Monday, December 17, 2007

Dear Friends,
Here is a brief update on the Weavers...
2007 was a fine year for us. We celebrated our 3rd year of marriage in March. We both, graciously, attended one anothers' 10-year reunions. Mine celebrated 10 years since high school at Greater Atlanta Christian. Then a few weeks later we were on campus at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, re-uniting with Jeff's old college buddies. We also made several trips to see family in Lancaster, PA; Ann Arbor, MI; Point Clark, Ontario; and Sarasota, FL.

Jeff is still employed by Emory University School of Medicine as the Director of IT for the Department of Medicine. Katie quit her job at National Allergy Supply earlier this year, but continues to do contract writing for the company, in addition to several other free-lance writing assignments. She also developed and maintains the website for her sister's newest business venture, Evan Taylor Designs. Jeff and Katie still love music, staying involved with their church's music ministry, as well as some other projects. Katie has had several concerts in Atlanta over the past year, and the Weavers maintain ties, albeit loose ones, to their band The Ming Dynasty. They hope to actually play somewhere, as a full band, in early 2008. Maybe they'll even write some new songs.

Perhaps the most exciting thing for us this year was the acquisition of an adorable Wheaten Terrier puppy in late February. Buckley is almost a year old and has given us tremendous amounts of laughs, cuddles, leaves, dirt, and chewed things. We love (almost) every bit of it!

We are thankful for you, and pray you have a wonderful Christmas season and a memorable 2008.

Love from the Weavers

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tasty Chicago

Another day, another city... another gray city. But I don’t fear the gray, it plays nicely with fall’s colors, and be it Nantes, London or now Chicago, I feel strangely at home atwixt fall’s gray days.

But it is not the hue or the air that is my comfort, but the bustling city streets. The tired feet of a day well-walked. The full belly of hunger satisfied by real food, food that you’ve respectfully earned by moving about using your own two feet. I can’t say I like the early sunsets or the drizzle drizzle (though to date, no rain has affected my journeys). But there is no energy like the city.

Of course, not just any city will do. Last night over thick bites of Chicago’s eponymous “pizza” we talked urban aesthetics. First, however, we decided that Pizza so named bares no fair comparison with the “pizza” we enjoy at various Atlanta-side establishments. Our favorite Fellini’s slice is thin-crusted, lightly sauced, and delicious. The Chicago brand would be better-named “pie”. It arrives piping hot in a dish that more resembles a black, oven-burned pie plate. Its “deep-dish” unlike Pizza Hut could EVER dream of. So, from here forward, banish that allusion from your palate. This Chicago pie has a thick crusty bottom, then a layer of mozzarella, then your toppings of choice, all-topped with a (presumably) tasty house-made marinara with fresh tomato taste and just the right spices.

I know, I was on track to pen a treatise on urban aesthetic, but once again, I've been sidetracked by the thought of food, wonderful, local, food. So, I wont stop at describing the pie presentation, lest your mouth be watering without merit.

I will now do an (over-hyphenated) un-professional, pizza-pie taste-test round-up.
Pizzeria Due: You guessed it, the 2nd in a series of, er, two, Pizzeria’s in Chicago’s heart. Due came highly recommend by our gourmand friends D&C. My caveat to the Due assessment is that I was on the tail-end of a 24-hr stomach bug, and Jeff was on the front-end of worrying he may have it, too. So...we ordered safely and avoided the heavy sausage, meaty versions in favor of BBQ Chicken (excellent, but Jeff regrets this un-Chicago choice), and Vegetarian. The pizza arrived, just scooped from a mini-deepdish. My Veggie was edged with black char, but it didn’t taint the marvelousness of my first crumble taste of the crust. In fact, I rather liked the smoky essence of the dark edges. The sauce was fantastic and fresh-tasting. The vegetables tasted equally as fresh: onions, zucchini and more. Sadly, I could only eat about half my pie due to my nervous tummy, but boy did I enjoy it (and the 2nd half made a stupendous breakfast the next day.) Our server was very friendly; the staff was well-dressed in button-ups and ties. The host exemplified Midwest friendly: he reminded me of a guy one of my cousins would marry. So, our first Chicago pizza experience was top-drawer (despite the wait).

A few nights later, another Pizzeria…we just couldn’t shake the taste of those tasty pies from Due. Another call to D&C and a chat with the concierge put us en route to Gino’s East, a larger, more “pizzeria” type pizzeria (read: checkered table-cloths, brick walls, t-shirt donning servers, family-friendly). Our stomach’s fully recovered and ready for the “real deal” we ordered a Supreme (sausage, green peppers and onions). It was tasty. The same style as Due with crust, then cheese, then toppings, then sauce. The yellow-ey crust was not as good as Due, but the toppings, especially the sliced sausage, were mouth-wateringly tasty...

Unfinished. Jeff finished his meeting and I had to go meet him.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Happy Birthday John Milton

There's a vignette heard each day on NPR called "The Writer's Almanac." The familiar, to some grating, to others soothing, voice of Garrison Keillor reads a poem. He then details a few literary or historical luminaries who were born, died or published something significant on that date. Here's a text version of yesterday's. I like the poem, and I found the bio of Milton to be interesting.

"On His Blindness" by by John Milton. Public Domain.

When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
'Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?'
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: 'God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly: thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.'

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the birthday of John Milton, (books by this author) born in London (1608), who started writing poetry as a young man, but before his career as a poet could really take off, England began to fall into a civil war, the king was overthrown and a new form of government, known as the Commonwealth was established, led by Oliver Cromwell.

Milton responded to the situation by becoming a pamphleteer. Nobody really knew how the new government would work, and Milton became an advocate for greater civil rights and religious liberty. He wrote about expanding the right to divorce your spouse and he made one of the first comprehensive arguments for the freedom of the press. The Parliament had recently passed a law requiring government approval of all published books. Milton wrote, "Who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book kills reason itself, kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye."

