Monday, December 29, 2008

Anticipatory Grief

I've struggled with anxiety and depression off and on for years. I remember when a counselor once told me I suffer from "anticipatory grief," that is, I get irrationally upset about things that haven't even happened yet. In high school, it was anxiety over handling my finances as an adult and other random adult things that I didn't yet know how to do and was afraid I'd never learn.

I don't think I've succumbed to such irrational fears lately, but last night I had a little episode that I'll have to blame on pregnancy hormones. We were watching The Sound of Music on TV, and I kept noticing how Gretl looks a lot like my friend's little sister did back when I first met her. The little sister was in first grade when I met her, but now is a sophomore in college. As I lamented to Matt how I couldn't believe time had passed so quickly and how old we'd all grown, he commented, "yep, before you know it, Kate will be a sophomore in college too."

At that, I looked down at my pregnant belly... and actually started to cry. "She's going to leave us!" I wailed. She's not even born yet! I'm still sitting on the egg and crying about my empty nest! Matt consoled me and we both laughed (me through the tears) at my silliness, as I vowed to enjoy every minute of this child's life.

The years will go by all too quickly, I know.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Before there was Babies R Us...

(from and cartoonist Kevin Frank)


I remember a day months ago when my weekly e-mail from or informed me that baby was about the size of a pencil eraser. I got so excited and gave Matt a little pink eraser as a "gift" to share the excitement about our growing little one.

It's hard to believe, now she's the size of a honeydew melon--possibly over 5 pounds and almost ready to make her grand entrance into the world!
Our due date is one month from today. Pregnancy has been so exciting and all-consuming, it's quite the reality check to realize that sometime in the next 2 to 5 weeks, she'll actually be OUT, in our arms, and we'll start our life as a family of three!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Kelley Family goes North and gets Funky

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Are you rich?

Looking up an example for a book I'm editing, I found the following interactive web site:

Give it a try. As the Wall Street Journal said, this site is "almost guaranteed to cheer you up" in the face of the current economic crisis. As we bombard one another with "stuff" this Christmas, let us keep in mind and seek to serve the 88%, 94%, 97%, 99%, etc. who live day to day with much less than we.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

34 Weeks

I'm 34 weeks now (almost 35) and the bun in the oven is rising splendidly! We can't believe how close we're getting to her arrival. Since one is technically full term as of 37 weeks (Jan. 2 for us) the time is definitely coming soon. I'm hoping she'll be just a little early for her Jan. 23 due date, but we'll see. The important thing is a healthy baby, of course, but pushing out a little porker obviously sounds more painful than a more svelte baby. (For the record, I was born two weeks early and weighed just over 5 pounds. Matt was two weeks late and weighed over 8.)

The nursery is pretty much ready, we've got enough diapers on hand for at least the first few weeks, and we're just excited to meet our little Kate!
Here's a little sneak peak into her world (our second round of 3D ultrasound pics). That's the placenta up against her forehead, and the cord under her chin. She looks pretty cozy in there, don't you think?

Saturday, December 13, 2008


... in the kids books section of Borders today...

MOM: Honey, stop that. Stop that, please. Honey, whose birthday are we celebrating at Christmas?

KID: Baby Jesus.

MOM: Do you think Baby Jesus would be happy with you pulling books off the shelf like that?

[kid is quiet for a few seconds, then pulls another book off the shelf]

KID: Can we get this for Baby Jesus?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Is "Holiday" a Dirty Word?

Can anyone else relate to this? Since all the talk these last few years about "the war on Christmas," and people scoffing at store clerks who say "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas," I find myself feeling very self-conscious every time I use the word "holiday." Will my words be interpreted as a grenade in this theoretical "war"? (BTW, Matt wrote a great post about how crazy this whole concept is, and how tangential to what Christ's people should be focusing on as we celebrate his birth.)

I often use the phrase "this holiday season," as in "blessings to you this holiday season," or whatnot. I think I used that on our Christmas cards last year, and we're using some variant of that on our Christmas card this year. (The aforementioned self-consciousness didnt have time to kick in because I was designing the card quickly on KodakGallery as Matt was urging me to hurry up because he had the Trivial Pursuit board all set up and ready to go.) To me, it extends the well-wish through New Year's and all. I'm not intentionally including or shunning Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, or trying to downplay Christmas. It's just a December pleasantry that used to be non-political and a completely acceptable expression of good will.

The other day, I was writing a whole batch of work e-mails, and while my first instinct was always to close by wishing the recipient (a Christian minister in every case) a good holiday season, I instead wrote "Christmas season," for fear they would think me a convictionless pagan if I used the H-word. The one exception was when the recipient was from a more liturgical tradition and I suddenly rethought the phrasing for a different reason. It's technically not the Christmas season until Dec. 25, so should I wish him a blessed Advent? Would he really care, one way or the other? I celebrate Advent, but I'd call it the Christmas season too. (But what do I know? I'm just a happy-holiday-wishing heathen.) In that case, I think I settled on "Have a nice day."

When did it get so complicated? Am I completely neurotic to even be worried about this? Given that many people who receive e-mails from me don't even read the last couple lines thoroughly enough to catch that my first name is Jessica, not Kelley or Kelly (see that rant here), I probably shouldn't worry about it. I'm not trying to make a political statement. I really just want to wish you joy and peace in this special time of year--whatever you want to call it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Things I love about the Birthday Boy

Today is Matt's 28th birthday. In honor of that fact, I'd like to share 28 things I love about this special man I am privileged to call my husband.

1. The way he makes me laugh when I'm down or upset... or any time, really.

2. His silly voices--Cookie Monster and Satan, especially.

3. What a great dad he's going to be.

4. What a great husband he already is.

5. The way his eyes look green or blue, depending on what he's wearing.

6. How he holds my hand or puts his hand on my knee while driving.

7. His big brain.

8. How good he looks in sweaters-over-shirts-with-sleeves-rolled-up (my favorite style on a man--see Exhibit A, above).

9. What a great preacher he is.

10. The way he helps others to think about and grow in relationship with God.

11. The way he cares about the people and issues Jesus cared about.

12. His patient and forgiving nature.

13. How attentive he is to my needs and wants (especially since I've been pregnant).

14. That he gave me this sweet baby that's kickboxing my belly button.

15. His ability to see the best in people and things.

16. His cooking.

17. The way his upper lip twitches involuntarily (mainly during allergy season, I think, but it's really cute).

18. When he throws his head back in laughter.

19. When he laughs at my jokes (even though I'm not so funny as him).

20. How sweet and affectionate he is with me, our cat, and our baby.

21. How low-maintenance and spontaneous he is.

22. His intentionality in sparking theological conversations (especially when my brain is constantly tuned to the baby channel)

23. His cute little tooshie.

24. The way he'll narrow his eyes at me in mock-irritation for mentioning his tooshie.

25. His love of travel, reading, and deep conversation.

26. That he watches Friends all the time with me, quoting lines and even doing the claps in the theme song.

27. How much fun we have together.

28. How he'll only get better with age.

I love you so much, sweetie. Have a wonderful birthday!

Friday, October 31, 2008

28 Weeks

I am now 28 weeks along, which theoretically should be 7 months, but is really just 6, because pregnancy is really 10 months, but they like to force it into a 9-month framework (???) Anyway, I have less than three months to go, now.

We start going to the doctor every two weeks now, and before long, it will be every week! I am measuring normally--my "uterus height" is 27.5 cm, and it's supposed to correspond to your number of weeks, so I'm just half a centimeter off, but that was Wednesday, before I officially reached 28 weeks today. Some people are telling me I look small, but I just haven't gained much weight, and my doctor says since I am tall and "have a deep pelvis," I'm just not going to stick out as far as some people. Baby Kate has plenty of room, in other words! Hooray for our little sweet pea!

