Liebster

Family Friday

Cindy the Dreamer, a member of the WordPress family and a new member of The Readership, has given me an award! After the Two Emails regarding the Two Books this week, that was pretty good timing.

liebster award

I feel like people change up the rules on these things all the time, but in the version of the Liebster award that she has granted me, the rules of acceptance are kind of a doozy. You could be here a while, but I’ll do my best to live up to expectations, and I’m sure you’ll all do your best to stick around to the bitter end!

1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger

Did that. Thanks again, Cindy!

2. Share 11 random facts about yourself

I’m pretty sure I say this every time I do one of these, but I’m also pretty sure that I’m going to run out of random facts you haven’t heard before. However, I promise I’m not going to go back and see what I’ve already told you, and any redundancy is purely accidental. Here goes:

a. I like to listen to the local NPR folk station.

b. TheBro and I are four years apart, and I’m the elder, but because he got married first and has three kids, sometimes people think that he’s older instead.

c. I have had my heart broken and suspect I have broken one myself. This is neither a matter of pride or bitterness, but simply fact–if an idiom like “broken heart” can be considered fact.

d. I am watching Deep Space Nine with my Paul as I write this.

e. I am in Boondocks, New England, without an internet connection and with a pack of teens and adults for our annual Conference, as this post publishes.

f. Even though it’s kind of a cheesy show, I have become such a Warehouse 13 junkie a couple of nights ago I dreamed an entire episode that has never aired–complete with “Previously on Warehouse 13” and preview teasers. I kind of want to propose it to them.

g. I dislike most games, from card games to bowling, because I am very competitive yet I never win. You haven’t seen grumpy until you’ve seen me a quarter of the way through a game.

h. You would think I would be good at Scrabble, but I’m not.

i. I used to write doggerel off the cuff for our random impromptu college shenanigans.

j. “J” is my favourite letter–for obvious reasons.

k. Below please find one of my new favourite photos, taken by Alicia.

Shemp and Oscar, hanging out with Brother John's dogs, Franki and Zonka

Shemp and Oscar, hanging out with Brother John’s dogs, Franki and Csonka

3. Answer the 11 questions the blogger that nominated you has created for you.

Okay.

a. If you could be anywhere ELSE on Earth other than where you are right now, where would it be? London
b. What is your favorite season, and why? Autumn. I live in New England. It’s required. Or inevitable.
c. What do you like most about your best friend? Lots of things it wouldn’t be appropriate to mention in a blog, but also: it’s pretty nice of him to listen to all my stories and read them here, too. Also, he often makes me laugh hysterically right before we fall asleep.
d. Do you own any pets? Yes. (See above. Also, Rosie the cat and assorted fish.)
e. What do you like about blogging? Telling stories. I also love interacting with The Readership–and reading your blogs as well.
f. If you could have a super power, what would you like? It’s not very original, but it would be flying. I’m not one of those people who has frequent flying dreams–I’ve only ever had one, but it was awesome.
g. What is your all-time favorite movie? I don’t think I can claim just one, but The Mission is pretty great.
h. What song has been stuck in your head lately? The Bunny Song (original, as opposed to the new and UNimproved version)


i. What’s your favorite holiday? Easter
j. How old were you the first time you wrote a story/poem/song/blog? :) I think I was writing “poems” at three.
k. Who inspires you as a writer? See the Wordy Wednesday “Under the Influence” posts. In short: CS Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Lloyd Alexander, Madeleine L’Engle, and Chaim Potok.

4. Nominate 11 new bloggers

The ladies at A Melange of Contradictory Tendencies

Change is Good . . . Right?

Fashion and Fun After Fifty (I’m not 50, but . . . barring any unforeseen early termination, I will be.)

My Pen, My Sword

As It Unfolds

Dean’z Doodlez

Helen Valentina

Holly Michael’s Writing Straight

A View From My Summerhouse

Ben’s Bitter Blog (He says it’s bitter, but there’s some “liebe” in there if you look.)

MatthewRichardsPhotography

5. Post 11 questions for your nominees to answer:

a. How many siblings do you have, and where do you fit in the birth order?

b. Do you have fangs?

c. If you could no longer live where you currently reside, but you could choose anywhere else, where would it be?

d. If you could time travel, would you go forward or back? (If you can time travel, we need to talk.)

e. How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

f. What’s your favourite colour? (Be women’s clothing catalogue specific.)

g. Do you believe in “the one”? Explain.

h. Everybody knows real readers have multiple favourite books. Name three. (We’ll understand that you even have more than that.)

i. Do you have a lifelong childhood friend?

j. How many fingers am I holding up?

k. Have you read Trees in the Pavement yet?

