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, November 29, 2008

City sidewalks...

I love listening to Christmas music.  When I was a child our family tradition was to listen to our first Christmas tapes (yes I mean cassette tapes I am a child of the '80s) on our drive back home from Thanksgiving with my grandparents.  It was a rule:  No Christmas songs until after Thanksgiving.  I have to confess that over the last few years of living on my own I've broke the tradition a bit.  Actually I've been listening to Christmas music for about a month now.  Not because I want to hurry on the Christmas season or rush past the goodness of Thanksgiving, but because I like the music.  It just puts me a good mood.  

Last year I got James Taylor's new Christmas album and all the tracks quickly became some of my new favorites.  I have several songs that I like, but the one I want to share is "The River."  It was new to me, but I think the song has actually been around for a while.  Its not what I would call a real Christmas themed song.  Its more of a song about winter and actually the lyrics are a little depressing now that I look over them, but something about it resonates.  The description of winter reminds me of Georgia.  Since its lyrics are so sad I'll add another song with a bit more Christmas spirit for good cheer.  Okay this isn't what I'd call my favorite Christmas song of all time by any means, but its from this video tape my sisters and I used to watch every year and for that reason I love it.  As I remember, Rachel especially insisted we watch it every year.  Warning:  What you are about to watch is very '80s with puff bangs and all.   

Sorry about the links, I was having issues with posting the videos.  

Just, Margaret

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Around the table

Today is Thanksgiving in the US and I'm here in the UK missing it.  Thanksgiving is such a special day and I've tried to explain it more times than I can count to my international friends, but each explanation seems to come up wanting.  Thanksgiving is a day when we as a nation give thanks for our birth, survival skills, ect., but that's just part of it.  And really I have to say its a very small part of my family's celebrations.  I do remember as a little girl dressing up as a pilgrim or Native American (although at the time we still used the term indian) at school complete with the pilgrim bonnet or indian vest homemade from a paper grocery sack and either a wide brim collar or feather in my hair, but it has been a really long time since I've actually thought about Thanksgiving in those terms.  

As I contemplate Thanksgiving today, I envision a large table with my family seated around it smiling in the glow of having eaten their fill (and some overfill) of the bounteous feast prepared by the hands of my grandmothers, mother, aunts, along with help from a man or two I'm sure.  Now as they sit and think about the day one of my grandparents is sure to initiate the long held tradition of speaking our gratefulness aloud.  Each member of the family is ushered to say what they are most thankful for this day.  Much thanks will be spoken for the meal and the hands that have prepared it.  Others will remark about the people in attendance and I'm sure my Grammy or Mom will say something about the family who could not be gathered with them this year.  And to close a reading from the Bible or poem chosen by one of our many United Methodist pastors in attendance and read by one of the now grown-up grandchildren, then a prayer, and perhaps even a hymn.  

Then the meal will end and many hands will make light work of all the straightening up the kitchen and eating areas.  Leftovers will be put away waiting to brought out later that evening and the day after for more repast.  And it may seem like the end of a holiday, but it always seems to feel like the beginning.  Its a lovely holiday and a tradition I intend to keep even while celebrating on this side of the pond.  So I've asked members of my friends and family to join in around the table early this year to share what they are grateful for so that I can now share it with you.  

Liz, a fellow Young Adult Missionary serving in Hong Kong
-Communication.  Being so far from my family, my boyfriend and other loved ones, I have realized how hard we have to work at communication.  It is a gift that should never be overlooked.  
-Solidarity.  It sounds funny, but being in an international community, every time we find something that we connect over, it brings our worlds a little closer. When they miss their families, I understand the pain of separation.  When I'm frustrated with a language I can't grasp, they can tell their own stories of language mishaps.  Laughter, tears, dreams, hopes- they are all the same no matter where you are from.  And that is comforting.  
-Every year I celebrated Thanksgiving in the States, we always say grace over the food- reminding us to be thankful not just for abundance, but for the ability to acquire food, to prepare it to our liking, ect.  Last year, I was humbled with a single meal, nothing related to traditional holiday foods (think tofu and rice), and solitude.  And it made me think of all those who work hard everyday to harvest the rice, to prepare the tofu, to raise the chickens, grown the vegetables... their hard work is to our benefit.  And for some reason, last year it hit home even more that my food comes from the hands of individuals.  To be thankful for their hard work and dedication to cultivating food. 