Sunday, October 26, 2008


This is my (Jessica's) favorite of the 3D ultrasound pics. You can see Kate's precious little profile, and those legs that blocked her face during much of the ultrasound. (She's essentially sucking her knees in this pic, and those are her feet on the right edge of the image.) For those of you who've asked, yes, it is "definitely" a girl. I hesitate to say that without the quotes because I still fear we'll get thrown a curveball (or two :0) at birth, but two ultrasounds have now shown the telltale "three lines" that indicate girl parts, and the technicians were quite confident.

Baby Kate is about fifteen inches long now, weighs around two pounds, and recently has begun keeping her foot (or elbow, or something) up under my bottom rib. Our little girl has been kicking like crazy, doing somersaults in my belly, and I have to say it's the most amazing feeling ever. I can't believe I have a little person inside of me! What's even more amazing is that she has a million little proto-people inside her too, as she has more eggs now than she will ever have in her whole life! Microscopic halves of our grandchildren are already there, inside our daughter, before she has even been born. Generation upon generation are nested inside one another.

I have long loved all things Russian, and have a modest collection of matryoshkas--nesting dolls. Matt even proposed to me by putting the ring inside one of the innermost layers of a matryoshka. That one was painted with the story of the Ugly Duckling, and nowadays you see them decorated with faces of Communist leaders, U.S. presidents, Hollywood stars, or any number of other things, but the traditional design has each doll painted to look like a babushka (Russian grandmother) or other woman in traditional Eastern-European dress. The word matryoshka, in fact, is derived from the word for mother (mat). So here I am, less than three months from becoming a mother, and I am a matryoshka of sorts, nesting within me my child and even her children and beyond.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ultrasound Comparison

We just had an ultrasound courtesy of the folks at Focused Imaging in Nashville. According to my (Matt) mother, the image of baby Kate's face looks like me as a newborn. I'm still hoping Kate looks like her mother, though.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

October 14 - Our Anniversary

Today is our second wedding anniversary. We had Roundtable Pulpit tonight, so we didn't get to go out to dinner or anything, but have celebrated in little ways--exchanging cards, getting up early to enjoy waffles before work, and watching our wedding video while we ate a quick dinner at home. We reminisced about what a wonderful day it was, from the beautiful flowers, to our first dance, to our lovely suite at the Brown Hotel. To reminisce a bit more about that happy, happy day, I'm including a few of our favorite wedding pics below...

Below, you see Bishop Pennel performing our ceremony, and I want to reflect a little here on his homily, as it honestly means more now than when he originally delivered it. One of the scriptures for the service (and we did take care to make it a worship service, complete with hymns and eucharist) was Joshua 24:15, "Choose for yourselves this day who you will serve... but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." We asked Bishop Pennel to preach on what it means to serve God as a household (presuming that it means something different from serving God as individuals).

He said that serving God as a household means loving one another well. That sounds lovely, but I remember thinking that was a cop-out. Shouldn't it mean working as a couple for the betterment of society? Helping one another grow as disciples?

Through the ups and downs of the first couple years of marriage, though, I've come to see that he was right. Loving one another well is a prerequisite for any other good we can do in the world. Why is that? Because unhappiness breeds self-centeredness. When the relationship is struggling and one or both parties is unhappy, we cannot get outside ourselves enough to focus on others and the service to which God calls us. That's my experience, at least. While loving those closest to us is often harder than loving complete strangers, the health of that primary relationship provides a platform from which to love and serve God and neighbor.

This last one is a favorite of ours because, to us, it symbolizes how FUN our wedding was. All those empty chairs, everybody out on the dance floor, it was awesome! We had a great start, Baby, and the best is yet to come!

World's Worst Pastor

No, not my husband. He's awesome. I mean me. If there is one thing I have learned in the last year or two, it is that I would literally be the world's worst pastor.

I was reminded of this reading Kem Meyer's blog today. She started out with this quote:

"If you believe that people hate change and that it is your job to change them, they will hate it. If you believe that people thrive on change and that your job is to unleash it, you will tap into a limitless source of ingenuity, energy and drive that will allow you to take your big ideas into big results."
- Michael T. Kanazawa

I have a very "this is the way things should be, and anyone who doesn't see that is totally clueless" personality. I know that's terrible, and I don't really believe it, but I often have that attitude about a lot of things in the church. If I were a pastor, I would be run out on a rail for imposing changes without getting appropriate buy-in. I would scream, "It's not 1957 anymore!" and people would look at me like I was crazy. I would be branded as anti-social and uncaring because I much prefer being home with hubby or in a small group setting than mingling with crowds at fellowship gatherings or making endless visits. I could go on, but I don't want to make myself look even worse than I already have.

Luckily for the church, Matt is very conscientious about getting buy-in, helping key people feel ownership over desicions. He makes a concerted effort to meet people "where they are," rather than expecting them to automatically see things his way. He's awesome. And I know when to keep my mouth shut.

(On another "yay for hubby" note, it's our anniversary today, but I'm going to write that post this evening, because the wedding pix are on my home computer, and because I need to get back to work now.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Quintessentially Nashville

Well, Clarksville to be precise, but it comforts me a little to think of C'ville as just a far-out suburb of Nashville. Anyway, my point is, here we are making our country music debut!

The Trace Adkins video that was shot at our church is now playing on CMT! Matt embedded the video and included some of his photos of the shoot on his blog, here.

Even if you're not a country music fan, it's fun to watch the video. Amazing how Stephen Baldwin seems to be overacting, even when he's just walking down a road... Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Registry Woes

I just gave this post that title so you might think it has to do with baby registries and be more inclined to check it out. (Baby-happy ladies, at least. Some people, of course, would think that and run the other direction.)

Anyway, no. What I really want to gripe about today is the concept of websites hosting contests for things and demanding that people register--provide their personal contact info--before voting. Four times in the last couple weeks, friends have e-mailed or blogged about some fun contest they've entered--best blog, cutest pet halloween costume, or best gospel song rendition. Each time, I happily click on the link to go vote for my friend, look at other contestants, and see what the website is all about. Three of those times, though (to Southwest Airlines' credit, they are the exception, not making me register to vote for their new "blog-o-spondent") I have been required to register with the site before voting. Sadly, I just "X" out of the site immediately, irritated that I can't join in the fun unless I sign up for the site's presumably endless marketing communiques.

Marketing minds, are you with me here? I understand that in most cases, the reason the site hosts the contest to begin with is to attract new customers. However, surely there is a benefit to just raising consumer awareness about your company, and improving your reputation by making people think of you as a fun and engaging. Forcing people to divulge too much before they know anything about you and what you offer seems more of a turn-off than a brand-boosting move.

Do you agree, or should I just pony up the info and click the opt-out button?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Mad Men

Matt and I have taken to watching the AMC drama "Mad Men." It won the Emmy the other night for best drama series, and we agree wholeheartedly. I never watched "The Sopranos," but one of the writers and producers of "The Sopranos" is the exec producer on "Mad Men," and Matt says the subtle-yet-brilliant way characters are developed on the two shows is quite similar. It really is a brilliantly written show.

If you haven't heard about it, it's about people working in an ad agency on Madison Avenue in the early 1960s. The cultural differences depicted between then and now are positively hilarious. Not just the constant smoking, but the ubiquity of liquor in the office (I once had a dream I had a full bar in my office. It was a good dream. In that same dream, we'd hired Whoopi Goldberg as an African American fiction editor.) No one wears seat belts, and when a child is playing with a dry cleaning bag completely over her head, the mom gets mad because the clothes are all over the floor, not because the child is potentially suffocating herself.

The treatment of the women in the office is so appalling by today's standards that it, too, is hilarious. The men don't even call them "secretaries," but "girls," as in "tell your girl to type up that memo." (I received an e-mail at work the other day addressed "Gentlemen," so maybe things haven't changed as much as we think.) The crowning moment of all this eye-popping chauvenism, however, came in an episode we watched this morning on DVD. (We didn't start watching til Season 2, so we're catching up via Netflix.) A woman who, by season two, is a copywriter and the only female non-secretary in the office, impressed one of the men with her tagline-creation skills (which, we presume, leads to the promotion by the end of the season). The man is telling all his male colleagues about how brilliant her ideas were, and says...

