2009 retrospective

Steve has both inspired me and quieted me. I loved his year in review article and thought maybe I should write my own. But his life is my life, and he had done his review so comprehensively and charmingly that I figured I could just point you on over there.

And so I am.

I thought I'd go for looking back at the decade, since Steve covered 2009 and I've enjoyed hearing other people's stories of where they were ten years ago. I would normally be writing my year-end summary and New Year's resolutions in my journal, but I had a brief glimpse of it the other day in some random box, and then it got swallowed by the general chaos of our lives again, so here I journal instead, in front of God and everybody.

So where was I in 1999?

I had been married a year and a half.

I lived in an apartment in Northwest Indiana.

We worked from home, Steve for The Bible League and I in a half-hearted attempt to be a freelance editor. I hadn't yet written a novel, but I was making money doing something English degree-ish.

My personal writing was more haphazard and just whatever I felt like writing at the time.

I had two gerbils, named after a goofy college in-joke.

I still have that shower curtain and those towels. We had asked for the towels on our wedding registry, but no one bought them, so we went out and bought them ourselves. Unlike some of our other impulsive, post-wedding purchases, I still greatly enjoy both of these.

On New Year's Eve 1999, we went to a communion service at Crossroads Church, which met at a middle school in those days.

We had hoped to ring in the new year taking communion, but the service was at 5 or 6, to allow people to attend parties or put kids to bed. So we went and bought our own wine and bread and had our own service at midnight. First steps toward a home church?

I had an unfortunate haircut.

It was supposed to be a glamorous 1920s bob. But when you let Great Cuts loose on your hair, you get what you pay for. I should also point out that glamorous 1920s bangs work better when you don't have seventeen cowlicks.

Steve had small hair and big glasses and wore oversized clothes.

I was 23 and a half years old.

I had no fashion sense.

I had dyed my hair blond for the first time that year.

I didn't really know what to do with it.

I still had hope that someday soon I would outgrow my ugly duckling phase and become a beautiful twenty-something swan. I think we probably peaked around 28 in terms of any coolness we hoped to achieve, and I expect it's downhill from here on out. And, yet, I hope I at least am more confident and put-together now than I was a decade ago, if not youthfully beautiful and stunningly sophisticated, goals I never did manage.

I was among the first bloggers, even though I didn't yet know the term. I would link to my earliest blogs, but most are defunct. SteveandAmanda.com in its current incarnation remains, though it has changed much since then.

We had written a Christmas letter telling everyone how much nothing had changed in the past year.

I was still considering seminary.

I had visited my new home but could only hope and dream and plan to go through with moving there.

Things that are different now: new place, new child, new cat, new career, new church, new writing, new self.

Sometimes I feel like I haven't accomplished much, and the like the years post-college have just flown by, but when I look at it spread out like this, I can see how ten years have passed and how much has filled them.

I am so much more grown up. That has to count for something, right? Look how mushy and unformed I was a decade ago. Cute and naive and adorable and hopeless. I know who I am now. I know what I want for the most part, even if I'm not sure how to get there, or always want to put the work in.

Contradictorily, having a child and constraints on my time has made me a more prolific writer, and more determined to use the time I have.

Case in point, Corin is coming down the stairs, singing off-key, and I am signing off. Happy looking back to you and to me, and happy looking forward.

What will the next decade bring?


Wordless Wednesday: First real Christmas

The first one in which he truly understood the appeal of ... "Open...presents!"

Glad to have taught him the true meaning of Christmas: What's in it for me?

But who can resist spoiling that sweet thing?


I'm so happy to (pretend to) own my (bank-loaned) home!

I meant to post this back during all our house-buying hoopla and searched for it on various humor sites but couldn't find it. Well, hooray for cleaning out my hard drive, because I found it saved as a PDF in an obscure folder.

I bring you, via SatireWire:


Showing no ill effects from a weak economy, housing numbers released by the National Association of Realtors today showed that a record 75 million Americans are now participating in the mass self-delusion that they, and not their banks, actually own their homes.


After putting 20 percent down on a $235,000 house yesterday morning, Minneapolis pediatric nurse Stephanie Doogan officially became the 75 millionth American to take part in the widely accepted fantasy.

"Ever since I was a little girl, I've wanted to (deceive myself into believing I could) be a homeowner," said Doogan, 35. "Well, look at me now! Me, little Stephanie Doogan, I actually have a place I can call 100 percent (minus 80 percent) my own!"


