Thursday, May 31, 2007

No! I refuse to believe tomorrow is June!

I cannot believe how quickly this year seems to be going. It seems like only yesterday that it was Christmas. I suppose this is good and bad. It is nice to be back to summer and warm weather but everything seems to happen so quickly that I don't feel on top of it all.

June is almost here and that means the thing that I both dread and love about my job....

Vacation. Bible. School.

On the one hand, the week itself is fun and dynamic. I can't help but feel in awe that I pulled it off and how much fun kids seem to have at our VBS.

On the other...the weeks leading up to it can be hell. And since our anniversery always seems to fall on the week before VBS I feel guilty that I spend that whole week at work rather than cuddling with my husband. There is so much to be done and so many people that need to step forward in order for it to work.

So if my thoughts become more random than normal in the next weeks it is because VBS is weighing heavy on my mind. But, i'm cautiously optimistic about this year. I still need plenty of help but some people are stepping forward to work and I'm feeling *slightly* more on top of things than normal. But we'll see. Tomorrow I could feel panicked again, so who knows.

Last weekend was a lot of fun. Chris and I went to the wedding of our good friends. In fact Chris was a groomsman and sang a beautiful Ave Maria as well. We like to take credit for this couple being together, as they met at our couple's shower. The bride was a good friend of Chris' from HS, the groom was a good friend of Chris' from college (and in our wedding). They met at the shower and despite the fact they both had other people they had been seeing they eventually ended up together. So it was pretty special to see them get married last weekend. (pictures later)

We didn't stay in a hotel this weekend though, instead we stayed at Chris' parents house. His parents were out of town and we stayed with his younger sister (age 16). The reality of it was we were all babysitting each other. Emily was our DD for the wedding (good thing too!) and we had a great weekend hanging out together.

One of the best parts was Chris grilled for us twice, a luxury we miss since our apartment building has strict rules against grills. It was a good memorial day weekend. Even the speaker at the park ceremony in small town MN was not overly offensive to me. Granted he focused more on WWII but that is probably for the best.

It was a LONG weekend though and I'm looking forward to a quiet weekend this week. VBS is looming so I'm going to take some time to relax before the rush comes. In fact, I think i'm going to go to the zoo tomorrow, so I'll post happy zoo pictures tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

History Lessons?

I'm sure this happens to many people. As you grow up you here from your grandparents and your parents..."When I was your age..." Then they proceed to tell you a story of the vast differences between their generation's experience and our own. I have also frequently heard "If you don't learn from history, you are doomed to repeat it."

So really, WTF is going on?

I remember hearing, from my parents and others, about the Vietnam war, the war protests, the lines at the gas pumps, etc. So why is it that 30 years later we are yet again in an unwinnable war that we barged into without much thought or care. Why is it that when gas went down a quarter this afternoon that I found myself in a line for gas trying to take advantage of the reduction? Isn't anyone paying attention? We've been here before, and it took years to get out of it.

Who is going to clean up the mess of this administration?

You know the only major difference that I see in today's situation vs that of the 70s? Apathy. My parents, and countless others, fought back. There were protests and mass movements. People united for common goals and they made progress. Now? It seems like we are all wandering around trying to make the best of it without making any real effort to change the status quo. How can it be that almost 3/4 of America is now against the war but we don't see regular protests about it? Why do most of us sit back and wait for it to change? Do we say "Oh well, it will start to be better in 08, we'll just wait til then" Do we want to wait another year and a half for things to start to improve? Really?

There are all sorts of impeachment worthy offenses of our administration. There are suspicious firings, and hirings. There is the 9/11 Report. The Iraq war. Hallaburton. People hear stats and turn off the tv and go to bed.

When will we start to speak out against those who got us into this mess. When will we stand up and act in a unified manner. When is enough, enough?

I want to act. I'm sick of this. I want to feel as though I could make a difference. But my voice seems to stand alone in the world. Arguing with co-workers over the justification of the war isn't what I want to do. I want to change this. But I don't know how. Anyone have any ideas?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Sick Girl Coughing...