Barbara, family friend
-the chance to start over every day!
-that the Lord is my Shepherd!

Sally, family friend (claim to fame:  being my dad's first babysitter) and fellow LaGrange College Alum
-The presidential election of Barack Obama which few of us could have dreamed of back in the 60s. 
-Knowing your [mine] family and learning more all the time about being Christian from them since 1957.
-Being married to Albert for 47+ years and sharing in ministry with him across the conference and general church.  
-Our son Dennis, his wife Kim, and their three children. 
-LaGrange College and what it has meant to me for more than 50 years.  
-Good friends across the entire world.  
-Opportunities to travel.  
-Living in a country where I can worship as I wish and come and go at will.  
-Having enough money to live comfortable and being able to share with those less well off.  
-Health and the opportunity to grow old.

Uncle Tim, my dad's brother and one of the many ministers in our family (this is a selection from his weekly email newsletter to his church congregation)
-The grace of God that is beyond all logic and understanding.  It is that grace which primarily defines my life.  The most important core value for me is to figure out creative ways of sharing grace. 
-The joy of reading a good book.
-The profound wisdom of children.

-I'm thankful that my number one grandchild is getting a chance to fulfill her childhood dream of studying archaeology at Bristol University no less.  
-I'm thankful that we have elected a president who believes that we can be one and is concerned about all people.  

-I am thankful that I was born into a Christian home.  
-I am thankful that God provided my Margaret [i.e. Grammy] at just the right time.  
-I am thankful that God has provided me with the resources to do some giving to others.  
-I am thankful for new beginnings. 
-I am thankful for our seven grandchildren.  

-Always thankful for my family.  
-For good food, pumpkin pies and good soup and peanut M&Ms (you would think that after all these years I would get tired of them, but I don't), dark chocolate, and coffee.  
-For good music, like James Taylor.  
-For my guitar.  I enjoy making music.  
-For a yard to work in.  

This year I have been especially reminded of my wonderful heritage and for this I am very thankful.  Through my family and Bill's family we have parents very committed to marriage and family life and the Christian faith.  I am so grateful for the long life and good health of Elick and Margaret, my parents, (Grammy and Granddaddy) and John and Bertha Nell, Bill's parents (Mom and Pop).  After helping to clean out the John and Bertha Nell's household as they moved to Macon, I was reminded of many years even before our parents' generation of the love and gracefulness of faithful life.  For those beautiful gifts in my life, I am truly thankful.  

The Nine, my best friends
-Reconnecting with old friends.  (Meghan)
-I'm thankful for blogs.  They are another wonderful way to keep in touch.  I like writing mine and reading others.  I makes me feel connected. (Katie)
-Our house:  I remember when Meghan got her house.  Chuck and I walked by it one day, and I remember us saying how much we would like to have a DASH house one day.  I honestly never thought it would happen.  (Noelle)
-The opportunities I have to work to really get to know my kids and what they struggle with. (Courtney)
-The internet! How many times have we said that in the last year?  Yes it is easy, but it allows us to be in relationship.  I was sitting in class the other day and we didn't have an opener that week (something to center our thoughts).  The discussion leader told us about an exercise that AA and other recovery groups use.  She asked us, "Do any of y'all write grateful lists?"  (They ask recovering individuals to remember life is more than addition.)  I perked up in my chair and slowly raised my hand.  "Each week," I responded.  The class looked at me with amazement.  I smiled and explained our weekly routine.  It happens because of the great invention that is the internet! (Blair)
-Charlie Brown- my fave four legged friend. (Jane-Marie)
-Being able to do the Turkey run on Thanksgiving morning with my sister, mom, matt's mom and dad and matt!!!  It is going to be so much fun... it is a 5K downtown. (Laura)
-For friends who appreciate my appreciation of cadavers..... of rocks in our heads..... and of other such 'weird' things.  (Amber, med student)

