Hi My Name Is

Shortly after my appointment to start the Pilgrimage with Missions Door, someone, who I think was trying to be sympathetic, said, “I don’t know of anyone who has struggled as much as you to know God’s will for your life! It sounds as though it’s becoming clearer, though.”

I’ve done a lot of different stuff and been a lot of different things in my adult life, so I guess I can see why it would look like that. Maybe it really is like that. Or maybe trying to do God’s will doesn’t always (for every person) look like doing exactly the same thing your whole life, but more like, say, a Pilgrimage–where the goal is always the same, but the path meanders through different places and looks different accordingly. (There might also be different understandings of “God’s will.”) But–I don’t know–I guess I used to think all the things I’d ever done were unrelated except that I did them because I thought or hoped God was asking me to at the time. From this vantage point, though, I’m wondering if they’ve really just been different iterations of one thing all along.

At the beginning of my summer CPE internship, we had to write a short paper on our first impressions, and at the end of mine, I said, “I like meeting new people and hearing their stories, but I hate initiating introductions. And I have just signed myself up for an entire summer of doing basically that. What was I thinking?” Maybe this. Observe:

024_22London, late 90’s

“Hi, my name is Jenn and this is ____________. We belong to [Local Church]. We are right around the corner from you and we wanted to let you know about some of the services we offer our community which are available to you … ”

Slide20Living History Museum, early aughts

“Good day, my name is Anna Russell. I’m the minister’s daughter … ”

CostaRica 146

Obviously, I am not at Starbucks in this picture. But I am on a coffee plantation that sells to Starbucks. In 2007.

Starbucks, mid aughts

“Hi there–how’s it going? What can I get for you today?” [I pretty much never had to actually introduce myself to anyone at Starbucks. Enough people are regulars that names were more or less learned by osmosis. Lots of conversations happened, though.]


Previous Church, late aughts

“Hi, my name is Jenn, and I’m the director of Christian education. Would your kids like to join our Sunday school? … Would your teens like to join our youth group? … Would you like to buy a loaf of Mission Bread? … Would your company like to donate items for our next fundraiser? … How about volunteering?”

The Hospital, 2015

“Hi, my name is Jenn, and I’m a chaplain intern. I’m visiting the patients in this unit today and was wondering if you’d like some company …”

The Pilgrimage, 2016

Okay. I don’t actually know how I’m going to introduce the Pilgrimage to participants yet, exactly. Although I’ve been doing a whole lot of putting myself out there for the support-raising piece so far, I guess.

Evidently at least part of God’s will for my life has to do with getting out of my comfort zone. Actually, I’m pretty sure that’s God’s will for everybody’s life. It’s how we learn to trust God better–when the Comfortable is not around. Maybe another piece of God’s will that’s consistent through all of the above is that, by getting me out of my comfort zone, opportunities are created for conversations and interactions in which God can show up. At least, I hope so. I like meeting new people and hearing their stories, but I hate initiating introductions. If God shows up, though, I’m in. He’s worth it.

The Pilgrimage is funded by your generosity. Recurring or special tax deductible donations may be sent to: Missions Door, 2530 Washington St, Denver CO 80205 or visit www.the-pilgrimage.org and click “Donate.”





Not Dr Watson

You know when you come upon something, or it comes upon you, and you’ve never seen it before, but you immediately think it must be that thing you read about in a book?

You don’t? Well, let me give an example. When I was fourteen, my family and I went to Europe together for the first time. During the last week of our trip, we went to London. To my fourteen-year-old, baptised-in-Narnia-and-Masterpiece-Theatre imagination, real 1980’s London was a little bit of a shock and disappointment, although at least it prepared me to relocate there quite happily a decade later. On that first visit, I kept looking for things I had read about in old books, and fortunately on pretty much the first day, I saw a large crow-like bird, except it wasn’t a crow, because it was black and white. I had an Elsa Beskow book with illustrations featuring a bird that looked like that, and Grandma (who translated Elsa Beskow books for me before they were available in English translations at all) had always translated it as crow. But for some reason when I saw one on the London pavement outside our holiday garden flat, I thought, magpie. “Is that a magpie?” I asked my parents. I’m not sure they knew, but it was okay, because I did. It was definitely a magpie.

