Oscar the Passive-Aggressive

Have I mentioned that I have a weird dog? Those who know both me and the dog often remark on how similar we are; be that as it may, Oscar is weird. Often people also liken him to a cat.

Although he’s far less shy than he used to be, he can still get skittish and is rather aloof around new people. Also, since he never barks (except in his sleep, when he can sound downright ferocious–well, for Oscar), unless his collar is jingling, he is so quiet that he can very easily get underfoot because you just had no idea he was there.  Unlike many if not most cats, however, Oscar has a deep felt dependence on me.

So when I picked him up from Starbucks-Elizabeth’s house on Saturday after The Boyfriend and I got back from a daytrip to Block Island, Oscar was pretty happy to see me. I was tired, though, so when I got home, rather than sit in the living room with my dog for a while to decompress, I went straight upstairs. I don’t know if it was because I missed this key step in Oscar’s routine (I should also mention that he is the poster-child for “creature of habit”) or if he was feeling needy because we’d been apart all day or what, but it took him a while to settle down.

In fact, he never really did that night. He kept waking me up. But unlike some dogs, who will actually approach you and, say, lick your face or something to get your attention when you have your eyes closed, Oscar scratches. When Oscar scratches, it is rife with meaning, although the meaning is only sometimes clear and then usually only to me.

Sometimes it just means he has fleas, but we took care of those pretty thoroughly recently, so I’m skeptical. Many times he scratches as a diversionary activity when he is either being asked to do something he doesn’t want to do, or when he wants to do something he isn’t sure he is permitted to do, or when he is trying to decide something . . . or when he wants attention.

I’m pretty sure his overnight scratching this weekend was for the latter of these reasons. (How do I know this? Because he has spent the entire morning in my presence not scratching.) That night he woke me up at midnight, and again at 4 a.m., and again at 6 a.m. Even though I take his collar off at night, because he sleeps on my bed, when he sits up to scratch, the whole bed bounces up and down and I invariably wake up. It is incredibly annoying. He’s like a person who can’t handle confrontation and has to draw attention to his needs by doing or saying something apparently unrelated in order to round-about-ly bring my focus to the issue at hand.

I had been really really hoping to sleep in on Saturday, but when Oscar woke me up again at 6, I realised it was probably a lost cause. Still, I kept kind of hoping. I looked at him and, seeing he had my attention, he stretched out on the bed next to my leg and turned over so I could give him a belly rub. Oh please. How did this dog get to be so spoiled? (You don’t have to answer that.) I scratched his chest a little bit and then rested my hand next to him on the bed spread. I closed my eyes. Suddenly I felt a little head on the back of my hand. He was now expecting me to scratch his ears.

Nope. I wanted at least one more hour of sleep. I was not going to do it.

He lifted his head. He landed it back down on the back of my hand. I didn’t move. He did it again. Soon he was patting my hand with his head, instead of the other way around, and even though I was still heartily annoyed, I couldn’t be so hard-hearted and humourless as not to realise that this was hilarious. What a dog! Almost soundlessly, he makes his wishes known, pretty much every time.


Whether We’ll Weather the Weather

Sometimes, in my more grandiose moments (moments which some in my extended family would probably argue are hereditary, just like name-dropping), I imagine that malevolent forces in the universe are conspiring to keep me and my family members apart because they–the malevolent forces–are aware that if we all got together under certain conditions, we would “activate” like the Wonder Twins‘ power and be well-nigh unstoppable. Or at least able to take the form of a glacier.

Obviously this isn’t true. I know this because we do all get together on occasion, and so far, although we usually have a lovely and sometimes even encouraging/empowering time together, I don’t think we’ve technically been unstoppable. Or taken the form of a glacier.

It’s just that this year there’s been so much weather-drama surrounding our ability to spend time with each other, that sometimes my imagination (okay, and grandiosity) gets the better of me. I guess the weather thing isn’t really that surprising, though. I mean, I live in New England, my parents live in the non-British part of the British Isles, and the BroFam lives in the Midwest. Add to that the fact that evidently the British Isles now have to start getting used to actual winters, and New England has been borrowing everybody else’s weather all year (as if we didn’t have enough of our own), and the fact that we ever see each other at all might be bordering on the miraculous.