"I tell you, it was amazing. It was like seeing a dog play the piano."

Yes, that's right. Seeing a woman think was like seeing a dog play the piano.

For this and other gems, we highly recommend you check out the show. It's on Sunday nights at 10/9 central on AMC.

Are You Above Average?

My husband put up a post last night with this list he found of the "100 Books All Americans Should Read" or something like that. Supposedly, the average American has only read six of them. That's pretty sad. Matt had read 36. I'm betting I won't beat him. To my knowledge, he never went through a decade-long phase where he read nothing but American Girl and Babysitter's Club books, so he is more widely read than I.

This is kind of a chain-blog deal, so feel free to copy, paste, and fill it out for yourself.
The Rules:
1) Look at the list and put one * by those you have read.
2) Put a % by those you intend to read.
3) Put two ** by the books you LOVE.
4) Put # by the books you HATE.
5) Post.

I'm feeling lazy today, so I don't think I'm going to bother with the love it, hate it deal. I just want my number, so I can see how I rank against my brilliant hubby and the not-so-brilliant "average American." I am, however, going to add a new category- "?", which means "I think I was assigned this in high school and can't remember if I actually read it or just skimmed it well enough to still flunk the quiz."

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen? (I'm starting this off well)
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte*
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee*
6 The Bible*
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 1984 - George Orwell*
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens?
11 Little Women - Louisa May Alcott*
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien*
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger* (Matt says he doesn't want to read this one because so many serial killers have been found reading it. I guess he's still waiting to see how I turn out ;0)
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell*
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald*
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck?
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll*
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy*
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia- CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen*
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne*
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell*
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery* (and several of its sequels, though I got bored after Anne and Gilbert got married)
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding*
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen*
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens*
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley* (read Amusing Ourselves to Death for a fascinating take on how this is the dystopia our society is actually headed for, not 1984)
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas*
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett*
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce * (this one should make up for at least five classics I haven't read)
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker (haven't read this, but I have a distinct memory of when a couple girls and I found this on our 5th grade teacher's desk, opened to some really freaky incident, and were quickly told to put that book down!)
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White*
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad ?
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (no, but I remember when my 11th grade classmates who took French had to read it in the original--"Le Petit Prince")
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas*
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl*
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Hmm... 25 and four "maybes." Not too bad, I suppose, for someone who doesn't really care for fiction. (I'm more of a religion/sociology/memoir sort of girl.) I've got to say, the one obvious gap in this list that I see is Fahrenheit 451. Great book, and appropriate for a list/study about the importance of reading.

So what's your number?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Debate Stream of Consciousness

8:03 Is anyone else watching the "audience reaction" ticker more than the candidates themselves? I wish I had one of those dials. I love taking polls.

8:09 Lehrer! Don't talk to the candidates like they're in marriage counseling! "Don't tell me, say it directly to him."

8:13 McCain's tie is not TV-compatible. They should have checked that. And his Montana bear joke just fell flat.

8:19 Hmm. The audience didn't like Obama interrupting. It's supposed to be a more casual, dialogical debate, though. That's how we did it in my family!

8:22 John, why are you talking about WWII? It just reinforces that you're old, and that you still have a WWII mindset (see this month's issue of The Atlantic).

8:26 I think McCain was about to lose it there. The condescending chuckle as Obama spoke. I know another Republican who does that. I won't name any names, though.

8:32 Google for Government? I'm intrigued... (and always interested in anything that makes info more easily accessible.)

8:33 Audience supports ending the war. Smart people.

8:37 You've always fought excessive spending, John? But you support billions and billions of unbudgeted funds for making war?

8:40 Independents not buying that the surge equals success.

8:46 It's not a win/lose situation!

8:49 Why does the Independent line keep switching between green and yellow?

8:51 Pock-i-ston? Tolly-bon? Obama pronounces things funny. And now I have "Lollipop, Lollipop" in my head.

9:02 I'm tired, and I think we're losing interest. This is just 90 minutes, right?

9:04 Matt's freaking out at McCain's use of the term "existential threat." Wha-huh? Did he mean "substantial threat"? Or a threat to Israel's existence?

9:08 Yes, it's soooo bad to sit down and talk civilly to antagonistic heads of state! (sarcasm, if that wasn't clear.) That really bothers me when McCain says things like that.

9:20 Matt is wondering if McCain's frequent line, "Senator Obama just doesn't understand," will be interpreted as tough, or just a-holish.

9:30 If the audience poll chart is any indication, I think it's clear Obama is "winning" this debate. Several times, we have seen the lines plummet the moment McCain starts to speak, and dip to their lowest points the more disrespectfully he speaks about Obama. All three lines (the red one included!) rise significantly when Obama speaks again.

My friends, I've had about enough for one night. Looking forward to the veeps next week. Goodnight, and God Bless America.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

And the child lept in her womb...

Baby Kate (we are going on the assumption that it's a girl now) has been kicking a lot in the last couple weeks, and it is so thrilling. It's amazing to feel her moving around, to know she's there and that she's okay.

I've been thinking recently about the verse in Luke's birth narrative, when a knocked-up Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptist at the time. It says "when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child lept in her womb." When this passage is read aloud every Christmas, it seems so supernatural, as if it's totally unheard of for a child to leap within the womb and it couldn't be anything other than a great omen of messianic coming. Now, it seems so real, like a perfectly normal--if positively glorious and miraculous--occurance.

Nonetheless, it makes me think of how people are prone to ascribe significance to those most energetic kicks. I don't know if the timing of baby's kicks actually have any correlation to what's going on ouside the womb, but it's kind of fun to take stock of what I could know about my daughter's tastes if there is any validity to the theory. She likes...
  • pumpkin spice lattes
  • Daddy's preaching
  • praise and worship music
  • Mommy ignoring the alarm clock
  • Disciple Bible study videos

and apparently...

  • being blogged about :0)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Pastors and Country Stars

When our cruise ship got back to Mobile Monday morning, Matt turned his phone back on and found two voice mails and a text asking him about filming a Trace Adkins country music video at the church. How cool! I'm not a huge country music fan (I adopted a mildly positive "can't-beat-em-join-em" stance after moving to Nashville) but I love cool claims-to-fame like this.

So, Matt spent 18 hours yesterday (literally, 5am til after 11 pm) on the set of a music video shoot starring Trace Adkins and Stephen Baldwin. They filmed the plotline part and Trace singing his song inside and outside of the church, and down in the creek where Matt baptized several kids last spring. The song, Muddy Water, is apparently about a guy being baptized. Matt spent the day hanging out with the stars, the director, the extras, and everybody, helping out with production, and even demonstrating proper baptizing technique for the actor playing the pastor!

We're hoping this claim-to-fame will attract some attention for Bethlehem in the Clarksville area (the church is way off the beaten path, so most people don't just stumble upon it!) The Leaf-Chronicle came and did a story. Check it out here, and watch for us on CMT!

Homage to Howard Olds

I meant to write a post like this on the day of Dr. Olds' funeral, six weeks ago. I wanted to say how beloved he was to so many (Matt and I arrived at the funeral 45 minutes early and were still parking at the bank next door and sitting in the overflow room!) and include some excerpts from his last book--the one I was privileged to work on with him and Cal Turner.

Unfortunately, I never did write that post. Fortunately, the folks at Church Central (a great ministry resource website) did it for me. Check out the article, with book excerpts, here.