And so it was.

And so it was.

This morning, I am sitting with my coffee and my notebook and my computer by the upstairs window, looking out over the pond. About half an hour ago now (because it took me forever to find just the right magpie picture) I happened to glance out and see another bird, much larger than a magpie, flapping slowly across the pond. We get lots of unusual birds around here, and I didn’t recognise it as any of the usual unusual customers.It wasn’t the Bald Eagle (who we seem to have missed this season) because it was the wrong colour and shape, and the flapping was wrong. It was built, and moved, much more like a water bird, but it wasn’t any water bird I have seen here before. It wasn’t the Blue Heron, because it was still the wrong colour and didn’t have those long legs and neck. It wasn’t the Kingfisher because it was much too large and slow, and not at all colourful. It wasn’t a Pelican, which we’ve never had here but I’ve seen before. It was all white, but it wasn’t the Swan, because–well, I already mentioned the short neck thing. The bird I’ve seen that it looked most like was a seagull, and we do get the occasional lost seagull around here, but it seemed to be larger and slower than one of those, too, and the first thing my brain said when I saw it was Albatross. 

I have never seen an albatross before, so I looked up “images of albatross in flight.” None of the images were as pure white as that bird I saw this morning, but the profile was pretty similar.

Like a seagull, but not a seagull. Know what I mean?

Like a seagull, but not a seagull. Know what I mean?

Then I watched a video of an albatross in flight and … I guess the bird I saw wasn’t an albatross. I know albatrosses (like magpies) have kind of negative connotations, but The Rime of the Ancient Mariner is seriously one of my favourite works of literature, so I really kind of wanted it to be one. Plus I like being right, especially when it is solely on the basis of intuition.

In fact, though, I probably wasn’t even right about this thing being a water bird. And to be honest, I wasn’t close enough to see a beak. Perhaps it was just a Snowy Owl, out too late partying on the weekend, and returning home to sleep. Snowy owls are pretty cool, too, I guess …

Although, I'm still not convinced that's what it was, either.

Although, I’m still not convinced that’s what it was, either.

Going Around Again

I’m trying systematically to scan my old photo albums and reproduce them digitally so they take up less physical space. There are a lot of photo albums, though, and I used to add extra pages to every single one of them, so getting through even one is always quite a project. I haven’t worked on one in a long time, until today.

The one I worked on today depicted my transition from college graduate to nanny in Nannyville, Connecticut, and so there were a lot of photos from my friends and busy social life in Living Circle, the Christian young adults’ group I belonged to while I was there. Today was not the first day in the past five years I’ve wished I could recreate something like that group for young adults I know now, nor the first day I was aware of how astonishingly well it worked for an interdenominational experiment. However, today I did realise two other things for the first time. We can talk about the second realisation tomorrow. But here’s the first one:

Looking at the photos, it dawned on me how I myself was turning into a leader all the way back then. I’ve long struggled with insecurity and self-doubt, and even now, although I am able to take the lead much more easily than I used to (a skill I’ve especially gained thanks to my years at Now Church), I still second-guess myself and don’t always feel comfortable saying quite what I mean or effecting quite what I intend in certain contexts because I’m unsure of my position of authority. I still have trouble delegating specifically, sometimes, and I’m still learning to think on my feet.

But in the bulk of the last photos of today’s photo album, there were pictures of me and my Living Circle friends working at Habitat for Humanity, serving dinner to a group of younger short-term mission workers, and rehabbing a summer camp in Upstate New York. All these were labeled as “Service Committee” photos, but here’s the thing–there wasn’t a Living Circle Service Committee until I got there. I don’t remember who organized the dinner-serving project (although I do remember grocery shopping for it with my friend Anne and looking for ground beef with the highest fat content because we couldn’t afford the leaner kind!), but I know that I was the one who organized the two building/painting projects. And there were even decent sized groups of people who participated in these efforts. (From the photo below, it only looks like there were five of us, but I think there were at least twelve who went on this one.)

It's not like we didn't horse around while we were doing all these worthy projects or anything, obviously.

It’s not like we didn’t horse around while we were doing all these worthy projects or anything, obviously.

