Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic selfhood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be.  
Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Family Day (cajun style, of course)

Today I celebrated the beginning of summer and workplace community with my at-work family. Many crawfish were sacrificed for our celebration and now my hands bear the scent of spent shells, potatoes, and corn. I think its going to take a manicure to get my nails back to normal. [smile] Hope you enjoy the pictures. I've tried to caption them when appropriate.

Laissez les bon temps rouler, Margaret

Bags of live crawfish above... and me holding (just barely) a extra large live crawfish below. The crawfish I'm holding escaped the feast because on of the kids wanted to make him a pet.

Freddy, our warehouse foreman and cook for the afternoon.
Below crawfish hot out of the boiler.

Have you ever eaten a crawfish? It's hard work.
Members of our family pose behind the cake.

Friday, May 30, 2008


I have a confession to make... I love watching the Scripps National Spelling Bee. I'm pretty sure that makes me a nerd, particularly because I've never actually participated in a bee myself. I just find the whole process so exciting! Several years ago when the documentary, Spellbound, was released on DVD. My sisters, Sarah and Rachel who also oddly obsessed with watching the bee, and I quickly rented it for Family Movie and Pizza Night. So when my mother called today to announce that the final rounds of the bee would be broadcast tonight, I knew I had to flip the TV in our work lounge at break to ESPN because as any ardent fan of the Spelling Bee knows the semi-finals are always broadcasts the morning prior to the final. Live. Then at lunch in my apartment I searched for ESPN again to see the last few rounds before the evening's finale. (I say search for ESPN because I am hopelessly without any knowledge and very little interest in organized sports. I do like baseball- particularly watching the Braves- but I'm getting off the subject.)

Why watch the spelling bee? Well, I love the shear emotion of it all. Mostly the kids are pretty brave and handle what I can only imagine must be overwhelming stress wonderfully. (There was that one kid a few years ago who fainted as he stepped up to the mike.) But to watch them request definitions and pronunciation over and again, its so intense. Inevitably I find myself nodding along with the families as the kids say each individual letter and then cheering or commiserating with the crowd. I've long since given up trying to spell the words before they appear on the screen. I'm a self-proclaimed bad speller (with well established evidence). Only by the grace of a word check option do I publish posts with hopefully few errors. [laugh] Maybe I like to watch the bee because I can't spell. [smile] I definitely admire all of the participants intelligence, by the way have I mentioned these participants are 9-13 year old students.

If you haven't watched the bee before, check it out on ABC tonight at 8PM, EST.

Just wishing I could spell, Margaret

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mock [yeah] ing [yeah] bird [yeah]

This post has nothing to do with the song referenced in the title, although I do love James Taylor and Carly Simon's version of it. Click the link above if you're not sure what I'm talking about. I just happened to see two mockingbirds today "fighting." Have you ever seen that aggressive behavior I'm talking about? This may sound a little strange, but I think its really beautiful. To me it looks almost like a natural dance. Wings flared wide and flapping to reveal the grey and white. It really is the best way to look at a mockingbird.

Just musing, Margaret

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I went to see the latest installment of the Indiana Jones saga last Friday night. I still feel kinda speechless. One thing I will say though is that the whole time I was watching the movie my one thought was "I can't wait to see this again." It was a classic! There's not much I can say that hasn't already been said by critics and fans alike.

I would like to give a short tribute to the score. I'm a huge fan of John Williams. I think he's one of the best movie composers around today. I mean, the music in Jurassic Park when the paleontologists see the dinosaurs for the first time always brings a tear to my eye. Plus, I remember so clearly the first time I played a John Williams medley on my flute in middle school. It definitely wasn't the most intricate transposition, but you could still hear the classic Williams themes. I thought the score of the fourth Indy film was familiar in the best ways and still new and exciting. It was one of the reasons I was looking forward to the movie and Williams totally delivered. Needless to say I loved the use of what I like to think of as Indiana's Theme, but what is really called the Raider's theme. Whenever he's about to appear or save the day the music shifts and you know all is well because Indy's on the way. So bravo John Williams!

That is all the gushing about this movie that I'm going to allow on my blog, I think.

Just, Margaret

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More reflections from NYC

After each of us (the other US-2s, me, our MIRYAP, and program facilitator, Linda Craine), finished and share our credos we joined all of them together to form a community credo. It is such a beautiful expression of hope and I'm so glad I could be a part of its creation. Please enjoy. As you read it imagine 7 different voices each sharing a small part of ourselves.

Just, Margaret

US-2 2006 Credo End Term

We believe...

