A Moveable Feast

Friday, July 02, 2010

Life Slips By - Don't Forget to Pick the Strawberries

There is so much going on in my head. It's been just over two years since I've posted on this blog. A LOT of water has passed under the bridge. Too much to catch up, except to say I've been a chaplain at the University of Derby in Buxton for just under two years now. My kids are growing up fast - way too fast. They are brilliant. Derek and I somehow manage to keep the domestic ship afloat! Life is a bit in limbo at the moment for various reasons. In the midst of it all, I'm going to try something. I wrote a paper about two years ago on the theme of worship as thanksgiving. It's time to practise what I preach. A long time ago, I was on a busy, hot, sweaty double-decker bus, travelling to work in London - from Denmark Hill to New Cross. I saw a beautiful exchange between a mother and her small son. Smiles, laughter, talking. It's a scene indelibly planted in my head. I relayed it to a friend who called it a moment 'awakened by grace'. Garisson Keillor wrote a piece in the IHT about a year ago called 'Life is Wonderful' - it was all about such moments. In the midst of life - its busyness, its frustrations, its anxieties and disappointments - these are the moments we - I - must dwell in, because they are windows into the meaning of life, the goodness of God, 'on earth as in heaven'. So I'm setting myself a task - I'm not very disciplined, so I'll not take bets on my faithfulness. But I'm asking, by the grace of God, for eyes to see these moments and the discipline to record them as a spiritual exercise.

It's strawberry season. We've got strawberries growing in our garden. We've been charting their progress, and having a competition with our neighbours. This has been fun. Last weekend we went for a walk along the Wye, spotting lots of fish. Higher up on the old railway path, we came upon a stretch full of wild strawberries. We picked and ate and the kids were delighted. To and from school, the kids pick the wild strawberries in Mr Kidd's front garden. The other day, Anna picked some that she wanted to save for Finn (our next door neighbour - her best friend), so she brought them home and put them in a little dish for him. I love children, and watching their delight in small things. Father Schmemann reminds us that all of creation is a means of communion with God. Children often get this in a way that we don't, or have forgotten. No wonder we're told that the kingdom of God belongs to them...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Well, not the kind who helps people, but a doctor nonetheless. Yesterday I was in London for my viva (oral examination of my thesis) and it went as well as I could have possibly wished. The examiners were friendly, put me at ease, said they enjoyed my thesis and then engaged me in some great discussion about it. They asked me to step out afterwards and a few minutes later welcomed me back in and said, 'Congratulations, Dr. Fach'.

I'm not a big one for titles, but that moment was a pretty significant one for me. It meant that two reputable scholars had judged my work to be in their own league, as it were. And they really did - all they asked me to do was fix about a dozen typos. When academic insecurites arise (as they will, as those of you who know me well know all too well), I shall try to remind myself of that moment.

In our department, it is custom to put a sign up on the bulletin board in the hallway to announce the awarding of a degree. Before I left the administrator's office it was up and I have to say, it looked really good!

I am enjoying my first truly relaxing weekend in a long, long, time. A weight has been lifted, I feel great and, if I can say it here, I am really proud of myself. This has been a long journey and it's high time another one began...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I have slayed the dragon

The beast has been submitted.

I am exhausted. My house is a tip. There is, of course, an oral examination in due course, but I am enjoying a huge sense of relief and satisfaction. There are so many things that have been neglected (not least of all my children). So once I manage to relax a bit (which won't happen until Derek returns safely from Somalia), enjoy Easter (which, this year, is also Anna's first birthday!), and emerge from a few of the piles, I'll be up and blogging again.

In the meantime, thank you to everyone who has been cheering me on from near and far. I have been so grateful for your calls, emails, well-wishes and prayers on my behalf.

I have recognised Derek in my acknowledgements, but as most of you won't see them, I want to thank him publicly here. My greatest debt is, without doubt, to him. His support has been incalculable. He has been supporting us financially since the end of our funding, which has not only enabled me to finish, but has also meant a delay in his own research and submission. My deepest gratitude is for the unfailing and unconditional encouragement he has shown me throughout these years. Without his faith in me, this project would probably not have begun and it most certainly would not have been completed. My next biggest project is giving him all the support he needs to slay his own beast.

Lots of love,

Monday, September 24, 2007

Six Months

Yesterday our beautiful Anya turned six months. She is such a delight and it has been six wonderful months. She's already eating for England, on three meals a day (yes, I know...you're supposed to wait until six months before you start any solids...). And she giggles heartily at her brother (actually 'guffaws' would be a better word to describe her laughter).

Yesterday also marked the six month countdown to my thesis submission deadline. So today was the day I set to start in on it again. I solicited the support of my nearest and dearest, knowing it would be difficult to keep all my respective balls in the air whilst not turning into the dull Jack of 'The Shining' fame.

One of my good friends, who has also been through the trials and tribulations of finishing a PhD, responded quickly and urged me to be dull for six months and to do as little extra as possible ('Yes, long term, you want communication and abundance and you want rhythm and you want to go for it etc, but this isn't about that.'). Good advice I think, as is his suggestion to declare an internet/blog/email sabbatical.