Milton eventually took a job as a Latin secretary for the government, translating letters for international correspondence. He was struggling to raise his three daughters, and he was slowly going blind. Then, suddenly, the government he worked for fell apart, King Charles II was restored to the throne, and all the leaders of the Commonwealth were hanged. That summer, a warrant was issued for Milton's arrest, but he was kept in hiding by his friends. His pamphlets were publicly burned. He was eventually pardoned, but he became an outcast, and people said that God had struck him blind for his sins against the king.

Milton was devastated by the restoration of the monarchy, but without a job, he finally had time to devote to his poetry again. He'd long thought that there needed to be an epic poem in English, and he had originally thought it would be about England. But instead, he decided to write the poem about the biblical story of Adam and Eve, and humanity's fall from grace.

He composed the verses in his head, at night, and in the morning he would recite them to anyone near by that would take dictation. He originally called the poem "Adam Unparadised," but he changed the title to Paradise Lost. There was some question as to whether it would be approved for publication by the government, since Milton was such a notorious dissident, but it finally came out in 1667. It begins: "Of Man's First Disobedience, and the Fruit / Of that Forbidden Tree, whose mortal taste / Brought Death into the World, and all our woe, / With loss of Eden, till one greater Man / Restore us, and regain the blissful Seat, / Sing Heav'nly Muse..."

When the poem appeared in print, Milton's contemporaries were astonished. People couldn't believe that a man generally thought of as a washed-up, outcast, political hack had written the greatest work of literature in a generation. The poet John Dryden wrote, "This man cuts us all out, and the ancients too." Milton was 58 years old, and he'd finally become a respected poet.

Reprinted from The Writers Almanac daily newsletter.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Where were you?

Six years ago today around 9am, I was driving into downtown Atlanta, going to work at SafeHouse Outreach. A local rock station, 99x was doing their typical, un-funny schtick about this or that, then they described something they had just heard over the wire. For a few seconds, after reporting that a plane had hit the world trade center, they speculated that it was surely a hoax or mis-information, or at worst, a incompetent pilot. Realizing quickly that they were in over their heads, they piped in audio from CNN.

A 2nd plane had hit, and the situation now seemed too calculated for careless airmen...I pulled into the SafeHouse parking lot on Ellis street and dashed upstairs. The few of us there gathered around a small black and white television as the drama unfolded. Wide-eyed, we held our breath with the world as the towers billowed smoke. When the first tower fell, then the second, some cried, others prayed aloud and I think we were scared. Truthfully, time has faded the distinctive memory of my emotion.

We ran to the windows of the 2 story brick building, gazing between skyscrapers all around us to check the skies...
Our director called some contacts around the city to find out if Atlanta was in danger. Eventually, like most others that day, we were told to go home: whether for fear, shock or just to be with family or friends.

As I drove north on the same highway I had peacefully driven down only a few hours before, I realized that everything was different now. I glanced at one of the big DOT alert signs that usually signal traffic jams or just said "National Emergency...National Emergency." I wept...finally, the emotion of the morning swept over me and I blinked back tears all the way to my sister's house. I couldn't be alone.

That was the morning of 9/ was followed by countless audio and video clips, talking heads, newspaper articles, memorials, dinner-table discussions, prayers, masses...
9/11 has become for my generation another "Where were you when..." moment, joining the Challenger explosion, and maybe even the OJ verdict. What other 9-11 memories or other "where were you when?" events am I forgetting?

Friday, August 31, 2007


Yesterday was the anniversary of the day of my birth.
A few other historical things happened on August 30th...Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein was born. So was Molly Ivins, famed Texan and humorist. And here's something else that happened: (quoted from The Writer's Almanac)
It was on this day in 1904 that Henry James visited the United States after living for most of his adult life in Europe. He had gone to live in Europe as a young man and hadn't seen the United States in more than 25 years. He sailed into New York Harbor on this day in 1904, and he was amazed at how modern the city had become. When he'd last seen New York, the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge had been the highest points of the city. Since then, the invention of the elevator had made it feasible to construct extraordinarily tall buildings. James wrote, "The multitudinous sky-scrapers [were] like extravagant pins in a cushion already overplanted.

But he found that the city was so different from the one he remembered that he almost didn't recognize it. When he went to find the house where he'd grown up, it was gone, having been demolished by the expanding New York University. He remembered a church being built near his house when he was a kid, but that church was gone too. New buildings were being constructed all over the city, and it seemed to James that all the new buildings were uglier than the old buildings. He began to think of America as a place where all the glorious traditions of the past were being destroyed in favor of the new. A few years later, he wrote to his sister-in-law, "Dearest Alice, I could come back to America (could be carried on a stretcher) to die — but never, never to live."

I relate with Mr. James....see, I love rock n roll, baseball, college football and corn dogs, yet sometimes I think I could do without them. Its this time of year again, when I think of living in France, and watching rugby and soccer and other things America doesn't care about.

But all that glitters and speaks French is not Gold. The quandary is as it will always be...I seem to have discovered a unique community here in this America that would be near impossible to duplicate amidst statues and pillars. Even if, as Rufus Wainwright sings, 'All the lights of Paris, play inside your iris'...sometimes the lights of Paris are unable to sustain your soul like relationship does.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Guatemala Journals 4

After all that tiredness, learning, etc....when I wanted to pass out and rest...God had something else in mind - another home visit. We went to visit Erik's family.

Before relating what we encountered, I should give you background on Erik, one of the Hope 4 Guatemala students. Here is an excerpt from a recent H4G Newsletter:
13 year old Erik is one of 12 children in his family. Now Erik has been diagnosed with Cirrhosis of the Liver and was hospitalized with liver failure the 2nd week of July. He is dire need of a liver transplant.