A collection of Random Monday Thoughts:

1. I have my second cold this spring. I didn't get sick this winter and thought that it was great. Warm weather comes, allergies crop up and BAM two nasty colds. This particular one is stuck in my lungs, and breathing is hell at the moment. I would be home in bed but of course I have an important meeting with the senior pastor today. I may try to go home afterwards...with a stop for a milkshake on the way home (the only thing that sounds good).

2. We had to take Chris' car in for some body work at 7am this morning. So we are carpooling all week, which means my work day will be starting at 8ish each day, instead of 10ish. It will probably still go til 6ish each night since I have to pick Chris up from the bus depot each day. I suppose I can try to go home earlier and just go out later and pick him up. If this cold decides to linger I may have to do that.

3. We have a wedding this weekend, and I really want to find an adorable dress to wear. Chris is a groomsman so I want to match a tux-clad hubby. My cold has me feeling distinctly uncute could be the hacking cough!

4. I had a busy weekend. We threw a couples shower for Chris' brother and fiancee which was fun. It was a good intergenerational event and I think people had fun. I was in charge of games specifically and I think I did just enough. I don't think they were too annoying (as some bridal shower games can get).

5. Also this weekend I helped out with an old friend's chamber concert. He and some of his professional musician friends put on this concert and I was their roadie. It was fun to hear some great music and I look forward to helping but it did bring back some old inadequacies. In terms of music, I've always been something of a wannabe. I have a lot of knowledge and appreciation...talent, not so much. For the most part I've come to terms with this. I enjoy it when I am able to make music and I love to observe and listen when I can't, but there are times I wish I could be more a part of the music world.

6. INTERESTING FACTOID: At this time, I know 20 babies from under two to those in utero. And this counts friends but not the parents at church (with a few exceptions that I count as friends too). I'm thrilled for all my friends but it makes me very much aware at where we are not. And of course they are all just SO cute. Chris thinks I'm doomed...I know so! Is he done with law school YET !?!

7. These are sort of bummers. I think spring colds can contribute to that. I hope it is a short one at least. Almost time for my meeting, and maybe my milkshake and nap! I don't know if I can justify leaving the desk piles though. We'll see.

8. I can't sign off without doing something positive, so here goes: July is going to be AMAZING for my geek lifestyle. Not only is Harry Potter book 7 coming out but so is the 5th movie, AND the new seasons of Dr. Who and Eureka start. Geek love!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Pachelbel Rant

I'm trying to learn video posting with a hilarious video. It is funny if you like popular music, but if you know classical music at all it is downright hilarious. I found it from Lutheran Husker. It is worth the 5 minutes if you've got the time!

The Stress of Same-ness

When you are very little, routine and same-ness are the way to go. Babies and Toddlers especially work well in schedules. Eat, Sleep, poop, repeat. In preschool it is the same thing. Routine makes new things less scary and creates calmness. And there is a certain rhythm to a schedule.

But as an adult, I am finding that same-ness is a bit maddening. It seems that there are never ending things that you work to change but they don't seem to go anywhere. As an adult you try to move forward with what is important to you but often the moving forward is bogged down in the everyday same-ness of it all. Maybe no one else notices this but I find myself very influenced by it.

I want to lose weight, but everyday is a struggle to eat right and exercise but the same-ness is the lack of progress. I want to reduce my stress and anxiety but feel stuck in it at the same time. I want to move towards a house, but the finances are always the same - not enough of it. I work and deal with the same problems from the same people and the same complaints and difficulties week after week. I try to clean the house but everytime I turn my head it is back to the same old mess.

It makes me feel like I'm spinning my wheels going nowhere and that drives me batty. Yesterday I was stuck for 10 minutes trying to get on the hwy from work (less than a 1/4 mile). I feel like that is an example of a lot of those things above. You try to inch forward but it is next to impossible to see the progress.

