Glimpses of Autumn

After a summer where we were often apart and in any case I was constantly busy, my Paul and I escaped for a long weekend last weekend. You know when you think you know a place and then you have a new experience of it and you realise you don’t even know the half? I had that happen over the weekend. Ever since childhood, I’ve been going up to Maine in the summers with my family. This time my Paul took me to a part of Maine I’d never seen–in the mountains instead of on the coast.

The feel is completely different. The Appalachian Trail runs up through this place–we hiked part of it one day–and sometimes I was tempted to think that “Appalachia” itself ran all the way up there–the stereotyped, Beverly Hillbillies, West Virginia Appalachia. So many disintegrating dwellings, but they were interspersed with such grand ones, and all in such a breath-taking location. I didn’t really take any photos of the actual dwellings, dilapidated or otherwise, but I thought you might like to see some of Western Maine just before the peak of autumn hit.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Everyone’s a Critic

Once upon a time, I played the flute.

photo by Jennwith2ns c. 2009

This flute, actually.

There were certain things that were unspoken but foregone conclusions in my family growing up. Things like: we would all read aloud together on Sunday afternoons. And: we would all go to college. Also: the same college. And: we would all play a musical instrument. Mom was already trying to teach me to play the piano. She is very good at playing it, and very good at teaching it, too, as any of her countless piano students and their parents since then could tell you. In spite of the fact that I practiced (it wasn’t like she wasn’t going to find out if I didn’t), I was probably her all-time worst student, because I just could not handle critiques from my mother, whether deserved or not. There was a lot of yelling and crying and key-banging in those days. Funnily, I don’t remember any of those activities being participated in by her, but . . . there was still a lot of it.

In 5th grade everybody in my class had to learn to play the recorder, and I was pretty good at that, but let’s face it–there are very few scenarios where even “good at the recorder” doesn’t translate into “shrill in enclosed spaces.” Plus my mother was still desperately trying to teach me the piano; by this point I think she had elicited my dad’s assistance. He had given up piano as a child himself, but he was still musically literate and for some reason I was less prone to yell at him. (Watch the movie Brave and you will see this dynamic explored by Pixar. It’s not the most compelling movie in my opinion, but maybe that’s because the mother-daughter conflict is not the most compelling one either. Nevertheless, I feel they do a pretty good job depicting it.) Probably everybody in the family was counting the days until I was old enough to start band at school, at which point I would learn a new instrument and, ideally, take lessons from someone to whom I was not related.

Near the end of 5th grade when my classmates and I were all tootling on our recorders well enough that some semblance of a tune could be discerned, the new band teacher came to our class and had us try out the mouth pieces of a bunch of wind instruments. I figured out the weird blowing-across-the-top action of the flute mouthpiece instantly, with the best tone of any of my fellow experimenters. It was at that point that any further deliberation about whether I would play the flute like my two aunts, or the trumpet like my father, or the trombone like my uncle, or something more obscure and more cool but maybe less versatile (frontrunners being the oboe, the French horn and the bassoon) came to an end. I have since sometimes wished I had chosen an instrument a little more expressive and raucous, but I didn’t, and as all other attempts to master any other instrument have failed or at least not succeeded, I conclude I was, am and always will be a one-instrument kind of girl, and that that instrument is the flute.

Somehow my parents found me a used silver flute for $100. (How did they do that before craigslist?) As it turned out, under the tutelage of my new flute teacher, Mrs Hall, I got pretty good. Not good enough to turn the flute raucous like Jethro Tull, but good enough that both Mrs Hall and my mother dropped numerous hints that maybe I should be a music major in college. It wasn’t going to happen–words will always be my First Art and besides I couldn’t get into the Wind Ensemble–but I did take a couple of semesters’-worth of lessons there.