Doctors are asking us to help them find a hospital to perform his transplant. We have made many calls in the US and Mexico without success, though we continue to seek the Lord for direction and open doors. Please pray with us for the Lord's healing for Erik, for a hospital to perform the transplant surgery, the necessary resources and peace for his family.

We went that day to bring Erik's family some food and encouragement. We showed up unannounced and the "man" of the house, Moises, greeted us at the door. He is 13, though he appears to be about 10 with his small stature and moppy head of black hair. As the oldest son, Moises is in charge of the home for much of the day while his parents work, or stay with Erik at the hospital. With a slight smile, a firm jaw and an air of pride, he led us into his home. One by one we ducked through the rusted metal door frame and into the dark, dirt-floor abode.

His other siblings were inside. The youngest was held by a small girl, about 5 years of age. The baby in her tiny arms appeared to be a newborn. Actually, the baby, named Katarina is 4 months old. She cried from hunger, unable to be fed until their mother returned from work.

In another area of the house, a girl, about 6, went about changing the diaper of a toddler: they smiled as Jose (H4G's leader) joked with them. Where can they find such joy when they have so little?

This family, while appearing to be in the depth of pain and squalor, inspires hope in Jose. They are one of the few families involved with the ministry where there is a father present. He has not fled to prostitutes or alcoholism; rather, he loves and works hard for his family. Jose was encouraged after our visit because he saw the progress that has been made on their home. Yes, progress. The condition was worse on his last visit. Their masonry-skilled father is steadily working, as funds are available, to make their place a livable, multi-level home fit for their group of 14. The work has been slow...Erik's father is deaf and mute so he is not very hire-able. Hope 4 Guatemala has provided him with some work, and given him references for other jobs, which he so desperately needs to provide for the family, and slowly but surely work toward his dream of a "real" house.

We set their crate of food on a rickety table, unpacking its contents to show Moises: beans, sugar, coffee, fortified meal for the children and some fruits and veggies. Around the home we saw the wood plank loft level where the two oldest, Moises and Erik have slept (pictured). We saw the concrete slab, draped with a blanket where several more of the children sleep. Outside of the main walls was a barrel with charcoal for cooking - typically tortillas and beans. Chickens roamed amidst piles of trash and laundry, and around the corner was a dull red curtain. I looked behind it for only for a moment, guessing that it must be the bathroom. With no running water or sewage and a family of 14 it was a pretty drastic picture.

I had a feeling not unlike that which I experienced several years ago at the wake of a friend who committed suicide. I was angry, confused by how unfair it all seemed and all I could do was grit my teeth and clench my fist, as if gripping to hold on to my emotions. Yet, unlike that funeral wake, there was life in this dark room in Zone 18, Guatemala City. There were smiles of children who are loved, who have that unflappable joy only kids seem to have. There was hope: that their home will one day see completion, that they will grow in wisdom and stature from the instruction and hearty meals they receive at Hope 4 Guatemala, that their father will continue to find work and stay with his family...and of course we all have hope, tempered with utter dependence on God, that Erik will live.

Before we left, I had the un-enviable, yet joyous task of praying for this family. With my clenched teeth and my arm around one of the girls, I knew that controlling my emotion while speaking understandable Spanish was too lofty a goal. I asked Jose to translate, and I prayed something that I don't now recall. And I choked back tears.
Please continue to remember Erik's family in your prayers.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Guatemala Journals 3

The week with the children is over. We will spend today with the youth then go to Antigua. Yesterday we had a birthday party / "goodbye Americanos" party. A small group of kids sang in heavily accented English "Happy Birthday to Paul" (one of our team mates) then they swarmed him like bugs giving hugs. It was a sweet, sweet moment. (then they smashed cake on his face..pictured here) The kids were so elated to have cake and ice cream. They pounded down their food - green beans and eggs (sounds strange. tastes good), arroz y tortillas, of course, just so they could treasure that sweet birthday pastel.

We repeated the drill for the afternoon students, after the team dined on the same yummy fresh-made Guacamole. I mean, a giant VAT of it. mmmm. (Since avocados grow in Guatemala - there's a big tree outside the ministry center - they are not such a pricey acquisition as in the US.)

As usual, the afternoon class wore me thin. A bunch of kids in one room with our mediocre Bible lessons... thank God for Rolando, our translator. He knew the ropes with these kids and led them through some songs that were tremendously more fun and hip than those 70s kids songs I strummed on the guitar in days previous. The kids loved the one about how Jesus is like hot bread and chocolate - once you get it, you can't help but share! There was another one about penguins...not sure about the theology, but the kids dug the dance moves.

So, as I stepped back to the front with a sore throat and tired voice to yell the memory verse 5 times and trudged through reading another lesson, I felt a little...useless? Then I realized again that regardless of what I do, I'm loving these kids...that's the impact. My task-oriented self has been rocked and God has been merciful to let me see His grace and ways I do and do not understand.

I think of a comment Hermana Sara's (the regular Hope 4 Guat. teacher) made to me one of the first days. I stressed about the schedule and when to start and kept asking her if we needed to gather the kids or at what time...meanwhile students were being loved and hugged by our team and all I cared for was getting the "real stuff" started. Ha. Sara leaned to me and in her broken English said with a big smile, "Is okay! Reeelaaxxx". It made my shoulders go limper and the muscles in my face tense into a genuine smile. Ultra-efficient, control-freak American girl leveled by love. Awesome.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Guatemala Journals 2

Two days of class already.
Two days of kids' huge smiles and confusion.
On one hand, this VBS thing feels like a joke..that we're reading from a script: a very boring script read in a bad Spanish accent. But then, I'm glad they're here, even if they're bored. I'm glad they're here and not on the street with gangs. And I'm glad we're here.

There's so much to reflect on..what's happening in and outside of my heart, but even now I'm torn by needing to plan today's VBS lesson!