And me... what am I grateful for?  The above individuals and the revelations that their demonstrations of thankfulness bring to my faith journey.  Thank you all for participating.  Happy Thanksgiving!
Just, Margaret

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Love/Hate... Love

So the above title really sums up how I've felt this week about my MA program.  I've been attempting for the last two weeks to conquer my massive writer's block with little to no avail and I was beginning to question again what I'm doing here.  Luckily, I guess, my lecture today again put me back on track.  It was all about heritage management.  I know it sounds really dry, but I left super inspired and remembering again why I want to do all this.  [smile]  I'm not going to waste this grad school high so I'll make this a short post and get back to work.  

Just, Margaret

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My Walk Home

Since I had my camera with me on the way back from the Uni on Wednesday I decided it was a great time to take some photos of what I see everyday on my walk home.  This starts in a park that I kinda consider to be the start of my neighborhood and ends with a view of my student house.  A lot of the shops in between are left out because there was a delivery truck in the way, but I'll make sure to take another photo or two sometime soon to post.  Hope you enjoy the tour.  

Just, Margaret

Friday, November 21, 2008

Brunel's Bristol

So if you're British you probably have an idea of who Isambard Kingdom Brunel is, but if you are an American like me you have probably never heard of this person, who although not British voted the 2nd "Greatest Britain" of all time.  Brunel was a visionary nineteenth century engineer.  A resident of Bristol for part of his life, he totally shaped the landscape of the city.  So Wednesday I went on a tour with my class of the landscape he created.  We began at the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which was just a five minute walk from my student house.  (I have to say that I hadn't been there before at least not walking... I just didn't realize how close it was.  Now that I do I totally plan on taking at least one photograph of it each month.  Above Clifton Gorge, it is such a beautiful landmark.  And I live here.  Wow.  

The next part of the journey was taken as a ferry tour of the Bristol City docks, part of which were engineered by Brunel using hydraulic power.  The photo below is of the S.S. Great Britain, a ship Brunel designed and oversaw the building in a dry dock in Bristol.  It actually sunk in New Zealand, I think, and then was raised and restored in the original dry dock where it was originally built.  Now its just a tourist attraction.   The afternoon lecture was spent in the University archives looking at Brunel's plans, diaries, calculation books, ect.  

I ended my day with an evening of short films with the Bristol Rotary Club.  Oddly enough the films shown were originally created to attract shipping companies and tourists to Bristol in the 1950s and 1960s.  Actually really rare pieces of history... and really fun to watch.  On the way home, my Rotary host for the evening, David, drove me by the Clifton Suspension Bridge so I could see it all lit up.  (I'm so sorry I didn't have my camera with me because the view was breathtaking.  I'll have to venture out with some friends to get the photo some day soon.)  It was so nice to get such a full history of Bristol all in one day.  

Just, Margaret  

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Georgia On My Mind

So the last couple of days have had me thinking of home and Georgia quite a bit... at the beginning of the week I received a pound cake, yes a homemade pound cake, in the mail from my Grammy.  I literally could not believe it, but leave it to my grandmother to defy the postal service.  I mean I thought it was awesome when I received pecan pies in the mail when I was living in North Dakota, but I never expected to receive a cake in the mail.  And of course it still tastes amazing!  I shared it with some of my housemates and I think I've convinced them all that they need to visit Georgia if only to get another piece of pound cake from my Grammy.  (I will say in addition to care packages of grandparent love, I also had the treat on Monday night of receiving a lovely Skype call from Mom and Pop.  So much fun to speak and see them at the same time.)  It has turned into a week of care packages... yesterday I received one from my friends in Louisiana.  I was almost in tears while I read Kayla's letter begging me to come back.  And the Twizlers were a special treat as I've not been able to find them in the UK yet.  I also have to say a thanks to my faithful blog readers in Louisana... I'm so glad to know that you guys are following along on all my adventures.  It really makes me feel close to you.  

