Sunday, July 20, 2014

I belong with you, you belong with me

Another beautiful week for three generations to rest and play together. We sorely missed those who couldn't be with us this year. To put it in the words of my 11-year-old nephew, "People in this family keep disappearing." 

I tried to tell him that's part of family -- the ebb and flow of our lives coming together and apart for seasons of time. Neither one of us was too happy with that answer. 

Still, I am grateful.  

HFV2014 by Slidely Slideshow

"I think it is a very important thing to pray for a vacation that will help year by year to keep the family close together and to make a reality of something to share. It is not just the physical, psychological, and emotional rest that is needed, it is a great help in discovering gaps in our relationships which need mending or real loneliness that is growing because of never having time to talk about certain things or to make discoveries together. To play together in sand, swim together, discover new fish together, hike in the mountains together, read books in strange and new places together, eat strange foods in new surroundings together, bicycle through winding roads together, walk through old city streets together -- whatever it is you like to do gives an atmosphere which will melt away some of the "scratchy places" in your relationships, and which will remove you from some of the ordinary irritations of day-by-day life. But don't expect too much! If you expect perfection, then a vacation can be the most dismally disappointing time of the year."
- p. 195, What Is A Family? by Edith Schaeffer

Thursday, July 03, 2014

5 Favorites: make, do, listen, watch & read on 4th of July + other great links from this week

before the list, here's a a favorite image from our week

Our first day of vacation!  Running into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Saint Simons Island, GA after too many years of not seeing it, my daughter and I squealed "We're just East coast girls!"  Also, from the photo, can you tell which one of us works in an office all day and which one works outdoors at summer camps??

5 favorites: celebrate 4th of July 

-- 1 --



-- 2 --


This Land is Your Landa Woody Guthrie cover from Jason Harrod

-- 3 -- 


John Adams from HBO (on Amazon prime)

Brian and I love this mini-series based on David McCullough's Pulitzer-prize winning book and the life of one our nation's most passionate founders.  It helps that we also love the actors Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney as John and Abigail.  

I've mentioned before that one of my favorite sentences from this man is his confession "I have no talent for politics."  And whatever is or isn't true about the stories we tell about our nation's infancy and those who gave it birth, it's impossible to deny a certain nobility we'd do well to imitate.  (Not to mention the beautiful marriage partnership between John and Abigail.)

Even if you only watch the first two episodes around the time of Independence Day, it'll be well worth your time.

-- 4 --




Other good vacation-related words I found online 

  • Shipping Out: on the (nearly lethal) comforts of a luxury cruise by David Foster Wallace: "I have now seen sucrose beaches and water a very bright blue. I have seen an all-red leisure suit with flared lapels. I have smelled suntan lotion spread over 2,100 pounds of hot flesh. I have been addressed as "Mon" in three different nations. I have seen 500 upscale Americans dance the Electric Slide. I have seen sunsets that looked computer-enhanced. I have (very briefly) joined a conga line."  A wickedly funny read.

      and, on the subject of roadtrips...
          • Walker Percy and the Recovery of Place at Front Porch Republic: "We are adept at identifying points of interest, but pay scant attention to the importance of our approaches to exploring them... What Percy’s strategies aim to do, in part, is to put the traveler into a state of willingness and hunger to encounter the world as it is, to discover the great sights with the freshness, the newness, that is so much of what we seek from them."

          • Airbnb CEO: Cities Are Becoming Villages at  "At the most macro level, I think we're going to go back to the village, and cities will become communities again," he added. "I'm not saying they're not communities now, but I think that we'll have this real sensibility and everything will be small. You're not going to have big chain restaurants. We're starting to see farmers' markets, and small restaurants, and food trucks. But pretty soon, restaurants will be in people's living rooms."


          A celebration-filled weekend for us all, dear ones. 

          Tuesday, July 01, 2014

          The 14th Annual Epic Family Tradition

          I made a "best of" post from our annual epic family fest of a vacation. First an excerpt from a post I wrote in 2009 then a highlight reel from 2013 and then some "best of" photos and links from previous years:  ...............................