We went to homes yesterday...the home of 2 of the program participants. We prayed before we went as the area is unsafe (yet these girls walk there very day). We journeyed through what seemed a labyrinth of narrow passages leading steeply down, then steeply upward, passing ladies in traditional Mayan dress carrying large bundles on their heads. We past a place where several people have been killed. The 12 of us journeyed, not the least bit out of place, I'm sure. We carried crates of food and supplies for the family: items like rice, coffee, sugar, fruits, vegetables. We got strange looks from neighbors and gang boys, "maras". Their imprint is unfortunately on this community we ventured through, where families are looking for protection and hope amidst near squalor.

The father of the home we visited is a fledgling pastor - he has a church of 17 which is very close by. I gather that more than a third of the congregation are his family members. The family is living on the mother's meager $250 /month salary she earns at a clothing factory. This can hardly support a family of 7. We did not get to meet her, I believe that she works until about 3 am.

The family welcomed all of us so graciously, directing us to sit on their neatly made beds in the living room: One double bed, fit for the 3 boys and a set of bunk beds, presumably for the girls. A few steps beyond in the concrete block home with steel sheet roof was another "room" which seemed to double as kitchen and master bedroom, as I noticed a small bed in the corner and had not yet accounted for where the parents might sleep. The girls served cold cola to us..likely a rare treat for them. It was a treat for us on that hot day in the stuffy confines of their humble home. The father spoke to Sara, one of the ministry staff, about their struggles as a family, about his story, past, reasons for lost job, but most of all about how good God has been to him and his family, and how he trusts the vision that God has given him for a church. I translated when I could, and strained to hear the words of this man who has experienced so much in life already.

The eldest girl showed us a family album - maybe the only pictures they have. The collection, carefully placed in a tattered, old 3-ring binder also contained certificates and diplomas belonging to the various children for school awards, baptism, etc. The pride with which the eldest girl she displayed the worn album to me was truly delightful. I gazed at the aged photos of her father in "el campo" with his field-working buddies, her baptism photos, a few mugs family and friends and was thankful for that insight into their world.

I'm so glad to have gotten a small taste for the very difficult, yet genuine lives of this family. To accept their graciousness was humbling. We prayed for the father, for his strained relationship with his wife, for his church, and for the children to be good students. They are a lucky number to actually have their father around. Most families in zone 18 have only mom's or grandmothers, and the men who are present in most children's lives would be better off not around, based on the heart-wrenching stories of violence, alcoholism and prostitution that I heard.

*Photos Courtesy of Lynn Henry*

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Guatemala Journals

Firstly, I am back safely, and now that its Thursday evening (well, Friday morning really), I have no excuse but to be quite well-rested by now. My only souvenirs are a small wooden cross I bought in Antigua and the cold I picked up about mid-week. Not to be outdone, most every other member of our team got the same soar-throat, congestion melange. Its no surprise really that we all got the same illness, considering the 2 hours of quality time the 15 of us had together in a small van, and our fates were not bouyed by those collective trail mix bags that we all shared.

I can safely say that I got no other (you know the one I'm talking about ) illness while there. And, despite a few days of doing lice removal (see image above), or shall I say "de-lousing" on several children in less-than-ideal conditions, I don't think I got those little critters either.

The trip was a wonderful, challenging, changing experience. I loved our team, I was impressed with the community outreach that Hope 4 Guatemala is doing, and I am SO thankful for your prayers and support. Here are a few journal entry splices, and a link to my photos. Feel free to browse as you feel:

We are here. We have passed many hours in a small van, playing silly car games, asking Jose questions about this and that.

My hearts condition has vexed me. This place seems familiar, so the newness is not, well, a novelty. My heart and mind have changed perhaps becoming harder since the last "true" mission trip I took. I'm not sure how to name it really. I'm not sure how to blame it really.

Maybe it's okay...Maybe one answer to this tension is that I have approached this trip with a role in mind: My job is to help with Spanish and VBS classes...I offer this THING and thus I have worth. I think my reasons are skewed. Do I want God glorified or Katie?

The second tension... I have generally low esteem for short term mission outreaches. It seems like such a show, so much work for so little ...but as I see more and more, that is a lie. We are part of something bigger here. Jose Armas, the leader of H4G, is so deeply encouraged by our presence, its very exciting. Its amazing to see what has been built up from this ministry..what God has done. I'm excited to participate in that, even if for a short spell.


Casa de Waffles ...oye!

Yes, its just like Waffle House, but they have Pollo Ranchero, fried plantains and other Guatemalan specialties. Of course, they have Waffles, too. Its the "brainchild" of a Guatemalan pastor who toured the US and fell in love with the Open-all-night yellow and brown wonder that is da Wa-Ho. Como se dice "Scattered, Smothered & covered" en Espanol?


Friday, July 13, 2007

Various and Sundry

Hi friends -
Time has ticked by, and so has the appropriate-ness of my planned blogs about the Gold Cup, Fathers Day and other life events that are suddenly tucked away into the past. I did feel it timely to give a brief update on life and ask you to keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I head out bright and earlier tomorrow morning for Guatemala. I'll be joining a team of 15 others from my church to work with an outreach in Guatemala City called Hope 4 Guatemala. We'll be doing things like building a library, marking and cataloging books for said library, and teaching about 150 kids a day Vacation Bible School-type lessons and encouraging then to dream big things for their lives. We'll help feed them...for many of the kids, its the only full meal they get in a day. Plus, each team member is hauling down an extra suitcase full of things like shoes, toothpaste, paper, and other vital supplies for the outreach to these impoverished children and their families.

I'm excited about the opportunity. Its definitely kicked my Spanish practice into high gear having to translate Bible lessons, learn Spanish songs, etc. needless to say, I've been watching more Univision than usual...and not just because they're the only ones showing good futbol matches.

