the first Sunday of Advent, we gathered to prepare for Christ's inbreaking into the world with sound, fury and amazing grace. My memories of our last visit nourished me as we tasted the bread and drank the wine of remembrance of God's love and goodness, and on our last day of our California visit, we broke bread together once more as a family of eight. The last time we gathered in full, Cooper was a bean in utero, Jackson was barely walking, and Cody and Justin were still shyly finding their place in this family in full.

This year, as we celebrated so, so much, I gave quiet and bold thanks for this family that is loud and loving, boyish and gracious. In the midst of news, such as the events in Mumbai, it was nice to set aside a little time to be with family, where the multitude of children actually made parenting easier. Where the food and company, fellowship and commonality made the time pass too quickly and the memories pile up in abundance. I can only, humbly give thanks for the abundance of blessings that have come to me.

And I continue to pray God's blessing up on all of you.

God's peace be with you all.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Lovers, The Dreamers, and Me...
















No adults were utilized in the staging of this photograph.


All creative rights reserved for TinyFlemmings.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I am woman...

It's been a crazy month. In the listing spirit of No. 8, here's a bit of what's happened:

1. Matt went out of town for a wedding.
2. I performed a wedding in Piedmont Park.
3. Jackson came down with (in ascending order):
a. a cold
b. a cough
c. a fever
d. bronchitis
e. "walking" pneumonia
f. a ruptured appendix
g. an infection of all of his internal organs
h. bubonic plague
(Okay: in truth, he only came down with the first FIVE symptoms, but really, after that, who's counting?)
4. Celebrated a houseguest! JGG came for two nights, which was superfun.
5. BARACK OBAMA was elected the 44th President of the United States of America.
6. Matt came down with (in ascending order):
a. a cold
b. a cough
c. a fever
d. bronchitis
e. "walking" pneumonia
f. a ruptured appendix
g. an infection of all of his internal organs
h. bubonic plague
(Sound familiar?)
7. I bought a bed at IKEA with the money I made from doing the wedding (fancy, no?), foolishly making the trip ALONE in a Zipcar Minivan and with two tiny people. (Fortunately, Cindy hero-friend extraordinaire, was available to help load the boxes into the Zipcar minivan, which, once returned, caused much consternation among the tiny people who sort of thought that we were going to get to keep it forever.)
8. Disassembled old bed. Chucked it unceremoniously outside in the rain, but paused while Jackson said, "Awww! That's sad. Bye, bed. Thanks for all the sleeping!" (Apparently he's been reading Douglas Adams when I'm not looking.)
9. Assembled new bed with the help of a four year old, an Allen wrench and a significant amount of grunting, while poor, ailing Matt convalesced in the office/guest room and offered as much help as he was able to give in between bouts of fever and hacking
10. Made up new bed with new linens, admired own work. Fell asleep in new bed. Felt like I was in a really ritzty hotel.
11. Took the boys to get haircuts, so as to stave off tangles and snarky comments (see: Photo evidence!) And, in case you're wondering what they look like post-haircut, the top photo was taken the morning after. They look... exactly the same. NB: They are working together on a "kee-ration" (creation) of tinker toys. So long, parallel play!
12. Trekked the boys to church, and back early 'cause Jackson was still exhibiting symptoms of ailments a-e, above
13. Bagged up and donated SIX BAGS of clothes and linens
14. Moved mountains
15. Cured cancer (but not the virus plaguing my family)
16. Congratulated myself a little too much on keeping it mostly together

Needless to say, this has been a crazy month. I haven't even gotten to the part where the boys and I headed up to Knoxville this past weekend for a friend's mother's funeral. We've been busy and unwell, and Jackson finally returned to the doctor last Thursday where he was officially diagnosed with "wheezing" and "walking pneumonia" (which I'm sure isn't a real disease because it has its own .org website; come on, what kind of legitimate disease gets domain rights to itself?!). I'll spare you the details how he was strapped to a breathing machine which made about as much noise as a leafblower, and we were packed into a tiny room with no windows and two SCREAMING children while the medicine wafted into J's open, hacking mouth and eyes, which caused more SCREAMING and coughing and crying and scaring of little Cooper.

