Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Things Vanessa Taught Us

56 years ago today, the world changed. Vanessa Joan (pronounced Jo-anne... don't get it wrong) Craft (later Barrett) entered this world. But really, doesn't the world change each time one of us is born? Doesn't the world change when each one of us dies? I think that's how Vanessa felt. Each of us has a unique task of leaving this world better than we found it.

On this, what would be her 56th birthday, I think it is important for us to remember that Vanessa left this world better than she found it. Vanessa, my dear mother, was a teacher. Not only in the classroom, this brave woman sought to teach each and every person she met. I believe that she succeeded. Listed below are 56 lessons that Vanessa taught us.

I hope you enjoy the list, laughing at the funny lessons, and humbly remembering the somber ones... but most of all, I hope you share this list, both by sharing the list itself with others, but even more so by living out the lessons.

1. Meals can be one course. This course can be popcorn, Shells-n-Cheese, nachos, or any other number of foods that require little to no effort to prepare.

2. Of all fast-food restaurants, always choose Taco Bell (unless the Taco Bell has been closed by the health department... then choose Arby's).

3. The healthiest competition comes from card games. Also, don't mess with a Craft woman, especially when she is playing Phase 10, Skip-bo, or Wizard.

4. Teachers have first names. They really like to be called by them, too!

5. The only way to be happy is to be yourself.

6. Everyone has a talent. If you think you don't, you haven't tried hard enough.

7. Travelling in large groups is risky, especially when you don't know the language. Always have a meeting spot in case of emergencies.

8. If something seems like a bad idea, DON'T DO IT!

9. No child is a lost cause.

10. Likewise, every child deserves to be loved and to be given a second chance.

11. Again, likewise, children are not their parents.

12. Love transcends divisions. That doesn't make divisions less hard to deal with, but love is worth persevering in.

13. If you have troubles remembering your 9 times tables, hold both hands in the air (working under the assumption that you have all and only 10 fingers). To figure out 9 x 4, (starting at the left) count over four fingers (your left pointer finger). Put it down. To the left of it will be 3 fingers, to the right of it will 6. 9 x 4 = 36. 9 x 6 = ? Count over six, put down your right thumb. 5 to the left, 4 to the right. 9 x 6 = 54.

14. The only ab workout you need is laughter.

15. Don't take yourself so seriously.

16. The best way you can love your children is to love your parenting partner. (She phrased it, "The best way a man can love his children is to love his wife." I have altered the lesson to be inclusive.)

17. When stuck in a conflict, "BUILD A BRIDGE and GET OVER IT!"

18. Things don't always have to be tidy to be organized.

19. If a group of people is getting together and have invited you, you declining the invitation means that you will be the subject of conversation.

20. Life is short. Spend time with friends and family.

21. Friendship is the most precious gift you have. You are not limited to one best friend. The more, the better.

22. You can live on less than 1 kidney. For a long time.

23. If you don't know the answer, admit it. Don't make an answer up. It does no good to anyone.

24. Take the questions of children seriously. You might learn something in the answering.

25. There is truth to the command to "make a joyful noise." Tone-deaf is merely a state of mind.

26. If you're feeling sorry for yourself, others probably are, too. You are worth more than feeling sorry for yourself.

27. Doctors should be nice to you. You are buying their houses, their cars, and (as the case of Vanessa's nephrologist) funding their divorces.

28. Once you get the "teacher look," you'll never forget it. Phrases like "suck a duck" will incite said look.

29. The "mom glare" is strikingly similar to the "teacher look."

30. If you can't play sports (or just aren't any good at 'em), encourage the people who do!

31. Cherish your sorority sisters. They're the only ones who won't think you're crazy when you sing the songs/do the dances you remember from college.

32. Always designate a friend to remove your "bedside/top drawer" contents in the case of your untimely death. Your children won't ever thank you for it, but really they're thankful.