I’m not saying this to brag–it’s more of an exclamation of astonishment, because I guess I still usually think of myself as someone who has to plead and beg to get a show of support, and then a lot of the time I imagine people are only helping out of pity. These pictures were something of a revelation to me. I was one of the youngest members of Living Circle at the time. I had forgotten how much influence people had allowed me.

After my life as a nanny, but before I moved to London, I lived in a guesthouse with some other future missionaries at the headquarters of the nonprofit that was going to send us overseas, and I was asked to be the “leader” within my house. Once again, I was one of the youngest. It was an absolutely terrifying proposition, I could never figure out why they had chosen me, and I think I did a pretty awful job. Now I’m wondering. If I hadn’t stopped to think about whether I was a leader or not, would I have been better at it in that house–and in the years since? Or is it even possible to lead if you aren’t making the conscious effort to learn leadership by trial and error? Is unwitting leadership is more or less effective than intentional leadership? What do you think?

Living on the edge.

Living on the edge. Back in the days when I still tucked my shirts in.

Some Deep Thoughts – Part 1

My friend Jeff, of Jeff’s Deep Thoughts, commented in the Online Spiritual Fitness group where I first posted yesterday’s questions, and boy, did he ever comment. Which I guess could be expected from someone with Deep Thoughts. Anyway, his questions/thoughts were really good ones, and since, in the Facebook format where they were posted, I can’t nest comments under them, I decided I’d try to initially process them here, and get more people (that means you) involved in the dialogue if you want.

Here’s his first Thought:

It seems like there are theological repercussions to how you proceed … Not only around how God works in general but also how you are finding the Holy Spirit working through you at this stage in your life. I am, for example, kind of community-minded at the moment, and I am not really drawn to the 1:1 coaching kind of model, at this moment, for example. But where I am is much less relevant than where you are.

I guess I am drawn to both the community and the coaching aspect. Maybe I need to pick one in order to streamline things and be more effective, but I really believe both things are vital. I have a Spiritual Director and some individual mentors these days myself, and I also have greatly valued having different Christian communities outside my job at various points in time. (I learned that trick in London–that if you work for a church and you want to maintain spiritual health, you have to find another group of Christians who are not connected to “work” in order to keep yourself balanced.) At one time, that group was a Bible study and fellowship group in which Jeff himself and his wife participated. More recently, it’s been my friends in Seminary. I definitely benefit from both the individual and the group input, and can’t really imagine doing life very well (especially entering this phase of Trying New Things) without either one.

Venturing into the New

Trying New Things

On the other hand, I get that different people, in different places on their journey, might have a greater need for one or the other. Which, I guess, is why I would love to figure out how to create a service which offers both community support and individual accountability, with the option to participate in both, or just one or the other.

If you consider yourself to be on a spiritual journey, where do you see yourself as far as the involvement of other people on that journey? Are you more drawn to one-to-one input, or to the more multifaceted feedback of a group?


Memory Monday

One of the things that first charmed me about living in Britain (as opposed to just reading about it), was the fact that you could, if you wanted, still get glass bottles of milk delivered to your doorstep.


I don’t know if you still can, but you could in the late 90’s. (credit: duncanshotton)

I never did purchase milk this way, but I loved the fact that I could have, and I enjoyed seeing the trolley standing in the street while the milkperson made his or her rounds. (I was only ever aware of milkmen, but surely there must have been some milkwomen around.)

Charming, no? Also, they are called "milk floats." Even more charming, methinks.

See what I mean? Charming. Also, they are called “milk floats.” Even more charming, methinks.

You could also buy milk in glass bottles in corner off licenses. Which is where . . .

Wait. First, I would just like to shout out to my college professor and degree advisor who I would occasionally run into in the corridors of Blanchard Hall carrying a gallon of milk into his office. “Milk,” I remarked bemusedly the first time this happened. For some reason he thought this was hysterical, in his dry, understated, not exactly laughing, way, so after that, every time I saw him with milk, we both would say, “Milk,” like a greeting.

Okay, so in London, though . . .

I had this Moldovan friend who was in a difficult living situation at least twice in the time that I knew her, and the first time, she stayed with me for a week. She arrived with a glass bottle of milk. “Can I put this on the counter and let it get sour?” she asked me.