So you may not be seeing much of me in the next while. Perhaps I'll post the odd picture without commentary. And I'll check my email, but infrequently.

I'm grateful for your thoughts and prayers.

If we make it, it will be a stellar year - a new baby, a new house, and two PhDs...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Rhythm of Life

It's that 'ahhhhh' moment that happens sometime between seven and eight each night, when the kids are both tucked away in bed (well, one of them is chatting to himself, trying very hard to resist the temptation to call out to me because he's received the 'I'll close the door if you call out again' threat). Chaos reigns downstairs, but before I tackle it (which I do every night in order to maintain my sanity) I'll enjoy a cup of tea and unwind by blogging a bit.

Oh dear, I've just had the 'I want a cuddle call' which is a hard one to resist. The 'I want a glass of milk' or any other call I can resist fairly easily, but the 'cuddle call' pulls the heartstrings of even this hard ass (scuze my French). Most of the time it's just another tactic, but it's one call I don't like to gamble with especially because Lev has talked lately about being scared of this or that...

Good thing I went in - he wasn't scared, but he had stripped off down to his nappy. The wee man is now dressed again and his door is almost fully shut (leaving it all the way open post-cuddle would have meant a complete descent down the slippery slope to the toddler manipulation many of us know all to well!).

A few posts ago, I ended with a note to self to try as best as I could to embrace my life such as it is right now. It must have worked because I can say, in all honesty, that I have really enjoyed the last few weeks. I truly feel blessed to have this time to be with the kids and to take on most of the domestic stuff (yes, I really said that last bit). In fact most days I'm finding it a pleasure.

It's not that I don't want to do anything else (in fact, I'm gearing up to start in on the PhD again the week after next and I'm looking forward to it). It's more that I'm feeling the luxury of having the time to do things I enjoy without having to fit them in on top of work. Like going to the bi-weekly market, getting groceries (strange, I know, but I actually love grocery shopping), cooking (yes, cooking, too), taking a stroll in the park, eating lunch in a cafe - all of which I did today.

Yesterday I even had a moment when I thought, 'I'm pretty good at this'. It coincided with a 'Kramer vs. Kramer' moment. Do you remember the part of the film when Dustin Hoffman and the child make a perfect breakfast? They have their routine down to a science (a stark contrast to the first breakfast they have together after the couple's separation - eggs everywhere, burnt toast, etc.). In the passage of time they had found their rhythm.

Well, there we were in the kitchen (just the kids and I. No fears, Derek and I are still happily married - we were just letting him have a bit of a lie-in). I was flipping pancakes with one hand, giving samples to Lev on the chair beside me with the other (he always helps when we make pancakes), and was spooning banana and rice cereal into Anna with the third. And, oh yes, I managed to get the coffee on, too. I think that was all before 7:30. Before the day was done I had whipped up some butternut squash puree for Anna, made a yummy butternut squash risotto for supper, got a second coat of paint on one wall, a first coat on another, and baked fresh rolls after the kids were in bed.

The house is now very quiet. No sound from next door, so both my beautiful babes are asleep. Derek is in London tonight. My tea is long finished, and I've probably written more than you want to read in one blog. So I'll close my notebook and go down to the chaos that awaits me - strewn toys, supper dishes, cold bath water, coats and bags and a myriad of other things everywhere...each one a note that sounds out the rhythm of my life.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pictures Pictures

Trawling through some old emails, I found these pictures that my dad sent me. They are from when my parents were here after Anna's birth, so she is about 6 weeks old. Funnily enough, today she is wearing the same pink cardigan she has on in the picture with my dad and it hardly fits as you can imagine. And she uses the white head support thingy in the pram and there is little, if any, space between her head and the rim of it now!

As you can see, Lev was taking everything in stride. A new sister in the family didn't disturb his passion for ice cream (especially at Carluccio's)!

Friday, August 24, 2007

'P' is for Progress

And for 'pear' and 'potty' and 'poo-poo' (I'll refrain from googling pictures of the last one). These are pretty exciting days in the Brower household. Lev, Anya and I are camping out at Grandma and Grandpa Browers to give papa some space and quiet while he cracks the back of his PhD. We are having our own breakthroughs here. Anya had her first taste of pears yesterday and some more for breakfast this morning. She seems keen. And Lev has used his potty for the big number two, two days in a row now. Can you imagine the excitement. They are both asleep now. When they awake we will feast on celebratory monkey bread, which Lev and I made this morning, and then go shopping for a treat in the village!

Told you it would be Matt...yup - it's Raffi! Last summer we took out 'Singable Songs for the Very Young' from the local library near my parents' house and listened to it on the road a lot. I remember my aunt and uncle playing Raffi songs to us kids years ago; 'Brush Your Teeth' was the one that stood out in my memory. Anyway, I just recently purchased it along with 'Baby Beluga' and it brought back good memories of our holiday.

For those of you only interested in pictures (other than the ones I download from the web!), be patient. They are all downloaded on Derek's computer and these days I only get access once in a blue moon! But more will come...