As you know, my Christmas vacation travel plans to visit the BroFam were thwarted by a “blizzard” which shut down all the airports even though it wasn’t that bad, so I spent the time totaling my car (on a perfectly fine, sunny, dry day) instead. Then, when I finally did make it out there in March, a freak snowstorm in a connecting airport on the way home triggered a series events which had my return, door-to-door, take over twenty-four hours.

Oddly, when my parents and I headed out there again in May, we managed to miss all the nasty New England weather at the time and have (unusually) glorious weather in the Midwest until the day I left. Now the BroFam is getting ready to make the trip out here. My uncle is getting married and so the BroFam, and the Two Grandmothers (Mom’s mom and Dad’s mom–we have tough, long-lived women in this family) and another aunt and uncle and The Boyfriend and I are all supposed to . . . drive up the path of Hurricane Irene without getting blown off the map and/or drowned, to get to it. (I know, I know–I said there were no wedding bells . . . I meant ours, for the moment.)

I’m looking forward to this wedding because a) my uncle’s awesome and so is his fiancee and I’m really happy for them and b) I’m excited that the BroFam will be here and c) my Cousin the Cheesecake Diva is making her signature lemon-basil cheesecake that she made for her own wedding earlier in the summer, and I can already taste it. But I’m not excited about this hurricane. Nobody invited her. It’s like the evil fairy in the Sleeping Beauty or something. And so sometimes? In my more grandiose moments? I imagine it’s a conspiracy.


Leaving the Country

Astute members of The Readership may have noticed that in the last post, I sort of obliquely admitted to being in an exclusive relationship with a Local Guy. (If you missed that, you don’t have to tell me.) Don’t get all excited. No rings or wedding bells yet (I wouldn’t know how to respond to that at this point). Who knows where this will go. But so far . . . Vienna.

Local Guy said, “Get dressed up,” so I put on one of the two blouses I bought with my $30 Banana Republic voucher this week, and some cute capris, (he looked pretty good himself), and he handed me a multi-coloured bouquet of roses . . . and a bag of home-grown broccoli “for the anti-oxidants.” The flowers went in a vase, and the broccoli probably could have, too, because it was also beautiful, but I put it in the fridge instead, and then I got in his car and had no idea where we were going. Fortunately, it was his car and I wasn’t driving. It wasn’t until the second to last intersection that it suddenly dawned on me we were going to “Vienna,” a restaurant I’ve wanted to try since I saw it after having gone to the real Vienna one summer when I was still living in London. I hadn’t even ever mentioned it to him. Because most of the time, I don’t remember that the restaurant exists. I won’t be forgetting any time soon anymore, though.

It was a great date, but part of what was great about it, besides the person I am dating, was the place. Completely classy. My opportunities for dressing up are pretty few and far between and the only other times I’ve ever been to places like this (and not quite like this, either–it might be hard for other places to measure up) have been for birthdays of extended family, or friends’ wedding receptions where I didn’t have a date. This time I had a date, and we were at this fancy place for us. We had cocktails and appetisers and complimentary bread and the main course (jaeger-schnitzel for me–not quite as good as the home-made sauerbraten I had in Switzerland one summer, but still pretty good) and then we got a tour of the bed and breakfast part because we were curious, and after that we sat outside by the fire and ate dessert and drank espresso beverages. We were one of only two couples there, which made for a really nice and private-feeling experience, but seemed like an affront to such an amazing place. So it’s a little pricey? If you live in central New England, you should still go. I suspect we’ll be scraping pennies together to go again–though it might take a little while.

Anyway, it’s kind of nice to know you can sometimes travel internationally without the hassle of airports. You should try it sometime.


Note: Just because I am now dating a specific person doesn’t necessarily mean I’m all done blogging about the weird world of Christian internet dating. I still think there might be a book in there somewhere, sometime.

What Goes Around, Comes Around. Or . . . Something Like That.