Another note about Howard's funeral I want to share doesn't have to do with Howard himself, but was a beautiful moment that I know he would appreciate. Matt and I were sitting in the overflow room, as I said, so unlike the thousand or more early birds who fit into Brentwood UMC's sanctuary, the couple hundred of us in the overflow room did not have access to hymnals. The service was shown on a screen, but they didn't show the words to the hymns on screen, so we were left to our own devices when it came time to sing. I honestly can't even remember what the first hymn was ("Be Thou My Vision," maybe, or "Amazing Grace"?) but all these Methodist pastors, congregants, and friends were still able to sing all four or five verses together at the top of their lungs. It really brought tears to my eyes. That was a true "body of Christ" moment, and I know Howard would have been touched as well.

Praise be to God.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008 might be a girl

We had our 20-week ultrasound this afternoon. We'd been prepping "Baby Wes" for days, saying "ok, be sure to smile big, and show us your wee-wee." Because of the Intelligender test, we were fairly confident it would be a boy. After all, the site says the test is 90% accurate in lab tests. (Only 80% accurate in actual usage, but that's because of human error and we followed the directions to a T!) You'll recall how distressed I was when the pee turned green, since I had my heart set on a girl. Over the last two months, though, I've talked to Wesley every day, and looked at boy clothes for him, and even let my quest for neutral bedding veer slightly to the boy side. He was "my little guy," and I got kind of attached to (the idea of) him.

As the day of our "big" ultrasound approached, Matt and I talked about how we would feel if it turned out to be a girl. Matt--though ecstatic about a boy--said he would be totally fine either way. I--despite my earlier desire for a girl--knew that I would feel a little wierd about the gender "changing," even just in our minds.

We told our ultrasound technician about the Intelligender test, so she was looking extra-hard for a penis, too. She checked out all the other organs, took lots of measurements and snapshots (all very cool!) and kept going back to the groin area time and again, each time without announcing any conclusion. Matt and I are both totally untrained, obviously, but each time we got a clear shot of the area, it sure looked like a girl to us. No pee-pees here! Just some white lines in the crotch that looked very much like labia. Finally, she said "well, we can't say for sure, but it really looks like a girl to me." See her crotch, with the little white lines? (Picture baby sitting on the glass of a Xerox machine to get a sense of the angle.)

So, Matt and I don't know what to think! We trusted Intelligender, but it really looked like a girl on screen! Ultrasounds are more reliable, of course, if you see a penis than if you don't, because it could just be hiding (and s/he did keep her/his legs together a lot). We're confused now, since we really want to know "for sure"--we are the Internet generation after all, the age of easy-access information! Right now, I feel kind of how I did when Intelligender said it was a boy. I had trouble picturing myself with a boy, so I couldn't think of the baby as one gender or the other, and didn't know how to talk to him. So, we'll let you know if we start thinking of baby as "her" and "Baby Kate" or not, or if we just live in limbo, like they did in "the olden days." Either way, s/he's a cutie, huh?

In closing, I can't help but think of this gem from "Monty Python and the Meaning of Life"...

Woman who's just given birth: "Is it a boy or a girl?"

Doc: "It's a bit early to be assigning roles, don't you think?"

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Attention, Church Leaders!

Two books hit the shelves while I was on vacation in Virginia earlier this month, so I am delinquent in writing about them. They are both really excellent books for pastors and others in church leadership (worship teams, visioning teams, other committees in need of some inspiration and guidance...). They are both very-updated editions of books that came out 6-9 years ago, and you should check them out because a) you probably didn't hear about them back then, b) a lot has happened in the last 6-9 years, so these editions are more up to date and just plain better, and c) I didn't edit those editions.

The Wired Church 2.0, by Len Wilson with Jason Moore. This book is everything you could want to know about media ministry, from the methodology of why it is important in today's culture to the plans for how to set up your technology and grow it in phases. This book is a must for anyone interested in implementing or expanding use of media in worship, and for anyone trying to get stubborn committees of old-school congregants on board with installing a screen in the sanctuary.

UnLearning Church, by Michael Slaughter. I say that Mike (or at least this book) is "emergent for the rest of us," because he does not self-identify as emergent, but reflects some of the same ideals for the church that those in the emergent conversation do--transformation, sensory experience, uniting ancient and modern traditions, embracing paradox, etc. (In light of that fact, Emergent Village is featuring an excerpt on their blog here.) This book challenges church leaders to "unLearn" their old assumptions about worship, congregational life, church growth, and the role of the leader in order to transform the church and the world for God.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My name is not Kelly!!!

I rarely write blog posts at work, but I need to vent! My name is not Kelly!!

It happens at least once a week (twice this week--once just now, if that wasn't already obvious). I send an e-mail to a professional contact with my nice little electronic signature: Jessica Miller Kelley.

Minutes or days later, I get a reply: "Dear Kelley...," "Thanks, Kelly..." and my blood boils (more rapidly if they don't even include the extra "e").

Why is it so difficult to read and remember my first name in the 4 seconds between pressing "reply" and writing a salutation? If my name was Jessica Johnson, no one would write, "Dear Johnson..."! (or Miller, for that matter.)

A colleague I've known for over a year, who I know knows my name, actually called me "Stephanie" the other day, which was annoying but actually intriguing, since the Senior Pastor at the church Matt served as Associate called me Stephanie for the first six months I was there. I must look like a Stephanie.

Either way, most of the culprits here have never met me in person, so it's not that I look like a Kelly.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Five Whole Years

Matt and I met five years ago today. Five years ago right about now, in fact. We were at a salad supper in the refectory of Vanderbilt Divinity School, the first event of our new student orientation.

It was the day I moved to Nashville. I had graduated Furman in the spring, and after working my first summer at Passport, I moved into the Disciples House on 20th St., across from The Boundry (a very noisy neighbor, but a very swanky bar and nice place to spend an evening). Matt had just graduated Butler, returned to his hometown, and moved to an apartment on 18th Ave. As I loaded the car in my parents' driveway that morning, I said to them, "I could meet him today!" "Him," of course, was "the One." I'd been single my whole senior year of college (which was great!) but starting grad school in a new place, I was hoping to meet somebody special. Matt had just gotten out of a serious relationship just a few weeks earlier, and walked to the orientation event wondering, "who knows? Maybe I'll meet somebody special."

After we'd eaten and heard welcome speeches from the various deans, a people bingo game was started, so we could mix and mingle. After getting signatures in squares marked "Someone with a cat," "someone who speaks Spanish," etc., and getting five in a row (Bingo!) I was approached by a cute guy with a goatee. After introducing ourselves, Matt asked me to sign one of his bingo squares. I signed "someone who was a religion major in college," and then he asked if he could sign one of my squares. Sensing he was interested in me, I decided to turn on the sass. Showing him my five-in-a-row, I declared, "Sorry, I don't need you!" He was hooked. Our first date was six days later.
We knew each other a little over two years when we got engaged, and a little over three years when we got married--pretty standard, I'd say. Matt's parents had been married 4 1/2 years by the time they reached this milestone, but nonetheless, I find myself thinking "I'm married to and having a baby with someone I've only known five years?" It feels like such a short time! And yet, we knew we were a good match right from the start. I love you, baby--happy 5 years!

(neither of us had a digital camera at the time, so here's a pic from spring 2005, the earliest I could find!)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Belly Pics, months 3 and 4

Here's the belly at 13 weeks...

... and at 17 weeks (last night)

Ever since week 10, I've been saying "ooh, I think I'm starting to show!" and then there's really no change. It's been mostly in my head for the last month or more, I guess--though there are several pairs of pants I cannot wear without a rubber band connecting the button and button hole. I know I look just about the same in the above photos, but I think the bump is getting a little more undeniable (and un-suck-in-able) now. Someone last night actually said, "ooh, is that a little bump I see?" Albeit, the person knew I was pregnant (I'm definitely still in the zone where a stranger would fear offending me if s/he asked when I was due) but that's the first time someone has actually noticed a difference! I haven't gained any weight yet (which I am thankful for) but I'm glad to "look" a little more pregnant. I'm sure the thrill will pass when I'm lugging around a huge belly, so might as well celebrate it now.