          2013 - Canandaigua Lake
          From 2009:

          For thirty-eight years I have relished the few days of summer carved out to be with my family. Away from the normal spaces and tasks of life. We have shacked up in a variety of lodgings (most of them cheap...except for the few years some of us were making money) and whittled away the daily hours with all sorts of activities. 

          There are, however, a few constants: a body of water (everything from the Atlantic Ocean to the Saint Lawrence River to Stump Pond), a cornucopia of food (everything from steak and shrimp to hot dogs over the fire and, always, a macaroni salad), and hours upon hours of togetherness (thirty-eight years ago it was just me and my parents and now there are nineteen of us!)

          At times, I think we have been guilty of idolizing this togetherness. Propping it up as a cardboard cut-out of giddy glee over top of hidden shame and dysfunction. I'm sure that in the next thirty-eight years that will occasionally be true again. For myself, I feel like I am in one of the healthiest places ever to genuinely enjoy this annual festival of our family --without hanging out at one or the other extreme of idolizing or despising.

          That does not mean the temptation no longer exists. Even feel like a Jekyll and Hyde tug-of-war several times a day during the time that we are together. Happily, I find myself now more able to be present in the moment, aware of what I am feeling and why and free to enjoy the time as a whole person standing tall in the secure love of a perfect Father.

          This togetherness marks us and marks our years. We remember vacations as the year Young-Mee was seven months pregnant with Ethan or the year Ryan had to work in Virginia and couldn't join us or the year Wes' back was out and he had to lay on the floor most of the time

          The very act of planning our times together marks our personal and family histories: do our activities accommodate the very pregnant? how can we afford a beach house when three of us have been out of work this year? what date will we pick that fits around the ebb and flow of work and travel and college schedules?

          When we were little we planned our days around each other's soccer games and shower preferences. Now we discover we still have more to learn about compromise and selflessness. Coordinating the group to value three generations of individuals is a task of large proportions. Also a great joy.

          If someone were to ask me, I'd say that we still have a ways to go in this learning of family as a whole and as individuals. As a divine excuse to huddle in together outside the world and harsh reality. As a place to know and be known. As a place to honor and respect. Also laugh out loud at ourselves. Even if this glorious celebration of family each summer winds down to just one beautiful meal under a picnic pavilion on a July day playing horseshoes, looking at aging photo albums and eating macaroni salad I hope it takes us at least another thirty-eight years to figure out what family means.
          Father, please let the Hill family vacation always reflect lives soaked in prayer and centered in Jesus. Let us always keep in mind that we are flawed and allow us to laugh often and easily at ourselves and any creeping pretensions of "holiness." Please help us to trust always in letting ourselves be loved by God as more important than loving God in some kind of mechanical way. Please help our family to never distort the face of a beautiful God. (adapted from a prayer written by Brennan Manning)
          2013 vacation video: In Three Words


          2006: Bethany Beach, DE

          Family bonding

          2007: Sodus Bay of Lake Ontario, NY

          2008: Stay-cation in Newark Valley, NY

          2009:  Camping in Ithaca, NY

          2010:  PA, in the Poconos

          Sunday, June 29, 2014

          5 Favorites: Books I Read in June + other great links from this week

          before the book list, here's a a favorite image from our week

          a high-tech, low-production day at work this week
          GO USA!

          5 favorite reads in June 

          -- 1 --

          21  The Anglican Way: A Guidebook by Thomas McKenzie, 2014.

          Friends who've a) journeyed with us many years and b) wondered why we've made the decision to not only be confirmed in the Anglican church but also for Brian to be ordained as an Anglican priest, may I suggest this wonderful new book? I'm loving that it's comprehensive over the history of Anglicanism (i.e., what the heck is up with Henry VIII??) but also that it is accessible and current in its description of a way of worship embraced by 80 million people across the globe today.