6. Let all the bloggers know that they have been nominated; but you cannot nominate the blogger that nominated you.

I can’t? That’s a shame. Then again, you’re probably random-facted and questioned, out, too, aren’t you, Cindy the Dreamer? Thanks again for the award!

Bearing Word

Theology Thursday

When I first had the idea for Favored One, I had just moved to London, and (unrelated to that) the Roman Catholic Church was trying to make some decision about the nature of Mary or something. My friend Fortune’s Gale brought up the topic in an email once, and said something about Mary being the God-bearer, but how in a way God’s people all are. This set me thinking for the next ten years at least. I started thinking about being a missionary (which I was at the time) and what it meant to feel like God had called me to “bear Him” to other people. Over time, I learned about lectio divina, and then I learned some variations on lectio divina, including having quite a few opportunities to put myself “into” a Bible story, as written, and imagine myself a character within it.

Favored One became a years-long exercise in that kind of lectio divina.

I agree with the Literary Agent who (albeit politely) declined to represent it, that in the novel I stick pretty closely to traditional interpretation of the Gospel (with a few minor details diverging from my extra-literalist brethren). It is entirely possible that, in doing this, I wrote badly, but she didn’t say that. She just said it was not to her taste, and that she didn’t receive enough “new insight” into the familiar story.

I tried to imagine being Mary (Miryam), but I didn't actually have an angel visit, so maybe I wasn't quite so inspired.

I tried to imagine being Mary (Miryam), but I didn’t actually have an angel visit, so insight might have been harder to come by.

I can’t quibble with anyone’s taste, and maybe the book really is not that insightful–although I remember realising things myself that I never had before when I was reading the Gospels and writing the story together. It’s just that I have encountered this kind of suggestion in the past–by people who haven’t read the book. “I think you should put a little more of yourself in there, and a little less of the Bible,” they suggest. I like to think I really genuinely did both.

You see, here’s my take. There’s plenty of Biblical fiction out there that retells a story in the Bible in such a way as to “scandal up” the already scandalous bits, or to play them down, or to tell you that something else actually happened instead, and especially to imply that what you had always been told about it isn’t really how it was, so you feel like you’re getting simultaneously ancient and brandy-new secret information just for you. And you know what? That’s fair enough. I know not everybody believes in the Bible the way I do, and if they’re somehow interested in it anyway, well, I don’t think that’s bad.

I just wanted to do something different–because honestly, I think that in this day and age, sticking with the orthodox interpretation or with a more literal approach is actually the “different” one. Except maybe in Christian publishing circles, but I doubt the majority of American literary agents–or the reading public–are encountering those stories much, so it doesn’t seem fair to consider that the standard or norm from which to diverge.

The question I was trying to answer (for myself, at the very least) in writing Favored One was, imagining these stories literally happened, how would a real, believable character react to such crazy events? I feel like the Bible either gets completely demystified so as to be entirely uninspiring, or so super-spiritualised it’s completely unrelatable.

But then I thought about fantasy novels and magical realism, and I thought, what if everything in the Gospels could be retold as if everything in them literally happened (I mean–like they already are, of course, but with more detail), from the point of view of a woman that they happened to or around? I guess I hoped that it would provide some food for thought and/or a sense of getting inside a very familiar story for people who thought they knew it already–not by changing it up, but by opening it up–humanising it, as it were.

Either way I had to switch up the story a little. The woman’s point of view would automatically do that, since the Gospels were written down by men, and so would the details to fill out the story. I just think that while people all over the place are open to considering the idea that the stories Bible didn’t literally happen, couldn’t we consider that they did? Or at least imagine what it would be like if they had?

A Tale of Two Books

Wordy Wednesday

Last week a fellow blogger wrote a fantastic review of my published book, Trees in the Pavement. This week I got an email from my Editor about the same book, and another email from that Agent who had asked to read my unpublished book, Favored One. Neither email was bad, exactly, but let’s just say that, during a stressful week at work, they didn’t quite lift my spirits and make my heart soar the way the review did.

Okay, I might be exaggerating a little bit about the soaring. But only a little bit.