There was room on the counter, and, I mean, it was her own bottle of milk, so I said she could, although I couldn’t imagine what the appeal was. After a week, when the milk was thick and full of curdled lumps, she drank it with enjoyment, naturally sharing some with me. I’ll try any food product once (I think. Don’t quote me on that). It was not delicious. But I didn’t die, or even get sick from it, so that was a plus.

I tell you this simply in order to answer the illustrious Bas‘ comment-question on my post about hot seltzer:

While you’re at it, would you be open to try some other things I’m hesitant about? Like what’s the point where milk actually turns bad? And if we smell the milk, what are we smelling for?

See? I already have tried it, Bas-and-everybody-else. I mean, I don’t have scientific data, but my own empirical evidence indicates that milk turning bad, and milk being bad for you, might not be the same thing. As to the first: probably about three days. As to the second: I don’t know, but you’re still good for a week at least. And as for the smelling . . . it turns out I’m probably smelling for something along the lines of what my Moldovan friend stored on my counter.


Destination: Turkey

Memory Monday

Looking at those photos from 2002 last week reminded me of a lot of things, including Turkey.

Even though I worked with an extremely diverse population in my home in East London, both India and Turkey had, in different ways, become countries and cultures of focus for me. Going to India in 1993 had been one step in the path of getting me to London, but in 2002 when I realised I’d be relocating back to the States, I still hadn’t been to Turkey.

I had become accustomed to traveling all around Europe at very low costs as a London resident, by visiting and staying with friends in these other countries, and by flying budget airlines. So, probably not long after I truly decided I was moving back across the Pond, I also decided I needed to take one more trip. I thought about Italy, but I didn’t know anyone in Italy, and besides, everybody goes to Italy. If I were going to make European trips ever again, from the United States instead of from the United Kingdom, it was far more likely that I’d make it to Italy than to Turkey. Besides, I knew a British couple living in Izmir at the time. So, I reckoned, I could probably stay with them. They reckoned so, as well.

What I hadn’t reckoned on was the fact that either I couldn’t get a flight to Izmir, or else I couldn’t afford one, so my British-Friends-in-Turkey recommended I fly into Istanbul and take a bus (coach) to their city, and then reverse the trip on the way back. This probably wouldn’t have been such a terrible idea, except that if I was going to be in Istanbul, I wanted to see Istanbul. I can’t really remember how it was I decided to bite the bullet and schedule myself two nights in a small hotel in the Old City at the beginning of the trip, and two more nights on the way back. I bought my tickets and booked the hotel, which I had discovered after some research on Backpacker.com, and at the beginning of May 2002, just a few weeks before I left London forever as a resident, I left London temporarily as a tourist to Turkey.

Hotel Sur - I recommend it--at least as it was a decade ago.

Hotel Sur – I recommend it–at least as it was a decade ago.

“Be careful,” said my Turkish and Kurdish women friends. “You will love Turkey. But be careful of the men.” They said that last part a lot. “Be careful of Turkish men.”

“Don’t go down any alleys with anyone,” quipped . . . actually, I don’t remember who quipped that. But I know someone did. I remember the quip because please. Who actually goes down alleyways with someone they don’t know?

My British-Friends-in-Turkey told me what I had to do to get from my hotel to the bus on the second day and warned me about scam-artist cab drivers.

“Be careful,” said everybody.

Of course I was going to be careful. I wouldn’t go out after dark, and I don’t talk to men on the street anyway, so that wasn’t a concern. I was maybe a little naive, but I wasn’t stupid, and I was just nervous and yet determined enough, that probably, with God’s help, I was going to be just fine.

I’m going to say God’s help was the clincher, but I’m at more than 500 words, so you’re going to have to wait until next week to find out how the trip went.

Technically, this is still BEFORE dark. From the roof of my restaurant.

Technically, this is still BEFORE dark. From the roof of my restaurant.

Long Ago Farewells

Memory Monday

I ran into an old friend today . . . on Facebook, of course. I don’t even remember how we first met–probably the ESOL classes at my church in East London–but I do remember going to visit her quite a bit. She was a refugee with some pretty traumatic refugee experiences, and I wanted–and she wanted me to–write her story into a book, but then I left London and we never saw each other again–until today on Facebook. We hadn’t really known each other for more than five months when I flew away, so I didn’t expect her to remember me, but she said, “I have been searching the fb like mad for u but I couldn’t find u coz I couldn’t remember ur last name, I’m glad u found me.” Me, too!