The problem was, after that, the flute gradually fell into disuse. Mom continued to try to encourage me to play, enlisting me to play flute/piano duets with her in church whenever I was home. In London I began to learn to improvise (not particularly well) with the worship leaders at church there, and I continued the practice at Then Church when I returned to the US. But now I’m at Now Church and, because I work with the children I don’t have time to participate in the music, so I haven’t actually played my flute for about four and a half years. I’ve rather got to the point where I’m afraid to. I find reading music more difficult than I did, just because I haven’t in so long, and practicing enough to “get my chops back” is sort of a deflating idea, literally and figuratively. So I rest on my laurels, just enough to miss my past greatness (this is all in my head of course) but not enough to return to it.

The thing is, if you want to earn an extra twenty bucks or so before Christmas, teaching music lessons isn’t a bad way to do it. Recently I got back in touch with my school, tentatively asking if they needed a flute teacher to whom to refer band students. Today I unearthed my flute, and a beginner’s flute book, and began the process of de-rusting.

But here’s the thing. Because I haven’t played in so long, of everybody in the house, only Oscar has ever heard me, and that only once. Today I opened the case, assembled the instrument, and began to play. Immediately, Oscar ran and hid in the coat closet. Shemp came over to me and looked at me with pleading eyes before giving up and curling in the fetal position on his bed. Meanwhile, Rosie the Cat bounded down the stairs and began meowing at me from a kitchen chair. When that didn’t work, she began circling me and the table (on which I had put the music book) like the Israelites at Jericho. However, I was the one blasting away on a musical instrument, and none of her caterwauling was going to knock me over, so finally, she gave up in a huff and scooted out the cat door.

My Paul was not home for any of this. It’s probably a good thing.

Oh for a Smile!

photo by jennwith2ns 2012

. . . and a nice burgeoning double-chin as well!

I was going to tell you about how I finally got my tooth crowned on Tuesday, and then I thought I would include a disclaimer: “I know you don’t come here to read all my health whinges, but bear with me for one more post and then we’ll talk about something else.” After that I thought that I also always assume you don’t come here to, for example, read reams of ramblings when I get on a theology jag. And then I thought, “Why do you guys come here, anyway?”

So while I’m waiting for you to answer that question, I’m just going to tell you about my tooth after all.

Let’s just say I finally understand why some people don’t like going to the dentist. Don’t get me wrong. I used not to like to go to the dentist as a child, but I wasn’t afraid of it like some people are–or like I was of “getting shots.” (You end up submitting to a lot of seemingly tortuous vaccinations when you’re a small child about to go to a Latin American country.) My dislike of the dentist stemmed from the fact that flouride treatments were long and onerous and horrible-tasting, and I drooled far too much, and it was gross. But even as a person with a pain-phobia, I never feared the dentist–because I never associated the dentist with pain. Plus there was a pay-off. I’ve probably always been at least as approval-seeking as I am pain-phobic, and until 2008, I had never had even a hint of a cavity. Must’ve been the flouride treatments. (Even in 2008, the cavity was so negligible, no painkillers or drilling or any such things were necessary to repair it.) Anyway, ever since those stopped, I almost relished going to the dentist: I would leave with my teeth feeling shiny and new, and with the dentist’s usual quip (“Your teeth look great! We never make any money off of you!”) ringing in my ears.

But then my dentist retired and I simultaneously came under Paul’s insurance for which my dentist was not a preferred provider anyway. And I broke my tooth. And suddenly I had to find another dentist, and they wouldn’t do anything for me until they had done an intake and initial cleaning first.

That was about three weeks ago and I discovered that when you go to a dentist from the time you are eight years old, if you ever have to switch there are certain things you discover you were taking for granted. Such as:

1. Up-to-date x-ray equipment.

2. Having a normal sized mouth. Evidently mine is child-sized, which is weird, because both my smile and my head are kind of big. And yet I never knew how freakishly small my mouth was until about three weeks ago when someone who had never worked on it before tried to put the x-ray slides in between my teeth.

3. A quick but thorough x-ray and cleaning process. Because the hygienist wasn’t used to my tiny mouth and the x-ray equipment was archaic and bulky, it must have taken at least 20 minutes just to do all the x-rays. It was kind of agonising.