Pteranodon_hharder

Just about as much as that pteranodon’s wingspan

As it happens, because I’ve asked her about it a few times, my Editor was emailing me to discuss the digitising of Trees. “The general rule of thumb,” she said,

is that if the book is selling well in the print form then it will sell well in the ebook form… but as you know we’ve been struggling with your title in the print format. However production say that the overall cost for producing an ebook is between £100 and £200. If this is something you’d be interested in financing yourself I can ask them to initiate this. You would still receive royalties on ebooks as per your original contract. What do you think?

I declined the offer, because honestly, I don’t believe the royalties as per my original contract will cover the cost for me to convert it. My original contract also states, though, that when the book goes “out of print,” the rights revert to me, so, I suggested, maybe they could just call it out of print and I could finance the ebooking of Trees myself and also get the pay off. I blithely asked how many hard copies they had left.

“I’ve had a quick look,” said the Editor, “It’s about 1,800 copies and I think we printed 3,000.”

I’m starting to believe the term “struggling with your title” was an understatement. My book is in its sixth year and I haven’t even sold as many as I have blog followers? And why is this the first I’ve heard any of these numbers? So much for the soaring heart. More like plummeting, actually.

"Summit Plummet" sounds like an accurate description of what happened between review and email.

“Summit Plummet” sounds like an accurate description of what happened between review and email.

I had thought about buying up the remainder with my author discount and trying to sell them from the Jenn Store, but I don’t think I can afford 1,800, even at half price. Anybody wanna buy a book?

Then, the next day I got an email from the Agent which said,

Thank you for sending me FAVORED ONE, which I read with interest.

I am sorry not to offer you representation with this manuscript. I enjoyed your well-researched and vivid world, but I found that the story was too literally translated from the Bible for my taste. The novel didn’t give me enough new insight into a story that I’m very familiar with: it seems best suited for a reader who knows the story either much less well or much better than I do. The market is very difficult these days, and you deserve an unequivocally enthusiastic agent as your advocate.

I may well be wrong, and you should certainly seek other agents’ opinions.

I guess I wasn’t surprised, and I will discuss my reaction to the specific critique probably tomorrow, but of course I’m disappointed. At some point earlier this year I sort of made a deal with myself that if this Agent declined representing Favored One, I was just going to self-publish it . . . but that, of course, takes money, too, and I so dearly wanted the validation of a third party to tell me it was actually worth printing. (There was, in actual fact, quite a bit of peer validation of it back when I was an active member of authonomy, but nothing that earned me a book deal.)

Then I thought how I actually want Trees back, so I can have control over it myself, and so what, exactly, is my hang-up about simply starting Favored One out that way? And then I thought that the hang-up is that at least Trees got the validation, even if not a lot of sales–that someone else thought it was worth publishing. And then I thought how backwards this is–people self-publish and hope that their book will do well enough for a traditional publisher to pick it up, and here I am with a traditionally published book trying to pull it back into self-publication, more or less. And then I thought that none of that is clearing up what I should be doing with Favored One.

There’s been some good discussion of at least the Favored One angle of this conundrum on the Jenn Story page on Facebook. I’d be curious to get your feedback here, too. And I’d love to sell you a copy of Trees . . .

Out the Window

Memory Monday

My brain seems to be stuck in college these days; the only interesting reminiscences with which I can come up lately all come from that time period. Since we’ve been emphasising my nerdy, geeky, dorky qualities and my Good Girl image, how about a story about the geeky, dorky ways this Good Girl found to rebel, just a little?

Wheaton College, the alma mater of Billy Graham, has a building named after him. It is quite a large building–it stands at the bottom of the hill across the street from the rest of the college and it seems like the top of it is as high as the top of the much older, castle-y building at the crest. It has five and a half stories–very high-ceilinged stories.

So speaking of stories . . .

During Sophomore Year, my pals and I used to sneak into the Billy Graham Center (BGC) before it got locked up for the night, to play Sardines. Surely you know how to play Sardines, but in case you don’t, it’s essentially a reverse hide-and-seek, where one person hides and everyone else goes to look for them. If you find the hidden person, you hide with them until finally one lone person is still searching for everyone in, in this case, an enormous   five-and-a-half-floor building and freaking themselves out.