I sort of believe in karma.

We can talk about that sometime, but for now it’s enough to know that there’s a space for it in my worldview. It’s just that normally when people talk about karma (at least, this is my impression), they’re talking about something like following the Golden Rule because if you don’t do unto others as you would have them do unto you (or at least avoid doing to others what you would not like them to do to you), the bad thing you did (or the good thing you didn’t do) is going to come back and put you in the receiving end of the situation.

I don’t think it usually means that when someone does something to you that you don’t like, you’ll eventually end up in a situation to do the same thing to someone else. Except, evidently you might. Or I might.

I think I mentioned that in some of my earlier incarnations as an on-line dater, I took my interactions with men from these websites very seriously. Unfortunately, most of the interactions were long-distance, and I would find myself unreasonably devastated when whatever guy I was talking to ended up meeting and “becoming exclusive with” some other woman who he could actually visit in person multiple times a month, say. Or a week.

Little by little I began to get more realistic about these scenarios, but it didn’t keep me from being startled and heartily disappointed by one more long-distance guy about five years ago. We had actually met a couple of years before that and nothing really “sparked,” but we stayed in touch on and off, and then all of a sudden we found ourselves emailing regularly, and then he started IM-ing me for extended periods almost every day on Skype. He had told me, at the beginning of our interactions, that there was a girl he had been out with a few times recently who lived, not only in his city, but in his, er, country–but he didn’t sound all that sure about her, and he kept talking to me, so I guess I sort of got my hopes up. Then he took himself off the dating website where we’d met in the first place, and I got my hopes up more, until they turned into suspicions. I don’t even remember how I found out things had gotten more serious with his local girl–I probably asked him.

Anyway, the upshot was that although I didn’t spend weeks moping and crying about it, I did find my feelings hurt and felt as if I had been invited into false expectations. The guy in question tried to assuage my feelings by appealing to my reason, but anyone who knows me very well at all knows that that’s usually an exercise in futility when it comes to these relationship things. When I accused him of leading me on, he told me that “Americans must take flirting more seriously than we do.” I thought that was a cop-out. But I’m over it now, and we’re still occasional cyber-friends, and he’s now married with at least one little daughter, and I’m genuinely delighted for him. Because of course, reasonably speaking, he was right.

Then this week I had a conversation with another, more recent but still fairly long-standing, cyber-friend. That conversation brought me right back to the above story, except that my role was reversed. New Cyberfriend and I have never met in person, and we didn’t meet on a dating website, but we have done our fair share of IM-flirting. Within the last month or so, however, we discussed how it was probably unrealistic and not very fair, given the currently divergent trajectories of our lives, to pursue or even pretend to pursue romance, putting each other on hold like that. He had been getting to know someone, and I was getting to know someone, and we agreed we were going just to be friends. Sure, he’d IM me on a fairly regular basis, but evidently this side of 35 I don’t interpret such gestures the way I used to, so I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t even think we were flirting anymore. It was just nice to chat to a friend.

On Monday I told him I thought the Local Guy I’ve been getting to know and I were going to soon be taking our friendship to a more exclusive level, and I was shocked at the evident reciprocal shock that news elicited in New Cyberfriend. He was understanding–as much as possible, I guess–but I got the sudden and surprised impression that he had been imbuing our conversations with a lot more meaning than I had. I thought we were just friends. He had said we were just friends. But maybe he didn’t feel that way.

I suddenly knew how Old Cyberfriend must have felt: startled, maybe a tiny bit guilty, but also baffled and frustrated. It’s not like we hadn’t talked about Local Guy before. New Cyberfriend knew he existed. Thing was, I also already knew how New Cyberfriend was feeling, at least kind of.

And it brought me back to the question of dating Christ-like-ly, and the realisation that I still don’t know that much about it. I think it’s better to take a little time to get to know people before fixating on them (at which point, hopefully exclusivity won’t get a chance even to become a fixation), but there are always dynamics, some obvious and some less so. And sometimes someone’s going to get hurt. I hate being the one getting hurt. But I’m starting to realise I hate doing the hurting even more. All the same, sometimes it’s unavoidable. And that’s when I trust that grace overrides karma, or at least will get me through it.