I hope to do some on sight reporting from Guatemala City, but given the patchy internet service, my best bet is good ol' pencil to paper journaling and pictures. Here is our team.

Before I part, I must also mention that I have just returned this evening from seeing The Decemberists at Chastain Park Amphitheatre. I regret that my review will be brief, for the music merits more than a few passing adjectives, however, see above for my raison du brevity. The show was at Chastain, a daunting enough venue for any serious musician as you must compete with yuppies gleefully chatting, the crunch of Carr's water crackers and cheese and the clinking of $10 chardonnay (people spend a few extra when its a concert night...).

Note that I say none of the above to belittle such traditions. I sat happily listening to the Crane Wife, a Decemberist title track, while munching on Gouda and sipping a mediocre white wine. That's what Chastain is for..your inner Yuppie.

Anyway, open-air ambience aside, the music was the main event. I regret there were not more people there to enjoy a marvelous set by the musically diverse quartet from Portland. Of course, the drama was enhanced a few degrees by their back-up band - the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. While for some artists, this summer-stock fare can add more cheese than have 6 Chastain tables (read: when I saw Peter Cetera a few years back). However, the Decemberists worked well with the accompaniment, their songs were bigger, and still enjoyable.

All for now, I must rest before tomorrow's long day. Hasta luego amigos. Espero que pueda escribir mas despues del viaje. Et pour mis amis Francaise....Bonne Fete du Jour Bastille!! J'espere que vous bouverez un Pastis pour moi et Jeff! Allez les Bleus.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Grace On My Desert Island

One week ago, Tuesday was the 10th anniversary of the death of Jeff Buckley. I think it odd sometimes, that we commemorate the days when luminaries die. These are "deathdays", but for luminaries such as Jeff Buckley, they may well mark the day when a glimmering star is transformed into a bright shining one. There is nothing quite so intriguing as star quality dimmed by death...a la Janis Joplin, Elliott Smith, Jimi Hendrix... then re-ignited by popular opinion. But for his part, I think Jeff Buckley's brilliance is brilliance regardless of his tragic fate (as it is with those others mentioned). It has been said that Grace is one of the greatest albums of the the last 25 years. I would heartily agree. After all, we did name our dog after Mr. Buckley (Jeff...not William F. just to clear up any confusion). Grace has changed my life - that statement is multi-layered by intention. The album by that title would most certainly be on my "desert island" list.

If your "Oceanic flight 815" were to crash on an island, what would you bring?

I find "favorites" lists to be difficult to concoct. After all, particularly in the realm of music, different situations call for different tunes. Perhaps the following metaphors will help you to focus in on your musical "must-haves". Back to my desert island, methinks that in addition to Grace I'd hope for a few cheerier albums to soothe my ears on those hot, sandy, palm tree days of entrapment...think the Bob Marley Legend compilation or Jack Johnson's Brushfire Fairytales - those are island records.

Had that same plane crashed and stranded me in London's Covent Garden, I would want David Gray's White Ladder. Trapped forever to walk the streets of Paris, I'd want Thievery Corporation's Mirror Conspiracy. If by some stretch I were locked in an old Ford truck to traverse the country back and forth I'd want Lyle Lovett's Road To Ensenada, or anything by Sonvolt...and smalltown AM radio. Locked up for good in an emotionless, gray-walled office or cubicle...I'd opt for Poses by Rufus Wainwright. He makes all things sad and beautiful. If the gods of exercise chained me to a treadmill for eternity I may actually be able to go forever listening to DJ Sasha's Involver.

If my plane crashed into a place where it was always rainy, I would wish Starflyer 59's Fashion Focus to be my soundtrack. And trapped just about anywhere I could listen to Beck's Sea Change or the Indigo Girls Swamp Ophelia over and over again.

I could go on....
But when, by Grace, I am gloriously hemmed in behind the gates of heaven forever, I do believe God will be playing Sigur Ros.

Europe 99

I went to Europe in the fall semester of 1999. I studied and played, had my first pint, my first mead, first true Belgian Waffle and lots of other memories. It was an amazing experience. I'm starting the process of scanning photos from the trip. In an attempt to bring back the magic of 05, so here are a few shots from 99.

From Top: Paris Skyline; Omaha Beach at peace, Normandy, France; giant beers at Hofbrauhaus, Munich: Aran Islands, Ireland; White cliffs of Etraitat, France; and a pose in front of the Cliffs of Moher, Ireland.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

To Mom

We may be a day or 2 removed from mother's day, but I still feel it important to say a few words to thank my mum. She is an incredible woman.
Jeff (and Dad) helped me make her dinner for Mother's Day, which was an incredibly daunting task: she's an excellent cook.

It wasn't a disaster. The grill caught fire, and we had to call mom in from the bullpen to help w/ damage control (i.e. suggestions for finishing off the fish since the grill was now non-functional). But by-golly it worked and we enjoyed ourselves.

to mom.

if I sing, it is because mom sung first
if I create good food, it is because mom was the original maestro
if I make people laugh, i am thankful that mom first made me laugh
if I know a dang thing about "homemaking", its because mom always kept ours with grace and class
if I travel to the ends of the earth, its because mom did it first
if I smell a flower and smile, its because mom has always done that
if I utter strange and memorable expressions, it is because my mom said them first
if I love people well, its because mom first showed me how to love
and on...and on..

thanks mom.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

What I've Learned From My Dog

Three years ago, Jeff and I became accustomed to hearing that all-too-familiar phrase: "How's married life treatin' ya?" and again and again we were made to reply with various words and phrases that fit within the metaphor. Now that we have done what 3-years married people do and gotten a dog, the new chorus sounds something like this:
“Aah. Dogs are good preparation for having children”

Some people, a few of you perhaps, think that is entirely untrue and ridiculous. After all, you can’t stick your child in a crate when you leave the house unless you want to wind up in a “crate” of sorts called jail. You can’t half-heartedly throw your baby into the backyard unsupervised, hoping that he or she doesn’t find a way to dig out. Dogs don’t require boobs or other special equipment to get sustenance. Children don’t poop or pee in response to command words. I can sit Buckley on my lap when we ride in the car, doing that with your baby means you're breaking the law and shamed by America just like Britney Spears. Those greatly functional and fashionable designer "pet totes” with mesh cut-outs don't work so well with babies.

