Learning to pray again

I wrote earlier that I joined a church choir after years in semipro vocal groups because I wanted to explore my faith more. I didn’t realize that I would get an opportunity from a completely different direction.

My dad had a minor heart attack (now there’s an oxymoron) last Sunday. He spent the past few days in the hospital while they first verified that it was, in fact, a heart attack and not a stomach condition; then tried unsuccessfully to clear the build-up in the minor arteries where the attack took place. He’s home now and relatively comfortable, thank God, but I think we were all pretty scared for a few days.

And I’ve been seriously praying again. Not bargaining, as I prayed when I was younger (you know: “God, if you’ll only get me through this test I promise I’ll be good”). Not raging, as I might have done in my angry teens and early 20s. Just talking to God about how I’m feeling, my hopes and fears for my dad and my mom, and asking for strength.

The blogosphere has helped too, between AKMA and Real Live Preacher. But the biggest help has been being with other people every day who don’t shy away from talking about faith and about their challenges and fears and joys and dreams. Hey, who says Presbyterians are the frozen chosen?

Christmas wrap-up

We’re leaving Lakewood in a few hours and driving back to JFK to start our long flight home (fortunately, it’s direct to Seattle. I don’t think I could handle connections with the dogs). My parents and Esta left yesterday for Pennsylvania.

It’s been simultaneously a relaxing and exhausting vacation. Relaxing because it was nice to get away from everything, out of the rain, and to spend time with family and with the dogs. Exhausting primarily because of the dogs. After this week we are finally ready to declare Stage 1 of Jefferson’s housebreaking complete (Stage 2 is getting him to go on command). Unfortunately, we weren’t at Stage 1 at the beginning of the week…

I managed during a Monday trip to Princeton to find time to get to the Princeton bookstore, where in 1990 as an early action admittee I bought a Princeton sweatshirt—and a T-shirt from Moscow University. This time my findings were more modest: remaindered books from Joseph Brodsky and Jerome McGann, and a British Library book about great books of the past 500 years. About which, more in time.

Christmas itself was unexpectedly generous: Esta gifted me with a hardbound Charles Addams collection and the Smithsonian Book of Newspaper Comics, both freebies from a professor of hers, as well as the Three Colors trilogy on DVD and a copy of “Have You Fed the Fish?” And my long-suffering wife replaced my broken 1st generation iPod with a brand new slim 10GB model.

And Jim Heaney came down from Mahwah for an afternoon yesterday, with pictures and the long awaited explanation of his Appalachian Trail nickname, “Mothman.” Apparently a week or so into the hike, he was holding a small flashlight in his mouth and washing dishes when a moth flew up his nose. There you have it.

The best present, of course, was the company. It’ll be hard to get back to real life.

Happy Birthday, Tim

I’m using my long-neglected status as contributing editor at JHN to jump in and wish my brother an unmitigatedly happy birthday. All the best, Tim; you deserve it. In the words of Ogden Nash:

Year swallows year and licks its lips,
Then down the gullet of next year slips.

Blog less, email more?

I’ve been a little quiet here lately—but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I had a backlog of email from people with questions about my genealogical research: lots of interest in the Brenneman family, for whatever reason, plus an assortment of Freeman and Jarrett questions.

I should probably instrument the genealogy pages to see how many people find my site through them. I’m afraid I’d find that they draw many more readers than my blog does, though. 🙂

Slow week, for some

Sorry for the lack of posting recently. I think getting caught up after BloggerCon has meant that I’ve run out of blog material for a while. Esta has the opposite problem: she’s been crazy busy and learning a ton at school, but her blog host is down. Hey, sis, want to guest blog here for a while?

Happy birthday Lisa

Today is my beautiful wife’s birthday; please spare a minute to wish her a happy day. Our big celebration will actually be a few weeks from now, coinciding with our anniversary, when we return to Boston for a little visit and mini-vacation.