4. Not having cavities. Apparently I have another one.

At the beginning of that initial visit, I was so non-plussed about the hygienist’s inability to figure out my quirky mouth that I was writing blogposts in my head in which I ranted about how I was never going back there again, whether they take my Paul’s insurance or not. But by the end of it, my teeth did feel shiny and clean, and even though there was a cavity to worry about, the dentist himself seemed like a decent guy and the hygienist had at last shown herself competent. Plus I had just gone through 20 minutes of x-rays and filled in a ridiculously nitpicky intake form, and I wasn’t ready to do that anywhere new anytime soon, unless I felt like I really wasn’t going to get good care. Which I’ve only ever felt like at dentists’ in the UK. (That might be a subject for another post.)

Now, a month later, I’m practically a regular. Two weeks ago they put a temporary crown on my chipped tooth, and Tuesday, as I said, they did the real thing. In part, I am delighted and impressed. Ever since the first tooth remake in Honduras, that tooth has been capped crookedly, so it’s always stuck out from the other a little. I’m not sure why, when it was redone in my teen years, they didn’t try a little harder to straighten it out, but they never did. Now it’s straight!

Another plus: I don’t believe anyone has ever put an actual crown on this thing before. In any case, I know I’d never had novacaine before this, nor was this ever a two-day process. It isn’t cheap, but I’d like never to have to replace this again, and I think I won’t. Also, the old tooth used to be yellower than my other (already yellow) teeth. This one’s whiter. (I chose it to be, in case I ever, somehow, miraculously, receive a financial donation specifically to whiten my teeth.)

The downside is, like I said: I have a tiny mouth. I think whatever lab made this tooth assumed a normal-sized mouth in spite of a mould having been taken first. So now I have this giant white tooth, dwarfing all the others, in the middle of my head. I guess you could still call me “Snaggle.”

Can I Take It Back?

It took me about two weeks to decide in the first place to post “Twisted Nostalgia.” Intellectually, I’m not superstitious; I know the cause-and-effect of magical thinking is a fallacy . . . but I still think magically. On a more gut-than-head level, I think about jinxing myself all the time. For those two weeks I thought, “If I post this, my cancer’s going to come back and I’m going to have to eat my words.”

Well, so far I don’t know that that has happened–I don’t believe that that has happened–but The Oncologist finally got back to me about my migraines yesterday, and this is what she said:

Why don’t you stop taking your meds for a week. If the migraines get better, we’ll know it’s related to the Tamoxifen, and we’ll work out another course of action. [Let me say, for the record, I’m not looking forward to learning what that might be. I’m pretty sure it’s not roots and berries.] If they don’t, I’d say we owe it to you to do a brain scan.

Owe it to me? Did you say brain scan?

Neither of those options sound good. Nor did becoming inextricably addicted to ibuprofen (which only sometimes works on my migraines, but the fact that it ever does is kind of helpful–and surprising), but from this side of the conversation, that’s almost sounding better. Don’t let that Twisted Nostalgia yadda fool you. I’m kind of a wimp. I don’t actually want to do any of this again. I just wanted to want to do it again. Without that particular fulfillment. Can I take it all back?

Taking it back with a smile

Oh My Head

Was that an 80’s thing, that expression, “Oh my head”? Or was it just a TheBro thing in the 80’s? I don’t remember hearing anyone else say it, but I feel like he must have picked it up somewhere. It was an alternative to taking the Lord’s name in vain. I always said, “Oh my word.” Which is probably appropriate, given my proclivities.

Right now I’m saying “oh my head” in a completely different context, and pretty much every day. I’m also not unaware of the irony of my “wishing to be ill” nostalgia of some days/weeks ago, given current circumstances.

So, back when I had cancer, after some considerable deliberation, it was agreed that I could opt out of chemotherapy. Which is good, and probably why I still sometimes feel nostalgic about those days. The opting out was conditional, however, on my submitting to a course of radiation therapy, and five years of a little drug I like to call Tamoxifen. (That’s because that’s what it’s called.) I heard all kinds of stories about Tamoxifen, too, but it still sounded better than chemo, and also, what’s not to like about not having your “monthly visitor” anymore? Tamoxifen messes around with a woman’s hormones, in hopes that cancer won’t continue to do so. At least, that’s how I understand it.