My life doesn't suck. I know that, but I'm really sick of dealing with the same problems again and again without result. And I don't know how to get beyond it to move to real change. Blech.

Same old, Same old...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Piano Man

Last night Chris and I went to see the Piano Man himself, Billy Joel! (Of course I forgot to bring the camera!) The concert was AWESOME! I'm still blown away by how many great songs that he has. Even hearing tons of hits there were 3 or so that I still wanted to hear and didn't get to! (Longest Time, Uptown Girl, and Lullaby).

We were technically in "obstructed view" seats but I think we ended up with some of the best seats in the house. We were behind the stage but up on the second level. We had a huge Jumbotron right in our line of sight that took care of all the close ups, but also, we were significantly closer to the band than most of the people. I could look right down on Billy's piano and his balding head!

Billy was really good. I was amazed how much vocal power he had. He really could sing. And his piano stuff was amazing. He had the shortest, stubbiest fingers of a pianist that I've seen, but he could really play. And the band was amazing. He used tons of horn line stuff - trumpets and saxs. So cool. One girl in the band played all the aux. percussion and sax and sang backups too. She was running all over all night but she was amazingly talented.

Some of my highlights from the evening....
We didn't start the fire
Only the good die young
Keeping the Faith
His Bob Dylan imitation
and of course, Piano Man.

Piano Man was his last encore, naturally. It was cool to sing it with him and all the thousands there. Even if it isn't my favorite song of his I really do like it and it really works in a live setting. Awesome!

In other news, prayers go out to my friend. I found out that she miscarried a baby recently. I didn't know she was pregnant, but I can't imagine that pain.

On the happier side, I got a random phone call from an old Seminary friend today so it was fun to catch up with her.

And I *think* I may have made progress on the question of what to do next year. Still want to mull it over some more though. I'll let you know, but I'm still open to any advice you guys have.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Happy Dance!

My Husband is now officially done with his second year of law school!


He got a JOB! Woohoo! He's going to be a law clerk this summer! And even get paid! Hooray!

Happy Dance!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Passing on unusual skills to the younger generation.

(I meant to write this post shortly after our church's Easter party just before Holy Week, but I thought that it called for pictures and thus I was at the mercy of someone else's digital camera since I'd forgotten mine. I have the pictures now, so without further ado...)

Sometimes in my field (Children's Ministry) random or unusual skills and talents suddenly become applicable to my job. Often they are childhood arts and crafts skills or the obscure camp song that you suddenly remember at just the right time. These talents are mostly long forgotten and you are unaware of their unefullness until they are needed. And then suddenly that particular skill makes the kids engaged, active and excited.

This doesn't happen that much but on occasion something I didn't realize was a talent comes out.

In this case it was my MAD Easter Egg dying skills...

Now, I know what you are thinking. ANYONE can dye Easter eggs. It is a standard skill that almost everyone learns at a young age. But I come from an unusual family, or should I say an unusally competitive family! You see, growing up in my family, Easter Egg dying was a competitive sport, just like Christmas Cookie decorating. (What do you mean that isn't normal? Hehehe). (You shouldn't even witness the marathon scrabble games of my family...seriously, run away.)

These holiday competitions were held between my mother, my little sister and myself. For the longest time my mother was the un-questioned champion, but little by little, my sister gained ground on her until it became a true competition. As always our father was the ultimate judge.

There were years I worked on themes, doing Easter eggs that all related to one another. One year I did a Holy Week series - representing Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter in Egg form. Another year was animals. It was a fun comptetition but we all secretly wanted to win.

One of the standard, "warm-up", Easter Eggs was the rainbow Egg. My mother originally invented it when we were young and it quickly became a family favorite. At least one of us would do the rainbow each year. Sometimes we came up with variations but often we stuck with the standard.

The competitions ended mostly when I went to college, although there have been a few random Easters and Christmas' when we were all together and we break out our mad skills. But mostly these skills are lying dormant waiting until I have kids to start the tradition anew.