Lots of the time while we were in there playing, the cleaning people were in there cleaning, and then when they left, Public Safety, not knowing that we were still in there, would come along and lock the building. At that point, no one could come in and bother us (and Public Safety innocently went on their way not knowing that they probably should), but we could still get out whenever we wanted.

That year, during Homecoming Weekend, Mom and Dad and TheBro came out to visit. They were probably staying at Auntie Shelley’s house or something, but on Friday night TheBro stayed with some of my guy friends on “Traber 3” and we brought him along on our Sardines shenanigans to show him a Christian college good time. (He learned how to have his own Christian college good times there a few years later, but at the time I was the expert.)

We were running around the BGC in packs of about six–which is not really how to play Sardines, but then again, I guess it doesn’t matter–when this guy said, “Hey, did you know that if you climb out the window at the top of the stairs, you can inch along this ledge below it to the next window, which is unlocked, and you can climb through it into the attic?”

“There’s an attic?” we said.

“Yeah,” he said. “And then you can open the door to it at the top of the stairs from the inside, and let everyone else in.”

“Cool!” we said. “Let’s go do it!”

Actually, it might have been I who said that. For some reason, I was under the impression that he was telling us this from experience rather than hearsay, but when we got to the top of the five flights of stairs, he said, “What? Are you kidding? I’m not doing it!” Everyone stood there staring at each other and refusing categorically to climb out that window, but that was way too anticlimactic, and besides, there was TheBro standing there, too, and I was his Big Sister, determined to prove my daring coolness.

“Fine,” I said. “I’ll do it.”

I opened the window and a whole lot of pairs of hands lowered me out.

See those tiny windows in the roof? Follow them around to the right . . . around the corner . . . that window peak? Yeah, that one.

See those tiny windows in the roof? Follow them around to the right . . . around the corner . . . that window peak? Yeah, that one. (photo credit Evan Martin)

There was, indeed, a ledge, I’m happy to say. I was less happy to discover that the pitch of the roof was shallow enough that I had sort of to lean my butt over nothingness in order both to stand on the ledge and hold onto the window sill. Also, I guess I had expected the window sill only to come up to my waist or something, but it was more at chest height, and the ledge wasn’t more than six inches wide. Oh, and also? It was dark out, which I guess was good for escaping detection, but not so excellent for being able to see what I was doing.

“Um, guys?” I said. “This is scarier than I thought.”

They all wanted to pull me back in, but then I thought–what the heck, I’m already out here and if I don’t do this I’m going to regret it later (most people think that about more normal things, I suspect), so I finally declined their offers of help and began inching my way over to the next window. That part went okay, but then when I got to it, I kind of had to push myself even further away from the roof in order to shove the window sash up, and then there was nobody on the inside to help haul me in. I tumbled in probably pretty gracelessly, but there was no one right there to laugh at me either, so after I dusted myself off, I looked around for the door.

There it was, with one of those long narrow door-windows in one side, like is in every door in ever school in America, probably, and light from the stairway was shining through it. I opened the door. There were all my friends and TheBro, looking relieved. We walked all through that dark, fully, super-creepy moonlit attic, and we told each other stories about rumours we had heard about what that giant cage was doing up there, and speculated about what the non-Pledge-obedient students got up to in the nooks and crannies, and . . . after we were done exploring, we walked through the locked door, down five and a half flights of stairs and out the other locked doors into the street.

The next day during the Homecoming football game (which I’m not sure why we attended as precisely nobody in my nuclear family of origin is remotely athletic), I looked up at the BGC roof. There was a window open, and I knew I  hadn’t left any that way. “Psst!” I whispered to TheBro, “See? I guess other people do go in there!” TheBro grinned. He pointed where I was looking. Then he said, “Hey, Mom and Dad, see those windows up there? Jenn climbed out of one of them last night.”

The Haircut

Family Friday

It’s official. I am married to the perfect man. Or at least, as perfect as they get this side of . . . the Other Side.

This week I finally booked a haircut. I think the last one I got was at the end of February, and the reason for this is, as I have described before, that I also have the perfect hair stylist. It’s just that I can’t afford him. So I go to the salon twice a year for to have my locks lopped–and the rest of the time my hair gets longer and longer and the ends get splittier and splittier, and the intake staff forget who I am and that my surname changed a year and a half ago.