Nothing at All (or, Lots of Run-On Sentences)

Oh my word my blog stats are tanking again which means I’d better blab something on here quickly so I don’t lose all The Readership and besides didn’t you like how blogposts kept appearing here when I wasn’t even anywhere near an internet connexion last week?

Well . . . I liked it. Somehow I didn’t realise until recently that you can pre-emptively write blogposts and schedule them to post later, such that, if you have an unusually inspired/inspiring day and decide to write, oh I don’t know, eleven posts about dropping your phone into the middle of the lake (wasn’t me!) or something, you don’t have to overwhelm your Readership with all eleven of those posts on the same evening and then leave them hanging with no reading material for another week and a half. It’s pretty great, this scheduled-posting thing.

Too bad I used up all my ideas that one week I wasn’t here.

I have these cyberfriends (by which I mean, real friends, whom I’ve never met in real life) who are suddenly all Intentional about their blogs. They troll the internet looking for appropriate photo-illustrations, and they have Themes of the Day (I’m pretty sure they don’t call them that, nor would they capitalise it if they did, but it’s what they are, and I do), and one of them is gearing up to go all Jon Acuff and have guest bloggers on his site. This Intentionality on the part of other bloggers I actually know makes me feel both motivated and lame, in the non-literal but still un-PC sense of the word. (The second word. I suppose motivated may be un-PC in some circles, but I haven’t encountered that yet.) Which is why I set up all those posts last week, and yet find myself with nothing to say in this one.

I should consider inviting guest post-ers, too, in order to fill in the gaps in my head, but I feel that I have narrowed my platform-sharing ability by naming my blog and its stories after myself. Is it a Jenn story if Jenn didn’t write it? I suppose I could have people guest-post stories about me, but that would be even more narcissistic than even I am willing to appear.

Actually, Mr. Won’t-You-Be-My-Guest-Post-er has very generously, graciously, and quite possibly fool-hardily invited me to be one of them, and he asked me if I’d post this Thursday, but unless something really noteworthy happens between right this second and Thursday morning (or, more realistically probably Wednesday night), I haven’t the faintest idea with what to grace his blog.

As you can tell. Since I just wrote and entire post about not having anything to write about. And you just read it. How do you feel about that?

Can’t Live Without

Heard this one? Don’t marry the person you can live with. Marry the person you can’t live without.

Brainyquote.com credits Dr. James C. Dobson as saying that, and honestly, I didn’t know it was him until I looked it up right this second. I can only imagine, given the readers that I actually know about, that about half of you are nodding your heads comfortably at the mention of this man’s name, and the other half are tempted to close out this screen. I’m not going to tell you which half I’m in . . . at least, not today. But I am going to tell you what I think about this quote, whether Dobson originated it or not.

I want to say I first heard it, or something like it, as early as junior high, though I can’t for the life of me remember the context (I picture myself sitting in the junior high science room at the time, but we didn’t have much in the way of sex ed at my little Christian school in the 80’s, and a quote like that might have summed up most of it, so . . . I might just be making this whole thing up. Anyway, I know I heard it when I got to college, because I had a friend who used to like to quote it a lot.

The first time I heard it, whenever that was, I thought it sounded like a good matrix, but by the time my College Friend started repeating it, it had acquired a certain feeling for me of not-quite-right. As it happened, my friend ended up quoting it sort of in desperation at two different times in her life when she was engaged to two different guys, neither of whom was right for her but without whom she felt, respectively, she could not live. Now she’s happily married with children, but not to either of the guys she had been engaged to previously, and also without the attendant drama in the relationship, I believe. Then I myself experienced the feeling.

First of all, I’d like to point out that it’s really not that difficult a feeling to drum up. Any high schooler with hormones and a little bit of insecurity can develop a full-blown crush on another one and feel–to the point of ulcers–that they can’t live without them, and it’s possible to go pretty far into adulthood feeling that way about certain people, too. I certainly did. That kind of desperate feeling that life was going to be devoid of all meaning and happiness unless I could be forever with the one I was obsessed with, was something I had experienced over and over again, but it came to a head in my mid-30’s, of all things, when a man gave me the benefit of the doubt and decided to date me regardless of my insecurities and our differences.