Usually when I think of momentous years, I think of 2008. But actually, on 3 January 2002, I had an inexplicable freak-out about returning to London (where I had theretofore assumed I was going to settle for the rest of my life) and so even though I did return, the wheels were set in motion from that point onward for me to leave. I used to say that God told me to, and I still reckon He might have, but whether He did or didn’t, I don’t expect my choice surprised Him very much and things seem to be working out–at the moment, anyway.

Anyway, this made 2002 a pretty momentous year, too, because before I left London for good in May that year, I jumped into a bunch of new experiences kind of at the last minute, just in case. One of the things I did was find out that even though I didn’t have a work permit to work in the UK, I could volunteer as a teacher’s assistant at one of the local schools.

A Teddy Bear's Picnic with Year R/1

A Teddy Bear’s Picnic with Year R/1

I ended up helping out in about three different classrooms and it may have been the most fun thing I did the entire time I was in London, so it’s kind of surprising that alone didn’t make me stay. On the first day, I read stories to a group of cuties in Reception (Kindergarten). Javed wanted me to read Where the Wild Things Are. So I started reading it. We paused carefully at each page to look at the pictures.

Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak

Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak

“That one looks like you, Miss,” said Javed.

Not the most flattering comparison, but he wasn't exactly wrong.

Not the most flattering comparison, but he wasn’t exactly wrong.

The school was not a religious school, but it was a very religious school, all the same, because most of the kids were from religious families. Far and away the highest percentage of the kids were Muslim, but there was also a sizeable Sikh and Hindu population, and just a smattering of Christians. One thing I loved about British schools was that there were actually Religious Education (RE) classes, so the kids were learning about different faiths, and none of the teachers had to be afraid to talk about them. Sometimes the classes were a little tricky, though, when a given teacher was trying to teach about a faith that wasn’t his or her own. Like, you should’ve seen the day that one teacher placed another book on top of the Qu’ran when he was teaching about Islam . . .

But there was also the Year 4 teacher who was trying to teach the kids about Easter. It was Easter time, so I guess they were trying to be seasonal with their lesson plans. My guess is that this teacher might have fallen into the “spiritual but not religious” category, and so when of the children asked a question about some Easter specifics, she didn’t know how to answer. I was sitting in the corner trying to work on some remedial reading with an individual child, when Manvir, whose family I had been friends with for years, piped up. “Ask Jenn!” he said. (Everybody else called me “Miss.”) “She knows all about this stuff.” So, in a community school full of Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, and a very few Christians, I talked about Jesus being God and coming to die for our sins and coming back to life again and the whole time I kept waiting for someone to get offended or for the teacher to tell me I had crossed a line, but nobody did, because it was RE, and in RE we talked about beliefs.

At the end of the year, one of the teachers had his class sing me a farewell song since I was leaving England, and all the children gave me hugs. I guess I didn’t know when I signed up to volunteer in school, that saying goodbye to a bunch of children–most of whom I hadn’t known before January–would be so difficult. It took me three years at least to get over London. I’m glad I’m where I am now, but I’m glad I was there, too. I’m glad that I kept making friends until I left. And I’m glad I had those five months at that school.

"Til We Have Faces" - I'm pretty sure most of these kids are in university or beyond, by this point, but just in case, I overexposed all our faces. You still get the idea.

“Til We Have Faces” – I’m pretty sure most of these kids are in university or beyond, by this point, but just in case, I overexposed all our faces. You still get the idea.


Memory Monday

Recently my Paul and I watched Monuments Men, a movie about a group of men who helped restore priceless works of art which Hitler had stolen from Europe. Like, all of Europe. This should not come as a surprise, because: Hitler. But the mind still boggles. There are at least two reasons I might want to talk about this movie, but today’s reason is that the work of art which provided something of a centrepiece to the film was Michelangelo’s Madonna and Child which had been (and again is) housed in Brugge, Belgium.

