Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Great Pumpkin [Bread]

It's a cold and icy and the leaves have all fallen from the wind gusts and steady rain that Hurricane Sandy brought in. I'm over at a friend's house. She fed me with roasted acorn squash on couscous and wine. I brought the tea and the pumpkin chocolate chip bread. The day was an impromptu day off. We had all braced ourselves for a very different storm than the one we got and all my Tuesday work things were cancelled. Last night I did laundry and helped Josh cook food for our students. The Hurricane had cancelled classes so we were forced to come up with somewhere not On Campus to meet. I enjoyed a quiet morning and just didn't do much of anything. I helped teach waltz and then learned how to lead standard in prep for a dance competition with my friend Megan this weekend.

I guess I'm sitting here on this couch watching "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" and thinking: what a lovely day.

One of my favorite pieces of the last few days was turning an old banana bread recipe from my mother's southern cookbook into a pumpkin bread recipe. It kind of melts in your mouth. Just saying. Especially with a mug of chai tea... mmm.

All in all, the hurricane was a lovely pause in life. It stopped the pattern of rolling over and over through my days. It paused me long enough to recalibrate, to pay attention to the details because they were details I wouldn't have noticed in the routine of life. My roommates came home early from work on Monday and we toasted the storm and they fell asleep watching a chic flic. Students came over and ate dinner and I met new people and heard their voices in new ways. I watched an old movie I love and fell asleep through the night and woke and prayed from The Valley of Vision in the wake of a hurricane,

Come as beautifier, bringing order out of confusion, loveliness out of chaos. (p51)

I am not noting this day to be obnoxious or to boast in having a much lovelier day than you. I'm noting this day because it is good to note the good gifts, the wonderful gifts. To point them out to each other and share them. To read beautiful things and see how those beautiful things are in every day, regardless of our attention.

Pumpkin Bread
2 cups of sugar
1 stick of butter
1 egg
2 cups of pumpkin packed filling
2 tsp baking soda
3 cups of flour
1/4 tsps salt
1 tsp of all spice
1tsp of cinnamon
1 tsp of nutmeg
2 tsps vanilla
As many chocolate chips as you want

Cream butter and sugar.
Add the egg and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, beat/whisk the pumpkin and soda then add to the butter and sugar mixture.

Sift together flower with all spice, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Add all together and mix.

Bake at 325degrees for 45 minutes [may take longer. The top will be browned and a fork clean when you stick it in the middle of the bread]

Makes 2 loaf sized pans (grease pans).

Muffins from this are amazing too and take about 12 minutes to bake. Just wait for the edges to turn brown.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Philosophy Club

Small minds trying ideas on: like clothes too large for us: like dress up. Playing and parading, taking on voices and discarding them, taking positions and discarding them.

The instense feeling of enormous meaning and frustrating meaninglessness to the discussions. The feel of something more important and the frustration with our own smallness in discussing it.


Hearing and being heard.

Speaking and not being heard. Being distracted. Blood pressure rising and falling.

Asking what did you mean? and realizing how little we know what we mean when we say anything.

Teasing and laughter. Conversations run and played over and over.

Quoting people with minds and writings far above our own skill to truly understand or imitate.

"What are you doing here?" one new student asked me after the meeting ran out of time. We had spent an hour running around the default conversation of what is meaning in atheistic existentialism. "I mean, as a campus minister. What are you doing in a philosophy club?"

A minister --ideally-- is simply one who has defined their work as engaging in human beings. Perhaps in an ideal world, we would not need ministers because we would all be ministers, all engaged in the business of caring for human beings as souls as well as bodies and minds. But for now, I'm a campus minister. Philosophy is the engagement with the writings and ideas and theories of men and women who have spent their lives asking why the world is the way it is. They are brilliant and profound and complex. But they are human. To engage philosophy is to engage in humanity. How in heaven or on earth is that outside of the bounds of a minister?

Friday, October 19, 2012


"Be careful. Let me get you a towel. She throws up. A lot."

Erica handed me the towel and helped me tuck it between me and Baby Hannah. I still marvel that Baby Hannah is here. Last year at this time, four of us were driving back to State College from a CCO staff seminar in Ligonier. Erica grew incredibly sick and threw up alongside a curb outside of a Sheetz in the middle of nowhere PA. Morning sickness was the norm and I hadn't known anyone who could turn pale and green at the drop of a hat like Erica.