I really did love him, regardless of the codependence, and maybe under other circumstances (and other belief systems) we could have, in fact, forged a real partnership and marriage, but under the ones we had, such an alliance would ultimately probably have been painful and disastrous . . . in part because I felt I couldn’t live without him. I think this was true of my College Friend’s ended-engagements, too. Now whenever I hear that quote, I want to say to the person blissfully quoting it, “There’s a psychological label for that. It’s called ‘codependent.'”

The other day I watched a movie with Girl-Talk Friend, and it displayed all sorts of glaring relational no-nos (kind of like Mama Mia!), but at the end when the estranged young couple are about to make up, the young man predicts that his erstwhile fiancee is going to tell him she can’t live without him. It’s not an unreasonable assumption–she has just spent the entire movie acting very insecure and making really stupid decisions. But:

“No,” she says. “I’ve realised I can live without you. I just don’t want to.”

Maybe it’s just the head-space I’m in these days, but if that head-space means that I’ve got a little more confidence to go through this life without basing my worth on what other people–particularly a “significant other”–think of me, well, I’d rather be here than where I’ve been before. I’d rather know I am complete in Christ and able to go through life with Him and Him alone if I have to. I think I have more to offer that way.

It’s not that I WANT to go through the rest of my life single. You should be able to tell that from all the talk around here lately. But I think if I were *capable* of doing so, I’ll also be a lot more capable of a successful marriage.

In Search of Perfection

Coffee Cherries in Costa Rica

Not only is there no internet access at camp, but the coffee’s pretty bad, too. When I started working there, I was part-time, and also part-time at Starbucks

, so I got a free pound of coffee a week and brought one with me first thing, not feeling very optimistic about the quality of church-camp coffee. In my experience, church coffee alone is pretty terrible. I’m not sure where it says in the Bible that it needs to be, but I’d say that for the average, garden-variety church . . . coffee is not found in that garden. When you extrapolate church coffee out to a camp, where everyone is supposed to be “roughing it,” I just couldn’t imagine that it would even be drinkable.

The next summer I was no longer working at Starbucks, but I had ceased only two months before, so I still had plenty of pounds of coffee left and brought it with me again.

Last summer, we had to resort to Folgers. I’ll tell you something, though. When you’re sleep-deprived and roughing it, Folgers is actually kind of okay. I guess that might be what makes church-camp coffee better than just plain church coffee. Desperation.

This year, though? It was Maxwell House. Turns out I can’t stand Maxwell House. I grimaced my way through a cup a day for three days in a row just to forestall a headache, but on Wednesday the headache came anyway, and Big-Kid-Dave (who is older than I am but prides himself on being one of the kids), who was also not overly enthusiastic about Maxwell House, went out and upgraded us to Folgers. On Thursday I drank the Folgers and said to Big-Kid-Dave, “After half a week of Maxwell House, Folgers tastes like the nectar of the gods!” He laughed and agreed, except I think we both had secret second thoughts about it by our second cups.

And then I took the day campers on a field trip to a farm. In one of the instructional buildings, a pot of coffee had been brewed for the staff, and it smelled artisan-y and organic and not-out-of-a-plastic-can-from-the-grocery-store, and it was all I could do not to catapult myself around (or through) the room dividers and commandeer a cup. When the day camp kids went home that day I was given a mini grocery list from Kitchen-Jean for that evening’s dessert, and I told her and Big-Kid-Dave, “I’m also going to find myself a coffee shop and get myself a decent cup of coffee.” I told Dave I’d get him one, too. Kitchen-Jean didn’t want one.

Once I got off camp property and got a bar or two of service on my phone, I punched something more specific than “coffee shops, boondocks, new england” into the map app on my phone. A bunch of little red dots appeared, one with a name highlighted, and mentioning organic coffee. “Yay!” I thought, “I knew there had to be some form of civilisation around here!” And off I set.

