Tales of a Midwest Lutheran on the East Coast

Sunday, October 30, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011

Yay! Something to keep my occupied - writing a novel in 30 days! What is NaNoWriMo? I'm glad you asked!

"National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.

Here is a brief synopsis of my novel, called When the Mountains Sing:

Abigail's parents pretty much flipped when she announced to her agnostic family on the day of her college graduation that not only was she going to seminary, she was traveling to a mountain in Hong Kong to do it. There is one more complication - she has a mild form of spina bifida, which makes walking difficult, but not impossible for normal circumstances. But how will she be able to handle herself, alone, in a foreign country, at a school at the top of a mountain? Fortunately along the way she meets several interesting students and professors, and through her experiences, authentically encounters God and deepens her understanding of the meaning of suffering, both personal and communal. 

It all begins on Tuesday, November 1! Wish me luck!!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My Story

Inspired by the moving testimony from a dear friend from college living in Kansas, I too will share briefly why I consider myself part of the 99%. I grew up on a small dairy farm, where my parents and brothers still farm. Life was fairly simple. I didn't have a cell phone and we didn't have a computer till I was in 8th grade, and no internet until high school.We got by, but we were never really well-off.  I'd been on the free or reduced hot lunch program since I can remember, except for one year when we made "too much". That was the year of ham sandwiches for lunch. That was one year out of twelve, for a family of six. But I had clothes and food and books, and that was enough for me. When I wanted something, I saved my birthday money.

Being self-employed, crappy insurance was just another reality for us. Sadly, seminary insurance was a step up for me, and to me, being on ELCA insurance is like a dream! 

Now, my husband and I both went to a private college and to seminary, with the debt to show for it. Similarly to my friend, it would be very financially challenging for us right now to have a child. We are currently doing fine, but that's because we make good decisions (most of the time). But there are many things that we can't do right now, like visiting our families in the Midwest.

Both my husband and I are lucky to be working in a field that gives us great meaning to our lives. But many people don't have that option, and I mourn for them.

This is why I am part of the 99%.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Can you hear me now? Good!

This past week was vacation week for us! On Tuesday we rode the train into NYC to go see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, which took us nearly all day to see! We had no idea that when we got to Battery Park to get the tickets, there would be lines, lines, and more lines waiting for us: lines to get onto the ferry (and to go through a security check point) lines to get into the museum and pedestal of Lady Liberty, lines to get back on the ferry to get the Ellis Island...

But I think over all it was worth it. It was exciting to be in NYC for the very first time and it was cool to see Lady Liberty up close and personal (she's hollow on the inside). The exhibits at Ellis Island were very interesting, since some of our relatives might have passed through there. We even saw a brochure advertising Minnesota from that period! How lost and lonely people must have felt in the great hall, especially when they didn't speak the language.

Here we learned something interesting - only steerage passengers where subjected to the health check. But if you had the money to upgrade to second class, you wouldn't even have to mess with Ellis Island. It was also interesting to see that at the Statue of Liberty, if you had purchased the Crown Tickets (to go all the way up, which were rare and pricey) you got to skip the rest of the line waiting to go through security at the statue - you got to go right to the head of the line. The steerage class is very much alive in many ways.

We were pretty beat by the end of the day, so we decided to skip our other plans to see the 9/11 memorial and Times Square. There is plenty of opportunities to go back, since it is so close! One more thing about NYC - the NJ transit commuter trains were lovely, but the subway is hot and smelly and crowded. We had a much more pleasant experience riding public transit while in Hong Kong. And Penn Station is rather confusing for a couple of first timers (but we didn't get lost).

In other news, last week I had an initial interview with a call committee, and Saturday evening I preached my "trial sermon" at a church nearby, which is the home church of a good friend of ours. As it turns out, I had been there before, in college, when a bunch of us decided to spend a week in NJ. Only God knew then that I would be living here someday!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cluster outing!

Where can you experience 7 people in a van going to see the Faces of Jesus? The Mercer County Cluster, the best cluster ever!

Linda was so kind to offer me a spare ticket to the Rembrandt "Faces of Jesus Exhibit" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I had been to the museum a number of years ago while adventuring through NJ with a friend from the Cherry Hill area - who would have know that we would have ended up here these many years later!?!?

The exhibit itself was fascinating. Up until this time (the 1600s) every painting of Jesus was based on three items: an icon from hundreds of years before, a letter supposedly written describing Jesus by a Roman official during Jesus lifetime (never ever heard of this before) and the famed Veronia's Veil. All seemed to have characterized Jesus with a stern and distant expression, harsh nose, and pale features. Rembrandt decided to paint his Jesuses using, not only a real life model which had never been done before, but a model of MIDDLE EASTERN decent, namely, a Jewish man (as you can see, not exactly your typical "Norwegian Jesus"). This was extremely controversial for his day.

