Friday, December 19, 2014

19 december

It's been a long, long time since I posted anything here of substance. Not that some of the prompts of the Friday Fives don't elicit meaningful bits of sharing, but I started this blog as a way to share news and pictures about my world and the things that make me stop and take a look at it more closely.

In the last few years the view from where I sit hasn't been particularly compelling. A lack of work, direction, community, and a sense of purpose have all led to a fairly insular existence. I have a limited tolerance for sharing the shallowness of those kind of days, and I suspect there's even less interest in reading about it. These pages have been silent as a result. Even when I did have something to share the habit of turning to this space was dusty with neglect, and I am not known for my housekeeping.

Still, the desire to communicate and connect burns like a pilot light, so I am going to endeavor to be here more frequently than Friday Five memes.

With less than a week to go before Christmas we are in good shape here. The tree has been up for a couple of weeks, the lights finally got sorted out and strung, and ornaments decorate the branches. The mantel is seasonal (that kind of decorating is not my strong suit), the Nativity set is on the piano, and most of the daily clutter has been removed. The first round of baking has been mailed or delivered, and the second round is underway (note to self: smaller containers next year will make the baking go farther!). The first batch of cards went into the mail yesterday, and today I will endeavor to address the remainder of the list. Nothing more will go out until next week, since we can't buy stamps until Monday. The letter is written, but will only go to people with whom we haven't been in touch. We are still pinching pennies.

A couple of pictures! The above photo, already shared on facebook, is this year's ornament for the grand kids. The idea came from Pinterest, and with some pine cones already on hand, along with felt and a glue gun, this was my choice of what to make. I think they're adorable! Colors were chosen according to favorites of the three oldest. I wish there was an easier way to cut out small pieces of felt--I'd be inclined to make more of these!

The picture below was taken last week at our county Election Commission's reception for poll workers. I joined the ranks this year to work the elections (Ken has been doing it for several years), and am grateful for the opportunity to be involved. Ken is decked out in his veteran attire because the reception also honored veterans.

That's a wrap for now. Stay tuned, I'll be back. Promise.

Friday, November 14, 2014

friday five: the eve of Advent

At RevGals, MaryBeth writes: This time of year can be so busy with planning for Advent and Christmas, for those who work in churches and we who live close to them. Today, I invite you to sit quietly…as Mary sits in this phot…and consider five things about Advent. They might be images, practices, hymns, anything you like. Just let the thoughts wash over you. Be peaceful with them. Be blessed with them.

My love for Advent is steeped in the family traditions of my youth. Annual outings, rituals, the inner warmth of our home protected from the growing darkness and cold of winter all gave a glow to the season.  Church rituals have been less meaningful for me, perhaps because I inherited practices already in place at churches I served, and where those communities didn't feel inclined to revisit those choices. (Let me say that there wasn't anything wrong with them, but shaping them to add meaning for me wasn't an option).

So, five things... 

1) Sharing. Whether it was the creation of the family Christmas card, writing the family letter, helping mom with her homemade goodies of toffee and spiced tea, or singing Christmas carols outside the homes of friends, we spent family time engaged in activities that connected us to other people. 

2) As an maturing Christian who shifted from Quaker to Episcopalian in my late twenties, Advent hymns became precious to me. I especially loved hearing them played from the carillon of the chapel at the college just up the hill from my first home.

3) The Advent calendar. I don't remember the practice of using a calendar being a spiritual one, but it nonetheless instilled an awareness that we were in a season of marking a journey, and waiting with anticipation. This annual ritual made it so much easier to live into the spiritual practice of waiting when my faith began to bloom.

4) Purple.

5) Decorations. My mother chose a seasonal theme each year as a way to focus the decorations of our home.  The ones that stand out in my memory are the Magi, Peace, Joy, music, and the Twelve Days of Christmas.  Except, perhaps, for the "12 days," these themes emphasized the spirit of the season, instilling in me an abiding appreciation in my bones for the depth and meaning of what I would come to know as the Incarnation.  Little did she know that she was planting seeds...

Friday, October 17, 2014

friday five: jury duty!

My friend Jan, at RevGals, invites us to share jury experiences today.

1. Have you been called to jury duty? How many times? Did you excuse yourself or show up at the courthouse?
I have been called to jury duty several times. I would like the experience of serving, so have been disappointed to have had legitimate conflicts on the occasions called. I was finally able to say "yes!" 20 years ago, and reported the day after graduating from seminary.
2. What were the results of your call to jury duty?
There were two juries being selected the day I went. The first was for a negligence case: a woman slipped on ice and fell on some steps of a condo complex. She suffered a compound fracture to a leg, if I recall, and probably worse, since she was suing.

I don't remember what I answered to the questions posed to me by the attorneys, but I definitely do remember that I was pulled into a conference with the attorneys, the plaintiff, and the judge for an additional interview. I suppose they were on the fence about whether or not to seat me and needed to be swayed one way or the other. I remember being congratulated on my graduation, and in response to some related question I mentioned that one of the goals of the seminary was to impart critical thinking skills to their students. 