So, yes, dogs seem less difficult and poor preparation for babies.

However, children don’t chase and corner birds and small rodents with the intent to kill and eat them (do they?). Babies don’t smell like an old mop when they get wet. Kids don’t sniff each other’s butts on the playground to greet each other. Small children don’t instinctively hump legs, stuffed animals or other small children.

But alas, the similarities abound. Which is why the majority of our friends agree that Buckley, our Softcoated Wheaten Terrier is preparing us fairly well for the transition of having kids. I’ll use the following points to illustrate this, with parental buzzwords in italics. While Buckley is growing like a sprout, he is still a puppy and liable have accidents indoors when his routine is out of whack. Schedule is important. If he naps too long or too close to bedtime, he is feisty and whiney. He has boundless energy, and we relish the opportunity to wear him out so he will crash at night. He does not readily obey when he is distracted by toys, friends, people, etc.. In fact, he proves himself to be quite stubborn. We have to adjust our life and schedule to account for our dog. Weekend getaways aren’t as easy. Bringing our “child” places means a car packed with pack n play (crate), snacks (food), bowls, treats, favorite toys, etc. We never had this much stuff to schlep when it was just me and Jeff!

Parents…are you relating yet? Buckley loves mud, dirty puddles, rolling in leaves, stealing other dogs’ (and kids') toys and eating other dogs’ food. He requires of us a newly heightened peripheral vision I’d only seen before in parents. Grandparents and neighbors love Buckley, but they don’t want to keep him forever. Add to that, Buckley is tad high-maintenance with a special gluten-free diet. Wheat gluten can agitate his tummy and is not as good for his hair (coat). Such a diet is recommended for the breed (not just Buckley).

This wonderful world of pet ownership vs. kid parent-ship collided beautifully last weekend when a caravan of us - pets and kids - arrived at my parents cabin in North Carolina for a smallgroup retreat. Peripheral vision activated we all kept watch on our respective charges. But our concentration waned and all of a sudden “mine” had laid a big un-tidy load on the floor of the house, then “Kristen’s” ran unknowingly through it, across the lovely rug with poopy footprints. When Buckley saw the running child he gave chase and said child then jumped on the couch to avoid his pursuer…making yet another brown footprint. We discovered the scene in its aftermath where frustration gave way to laughter. And in between, we acted fast and every spot was sprayed, scrubbed and removed with success.

Despite these teeth-clenching bumps in the road when I want to send Buckley on a one-way Wheaten Terrier pilgrimage back to Ireland, I sure do love him. Its hard to say no to that sad-eyed, long-eyelashed, black-nosed visage. I don't think Jeff and I are quite at Best In Show obsession, but we have our moments.

I think that in getting Buckley we've learned a little more about ourselves, and I daresay, about God. He has been known to use animals and creation to speak to people about His nature. Lest I seem like some sentimental sap, I must say that I enjoy few things more than the excitement with which Buckley greets us. He loves with no questions or conditions, just that little thumb of a tail leading his whole hind-end in hectic wagging back and forth.

PHOTOS: From Blood Mt., GA. Courtesy Marilyn and Matt.
Buckley loves hiking. He also gets hot easily with his thick Wheaten coat.

After a sunny hike to the top, Buckley's panting led us to a small puddle. We figured he may want a drink.

It was quickly evident he wanted a bath.

It was too late to stop him, and too funny to watch

rasta dog

Friday, March 23, 2007

One Midtown Kitchen

Opening Notes...
Thank you for your well-wishes, prayers, attendance, etc. re: the concert this past Tuesday. I think it went well for being my first solo gig since college. I'll try to keep you in the loop about future events.

The following is the restaurant review alluded to in my last post. It was originally written March 7th.

I had one of those moments last night that you replay later ( and think of all the cooler, more appropriate things you could have said and done.
It came to be so in this way...
Jeff and I celebrated 3 years of marriage yesterday. 3 years since our wedding celebration. This moment, 3 years ago I would have been having a room-service breakfast at the Georgian Terrace, lookingacross the small table at the greatest guy in the world. Three years later, I still think he's the greatest guy in the world.

We opted to commemorate this year's anniversary, like we like to commemorate just about anything, with a tasty meal out at one of Atlanta's array of interesting restaurants. (Remember my Rathbun's restaurant review from last year was also on the occasion of our anniversary). This year we decided to sample an establishment that has seen it's days of buzz and chatter die down, but by all accounts, still serves inventive, fresh cuisine at reasonable prices: One Midtown Kitchen. One, as I will affectionately name it, is the first child in a family of townie restaurants here. The second to open was Two Urban Licks (you'll find my Tworeview in the blog archives). And most recently Bob Amick has brought us Trois...a more, you guessed it, French interpretation on the hip concept. We've tried all three, and I most prefer One.