33. Pepsi is addictive. Never trust a Coca-Cola drinker (even if you marry one).

34. Children are never mistakes. They are gifts to be cherished.

35. Do not try to iron your clothes while you're wearing them.

36. Family is family, no matter what.

37. Never underestimate the power of a smile. It lifts your own spirits more than it lifts the spirits of others.

38. Kids grow up, most of the time before you even know it. Savor childhood.

39. Relax. Yes, you. RELAX.

40. When making puppy chow, always double-bag.

41. Relationships (especially with your kids) are more important than keeping a perfect house.

42. The only color of Laffy Taffy worth eating is the yellow. And if you don't think the jokes are funny? Well, see #15!

43. When being intimate under the Christmas tree, watch out for needles. Or buy a fake tree.

44. When sneezing, remember to squeeze. This maneuver is (cleverly) titled the "sneeze-n-squeeze).

45. You are perfect, but your life won't and doesn't have to be. Trying to make it so is a wasted effort.

46. You never know when Kilroy is watching.

47. It is convenient to name your kid the same thing as the next door neighbor's kid. It cuts down on the yelling.

48. Hug people. You probably need it more than they do, but it will brighten their day and lift their spirit.

49. A dog will always love you, no matter how badly you snore.

50. Open your home to those who need it.

51. Your paycheck does not define you.

52. Everyone has a nickname. If they don't, it is your responsibility to make one up!

53. Give until you can't give anymore.

54. Like most music, Barry Manilow is best heard on vinyl.

55. Your legacy will continue to affect people long after you have left this earth. People you've never met... make sure it is one worth leaving.

56. Never forget the 4 L's... Learn, Laugh, Love, Live

So, which is your favorite? Which are you best at? On which do you need to work?

*a special thanks to Diane for inspiring this post
** a VERY special thank you to all who shared lessons and memories on facebook. I couldn't have compiled this list without you!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2010 in Albums (re-post from Facebook)

My friend, Nick, has posted a list of albums that he connected to in 2010. After a bit of conversation with him during a class break, I decided that I would do the same. Like Nick, most of these albums are not albums released in 2010, but albums that I found myself constantly returning to.


"Furnace Room Lullaby" - Neko Case

I was introduced to this artist by my friend, Julia. We used a Neko Case song as a background for a group project, and I was immediately captured by her unique sound. I was taking an intensive class in January in which I was studying the Doctrine of the United Methodist Church. When I felt very boxed in to the "system" to which I was submitting my career, I found freedom through the sound of this album.


"Evolve" - Ani DiFranco

I have always considered the title track from this album to be a "mantra" of sorts for my life... "So I walk like I'm on a mission 'cause that's the way I groove. I've got more and more to do. I've got less and less to prove. It took me too long to realize that I don't take good pictures 'cause I have the kind of beauty that moves." What headstrong woman finding her way in the world wouldn't relate to this lyric? (As you will see emerge later in the year) I have a tendency to re-listen to albums both before and after I see an artist in concert. I saw Ani with my friends Julia, Chrissy, and Deana. She put on a spectacular show and put in motion a lot of thoughts about how I can be both a married woman and an activist for women's rights.


"New Moon Daughter" - Cassandra Wilson

March contains not only my birthday, but also an opportunity for me to spend time with my sisters and brothers of GCSRW. I always feel quite tapped into the universal feminine when I listen to Cassandra Wilson, and in the celebration of my birthday in Chicago, my GCSRW friends made a monetary gift to the Advocacy for Women Endowment. I felt as though they said to me, "You're womanhood is a legacy."


"Kansas" - Jennifer Knapp

As I prepared to attend the West Ohio Annual Conference, I had been in much prayer and conversations with Christians and non-Christians alike about the relationship between hetero-sexism and faith. Around the middle of April, Jennifer Knapp, a successful Christian recording artist, came out of the closet. Hearing not only this album from Jennifer Knapp, but also listening to her interviews alongside my preparations for a heated week at annual conference made me keenly aware of many issues surrounding sexuality that have permeated many conversations, churches, communities, etc.


"The Everglow" - Mae

This is just an overall great album that holds a lot of memories and emotions. As I transitioned out of my "second year" at MTSO and into the summer, this album just held me together.


self-titled - Corinne Bailey Rae

Annual Conference, mentioned above, occurred in this month. Corinne Bailey Rae served as a calming presence. Her music is light but full of soul.


"Call Off the Search" - Katie Melua

July took me on a journey to Germany. My dear friend Vici, her husband, Hauke, and their BEAUTIFUL (no really, she is the most gorgeous child in the world) daughter Mathilda had graciously hosted me for a few days. As we were all enjoying a typical German breakfast, Vici put on this album. I was instantly hooked. I listed to this album not only for the rest of July, but for the rest of the year.


"God Willing and the Creek Don't Rise" - Ray LaMontagne

A newly released album that was long awaited from this Ray LaMontagne fan. His album set the tone for the beginning of my last year in graduate school (FINALLY). I have always loved his music, and the collaboration with the Pariah Dogs somehow captured my feelings of stress, worry, sadness, and the beauty that comes from them all and represented them musically.


"Wreck Your Wheels" - Kim Richey

Again I found myself with my wonderful GCSRW friends in Nashville. We went to the Bluebird Cafe to listen to songwriter's perform, and we all fell in love with Kim Richey. I had heard a song of hers on Grey's Anatomy, but never followed up. She is another woman who performs with soul.