I did not get called to serve, and the timing of the second interview kept me from being questioned for the other jury, so home I went, disappointed.

Later that evening I was at my godparents' home for dinner and shared the experience with them. My godfather, who was a superior court judge, listened carefully to my tale. When I told them about the "critical thinking" part he piped up, "well, that was your mistake." It sounds funnier to hear that in my head, in his voice, but it was a humorous moment.
3. What does your state base its candidates’ list from?
In Connecticut, the voter registration list is used. Here in Tennessee I don't know what they use.
4. Have you ever served on a jury? What was that like?
Sadly, no.
5. Have you ever had a jury summons to a U. S. Court? What was it like?
Not there, either!

Friday, September 12, 2014

friday five: todayish

1. If you could sneak away anywhere this weekend, right now, all expenses paid, where would you go and what would you do?
I would have answered Scotland, but the weekend would be consumed with travel getting there and back.  I'll continue to hold that dream in my heart a little while longer. Instead I'll go with a favorite B&B in Gatlinburg, TN (far from the madding commercialism of the "downtown" area), the Buckhorn Inn.  There are lovely, restful views from the inn; a substantive walking trail on the property, complete with pond and a pair of swans; fabulous food; a labyrinth; easy access to a favorite walking trail near in the national park; beverages and treats available in a comfortable library, and nearby artisans to stoke the creative fire. 
2. What is for lunch today? (one of the very first FF I ever played asked this.)
A BLT, to enjoy the last of the our summer tomatoes.
3. Along that first-FF-I-ever-played theme, what are you wearing today?
There will be changes: right now I'm still in my pj's, but will upgrade to sweats to walk one of the dogs. Then I will shower and change for a doctor appointment (tasteful but comfortable), then back to uber comfy when I return home. 
4. Along the Today Theme, what are you doing today? 
Along with the above noted activity, I'm also doing some online work as part of a "work from home" obligation, tending to some details to help a local candidate campaign for office, and promoting my canine massage business.
5. Along the random theme, what is your favorite scent, and why?
I'm wondering if there's a distinctive difference between scent and smell... I love the smell of curry, but I don't know that I would call that a scent. I got a whiff of an evergreen the other day and was immediately transported to seaside holidays as a child (wonderful memories), so that certainly ranks up there. I guess I would say that any scent that transports me to a time/place/state that makes me smile is my favorite. There are really too many to choose just one.

Friday, August 29, 2014

friday five: new

At RevGals MaryBeth writes: Many folks I know say the beginning of school makes them feel like a new beginning, even if they are not in school themselves or have kids there. In fact, I did a little math at the beginning of the week and determined that, based on my career in higher education and when I entered first grade, I am entering the 44th Grade this year.
So, for beginnings: Tell us five things that are new in your life, or that you would LIKE to have be new in your life. If that doesn’t work, how about things that you are ready to shed….to make room for new things? Opening your hands to release, to see what God might put into them?

1) I am beginning to enjoy a new confidence with my canine massage practice, and look forward to a busy fall attending agility trials where I find the most work.

2) Related to # 1: at a trial last weekend I worked for the first time on a canine amputee. I was so moved by the privilege of working with this dog as she adjusts to life on three limbs, and have committed to learning more about how to help such dogs. This may prove to be an area of specialty that I can offer in the future. The thought of that is both humbling and exciting.

3) In September I will begin a twice-monthly relationship with a small, historic chapel in our diocese as their chosen Sunday officiant. I am grateful for the regular work, and the opportunity to establish new relationships with faithful people in a congregation.

4) To supplement our income I have begun a part-time, "work from home,"  Internet job. It deals with web user experiences, and is sufficiently mind-engaging that I think I will enjoy it. I am relieved to be able to ease our financial burdens.

5) I am beginning to resume some creative projects after a hiatus since last Christmas. This is a good sign, indicative of inner peace and an answer to an inner yearning to move away from the urgency of my own needs.

Friday, August 01, 2014

friday five: what's in a name?

Lately I’ve been a bit obsessed with tracking some genealogical mysteries in my family. I’m reaching back through generations into the past, but I’m also moving from the past toward the present in an effort to locate cousins descended from the same ancestor. Naming patterns prove to be useful clues in these endeavors, and in turn, lead me to today’s Friday Five theme.

Share with us:
1) Is there a story behind your name?
It just so happens that there is! I am the seventh in a line of women to be called Anne McKinne. The name zig-zags a bit through the generations to get from my 4th great-grandmother to me, but my mother and grandmother share the name. I'm sad that I don't have a daughter to pass the name to, but I'm honored to be the last to bear this name.
The first Anne McKinne (portrait), me (# 7) with my grandmother (#5)

2) If you have children, how did you choose his/her/their name(s)? If you don’t have children, how about a pet?
I don't have children, but I take seriously giving my pets names that have some sort of story or meaning. Except for the dogs of my youth, my Shelties and Border Collie carried Celtic names: Avalon, Rory, and Brenna. Dooley was named for a character in Jan Karon's "Mitford" series books. Rigel, our German short-haired pointer (pictured, right), is named for the brightest star in the constellation of Orion (the Hunter), due to the star-shaped blotch of white on his forehead. McKinlee is named to honor a dog-loving friend who took his own life the same week that McKinlee joined the family. The story behind Juliet's name is too complicated to go into, but officially she is "The Lady Juliet," and it suits her regal nature.