As I have also described before, this summer, my hair has been falling out. I was beginning to wonder if a bob wouldn’t be a good way to give the illusion of more volume in the back, where I’m losing the most of it. I do get intermittent bob haircuts every few years, but I’ve been enjoying my long hair lately, and besides, my Paul has some definite Opinions, including some very definite Opinions about bob haircuts.

In case you’re worried about my ability to “be my own person” in a relationship, let me say that I have had some trouble with that in the past, but my Paul and I don’t really (or usually) have that issue. I’ve never determined a hairstyle on the basis of what I perceived any guy would think in any case, but my Paul is good to me, so I want to be good to him, too–including, where practicable, looking nice to him. I would have gotten a bob today regardless of what he thought about it, if it seemed like the best course of action, but I thought it would at least be fair to give him warning–if for no other reason than so that he would recognise me when I walked back in the house this afternoon.

“So,” I said, “it might be kind of short.”

My Paul turned and looked at me. He paused. Then, “Hon,” he said, “you’re lovely. I don’t care what you do to your hair.”

Sorry, ladies. He’s taken.

Also, Bledi-with-Scissors told me, “I don’t think you need to worry right now. You still have plenty of hair–and more is growing in.”

layers

I didn’t get the bob. My Paul and I are both happy.

A Word About Christian Education

Theology Thursday

I really need to write these posts ahead of time, when I actually feel like it . . . this isn’t really theology, but I’m kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel of inspiration here.

Nonetheless, I would just like to put in a good word for Christian Education. Just, maybe not as detailed a good word as I originally hoped. I am, as it happens, a “Director of Christian Education,” and it’s possible that a few people from Then Church still think that means I’m in charge of a school, but I’m not, and Christian Education at a church is sort of different than the school kind.

I think I might know, because not only am I a director of Christian Education at a church now, but every school I’ve ever gone to in my entire life (with the possible exception of one of my preschools–I don’t really know–and the exception of the public high school where I took Driver’s Ed and was nicknamed “Miss Christian” almost immediately) has been a Christian school.

I’m not bragging.

I’m just no longer apologising, either.

As I said on Monday, I’ve definitely been through my embarrassed phases over this state of affairs, my irritated phases, my not-this-again phases. Also, I’ve encountered the assumptions and stereotypes of people who think they know what the products of Christian schools are like. I’ve also made those assumptions myself–which, when you think about it, is pretty hypocritical, because they’re usually not 100% wrong. I mean, I just spent a whole post telling you about sober, virginal plant-naming celebrations, so really? Isn’t that just what we all expected?

But I also told you about how genuinely happy I was back then (another Wheaton College Jenn gave a similar–and briefer–testimonial in the comments), but I would also like to point out that while the stereotype of smiling innocence might not be so far from the mark in some of our cases (though certainly not all), there’s this other stereotype about Christian schools which is that they don’t actually educate.

It’s not like I haven’t encountered sloppy thinking in Christian circles. I, too, know the Scopes Monkey Trial story and how SMT have become the scarlet letter(s) around the necks of conservative Christians in America ever since. Honestly, this blogpost is probably tending in that direction right now because I’m not feeling as impassioned about this right this second as I was three days ago; also, I suppose in truth I can’t speak for the places I didn’t attend. In that case, then, I would just like to shout out to my elementary and high school, and to Wheaton College, as places that encouraged curiosity and rigorous thought and research. I don’t applaud legalism (I lived in legalism for a long time once), and you may think rigorous thought would be precluded in a place that, say, forbade dancing, but I don’t think even that admittedly silly little rule ultimately conspired against truly higher learning. Maybe in the end it made more space for it to happen at all.

It does help to have a sense of humour about your environment, though, whatever it is, in the moment you’re in it.

Once upon a time, my best friends and I were disgusted with the unrequiting behaviour of the young men we fancied, so we gussied ourselves up, went to a concert, and then pretended to party hard afterwards--with IBC root beer.

Once upon a time, my best friends and I were disgusted with the unrequiting behaviour of the young men we fancied, so we gussied ourselves up, went to a concert, and then pretended to party hard afterwards–with IBC root beer.

Trees in the Pavement by Jennifer Anne Grosser

The Tuesday Reblog

Once again, a self-promotional reblog of someone else. Dina Ross writes excellent book reviews–as I thought before she reviewed Trees in the Pavement–but now she has reviewed Trees in the Pavement and I couldn’t be happier. I was probably as uncertain about how she would handle the Christian element in the book, as she was, but I think it sounds like we both ended up pleased. Check out this review. Then follow her blog so you can see what else she has to say about what other people have to say.

