Sunday, January 31, 2010


The sermon was rather long (at 1900 words), so I won't post it here.  I will say that it was a very nice last day. I was able to pull it together (with lots of pain and agony) to give a sermon that was actually what I was hoping to say, and people got out of it what I designed for them to get, and a few people had some great insights, which is always cool when their insights expand on yours.

By 11:30, it was all done. The services, the singing, the last of the Eucharist given out. A few slices of cake later, and Martin was rolling up our rug to put in the car. It was tucked in with my office chair, and now we are home. My bookshelves are still empty. This week, I return just to empty out my office and turn over property to the Senior Warden.

At this moment, however, my thoughts are not deep or even very thoughtful. Instead, I am very cheery. You see, my parish gave me a few going away presents. One sweet couple gave me a grow-you-own-catnip. It came with a catnip mouse on top, and as I dangled the mouse in front of one of my kitties, his eyes became as big as saucers. This will be like the second coming for them.

They also gave me a few charms for my charm bracelet. This was totally unexpected, and very sweet! It's the bible charm, and the "faith, hope, love" charm- absolutely appropriate considering that my last sermon was on.... Faith, Hope, and Love. (See how the Holy Spirit gets working in there? No one knew that!)

And most happily, they gifted me with my beloved ball chair! You know those exercise balls some people use for yoga or pilates or situps? Gaiam makes a chair base, so you can put your ball on the base, and have yourself a full functional exercise ball, but also a chair that offers a completely unstable, squishy sitting service. I know, I know, but it's the best chair in the world for a wiggly person like me. It's the only chair I've ever had where no one slapped me for wiggling too much or asked me why I was nervous. I fidget. This chair absorbs and celebrates the fidgets.

So I am very, very happily fidgeting at this very moment on my beloved ball chair, which the parish presented to me and so I get to keep my chair! And that makes me very, very happy indeed.

The story: my administrative associate's chair had broken, and she liked my office chair. I hated that office chair and found it uncomfortable. I gave the chair she liked to her, and instead, we decided to buy ME a new office chair, and somehow I talked the then-Junior-Warden into a ball chair instead of a real chair. I grant you that this chair has been a source of controversy (apparently, some chairs are inappropriate for professionals to use. Go figure? Wonder what Peacebang would say?) but I have loved it. And now it's mine!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Final Sermon

I am sitting in my study surrounded by mostly empty bookcases.  They are waiting for the books I will bring home next week as I empty out my parish office.  The only books I have at home are the ones that I kept for "last minute sermon research" and the ones I brought for this week's sermon.

But oddly, I don't really feel like researching.

As I am working on my last sermon that I will preach to Epiphany, will the people actually hear a sermon that is well-researched, or do they need to hear words that will comfort, look forward to the future, and speak of hope in a time of change?  What would I want to hear when the world is being rocked?

Perhaps faith, hope, and love is the way to go.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The End of the Writing

Since residency, I have been working on and revising my essays and preparing verbatims to prepare for a process called "board certification".

I believe I can finally call a conclusion to the writing process.  It is finished.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Great Minds

There are certain writers and thinkers who just changed things up.

And we lost two of them today.  I first saw the news of Howard Zinn's death in the print newspaper, and later, on CNN saw the news of J.D. Salinger's death.  A friend most appropriately posted a Facebook status asking who the great minds of OUR generation would be.

These two wrote some of those formative books.  Neither one is my favorite book ever (sorry guys, but I'm not sure I'd take Catcher in the Rye to the proverbial desert island, m'kay?), but both authors inspired me to think deeper and look into more of their writing and to listen closely.

I think I read Salinger as a kid- I was big into nature stories as a tween, so I thought "Ah, Catcher in the Rye, it must be about nature!"  Yes, I was in for a surprise.

Zinn's words has a greater effect on me.  I first came across the book several years before I actually read it, but after completing Seminary, I took up a practice of reading "serious" books on my lunch hour (thus saving my after work hours for "fun" books).  People's History was one of my lunch-hour books as I settled into Arlington.  I read it at home.  I took it to coffee shops.  I kept panang from dripping on it as I savored my tofu.  And I was happy because someone had the guts to say what my mind has always secretly wondered...

What if there's a story out there that we are not being told?