But this year a Mom approached me about organizing an Easter party here at church. And so we ran with the idea, and what would an Easter party be without Easter Egg dying. One of our volunteers agreed to hard boil all the eggs (I think he did over 100). I helped organize and run the event but I stayed quiet about my talent. Who needs a crazed Egg-dying Children's Ministry director afterall.

The day of the party arrived and things got going. Since I was helping oversee the party I didn't have a specific task but got to interact with the kids and do the activites with them. I thought I would quietly dye an egg before things got to crazy. I wanted to do the standard "rainbow" in memory of our Easter Egg competitions. They are one of those weird parts of family holidays that I miss and I was thinking fondly of it during the party.

So I did the was the result:

It wasn't my best work but it wasn't bad. I felt out of practice but I was still pleased with the result. I put the egg on the table to dry and went back to roaming around the party. I thought that was the end of it.

When i came back to the egg dying room some minutes later the volunteer leading told me that all the kids loved my rainbow egg and they wanted to learn how to do it themselves. Then the kids started coming up to me and asking them how to do it. So I held a spontaneous "rainbow" egg class and taught about 15 kids how to do the rainbow egg. They were all thrilled to learn and it was touching to be able to pass on my knowledge.

Afterwards I heard of at least one kid who went home and showed the family how to dye the rainbow Easter egg during Easter break. I don't know why I find that so moving, but I do. Who knew that my rainbow Egg would make the day fun for so many kids. It is amazing the random talents that surface sometimes. I miss my Easter Egg competitions with my family but it is nice to know that I was able to share it with others!

P.S. To Mom and Kristin, I can still beat you both. *Grin* We should figure out when to do another round!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Halfway there!

I'm happy to report that I am officially halfway through this year's 50 book Challenge. I've read 25 books so far and it is only May 6! At this pace I should be able to make it through and finish before the year ends. I'm still taking book requests even though I do have quite a pile lined up already. Some of these books were short (the Little House series for example) but they were books that I had not read yet and I really enjoyed. All in all, I didn't have a book I didn't like on this list so far but the stand outs so far are: The Thirteenth Tale, The Handmaid's Tale and Water for Elephants. Next up on the list: Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck and One for the Money - the first of the Stephanie Plum series. Many more to follow and I will keep the list updated. I'm proud for making it so far in roughly 4 months! Woohoo!

The 50 Book Challenge 2007

1. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
2. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling*
4. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett*
5. Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
6. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
7. The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner
8. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
9. The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar by Robert Alexander
10. The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel by Diane Setterfield
11. Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
12. On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
13. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
14. By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder
15. Thread of Grace by Mary Doria Russell
16. Digging to America by Anne Tyler
17. The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
18. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
19. The Guy Not Taken: Stories by Jennifer Weiner
20. The Children of Men by PD James
21. The Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
22. These Happy Golden Days by Laura Ingalls Wilder
23. The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder
24. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
25. Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

What's Next? - Question 2 + 3

BIG QUESTION #2 - 2.5 kids and a house with a white pickett fence?

So obviously, if the love of my current job was the only thing in question it would be easier to deal with. But the reality of our desire to have a house and family are big influences. This is not such a question of if, but a question of when. Chris and I have dreams of a family and a house and all those domestic things. We'd like to get to the point where we can own property rather than rent. We want to get to the point of building our own equity and have a place of our own. This is high on our "hopefully soon" list of things to do. (Sometimes we even get this crazy idea in our head that we could do it now). We'd like to get to the point where money is not a problem. I certainly don't anticipate a jump to the upper class tax bracket, but I'd like to improve our income to afford a house, student loan payments and the basics.

This desire directly effects what we should be looking toward in the future. More than likely this can be a reality when Chris graduates and gets a job. It is probably dependent on those things since I'm unlikely to leave my job while Chris is still in school and can't afford it at our current income. Obviously, if we are looking to buy a house to, we should be in an area where we think we can live for several years at least.