[If anyone else would like to review this book on their blog, please let me know and I can arrange a copy for you.]

Books Now!

trees

Trees in the Pavement by Jennifer Anne Grosser      Christian Focus Publications, via Amazon $7.99 (US)

e-mail: info@christianfocus.com  http://www.christianfocus.com

I was delighted when fellow blogger Jennifer Anne Grosser asked me to review her book, Trees in the Pavement. However, when I began reading, I was concerned as to whether I was the right person to write about it. The book – which is aimed at children and young adults – is published by Christian Focus Publications, an organisation which is obviously keen to promote the Christian message throughout the world.  Jenn is the daughter of pastor/missionaries and has herself worked with refugees. Although she has no religious axe to grind, it’s clear her  themes revolve around finding meaning through physical, spiritual or philosophical displacement.

Now, my religious views are my business and we are all entitled to our own beliefs; so I decided that I would only review Trees in…

View original post 313 more words

Simple Delight

Memory Monday

After graduating college in 1994, I came home with, among other things, a pile of memories in the form of a stack of photo albums, which I did not hesitate to show to my Grandparents when I visited them. In hindsight this might not have been the wisest move because all of them had helped contribute to the paying off of my college bills, and when they looked at these albums they all, to a grandparent, said, “How did you have time to do any studying?” Sometimes I look at those albums and wonder the same thing, but I remember studying, and I ended up with a pretty decent GPA, so it must have happened. It’s just that someone poring over books doesn’t make for such good photos, I guess.

Back when reading was the most subversive thing the majority of women could do, maybe it did. I don't know.

Back when reading was the most subversive thing the majority of women could do, maybe it did. I don’t know.

I was digitally scanning those albums over my vacation last week, partly to preserve the photos better and partly because I can get the pages reprinted in a much thinner, sleeker, space-economising album from winkflash. The thing that has struck me this time about those photos is the fact that I could show them to my Grandparents, with not an ounce of shame or embarrassment.

I am a Wheaton College graduate (there’s a Wheaton College in New England, too, and people around here always think I mean that one when I mention it, but I mean the conservative Christian college in Illinois that Billy Graham attended). I definitely went through a phase in my post-college young adulthood where the institution and its ethos irritated and embarrassed me, and we may talk about that someday soon, but for now let’s just say that I’m no longer in that phase. I guess Wheaton wouldn’t be for everybody, but it was definitely exactly the right place for me at exactly that time.

In 2003, Wheaton replaced its long-standing Statement of Responsibilities (a.k.a. “The Pledge”), but in my day (she says, leaning on her cane and shaking her gnarled finger in your face), we had to sign The Pledge on enrollment, by which we promised that, as Wheaton College students, we would not dance, smoke, drink, do recreational drugs or have premarital sex. I don’t know how many kids went back on their word about this, and of course I know some who did, but I have a hunch that, whether everybody liked it or not, a higher percentage of the student body than you might think actually did follow these rules.

The biggest gripe across the board was about the dancing rule–everything else seemed sort of reasonable to most of us, I guess. (Square-dancing, inexplicably, was the exception, which sort of added insult to injury, really–although the square jokes that you’re dying to make now that you know this, are all probably valid.) Regardless of reasonability, though, the enforced absence of all those activities that essentially define the college experience for so many 18-22-year-olds meant that a) studying was a whole lot easier and b) we learned how to have fun a lot more creatively than our peers. Few of us even had TV’s and there was far more fun to be had than sitting in a common area watching the lowest common denominator show that the assembled few in there could agree on.

Freshmen and sophomores (in gender-segregated dorms) bonded with their “floor-mates” and with the students on the opposite-gender floor with which theirs had been paired. These students would walk around in packs, like fresh-faced well-intentioned gangs. Also, everything was reason for a party. A stone-cold sober, but usually somehow uproariously funny, party. I’m not exaggerating. Everything was party-worthy. Junior year Roommate-Jenne and I purchased some plants for our dorm room. I always named my plants, so I probably insisted that we do this, and then I might have thought they had a better chance at survival or something if we went whole-hog and christened them in the presence of our friends. Or I just wanted a reason for a celebratory study break.