We believe in God, all else becomes possible
We believe we are intentionally created
We believe that everything that Christians are called to do leads to peace
We believe we will see our humanity, your sacredness as a collective body
We believe we will hold on to our willing souls
We believe in the truth of what we hope for
and hope the truth of our beliefs are reflected in our life
We believe people are worthy
We believe if we invest our time and talents in cultivating intimacy with God,
and do so consciously, we will develop toward becoming whole and holy.
We believe we find power in our names
We believe peace is not to be withheld from any man, woman, or child,
for we are all God’s beloved creations
We believe with each new discovery of value we will find the rhythm of our souls
and we will become boundless, harmonious, peaceful... beings
We believe we are not puppet masters, but rather lowly shepherds in God’s pasture
We believe we love so others might catch a glimpse of God’s greater love
We believe we can always try to be better
We believe we read it once to determine what the content is about,
we read it twice to notice the fine points,
we read it slowly the third time so the new information becomes our own
We believe we are capable of creating and naming change
We believe we long for peace, love, hope and mercy
We believe we are intertwined by the spirit of value
We believe we will use all three of our visions to evaluate our true intentions
We believe goodness lies at the core of humanity
We believe loving God means loving others

Thus we believe

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

I just finished my latest book for the local book club I belong to, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. This is the book that I read while in the airport last week and I could not put it down, which is a rare occasion with book club reads. I found it so compelling. I'm not sure if you are like me, but I have lots of books that I love and a few (about five) that I would consider favorites. Theses are the books that I have to have my copy of with me at all times. They are the first things I unpack and place in a new home. Well, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter has made it on to my favorites shelf, but tragically I don't own my copy... yet.

So pick up the book and read it if you haven't. I will give you fair warning: The rest of my book club were not fans. They found it a little too depressing, which I found quite odd. To me the book radiated hope for human connection.

Just reading, Margaret

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Group Photos

I forgot to take any group photos while in the City, but thanks to Mary Beth Coudal of Global Ministries media department I have these two to share.
Pictured from top left clockwise: Harris, Adam, me, Emily, and Christina.

Just glad to have good friends, Margaret

Friday 5/16: A rainy day in the city and my credo

A rainy day in the city, not the best day to create the photo of humanity that I hoped to get. But this is the area I was observing yesterday and I still really find it hauntingly beautiful in the rain.

Other daily activities have included writing "our stories" for press releases and taking group photos. I hope to have a copy or two of the photos to share soon. The day came to a close with worship and a sending off ritual to celebrate our time together. After dinner, YouTube and evaluations were on the agenda. But one of my favorite activities this day was writing our credo. Mine is still very much a work in progress, but I did want to share.

This I believe...

Life is a journey toward
"authentic selfhood."
Whether I am 24 or 100
who I am still remains
somewhat a mystery to me.

I find reassurance in believing that I am created;
-part of a whole
-not alone
-intentionally made.

I find identity in believing that I am named;
-distinguished from the rest of creation
-many names to represent one me
-Margaret, student, missionary, sister, daughter, friend.

I find purpose in believing that I am called;
-not passive but active
-embracing social responsibility
-capable of creating and naming change.

This I believe.
Just, Margaret

Monday, May 19, 2008

Thursday 5/15: Brunch with a View

Today our schedule is a little more relaxed which affords me the opportunity to people watch-- a favorite City past time. For a young woman of rural lineage there is always something to watch, to see. Tartine, a French cafe on West 4th Street and West 11th Avenue is my observation tower today. I'm amazed at how much there is to see on a Thursday mid morning. This is not a busy corner by New York City standards, but it sees more traffic than any of the places I've lived. While enjoying my croissant with raspberry jam and latte, I've probably seen about a hundred individuals... grown men on scooters, old women hailing cabs, the NYC fashionista strutting down the sidewalk as if it were a runway, a NYC transplant with her visiting parents, bicyclists, power couples, the artist, dogs of every shape and size with their owners, and more nannies with strollers than I can count. There is some beauty in it all, a timelessness. I can't help but feel like something is missing. I wonder if anyone is seeing what I do. Everyone is moving so fast passing one another and avoiding eye contact. What can a culture such as this create. We are all parts of a whole, but without interaction does that mean we are incomplete. At this moment I want so to record my vision of humanity, but I have forgotten my camera. I guess my words must be sufficient.

Just watching the world, Margaret.

Wednesday 5/14: At the General Board

Today we visited the General Board of Global Ministries at 475 Riverside Drive, a.k.a. the God Box. Something I always find very fascinating. Whenever I step in the doors I have this feeling that I will work there someday. But as we were in sessions literally from the time we arrive at 10AM to 6PM I don't have much to record that I think would be of much interest.

So I just wanted to share that today is my Mom's birthday! Happy Birthday! Love you!

Just, Margaret

Tuesday 5/13: Salsa Dancing and a Tapas Bar

This afternoon we had a little free time. What did we do? Venture to Chelsea Market for free salsa lessons followed by a dance. Okay so I can see all of my friends' faces with mouths open in astonishment. Yes I danced. Actually I danced with about 15 different men... and maybe that was a bit misleading. I only danced with most of them for a few minutes each during our lesson, but I think it still counts. I did try out some of my moves on the dance floor following the lesson with Harris and some random guy. But it was definitely a combination of passing from partner to partner and my new shoes that gave me the awful blisters on my feet.

I love the photo below because even though its not in focus and that's not how I looked when I was dancing, but it was how the whole experience felt.

After dancing, Christina, Emily, and I went to a tapas bar (the guys bowed out), Cafe Andalucia, with the cutest old bartender from Spain about a block from Times Square.