Another major influence is the question of when to have (or start trying) for kids. In the current situation money and time restrict our options, but in a year that could be a very different story. We both want kids and it is a question of when not if. But there are variables here too. What will I be doing career-wise at the time? I can't really say how quickly pregnancy could happen. I know people who've had issues with infertility and those who've gotten pregnant the first time around. Starting down that path is a big question mark for sure and we both know that. It is going to complicate life regardless, but it becomes a question whether or not we wait until there is an obviously better time or acknowledge that there may not be a great time. I suppose these questions basically come down to career vs. family.

I *think* that I'm committed to having a parent stay at home for at least a little while rather than dealing with daycares, but with Chris likely having the steady larger income (post graduation) that likely falls to me. Do I want to do some more work first? Do I want to go to school first? Do I want to give up those temporarily and say that I'm committed to starting a family first? I don't know yet. If I say I want to start right away and don't work on a "career" and it doesn't happen quickly or easily will I regret having given up some of those options earlier? I know that there are many years before and after kids to have a career and do new things but I don't know which way I'm leaning right now. When I hold my friends babies or play with the kids at church I lean one way, when I am doing academic or theological things I think another way. Could I have the best of both worlds?

BIG QUESTION #3 - More School?
Today it seems to make sense to move right now to the next (and possibly biggest) question. When I graduated from Seminary I wanted to go on and get my PhD. Because of the caliber of schools I would look at, it wasn't feasible to go while Chris was also in law school. We had decided that MN was a good place to be for that. We have friends and family close by, we know the area and Chris got into a good school here. It seemed logical for me to wait and think about school again after Chris finished.

Well, Chris is almost done and I need to make some decisions about getting into a PhD program. If I am going to go back I need to start applying now (so I can get them in when they are due this fall or winter). There are GREs to take and languages to refresh and learn, not to mention the applications themselves and visiting the campuses. I would probably look to go back in the fall of '08. But this complicates a lot of the previous questions.

First of all, it would directly affect Chris' job prospects. He would probably have to know where I am going in advance and plan to take the bar in that state instead of MN. The job market would probably be more difficult since many states legal systems differ and the firms are more likely to look at local candidates. Also, would it be fair to move to a state where we may or may not end up long term? If I finish with classes in 2 or 3 years and move into discertation mode we could move back to MN or WI or somewhere we'd want to be, but would that mean Chris needs to take the bar again? Or start over trying find a job in a tight market? Or suppose we got there and Chris couldn't find a job? Staying in MN means I still have my job to offset however the legal market looks in '08.

Second, do I want to go back to school at all? There are days when I miss it so much. The interesting readings and conversations. Thinking about heady things and trying to figure out my own opinion to them. Participating in a conversation that has been going on for thousands of years. Theology is so interesting to me and I could see teaching and talking about it for the rest of my life. If I want to teach ever a PhD will be necessary step in that process, and the later I start the less likely it is to happen.

But as much as I love school, there are days when I think I've moved past that time. I look at Chris studying at odd hours and stressing about finals and deadlines and think maybe it is ok to give it up. It sounds like a lot of work and I'm not even sure that I could get into a program anymore. They only take 5-10 students in any of the 5 or 6 places I'd be looking (Chicago, Yale, Harvard, Princeton are the front runners) And even if I did, the job market for theological professors is smaller than that for children's ministry people. There is no guarantee that'd I'd be able to find a job, or if I did, there is no guarantee it would be in a place I'd like to be. I know these are big ifs, but I want to figure it out. Is it anxiety in the unknown that makes me worry about going back to school or am I truly over it?

There is also the family question. Could I be a mom and a student? Is there enough energy and time there to do a good job at both? Could I put off either mom or student for more years, knowing that as time passes both will become harder?