Neither of us had a car, so I’m not sure how we got to the store unless we walked to the closest Jewel-Osco, but anyway, somehow, along with the plants, we procured a bottle of sparkling grape juice and some crackers and Cheez-Whiz, and sent out invitations to the girls in our corner of the dorm. (That year we lived in an upperclassman dorm in an alcove of three rooms. We named the alcove “The Cove,” and, as we were all English geeks, each pair of roommates named their room, too. Ours was “The Nook Obscure,” which was a phrase I nicked from a Wordsworth poem.)

Oh--did I mention we were English geeks?

Oh–did I mention we were English geeks?

I do not remember what kinds of plants Wordsworth, Coleridge and Brontë were, but I can guarantee I still remember a lot more about that party than many other former college students remember about theirs. And while we may have been quintessential dorks as well as geeks, there’s no denying we enjoyed ourselves.

Jenn and Jenne (a.k.a. Ermentrude and Hildegard, but that is yet another story)

Check out those white sneakers with the black trousers. How much dorkier can you get? Not to mention Jenne’s socks-and-sandals combo.

My Left Foot . . . And Other Stories

Family Friday

Mama-Gladys, my mother-in-law, is up here from Florida this week. This is a great good thing because I had only ever met her in person one other time, before my Paul and I were even really “official,” and sadly she was ill in March 2012 and missed our wedding. She’s doing pretty well now, but she still says,

You sure don’t have a boring life. You have some incident happen to you EVERY DAY!

And that, Mama-Gladys, is what we call a Jenn Story.

My Paul and I are on vacation this week, so we picked his mother up from the airport. I went in to get her while Paul drove around so as not to get arrested for “standing” too long, but also not to have to pay for parking. It didn’t take too long to see him coming back around the bend again as we stood on the curb with Mama-Gladys’ luggage. He pulled the car over. He got out and hefted the luggage into the trunk. Mama-Gladys got into the front passenger seat. My Paul got into the driver’s seat. I opened the back door on the passenger’s side and stooped in to move over all the things that were in the seat.

Suddenly, to my surprise, the car began to move. I thought maybe my Paul was being hurried along, or maybe he was afraid of being hurried along, and that, confident of my ability to jump into a moving vehicle, he was trying to show the authorities that we were on our way. Only . . .

I couldn’t jump into the moving vehicle, because suddenly that vehicle was moving . . . right over all five of my left toes.

“Ack!” I shrieked, except I’ve had laryngitis all week so it was more that kind of back-of-the-throat hissing sound geese make when they’re mad I guess. “You’re running over my foot!”

I’m still kind of wondering what that looked like to all the people still standing and waiting for their rides on the curb there. Anyway, fortunately the tyre that had rolled onto my toes rolled off of them before Paul slammed on the brakes and I was able to jump into the nonmoving vehicle. Clearly he had seen my intial stoop into the car and thought I had actually gotten into it, and he felt terrible about it. He offered to take me to the hospital, but has anyone ever heard of a hospital really being able to fix a toe injury? And anyway, they weren’t injured. They stopped hurting after about fifteen minutes–but not before I was able to recount two other, much more painful stories of injuries to the same foot. In hindsight, probably not the best way to make Paul feel better about having flattened his wife’s toes (possibly this post isn’t either), but the stories seemed relevant at the time.

By yesterday, though, I had completely forgotten about the foot when Mama-Gladys made her observation about my not-boring life. At that moment, we were sitting in an adorable British-inspired little tea room in Connecticut, trying to have tea and scones. We had been having tea for ages, but for some reasons the scones had not been very quickly forthcoming, and then they did come, and then we had to send them back.

Ours had raisins

Ours had raisins

The reason for the back-sending was the Devonshire cream. And maybe the waitress. You know when you can’t tell if someone is a well-intentioned space-shot, or they just don’t care? I feel like I’m better qualified to figure this out, because I am a well-intentioned space-shot, but some are trickier than others. Anyway, along with her forgetting to bring us our respective milk (mine) and honey (Mama-Gladys’) for our tea after she asked us if we wanted it, the scones, as I said, came out later than the tea–about half an hour later.

When they did come out, though, all seemed well. They were fresh, warm, and accompanied by little side dishes of homemade jam and Devonshire cream. Mama-Gladys was not familiar with Devonshire cream (something I’ve always known as clotted cream, but I guess I can see why American establishments–for the curious and not necessarily the Anglo-savvy–would choose a word that reminds one a little less of what happens to your arteries after you eat it), so I explained it to her and might have raved about it a little bit.

