Tourism at Home

Last Friday and Saturday, Jonathan and I did something we wish we had done long before: we actually walked around parts of downtown Richmond. 

It was his birthday celebration (actual date, June 18 but harder for us to celebrate on Monday), and we began by checking in our room at the Linden Row Inn on Franklin at First Street. This historic row of houses is loving restored and filled with charm.

Then, we walked a couple of blocks to the Elegba Folklore Society on Broad Street–it was the beginning of Juneteenth celebrations, and we were privileged to hear most of a talk by noted Richmond (and nationally known) attorney and left wing social activist, Mary E. Blevins Cox. She was in rare form and we had a great time. I, of course, bought her book.

From there, we began a food-focused journey. For dinner, we walked downtown, passing by the front of Virginia’s beautiful capitol, and went to Addis Ethiopian Restaurant on 17th Street in Shockoe Bottom. We went there for several reasons. First, we truly enjoy Ethiopian food, especially using injera, the larger sourdough-like flatbread, as our fork and spoon. Second, the owner very kindly had furnished some of his excellent food for a program at church some weeks ago. He was a very sweet man then, and he greeted us warmly this night. It was an excellent meal and we had a grand time.

Jonathan had his heart set on a piece of chocolate cake at Captain Buzzy’s Beanery so we climbed Church Hill to 27th Street, only to learn that we had stayed so long at the folklore society and dinner that the good captain had called it a night. So, he had to settle for some chocolate ganache at the River City Diner, back on 17th Street. It was tough luck, but somehow he managed to eat it all (and I ate my blackberry cobbler a la mode, too).

Saturday morning brought the true dilemma. Where to eat the pancakes Jonathan wanted–without meat of course. Everywhere we turned–Strawberry Street and Can Can, for example–pancakes are linked with meat. It bothered him, so we kept looking. And lo and behold, the Galaxy Diner on Cary Street offered some “black hole pancakes” that fit the bill perfectly. What are these diet-busting creations? An Oreo is cooked in the center, and they are topped with strawberry “goo” (the waitress’ term) and whipped cream. Just what the doctor (Dr. Jonathan Lebolt, that is) ordered.

We then waddled home (by car) and picked up Cocoa to go for a hike around the old reservoir near Byrd Park, and took Cocoa to the “Dog Bark” there. While at the reservoir, we met locally famous city park ranger Ralph White and he arranged for us to receive a tour of the old hydroelectric power plant now being restored by volunteers (as a place to hold dances and parties).

Dinner? Chinese delivered from one of our favorites, on our side of the river, Cathay Chinese Gourmet.

A big celebration! And a demonstration of why we like Richmond so much, why Richmond is home for us. Truly a great city. Culture. Food. History. Beauty.

A great place to celebrate birthdays!

A Home Blessing–and Everywhere Else, Too.

A day at home. What luxury! I did not go anywhere today beyond our yard, except to walk with Jonathan and Cocoa in the early morning.

I love my work as Pastor of MCC Richmond–nobody feels more blessed by and alive to his work than I do–and as President of People of Faith for Equality in Virginia (POFEV)–a great passion for justice and transformation in Virginia–and I have no desire or intention of giving either up any time soon (a few years maybe, but not now).

There is only thing that ever pushes against that intention, and that is that I so often have to leave home for this work. Retirement has one great allure: I could stay home lots more.

I am a homebody at heart. And it helps that Jonathan and I have been blessed to own–well, to be buying is more accurate–what feels to us like the perfect home.

Our wonderful home

Today, I prayed, I read, I napped, I mowed, played with Cocoa and walked with him and Jonathan, I began erecting a chicken wire fence around the garden, I cleaned parts of the house, I paid a bill or two online, cleaned out my email inbox a little, played with Cocoa , and oh yes, I played with Cocoa. . . I’d be glad to do it all again tomorrow.

And maybe I will do a couple of those things again tomorrow–walking for sure, playing with Cocoa, maybe a little weeding or trimming bushes . . . and I will also work on my sermon for Sunday, make pastoral phone calls and texts, prepare other things for church, engage POFEV colleagues around the state.

I will do most of it at home! If Monday is my day off, than Tuesday is my day to work at home–not home work, but office work done in my study (a really good project would be to clean the study, too!).

So, as I contemplate the joy of Mondays at home, I can anticipate the joy of Tuesday here, too. And then on Wednesday – Sunday, the joy of work at church, too! And maybe I’ll manage this week to work at home on Saturday, too.

I am blessed, wherever I am (but home is special).

Nine Short, Nineteen to Go

Some readers may remember my post last fall when I revealed my goal of losing 38 pounds–going from 238 to 200–by Easter 2012.

Well, I weighed myself on the morning of April 8, and the scale said 209. I lost 29 pounds–pretty good in 7 months–but not my goal weight.

But I am not discouraged. I have come to appreciate how I feel, and look, and the fact that my clothes are getting loose enough so that soon I will require some tailoring or just new items.

Most of all, I appreciate feeling better, and feeling that food is not running my life. I am not exactly on a diet, but I have changed eating patterns. That is the most important aspect of this. I limit portions, I don’t eat some trigger foods, and I see dessert as a treat to be enjoyed on special occasions. No longer is dessert my reward for simply making it through another meal!

This entire project is very spiritual for me. I am connecting more with God because I no longer use food to shut down or numb my feelings. And I am taking better care of this amazing body that God gave me.