"There's nothing like taking a walk around your (bank-owned) house, then going outside and kneeling down in your (bank-owned) lawn and grabbing a handful of (the bank's) dirt to make you realize how precious (their) land is," said 28-year-old Matt Jackson....

Added Devon Knight, who recently thinks he purchased a condominium in Baltimore's Inner Harbor: "When I was renting an apartment, if the furnace went out, I had to get the landlord to fix it. But now, if the furnace goes out, I have to fix it!... hold on, I'm losing the illusion here... why is that good again?"

"Equity," said Jay Harrington, Knight's mortgage broker at First Union. "Just remember, you have equity. And next to the right of every single American (major corporation) to have a say in who gets elected, that's the most sacred thing you can (pretend you) have."

Yes, kids, remember: Equity.


Two Piece @ Catapult Magazine

published in Catapult Magazine

original 3.18.2007

This poem has the titular line for my book of poetry — Swimming in the Wild, Wide Ocean — and is very special to me. It's a poem foretelling the future, and so far I think I did a pretty good job as a prophetess.

Check out the full Catapult Magazine Birth Stories issue, online for Christmas Day!

Merry Christmas to you all!


Let it be to me according to your word

Correggio — Holy NightWe went to the Christmas Eve service at church tonight, and unlike the last couple times, we kept our unruly child in the service instead of the cry room-slash-penalty box — because it was being used by tots younger and rowdier even than he.

So I got to hear the Scripture, and the message, and interestingly enough, I had a thought. An actual thought! Amid the whining of my child to go downstairs and play with toys ("Downstairs! Toys!" in urgent whispers all throughout the service, so that someone sitting near us moved farther away), I had this thought imparted to me.

"And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them." (Luke 2:6-7, NLT)

I know, right?

Oh, wait, you've read that before? All right, here's my thought, then.

This story has been dramatized so often that it's burned into our heads as a mini-tragedy. Joseph, with Mary on the donkey behind him, groaning but beatific (of course), is pounding on inn doors, demanding that someone let them in, that someone give them room for his FRICKING PREGNANT-TO-BURSTING WIFE — come ON, people, can't you see she's in LABOR? Throw us a bone, here.

And Joseph is upset that all he can provide for his bride is a filthy stable, but Mary is calm (of course) and goes along with it.

But Luke's account is actually all we have, just those few bare words. She laid him in a manger, because there was no other room for them.

There's no drama at all. There might be some implied. Or there might not.

There's no record of Mary saying, "Oh, for Pete's sake" (because, of course, Peter couldn't be sworn by yet), "this is the worst birthing experience EVER."

There's no record of her feeling entitled and then disappointed, of her complaining and whining ("Downstairs! Toys!") and missing the wonder of the birth for her hurt feelings. I would have been. I would strongly have felt, I don't deserve this! I don't deserve to be treated in this crude manner. Why can't these people see that I, in labor, have more of a call to a warm bed than they do?

I would have been royally pissed off, my friends. I might have taken it out on Joseph. I might have thrown a few swears at God. I would definitely have stomped and stormed and huffed on past all the people in the inn, thankyouverymuch, who were ignoring my plight.

But there's no record of any such hissy fits. Mary just matter-of-factly lays Jesus where she can.

So I don't know how she actually felt, but I have this sense that if it had been important to include a drama in the story, it would have been included. So I'm thinking maybe there was no drama.

Maybe they both just accepted: Hey, we didn't make reservations. Good thing there's this nook they can tuck us into, and a little space for the baby.

And then I imagine Jesus, Lord of the fricking universe, accepting this, too, without protest. He doesn't insist on a gold-inlayed throne-cradle. He doesn't ask for the latest and greatest, soon to be recalled, from Babies R Us. He lies there in the manger, and he likes it. Because he came to be king of the poor, king of the outcast, king of those people who think nothing of giving birth in a lousy, poo-filled stall.

That is our God. That is Emmanuel, born to us this night.

"Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
... to the glory of God the Father."

(Philippians 2:6-11, NLT)

Merry Christmas Eve.


Wordless Wednesday: Christmas past

One of these fine young things is my husband

So is one of these

Our first tree

Closely guarded family cream cheese dip recipe

Not as closely guarded cracker recipe

The pictures got better when Corin — and a new camera to capture said Corin — arrived on the scene:

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