As predicted, I did initially experience certain menopause-like symptoms–primarily hot-flashes, which, as I was still working at Starbucks at the time, were about as un-fun as any slightly-older-than-I-am woman will tell you. (Working at Starbucks can be a surprisingly perspiration-making endeavour in any event, so adding hormonal shenanigans to the experience is not optimal.) The aforementioned “monthly visitor” became a little erratic. Other than that, nothing much happened. I mean, except for the “possible uterine cancer” scare last summer, which fortunately turned out to be nothing. And the migraines.

But even the migraines were more or less containable. My “visitor” never did stop visiting periodically, but now I always knew when she was on her way, because I would get a migraine first. Never more than once a month. However, let’s be honest. I wasn’t exactly being particularly diligent about taking the Tamoxifen every day. I wasn’t intentionally shirking my medicine-ly duties. But probably something about the uterine cancer scare (bad) combined with how marrying my Paul (good) totally upended my carefree-single schedule (that “carefree-single” part is a huge joke–I was probably the least carefree single you could ever hope to avoid), made it a little harder to “remember” to take the Tamoxifen every day.

Then my friend currently battling cancer started battling cancer, and when I told her I wasn’t the most disciplined Tamoxifen-taker, she sat me down to a big lecture and suddenly I have an alarm that goes off every morning to remind me to take it. I’ve been taking it every day for over a month. Which should be great–yay me and all that–except that within the last eight to ten days, I’ve had five migraines. Count them. Five. This morning’s had me rolling on the bed in pain, and then holding perfectly still on the bed in pain, and then running to the bathroom in nausea and . . . did someone just say TMI? Sorry guys.

So I’m thinking . . . all this goes to show it’s probably actually a good thing I’m taking Tamoxifen, right? I mean, if it’s kicking me in the head with migraines every day, maybe I can hope that it’s actually doing something beneficial in there, too? Maybe? And so maybe if I didn’t take it, the cancer would come back and I would be in worse shape than I am now, and I would get to relive my cancer nostalgia but realise it wasn’t as great a time as I remember it to be. Heck, if I can’t take a couple of headaches, let’s not even try to imagine what I’d be like with chemotherapy doses of poison running through my entire system.

It’s just that . . . the part of me that’s a hippie thinks I should just be able to take some herbs (no, not that herb–well, not necessarily) and drink lots of raw juice and not have to take any of these physically-crazy-making chemicals, and actually have it be more effective. I have a somehow-cousin who tried alternative treatments for a brain tumour, and they were completely unsuccessful, so I know, I’m probably pipe-dreaming. But it still seems like there should be something. Kind of like putting tea-tree oil on my toenail fungus. Wiped it right out. GONE. No more fungus. (Still TMI? I’m blaming the migraine.) Isn’t there something like that I could take to fight cancer instead of this stuff that’s making me feel like someone’s got their thumbs in my eyes and is squeezing upwards?

Stingless–A Wandering Line reblog

A few years ago I used to contribute to a group of blogs hosted at an educational institution on the West Coast. My blog there was called “A Wandering Line,” and I think some of the posts were pretty good, but, as happened with most if not all of the blogs on there, the “line” sort of ended up trailing off, and now it’s not even on the web anymore. Part of the demotivating force was that nobody seemed to be reading it. I’m not sure if that was because there were too many blogs on there, so people just couldn’t focus, or because nobody even knew the blogs were there, but I’ll bet I’m not the only one who writes to her audience and couldn’t tell whether or not she had one. If I don’t know anything about the Readership (or if I feel like they don’t exist), I start to clam up eventually.

But I’m still kind of intrigued by some of the things I was thinking about that year, so it occurred to me that, since the posts aren’t even accessible to anyone but me anymore, I might occasionally repost some of them here. Like this one about death–which seems mildly appropriate, given I was just talking about cancer. And given that it’s September 11th, and a Tuesday, like that other September 11th. Since I’m pretty sure I have a more diverse Readership than I did at the time I was writing these, I’d be extra interested in hearing your thoughts.