"Simplicity" - Katie Reider

As I arrived at church one Sunday morning, a parishioner asked if she could play a song that she heard at a wedding to celebrate the anniversary of two of our beloved congregants. The song was beautiful, but she didn't know who sang it or where it came from. Quite ironically, the next day my friend and colleague, Don, posted a status on FB about a Katie Reider song. As I read Katie's story and listened to more and more of her music, I discovered that she was the writer/performer of the song in church. Her music captivated me and encapsulated her life of hope and love. Her story is all at the same time heartwarming and heartbreaking.


"Lonely Avenue" - Ben Folds & Nick Hornby

This album was released this year, and I haven't stopped listening to it since. I saw Ben Folds in concert with Garrett and my friend, Bethany. It was incredible.


"On a Rolling Ball" - Gabe Dixon

December held a lot of stress and distress, and this album on repeat settled my mind as I entered what will no doubt be one of the craziest years of my life.

I would love to hear yours!!

Imagine a Woman

Patricia Lynn Reilly, M. Div.
© 1995

Imagine a woman
who believes it is right and good she is woman.
A woman who honors her experience and tells her stories.
Who refuses to carry the sins of others within her body and life.

Imagine a woman
who believes she is good.
A woman who trusts and respects herself.
Who listens to her needs and desires and meets them with tenderness and grace.

Imagine a woman
who has acknowledged the past's influence on the present.
A woman who has walked through her past.
Who has healed into the present.

Imagine a woman
who authors her own life.
A woman who exerts, initiates, and moves on her own behalf.
Who refuses to surrender except to her truest self and to her wisest voice.

Imagine a woman
who names her own gods.
A woman who imagines the divine in her image and likeness.
Who designs her own spirituality and allows it to inform her daily life.

Imagine a woman
in love with her own body.
A woman who believes her body is enough, just as it is.
Who celebrates her body and its rhythms and cycles as an exquisite resource.

Imagine a woman
who honors the face of the Goddess in her changing face.
A woman who celebrates the accumulation of her years and her wisdom.
Who refuses to use her precious life energy disguising the changes in her body and life.

Imagine a woman
who values the women in her life.
A woman who sits in circles of women.
Who is reminded of the truth about herself when she forgets.

Imagine yourself as this woman.

[emphasis mine]

Monday, February 14, 2011

Life is More Than a Box of Chocolates

So, another Valentine's Day...

I am quite happy to have many people with whom I share the sentiment of the day. And for those who abhor this day? Please don't let a
day make you feel less special than you are.

And now for something totally different.

I'm a pastor. 99.9% of the time I love it. I loved it yesterday. I lead two worship services each Sunday, and after a particularly normal first service, I was feeling a bit down. As I walked into the sanctuary of Church Number 2, I saw a lovely box of chocolates neatly placed in my chair behind the pulpit. I knew immediately who the chocolates were from. Last year I got a dozen roses from this same person.

Here comes the dilemma.

So, I have decided to start (again) taking seriously this business of eating better and making my body fit for life. Seems easy, right? I am a week in, after I had a few successes and many, many failures. But I live one day at a time, choosing water over sugary soda and veggies (which I truly love) over chocolate.

So these chocolates from church posed a problem. I lived through a minor "encounter" during worship, and felt good when I got home. My husband and I swapped some Valentine's Day trinkets, and life was good! So I had one chocolate! Look at my self control! And then Monday came...

I made good choices. I ate one more chocolate. Self control win! I went out to lunch with a few friends, at a Chinese Buffet even, and made good choices! LOOK AT ME! I am being successful! And on the drive home, my phone shouted at me, "IT'S SO FLUFFY I'M GONNA DIE!!" (that's the ringtone I have set for email notifications.) So I get home, open the email, and it is a passive aggressive email from the same instigator of the "encounter" during worship yesterday!

Ugh... I am angry. I am disappointed. I am feeling attacked. I cry. I want chocolate. Perhaps it is because the chocolate is sitting on the coffee table. So I moved the chocolate to the kitchen table. Out of sight, out of mind, right? So I vent to a friend about how angry I am, I do some housework (that in itself should tell you how angry I am), and I try to take my mind off of eating

But when I sat down and needed to get work done on the computer, I ate one caramel. I typed. I ate another caramel. I typed. And before I knew it, I had devoured every caramel in the box. And then I picked up a strawberry candy! I DON'T EVEN LIKE THEM. What is it about anger that can make an otherwise strong willed person eat a bunch of chocolates I don't even care for?

So I walked outside, dumped the box of chocolates in the dumpster, and said to myself, "Anna, life is more than a box of chocolates."