Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I'm thinking of making this blog private, so I can talk about things going on in my life that it otherwise might not be prudent to do publicly (like work, for example). If you actually read this blog, make a comment and let me know and I can add you to the list of readers, should I go private. Otherwise I'll just talk about work elsewhere : )

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

More Waiting

I think I wrote a post with a similar title a couple of months ago. Oh well. It seemed apropos to the moment, so I'm going with it again.

Right now feels like a period of waiting for me-for those of you who know me well, you will know that I hate waiting. I'm not usually (at least I don't think I am) overly vocal about not wanting to wait, but there it is. I don't know if impatience is the right word-it's not that I want whatever's coming to hurry up and get here, it's just that I don't like sitting around feeling that I have nothing to do.

So that's where I'm at. It's not that I don't have anything to do. The house needs organizing, I still have thank you's to write, and I want to get started on my Greek. These are important things but they're not...steady, I guess. It's hard to clean the house when my other half isn't here to help figure out where things are supposed to go. Thank you's don't take forever (although it seems like it sometimes) and the Greek will be a steady discipline, but that's admittedly hard to get into when there's no other steady routine in my life.

I think part of it is also that I don't really know what to expect as of September 1. To be honest, I really really want to be going back to school. That's where I feel called to be; but I know something good will come of this year (and hopefully it's only a year!) off. I've started making some inquiries about PhD stuff so I can get that underway.

But back to September 1st...the rector is out of town for another week at the very least. I'll hopefully start moving into my office next week, but I don't know who to contact to get started with Christian Ed and youth stuff or what to expect even. I'm basically taking over this entire Christian Ed set up and getting a youth group really underway (they've had something but I'm not sure how steady it's been) and I don't know how many kids they have or what the commitment level is like. I've started looking at some Sunday School and youth group ideas, but without any familiarity with this place I have NO IDEA if any of it is going to work. It's not exactly anxiety producing, it's just more of a WTF? reaction. I think I've got two weeks once I start to get everything organized for the big program kickoff on September 15.

I think what's hardest about this particular situation is that I can't sit around and start planning in my head what I'm going to do. And in case you hadn't figured it out already, I'm a planner at heart. I like to have some idea of a trajectory in mind whenever I start out on something. This helps me keep big pictures in my view while at the same time allows me to deal with the details. Without a big picture, though, I'm having a hard time with details.

Oh well. I'm sure it will all work out in some way or another. I have, like I said, been looking at youth stuff. J2A is my first inclination, although I'm told that this parish isn't very excited about prepackaged things (which is odd as the Sunday School is a prepackaged thing and has been hugely successful). I may still push for it though; I never went through J2A but it's been successful at every parish I've seen, so it has potential. Slightly different but yet equally exciting, though, is a program through the United Methodist Church called "Synago" (Greek for "coming together"). It's a small group set-up that is led by the students with adult "encouragers" or something of that sort to kind of guide but not really lead. I think this has some really great potential and would be interested in exploring it more. If anyone out there has done Synago or knows someone who has, let me know!

That's about all for me. I'm going to go read now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Fourth Bear, Jasper Fforde

The Fourth Bear is the second book in the Nursery Crime series by Jasper Fforde. Some of you may have read his other (a bit older and perhaps more famous) series, the Thursday Next novels. I was introduced to Fforde through Thursday Next via my mom, and in fact read the 2nd book (Lost In A Good Book) before reading the first (The Eyre Affair). I was hooked. Fforde's writing is not only brilliant, but his use of the literary world is superb. In fact, I read Jane Eyre after reading the Eyre Affair so that I could go back and reread the Fforde book to understand it better. It definitely worked.

With the Nursery Crime series it appears I will be following the same model-2nd book before the first. The hero of the series is Jack Spratt, head of Reading/Berkshire's Nursery Crime Division. In this detective book we are taken to a world so enticingly similar to our own that you may think you'll see an anthropomorphic Bear walking down the street, or an alien Rambosian working on your office ceiling. Fforde's world in the Nursery Crime series (unlike the Thursday Next novels, where it's a parallel reality) is so much like our own that we grow comfortable. Then, at the next turn, a nursery character comes bowling you over just to prove that things aren't always what they seem.