Here you go:

26 January 2009 – Stingless

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so that you will not grieve like people who have no hope (I Thes. 4.13, NLT).

This is a Bible verse. I “believe in the Bible” (whatever that actually means might be open to discussion, however). I love the Bible. I have heard–even as recently as a couple of months ago, some of my friends echoing the sentiments of this verse. I’ve echoed it myself. Sometimes, unfortunately, it ends up sounding a little smug, though. Kind of like this:

How great it is we know we’re going to heaven! Now we don’t have to be afraid of death–unlike all those unsaved people who are terrified of it.

I think the truth of the Resurrection is tremendous, and that the reality is so much bigger than the idea of heaven, and it’s exciting and mind-blowing and really really true that we don’t have to be afraid of dying. I might say more about that some other time. The thing I’m not convinced about, though, is that “all those unsaved people” are actually that bothered about dying themselves.

Sure, some people are. There are some Christians who are, too, even though they might feel guilty about their fear. (An ironic combatting-fear-with-fear scenario if there ever was one.) I just don’t think that, whether it should or not, being a Christian versus not being one has much to do with fearing or not-fearing death. The idea of hell has been relegated to a meaningless profanity, or an antiquated idea foisted on the masses by a controlling religious system. Who believes that bunk anymore?

In my recent experience, far more than fear, the concept of death seems to be embraced in the culture today. I first started thinking about this while looking for a graphic tee a couple of years ago but being unable to find one without a skull or skeleton on it somewhere. It’s not like the idea of death as release is a new one. It’s probably always been here. It’s just that now it’s mainstream. People are not afraid to die because either: 1) there is an afterlife, but it’s “all good,” 2) there’s an end to all the suffering in this life at last or 3) we’ll get reincarnated and have a chance to try again later. I have a friend who believes that dying would be a welcome release, that he’ll come back at some unspecified point after he dies this time around and that Christians are the ones who are afraid of death which explains why certain pockets of our subculture get all into being healthy and exercising and stuff. (He doesn’t seem to have met the “body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit” concept–nor would it likely make sense to him if he did.)

I think when people who are trying to follow the Resurrected Christ engage people who aren’t yet, in a discussion of death, we need to change out tack a little. I’m not entirely sure how. But I think the difference between us on this issue is not our visceral response, but our understanding of death itself. Jesus-followers typically see death as an aberration–as a result of the introduction of sin in the world. As “Bad.” Our hope is not in death itself, or in escaping it, but in living through it. More and more in the rest of the world, however, it seems like death itself is seen as “Good.” Death itself is the hope. Either way, death loses its sting, I guess.

What do Christians do with this? I’m pretty sure that saying, “Guys–you’re wrong. Death is actually very very bad,” is not going to convince anybody. And what do you do when someone says, as another of my friends once said to me, “What if I don’t want to live forever? That doesn’t sound fun at all. How is that a reward?”

Christians–what do you say? Those who aren’t–how do you feel about death? Am I totally making stuff up here?

Twisted Nostalgia

Sometimes I feel guilty about my cancer experience. I know–that sounds weird. It’s just that–well, I’m sure I’m not remembering everything accurately. I know I cried a bunch of times (but at that phase in my life I cried all the time anyway) and I remember being scared, and I remember it being this big overarching thing in my mind, but overall, everything went so smoothly, and I know that’s not something you can take for granted when you receive a cancer diagnosis. This is how it went: 1. Diagnosis. 2. Surgery. 3. Radiation. 4. No Chemo. And as far as anyone can tell, I’ve been fine ever since. Better, even.

