Tuesday, July 29, 2008

They Say It's Your Birthday...

I spent an inordinate amount of time this afternoon, before going off to a good-bye party for someone else, trying to upload a picture of me on my seventh birthday, exactly twelve years ago tonight.

Having failed at that, I offer some every decade reflections:

I don't remember my 5th birthday.

I spent my 15th birthday having dinner with my beloved grandmother in a rooftop garden restaurant in Florence. She bought me a pair of antique gold earrings in Grenada which I still wear all the time.

On my 25th birthday, I was an intern in a law firm. A couple of the guys took me out after work. I'm afraid that I drank a little too much.

I suppose that I can be forgiven for remembering nothing of my 35th birthday ~ hardly surprising, since I had three children three and under.

I don't remember 45 either -- but I know that I was practicing family law and my children were 10, 13, and 13. That age span probably means that they were all off at camp in North Carolina.

And now . . . well, from here, 55 looks pretty damn good.

Let's see if I can find a photo somewhere of Florence. Hey ~ Brunelleschi Hotel sounds good to me! Gonna have a good time ...!

Sunday, July 27, 2008


As my readers know, the Lovely Daughter is off camp-counseling at the place where I and all three of our children were campers. Back in the day (go ahead and laugh), a kid went off to camp for a month or two. In the present era of Helicopter Parenting, the Lovely Daughter will often care for two groups of girls during a typical three-week session -- two-weekers and one-weekers.

One of the concessions to parenting 2008-style is a camp website with photos and, usually, a letter from the camp director. I really enjoyed today's letter:

"I got in this morning to find an article on the front page of the New York Times that was about camps and parents. If you have time you may want to look it up and read it. It’s an interesting article on children who go away for long periods of time to camp and the behind the scenes work that directors and others do in working with parents. It was the #1 most emailed article today on the Times webpage. It’s entitled: Dear Parents: Please Relax, It’s Just Camp.

As a camp director, I tell our staff many times during the summer that we’re caring for the most precious part of a parent’s life. I think many of our young people don’t really grasp that until they become parents even though it’s hammered on throughout their time here. Yes, program is important but the staff are at the essence of what goes on here. It’s all about the staff in the cabin, in program, at the table and throughout camp. As we say on the web site and in our brochure, the strength of Gwynn Valley is its nurturing environment in a child centered world where each camper will learn and grow under the guidance of a mature and caring staff. Camp life really starts and ends in the cabin each day. When you come to camp the first real contact with camp is your cabin group and on closing day you eat with and spend the last few hours with your cabin group. The children love activities and all the fun things at camp but deep down those relationships with their counselors is the most important part of camp.

I went back to my notes tonight to look at what I had written and said to our staff on the opening night of staff training in late May just after our first meal together. I want to share just a little of what I spoke on while we all sat at the dinner table that evening. “Camp is more relevant than ever for children and is an essential experience for them. We probably serve too few and wish we could serve more. Camp is good for children and also good for parents….. It’s also hard to let go sometimes. Look what a camp like Gwynn Valley offers: care, stability, dependability, positive role models, a sense of community and a host of other things. The average child spends about 45 hours each week in front of some sort of screen and many of our children are suffering from Nature Deficit Disorder (from the book: Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louve).

So….it’s really not about camp. It’s about making people better by: building healthy relationships and building authentic human connections; carrying out human powered activities; bringing them up close to the natural world and providing healthy life skills. All this and more creates and promotes healthy life styles…... This week I hope you will revisit the child in you, learn how to be the adult in our child centered world and model yourself to impact lives with a laser focus on the child’s wellbeing.……”

It’s important work we do here and we love it for all its rewards. We so appreciate you sharing your children with us. I haven’t talked much about the day but you can just look at our photos and know that we’re having fun and learning a lot."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Saturday Prayer (Cross Post from Rev Gals Prayers)


"Be praised my God for Sister Water who is useful, humble, precious and pure."