And while we're celebrating, check out the precious contents of my belly, pictured at 12 weeks!

(The dumb guy at Kinko's who scanned it for me saved it as a PDF, so it's really poor quality. For seven bucks, we're going back to have him do it right. We'll re-upload when we get a better-quality version.)

The Pregnancy Stupids, and other side effects

Since buying my essential copy of What to Expect When You're Expecting just a few days after finding out we were pregnant, I've heard about the forgetfulness, clumsiness, and general flakiness that can strike pregnant women. I think it was Jenny McCarthy in Belly Laughs who called it "the pregnancy stupids." I read about women leaving their keys in the fridge and driving miles past their own houses.

I thought it couldn't happen to me.

Just in the past week or so, though, I've found myself moving my mouse around, looking to open some file on my computer at work, and I realize I have completely forgotten what I'm looking for. It's the cyber equivalent of going into a room to get something and...

What was I talking about?

There's also the general hormonal snippiness (not as bad as one might expect from me, though!) and a little bit of weepiness. I don't think I've cried at anything that I wouldn't have cried at before (except one day in a meeting with my boss, but he's very understanding, both of pregnant women and of general office stress) but I think I'm reacting more strongly to the things that ordinarily make me a little weepy. Rather than a single glistening tear, I'm bawling pathetically at song lyrics like John Mayer's "Daughters"...

Fathers, be good to your daughters.
Daughters will love like you do.
Girls become lovers, who turn into mothers.
So mothers, be good to your daughters, too.

...and Five for Fighting's "100 Years"...

15, there's still time for you
time to buy and time to lose
15, there's never a wish better than this
when you've only got a hundred years to live

Those always get me. But scratch my general rule. I'm watching "The Family Man" right now, with Nicholas Cage and Tea Leoni. It's a great movie, but it has never made me cry. It got me just now, though. It was the scene where Cage's character is showing his wife the Manhattan penthouse they have the chance to move into. He wants to recapture the life of luxury he lost. "I'm talking about us finally having a life that other people envy," he says. And his wife responds, "Oh, Jack. They already do envy us."

It's so beautiful! He learns that his wife and kids are the only things he really needs...

Here I go again!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

A Word on Edwards

I was really sad to hear yesterday that the rumors and allegations about John Edwards' infidelity were true. I was a big fan during his primary run, loving his focus on issues of poverty and health care. It is definitely disappointing to see that he succumbed to the temptations of power as so many other politicians have.

I have to say, though, that it is refreshing to hear Edwards acknowledge flat-out what everyone already knows about public figures who can't keep it in their pants: that power and success, people's cheers and votes of confidence lead to a self-delusion that they are above the rules. Edwards humbly said that his campaigns for Senate, V.P., and this latest presidential primary "fed a self-focus, an egotism, a narcissism that leads you to believe you can do whatever you want. You're invincible. And there will be no consequences."

I've never heard a public figure caught in adultery actually acknowledge that it was self-centeredness (what I would say is the root of all sin) that caused him to stumble. While certainly disappointed in his actions, and bothered (but not surprised) that he lied months ago in efforts to keep his affair private even after he had come clean with Elizabeth, I am pleased with the humility and sincere remorse evident in his public confession yesterday.

While you may never hold public office again, John, please keep working for the causes you believe in. There is plenty of work left to do.

Prego Notes, week 16

  • Nausea is theoretically easing up. Went a whole week without barfing. Celebrated that fact at breakfast with everyone our last morning in Virginia. Threw up entire Arby's lunch three hours later.
  • Have gotten sick 3-4 times in the week since then, including once while behind the wheel. That was not fun.
  • Still not showing much. I can tell a difference, but it's not enough to save me from workplace comments like "You still don't look the least bit pregnant. It's disgusting."
  • Sent Matt to the grocery the other night for cashews and spreadable cheese. Otherwise, it's still all fruit, all the time. I haven't cooked a real dinner in weeks. Make that months.
  • Matt has been absolutely awesome with the back rubs, foot rubs, and craving-fulfillment. I'm a very lucky girl.
  • Heard heartbeat for the first time at this week's appointment. Expected "thump-thump," heard "whoosh, whoosh." Super cool.

Baby Wes is about 4 1/2 inches long now. We'll find out in a month if Intelligender was right (see this post), or if we've actually been causing gender confusion in poor Baby Kate. We've been delinquent about posting pictures recently, but we'll get the 12 week pics of me and of baby up soon. Thanks for everyone's well wishes--we're so excited for this sweet addition to our family!

Thursday, August 07, 2008


I think it's pretty cool China chose to start the Olympics on 08-08-08, especially since 8 is a lucky number in their culture. But, August 8 (tomorrow) is also exciting for another reason.

200 Pomegranates and an Audience of One, an awesome book I've had the joy of acquiring and editing over the past year, officially publishes in just a couple weeks (Sept. 1) and is already building some great momentum. The author, Shawn Wood, is coordinating an Amazon Book Bomb for tomorrow, 08-08-08, which means that you should click RIGHT HERE any time tomorrow, check out the book, its reviews, and oh-so-importantly, buy the book! Amazon has already sold out of the first shipment they bought, so it may say "temporarily out of stock," but don't let that worry you--you'll get your order ASAP!

The book uses the biblical story of Huram of Tyre (see I Kings 7) as a vehicle to motivate readers to discover and cultivate their gifts, and to use them to serve others and honor God. Shawn has a very fresh, conversational style, and really bares it all when talking about struggles he and members of his family have gone through. It's very inspirational--but not in that fluffy, shallow way like books with clouds or flowers and girly writing on the cover. This book is for anyone who has ever wondered if what they do really matters, if they really have anything to contribute to the world. I'll ruin the ending by saying "you do!" but trust me, you'll be a lot more convinced once you read the book.

Monday, August 04, 2008


We haven't posted in a couple weeks, not because nothing interesting has been happening, but because we've been so busy. We just spent a few days at The Homestead in Hot Springs, VA, which we never could have afforded had it not been for my (Matt's) parents' generosity. Dad just turned 60, so Mom set this trip up as a surprise for him, not telling him the kids would be there, too. One of the many highlights was Friday where the guys played golf on a course built into the side of a mountain while the girls got a massage at the resort spa. Needless to say, this was a godsend for poor, pregnant, exhausted Jessica. Pictures will be up soon!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Notes from the Underbelly

  • Ate half a container of lime sherbet last night. Felt queasy for an hour after. Would have had more willpower had it been Moose Tracks or something else fatty.
  • Threw up at Rafferty's Saturday. Soonafter realized my belly button ring had fallen out. Waitress found the bottom part on bathroom floor, but top ball had come unscrewed and was lost. Am now less-cool prego-lady a few months earlier than anticipated.
  • Watched with great interest as married-couple bloggers I read documented their 34-hour childbirth experience on Friday. Congrats Matthew and Jessica (yeah, that's right. They live in Nashville, too.) The child made his first video-blog appearance at only 30 minutes old.
  • Felt queasy just now at work. Ate preggie-pop. Immediate relief.
  • Back to work now. Just six months til maternity leave.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Phoebe Songs*

Are you in there, little fetus?
In nine months, will you come greet us?
I will buy you some Adidas...

--The One with the Embryos (1998)

They're tiny and chubby
and so sweet to touch.
But soon they'll grow up
and resent you so much.
And they're yelling at you
and you don't know why,
And you cry and you cry and you cry.
And you cry and you cry...

--The One with the Birth (1995)

*It's a Friends thing, if you don't already know that and just think I'm crazy.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Gestating is Hard Work

I thought I was out of the woods when I went three days without getting sick. Turns out, that was just Baby's first birthday present to Mommy. I do appreciate it, even though I was sick again this morning.