One exudes the same sleek, trendy flair as it's siblings, and even Rathbun's (now our dining benchmark). It's first impressions, a neon-lighted purple facade and huge hammered steel door, can be intimidating. (The entry lacks only a velvet rope and it could pass for an see-and-be-seen LA Club.) But once inside the, er, velvet curtain, the place warms up and the open kitchen's pleasing aromas leave no doubt why you've come. We were immediately greeted by a friendly host, more local-theatre charisma than to-cool-for-school pretension often found at similar establishments. To further bolster my confidence that this would be a positive experience, joining us in front of the host pulpit also waiting for a table was one of my music icons. Casually clad in a striped button-up, worn jeans and Chuck-T sneakers, Emily Saliers of Indigo Girls fame was shown to a booth with two friends and I knew that One must be a good spot. Honestly, it's not unsurprising to see Emily out and about in Atlanta, and she is a restaurant proprietor /foodie herself. But to me, she is the musician who so often spoke to my soul when I was a teenager, and even now. And here she was, seated one table over, eating through a platter full of raw oysters. But enough stargazing, this evening was about Jeff and me, and the food. Neither of which disappointed.

The service was good, not memorable. Our waiter was efficient and friendly. As we deliberated a wine selection, he brought samples of 2 for us to try: a good move on his part as we ended up with the pricier French pinot over the also-tasty Chilean version. We're just suckers for the taste of French wine. The Roncier du Bourgogne was a good pairing for our selected dishes. Oaky with that old-world tingly character that was good to sip, but showed its life with the various foods we had.

The pre-meal bread selection rivalled Rathbun's in presentation and tastiness. Flavorful, thin breadsticks anchored the bread bouquet which also included delicately fried lavash (or something like that) and a gummy-crusted sourdough - all excellent, and embellished by the house condiment: chickpea spread, sans tahini (so it was not hummus), but with garlic, thyme, oil and a creamy texture. I like the inventive spreads touch, as Trois offered also. We split a house salad as we prepared our palates for the main event.

The dishes came beautifully presented, each with their own sized plate. Again, I must rave about any restaurant which takes care on its menu to think outside the "meat-and-3" box that caters to our American starch cravings by dully pairing (insert fancy-named protein here) with heaping mounds of rice or overly garlicked "smashed" potatoes. By contrast, One's menu items took account of tastes and textures, savory and sweet, and presented them in appropriate portions. Thus the foods' convergence on the plate was less like a well-balanced business meeting, and more like a dance.

The dance that Jeff (and I) enjoyed was a beautiful medium rare cut of salmon, bright, naturally pink and fleshy inside, milky pale pink on its seared exterior. It was topped with deep green swiss chard, plentifully buttered and flavorful. The attractive stack was then crowned with a crispy pancetta round and 2 deep-fried apple rings (think onion rings, but apple! Brilliant..and artery clogging). A cote, an apple-leek turnover that was to die for. Unbelievably rich, not overly sweet and a clever compliment to the other partners in the ensemble.

The group number that transpired on my long rectangle plate would make many a gourmande shudder, but I think it worked. The downbeat was a spicy melange of tender Tuscan white beans and chorizo sausage. I wondered whether the Spanish chorizo's flamenco kick would overpower the elegant seared scallops which sat innocently atop the mix. Sometimes, it did, and then I would alternate between bites of pure, melt-in-your mouth scallops, then fill the end of my fork with white beans and sausage. Once I'd scooped up the last bits of spicy sauce with that gummy bread, I wondered if I had room for dessert. In fact, I probably don't have room here in this post to describe our dessert, but I will try, ever so briefly because it was yet another movement in the symphony where the parts played so well together.

Again I was refreshed by the not-so-standard-fare dessert offerings. Each choice was simple in name, but complex in ingredients. We chose "Kit Kat Bar" which arrived on one of those same long plates, the eponymous Bar in the center atop an artful paintbrush stroke of dark chocolate. On either end of the presentation sat small scoops of house-made goodness: peanut sorbet and curry ice cream. The sorbet was light, not overly sweet, yet full of roasty peanut flavor that played wonderfully with the dense, layered Kit Kat-tasting stack in the center. But I think the dessert's highlight was the curry ice cream. As a fan most any curry-infused cuisine, I was anxious to try the tiny scoop and it didn't disappoint. "It tastes like soap!" I mused to Jeff, wide-eyed. "You mean, it tastes like soap smells" he clarified. Yes, it had a sweet, flowery taste and I wished there'd been more. But, by that point, I was so full the small scoop was just enough.

So, in all, I would mark One Midtown Kitchen among my favorite Atlanta restaurants. Maybe it's not quite Rathbun's but it was a delightful experience.

Oh, and about that moment I'm replaying, wishing I'd said something cooler....
I approached Ms. Saliers' table, apologized for interrupting and said "I just wanted to say 'Thank You.' I probably wouldn't be a musician today if it weren't for you." Which is entirely true. She then asked if I play around town, (insert a few more lines of banter here). She asked for my name, shook my hand, and introduced her sisters with whom she was dining. I then said something stupid like..."wow, you guys are a real talent pool...". Whaa? Anyway, my brush with local fame. Probably could've said everythng better, but I'm glad I at least got to say thanks.

..and Thank YOU for sticking it out through this review and story! Keep your thoughts, recommendations, etc. coming. I like them.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Newest Weaver

Frankly, I've dreaded this first blog entry in months and months. Why? Well, la vie Weaver has been awash in changes and I just didn't feel like going into all of it. So, for the sake of brevity, and to not use up my verbiage capital on a pure "update" entry (there is, after all a restaurant review all ready for posting!), here is a bullet list of what's new. And accompanying pictures:

  • I quit my job at National Allergy Supply, Inc. (but will continue to do contract authorship of their monthly e-newsletters). Don't worry. I still believe in non-drug allergy, asthma and sinus products.

  • We have a new "child". Vital stats as follows:

  • **Name: Buckley (aka Buckles, Buckster, Buddy, Boy, Child, stinkin' dog)

    **Age: 11 wks. (pictured w/ Jeff at 8 wks)

    **Breed: Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier

    **Key Features: Hypo-Allergenic ( dander or shedding!) and massive cute-ness

    **Size: Increasing by the day. He'll be about 40 lbs

    **Favorite Activities: Stealing shoes to chew on, chasing leaves, playing with my nephews, hiking...then sleeping.

    **See some professional quality photos from Buckley's "photo shoot" HERE - courtesy Michael Shivers.

    ..and more news...
  • We're moving...into my sister's house (not with them...). It's next door.