Esta is alive, and living double rainbows

Esta found a minute to update her blog amid the hectic joy of starting classes at seminary (finally having Internet connectivity at her apartment might have something to do with it). She reports that she’s making friends, even if they do tend to be considerably younger than she is; that Julia Child’s recipe for baked cucumbers is as good as Julie Powell reports; and that updates on classes are forthcoming, including Hebrew I (I always wanted to be able to read Biblical Hebrew; now she’ll be living the dream! Sniff.). Hope she can keep posting.

And hey, Esta, if you haven’t discovered them yet, you might want to download NetNewsWire Lite and Manila Envelope. The former will make it MUCH easier to keep up with your weblog reading; the latter just might make it easier to post.

To Esta, who is making it real

Esta writes about her last day in the office before starting her course of study at Union Theological Seminary. I want to offer my heartfelt congratulations to her for finding the courage to make a really, really big move, and doing it it with clear vision and optimism in spite of the uncertainty. Esta, you may be my little sister, but it’s a big step—probably bigger than mine—and I wish you all the best luck in the world, and God’s guidance.

The best part about the trip

Since I have just come into our house and have all but collapsed prostrate on the bed, I’m tempted to declare the ability to nap at 3 pm on a Monday afternoon the best part of the vacation. Of course, I’d be lying. It’s somewhere in between a fresh ear of corn just picked out of a field and steamed/roasted over a fire, laughing with my grandfather, and having my young first cousin (once removed) grab my index finger with a chubby fist… and then attempt to maneuver said finger to his mouth where he could eat it. I swear, the child almost had his feet in his mouth at one point.

Heading back

poppop and esta
More detailed notes, including Rough and Tumble, soon. For now a quick link to photos of the picnic and the Brackbill farm—and the newest cousin, my cousin Catherine’s son Johnathan. And probably the best picture I’ve ever taken of my grandfather, right.

I’ll get to post this entry, started in Baltimore where I had WiFi, when I get home. Right now I’m waiting in Chicago, which is obstinately WiFiFree, and so have a chance to look over some of the photos I took this weekend with my phonecam. The major thing that strikes me (and has probably already struck any more photography-savvy readers of this blog) is the color balance problem. The Nokia 3650 appears to do some image processing, including at least color and level correction—what I see in the viewfinder before I snap the photo isn’t exactly what I see afterwards. And the results can be uneven. I already noticed this with the Tradiscantia photos I took in my garden last weekend, and am noticing it more with the series I took of the farmhouse. Though I took the photos from more or less the same vantage point, the color of the grass is dramatically different in the photos I took from the tree shade than the ones I took closer to the house. Not ideal. And there doesn’t seem to be a way to turn it off either.

A small regret: the picture I took of the dedication stone in the center of the farmhouse’s wall didn’t come out clearly enough to show the engraving. I could only see a little from the ground, but it was something along the lines of “Hershey, 1857” with a good deal of text before and after. I never noticed it before, and when I asked my mom about it she confessed she hadn’t either. Something to check out another time.

Happy birthday, Mom

Today is my mother’s birthday! I owe this woman a big debt of thanks, not only for my existence, but for my love of reading, cooking, and (in large part) music, as well as my sense that the world ought to be better than it is.

I can’t hug her in person today, but I’ll get to do that next weekend when I fly to the family reunion. In the meantime, happy birthday, Mom, and many happy returns.

Summer is passing

Last night we visited a new wine bar in town, the Purple Café, and then put ourselves to bed early. Coming back to bed from brushing my teeth, lights out, I could still see a yellow and blue corona around the trees through our north window, the remnants of the sunset on Lake Washington. Summer is passing and our days are growing shorter.

Moxie’s post about summer with her folks and picking gooseberries made me think about my own summers, often spent with one grandmother or the other. With my Grandmother Brackbill, picking peas, stringing beans, and shucking corn. Or with my Grandmother Jarrett learning to appreciate the mountains and slowly coming to understand my family connections in that strange to me place. I remember more summers in Pennsylvania, as we generally saved trips to North Carolina for less-hot times of the year.