Wait. That's pretty much the scene. Scratch the part where I said I'd spare you.

So, hopefully you can see why I've not been blogging as much as I'd like. There have been plenty of good things that have happened in the month of November (see #5, above), including reconnecting with the friend I've had longest in life.

I was at the graveside service for my friend's mother on Saturday morning, in the blustery cold of East Tennessee November. The wind whipped our hair into our faces, and forced us to take notice of its power and presence. This was no quiet fall morning. This was a day to stand up and take notice of what was going on. I stood there, among the gathered few, and sang and prayed and thought about life and death. It's so easy to forget, isn't it? This mortality of ours? We get little reminders - when one falls sick and we pray, jokingly, for death to come and rescue us from our misery. But as the clouds passed and the wind forced our seemingly secure coats and hats into disarray, it was much easier to remember that we are in the midst of a mighty force that has the power to gather and to scatter. The roaring in my ears was not my own power to overcome life as it occurs, but the awareness that I am not alone, working and plodding of my own accord. I may be woman, but God is God, mighty and powerful, strong and passionate. And God is with me... with us, whispering and roaring a powerful presence.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Clap Hands!

While I'm in the process of writing a more substantial post, here's something that will make the time pass effortlessly. ('Cause I know you're waiting on pins and needles...)



This is Beck's performance on Saturday Night Live from October 28, 2006. That man knows how to rock a Ukulele, no?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

When Inspiration Strikes...

Okay - you're all familiar with these cheezy e-mail forwards that ask questions, then you copy your answers to the person who sent them, and then to a bunch of friends. Right?

Right.

I got one on Monday, and maybe it was because the questions were so darn straightforward, but I had a small, delightful party filling it out. And, since I have a blog and feel like it's the place to dump anything that I spend any amount of time writing, quality or not... here it is!

But, here's the deal. You have to comment with your own answers to the questions. Okay? I've even copied them as a stand-alone piece at the bottom, so you can just copy and paste into the Comments section. Capice? I expect this to be the most popular post I've ever had.

1. What is your occupation right now?
Associate Minister of Christian Education and Spiritual Formation, Saint Mark UMC, Atlanta, GA


2. What color are your socks right now?
I’m not wearing any. My toes are going commando. (TMI?)


3. What are you listening to right now?
Nothing, which reminds me of my love for Pandora, internet radio extraordinaire!


4. What was the last thing that you ate?
a sweet potato fry from Bab’s


5. Can you drive a stick shift?
Every single day. I’m a stick shift snob.


6. Last person you spoke to on the phone?
Matty

7. Do you like the person who sent this to you?
Absolutely! (Waving virtually at Christia!!!!)


8. How old are you today?
30. But I pretend like I’m still 29 in my own head, so no one has to know.


9. What is your favorite sport to watch on TV?
NCAA College basketball, but specifically March Madness – the first two weekends of the tourney. Every year, Matt and I have taken a family vacation for those days and eat (organic?) junk food all day. This includes the year I was pregnant with Jackson and developed a cooky craving for Skittles and Sour Patch Kids, and managed to devour a pound of each before becoming sicker than I've ever been in my life. Ah, memories...


10. What is your favorite drink?
COFFEE. Sweet, delicious coffee.


11. Have you ever dyed your hair?
Do you mean, like, today? (read: yes.)


12. Favorite food?
Japanese Hibachi/Sushi


13. What is the last movie you watched?
The Incredibles (I have a four year old. What?... wait! Actually, we watched O, Brother, Where Art Thou? yesterday! But we fast-forwarded through most of the scary parts)


14. Favorite day of the year?
The first day of summer when it’s hot outside in the morning. I’m insane, I know.

15. How do you vent anger?
Musically. And usually with the maturity of a small child.


16. What was your favorite toy as a child?
my Breyer horses


17. What is your favorite season?
It was always late spring/early summer, but now, as I get older, fall

18. Cherries or Blueberries?
Actually blackberries - picked from behind Nickel Lodge at Wesley Woods, preferably


19. Do you want your friends to e-mail you back?
By reading this post, you have committed yourself to responding in the comments section. So there.