There is.  With great thanks to J.D. Salinger and to Howard Zinn for your contributions to American thought.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Exit Interview

Sort of how I feel right now: I think I can sort of guess what it'll all look like in the end, but it's under construction and I don't really know what'll it'll look like in reality.  This is the labryinth at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, where my friend Will is a super-cool priests.  
Yesterday, I had my Official Exit Interview with the wardens and the Canon for Transition. (A Canon is a person who works for the Diocese, like Canon to the Ordinary, or Canon for Finance. One day, maybe I'll be a Canon somewhere, and then you can all make "loose canon" jokes and question my mental status. You know, like you do now, but with ready-made puns available.)
I liked an exit interview, because this is feeling like a much healthier leaving. Epiphany has been a huge challenge, but it really was a place where I was able to do some things right. Granted, I'm not doing everything right. I'm sure that most priests would wade right in and work to say goodbye even to the bad relationships. But there are just a few relationships which were so unrelentingtly negative that I just can't muster the energy to want to expose myself to more anger. Perhaps the trauma work does take my "dealing with bad stuff" energy out of me, and I just can't do it right now.
I feel like I really wrapped up a commitment. Last year the wardens and I agreed to serve as if it were our last year on earth. We decided that if Epiphany was going to go down, we'd at least enjoy the ride. And Epiphany pulled out of its nosedive, and is setting sail in calmer waters. Check that one off the "done" list. Are there still challenges? Hell, yeah. But last January, I was looking at a parish that had funds to exist through (maybe) July. Even with fewer pledgers, their income is higher now. That speaks to personal investment and stewardship. Good for them!
The new Senior Warden is a great guy for the job. He's not afraid of conflict, and he has a big focus on "don't let the past rule your life- move on, and focus on the good things now". I think he's hurt that I'm leaving now- he volunteered to run thinking I would stay through the summer, as M wraps up his thesis. I hope someday he understands that for me, that would have changed things: I would have felt like I was walking out midway on a commitment to THIS new Vestry. This way, I really finished a commitment.
At least, the commute was never the breaking point. Yes, driving 40 miles each way was annoying and my car has racked up the miles, and that bugs me. I took pride in my low mileage in Arlington- there were whole weeks I didn't move my car, taking the bus and metro, or biking or walking everywhere. I eclipsed that here. That bothers the green, sustainability side of me. But I did discover Pandora radio, and I have a great iPod mix, so no, the commute didn't break me. Getting pushed off icy roads and having to cancel services when I could not commute in the bad weather... maybe that did. CT has scary, impossible roads. Man, I miss Virginia and its public transit.
So where will I end up next? Right now, I'm really in a holding pattern. I have a great job for the present. M is writing. I am helping him research possibilities. In a way, life is like that AA Milne poem: "Where am I going?/I don't quite know/ What does it matter where people go?/ Over the hills where the bluebells grow/ Anywhere... anywhere. I don't know."

Monday, January 25, 2010

I hope karma works in my favor...

Recently M and I bought a trainer- it's a thing which immobilizes the wheels on your real bike so you can ride indoors. It's way, way better than a regular exercise bike or a Spinner bike. For one thing, I can use proper form. For another, I ride my real bike a lot harder. I am finding that I get a lot more workouts in- it's easy and fast to hop on the trainer for 30 minutes, especially when I can quickly and easily convince myself it would take too long to walk to the gym and get a decent workout in. (I like to have at least an hour in the gym to feel worked-out. Barring that, give me at least 20 minutes in the waterfall hot tub. I have priorities, okay?) Besides, at home I can ride to Bollywood DVDs or sing along badly to the iPod and no one cares since my neighbors are at work.

Today, it was terrifically rainy and windy- seriously, it's coming down in sheets. So not only was there no way I was going to walk to the gym, I also felt cold. So I pulled out my bike tights* for warmth.

The last time I wore these tights was on my fateful crash. In that crash, I destroyed a helmet, a pair of gloves, and tore open the left knee of the tights. I was just hoping that they'd be salvageable. I know I tore the knee open, because I showed people and my knee still has darkened scars from the road rash.

There's no hole in these tights. They also don't have the worn section on the right hip that mine did. And they are a size bigger than mine, and a few inches longer. Uht oh.

So many people helped me when I was hurt, so I guess that whoever took me to the hospital or helped me pack my bags that day might have accidentally mixed up my tights with someone else's. So out there is some big guy with a pair of too-small tights with a hole in the left knee. And I have no idea who you are.

Thanks for the tights, and I hope I can make it up to the universe one of these days.

**Yes, mother and non-biking relatives. You do need bike tights or shorts even indoors. Let's just say the extra padding of the chamois in the bike shorts is necessary, otherwise you get bruised sitbones from the bike saddle. We'll leave it there... at least until one of my biking friends weighs in and gives you way more info than you ever wanted to know.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Don't you think REI should hire me?

Well, the question has been begged often. As I finished the last Annual Meeting I will do with Epiphany, lots of folks wanted to know what I was going to do with all my now-free time.