  • Their fam (pictured here minus 1 boy, plus our dog) is moving away from our beloved neighborhood. I'll miss them so much. They'll miss Buckley.

  • We're planning on renting our house to our friends Rick & Kristen and their fam.

  • Coming soon: Dual housewarming blowout. Monitors work b/t the houses.

  • Jeff and I just celebrated our 3 yr anniversary last week...hence upcoming restaurant review.

  • And last...but still least:
  • I have a small gig next Tuesday. You're invited. I'm playing piano and singing Ming Dynasty songs. I don't really play piano well, so you should come, just for the spectacle.

  • That's us, in a nutshell.

    Monday, January 29, 2007

    Kiss and Makeup

    I did something extra-ordinary last week. Perhaps it’s not extra-ordinary for most women of my age, but for me, purchasing makeup is very out of the norm. In fact, I can safely say that I’ve actually bought real makeup (face creams don’t count) about 2 times. And I usually only have bought it when the company of choice has a “bonus”. For those of you not in the know, that’s when company’s offer trial sizes of things that people don’t usually want in the big or little sizes. People that is, excluding me, because to me, anything is something and if it has color and some sort of application mechanism –i.e. a tube, a spongy q-tip… - then I’m game. And I’ll wear that little free gift eye-shadow for the next 10 years.

    I’m still working on my eyeshadow duo that I BOUGHT, about 10 years ago. Seriously, I know girlie magazines would tell me I’m THIS close to getting some sort of nasty eye disease, but I’m just too lazy and make-up averse to care. It’s not that I don’t like primping, or the way I look when I actually have a well-done dose of color enhancements on my face (like, on my wedding day), I just don’t care enough to really invest in it, AND, truth be told, I’m intimidated by the whole process.

    See, much of my aversion to make-up stems from my distaste of shopping in general. My retail shopping regimen typically includes Target, REI, maybe DSW for shoes, but beyond that, I’m just plumb intimidated. Like the other day when I sauntered into Perimeter Mall (hardly one of Atlanta’s most uppity shopping spots). Be that as it may, I strolled through the glitz in my dowdy work clothes, end-of-day oily face and hair and way out of fashion glasses.

    I did some positive self-talk and snuck into Sephora, a rather hip emporium for all things beauty. I felt immediately out of place, but trudged on through rows of pretty colors from brands that I know only vaguely by name. Like Urban Decay which seemed very hip and edgy with cool looking eye-shadow “books” that had a multitude of oddly-named shades to fit my rock star/allergen-avoidance persona. I stood perplexed, lining the top of my hand with metallic blue, soft green and gun-metal gray streaks of eye liner and shadow from various brands and eras. But my senses were too overloaded, and my mind just couldn’t get around what kind of margins these people must make on a teaspoon of compacted, colored powder. And I figured you just can’t worry about those things if you want to look pretty. Then I snuck back out, past the dark-haired lady in the black smock with racoonish eyes. What must she be thinking, I thought to myself. She must dream in beautiful, metallic hues.

    When in times of great doubt and consternation, as I obviously was, one goes with what one knows. I got some of my first makeup from Clinique, probably mom got it for me because of its hypoallergenic qualities or something. So, from then on, I've always defaulted to Clinique with their neat-o slide charts to figure out your skin type and their yellow Dramatically Different moisturizer. I'm not convinced it's THAT dramatically different from something I'd get at CVS, but, it makes me feel better than those other ones. Then there's the squeaky clean white coats, maybe that's what lures me. The clean, crisp medicinal quality that says, "No monkey business, just giving you what you need to be a woman in today's culture. Not embellishment, just survival tools."

    As I perused the eyeshadow and eyeliner colors I met the (yet again) overly black-lined eyes of the makeup sales associate. One look at her visage, like that of countless other makeup counter sales associates, made me again second-guess the whole beauty scene...why do so many of the "pros" seem to have unhealthy skin and bad makeup? (my own beauty-biz friends excluded) If only the average makeup sales girl could look more non-cakey natural and less Robert Smith in a lab coat with strong perfume. Nevertheless, my Clinique clerk was friendly enough. And I was desperate.

    She kindly put big swipes of pressed powder on my porous cheeks to test colors as I said things like "low maintenance" and "doesn't look like I'm wearing makeup." While she didn't personally ascribe to the subtle method, she seemed to understand my plight. Once settled on a flesh-tone foundation powder, we headed toward the eye makeup. I then remembered how completely confusing current styles are. Just as I've been getting comfy with browns and bohemian earth tones, 80's blues and frosty greens are back with a vengeance, gracing the lids of skinny girls with long hair and thick pleated red leather waist belts. I'm not convinced it'll last, but I do have fond memories of my sister making me over with those very same colors when I was 8. I let the lab consultant follow my nostalgic gaze toward the frosty rainbow. However, she cautioned me that electric-youth blue would not suit me as much as a warmer green. Though it was safer than my original edgy intent, I believed the expert. Admittedly, with my earthy green eyeshadow duo in hand, I couldn't shake the voice of mom in my head explaining the she and I had the same Color Me Beautiful season meaning that blues work, but greens makes us look jaundiced. For most of my shopping life I've never bought green things because I fear looking jaundiced. But I got over the fear for a fleeting moment and bought the green shadow. Again, desperate times call for desperate measures.

    I wore my purchases a few nights ago: the matte neutral powder is spot-on and from my vantage point the eyeshadow doesn't make me look like a sickly baby or like I've gotten into a bar fight. for another 6 years.

    Anything you're unreasonably intimidated about shopping for?