I took long naps Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The rest is great, but reminds me what I'd rather be doing every afternoon. It has been really hard to get through the work day, this past month or so. The fatigue is actually getting better, though. I've discovered Cranergy, by Ocean Spray, and while it has a funny aftertaste, I'm thankful for the energy. I actually cooked dinner and stayed up til 11:00 last night. I even got on the elliptical machine. (I say "got on" because "worked out" might be overstating it, but even my menial effort at exercise was better than laying on the couch for the thirtieth night in a row.)

It's amazing how growing a tiny little human can take so much out of a person.

Friday, July 04, 2008

It's a Boy!!!

This morning we took the Intelligender test to determine the sex of our baby, and it turns out it's a boy! (Well, technically it's a 90% chance) I (Matt) am extremely excited to have a son, and while Jessica was hoping for a girl, she's excited, too. We recorded the moment we saw the test results, which you can check out below.

His name will be Wesley Matthew Kelley. And no, John Wesley is not the primary reason for the first name, although this is very Methodist of us! He'll go by "Wes". My (Matt) middle name is Lloyd, after my father, so we're continuing the family tradition. We'll have another ultrasound at 20 weeks (about 2 months from now), and we'll post the pictures then. Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive of us!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

What's so great about boys (or girls)?

Matt and I are planning to take the Intelligender gender prediction test tomorrow morning. It's my 27th birthday gift to myself. The over-the-counter, urine-based test will tell us, with 90% accuracy, whether we are having a boy or a girl. As I've mentioned, the competition is fierce. Matt and I each have a strong preference, in the obvious directions. The poll Andrew created is showing girl 3:1, and several amateur clairvoyants have "feelings" in the female direction, but I'm thinking our chances are still 50:50.

So, with under 24 hours to go before "the big reveal," I want to know--what's so great about boys or girls? Other than loving them just because they're your child, why are you thankful to have a boy? Why do you love having a girl?

I really want to know! Please comment!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Name Game

Matt and I had our boy and girl names picked out almost immediately, and we’ll most likely stick to them. (Stay tuned—we’re taking the Intelligender test on July 4!) Occasionally, however, other names flit through my mind before I realize they don’t make the best combinations with our last name.

For example:
Luke Kelley (Lou Kelley?)
Jake Kelley (Jay Kelley?)
Micah Kelley (Mike Kakelley?)
Melanie Kelley (Mellie Kelley?)
Stephen Kelley (Steve & Kelly?)
Grace Kelley (nice, but kind of a bad omen for our little princess)
Scarlett Kelley (is she red or green?)
Declan Kelley (even uber-Irish hubby thought that was going a bit too far. “Sounds like an IRA bomber,” he said.)

Plus, it’s very important we avoid gender-neutral names. I get called Kelley (or worse, Kelly) at least once a week. So does my sister-in-law. We find it very annoying. This is bound to happen for our daughters, assuming Kelly is still a popular girls name in the 2020s. I’d like to avoid that happening to our sons, however, and it seems that clearly-male names keep that from happening (so my husband and brother-in-law’s experience would tell me).

Same thing goes for surname-sounding first names. I remember poor Carson Lilly in my 6th grade class. Substitute teachers somehow just assumed there was a mistake on the roll and called him Lilly Carson. I wouldn’t want that to happen to poor Sullivan Kelley.

So, it’s a good thing our original names sound pretty good (in our opinion). I think they both sound like TV news correspondents, personally, but I promise we won’t send them to Future Broadcasters of America camp or anything…unless they show an aptitude for it…we do watch a lot of CNN in our house…

Saturday, June 21, 2008

We're Pregnant!

For the past five weeks or so, Matt and I have been the most boring people ever. (And not just because I've been curling up on the couch the moment I get home from work every night and staying there, in and out of sleep, all evening.) No, it's because whenever people ask us a friendly "How's it going?" or "What's new?" we are forced to say, "Oh, not much. Same-old, same-old." Why? Because the big, neon answer in the forefront of our minds was not yet able to be shared!!

"Oh, not much new here... just a human growing inside me that is going to turn our whole world upside-down!!"

That's also why I haven't posted much recently. What can I say of any interest or importance right now?? Now that we're in our third month, though, and have seen our little bundle of joy on screen, we're spreading the news--there's going to be a Parsonage Family Baby!

We don't know much about Baby Fetus (doesn't have the nice ring Baby Blastocyst and Baby Embryo had... we need a new nickname) but s/he is a couple centimeters long, has a nice heartbeat, two hemispheres to the brain, and cute little mini-limbs. S/he really likes grapefruit juice (if my experience thus far is any indication) and appears to have a tiny bagel with cream cheese already close at hand. (We think that round thing at its feet is actually the cord.)

We shared the news with the grandparents-to-be last weekend at a father's day cookout, and have told work and church people this past week. We've been asked all the normal questions, which I'll answer here for you, since if you care enough to read this blog, you might be interested in knowing too.

When are you due? January 23, 2009. We're hoping for Inauguration Day (the 20th), since that would be a fun claim-to-fame for our kid to have (assuming this election goes as we hope!) and it would give us something interesting to watch on TV while we're sitting around, waiting to dilate. Matt was born during the season premiere of Dallas when everyone found out who shot J.R. Anyway, this means we're ten weeks along, getting close to the end of the first trimester.

How are you feeling? Pretty sick and tired, recently. I was fine until week 6 or 7, but the nausea and fatigue have been pretty frustrating for these last couple weeks. Supposedly, that ends by the end of the first trimester for most people, so we'll see. Emotionally, we're starting to move from excitement to the "holy crap" phase, but we're still excited too.

Do you plan to keep working? Yes. I gave my bosses a detailed plan for how I will keep all those plates-on-sticks spinning through maternity leave and beyond. I think they were impressed, though they chuckled a bit at my thoroughness. I've always been a bit of a planning dork.

Are you hoping for a boy or a girl? Matt really wants a boy. I really want a girl. Obviously, both of us really just want a healthy baby, but there is a level of competitiveness about the issue that makes us even more entrenched in our preferences! Matt's brother, the family gambler, has set up a webpage where people can vote their prediction. (Practically everyone I know who has had a baby in the last year and a half has had a boy. I'm hoping the law of random distribution means our corner of the world is due for a girl.) One typically finds out via ultrasound at 20 weeks (early September, for us), but believe it or not, there is actually an over-the-counter urine-based gender test you can do at home at 10 weeks. We're going to wait another week or two, just for good measure, but that will be pretty exciting!

We'll keep you posted!

Monday, June 02, 2008

I win!

Q: What NFL team did PETA ask to change its nickname, claiming it refers to slaughterhouse workers?

We play Trivial Pursuit and/or Scrabble at least once a week, usually, and while I usually win Scrabble, Matt usually wins Trivial, after a frustrating battle in which I start out leading, then we're evenly matched until he goes on a run and I can't get a turn in edgewise!

Tonight, though, we stayed neck-and-neck most of the game, finally racing for the hub at the same time. I landed on it first, and he gave me a green (sports and leisure) question, of course. I generally hate these, unless they have to do with food, parlor games, or the Derby. But this time, I did it! and on a football question no less!

My winning answer?
A: The Green Bay Packers.

Bonus Question:
Q: What is unique about the way Matt arranges his pie pieces during games of Trivial Pursuit?

A: He places them in the same order they appear around the board. You're cute, sweetie :0)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

From Anonymity to Accountability

I'm editing a book right now called God-Size Your Church: Beyond Growth for Growth's Sake, by John Jackson, pastor of Carson Valley Christian Center in Nevada. (It's in Minden, NV, near Carson City. I wish it were near Las Vegas, because I think it would be awesome to do a book called "The Church in Sin City.")