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t actually want it to go badly. I didn’t want to have chemo. I’m grateful none of those things had to happen to me. It’s just that–well for example, I have a friend right now who’s been diagnosed with another form of cancer, a lot further along and more aggressive, and she’s going through the chemo process–as we speak, I think. She’s an absolutely beautiful woman, even without her hair, but she is without her hair, and her body is wracked and she’s emotionally up and down and a lot of the time she’s fighting Fear, and I guess sometimes I just don’t feel like my cancer experience was really legitimate somehow. I feel like I got off easy, when other people don’t, and that it’s not really fair. I suppose there’s a part of my quirky and twisted little mind (which intellectually believes in the goodness of God, but doesn’t viscerally believe it all the time, and sometimes forgets I’m no longer a slave to karma) that also thinks the whole thing is going to come back to bite me with a vengeance, just because I didn’t have it “bad enough” the first time.

Then, compounding that whole self-inflicted dread is this even quirkier and more twisted fact: sometimes I miss that era. Two or so weeks ago I went for my six-month check-up with the Oncologist (actually, this time it was the Oncologist’s Nurse Practitioner, but for the sake of blogging ease, I’m just going to merge the two of them into one person). Apart from noting that I had gained weight, and observing that it must be because I’m happy and that it’s okay because “You’re active, right? You guys like hiking?” (Yes, but liking it and doing it aren’t always the same thing), she said I was in great shape and have nothing to worry about. And I walked out of that office, past all the photos of cancer survivors and their families smiling broadly, and felt a little wistful that the visit wasn’t going to be longer–that there wasn’t something I needed to do–to prepare for–some unusual test involving a radioactive injection to get nervous about or something. Everything was just . . . good.

People who know me well might guess that these admittedly warped and bizarre longings having something to do with my attention-seeking side, and they might not be entirely wrong. When I was in fifth grade (approximately 10 years old), a girl in my class broke her leg in a skiing accident. This girl was already pretty and popular, and her broken leg made her ESSV (Elementary School Social Value) skyrocket. She even let me sign her cast, although we weren’t, strictly speaking, friends, and I’m sure it was one of her less treasured signatures. I remember trying, in my own head, and maybe even aloud to my parents, to calculate the pain a broken limb would cause, relative to the amount of attention I would receive because of it, and I guess in the end I decided it wasn’t a big enough payoff, but I’m going to confess to you right now that through most of my life I’ve had strange and suppressed fantasies of some sort of enforced hospital stay during which concerned friends come to visit me and offer me balloons and flowers. Not so much because I really want balloons (I do like flowers), but just because of the gesture. I think, from various children’s stories I had devoured in my earlier years, that I’ve somehow also lived under the delusion that hospital food is good, in spite of having made many visits to others in hospital and noticing that what they’re eating doesn’t look particularly appetising. I blame Curious George.

Anyway, although my cancer surgery four years ago left me laid up in bed for about a week and a half, it was still an out-patient procedure, so I’ve still not had an overnight hospital stay. Which, again, I understand is something I should be glad about. And I guess I am, but I can also say that what I experienced during that time of dignosis and surgery and radiation and waiting and wondering and worrying was a whole lot of grace. People I didn’t even know sent money to help with hospital bills, and I was flooded with cards (one lady sent cartoons, considering laughter the best medicine) and phone calls and . . . again, maybe it’s all about the attention. But I think there is also a part of me that knows I never did deserve all that, but people offered it anyway, and there just aren’t that many opportunities to personally experience grace (unmerited favour) in that intense and tangible a way–and so sometimes I miss it. Not in the sense that I feel entitled to that kind of attention, or think it should be a constant occurrence, but just in the sense that I lived through a season of fear and felt God’s nearness in the people around me in an unmistakeable way. And so sometimes I feel nostalgic about that time I had cancer–and maybe that’s why I also feel a little guilty about it. Because in looking back, I don’t feel like it was a horrible time, or that I had to fight particularly hard to kick cancer’s butt. If anything, it was everyone else who did, for me. I just sat there and was blessed.

When the subject of my own cancer comes up, it is sometimes all I can do not to say, “Those cancer days? That was a good time.” Not because the cancer was good, but because God was, largely through the people who love Him. I know that not every person who loves Him gets off as easily as I did from their own cancer diagnoses, and that troubles me. But I’m also grateful. And every autumn, I get a little nostalgic.