As St. Francis prayed in great gratitude for Sister Water,we pray in thankfulness for her life sustaining generosity. We acknowledge that water in its mysterious beauty causes the desert to bloom. One tiny drop spread collected with thousands of dropswaters seeds and future harvests to feed us and all creatures. One tiny drop multiplied quenches our burning thirst. Our bodies, like the body of earth, are over 75% water. We are a water people. We are a water planet.

Oh compassionate God,

Creator who breathed over the waters

we seek forgiveness for our mindless use of water.

We beg for wisdom to know how to conserve and cherish water,

We ask healing for the ways that we disrespect and contaminate our sister.

In this drought time we wait and watch for the gift of rain upon earth.

We watch and wait for the rain of grace into our souls.

Come free us from hatred, greed, fear, and our lack of love for your gifts
upon earth.

Transform us into living streams of water

flowing green and moist with life, hope, and love for earth and all peoples.

We pray this prayer in the name of God who is gracious Creator, Jesus who is

Eternal Word, and Spirit who is Wellspring of Wisdom.


(Adapted from Joan Brown, osf, Ecological Ministry of the Social Justice Office, Archdiocese of Santa Fe.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Summer CPE

Lisa asks why I don't stop by more often.

Soon, soon. Four weeks and one day.

(I have to count the day because I am on call today.)

It's difficult to convey how draining CPE is. Let me just list the requirements. This isn't a whine; this is just a list.

In the hospital for a regular 40 hour week.

On call once a week. Today is an easy one ~ a regular 8-4:30 workday. A weekday on-call follows such a regular workday, and goes from 4:30-noon the next day. You usually get to sleep a couple of times in two-hour spurts. Last Saturday night I didn't.

A variety of units on which to see patients. Mine include two ERs, a NICU, an ICU, and pre-and post heart surgery. On call, you have the entire hospital.

A level of acuity, as they call it, that ranks among the highest in the nation. That means that codes and deaths are daily routines.

Every possible kind of faith-related, despair-related, hope-related conversation.

And I haven't even mentioned the training or educational requirements for our little group of interns. Nearly daily meetings in which we explore what is going on for us. Weekly written reflections. Weekly verbatims (word by word scripts of encounters with patients, written for discussion and critique by supervisor or group). Four books to read and write about. Lecures. Rounds. I get to go to an open-heart surgery in a couple of weeks. (Yeah, I'm good with that. I watched my boys' c-section births in a mirror, and I've been to several other births - both methods. And from what I hear, the OR is so crowded that you mostly watch the monitors anyway.) Midterm and final evaluations, meaning a series of questions that boil down to several pages of: How are you doing with your goals? How is your experience? Articulate your theology. Little things like that.

As I said, it's just a list. No complaints, other than the unremitting exhaustion. It's an incredible experience, and I have wished many times this summer that seminary, which has often been a disappointing series of lectures and tests reflecting an unyielding devotion to teaching and learning methods long fallen by the wayside elsewhere, were more like this. Imagine engaging the texts of the Scripture and the commentaries of the last 3000 years with this kind of personal reflection and interactive dialogue! (They tell me second year will be better. I sure hope so. The first mostly demonstrated why we in the church have such problems communicating among ourselves and with others. We don't practice.)

Anyway ~ that's why I haven't been around much.

Just a few more weeks.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Five Blogging

Another great - and early! -- Friday Five. Thanks, Songbird!

So how did you come up with your blogging name? And/or the name of your blog?

See the sidebar . . . I've been thinking about making some changes, though. Things have changed a lot for me in the past few years. Roadrunner, for all the miles I now have to put on my car? Peregrine, for the intense focus that characterizes my life these days? Suggestions?

Are there any code names or secret identities in your blog? Any stories there?

Not really; I just keep them simple.

What are some blog titles that you just love? For their cleverness, drama, or sheer, crazy fun?

The Owl's Song ~ Quotidian Grace ~ Brininess and Volubility

What three blogs are you devoted to? Other than the RevGalBlogPals of course!

Coming To Terms ~ Sorting the Pieces ~ The Aforesaid Brininess and Volubility

Who introduced you to the world of blogging and why?