I drove and drove, and drove and drove, and about ten miles and many minutes later, I saw by the little moving blue dot on my phone that I was approaching my last left turn. But when I looked at the actual left turn I had reached, I discovered it was . . . the entrance to a cemetery?

That couldn’t be right. I drove a little further, but the only left turn after the cemetery was a dead-end and the little blue dot had left the purple route line behind. I sat off to the side of the dead end and stared at the map. It looked like the coffee shop was right at the back of the cemetery. Well, surely that wasn’t the only way to get to it, but maybe there really was an exit through the back of the graveyard through which I could get to the place. I turned around and entered the field of dead people, driving slowly and respectfully and probably with a really baffled expression. When I halfway around the circumference, where the mystery coffee shop was supposed to be, I could see a wall of trees and no outlet. I couldn’t even tell if there was or wasn’t a building on the other side of those trees, but I could have sworn I smelled coffee.

Okay, I said to myself, it’s around here somewhere. I’m just going to turn down the next street and keep driving until I find it.

The next street was an industrial park. I mean, relatively speaking, for Boondocks, New England. I was having a little trouble imagining a coffee shop in an industrial park, but hey. Maybe the people working at the industries really like their coffee. I inched my car around the bend, and around another bend, and . . . sure enough! There was a cheerful little red building with a sign out front matching the name in my phone. I parked and got out and walked up the hill toward the front door.

When I got in there, I realised why it was in an industrial park. It wasn’t just a cheerful little red building. It was a warehouse, with offices in the red building part, and huge roasters and other kinds of machinery in the warehouse. I was impressed, but disappointed. Really? Had I come all this way for a finally good cup of coffee, through a cemetery and everything, only to discover I couldn’t have one?

A young man came toward me as I stood bemusedly in the hallway decorated with tribal masks from coffee-growing countries. “What can I get for you?” he asked.

What? He was offering to get something for me? They must actually sell something there then . . .

“You don’t just sell cups of coffee, do you?” I asked.

“Not cups of coffee,” he said, “but you can buy it here by the pound.” He handed me a booklet with a description of the company and the countries they trade with and the different types of coffee roasts and blends they sell. I had kind of been looking forward to sitting down in a coffee shop over a cup, but when I heard that their pounds of coffee cost about four dollars less than most decent Starbucks blends, I found something Ethiopian and bought it. If I buy a pound, I reasoned, Big-Kid-Dave and I can make actually good coffee every day

The coffee did not disappoint. On Friday, Big-Kid-Dave said with something like wonder, “It’s so good, and satisfying, and it actually kept us awake.” He sounded like a commercial, and I want to, too, so now I will blow my whole “Boondocks” cover and tell you that the shop was Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee Co Sometimes you have to go to great lengths to get what’s worth having.

Take Your Lucky Grandma on the Road . . .

I used to pretend I thought name-dropping was this terrible tasteless crime, and I guess I still do think that, but I’m a complete hypocrite about it because I find the act near-irresistable when I have the opportunity to commit it myself.

(Although, I would like to say that I did resist last year when Jon Acuff of Stuff Christians Like (book and blog) and Quitter fame came and preached at a Local Church before he became all Mega-Church Staff and kind of out of reach for Local Churches in New England. I’m just not resisting it now, on account of I’m about to go whole-hog with the name-dropping in a minute here. He preached and I hung around him and his wife and made awkward fan-type comments and got him to sign a copy of his first book for TheBro, and I took credit for his presence at the Local Church because I was the one who introduced that church’s leadership to his blog in the first place.)

I come by the name-dropping thing honestly (?) at least. Grandma M is pretty good at it, too, but she, in turn, comes by it honestly because she actually does know or has known personally some pretty big-name people of earlier generations in the evangelical Christian world. (Yes, Billy Graham is one of them.) She and my late grandfather always seemed to make friends wherever they went and were the kind of people who just sort of periodically had fun and special an unique opportunities or privileges handed to them. Sometimes, even though she’s 90, she still does. Like–last month a friend of hers flew her over to Sweden for a month. Did I mention she’s 90?