Then this morning I received an emails from Blair and Megs about a recent post on Blair's blog Curbside Conference.  It was all about my friends (the girls, The Nine, ect.  I've talk about them at least once before).  Lovely post and the best part is that the sentiments could have been written by any of us although I have to give Blair props for her eloquence.  I especially loved how she wrote about "living in overlapping forms"- thats exactly how it feels.  And the post that inspired her by Sara brought up such great memories of college.  After checking my email and feeling so close to my fellow alumni, I noticed that the predicted temperature here and in Warner Robins, where my parents are was exactly the same.  So as I walked to class, I imagined for a bit that I was walking through Georgia.  It is so nice to connect in small ways with home.  Especially since Thanksgiving is coming up so soon.  

Anyway, there are so much about my archaeological adventures yesterday that I want to share, but as my photos aren't loaded on my computer yet that will have to wait for tomorrow.  

Just, Margaret

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bath and Jane Austen

Saturday my Rotary counselor, Pat, and I went on a day trip to Bath.  I have to say that after having seen this perfectly lovely city I feel so lucky to just be a bus ride or train trip away.  [smile] Pat and I had a walk-about the city just to kinda orient me to the must-see tourist stops and the little shops she's found on all her trips there.  Although I found Bath to be absolutely beautiful in its autumnal finery, I have been assured that this is Bath at its worse and that I must see it decked out for Christmas and then in the Spring when all the gardens are in bloom.  I have to say I don't have any problem thinking about "having" to go back to Bath more than once while I'm in this country.  "If I must, I must." [smile]  Saturday we visited the Royal Crescent, walked through the Pump Room (and tasted the water I might add), and sought refreshments at Sally Lunn's House, known particularly for Sally Lunn buns that are absolutely delicious! 

Of course walking through Bath I found myself envisioning the characters of Jane Austen's novels.  Think Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth in Persuasion, so far my favorite, I think.  Bath is definitely the perfect setting to rekindle lost love.  Well this morning I finished reading Emma.  Although I knew how it would end I couldn't bear to put it down, but I could imagine letting the story end either.  If you haven't ever read it you should.  There were points when I felt so frustrated by the silly heroine and others when I found myself laughing aloud.  "Miss Bates" is a character of comic genius.  

Just, Margaret

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I can't believe I took these.

Wednesday we went on another archaeological exploration.  This time to the mouth of the Severn River. A harbor near Bristol... actually I was under the impression that it was about 7 miles away, but it took about an hour to get there.  Go figure. [Smile]  The whole day was fun.  Just nice to be out of the classroom and away from reading and writing for a while.  The end of the adventure found us on the opposite side of the River from where we started on a sandbar at low tide.  The midgets were horrible and by that time I was beginning to get a little tired of wandering around from place to place looking at decaying boats.  Not that I don't get their historical significance and I agree that they should be given English Heritage preservation rights (which they currently don't have... any English who would like to help raise awareness for this site, click here to view the site and then join the petition by writing English Heritage and asking that their historical significance be recognized), but there is a reason I'm not getting an MA in Maritime Archaeology.  I have to say though that the sunset and these photos would have been worth looking at decaying boats for another couple of hours.  I don't mean to brag, but I think these are awesome.

Just, Margaret 

I finally stopped...

So I've been walking past a poster of Obama for about a month. I have to admit that I found it rather odd that this campaign poster would be displayed so randomly on the side of building on a side street in Bristol.  I mean I knew that the world was watching the election, but seeing Obama all over the news was somehow different than just having this poster show up on my walk to school.  I'd thought about stopping and speaking to the shop keepers of the computer supply store that the ad space so obviously belongs too for sometime, but just haven't gotten a chance... I've either been in a hurry or the shop is closed or too busy.  So today when I noticed that the store was still open and relatively empty I popped in my head to say hello and figure out the story behind the poster.  (A story behind the poster... I'm totally channeling my materiality course.  Everything is material culture just waiting to be studied.)  