20. Who is the most likely to respond?
All of you. I trust that you'll follow through.

21. Who is least likely to respond?
Matt (I love you, sweetheart)


22. Living arrangements?
I trip over men. They’re everywhere! I have a husband, two sons and an Edgar Beagle.


23.When was the last time you cried?
Nov. 4 when I heard the election results – and every single time I see the words “President Elect Obama”

24. What is on the floor of your closet?
SHOES, SHOES, and SHOES, but they're all organized and lovely now. And I do have a very small closet.


25. Who is the friend you have had the longest that will read this?
Other than mom? Jodie and Heather. I met them at the same time on that fateful August day in 1997 when they became my suitemates.


26. What did you do last night?
I made dinner for me n’ the boyz, put the tiny ones to bed, fell asleep with them, woke up when Matt got back from teaching his class, and watched tv with him until the wee hours


27. What are you most afraid of?
Lightening!


28. Plain, cheese, or spicy hamburgers?
Maytag bleu cheese on a burger is like a little (fatty) slice of heaven


29. Favorite dog breed?
I think I’m supposed to say Beagle, ‘cause we have one, but my poodle was the most wonderful friend I had in childhood


30. Favorite day of the week?
Friday


31. How many states have you lived in?
Tennessee, Georgia, New Jersey, Georgia


32. Diamonds or pearls?
Tiger’s Eye…


33. What is your favorite flower?
Calla Lilies


YOUR TURN!

1. What is your occupation right now?
2. What color are your socks right now?
3. What are you listening to right now?
4. What was the last thing that you ate?
5. Can you drive a stick shift?
6. Last person you spoke to on the phone?
7. Do you like the person who sent/forced you to respond to this? (HINT: Your answer is "YES!")

8. How old are you today?
9. What is your favorite sport to watch on TV?

10. What is your favorite drink?

11. Have you ever dyed your hair?
12. Favorite food?
13. What is the last movie you watched?

14. Favorite day of the year?
15. How do you vent anger?

16. What was your favorite toy as a child?

17. What is your favorite season?
18. Cherries or Blueberries?

19. Do you want your friends to e-mail you back?
20. Who is the most likely to respond?
21. Who is least likely to respond?

22. Living arrangements?

23.When was the last time you cried?
24. What is on the floor of your closet?
25. Who is the friend you have had the longest that will read this?
26. What did you do last night?
27. What are you most afraid of?
28. Plain, cheese, or spicy hamburgers?
29. Favorite dog breed?

30. Favorite day of the week?
31. How many states have you lived in?
32. Diamonds or pearls?
33. What is your favorite flower?

Friday, November 7, 2008

A President who "looks like me!"

In this morning's AJC, there is an article written by my friend and Cooper's Godmother, Cindy. You might have seen a little bit about her here, at their family blog. I had the privilege of reading it early, and I still weep every time. I am delighted to present it here, for all of you to enjoy. The star of the article is photographed here with Jackson at J's most recent birthday party.

(For those of you Atlanta Journal-Constitution subscribers, you can find it in the @Issue section of your morning paper. Just turn the last page of the first section, and look down at the bottom for the photo of this lovely family riding the Pink Pig at Macy's in Lenox Square.)

Mixed-race child can see a president who ‘looks like me!’

Friday, November 07, 2008

African-Americans throughout the United States and the world will be talking about the 2008 elections for years and generations to come...

They will replay Barack Obama’s election night speech over and over; they will collect the newspaper front pages that note the nation’s “Change of Course” (Athens Banner-Herald) or call Obama “Mr. President” (Chicago Sun-Times). At my employer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, people packed the lobby Wednesday and Thursday mornings for a chance to buy extra copies of the paper that heralded Obama’s “Historic Win.”

They see a man who gives them hope, who promises change. They see him as the culmination of the civil rights movement.

I see a kindergartner.... (click here to read the full article)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

YES WE DID!