Sometimes their progeny, if we’re in the right place at the right time, get to benefit from the privileges, too. Like when we got to spend parts of our summers in their friends’ summer cottage on the water. Or like the time, two Christmases ago, Grandma M and I got bumped up to “Premier” class on our way over the Atlantic to see my parents. (That was actually my parents’ “special thing” from which both of us benefited, but the fact is, I was with Grandma.) Last weekend was another one of those memorable, extraordinary moments connected to being with Grandma.

As you know, if you’ve been hanging around my words for any length of time, my Uncle Phil’s been playing in Emmylou Harris‘ band for about three years, and when they come up to New England, I get to grab a friend and go to their show. It is always great, and Emmy is still a very gracious person when she meets me, even though she probably lost count a long time ago of all the random people she’s met at every gig over the years. The concerts around here have so far always happened in the fall, so I hadn’t really been thinking about them this spring, but then somehow I ended up discovering that she was going to be playing at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island this summer.

I have wanted to go to that festival for some time, but have never been. I thought maybe I could scrape together some change and go for the day she was playing . . . even though it was the day before camp started . . . So I wrote Uncle Phil: “Are you playing with Emmylou Harris at the Newport Folk Festival this summer?”

“Yes,” he wrote back, “But festival passes are harder to get than regular ones.”

That wasn’t what I was asking, and I told him that, but maybe a week or so later, he emailed me and told me that Emmy has been wanting him to bring Grandma to one of their shows for ages, and so, if I were willing to bring her with me, he might be able to use that as leverage to get passes for the two of us.

So it happened that my grandmother and I, in long cotton dresses, ended up at this hippie-throwback festival, sitting on the stage with Pete Seeger (he stole my seat–I keep telling people this and they register greater or lesser degrees of impressedness, depending on if they care about Pete Seeger. Personally, I would never have known what he looked like, but I certainly know who he is, and so I thought it was pretty great to be up there with him). And that was after we had been allowed to drive all the way up into the artist’s area in the fort where the concert was held, and essentially park right back stage. (I parked next to the NPR tents, at their gracious allowance.)

My mom’s (and uncle’s) Cousin Hali had been given a pass, too, and the two of us went nuts with our cameras and smartphones while Elvis Costello played his set and then Emmylou Harris, Uncle Phil and the rest of the guys closed out the festival. We saw the Civil Wars (whom I had never heard before)–not their own set, but they sang a couple of  songs with Emmy and the band. I talked to Pete Seeger, who was appropriately old and smiley-but-eccentric.

“Mr Seeger,” I ventured, mostly because I had seen someone else getting their photo taken with him, “could I have my photo taken with you?”

“No one must know,” he said, both absent-mindedly and cryptically. So I stood near him and smiled awkwardly at Cousin Hali and she took my picture with him kind of behind me. It was shortly after that that he appropriated my chair, which was okay, because then Cousin Hali and I sat on some of Elvis Costello’s gear cases, instead. I took her picture with George Wien, the founder of the festival itself. He actually smiled at the camera. Grandma M almost got an interview with the Providence Journal. Uncle Phil was musically amazing, as always, and got to spend a little more time with us than sometimes happens. At the very end of the gig and before Cousin Hali and I rushed the stage to each tear down one of the five limited edition, numbered festival posters off the back wall for autographing, Pete Seeger got up and led the vast cheering crowds in the “congregational singing” of “Turn, Turn, Turn” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” The sun was setting on the sailboats and glowing on his face and everybody was singing and smiling and I thought something minorly culturally historic was going on, that it was sure fun to be a part of even though I wasn’t around when the original hippies were all starting up.

Probably the only thing I could have asked for, more, would have been that Vanagon to get there in. Although . . . with the grandma pick-up and drop-off, and the insane traffic, it probably would’ve taken more than the four hours each, there and back, to drive one of those things. The thing is . . . I don’t really remember those eight hours, although they were pretty onerous when they were happening. I just remember a really beautiful, really great day, with a little bit of family reunion and a little bit of nostalgia and a whole lot of smiles.