          Here's a good review:  A Review of the Anglican Way by Thomas McKenzie at Anglican Pastor

          -- 2 --

          22  The House on Beartown Road: A Memoir of Learning and Forgetting by Elizabeth Cohen: (Random House New York, 2003. 270 pages)

          Since moving across the country in 2011 my fascination for history and analysis of my hometown has increased.  After a conversation with my mother and sister-in-law during their visit, I got onto my online library catalog and searched by all the names of the little towns I grew up in and around:  Binghamton, Endicott, Johnson City, Endwell, Broome County.  Exactly 3 titles came up and this is one of them.

          Read a summary at the book's Amazon page:  

          And why haven't I read it yet?  It's well written -- both poignant and funny.  And the author is one of my favorite columnists from our hometown newspaper.  While it didn't do much for my historical understanding of the place that raised me, it did remind me that I come from such a small place that I actually knew almost everyone Ms. Cohen referenced in this book.  The sweet neighbors across the street are the in-laws to my mother's college roommate's sister.  The nanny was one of my customers when I made my living from sales.  In fact, the nanny brought the delightful Ava (Ms. Cohen's daughter and a primary character in this book) to my house one day when we were getting to know each other.  

          Anyway, that's not the point of the book.  Except it is -- the neighborliness of small town folk plays a major redemptive role in this story and is one of the attributes I hope to take with me no matter where I go from here.  Hopefully, Ms. Cohen has done the same.

          -- 3 --

          23  Bodies in Motion and At Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality by Thomas Lynch(W.W. Norton & Co., 2000. 273 pages)

          Oh my, I enjoyed these essays.  I read the first of the collection with my writing group a couple of years ago.  Really, how can you put down a book that starts with this sentence:  
          "So I'm over at the Hortons' with my stretcher and mini-van and my able apprentices, young Matt Sheffler, because they found old George, the cemetery sexton, dead in bed this Thursday morning in ordinary time."
          Thomas Lynch is a writer (essays and poetry) but he is also an undertaker -- second generation of an Irish Catholic family in an idyllic town in Michigan.  His work caring for the dead and their grieving loved ones provides a perspective most of us do not bring to our blank pages.  Grief informs him through his daily encounters at work, but also in his daily life as a single Dad, recovering from divorce and alcohol, teenagers and a hearty, hostile cat.  

          This is a book I want to own and visit again often. 

          -- 4 --

          24  The Best Spiritual Writing 2010 edited by Philip Zaleski(Penguin Books, 2010. 1985. 30 essays, 239 pages)

          -- 5 --

          25  A World Lost by Wendell Berry (Counterpoint, Washington, D.C., 1996. 151 pages)

          I forgot I'd already read this book until I got a few pages in.  Still I kept re-reading -- not necessarily because it's my favorite story Mr. Berry's ever told of the Port William folk, but it's definitely my favorite character description.

          Don't you just feel like you know these people? The book has so much more delicious description, but here's a small taste:
          I would hang up without replying, get in to my clothes as fast as I could, and hurry through the backstreets to the apartment, where Aunt Judith would have breakfast ready. She made wonderful plum jelly and she knew I liked it; often she would have it on the table for me. Uncle Andrew called coffee "java," and when Aunt Judith asked him how he wanted his eggs, he would say, "Two lookin' atcha!" singing it out, as he did all his jazzy slang.   
          To me there was something exotic about the two of them and their apartment. I had never known anybody before who lived in an apartment; the idea had a flavor of urbanity that was new and strange to me. ... We would eat breakfast and talk while the early morning brightened outside the kitchen window, and they would smoke, and Uncle Andrew would say, "Gimme one mo' cup of that java, Miss Judy-pooty."   
          Aunt Judith always asked you for affection before you could give it. For that reason she always needed more affection than she got. She would drain the world of affection, and then, fearing that it had been given only because she had asked for it, she would have to ask for more. 
          For my thoughts last time I read this title, go here

          *Go to my Book Pile page to see my reading lists from 2014 and previous years.*


          Other good words online this week

                  • How to Mourn Online at FT Magazine: This is something I've thought about a lot.  "Is it really ‘strange’ to announce a tragedy on Facebook? Or do we need to celebrate this as a new facet of today’s digital world?"