The basic plot of the book is somewhat convoluted, but I guess many detective novels are that way. I personally don't read mysteries all that often, but this didn't strike me as a mystery (although I don't know if "crime" and "mystery" and "Fantasy" all go together but Fforde makes it work). Jack Spratt with his co-worker Mary Mary and alien Rambosian Ashley is dismayed to find that he is not put on the case when the serial killer Gingerbreadman escapes from prison. What would normally be a case given to the Nursery Crime Division is relegated to another part of the force, due to NCD's mess up of the case involving Little Red Riding Hood, a Wolf, and her Grandmother. Spratt is forced to go on "leave" due to doubts about his sanity, so he works on the side with Mary investigating the disappearance of Goldilocks. This takes him into the Ursuline world of Berkshire as well as the realm of extreme cucumber growing.

Fforde is a fantastic writer, and those who may have been daunted by the literary prowess required to read most fully the Thursday Next novels will find in these books that the realm of Nursery Rhyme is king (although if you don't know about Punch and Judy-non Anglophile Americans will likely have this issue-then look them up before you read) and the stories you learned as a child will pop back up in new and interesting ways.

Sound crazy? It is. But it is so deliciously wonderful that you'll keep reading and find yourself alternately craving cucumbers and gingerbread.

P.S. If you want my honest opinion, Fforde's books far outwit and outmatch Gregory Maguire's stuff. I like Maguire, but Fforde is definitely

Friday, August 07, 2009

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

All those addicted to the Travel Channel will be familiar with Bourdain's show No Reservations in which our host and guide travels to various points of interest around the globe and samples the local food culture, usually with his own guide from that particular place. It's a great show. R and I watch it pretty religiously (although the new season I think started while we were on our honeymoon and the 2nd episode was while I was moving): Bourdain is funny, insightful, and (sometimes suprisingly) culturally sensitive. All in all, it's a good watch.

It seemed only natural, then, to turn to Bourdain's somewhat groundbreaking book--at least in terms of his celebrity career--for more of a taste of this guy's thoughts on food. He's written several more, which I would love to read, but until I get my library card I'm limited with this one. I would like to point out, from the beginning, that I am not what you would call a "foodie." I don't think I have ever been to a two star restaurant (via the Michelin guide) not out of dislike, more out of the fact that I can't afford it. But I do like food and am willing to try new things, especially when in new places (Chavappi in Sarajevo, for example...). So it was with excitement that I turned to Bourdain's book on kitchen life.

For those who have watched the show (not Kitchen Confidential, although I hear there was a TV show based on R tells me. Neither of us have seen it though), you will definitely hear Bourdain's voice in his writing. It is unmistakably his and makes for an easy and enjoyable read.

There's some material in there that I am sure will be shock value to some: don't order fish on Mondays, that brunch you New Englanders are so fond of (because you aren't in church!!!) is cooked by the B team chefs and on top of that is not filled with the freshest ingredients, restaurants recycle their bread, sending unused bread back to the kitchen and back out to the tables, etc. I'm not sure why any of this would come as a surprise to anyone--the food industry is just as much about cutting costs as any place else. Besides, if you're eating at a 3 star restaurant, why would you want to fill up on bread in the first place? That's my view anyway. Once you get past these revelations (almost entirely contained within the chapter "From Our Kitchen to Your Table") you can focus on Bourdain's story.

It's the story that makes this book such a good read. There are several chapters that are more along the lines of "how to cook like a pro" or "my typical day" type of things, and those provide useful interludes in Bourdain's turbulent life, but they aren't the real meat of the book. What is so compelling about this, at least to me, is watching this man discover the glory of food as a child, fall away from his goals, and climb back to where he is today, making various discoveries about food (duh) but more importantly people along the way. I think that is what makes Bourdain's show such a draw-it's not just this guy walking around eating stuff-you hear him reflect on his journey pretty honestly. Kitchen Confidential is much the same sort of thing.

So. You don't need to be a "foodie" or food snob to read this book. You don't even have to have seen his show. It's a quick and easy read with some interesting insights into the side of the restaurants business most of us never see-the kitchen.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Grrr...Health Insurance

OK. I've moved to a state where there is "statewide healthcare" which really just translates into "it's against the law to be uninsured." Now, I want to start this by noting that I'm all for a more universal health care system, it's just that the one here is bad. I am experiencing this first hand. Welcome to my saga:

1. The first point of importance is that I have been offered health insurance through my employer. "Great!" you say. "That is wonderful news!" Hold up there, Positive Patty. While I'm not going to quote numbers here, let me just say that the cost of this health insurance is 39.4% of my salary. Let me say that again.