Uncle Phil introduces Grandma M and Emmylou Harris

Elvis Costello

Proud Mother

Pete Seeger tunes up

Uncle Phil

Emmylou Harris smiles . . .

Family mini-reunion

Old Pros, New Stunts

As previously stated, I’m working for the fourth summer as the Camp Director of Now-Church’s two-week camp in Boondocks, New England. (There are a lot of boondocks in New England, and sometimes I like to pretend I’m more private about identifiers on the internet than I actually am.) This is an area where, if I stand in the middle of the path up to the lodge–or, reputedly, take the phone on a kayak out to the middle of the pond–I might get a bar or two of “service” on my phone, at which point I can maybe text someone and check my email, but actually answering the email is probably a little much to expect, and blogging is Right. Out. I thought I was going to be all clever and write a couple of blogposts in advance, scheduling them to post automatically at two-day intervals, but that didn’t happen, for reasons which will be discussed in another post.

It was a good week, though. Just when I start to get comfortable with a Now Church tradition and think I’ve got enough of a handle on it to run it with a minimum of tweaking and wheel-reinvention, someone or something comes along to change things up a little. This time the someones were the two primary youth group volunteers, who had the bright idea that, even though this two week experience has always been a day camp for elementary-aged children, the teens who help staff it like it so much, that maybe we should add an overnight teen camp concurrently. So we did. Happily, these two volunteers (and one who is quickly becoming another “primary” one) valiantly took on most if not all of the planning and implementation of teen camp, leaving me charge of the other kids (and figuring out how to plug which teens in as rotating staff).

It worked really quite well, especially for a pilot-run, and although there was kind of a camp-wide, overtired kerfuffle among the teens last night, even that was pretty containable and I was left thinking what a great group of kids I’ve had to work with ever since the day I set foot in this church for the first time. I’m pretty tired (and I really don’t think I’m the only one!), and we have one more week to go, but having a weekend with each of us in our own beds with sheets instead of sleeping bags will probably help a lot, and I’m looking forward to seeing some of the same smiling faces at camp on Monday morning.

Last night, though, as I mentioned, everybody was kind of on their last legs. I mean everybody, too, not just the teens. So the men set up the couches in same-direction-facing rows and set up the screen and the video projector and (at the request of most of the guys who, inexplicably, wanted a “chick flick”), watched Mama Mia! I don’t know that that movie would have been my first choice (it was pretty morally bankrupt . . . at least from the perspective of Judeo-Christian morals), but it was certainly entertaining, and I guess I decided that although Pierce Brosnan probably should’ve had someone else sing his songs for him, ABBA’s music is less obnoxious when Meryl Streep sings it. Especially in those platform shoes.

The main impression I came away with, honestly, was that I sure hope, when I’m Meryl Streep’s age, I still have her figure and flexibility. I was just pretty much in awe of her the whole time. She’s got pipes, a flatter stomach than mine, and that lady can dance. Plus, she just looked like she was having a blast the whole time. I was thinking about this and remembered when I went to my first Emmylou Harris concert (more about her later), courtesy of Uncle Phil, and how I blogged about how she was my new 60+ hero and how I hoped I’d look that good at her age. Then I thought . . . is this what happens when you approach middle age? You stop identifying with the hott young things in the music and movie world and start aspiring to being like sexy 60-year-olds? I think some people might think that’s kind of sad, but it sort of goes along with my lately and “longly” fake-nostalgia for an era in which I was barely alive (more about that later)–apparently I really do wish I had my coming of age in the sixties or seventies. And in any event, I hope that if I’m still getting new stuff thrown at me in my own sixties, I’m as graceful and sassy and funny and flexible . . . and sexy would be nice, too . . . as Meryl Streep.

Don’t Go Away!

There will be more Jenn stories! I am directing my fourth summer of church camp this week and next. There is no wifi at camp, and my opportunities to escape to the McDonald’s parking lot to use theirs are limited. But I have not forgotten you, dear readers. I hope you don’t forget me . . .