I am not sure if my mother was excited to see this work of art in real life because it was a Michelangelo or because she was aware of it’s almost-lost-to-posterity history, but if it was the latter, I definitely didn’t grasp it as an almost fifteen-year-old, and if it was the former, I guess I wasn’t that interested in Michelangelo because he was not so involved with Vikings and Druids and the parts of European history I was actually interested in at the time.

St. George (a knight) and a dragon? Storkyrkan in Stockholm was much more my speed.

St. George (a knight) and a dragon? Storkyrkan in Stockholm was much more my speed.

Also gold mosaic with unicorns. And, actually, Gamlastan architecture.

Also gold mosaic with unicorns. And, actually, architecture. Apparently I’ve always been kind of intrigued with architecture.

Runes. Tolkien wrote in runes. Vikings used runes. So much more ancient and mysterious.

Runes. Tolkien wrote in runes. Vikings used runes. So much more ancient and mysterious.

Grandma G had long tried to make an art appreciator out of me. She gave my parents a notebook into which to paste postcards of famous artwork which she periodically sent from the Met, with her own notes/explanations/history. I kind of liked going to the Met with the Grandparents G, and I did enjoy looking at the works of art–even being quite willing to sit in front of a painting for some time, as I observed real Art Appreciators did–but that was because I was inventing stories in my head to go with the scene I was viewing.

The summer after 9th grade, my parents cashed in some savings accounts and took TheBro and me to Europe for a month. Probably some people thought they were crazy, but I don’t know that any of us have ever regretted it. We went to Sweden for two weeks with Grandma M, who is Swedish and had friends there, then we visited various bits of Switzerland, spent a day or two in Vienna and Brugge, and then finished up with a week in London. That trip is one of the favourite memories I have, but the Madonna and Child sculpture was not the only art I failed fully to appreciate. After last night’s movie, I’m kind of disappointed that this is the best photo I got of it:

I suspect I was probably actually more enchanted with the swan and her cygnet . . . though the juxtaposition of the photos is kind of intriguing, now that I think about it.

I suspect I was probably actually more enchanted with the swan and her cygnet . . . though the juxtaposition of the photos is kind of intriguing, now that I think about it.

I also think I was more intrigued by the legend and the painting of the nuns and candelabra-antlered stags than I was by the Chagall windows, which were heartlessly difficult to photograph anyway–although it must be said I am besotted with Chagall’s art now.

Chagall, and a "medieval window," and GLOWING STAGS AND NUNS. I mean, cool, right? (No, I knew nothing about Jaegermeister at the time. Still don't, really.)

Chagall, and a “medieval window,” and GLOWING STAGS AND NUNS. I mean, cool, right? (No, I knew nothing about Jaegermeister at the time. Still don’t, really.)

To be fair to myself, I’m pretty sure there were ropes keeping us from getting any closer to that Madonna and Child–and probably the windows, too. Plus, when I was almost fifteen, I had this camera:

No zoom, folks. Et cetera.

No zoom, folks. Et cetera.

I guess I still can’t claim to be an art expert, but let’s put it this way: I’m really glad those Monuments Men got that art back.

Almost Famous

Wordy Wednesday

Just kidding. I’m not almost famous. But today I was thinking that if I were actually a famous writer instead of just a writer, I could probably make some money off of my old sleeping bag.

I mean the sleeping bag in which I got temporarily stuck on many a camping trip, including the one recounted a few weeks ago. It is a deep rust colour on the outside with a plaid lining that seems to be made out of some weird blend of flannel and polyester. I want to say my parents bought them when we returned to the US from Honduras, but I feel like I almost remember camping once in Honduras, and I don’t think we ever had other sleeping bags.

Anyway. My point is, this sleeping bag has been around a long time. It has been to England and back. It has cocooned me on high school choir tours (when I was in high school myself) and at youth group overnights and conferences (when I am chaperoning high schoolers). I wrote a blog post in which it played a supporting role. Amazingly, however, it isn’t even really threadbare, the zipper still works (of course it does) and so what if the external fabric is a little “pill-y”? If that’s the only thing wrong with it, well . . . it could probably see me through another thirty years.

