Alright, so, I had wanted to see Black Swan for weeks before I did. It premiered, it went to a major market release...but it didn't make it to Jackson. And then, one day, it was at Malco. And I was very excited.
Gates and I went to see it one afternoon....and it was horrible. I don't mean that the cinematography or the acting was terrible - it was a well shot, well acted movie. But I hated almost every minute of it. I did not know that I had signed up to see Natalie Portman slip into insanity...and watching that journey made me anxious beyond belief. The scenes where she pulled at her cuticles....there are no words for how awful they were. If I had possessed an ounce of sense, I would have left...but leaving seemed like the wimpy thing to do. After all, it was just a movie, right? And the make-up was awesome, if nothing else.
So I was jumpy for the rest of the day. And then I had nightmares for two nights.
Over spring break, Gates took the EYC from Chapel of the Cross to see The Unknown. I went with them, because it was my day off. I had heard that it was good - and I have liked Liam Neeson for years, thanks to Love Actually. But the poor guy couldn't figure out who he was - his wife wouldn't talk to him. And the camera work was full of spins and other obvious visual representations of confusion.
I made it about forty-five minutes in the movie before I left.
Then I told Gates I would see him later and went to Hudson's.
Next movie I see in the theater is a romantic comedy.
When I was in the ninth grade, a group of us managed to convince our parents and the curate at Mediator in Meridian that we should go to New Orleans for our annual EYC trip.This was not an easy task, particularly because we wanted to go to the first weekend of Jazz Fest.I don’t really remember too much about the music that weekend, but I have vivid memories of seeing the Quarter at night for the first time.I was one of five baffled fourteen year olds – all of us properly astonished at the sights and sounds of the street.
But of all the sights that surprised me, the one that seemed most outrageous was a middle-aged man with a beard holding a huge cross.As I walked by, he handed me a pamphlet and screamed, “Have you been born again?”Needless to say, I did not answer.I put my head down and kept walking.
It was not the first time I had been asked that question, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.But at that point I really had no idea what it meant.My first problem was that, like Nicodemus, I took the question literally.Since it didn’t make much sense from that point of view, I didn’t know why anyone would ask that.Secondly, I had never paid much attention to this story, so I definitely did not know that Jesus had said we must all be born again.I thought that language had been created by someone out there – maybe preachers in other denominations - who told their flocks to go out and question the faith of everyone they met.
Since I didn’t have the knowledge of this story necessary to get the question, it seemed like he was making an accusation rather than beginning a conversation.That’s actually been my impression many times when being asked whether or not I was born again – that the person asking me was doubting my faith, my ability to relate to God, maybe even the Episcopal church’s relationship with God.
And that’s a sad, sad thing.Because I am positive that Jesus did not intend for this metaphor to create differences of opinion between Christians.Rather, he intended to make a point about all who believe.That point, it would seem, is that we are all new people as we come to believe in God.The Holy Spirit is with us in all things – guiding us, helping us to live the very best way that we can.We are no longer just the product of our human parents, we are now reborn with the Spirit.If we can remove all of the otherconnotations we may have from these words, we will find them to be quite lovely, even poetic.
After all, for most people there is a deep reassurance in knowing that Christians are not alone - God will always be with us.For many people, it is a relief to imagine that there is a way to begin anew, leaving behind the things that prevented them from being the people they wanted to be.And for some, whose parents were unable to care for them as they needed, there is an abiding comfort in the knowledge that the Holy Spirit is another source of love and guidance.
So maybe it’s time for us Episcopalians to reclaim this concept of being born again.It’s okay that Episcopalians are not really known for asking people if they have been born again, or if they have been saved, or really asking too many questions about someone else’s faith at all.It’s just not our thing.I would say that our thing is to let our faith be known through our actions.We are far more likely to be found building a home with Habitat or sorting canned goods at Stewpot than to be seen walking Bourbon Street late at night looking for converts.We show others that we are new creations in God by the way we live our lives.
In that way, we are a good bit like Nicodemus.As we heard, he came to Jesus to ask questions at night – out of the sight of the crowds.He was leader of the Jews, and as such, he was not interested in loudly broadcasting his interest in Jesus.He took the less public route to discuss his faith.