The highlight of the exhibit was seven smallish portraits of Jesus to be used for different larger scenes. Looking at these faces were very moving for me. Seeing Jesus with a very human face and very human expressions gave me the feeling that this was a Jesus that I could reach out and touch, and that he would reach back. Out of all the art about Jesus that I have seen over my lifetime, I think these have been the most striking, the most memorable. I am very glad that I went.

After the exhibit we ate lunch in the cafeteria and made nerdy jokes about some of more vapid looking versions of Jesus, then spent some time wandering around the armory and getting lost. Much fun was had by all. :)

Today I have been preparing my heart and mind for my upcoming interview, which is fast on the heels of Beau's installations service. I have also been working on my "trial" sermon, which, oddly enough, is going to happen at the home congregation of the aforementioned New Jersey friend. God is certainly very funny, indeed.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Stuff I found in the dryer...

Over the last few days I have beginning to feel a bit antsy again. My "time off" has been fine - watching interesting documentaries on Netflix, reading books I've meant to read in forever (currently finishing up Seven Years in Tibet), making home and cooking (and blogging). I've been having crazy thoughts like: I'll join the local chapter of Friends of Sabeel! Maybe go down to the conference in DC! Or maybe I can attend the conference in NYC with Thich Naht Hanh! Or go protest with Occupy Wall Street! Or maybe volunteer, say at the soup kitchen in Trenton. Anything! Give me something to do! (besides laundry...)

Beau says I should continue to enjoy my time off (he would say that :)) Then he reminded me that I have an interview next Sunday and I will need to write my sermon before then because we'll be on vacation the week before I preach. Yikes! That means I'll have to get on that one. At least I won't have to preach on one of those really challenging parables of Jesus in Matthew. In three years, I will pay my dues on that one...

Nothing terribly special planned for the vacay, just a day trip into NYC to see Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, and the 9/11 Memorial. Someday we'll be able to afford to see more. We also sometime want to spend a week in DC taking care of our "West Wing" fix. Boston is on our list to see as well.

I almost forgot to mention that we went "down the shore" last week! The place was nearly deserted, so we had practically the whole beach to ourselves. We stood in awe of the rolling waves of the ocean, the hugeness of it, and the taste of salt and sand on our lips. The ocean is really big, by the way.We had fun collecting shells and racing the waves. Then we went to the aquarium at Point Pleasant Beach and saw some cool fish and sharks. We finished the day in the most perfect way - a caramel apple, which is one of my favorite parts of fall. It was delish.

Our place is finally really looking like a home. Check out our living room, where nearly every piece of furniture is from IKEA!

Here you can see Patches looking out the window at the birdfeeder. We have been visited by many birds, and unfortunately many squirrels too. I'm trying to figure out how to sneak the door open when the squirrels are here so that the cats can give them a good scare. Haven't succeeded yet. I also don't know if the cats would have any idea what to do if they DID catch one. :)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Wells Fargo Listens!

This just made my day.

A few weeks ago I sent an old Visa card that we use through Wells Fargo BACK to the their headquarters. I sent it there a) because I had gotten a new one and b) nearly credit card, including those from WF are made of PVC plastic, a cheap and toxic material that is hazardous at all stages of its "life." Now that I was through with it, I didn't just want to throw it away and have it leech toxicness into one of seven (or more) toxic waste dumps within New Jersey. Thanks to a tip from Annie Leonard's fantastic book The Story of Stuff, I send my old card back to the "manufacturer" with a letter detailing the noxious effects of PVC. I also challenged them to live up to their professed commitment to the environment. I did my part for this one time, and that was that. Next thing please.

Until today.

Here is (parts of) a letter I just received from WF:

Dear Lydia Nelson: 

Thank you for returning your VISA card to Wells Fargo Bank, since you now have a new one... Your letter expressing your concerns about the PVC, which can be contained in plastic cards, was referred to Wells Fargo Customer Connection for review and response. 

Our Vision and Values addresses the fact that Wells Fargo has an environmental commitment to run our company as efficiently as possible, reducing paper and energy use. We have set a goal to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, have a comprehensive recycling program, and are using energy-saving design elements in our new banking stores. Your feedback, encouraging Wells Fargo to lead the charge in stopping the use of PVC in our credit and debit cards, has been forwarded to the appropriate management personnel, in order to be considered when making future business decisions.

We sincerely appreciate you taking the time to make us aware of your concerns and for providing an opportunity to improve our service. (The rest is about how to contact them for further questions).

HOW COOL IS THAT!!! Can YOUR bank do that? Thanks, Wells Fargo, for responding for one person trying to make a small difference in the world. Hopefully someday soon we be one step closer to ridding ourselves of PVC.