18 February 2010

Just another normal donation

Part of the adventure of living here is that we get the most random of donations. For example, at the moment we're eating pepernoten (gingerbread kind of things) from Sinterklaas. We usually eat Easter eggs in november (for whatever reason, we get several humongous boxes of them in May most years - and don't get into them in the summer (they're locked up or forgotten) - and hence we're still eating them in November).

Those are the normal donations. The odder ones are the 300 olliebollen and the 8 fridges. Although I think I've now bumped into an even odder one.

The other day, as I was getting bread out of the freezer, I noticed a large stack of small square boxes on a shelf next to the freezer. It had a picture of this happy couple, smiling at each other in a sort of romantic way. It was semi-tasteful but still reminded me too much of a condom commercial. I was curious, so I looked a bit closer. The label on the box told me nothing but there was a website printed on it that seemed to suggest that this might be related to Viagra or something. I was still curious but I figured I'd ask somebody about them instead of opening one up and checking: I wasn't entirely sure I wanted to discover up close what was in inside.

I finally asked somebody about it. It turns out that it's just kleenexes (paper tissues). And thus much tamer than I had suspected. I can see, though, why we've received them as a donation: it's not exactly the kind of box I can imagine most people would want to have on their living room table, where others could see it and wonder.

16 February 2010

Shrove (Pancake?) Tuesday

It was probably in college when I first really recognized that there was something special about the Tuesday before lent begins. (The relation of Mardi Gras to Lent was still outside of my normal experience - and Carnival meant nothing to me until I moved to the Netherlands.) The idea was that since Lent included giving up sugar and fats and all those bad things, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday was ideal for using up all those things - and since these things made great ingredients for pancakes, Shrove Tuesday became known to me as Pancake Tuesday. I don't think of Shrove Tuesday that way anymore, though. I'm pretty sure that's related to living in a monastic community.

This is how my Shrove Tuesday went:
- I had a normal day working on my thesis (which means I did some research when I got up, went to chapel this morning, talked to some people around coffee, cleaned up some, searched for a plant for the chapel, biked to the University, sat behind the computer for awhile, talked to my office mate, chatted with a friend, and tried to puzzle some things out);
- I had coffee with a friend.
- I picked up bread (on a bike, carrying two garbage bags full (no significant challenge anymore)).
- I ate spare ribs (not pancakes) for supper (the tradition here - celebrating the last chance to eat meat for awhile). And there was also brownies and whipped cream for dessert;
- I spent half an hour rinsing off the dishes. (There were 40 of us eating together and a significant number of pots and pans). On the bright side, it lets me get rid of excess energy, and I always feel like I accomplished something after that many dishes.
- I went to evening chapel, where we celebrated the Lord's Supper.
- I prepared the chapel for Lent.
- I listened to a guest speak about our Cause that we are supporting extra during Lent. (This also included the opportunity to eat a sort of donut that had was filled with this whipped cream stuff and lots of sugar and fat).
- I helped burn palm branches so that we'd have ashes for the service tomorrow.

Quite a number of times today I remembered (with joy) that life is never ever dull within a community. As much as it felt like today was busy with a lot of different tasks, it was also a delight to get to be share this feast day with others - and to share in the preparation for the time leading up to the next feast (Easter).

12 February 2010

And... Take a deep breath.

I think I'm finally feeling like I'm no longer running around like a chicken with its head cut off. I'm still walking around in a bit of a daze, but it's getting better. It helps, of course, that I'm not the only one walking around looking overly tired (Last weekend the core group of the community went on retreat together, and although it was considered a positive experience by all, we all came home tired - and then still had to continue through the rest of a normal week (or even busier than normal, especially if you're an accountant since this is the time of the year when books are checked/controled.)).

I'd kind of sensed that my life was out of balance and I needed to stop and take a deep breath. The first clue, of course, was that I was getting too busy to think - I just did whatever was next on the needed-to-be-done-now list. The second clue was a realization that I was really getting focused on myself. There's a country song that's popped into my head a lot in the last while: Toby Keith's "I want to talk about me." It's a cute song about a guy complaining that his girlfriend was always talking about herself and occasionally he'd like to talk about himself (instead of her). It rang a bell with me: how often had my thoughts and my conversation become about me. And could I stop focusing on me all the time already?!?
It's starting to feel a bit more like I'm paying attention to the world outside of me, thankfully. I'm still adjusting (and patience is appreciated), but it's also a relief. I like myself and all but even I get sick of myself after too much time with me.

All in all, I'm looking forward to life returning to the "normal" of here. Normal meaning at the moment returning to my responsibilities in the community and returning to my research on Ezekiel (and a grant/job application to have that be funded!). But knowing my life - and the adventure of community - normal could mean something else next week. If I keep taking a few more deep breaths and open my eyes to the world outside of me, I could actually admit to looking forward to whatever surprise or adventure might come.

06 February 2010

a different kind of blue apron

after a crazy busy month in canada and america, i'm returning to life in the community and donning my blue apron again. i'm thankful to be back again (especially now that i have the time and energy to participate more fully - the first few days back were filled with quite of busy-ness - the result of catching up on things here while still having work from america with me). but i'm also thankful for the time with friends and family that i had.

during my visits, i got to do a lot of random things that i don't do here in the netherlands. probably the most unusual over the holidays, was getting to don a different kind of blue apron, and help make sausage. (my parents used to own a butcher shop, so this brought back a lot of memories.)

the following are pictures of my dad and me (my mom was taking the pictures):

05 February 2010

Jerry has begun to earn his keep

as much as i appreciate Jerry just for who he is, there are still certain things that i expect of him as a cat. the two biggest ones are to cuddle and catch mice.

being a kitten means he's still rather wild and whines to play (i throw his food at him, which he seems to enjoy - and since he eats it, it leaves limited mess on the floor). nonetheless, he's learned to do a pretty good job of sitting happily on my lap and being pet. so he meets the first expectation.

and this morning i found a dead mouse on my floor, so it appears that he's figured out the mouse thing. he seemed pretty satisfied with himself (and obviously tired) this morning. i'm also quite happy that he's found his instincts since my house has a bit of a mouse problem - and i'd prefer if they didn't feel welcome in my section of it.