3) I named the stand mixer in my kitchen Ethel, and a friend of mine names her plants. Do you ever name household items, and what inspires the names behind them?
I don't name such items often, but when I do I try to choose a name that conjurs up a notion of fun and whimsy.
4) Do you daydream about what you might name a boat, a novel, a business, or something else that begs for a title?
I have a title for a novel that needs a plot! The title is "Polestar," referring to the constant guiding light of that entity. It's not meant to refer to God so much as to a constant desire to move forward toward finding one's purpose. Why, yes, it would be semi-autobiographical!
5) If you were to write under a pseudonym, what might that be, and is there a story behind that name?
There was a time when I needed to be in regular touch with someone who I could only contact while they were at work (let's just say that a kind of conspiracy was afoot related to a person we both knew). Occasionally I needed to leave a message that I had called, but leaving my name would begin to arouse suspicion. My friend and I knew each other through Scottish country dancing, so I used the name Jean Milligan as my "code name." Miss Milligan (as she was known) was the founder of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

when pain is our guest

Something happened yesterday that I always prayed would never be something I would experience. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, heading home on the two-lane highway from the second day of the weekend agility trials. A group of about half a dozen young men and boys were clustered at the foot of a long, country driveway, holding and waving political signs. Their action did what it was intended to do--it attracted my attention--and in that brief moment of turning my head to take in their presence, a dog bolted from the other side of the road into the path of my car. 

I hit the brakes, too late, felt the thud of impact, and immediately negotiated a place to pull off the road to go back and check on the dog. As I opened the car door I caught a glimpse of the dog's tail being raised, one last salute to life, and then it was still. I ran the 100 feet or so to its body, knelt beside it, and the tears began to gush. She was gone. Across the street a car had pulled over. Some of the sign-wavers had disappeared up the driveway to report what had happened to others in their party. A woman called over to me, and I stood and made my way across the road. 

The dog was a stranger to this rural cluster of neighbors, following a few folks around for a handful of days up until now. She had likely been dumped recently, seeking companionship and hospitality where she could, and spying the frivolity of politics there on the roadside, decided a good time might be in the offing. Such was not to be the case. 

The woman who had called out to me made me her priority. Was I okay? I nodded between sobs. Did I have dogs? I nodded again. She smiled, knowingly. "There was nothing you could do. It isn't your fault," she repeated again and again as I wept. No one seemed to know what to do, and I was gently urged to go on home. I gathered what composure I could, went back into the road to retrieve some pieces of the car that had separated at the time of the collision, walked back to the dog with a final apology and my regret, and got back in the car to come home.

To say that I was distressed would be an understatement, and after arriving home twenty minutes later and sharing with Ken what had happened, I began to make the progression from reaction to assessment. I was hurting, deeply, but the grief that was spilling from my core was beginning to ebb, and I was able to assemble the pieces of what had happened into an understandable whole. I began to breathe again, and be still. There were practical realities to address (there was damage to the car), and I had been gone for two days. The rest of my small world had its own pace and was moving forward.

As so often happens when the ordinary of our days suffers a traumatic interruption, the divine insinuated itself on my behalf. This morning our plans including being in church where I was filling in as celebrant for absent clergy. Another colleague was preaching--my role was to make holy things happen at the appointed time--and I settled in to listen to his sermon on welcoming and hospitality. He referred to the variety of guests who make themselves at homes in our beings, and the necessity of making space for them and embracing their presence. He wasn't referring to the the kind of guests with whom we dine and offer bed linens, but visitors who come uninvited--the likes of anger and resentment, for instance. He stressed that hospitality was about creating and providing space for whatever guest was present with us, and to be open to the gift the guest brought into the abode of our heart and soul. And, most critically, when we offered our hospitality by creating that space of being, we also opened a space for God to be present as well. 

Ahhhh. I had already asked myself the agonizing question regarding what might be instructive for me in this incident on the road. I don't subscribe to the belief that "everything happens for a reason," which isn't to say that meaning can't be found buried within the crevices of the events and experiences that make up the lines of our lives. Now, however, as I sought to embrace the difficult reality of what had happened, I could rest in the knowledge that I was likewise embraced by the God whose love I cherish above all others. The devastating tear that had ripped through my soul was already beginning to heal, and this uncomfortable part of my story would now be laced with the graciousness of God's care. 

I had thought, initially, that I wouldn't talk about what happened yesterday. I wanted the pain of it dealt with privately, shut away from my efforts of building my life up. But now I know that what is instructive about it is that being hospitable to that which we would shun and turn away is the path toward healing, and the grace of redemption. And that, dear friends, is worth sharing.

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