That is, to say the least, ridiculous. Especially when one considers the fact that I have student loans aplenty to pay off-student loans that I took out in order to go to school and be a productive member of society (so I don't want to hear it from the "look at all of those students borrowing money they can't afford" folks. That's crap.)

2. Point number two. R's work DOES have an option for me to go on his insurance. We looked into it, but the ridiculous thing is that the cost skyrockets from his individual plan to adding me on. It's nowhere near the cost of insurance through my work (with R it would cost half of what it would cost for just me through work) but still. Expensive. So we decided to search for other avenues.

3. I started looking for insurance on my own. I found some plans that would save us money, as my work plan is completely out of my price range and the plan at R's work would still cost us a decent amount of money. I found a plan that looked pretty good, with no deductible, plenty of doctors in the area, and decent benefits (like 1 eye exam a year, 1 dental exam a year).

Guess what?

I found out today (because the website for the state that I had been using doesn't tell you this anywhere) that I am ineligible to enroll in an individual plan because I am offered health care through work.

4. See point 1.

Thus is my health care saga. It's ridiculous, seriously. Thank God for R's policy, otherwise I don't know what I would do. Live off of ramen noodles and electric heat, I guess.

Please, Obama and Congress. Fix this. This kind of thing is ridiculous. Ridonkulous, even.

Technical Note

For those of you who are observant and curious, you'll see there are two Hilary contributors. Never fear...they're both me. I'm just lazy and get tired of signing out of one email account and signing into another just to write on the blog. I'd rather just be able to write. So there you go. At ease.

Monday, August 03, 2009

I'm Back!!!!

Howdy faithful readers of a blog with no updates or anything else interesting to say, for that matter...I am back in New England! After a whirlwind (yet great) summer of family, ordination, vacation, wedding, and honeymoon, I am now back in Massachusetts getting moved into what is now our house (instead of only R's house) and getting ready for work which starts Sept. 1. It should be good, although I'm still a little bummed about not starting school in September. Oh well. Hopefully next year...and I think my writing sample this time is much better! I just need to start working on the statement.

To recap the summer, here are some highlights:

1. Ordination to the diaconate. It was a wonderful service and many people came to support myself and the other ordinand. It was on a Friday so R couldn't come, but other than that it was great! A friend preached an awesome sermon that rocked. And then I served the summer at St. Mark's as a deacon which was fun.

2. Family vacation to NOLA. We hadn't gone on vacation since 1994, so this was a big change! We decided to do it about a week before we left-super spontaneous but great! I also got to see my college chaplain while I was there, which was wonderful. It was a great week spent with the fam, just hanging out. All around a good time.

3. Everyday stuff. Blaine playing tball. Blaine learning to swim with the water wings (he's swimming on his back now-kind of)! Gardening, although this year's wasn't as much of a success as last year's. Hanging out with my family. Going to baseball games. Grilling. Sitting in the pool. Going on evening walks with Erin and Blaine and one of the dogs (or two).

4. Wedding!!! It was PERFECT. The reception was perfect. The honeymoon was perfect. R and I couldn't have asked for anything better. It was a wonderful day. It rained (which is supposed to be lucky) but only at those times when we were inside, so the luck was already working for us! Disney World was fantastic as well. It was all good. : ) I will try to post one or two pictures once I have some.

5. Moving. Most of you know how I feel about moving, but it's a necessary evil. Right now I'm unpacking my stuff and getting moved into our house. It's going slowly but I think I can have most of it done by the end of the week, which will be good, as I need to start on thank you's (my project for next week). Once we're moved in and everything is in place I can take pictures of the house and post them on Facebook. Even those who have seen it before will see some new stuff (matching bedroom set, coordinated bathroom and those oh so important curtains).

6. And the summer's not over yet! I start work Sept. 1 so I have about 3.5 weeks to get settled in and such. I'll start moving stuff into my office towards the end of August. R and I are going camping soon. We have furniture to buy as well and maybe-just maybe-kittens!

So that's what I've been up to. I haven't been good with the movie and book reviews. Movie wise I really only saw HP 6 (which was awesome) and re-read the Outlander and HP series. But I DID just finish Kitchen Confidential so I can write a bit about that and about Harry Potter. I'll save that for another day, though.