Upon entering the store, I was really surprised to find the older man who I assumed was the owner and an US citizen had an accent.  He was Polish and wasn't the owner at all.  And when I bombarded him with my gratitude for having the poster displayed of our future president, showing my solidarity with the campaign pin on my book bag, he told me the owner was also really excited as he was a citizen of Florida.  So I thought I would just say thanks and leave, but then the guy asked me "what I liked about Obama?"  I guess I shouldn't have been as surprised as I was... I mean I did walk into the store and start the conversation.  Anyway for like two seconds I had to pause and think about how to express why I was so excited about the advent of this new period in my country's history to actually walk into that store and inquire about a poster.  It was fun to have the unexpected opportunity for this cultural exchange.  I got a chance to hear a Polish point of view of our election and the results.  All because of that poster.  

Lesson learned:  don't let the opportunity to connect over material culture pass you by.

Just beginning to think and act like a material cultural archaeologist, Margaret

Monday, November 10, 2008

Promised photos

Have you ever turned on the shuffle on your MP3 player, iPod, iTunes, ect. and the exact song you needed to hear but didn't know it began to play.  I was getting ready to write about how these photos are the best ones I've shared on this blog so far and was kinda feeling down about it and then what begins to play through my headphones but the sweet sounds of Nancy Griffith's "This Old Town."  The song has these crazy lyrics about a town "that should have burned down" after all these things that happened there, but "it still stands."  I don't really know why it connected with me tonight, but it totally put me in the best mood.  So glad that I accidentally turned my iTunes on... now I'm jamming out to Indigo Girls.  I'm listening by genre.  Some James Taylor and Kathy Mattea is sure to turn up shortly.  You can blame my obsession on folk rock music on my parents, but mostly my dad. [smile]  I miss them.  I consciously try to keep this blog upbeat, not that I'm really depressed or anything (although we have had the awful British half rain weather pattern today), but I try to stay positive on my blog because it helps put my mind in the right frame.  Ah... Derek Webb, "Love is Not Against the Law."  Lovely.  Anyway I don't think missing my family really qualifies as a sign of not enjoying my UK life.  So I miss them... and thats okay.  Finally some James Taylor from his new album Covers.   

Okay on to a brief explanation of my photos:  The first three are from my service night with the Bristol Rotary Club.  (As a side note I did give my first Rotary presentation today to the Bristol Rotary Club and it went great!  Wahoo!)  So on the service night we visited the Water Survival Box Depot belonging to the Chichester Rotary Club and got to put together several boxes... actually 26 total.  It was so nice to meet some more Rotary folks and hang out with some of my club members in a more relaxed setting.  Also totally reminded me of my time in Louisiana packing health kits with my Grammy, Grandaddy, Mom and Pop.  More Nancy Griffith, "From Clare to Here."  I'm so loving this impromptu mix.  The service project was exactly what I needed Thursday night.

Okay so these are the best photos I have of Bonfire night and I know they aren't great, but maybe they'll give you an idea of what I was doing.  Any confusion left after looking at the photos... join me next year for Bonfire Night in the US or where ever I am.  I'm thinking that some where on West Point Lake in LaGrange will be a perfect setting for a bonfire and fireworks.  We'll see... 

Now more Indigo Girls, "Multiply Life by the Power of Two."  About to change so I'll tell you what's up next... James Taylor's cover of "Why Baby Why."  Could it get any better?  

Just, Margaret

Sunday, November 9, 2008

15 minutes... go!

You could say that this has been one of my busiest weeks yet and oddly enough I only had two lectures last week.  But with the presidential election, Bonfire night festivities, a Rotary club meeting to attend, and a Rotary Club Service Project midweek, I feel like I haven't really just sat since last weekend.  Even now I only have 15 minutes in between studying and going to the MethSoc gathering tonight to write a quick post.  Where to start?