Just dancing, Margaret

Sunday 5/11: All Day in the Airport

I've had lots of time to think and reflect today. With a layover in Memphis from 10AMish to 2:30PM-- I'm sure you can imagine what my day has been like. Needless to say I've done quite a bit of exploring. Airports are different from any other human space. Things can happen in airports that don't happen anywhere else. Interactions with people are just different. I can't quite put it in words. Maybe it has something to do with everyone being in transient. Airport terminals are common ground, a neutral zone, no one's home turf. They are definitely one of the best places to people watch. A couple of years ago while in the Athens' (Greece) airport I remember watching this couple say goodbye. So many emotions in such a short gesture.

Back to my day... I have to say that despite the "fun" of the airport my favorite times today have been while I've been in the air. There is something about being above it all -- in the air-- that clears my mind. During my flight from Lafayette for some odd reason I began to remember the story of Amelia Earhart, "a childhood hero." Disappearing in the clouds on the cusp of achieving her dream is so sad, but also really liberating. I'm not sure why Amelia Earhart was a hero. Perhaps it was the pure guts she exhibited with everything she did. Maybe I was just fascinated by her ability to break the barriers impressed upon her because of her gender. I know that the mystery surrounding her death/disappearance added to my desire to know all I could about her. Confession time: When I was in 5th grade I even dressed up like her for a report. Academic over achievement must be in my DNA. The weird thing was that I hadn't thought of Amelia Earhart until today in so long. Wonder what that association means?

This afternoon on a much larger plane to the City, I took in the last glimpses of Memphis as we flew away and experienced that familiar wonder of seeing how small humanity seems from this bird's eye view. I enjoy looking at farm lands best-- the patch work of all the different shades of green and brown. From above divisions seem to disappear and that moment when you are just about too high to see event the insect-sized cars there is a purity like nothing else. Then suddenly you're thrust above out of sight of land and you remember that there is so much more than the small areas where we live and work. The clouds are brilliantly white with shades of grey and blue. Beauty exemplified!

So I guess today taught me that profundity is not something that just is, but must sometimes be waited on. In the big scheme of things four extra hours in an airport really isn't too bad.

Just, Margaret

A week of posts in one day...

Last week I was in out of pocket in New York City. It was such a great time. Nice to be away from work for a while, but also great to see some friends. The whole event was centered around the close of my time in missionary service for the United Methodist Church. It was a graduation of sorts... ending where it all began. So those great people who I began the journey with were there to help think about where we all go from here. It was a really great time to begin the process of reflecting.

Throughout the week I tried to take time out to record what I was feeling, seeing, or doing. So I'll post those thoughts today. I'm sure this won't be the last that you hear of this trip. I'm still processing, but this should help to catch everyone up on what I've been doing over the last few days.

Just, Margaret

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Our Dog

My mom emailed me a cute new picture of our dog, Tootie, this morning and I just had to share it. Really for those of you who know me well, it's amazing that I haven't mentioned her before. Even though my parents got her after I moved away to college, I've loved that dog since the moment we met. I'm even responsible for her name-- its from a movie that we watch just about every year at Christmas, Meet Me in St. Louis. With all their girls away from home now, Tootie is more spoiled than ever, a real member of the family. But lucky for me and my sisters she loves us just about as much as Mom and Dad. One of my favorite things about going home is my greeting from her. Okay that is definitely enough gushing about our pet.

Just, Margaret

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Moving from April to May

I do realize that we are already 6 days into May, but I just changed all the calendars in my office this morning. The process of changing my desk calendar, which serves as my doodling pad and ultimate work "to-do list" during the month, is always an act of remembering. Happily I observe what I've accomplished and though I hate to admit it I also am confronted by those little tasks that have fallen away... those notes I never quite crossed off my list. To-do lists are great when they include items that can easily be checked off, but I have a tendency to work on the items that I deem easy first whether or not there are other things that deserve my immediate attention. Sometimes I might even add tasks to a list that I've already begun working on or almost completed simply for that congratulatory feeling I get with putting a line through that task. (I like to think that this is all pretty normal behavior, but maybe my type-A personality is just playing a joke on me.) Where do all those forgotten tasks end up when I trash my used calendar? Well sometimes they just disappear but today they were transferred to May 6th's to-do list. I guess I better get back to marking them off my list. My goal: For these tasks not to end up on June's list.

Just marking "posting on my blog" off my list, Margaret

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sunday Night Masterpiece Theater

A couple of weeks ago I happened upon the end of Mansfield Park on PBS and ever since Sunday Night has become Masterpiece Theater night. I love it! Each movie is so meticulously made and it just immerses you in the period of whatever story they are telling. Tonight I'm watching Cranford, a story that looks like it will be all about biddy bodies in a small English village in the nineteenth century. Why am I telling you all this? Just to encourage movie lovers to give Masterpiece Theater a go. As I said they are well made and often feature very well known and highly renouned actors. Tonight's performace stars Judy Dench and for you pop culture buffs last weeks My Boy Jack starred Daniel Radcliff.

Just, Margaret