But Nicodemus appears twice more in John, and in his third appearance Nicodemus is the one that comes to help Joseph of Aramathea prepare Jesus’ body for the tomb.When he is needed, he is ready and willing to be of service to Christ.He is ready to do the work that needs to be done, and he is not afraid for everyone to know that he believes.
Perhaps our task in this church is to follow his example, to continue to be the hands and feet of Christ in this world, finding new ways to be more visibly Christian in our actions.After all, there are many simple ways that we can identify ourselves as Christians without rudely imposing our beliefs on those around us.
For example, over the past six months of marriage, I have been learning a new discipline of saying grace at restaurants.You see, Gates never fails to say a prayer – out loud – before eating.I, on the other hand, have always been content to say a silent prayer when in public, mainly because I feel awkward.I feel awkward praying while waiters are trying to refill glasses and I feel like everyone is watching me do this weird thing.
But now that I’ve been praying with Gates for a while, it’s better.I still feel awkward, but less so.Sometimes, it’s even okay.I have realized that generally, waiters are just trying to do their jobs, not dissect our behavior.And, maybe, someone who has seen us pray has been one of the hundreds of people in this town who are unsure if this Christianity thing is worth considering.Maybe, somehow, it helped further the mission of the church – and maybe not.
The truth is, of course, that we may never know who is impacted by our actions.We may never know who will see the light of Christ in our lives and be born again into a new life with the Spirit as a result.We can only continue doing what we do to the best, living out our faith in this world as the new creations that we are.
Abita strawberry is delicious. If you have not had the pleasure of meeting abita strawberry, this is what you should be looking for:
(the radiating lines are to represent the awesomeness emitted by this product)
The Abita makes a variety of beers - some that are available all year and some that are seasonal. They call some of the seasonal brews, "harvest brews." I have no idea what the difference might be.
Anyway, here's the description from their site:
"Strawberry Harvest Lager is a wheat beer made with real Louisiana strawberries, picked late in the season when they’re at their sweetest. This brew has earned quite a reputation in a short time, causing the brewery to up their production year after year."
Unfortunately, this is the sight I have encountered everywhere in Jackson,
even after a facebook appeal:
(if you can't make this out,
it's the Abita strawberry label
with nothing behind it)
I saw the local distributor in McDade's today - he said that there are four cases at the Sprint Mart in Florence (which is about 13 miles away). I haven't worked up the level of dedication necessary to go to Florence to buy some of it. But if anybody reading this has that level of dedication, please bring me some!
I ordered it from Amazon in anticipation of needing new recipes to try. And it has a ton of recipes that look good. We definitely had a hard time deciding what to try first.
We picked the turkey meatballs in red sauce. Gates cooked while I shredded old EOBs and bills. It was quite the evening of domesticity. We had the sauce over whole wheat pasta. This is, by a good bit, my favorite of the recipes we have tried this Lent. It did take an eternity - mainly because the meatballs have to set up for at least an hour, but the product was worth it.
Anyway, if you are thinking about ordering this book, do it! I was not expecting the lengthy explanations as to why the recipe has certain ingredients rather than others, but it does make you appreciate the concept of the test kitchen.
Gates made chicken fajitas tonight, using this recipe. We were planning to have a fajita salad, so we left out the green bell peppers. The chicken and onions were quite good with baby greens, fresh spinach, tomatoes, avocado, green onions, salsa, and a bit of cheese.
Our only complaint is that the fajita marinade was a bit too liquid-y...so the fajitas had a sauce of sorts that was not ideal for the salad. But, this recipe was purportedly developed by an eight year old (!), so I guess we did pretty well.
I liked having the spices come together from the spice rack rather than buying Fajita seasoning at the store, mainly because I am familiar with all the ingredients.
For comparison, here's the list of ingredients in one brand's fajita seasoning packet: maltodextrin, spices (including black pepper), salt, onion, garlic, corn syrup solids, caramel color, lime juice solids, citric acid, natural flavors, and modified corn starch. That just seems unnecessary, when the spice mix is not particularly difficult to create.
I did not take a picture...but frankly, it tasted better than it looked.
We got the recipe here. It was very good. We doubled the recipe because we had folks over....we probably could have had a bit more chicken. Or I could have remembered that brown rice takes 40 minutes to cook - as it was, we did not have rice. Friends contributed a salad and a delicious bundt cake.