I think REI should call me up and offer me a part-time job, preferably in the bike department. Camping stuff would be my second-favorite area.

I do still have a grad student in the house, and he will be stopping work at some point, and it is up to me to keep in the style in which he is accustomed while he works on his thesis. While some may think that means he will recline on the couch, thinking deep thoughts and wearing a toga, while I hand-feed him grapes, allow me to reassure you that it really means that he will be banished to the study or the library where he will write until his eyes fall out of his head and he will eat nice, yummy homemade sandwiches and bento boxes. Please encourage him to stay away from the fried chicken. But keeping him in groceries costs money. And REI has a great selection of energy-boosting Clif bars. So REI benefits me directly, don'cha think?

Meanwhile, I'm just not used to working just 40 hours a week- I've never done it in my life, and I'm not about to start now. So they'd gain a minor workaholic, and I'd get to wear jeans and a cute little REI vest to work. I like wearing jeans.

The hospital with the trauma drama is great, but it's hard, sucker-punched-in-the-gut work many days. Yet I have all these highly honed skills in listening to what people are saying, both their spoken story and their meta-story. I look for the "altars" in their lives to discern what they want to say without saying it.

That's right, baby... let me hear your meta-story. Then we'll talk bikes and finger all the gear and I'll hear what you want to say but can't bring yourself to say... that you need this new carbon fiber piece of sweet goodness. And that's good for the bottom line, ain't it? Not to mention that as you come in and buy gear to replace the gear you ruined in your various crashes, I am trained in helping minimize your post-traumatic stress reactions.

Wow, wouldn't that be great? I could help climbers and bikers and hikers talk through their fears and worries and become happier, less stressed, and de-traumatized outdoorspeople... meaning they'll want to buy more stuff. And then they will go outside and have more adventures. And then I will fulfill my goal of making them happy, and therefore, I will be super-happy too.

So trust me, REI... you want me!

PS- Yes, of course I'm planning on being back on the bike soon. I'm working hard indoors on a trainer and doing lots of hard hand therapy to regain my strength. As soon as the roads clear up, I plan to start trying road rides again. I will be registering for the Mad River Century very soon, and I'm waiting to see if my brother-in-law wins a spot in the Leadville 100. No, I'm not riding that one, are you insane? I just want to WATCH it. There's lots of good riding out there, and I am going to get me a piece of it!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Giving Thanks for Healthy Cats

Yes, I am well aware of all the disaster in the world, especially for our friends in Haiti. (Have you helped out yet? I recommend Episcopal Relief and Development, because they rock.) And every day I work with human beings who got broken and who have to be reconstructed by the docs. So I don't want in any way to minimize the humanity.

But I am thankful today that my kitties had a perfect vet appointment! I'd been worrying that my kitties were "too thin" and generally worrying that they were somehow not okay. I mean, sometimes Origami nips when he's in this odd trance-like state, and sometimes, they don't eat all their food every day. So I had a little list of questions for the vet at their annual exam.

But the vet said they were perfect in every way. Their teeth are clean, their ears are clear, their weight is just perfect for their size, and they have the best personalities. Seriously, everywhere I've brought them, people go nuts for them. At the office this morning, as I was paying, the assistants were all telling each other, "You HAVE to go see these cats!"

Naturally, this means I'll never have any other cats because I have the Perfect Cats, and no other cat could ever measure up to these two Perfect Cats.

For those who have met my monsters, you will be glad to know their weights... they weighed in at 14.9 and 14.2 pounds. That's a lot of cat. But they are perfect.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In which I am thankful for backups...

Well, after 8 years of no major electronic incidents... it finally happened. Despite the fact that I'm practically a poster child for electronic responsibility (witness all the word processors, Handsprings, Palms, and laptops I've kept safe throughout three rounds of higher education and residence in at least two big cities), I tried to play the odds last week. I felt the loose clasp on my phone case, noticed it spinning around, and said to myself, "It'll hold for one more day".

Of course it didn't. And my phone was subsequently stolen.

This is where a little retentiveness is helpful. I had it set to erase if too many failed passcodes were entered, and I erased it from afar anyway. And I got a Go Phone and had all calls being forwarded to that phone- parish folk are very welcome that their priest keeps in touch so well! And no new usage has been marked so I figure the thief suffered the pangs of watching my phone wipe itself before his eyes. I back up like it's part of my religion. So when the phone went bye bye, I at least had my calendars and contacts backed up on my computer. So I could press a few buttons and print out a form that was only a few days out of date, instead of screaming wildly at the skies, cursing the unfairness of it all. Although I admit that might have been good exercise.