She tasted a bit of it, but I just slathered it on the two halves of my scone and drizzled the jam on top and started chowing down. Which, in any case, is probably not how one should behave in a British tea room on either side of the Pond. (By which I don’t mean the Pond on which I live, but that one called the Atlantic Ocean.) I kept thinking I was getting a bitter-ish taste, and then I kept thinking I was imagining it, so I plowed through 3/4 of the scone and then stuck my finger in the remains of the cream in the side dish. I stuck my finger in my mouth. It was the cream. The cream was bitter.

We’re still trying to figure that one out–since in both of our experiences, gone-off milk turns sour, not bitter. Does anyone have any insight into this? In the meantime, I complained to the other waitress, who seemed a little more competent, and we each got a new scone, new jam–and new clotted cream, which tasted much better. It still took a while, though.

But don’t worry. My toes are fine.

See? My dogs aren't even barking . . .

See? My dogs aren’t even barking . . .

Bible LARP

Theology Thursday

There’s this story in the New Testament where Jesus is hanging out by a well while his disciples go into town to get food. While he’s there, this woman arrives at the well to draw water while the local gossips aren’t around. They have this pretty deep conversation where she realises that maybe sex is not the answer to all her life’s problems, but maybe God is, and what’s more, maybe God wants to be, and maybe this Jesus, who claims to be the prophesied Messiah, is the One who can make that happen.

When the disciples come back with the food, Jesus, whose main goal is always to accomplish exactly what His Father wants, is so stoked by this interaction that He doesn’t want to eat anymore. “I have food to eat that you don’t know about,” He says, and they’re like, “Huh? Did someone already feed Him or something?” and He goes, ““My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work.”

Which is maybe kind of a weird way to put it, but haven’t you ever been so happy or excited or fulfilled by something that you couldn’t eat either? Anyway–sometimes I’ll have an interaction that’s so God-charged that I think maybe I know a little bit of how Jesus felt that time, and even if I don’t say it out loud, I think to myself, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.”

The tentative first day quickly became entirely untentative.

The tentative first day quickly became entirely untentative.

I basically felt that way all of last week. Now Church hosted its first VBS (Vacation Bible School) programme ever, and it went better than maybe any of us could have anticipated, and even better than that. We decorated our multi-purpose hall so that we could pretend, with the children, that it was Athens in the first century (not that it was particularly authentic, but it was imaginative–and kid-friendly), and one guy pretended to be the Apostle Paul and one guy pretended to be a centurion named Dionysius, and all the other volunteers and I made up our own characters and costumes and I’m really not sure whether the kids or the adults had more fun–but everybody had fun. And I think almost everyone got something out of it.

At the end of the week, I put away my costume–next to my wedding dress (a legitimate piece of clothing, but one-time), my Pakistani shalwar kameez (usually really only wearable at events hosted by my Pakistani friends–all of whom live in London), my medieval LARPing dress, the model’s outfit I made out of a curtain in London (and then gained one pound and could no longer fit). “I have a lot of ‘costumes,'” I thought to myself. Then I thought, “When I was a kid, VBS was puppets and little classes in classrooms, and it was fun, but this was ecstatic–and I’m pretty sure it was Bible LARPing.”

But sometimes Jesus even meets with people when they’re LARPing, apparently. In the roleplay, Dionysius was supposed to be a skeptical Athenian who eventually realises that what the Apostle Paul’s saying about Jesus is true. The guy who played him is a newcomer to church, one of those “rough-around-the-edges/heart-of-gold” guys. The other day I was talking to him on the phone, kind of rehashing what a fun week last week was. He pointed out how across the board, the kids’ favourite parts of VBS were spending time in their small group huddles (where they learned their Bible verses), and visiting Paul’s tent, where they learned the Bible stories.

I told him about Hebrews 4.12: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” I said, “I totally believe this. The Bible’s not just a book. It’s alive. When it gets out there, it’s gonna do something.”
“I know,” Dionysius said. “It did something to me. I was Dionysius. At the beginning of the week I wasn’t sure what I thought about this Jesus stuff. This week I went through that exact same transformation that he did. I know, I’ve been going to church this year, but after this week it’s different. I know it’s TRUE!”
I don’t know how to explain what this makes me feel like, except just to say,
I have food to eat that you don’t know about.

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And maybe I also want to dance about it a little bit.