I've been told that I have enough talent in the field to make contributions. My MA thesis was well recieved by two of the smartest profs on campus and my grades at Sem were great without much effort. I worked hard but it was never "hard" work because I enjoyed it. I feel like I have something to give to the field, but would I do that at the expense of other things.

I am committed to making good choices for myself but also for my husband and (hopefully) future family. Does the possiblity of school raise too many ifs? Is it something I should do because I love it and could do well? Am I unhappy in my current career? There are options I could do there as well. I could get another masters in specific Christian education without leaving the state. I could support Chris and stay here and still do "good" things.

There are a lot of what ifs I know, and they all seem dependent on each other. It feels as those if I decide the answer to one I will be limiting my possible answers to the others. Are there doors here I can close (at least temporarily)? Which are my priorities? What is best for me? For Chris? For a future family? How do you decide these questions?

What's Next? - Question 1

So lately I've been thinking a lot about the future and what it holds for me and Chris. Chris is 2/3 done with law school (or will be when finals are over next week) and we are going to need to make some decisions about where to go from here. Many things have seemed to be "on hold" while Chris is in school and now there seem to be some tough decisions to make. Maybe not today, but soon, and a lot of them deal with that the heck I want to do with my life.

It's true that I have felt on hold a bit. In the relatively unstable part of being a full time student, it has fallen to me to keep some money coming in and while my job doesn't pay much it is stable enough to really avoid looking for other work. And I'm glad to do it. I went to Seminary and Chris worked and now it is his turn, but it is a question of where we go from here.

In an attempt to keep this post from being a book I'm going to focus on one question (hopefully) a day and try to figure out what I come up with. Input will be hugely helpful. I'm a bit perplexed about it all.

BIG QUESTION #1 - Do I like my job?
Short answer: yes, mostly. Long answer: I don't know. I like the "idea" of my job. I love to work with kids and to work with creative ideas. I like to figure out how to teach a Bible story in a way that the kids will identify with. I like to do VBS and see kids having fun at events that I've planned. I love to see it when my work shows fruits in the knowledge and faith of the children. I love to work on my own programs with the authority to make my own decisions and set the overall vision and mission of my area. I love to think that I'm improving the church (little c) and the Church (big C).

And then, there are parents, and church administration and the realities of church work. Being a lay leader I often think that I'm viewed as expendable or second-class. I'm underpaid and I have half the recommended vacation time. There is no maternity leave. I often work far more that 40 hours a week at odd hours and often on my day off. The parents expect the world and often don't understand that my role is secondary to theirs. Volunteers are hard to find and tempermental. Church staff often has assumptions about how things should be done. These are aggravations that I deal with regularly. There are days that these overshadow the good parts of my job.

But, I wonder if I am called to this work? The Seminary talked so much about call, and it took me a long time to figure out that I was not called to be a pastor (at least not then). But am I called to Children's Ministry? And if so, is it as a job? I could volunteer in a thousand different places doing close to what I'm doing now, but volunteering for my favorite parts (working with kids) and not being responsible for the rest. I'm confident that I will always be active in a church even if I don't work in one. On the other hand, I have unique skills and education that makes me a natural for Children's Ministry and I have learned so much in the last 3 years about how to overcome the difficulties above, and things have gotten better.

Am I putting too much faith in some sort of burning bush experience, telling me where to go? Is it enough to know I'm doing good work that I (mostly) enjoy? At what point to does the realities of underpay become too much? Is it a question of whether I love the job at my current church, or would another church have all the plusses and fewer minuses?

I can see how people in church work blink and they've been doing the same job for 10 years. It is easy to watch time pass here. It can be hard to see progress. It has taken me three years to feel mostly confident and able to tackle this job and the conflicts that some people thrust at me. Is that a typical learning curve? Is it a sign that I'm not cut out for church work?

I've become invested in this place. I know that. I think about it too much some times, and it can be hard to let it go even on my days off. But there is grace and love here too. So do I love it? Do I want to stay here? I don't know yet. More tomorrow.