I actually began some practical archaeology work this week!!!!  How awesome is that?  And how depressing that I didn't have my camera with me to take photos?  Okay so we didn't actually break ground, but we were taught how to conduct an earthworks survey.  I don't really have time to explain so I'll let Wiki do it for you today.  Needless to say it was awesome except for all the math.  [smile]  I'm an archaeologist not a mathematician.  Who knew I would one day actually use the Pythagorean theorem in my chosen profession?  

Other fun things to share... Bonfire night is the absolute coolest "British" thing I've experienced so far.  And it was even followed by a vegetarian "bangers and mash."  What is Bonfire night?  Well it involves burning a catholic revolutionary in effigy... and fireworks... and cups of soup... and a small parade of children pretending to be the angry Anglicans.  Now that I'm writing all this down it sounds kinda barbaric.  A great holiday for pyromaniacs though.  I guess I must kinda have a little of that in me because I loved it!  [smile]  So glad I didn't spend the night with my nose in a book.  

Promise to post photos of Bonfire Night and my service project with the Bristol Rotary Club sometime tomorrow afternoon.  Whew just one minute to spare...

Just, Margaret

P.S. Thanks to Dori for the I Love Your Blog Award... I'll nominate some of my favorites later.  

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What can I say?

This is a historic day.  Waking up to the hopeful words of our President-Elect, broadcast over the BBC 4 airways I might add, I was inspired and moved to tears.  Although the election is over today is really a new beginning for this nation, one in which I plan to be a full participant.  So that's my challenge to you today.  It takes a good citizen to exercise their right to vote, but it takes a greater citizen to call upon their government to remain accountable to the platforms on which they were elected.  Further it takes a great citizen to not rely only on their elected officials to initiate change.  So whether you were chanting "YES WE CAN" with Obama or "COUNTRY FIRST" with McCain, its up to you as a member of our national and international community to live out those mottos.  The world is watching our response.  

Just, Margaret

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election jitters

I feel like I haven't been able to sit still all day.  My thoughts are racing and I'm checking my email and CNN's website every half hour.  Diagnosis:  Election jitters (intensified I'm sure by extra cup of coffee I had at the cafe this afternoon [smile]).  If I'm feeling this way I can't imagine actually being a candidate.  I thought maybe it was just me, but when I wrote "The Nine" this morning I realized that I'm not the only one feeling anxious about today's events.  It seems everyone is waiting and watching for some signal of what's going to happen.  

BBC Radio 4 which I listen to in the mornings now repeated I don't know how many times today that this election was being watched by the whole world.  As an international representative of the US these days, I have to say that I feel under pressure for the world to get the answer they are expecting.  If Obama doesn't win more than one international news source will have egg on their face.  The coverage I've seen seems to assume that his election is a given.  Although I hope that coverage is right, having witnessed the past two elections I'm not willing to go out on a limb and say its a given.  Anything can happen.  I guess that's what's making me jittery.  To steal the Obama's words, I've had "the audacity to hope" that this election can bring about a new era in US history.  Now my hope rests in the hands of the voters.  

Just holding my breath like the rest of the world, Margaret 

Last Minute Addition:  Okay so just after I published the blog (the first time) I went on to read the updates of all my blogging friends and I have to say that Matt's Jesus Journals entry for the day helped put things in a little better perspective.  And I do want to clarify that I know that one person's election can't change the world all by itself... it takes a community working together to do that.  So I'm still waiting in anticipation, but with a few less jitters at least from the election (the caffeine from the coffee still hasn't quite worn off [smile]). 

Sunday, November 2, 2008


I am absolutely freezing, but surprise, surprise I've not just come in from outside.  I am sitting in the University library.  I keep hearing the heater cut on, but it is so not pumping out nice warm air.  I think it must be a conspiracy to reinforce the idea that we should not wait until 8:45 on a Sunday night to read for the next day.  I'll know better next time.  Now back to my reading so I can soon escape to the warmth of my student rooms.  

Just, Margaret