Let the Fairs Begin!

photo by Jennwith2ns 2007

Foliage this.

The travel brochures are right, you know. While other places may rival New England at other times of the year (though it has its charms all year round), there is no better place in the world to be during the months of September and October than this. I say this not having been to every single place in the world in September and October, but still having been enough places to make a confidently educated guess.

Yesterday, my Paul and I began our round of fairs. I admit, the local country fair isn’t solely a New England phenomenon–nor is it even proprietary to the United States of America. (I know, right?!) But I can’t really speak with authority about similar goings on in other countries. For a general overview of the such events in the US, read Charlotte’s Web, or go see the musical State Fair, neither of which stories take place at a New England fair. But New England has the backdrop of rolling hills and changing foliage and quaint oldest-in-America-type towns, and the fairs themselves bring out all varieties of New Englander from red neck to hippie, and make you wonder if, in the end, the two groups might be closer to each other than you might at first think.

The fair we went to yesterday was the Brimfield Fair in Massachusetts, a famous and enormous antiques fair that happens a couple of times a year and which somehow, until yesterday, I had never visited. It was hot and it would have been nice if I had thought to take my new floppy straw hat out of my car before I left the car at the mechanics’, not only because it would have kept some of the sun off, but also because it would have looked fantastic with my long gauzy hippie skirt and t-shirt I was wearing. We walked our feet off and each found something affordable we had been in the market for, and I had a falafel for lunch, a feat is difficult for me to achieve in Our Fair City. Then we walked back to the truck. See? Hippie/red neck. It works.

public domain


Today we took Alicia to a smaller town fair nearby. There were tractor pulls and oxen pulls and lots and lots of farm animals. Including a capybara–which none of us were aware was a farm animal until today. Reputedly, they’re delicious.

I felt sort of conflicted some of the time, because there really is still a part of me that’s city-dwelling and multiculturally-oriented, in spite of the fact that I haven’t had the chance to tap into much of that in the last seven years or so, and this thing was sort of an idealised pastoral white-American dream . . . but the thing is, in spite of historic atrocities committed by members of the people group into which I was born–well, it doesn’t mean everything about the culture is evil, some of it is actually good, and man do I like fried dough.

The rest of the autumn will doubtless involve more fairs, and apple cider (non-alcoholic and also maybe the hard variety) and home-made doughnuts, crisp air, vibrantly coloured leaves, and friends and family. Once when I was in London, one of my friends said, delightedly, “You can tell it’s autumn! The leaves are turning brown!” and it was all I could do not to laugh, although the cosy thing definitely applies in London, too. Everybody around here says autumn is their favourite time of year, and it’s mine, too. But that is obviously because there is no better place to be in the world in September and October.

Blog Star Returns

Mrs. MonologuesThere are probably worse ways (far, far worse ) to spend the 200th blogpost on this blog and the first post of the month of September than linking up at Mrs Monologues‘ for a little blog-love. Today is the day of her monthly Blog-Star link-up, and for some reason last time I tried this, I missed the bit about how we’re supposed to introduce ourselves to New Readers when we do that, so today I’m going to get it right. The Readership, stick around, even if you’ve been here since 199 posts ago. You might find out stuff even you didn’t know.

Welcome, New Readers! I’m Jenn, known affectionately by my friends and probably condescendingly by my detractors (of whom there are at least two) as Jennwith2ns. A settled-down and newly-wed world-traveler, I mostly write about misadventures, theological/philosophical musings, and intercultural interactions. At any given time, my day jobs typically involve churches, children or coffee. Sometimes all three. I try to keep the coffee and the children from meeting, however. Some people probably think I should keep the churches and children from meeting, too, but, granting the need for background checks on all staff, I disagree with them.