I don't remember. I started on the pre-ad AOL Journals site ~ I think I just stumbled upon it. I had some kind of goofy idea that if I wrote about my struggles with losing weight I would, in fact, lose weight. That was about as effective as looking at Weight Watchers' Magazine and expecting transformation by osmosis. Then I got interested in working on my writing and photography, and then I started "meeting" people, and then it just kind of took off.

Bonus Question: Blogger Meetups?

Well, my friend Kathryn has just re-started blogging, and she's visited me and walked in the cemetery with me, and hosted the Lovely Daughter and me on a college visit. Of course, I can't find her link. Polar Bear and I did NOT meet when we were on the same tour on the same day at Chartres Cathedral -- we read about it in each other's blogs. But I think she's changed sites and more or less disappeared. And Lisa of Coming to Terms and I met when she and her husband hosted my husband and me at her fabulous Old Town Cafe ~ the subject of much reflection and humor (probably funnier to her readers than it is to her) as Lisa continues the saga of small business startup ~ in Scappoose OR when we were visiting the Lovely Daughter at college. I highly recommend that you take a little trip to Scappoose for a meal if you're in the Portland area!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Three Things

I'm having some camera/computer problems, and I miss posting images. So off to the archives. Apparently three years ago this week, I spent a day at Chautauqua. I actually remember the walk on which I took this photograph.

If you want to respond to my poll in the sidebar, you have another day. If you're in the "Other" category, a comment in the poll post below would be much appreciated.

And for those of you who can't fathom a silent retreat: I mentioned to one of my CPE intern colleagues today that I thought 40 days might do it. "Oh, yeah," he said. He looked as if he were starving.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ten Percent

Seven weeks from today I will be here.

I don't need a typical Ignatian eight-day silent retreat. I need something straight from the Scriptural source, more in the line of forty days.

Would forty days of silence be enough?

I guess it doesn't matter. Four is what I get.

I plan to go here and not move for 96 hours. My spiritual director will have to come to me.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Something I Wonder About

Breakfast with a good friend this morning.

"So what," she asked, "is different for you than things were several years ago?"

"We were just talking about that at CPE yesterday," I said. "About what it's like to live in the context of a universe in which everything is permeated by God. Recognizing God's presence in everything."

"Well," she said, "I'm an atheist."

"Then you probably don't sense that God permeates everything?" I responded.

"No, not exactly," she laughed.

And then we spent an hour talking about death and end-of-life decisions and death and bodies and death and hospital care and death, because that's all I really talk about this summer. (I guess I'm really fun to be around.)

She talked about how difficult it was to be present for the death of a beloved family member. I talked about how I try to convey to tearful and anguished people that it's hard to think of a more important thing to do than to witness and be present to your loved ones as they move from this world to the other one.

The way I see it, the Holy Spirit was hanging out with us at the table on the sun-filled (and exceedingly warm) patio outside the bakery.

Not what my friend was experiencing at all. Except, in my view of things, she was.

Life is puzzling, I think.

Blogging Questions

I just discovered, through another blog, which I occasionally read but on which I never comment, that I could try and find out why my readers, all eleven of them, show up at this blog. And since I am re-thinking my blogging life after its four-plus years -- re-design? focus? come out? divide and multiply? -- I thought I'd get some help.

So please, please: complete the poll in the sidebar!

If your answer is "Other," please leave a comment in today's entry elucidating the whys and wherefores.

And if you read and are trying to retain your anonymity, this is a good time to stop in, check the poll, and leave an anonymous comment.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Five: Summer Camp

Yay! A Friday Five up early enough for me to do! And on one of my very favorite summer topics! Mother Laura writes:

"We're settling into our new new apartment, and after a lifetime at Montessori Katie is having a fantastic summer at YMCA day camp. Meanwhile, Nicholas is packing up for a week at Camp Julian, shared by the Episcopal dioceses of Los Angeles and San Diego. His lists of supplies and rules--except for the ropes course available to the teenagers and the ban on IPODs and cell phones--bring back memories of my own happy times weeks at Y camp Ta Ta Pochon, funded by selling countless cases of butter toffee peanuts. So, in celebration of summer, please share your own memories and preferences about camp. "

1. Did you go to sleep away camp, or day camp, as a child? Wish you could? Or sometimes wish you hadn't?

I wemt to
camp in NC for two months the sumer I turned ten and a month the next year. I longed to go back to that wonderfully nurturing place (where the Lovely Daughter is a counselor as I write), but my father then packed me off to Michigan for a two month summer and then Minnesota. I liked the Michigan camp fine, but by the time I got to Minnesota, I was too old to start over. My dad never "got" the importance of renewing summer friendships which is so integral to camp life.