6:45 p.m. EST: Here we sit, huddled around the T.V., eyes glued on the hardest working man in showbiz, Wolf Blitzer. Jackson made it a full 6 hours at school before needing to be picked up, and he's currently engulfed in a cozy blanket on the couch, watching election results intently.

We're excited. A little nervous. We're celebrating the little things, like... Vermont. We're hopeful. Matt and I are sharing stories with the boys about the last two elections, especially. I have made a deal with Anderson Cooper and Wolfman that if they project our next President accurately by 10:00 p.m., then in exchange we'll stop calling them "Talking Heads," and will, in fact, name our next child CNN or Blitzer or something. (This is where I should admit that we got the idea for "Cooper" after watching Anderson for an hour in 2006, but that's our little secret, okay?)

The boys are asking amazing questions. Jackson, in particular, was curious about the Vice Presidential nominees and why they even need to exist. We've explained that Joe Biden and Sarah Palin have been chosen as "helpers" by the presidential candidates, and he seemed convinced. He did, however, make sure to quiz me last night:

Jackson: Mama, I like Barack Obama. I voted for him (this is, technically, true).
Me: Me too, Bear. I like Barack Obama.
Jackson: Did you vote for Barack Obama?
Me: Yes! Yes I did!
Jackson: Good. I don't want you to vote for John McCain.
Me: [tearing up] I love you, son. So much.

Earlier tonight, Cooper discovered that we could sing Barack's slogan to the tune of the "Bob the Builder" theme song:

Cooper: B'wak Obama! Can he fix it?! B'wak Obama! YES WE CAN!
Me: [tearing up] I love you, son. So much.

Truth be told, this whole evening is a little bizarre. There are the Fred Armisen-esque map viewings, as well as the creepy Wolf and Jessica Yellin-as-Hologram "Help me Obi Wan! You're my only hope!" moments that are, well, creepy. Especially because Wolf just referred to their conversation as "intimate."

Jackson is a building replica of the White House with blocks and musing, "I'm going to live here, with you, and Daddy and Cooper, and Edgar. And Barack Obama." Maybe he knows that Sasha and Malia Obama are getting a celebratory Inauguration puppy.

This morning, we went cruising around polling places. At 7:35 this morning, there was a line wrapped around the Decatur Christian Church, East Lake Elementary was packed, and Winnona Park was flooded with pedestrians. For some reason, I got weepy as I honked and waved at the enthusiastic voters. There is something that completely overwhelms me with joy and hope at the sight of a bunch of folks, gathering together, to do something important. I get the same feeling now as I watch the masses begin to huddle in Grant Park to hear Barack Obama's (anticipated) victory speech tonight. My heart swells, my eyes flood, and I feel like, indeed, I've done something worth celebrating.

Today at Saint Mark, we had our weekly staff meeting. The conversation, at some point, turned to the election and we all offered our personal, "When I voted..." stories. It was comforting to share in a place where we all, essentially, agree. There was a safety and peace in our concurrence, and we breathed deeply of our collective anticipation and expectation.

11:01 p.m. EST: BARACK OBAMA ELECTED PRESIDENT!!!

CNN just called the election with 297 electoral votes, after New Mexico, California, Oregon and Washington reported. Tears are streaming down my face as we watch the hundreds of thousands of people all around the country celebrating and rejoicing. The pundits are showing their true colors as they respond with emotion and honesty. The words of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. are being quoted in abundance as Ebenezer Baptist Church is packed with people who might have only prayed where they would see a day when a man was truly judged, "not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character."

Matt and I are relaxing, maybe for the first time in eight years. We're toasting one another with delicious sparkling wine and awaiting President Elect Obama's speech, and patiently listening to the very gracious concession of John McCain.

This is a new day. However we feel about these candidates, things are changing, and I pray that in eight years we will look back and all be able to acknowledge how this marked a shift in our thinking and when the mentality of an old world ceased to be. I pray that God will work through this newly elected president, a man I truly admire and trust to lead us, to inspire us all to be better neighbors, better citizens, better people.

Blessings and peace be with you all.

YES WE DID!