I have a published book (Trees in the Pavement–see sidebar), a personal blog (you’re at it) and am trying to discern the best publishing method/venue for a second: Favored One, a historical novel and psychological experiment regarding Miryam, the mother of Yeshua. (Translation: Mary and Jesus.) Favored One is difficult to classify but probably best fits the “historical novel” and “women’s fiction” genres. Sometimes I like to call it “fantasy,” too, on account of the fact that not everyone finds the story it contains historical, and it does incorporate certain documented paranormal elements. Recently, I realised that it might also be called “spiritual fiction,” but I kind of liked it when I couldn’t figure out how to describe it.

photo by Jennwith2ns 2012

The Cottage

I live in a tiny house in New England on a not-quite-as-tiny pond with my husband, two dogs, a cat, innumerable fish and sometimes my step-daughter Alicia. My Paul and I have been married six months as of yesterday, so . . . yay, us! We celebrated it (without realising it) by collapsing on our pontoon with a couple of beers in the aftermath of an actually very fun and positive but totally exhausting Youth Group conference at my church’s Camp in a town I like to call Boondocks.

Because you’re at a blog called “That’s a Jenn Story,” you might (even having read the “What’s a Jenn Story?” page) be wondering, What’s a Jenn Story? Here’s a real-life, breaking Jenn Story for you. (I say breaking for reasons that will become clear soon enough.) Ready?

Last night, after decompressing on the pontoon, where I stubbed my toe hard with the corner of one of the pontoon gate-things, so that it (my toe, not the gate-thing) bled profusely for a few minutes and I wished it had somehow been able to happen at Camp where there was a Nurse around, we went inside to watch British television recordings. You would think this would be a harmless enough exercise–much less harmful than riding on pontoons with pointy metallic gate-things. We watched one episode of our current obsession, back-seasons of Spooks, and then took a “rustle around” break before watching the next one. In the rustling, my Paul took two peaches out of the fridge for our consumption.

photo by Jennwith2ns

Smile, Snaggle!

Usually, I eat peaches with a knife. By which I mean I keep a knife in hand and slice wedges out of the peach around the pit. But Paul wasn’t eating his with a knife, and it didn’t seem to be dripping unduly, so I decided I was not going to walk the six inches back to the kitchen to get a knife, and would just sink my teeth directly into the thing. The peach itself was just fine, but the teeth-sinking part went a little overboard. My tooth hit the pit and a little chip of something went flying all the way across the living room (okay, our living room isn’t that big, but still) and landed on the table beneath the TV. I was startled, for a split second thinking the pit had chipped. And then I had the sinking feeling that it wasn’t the pit.

Let me explain a little something to you about my teeth. They’re pretty yellow, but they’re also pretty strong. I only had a cavity once, and that was four years ago and also maybe debatable. But back when I was seven and was playing “kitty and doggy” with my younger brother on the terrazzo floor of our home in Honduras, my pant-legs slipped my knees out from under me and my face smacked the floor and I broke my right front permanent tooth. An artificial bit was molded onto the original root right away, though not particularly well, and when I was a teenager living in New England, my dentist recommended I get it redone, so I did.

That second tooth reworking has held up just fine until the last year or two, when it’s started to look like it was going to crack or flake or something at any minute. The dentist looked at it again and sort of sanded it down to smooth it, but I wasn’t too surprised, last night, that it chipped. And fortunately, since it isn’t even real, it didn’t hurt, either. It did feel uncomfortable like crazy, though; I spent about five minutes holding my mouth as if I were in great pain and kicking my feet against the side of the couch and running my tongue back and forth over the broken part and moaning. It felt like someone was scraping fingernails on a chalkboard inside my mouth. Since then, it’s proved to make eating a bit of a challenge, and, while I’ve always had trouble keeping globs of food out of the cracks between my teeth, I feel like I could probably fit an entire dinner in the gap at this point.

All of this and I no longer have a dentist, because my my old dentist’s practice doesn’t take my new just-got-married dental insurance. So this morning I had to take a stab int the dark and make an appointment with one (a tough thing to do since my old dentist has been my dentist since I was eight years old). I’ll be going in for a cleaning tomorrow and for the forming of a plan to fix the tooth-stalactite hanging in my mouth. It can’t happen soon enough. I’ll keep you posted.