2. How about camping out? Dream vacation, nightmare, or somewhere in between?

Well, it's a lot of work, that's for sure. We used to tent camp a lot, we backpacked some, and took family backwoods canoeing trips with my dad and late stepmother. He loves to go to
Algonquin in Ontario. We spent a great week camping in a lean-to in the Adirondacks with our kids when they were small, but it was exhausting. My idea of the ideal trip these days involves a cabin with beds and a kitchen from which one could hike or canoe all day long and then retreat to a real mattress and a dinner that did not require the building of a fire as a prerequisite.

3. Have you ever worked as a camp counselor, or been to a camp for your denomination for either work or pleasure?

I've never had any involvement with church camps beyond occasional adult retreats.

4. Most dramatic memory of camp, or camping out?

Not dramatic, but good memories:

North Carolina: an evening when the sunset was so magnificent that the entire camp sat out in a field just watching.

Michigan: backacking on
South Manitou and skinney-dipping at midnight in Lake Michigan.

A family picnic at the top of a very small mountain in the Adirondacks.

Loon take-offs in Algonquin.

5. What is your favorite camp song or songs? Bonus points if you link to a recording or video.

Here are the lyrics to We Come From the Mountains. Here, amazingly, is a video. At "our" camp, they add a final verse, "We come from Gwynn Valley. . ." -- and the whole thing is sung MUCH more energetically. But you get the idea.

I often say that Gwynn Valley saved my life. I went there as a young girl from a family in collapse, and got to be strong and independent and resourceful. It was also the place where my enjoyment of diverse peoples and cultures was first nourished -- then, as now, the counselors were from all over the world. I still think sometimes of Sami and Shane, young men from Lebanon and Ireland who co-counseled a cabin of little boys way up on what seemed a Himalayan peak at the time, and imagine what kind of place the world could be if everyone had a chance to go off to play in mountain waterfalls for a summer with people from dozens of different countries.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Camp Counselor Vignette

The Lovely Daughter called last night shortly after 11:00.

For the past several months, her calls have come from places like Prague . . . Paris . . . Dublin . . . you get the idea.

Last night, there was a sudden interruption of our conversation as she exclaimed, "Yikes! That horse scared me to death!"

Out in a valley of the North Carolina Blue Ridge, counselors have to go to the edge of the camp late at night to make personal calls, so as not to disturb the campers with reminders of the high tech world they have left behind.

So one night her telephone background is Le Louvre; another, it's a horse pasture.

She's such a terrific young woman.

Friday, July 04, 2008


It has come to my attention . . .

that I need to find my way back? toward?

. . . something that has nothing whatever to do with ministry.

I love the work I'm doing. But it can be all-consuming. It doesn't just take me away from family, friends, home. It's everything I read, everyone I talk to, everywhere I go.

I knew I was in trouble when a neighborhood acquaintance, upon finding out that I am in seminary and spending the summer doing CPE, asked me, while weeding her garden as a break from caring for her ill husband, why there is suffering in the world. I was just trying to take a walk. And then it turned out that that was only the first of five conversations like that over a period when I was actually not at the hospital for all of 48 hours straight and was trying not to think about suffering, pain, loss, heaven, hell, sin, the universe, suffering, the gender of God, the purposes of God, the presence or absence of God, the grace of God, or suffering.

I'm not actually complaining. I'm just registering the need to recalibrate.

And so tonight we're going to fireworks, and tomorrow we might go for a little hike.

And the camera that has lain basically dormant for nearly a year is going back into my pocket.

And if anyone else wants to comment on how they manage all this, I'm listening.