In fact, even though I fell short of my goal, I am feeling so good about this, that I have decided to keep going–with a new goal.

On Thanksgiving Day 2012 (in the morning before meals!), my goal is to weigh 190 pounds.

That weight would put me in the upper range of the BMI (Body Mass Index) for normal weight in my age group. Right now, I am considered overweight. That may not sound good, but I am glad I am no longer in the BMI obese category.

So, nine pounds short, nineteen to go.

I can hear y’all cheering me on. Thanks!

More Network, or Not?

I appreciate much about various new technologies. I am well “synched”with my wonderful iPhone. I love texting, including sending prayers to church members (what I call “prxting”). Face Time with my granddaughter Juna every week is a major high point.  I use email a lot–from my PC and my phone. I Skype with my daughter in Mexico and church colleagues from all over. I tweet a few times a week.

So why I am feeling so overwhelmed by requests to join various online communities–LGBT groups, MCC groups, political groups, theology groups, etc.–on Facebook (which I also enjoy) and Linked In? And others I cannot even remember right now.

The simple answer is time. I don’t have enough hours in the day to juggle all this.

And yet there is something compelling about these new ways to maintain and build connection with people about whom I care, creating alliances with people whose values I share and with whom I can participate in creating a new and better world.

I am a pretty good multi-tasker, so I continue to engage some of this online community demand, but not nearly enough to receive much benefit. Frankly, at the moment, I am mostly showing the flag now and again–just to be sure I am not forgotten.

Obviously, what is needed is some prioritizing. But then that’s always my need. I cannot remember when I did not have too much to do.

So, as in many other things, now is the time for some prayer. Help me, God, to discern what You would have me do.

Sometimes, the old ways, the old media, is what your really need–prayer is irreplaceable as the tool to maintain and strengthen the ultimate network, being in full contact with God.

Pay Close Attention

I really like my iPhone 4s, but there are moments when I think it may be too smart for me, or its own good.

I texted Jonathan this message this morning, “Picked up your mess.” Fortunately, I noticed the message right after I sent it, and sent a correction. The correction was simple: “meds!”

As the messy one in our home, I do not anticipate ever having to send a message, or even offer a comment, to Jonathan about his mess. Jonathan does not do mess.

But this mix-up got me thinking. How many times have I communicated with a confusing or inaccurate message–not because of an active editing function (which I appreciate much of the time) on my iPhone, but because I simply was not clear?

Email is famous for this. People write what we think is clear, and someone reads our message in an entirely different way. I don’t if any global wars have started over emails, but I know lots of smaller conflicts have been instigated or given more life because of emails. Communicating emotional content via email is simply too dangerous in most situations.

I worry about this when I send out weekly pastoral messages, too. I often try to communicate something important (even sometimes some emotional content), and I realize that it could easily be misunderstood.

It is difficult to know how 175 different people will read it. Of course, the best course in any situation where we are offended by someone’s statement is to ask them to explain what they meant.

I know one thing about this incident: I need to slow down a bit, not just with my phone, but in life. I can  utilize new technology but I need to be careful in using it.

I caught the error before Jonathan did, and he responded with humor. But not everyone will feel that way, especially if it is something far worse (a couple of times I have caught this editor trying to “fix” my bad typing–still getting used to the touch screen keyboard–and creating a word I would never send in a message).

So maybe the iPhone is actually teaching me a lesson: pay close attention, messages are important.

A Good Pot of Beans

I made a pot beans last night. This is not unusual for me–I make a crockpot of beans about every two weeks. I truly enjoy rice and beans and eat them a few times each week.

But something changed. I did not use tomatoes.

Actually, let me be more specific. I made a pot of red kidney beans and did not use tomatoes. Jonathan can’t eat tomatoes these days–some skin problems are made worse by tomatoes–so I am not cooking with them.

It has taken me some time to wrap my mind around making soup and beans and stuff like that without tomatoes. For some folks, it would be like having breakfast without a doughnut or bacon, or having church without hymns.

Frankly, for several months I simply avoided red beans and kidney beans, because I could not imagine not including tomatoes. I just made other beans–navy and Great Northern beans, split peas, lima beans, etc.–and pretended it did not bother me. I like all of them, too, but finally I realized I need to face red or kidney beans without tomatoes.

They turned out well. I used a lot of seasoning, more than I used with tomatoes. It was actually fun paying more attention to seasoning (and it helps to have a husband who really knows spices and has a refined and sensitive palate!).

I think I am being taught a lesson–again: namely, that just because we’ve never done it that way before doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try something new.

Will I ever learn this, really?

What’s the Big Deal?

What’s in a number?

Sometimes, not much. Other times, a lot. The numbers in Washington are daunting. It used to be, when I was much younger, that millions were a lot. Then it became billions. Now it is trillions.

So what is the big deal for me about 218?

I weighed myself Monday morning–I do this every week–and I weighted 218 pounds. For the first time in at least a decade, I weighed less than 220 pounds. Glory Hallelujah!

That is indeed good news. And even better is the fact that it says that the changes I have made in my eating habits, and the increase in walking I have undertaken the past several months, are working. I now feel real hope of making my goal of 200 by Easter (April 8, 2012). Already, I can feel the difference; my pants are not so tight. Maybe by Easter, I’ll need to buy some new ones!

Most of all, I feel better already. And I know we’d all feel better if Congress and the President could get some reduction in the national waistline (but in that case, they need to both reduce the outgo and increase the income–sort of like me eating less starch but also eating more green vegetables).