I will take the opportunity, though, to point out to the weenie who stole my phone that you are indeed a weenie. I am quite sure God will one day have a chat with you about your ne-er-do-well methods of acquiring objects and finances, and I certainly hope he has WORDS with you. Because when the phone displays a message saying, "This phone belongs to a priest. Please return to the chapel. Page ******* for a reward!" and it still don't bring the phone back, I lose faith in my superpower.

In the meantime, I am wishing I didn't have to go to work before the mail got here, because the phone is reportedly on its way to me right now this very moment. So I can replace my brain at last!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Letter Went Out Last Week

For anyone who missed the letter:

January 7, 2010 Dear People of Epiphany, I am writing to tell you that my time with you is drawing to a close. As you were aware, I have been called to full-time service as a hospital chaplain. We agreed at that time that I would try and work both positions, but at this time, I feel that I can no longer serve the needs of Epiphany. While I am excited to begin this next stage of my ministry, I am sorry that this necessarily means that I will no longer be able to be with you. The two and a half years that I have been at Church of the Epiphany have been, overall, a good time. You enabled me to return to Connecticut, a place I did want to come back to. Southbury was a place that I chose to come to, and I was honored that you chose me as your priest. I have been blessed to work with many faithful, dedicated people. Epiphany has stuck together through some very difficult times, and you are to be commended. You as a parish community have a gift for giving to your town. I urge you to remain engaged in this work, and to continue increasing your stewardship and your outreach. By doing so, you are helping to ensure a bright future for the whole Church. Finally, my last Sunday at Epiphany will be Sunday, January 31. I will be in the office until Feb 6 to wrap up my duties. Please pray for me and know that you will remain in my prayers as well. I will always be thankful for the time that we have spent together. Thank you for all the myriad ways you have changed my life. May God’s many blessings continue to be with you all. Faithfully, The Rev. Elizabeth A.B. {edited}, Priest-in-Charge

My last Sunday will be Jan. 31, with services at 8 and 10AM. I would love to see you!

Awww! Thanks- a few of you who I didn't even realize were reading mentioned you were worried about my name appearing. As a priest, I have a very public persona in many ways- I know few other professions where we struggle with the question of whether or not to put our home phone or cell phone on the answering machine. However, it is true that at least in blog life I try to maintain a modicum of privacy for my beloved M and anyone else in the family. I edited the above letter, and am now pondering the tension between the public and private life of the clergy. Hmmm... (no, I'm NOT procrastinating, why do you ask?)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year's concepts.

Well, I'm not much for resolutions. They are far too mainstream, and as I'm sure you've noticed, I'm a vagabond, baby. That means I don't do mainstream. But I do like to have a few good strong concepts that I like to sort of focus on. In fact, I do well with obsessions. Like books, bentos, and naturally, bikes.

I had lots of fun at REI with my nephew yesterday. He made me so proud... marching right up to the bikes, grabbing a helmet, and demanding to go "UP!" on the one with the red flames. Kate will be proud that he selected a bright pink helmet. He later spent about ten minutes climbing in and out of the bike trailers. His dad HAS to get that boy a trailer and start riding with him. He could get his kid hooked like THAT.

Meanwhile... ever since crashing and breaking my hand (badly), you might think I'd have gained an ounce or two of common sense. Unfortunately, if anything, my bike obsession has gotten worse. I am already looking forward to a SUCCESSFUL Mad River Century in Vermont, at the Hyde Away Inn owned by the super-awesome and really sweet Margaret. I can't wait for a good ride this year. I'm walking those train tracks, though...

I'm starting to wonder how soon I can get back on the bike. I started squeezing brakes on REI bikes yesterday, and discovered that it hurts and it's hard... but not impossible! If I can get some serious squeezing rehab in, I could theoretically start getting back out for short rides as soon as the stupid weather goes over 45. I have cold-weather stuff for riding comfortably down to that temp. Hmmmm...

And so, I think this is going to be the year I work to return to what I call my "fighting trim". I want to feel at my fittest again, as if I could leap on a bike and ride a 50 miler without even thinking about it. I want to think about commuting on nice days. Okay, so I'll be riding my road bike on the centuries from now on (even though it crashed me out, I love it anyway), but you get the idea. By the end of this year, I intend to formally ride at least two big rides, attend as a spectator for one big race (more on that later), and maybe even do some commuting. Oh, and not crash. Let's throw that in there too. No major bone-broken crashes this year, 'k?

That's only one big thing, but it's a fun obsession, and as we all know, resolutions are easier when you are obsessed about them. It might just be time for my regular Sunday afternoon gym run... (Walking, naturally. After high winds forced me off the highways this AM, I am very grateful to live in a walkable community!)