                  and, on the subject of mourning...
                  •  How not to say the wrong thing by Susan Silk and Barry Goldman at the LA Times: "If you want to scream or cry or complain, if you want to tell someone how shocked you are or how icky you feel, or whine about how it reminds you of all the terrible things that have happened to you lately, that's fine. It's a perfectly normal response. Just do it to someone in a bigger ring. Comfort IN, dump OUT."  (via The Well )

                  lastly, you've all seen this right?  #LikeAGirl


                  A grace-filled weekend for us all, dear ones. 

                  Oh, and Catapult* magazine published one of my -- uh, snarkier -- prose poems this week in their Words issue:  Prick and Drone

                  Friday, June 20, 2014

                  5 favorites: Flour Baby, mama bragging + other good online words from this week

                  Happy Friday, dear friends!!  What are you savoring this weekend?

                  -- 1 --

                  Last week I shared 5 favorite links for great stuff to watch on TV, film or video.  This week I'm retroactively putting this on the top of the list.  Flour Baby is the short film debut by Amber Bixby, one of our favorite comics (who also happens to be dating our oldest son).  

                  photo credit

                  Find out what happens years later when a woman never gave up her flour baby after high school home ec class.  We were already impressed with Amber's quirky + adorable + hilarious comic skills, and now we're impressed with Voltaic Video also.  That we're impressed with Andrew's contribution to this short film probably goes without saying.

                  Flour Baby from Voltaic Video on Vimeo.

                  (Note: if you're thinking about watching this with your younger kids, know there's a small bit of language)

                  -- 2 --

                  So this week I had the fun of seeing both of my sons on television/film.  The juxtaposition of the formats says so much about the difference between these two, who manage to remain best friends.  The truth is -- even though their pursuits seem entirely different from the other -- they each could easily slip into supporting roles in the other's quest.

                  Alex emailed yesterday with the subject: "If you want to see me on C-Span..."  And there he is -- sitting in the background during a legislative hearing with the Committee on Indian Affairs.  He is interning with the Department of Education this summer and living in Washington, D.C. If you are even a little bit as interested as we (his parents) are in seeing our son on television, you can see his boss, William Mendoza, give testimony that Alex helped to research and write at about 23 minutes and then at about 29 minutes you can see Alex (more clearly at 1:37:50) sitting in the second row behind those giving testimony. 

                  United States Senate Committee Channel: Center for Indian Affairs

                  -- 3 --

                  Keeping with the theme of delighting in my kids' passions, here's one of my favorite pictures from Natalie's week of counseling at Camp Nikos. This year marks her third working with Mission: Possible Austin's Project Intercept program and she is never more herself than when she's serving these beautiful, energetic, courageous at-risk kids.

                  Thank God, Natalie's knee has healed almost completely since that scary car accident a few weeks back.  Just a couple more physical therapy appointments and it seems she'll be as good as new.  Thanks be to God!

                  -- 4 --

                  Of course I've already been talking about Kendra here quite a bit lately, her party and our marvel of her stunning life.  I find this experience of seeing my child in a cap and gown to bring an exceptional clarity of mothering insight.

                  -- 5 --

                  Not to be left out, my main squeeze celebrated a birthday this week.  I love celebrating him even though I don't feel like I'm very good at it.  


                  Other good stuff online

                  • Controlling the Narrative at The New York Times opinion page: Thank you to Andrea Dilley for passing this link on.  If you write or read this is excellent insight into the 
                      • How Could This Have Happened by Dr. John Stackhouse: In a flurry of trying to not spew my fairly uninformed opinions in a the handy outlet of a Facebook status, I asked a few trusted theologians to share with me what has informed them on the issue of gun control.  This is piece is brief but intelligent and reasonable and helpful.   Even though it was written in response to the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, in the timeline of humans using weapons to kill humans it's practically hot off the presses.


                      A grace-filled weekend for us all, dear ones.


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