I do feel sort of nostalgic about it, but the fact is that my Paul gave me a newer, much longer, much warmer sleeping bag, which is delightfully snuggly and fits me much better (I am nearly six feet tall, after all). We don’t have room in our miniscule dwelling to hang onto things we are no longer going to use, and so last weekend I washed the sleeping bag–just in case; I’m pretty sure it was clean already–stuffed it in its stuff-sack, and put it in the trunk of my car, for the next time I’m near the Salvation Army or something.

Only I was thinking that if I were famous, someone might actually pay good money for a sleeping bag with such an illustrious history, and I could kind of use the cash. But instead I’m not famous at all, and so you, Dear Readership, are pretty much grossed out by the whole idea. It’s okay. I would be, too. But how is it that fame makes disgusting things suddenly no longer disgusting?

Does my maiden name ("Grosser") make this more less true?

A truism applicable to so much more than sleeping bags

‘Course, if I were famous, this sleeping bag would still be Grosser than most.

The Hotel

Memory Monday

Whoa-wa! What just happened to the WordPress dashboard? There is black? And slate grey? Maybe I like it? I can’t decide.

Okay. Enough of that.

Today is Memory Monday (again) and I feel that after all my blurting (sort of vaguely) about “trauma in London,” I need to take this opportunity to say that those three friends and I made up before I returned to the US, and that two of them (who have since married each other) and I are now back in touch via the last-century wonder which is email. I think we’ve all grown up a bit. They have a couple of kids. It makes me happy that we are in contact again.

I also feel that I need to take the opportunity to recount a happy memory of at least one of these people, so here’s one–from before the fall-out and make-up:

My friend the Lovely Ecuadorian stayed with me in my house for sometime between a week and a month while Roommate-Beth was in the USA, and we bonded (I made North American pancakes, which were always a win, no matter who it was) so that when she was chosen Employee of the Month (or something like that) at the hotel where she worked in Central London, she honoured me as the friend who got to benefit with her from her award.

“Jennie, will you come with me?” she asked me. The award was a night in the hotel for the awardee and a guest, with dinner and a bottle of wine in the evening, and breakfast the next morning. At the time, as she was not dating our other friend that she ended up marrying, and in any case, all of us had certain guidelines about romantic interactions before and after marriage, so I guess her closest in-country platonic girlfriend was a perfect choice. I dunno. It made sense to me, and I was flattered to be asked.

Now that I think about it I wonder if I would have been as stoked to sleep overnight in my own place of employment as I was to stay at someone else’s, but look, we lived in the East End, and none of us made a lot of money, and it was probably nice for the Lovely Ecuadorian to be the beneficiary of some of the beautiful customer service she was so used to offering in the sumptuous surroundings she had to work in every day.. We jumped on the Tube and rode into the City, and unfortunately I don’t really remember, but I feel like we sneaked in a back employee door, which was exciting.

We did, however, have to check in at the front desk, where the award was verified and we were ushered to the dining room for our complimentary dinner.

I might be wrong about which hotel it was, but I'm pretty sure it was this one.

I might be wrong about which hotel it was, but this dining room looks delightfully familiar.

It was a fancy dinner. I mean the kind where the plate is an enormous elegant white slab and each course looks like a tiny little dot in the middle of it, but it was so delicious, and so astonishingly filling that, after eating however many courses we were entitled to (the number of which I no longer recall), and drinking our complimentary bottle of wine, we essentially staggered over to the elevator (I mean lift–we’re talking about London, here) to get to our room.

Neither of us were big drinkers, but I don’t remember being even buzzed–just surprised that we had done justice to the whole bottle between us, and really really full. We rode up to our room and each camped out on our individual queen beds and talked until something like 2 o’clock in the morning. Probably, knowing both of us, we sang and prayed together, too. Weirdly, although it is my favourite meal of the day, I do not remember breakfast at all.

In the morning, we each got up and maybe the Lovely Ecuadorian had to do something absurd like work after that, and maybe I had appointments with contacts in the East End. Or maybe I had the day off. I remember walking past the employee entrances on my own, feeling quite delighted that even a hotel employee and a religious worker, neither of whom usually had two pence to rub together–even between the two of us–could still have enjoyed one 12-hour period of five-star hotel-ness. It was an unexpected, but surprisingly not all that uncommon, moment of freely-given and received happiness. There were lots of little surprises and delights like that in London. Maybe one day I’ll tell you about another one.