Jackson talks about the importance of providing a spectrum of involvement that allows people to move from newbie status to core member at their own pace and comfort level. True to his Baptist background, the four primary stages have a lovely alliteration: Anonymity, Affinity, Authenticity, and Accountability. I totally agree with these stages.
  • Anonymity. As evidenced in my "Playing Hooky" post a couple weeks ago, even people well-ensconced in a church sometimes feel the need to worship anonymously. That is all the more true for people unfamilar with the church, its practices, and its people. They need to get acclimated while feeling welcomed but not pressured to "sign their life away" too quickly.
  • Affinity. Most churchgoers in America have no idea what makes their denomination different from any other, or what their church believes about every tiny point of doctrine. People become part of a church because they feel they connect to that congregation on a personal level. They have something in common with others there, and find classes or activities where they can explore common interests.
  • Authenticity. This is the lynch pin when it comes to increasing commitment to the church. Answering questions like "Are you who you seem to be?" and "Can I be myself here?" pave the way for a person's desire to be a full participant in the life and ministry of the church.
  • Accountability. This is the stage where people really commit to give of themselves in ministry, serving regularly and participating fully, rather than simply consuming of the church's ministries.

While this kind of "accountable" involvement and commitment may be the goal for any person growing in faith, the church will never, and arguably should never, consist solely of these people. Mark Beeson, pastor of Granger Community Church in northern Indiana, wrote a great blog post on that subject a couple months ago. Quite the outdoorsman, his thoughts on spirituality and ministry are often inspired by nature. In this entry, he talked about a wild turkey he saw, with a really long, red beard and very full set of feathers, all fanned out. (We see these guys all the time in our yard right now--very cool.) He said how he immediately realized that this turkey was a mature male, ready to mate, and commented how pretty soon there would be a bunch of immature, baby turkeys running around. He then pointed out how the church should be the same way: wherever there are mature Christians, there will be young, new Christians as well, because the more committed people of faith will attract and reach out to those who are searching. A group of mature animals or people who do not have immature ones around them... are old and dying.

Many churches today seem to exist only to sustain themselves. They stay open even when there are only a handful of members left, just because those people don't want to go to a different church. Their programs are more like a community center than a house of worship and a home-base for ministry to others. Embracing all stages of involvement in the church does not mean you are condoning "consumer Christianity" or that you don't care about discipleship--it means that you are outward-focused, that (like the United Methodist mission statement says) you are "making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world," not for the perpetuation of an institution.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Practical Joke Sunday

I had a wide range of emotions in church yesterday--I screamed, I cried, I laughed. The crying was due to the reading of Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree in the children's sermon. I know it's supposed to be sweet, and the tree is "happy, very happy" in the end, but I find it to be the saddest story ever. The screaming and the laughing, however, were due to a couple practical jokes before and during the service--one at my expense, the other perpetrated by Matt and I.

As Matt and I drove into the church's gravel parking lot, Matt noticed a snake stretched across the drive, and he thought he ran over it, which made me happy (I don't condone killing any living thing, except snakes--even bugs I usually let live) but after we parked, we took a look--me from a greater distance than Matt--and it had apparently coiled up really quickly and avoided being killed. Matt expressed curiosity at what kind of snake it might be--two inches in diameter, light brown--but I just got inside as quickly as I could.

A minute or two later, I've settled in at the Sunday school table with my coffee and fruit (and small piece of coffee cake). My back was to the door of the room, and suddenly I feel pressure on the back of my neck, and a high school boy whose voice I recognize says "Jessica, do you know what kind of snake this is?" I screamed bloody murder, of course, smacking at the back of my neck. The boy, his buddy, and the dear, righteous pastor--who of course had put them up to it--got a good laugh out of it, though most of the women in the room totally sympathized with me. Though it was just the kid's hand, not the actual snake (I would hope that goes without saying, since that would be FAR beyond a joke) I was nearly in tears from the shock. The two boys now tease me whenever they see me. Fabulous.

After worship started and after I dried up from the Giving Tree incident, I had my own joke to play. Matt has been teasing one young adult girl in the congregation about her frequent text-messaging during worship, obviously enough that he can see it from the pulpit, and finally we decided we should send her a message--literally. On Matt's phone, before the service, we typed "I can see you." and kept it ready to send until the proper time. I had the phone with me in the pew, and about five minutes into Matt's sermon--after I'd noticed the girl's head bent downward a few times--I pressed send. I tried to contain my giggles, revealing only a smirk that would have made Matt start laughing if we'd made eye contact at that point.

A couple minutes later, I received a message back, asking "Is this Jesus?"

OMG. We'll see next week if her habits change, now that Jesus--or at least the pastor and his wife--are watching her.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Playing Hooky

I played hooky from our church last Sunday.
Whether it's reasonable or not, I have lots of issues with this pastor's wife concept (that I totally saw through rose colored glasses before we were married). I have issues that I don't get to choose where I worship, (or where I live, but that's a whole other issue) and that I can't just be a "normal" congregant (a divinity school education generally screws up one's possibilities of being a normal congregant anyway, but again, that's a whole other issue). No matter how much my involvement matches other congregants' on paper, there will always be something different about me, and that is that I come and go with the pastor.
I am not a permanent fixture in this church. I did not start attending at the invitation of a friend or because of a flyer in the mail. I did not attend for months or years before deciding to become a member--I joined somewhat by default on my very first Sunday there. This feels especially odd in retrospect (enough that I may think twice about joining right away at our next church) because Matt is not a member of this church. Pastors in the UMC are members of their conference, not the local congregation, further enhancing the bizarre limbo status of the pastor's spouse as "in but not of" the congregation. I am a member and go to Sunday school and sit in the pews like other congregants, but I am "in bed" with the pastor--figuratively and literally--and know the inner workings of the church, the struggles of its people, and the thoughts and dreams of my husband that his parishioners do not know. I am reminded that he and I are a separate entity from the congregation, and that we are something of a commodity, one day moving on to be in but not of a different congregation.
I didn't intend to share all that, but I'm glad I did. It's rare that I can talk about it calmly and rationally. I didn't play hooky out of anger or anything last weekend, though. It was the church retreat, and about a quarter of the usual Sunday attendance was gone on that. Matt went for one of the two nights, coming back Saturday night so he could lead worship on Sunday. It seemed the perfect opportunity to inconspicuously take a Sunday off--those on the retreat would think I was at church, and those at church would think I was on the retreat.
Before I sound too snarky and irreverent here, though, let me clarify that I didn't just lay around in my jammies and watch Meet the Press. I went to an Episcopal church instead. This is actually the story I intended to tell in this post. It happened to be baptism and confirmation Sunday, which worried me at first, remembering a time I almost passed out from standing too long during a marathon baptism at my Episcopal church in college. These didn't drag on too long, though, and I was reminded of a great realization I had several years ago, during the college and post-college church-hopping phase so many people experience (if they go to church at all during those years, that is).
As I bounced around to various Baptist, non-denom, Episcopal, Disciples, and yes, even a couple Methodist churches across Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee, I witnessed A LOT of baptisms and baby dedications. I just had a knack for being there when these things happened, even at churches I visited only once. In many of the churches, the congregation vows to help nurture the person in the Christian faith, and though I rarely knew the people being baptised, I repeated this vow as well. At first, it was rote, simply because that was what those in attendance were to do. After a while, though, I began to see these experiences in an "angels unawares" sort of way--wherever I go, there is some small chance that any person I meet could be one of those people I vowed to support in the faith.
What might this mean? In the words of the Apostle Paul, it could mean not placing a "stumbling block" in front of others that would somehow rock their faith. In the words of my most admired college professor, if might mean working for a world in which it is "easier to be good." (The idea being that the more we bring the kindgom of God to earth, the more natural it will feel to be righteous.) Any other ideas, feel free to comment with them.
I left the Episcopal service liking our own church not more or less, but with a renewed appreciation of the church at large and our role within it. I may only be "in" our local congregation, but I am "of" Christ's church, no matter what.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Protector Cat

I've often wondered how our precious baby-cat will deal with a baby-human brother or sister, when the time comes. Charlotte sleeps with us and cuddles with us, and follows us room to room. I've wondered if she will be overcome with jealousy and act out, or if she will love a baby like she does us.