Changes I made: I did not see the fancy peppercorns at the Kroger, so I omitted those. I also omitted the tomatoes and scallions because we had other veggies in mind. Instead of the chili bean sauce (also not locally available), I used sriracha. I halved the amount because I was worried about too much spice. I also added the juice of one orange so it would be more orange-y. The additional liquid also meant that it could cook down a bit while the broccoli, orange bell peppers, and sugar snap peas got tender - those were cooked separately in veggie oil, soy sauce, and a little bit of chicken stock. Lastly, I did not add the salt. The soy sauce seemed to have that covered.
Things I will remember: This would be easier with a wok, I am thinking. The very hot pan + oil + ginger part was not particularly fun. In fact there was a leaping flame for a second. Also, brown rice takes a long time to cook.
Yep, it was our first Christmas as a married couple. It was also our first Christmas for one of us to have the flu (that would be me) and our first Christmas to host dinner for our families. Which meant that it was Gates's first Christmas to cook a major portion of the meal. Besides the veggies and potatoes, he made a red velvet cake from scratch. It was a big hit.
We had two shades of green Fiestaware, so we decided to get some red place settings to supplement those. I had grand plans of making napkin rings....but ended up putting the supplies in the cabinet when I became too fever-y to function. Our table looked like this:
pretty festive, yes?
Best part: neither of the infants who came to dinner caught the flu.
I don't know anything about being lucky. From a young age, I realized that my sister had gotten all of my family's hereditary luck. She won several grocery store raffles by the age of ten, was always standing on the right square at the cake-walk, and always beat me playing Monopoly by NEVER landing on my property.
My general lack of luck doesn't affect my life too much these days. I have stopped buying raffle tickets and don't patron any of MS's many casinos. But, occasionally, I decide to leave Jackson and go somewhere else. Something happens on every trip that confirms, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the fact that I might should have stayed at home.
My latest example: this February, Gates and I went to Israel and Jordan with a group of Mississippi Episcopalians. One of the most impressive stops we made was to Petra, one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. It's also the temple hidden in the desert where Indiana Jones finds the Holy Grail in the Last Crusade movie.
Before Petra became a national park/tourist site, a group of bedouin lived and worked there. When the government set up the park, they decided that the bedouin would continue to work there, setting up cafes, souvenir shops, postcard stands, etc. They also have a thriving business offering novelty camel rides.
Now, I know better than to try to ride a camel. I am not coordinated. As such, I don't like skates, bikes, horses, or really any situation where I can fall off something and onto the ground. But, the peer pressure to ride a camel was pretty intense. The older people in my group were riding the camels around in a circle....Gates rode the camel around in a circle...Gates really wanted to ride the camel for a km or so, and he wanted me to ride one too. Eventually, I decided that I was being silly and that I could do it. We made a deal with a camel driver to pay him 20 Jordanian dinar for the two of us (about 30 dollars), and he brought the camels over.
Gates got on his camel first. All was well. But....the SECOND that my camel stood up, Gates' camel bit mine. On the tail. And wouldn't let go. My camel went crazy. It ran in a circle, it tried to throw me off...and the camel driver couldn't get it to stop. I was screaming. Gates was trying to talk to me. It was terrible, and I was SURE that I was going to fall off the camel. After what seemed like hours of this, the camel stopped being horrible. I had not fallen off. Life returned to normal. Sure, I cried (out of relief) when I got off the camel fifteen minutes later, but I was still able to take pictures of Petra. And our camel driver got this one of us...I think I am masking the fear pretty well!!
I recently read a blog post where the author listed all of her new year's resolutions from 2010 AND 'fessed up as to whether or not she had accomplished them. I am not much for new year's resolutions...too overwhelming at an overwhelming time of year. But I am great at making to-do lists and checking things off. So this is going to be my official Lenten project - getting as many things on the list below done as possible. And blogging.
try five new recipes
work on the lentil recipe I have for the crock pot
organize the sock drawer
clean out my closets and take things to the salvation army
get the print that we bought in israel framed
get the print that Gates got in south africa framed
print pictures from the wedding and frame them and display them
paint a picture for my goddaughter's door
take the picture to my goddaughter
take pictures of the things my sister and I have painted and get the etsy store running
find abita strawberry, save for easter
plan a vacation for May
see two live music acts
finish the painting I started in our living room
finish reading "the blessing of a skinned knee"
get a plan together to learn more spanish
There's a lot on this list - we shall see how it goes!