And now, here is Baby Hannah already somehow not an infant but a baby, a difference I'm not sure how to articulate: her head tilted back to get a good look at my face and smile as we made screeching noises back and forth to each other.

She kept her spit up to herself while I held her. Then Erica took her back. It came up and went everywhere. Erica was unperturbed. "This happens all the time. At least she sleeps a lot!" Erica commented. The spit up was all over the blanket and some on Erica and some in Hannah's hair.

But Hannah. That little sweet heart was looking at me as she spit up. As her stomach came out of her mouth, she just grinned. No tears. No distress. Just a sweet smile.

Erica kissed her head and cleaned up a little bit. The conversation we were having kept rolling. And I couldn't help thinking how beautiful it was to be so taken care of that you can crap and throw up and be as gloriously dysfunctional as a body can be and be so unbothered by it. To be so oblivious to the mess and the trouble and the smell. It's okay. Someone loves me and will clean the puke out of my hair.

I want to be that messy and that carefree in my own helplessness and that confident in being loved.

I want to clean up puke with that kind of grace.

Monday, October 08, 2012

1AM Drunk

I am home late after taking the last flight of the day into State College from Philadelphia. It is one of the last nights where the night air is cool enough to make me cozy and warm enough to not make me miserable. The windows are open.

I hear stomping and heels and tense, brass female voices rising outside my window. The sentence I understand is between a plea and a sob and an angry accusation: "You think it can be all about you just because it's your birthday tomorrow?"

The words were meaningless. It was the raw pain in her voice. The drink in her veins taking what goes about hidden during the day and giving it voice at night. It is not the situation or her friend's birthday at has upset her. It is something else and it is painful. It is a silent wail.

I want to go outside and tell her that its okay. That I know she's not really upset about the birthday but some other unspoken thing. I want to tell her that she doesn't have to be okay in the day time as she is in the night. I want to give her a mug of tea.

It felt like being an RA again, where I would debate in my half asleep state whether I had to go address the situation. And by addressing, that meant leading them back to their rooms and then writing up an incident report and telling them they violated quiet hours, even if I would rather tuck them back in bed or hold back their hair as they dangerously puked their guts out. The tension stressed me. I came to resent my residents because of that impossible tension, grateful when I no longer had to discern justice and intervention with every sound in the night.

Tonight, I am free from fixing her. I whisper a helpless prayer from under my covers and listen as more heels go by, echoing across the fallen leaves between the sound of rain on leaf dressed sidewalks.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Personal Statement

I've been working on a personal statement for an application. I started it (or at least started worrying about it) right as I got off the plane from Bulgaria July 26th. I turned it in this Tuesday afternoon for the final internal Penn State review before it gets shipped off to the real review committee.

It was one of the hardest pieces of writing I've ever had to do.

Maybe its that I'm a year outside of my English degree and haven't touched academic writing in that time. Maybe its that I'm a long winded writer and that the constraints of 1 page, single spaced made me panic. Maybe it was how expansive it had to be and how important each word had to be that got me all wound up.

I wrote one draft and a panel of reviewers hated it.

I scrapped it. It was sentimental. And ineffective. It said some nice ideas and some nice moments from my life. It implied that I thought teaching was important and that we have to see people as "whole people".

Whatever that means.

I didn't write my statement until a dinner party the night before it was due. We stuffed ourselves full of Bulgarian food and I told stories from my time there. We drank family made wine that Sonia had given me as a gift. When I drank it, I was back in the room off the kitchen at Camp Lucky hearing Vlady raise a toast, "To the glory of God and the good of His people!"

After we ate, I sat on the couch while my friends washed dishes. I tried to write. And I wrote this paragraph.

"I want to say this as clearly as possible, this impossible thread that is through me, wrapping around both the healthy and unhealthy parts of me. I am afraid to write this because I am afraid of them seeing my empty idealism and my overweening responsibility for making other people better--when it is me, myself, that I want to see be better. I want to see me whole. "

Kaitlin noticed my face as it tightened up and I began to grow frustrated and couldn't write anything. "Hey. What is your identity?"

What is your only comfort in life and death? My only comfort is that I belong body and soul to my savior Jesus Christ.

I had grown too afraid to write. I wasn't even sure what I was afraid of. My only comfort. That sounds better than overweening responsibility.