I saw this picture on a silly website Matt found-- It's a site full of goofy animal pics (mostly cats) with silly captions that appear to be written in pidgin.

This cat looks sooooo like Charlotte, I think it's a premonition of loving big sisterliness.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bourbon, Brides, and Boats

Okay, there was just one bride and one boat. Anyway, the first two Saturdays in May have been lots of fun.

The first Saturday in May... (I shouldn't even have to explain the significance of that day, but I will, since not everyone reading had the good fortune to be born and raised in Louisville)... was Derby Day. I've only attended the great race in person once, but it is nonetheless a special day every year--an incredible cultural event, in addition to being the greatest two minutes in sports. In Louisville, kids get out of school on Oaks Day (the day before the Derby), and the whole city is enveloped in red roses, mint juleps, horse paraphernalia, and general festivity for the two weeks preceding.

Every year since graduating high school, I've thought about getting a group together to go, but such a road trip has never materialized. I've had Derby parties a couple times--the most successful being my senior year of college--and I tried to do the same this year. Unfortunately, I wasn't really on the ball (May kind of crept up on me--April was very busy) and didn't get around to inviting people until the day before, and no one could make it. Matt and I still grilled out, though, and had a great day of fun and relaxation. I made mint juleps, which are notoriously yucky (just bourbon, sugar, water, and mint), but you have to drink them on Derby Day; it's like a law... well, a tradition, anyway.

Charlotte was intrigued by the little stuffed horse that neighs when you squeeze its haunches.

Yesterday, the second Saturday in May, we were in Louisville for my second cousin's wedding. It was a lovely little affair at the picturesque Duncan Memorial Chapel, with reception on a boat that cruised up the Ohio while we enjoyed a nice dinner, cake, and mingling with family and friends.

Speaking of family and friends, we discovered what a small world it is when Matt and the girl sitting behind us in the chapel recognized each other! They went to college together at Butler Univ., graduating the same year and interacting a lot in greek events throughout their four years in Indy. Turns out, her husband is the stepson of my Dad's cousin (the bride's aunt). Cool. Small world even smaller, my dad had met the girl under totally separate circumstances when he was working with the Ky. commerce cabinet. Recognizing her unusual last name, he had made the family connection, but of course had no idea she knew Matt.

Here's me with the bride, and a few other pics of the wedding and dinner cruise.

My Two Angels

These are my two angels. They bring immense joy to my heart. They are two of God's greatest blessings in my life and I am thankful everyday for the love and laughter they bring.

Friday, May 02, 2008

He's no welsher

Matt finally made good on the bet he lost nearly a month ago. We got pretty competitive on our NCAA brackets this year, and while Matt methodically chose the best teams, I picked my teams mainly by loyalty and intuition... and won!

My prize was flowers and a love note every week for four weeks. Four weeks later, I recieved my first bouquet. Yay!! Isn't it pretty? He sent it to my office, which is even more romantic--tardiness forgiven!

While I had our camera at work, I thought I'd take picture of the great view from my office. It's quintessentially Nashville, so I feel pretty lucky. In this picture below, you can see: the historic Ryman Auditorium (barn-looking structure at the very far left), the Sommet Center (Nashville's main arena, which changes naming rights about twice a year--it's the oyster looking building dominating the left side of the frame), the Batman building (duh), the Country Music Hall of Fame (the angular building with billboards on the side, at right), plus a new high-rise condo building behind that, and the roof of the Greyhound bus station in the foreground (looking straight down essentially).

And inside the windows, here's my office. I like it a lot. The black computer at right is my main PC, and the white one at left is my Mac. Also note the dying peace lily on the windowsill. It's from Grandad's funeral in June 06. It lives, despite my worst efforts.

The office plant people came in earlier this week to check the potted tree in my office (it's out of the frame, to the left). Apparently, there is a corps of contracted people who come in to take care of the plants. I thought the tree was fake. I swear. Anyway, the chief plant guy literally said to his subordinate: "Yeah, it's just that one in the corner. She's doing her best to kill that one by the window."


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Editor to Editor

I wrote a couple months ago about The Year of Living Biblically, by A.J. Jacobs. In that book, he recounts his attempt to keep all the biblical commandments for a year. I'm now reading The Know-It-All, Jacobs' account of his year reading the Encyclopedia Brittanica from cover to cover. They are both awesome books and I've decided that Jacobs, who is an editor at Esquire magazine, is my favorite contemporary writer.

In The Know-It-All, he organizes he book by letter, writing "entries" like an encylopedia. Some entries are simply the definitions or descriptions of a concept, phrased in Jacobs' own witty and humorous style. Most, however, are simply launching pads for stories and commentary on the experience of reading the encyclopedia like an obsessive freak. Is there a kid who didn't attempt this at one time or another? I know I did... maybe I'm just an obsessive freak too. I think I only made it to "acetate" or some other ridiculously early entry. Jacobs was partially inspired by his dad, who made it to the middle of the "B"s.

Anyway, I'm about a third of the way through the book--up to the middle of the "G" chapter--and found an excerpt I'd really like to share, given that it pertains to religion, the Bible, and the work of editing. As a religion scholar and an editor of religious books and church-related publications, I found it especially entertaining. (The following excerpt is abridged, and the bits in brackets are my comments.)

"Sometimes my day job can be exhilerating. I'm thinking, for instance, of when vineyards send me free bottles of wine hoping for coverage in the monthly wine column. [I've been getting free books in the mail recently, from other publishers hoping to be reviewed in Circuit Rider or Newscope, now that I manage those publications. What they don't realize is that Newscope doesn't do book reviews, and Circuit Rider lets its reviewers more or less choose their own books to review. I did get an advance copy of Eye of the Storm, by Gene Robinson, the gay Episcopal bishop--I saw him speak at Vanderbilt about a year ago, and he was really amazing. Anyway...]

"...But a lot of times, my workday can be boring... This is one of those times. As an editor, I have to read each of the articles in my section about forty-three times, until the sentences are sucked of all meaning and become wierd little black marks on the page. Today's article--a man's guide to shining shoes, military style--has long ago passed into a nonsensical state. 'Whorl'? That's a strange word... But at least the Britannica reading has given me some new perspective on my job. It's given me awareness of the power of editing. I'm thinking, for instance, of the Ems telegram in 1870. Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck edited the report of a diplomatic meeting to purposely offend the French and start the Franco-Prussian War. I'm not saying that as an editor, I want to start a war, but it's nice to know I could." [Reporting on the events of the United Methodist General Conference this week in Newscope gives a bit of that war-sparking opportunity as well, but it's really not worth it...]

Jacobs goes on to tell about the "Wicked Bible," an edition of the Bible published in 1631, in which the word "not" was accidentally omitted from Exodus 20:14, resulting in the commandment "Thou shalt commit adultery." He ponders the possibility of the editors' intentionality in the matter--if it was done as a joke. "Maybe they thought of changing 'Thou shalt not kill' to 'Thou shalt not spill'--which would have caused a lot of very carefully poured glasses of tea and a few hundred more homicides," Jacobs says. He continues:

"I ponder all this as I read Esquire's own shoe-related commandment: use 'small circles that tighten the whorl.' What if I changed 'small' to 'large' circles? I'd be sending hundreds of Esquire-reading men into their offices with improperly polished shoes. The power! I cross out the word 'small' in the sentence, then stet it, newly aware of my responsibility."

I had a moment like that this week, in which I edited a sentence for space purposes, then realized that the revised phrasing could possibly be interpreted to imply that a bishop was cozying up to another man's wife. I giggled out loud, then changed it back.


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