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Archive for the 'Marriage' Category

Timely at the Time

Friday, November 14th, 2008

I neglected to let everyone know that we were the crashing stock market for Halloween. We’re kind of conceptual dorks like that:

Unfortunately, the flapping skirt ruins something of the red line’s dramatic dive. And maybe Noel looks a little like he’s in prison stripes. But trust us. We thought it was funny.

I Just Wanted the Internets To See This

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Noel accompanied me to Austin where I gave a paper at the University of Texas Graduate Student American Studies Annual Conference. The conference was not-so-great, but Austin certainly lived up to its billing of being very, very weird.

We wandered along South Congress, popping at will into stores that existed solely to disseminate kitsch to the masses. One of the stores, Uncommon Objects, was essentially a collection of grandmother’s attics, just organized by color. There were old ratty hats, alphabet rubber stamps, photographs of now-anonymous people, cloisonne canisters, antique typewriters, vintage umbrellas, yellowed books, weathered shoe horns, battered chests, beaded evening bags, creepy stuffed dolls and, yes, this hat:

And that is my husband’s hair, all mad-scientist-cowboy, crystal-ball-meets-rodeo, afro-wig-inside-a-hat. Now, only slightly more frightening than the fact that this exists and that we decided to put it on Noel’s impertinently curly head, is the realization that more than one of these exists.

It’s not too late to get him a birthday present.

The Fun We Forget

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

I married off two siblings this summer, resulting in more people that I love becoming permanent fixtures in my life. While each of their weddings were lovely, I was most excited — not about the flowers, fanciness, or even the family gathering — but about everything that would happen after those six hours of vows, photographs, and other assorted trappings.

Paigey, Corinne, and I all grew up in Christian homes. We were all taught from the time we were little that marriage is a solemn endeavor. By the time we were in junior high and high school, a kind of healthy fear had been instilled in us of romantic relationships. We were acutely aware that marriage, mirroring the bond of Christ and the church, was hard work. That it would reveal our sin. That it would hurt us. That it would involve more tough “hanging on” than easy “being in love.” It’s a strange and somber state of mind that, I think, usually only occurs in those of us who have been raised in the church.

And I’m glad I was taught well. But, as I told each of my sweet sisters prior to their wedding days, these sober truths are far from the whole story. Sometimes, in the midst of our cautious ponderings, we forget a rather key aspect of marriage.

It’s also a lot of fun. Delightful, joyful fun.

Even the part where you’re hanging on.

Up Next: Aliens.

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

A couple of weeks ago, Noel and I received these slips in our fortune cookies:

The software developer, of course, was affirmed with the declaration that his financial future was secure. Me? Facing a new semester with a new batch of freshmen and the always combustible departmental politics, I am told: “An alien of some sort will be appearing to you shortly!” Cool.

Bubbly and Lovely

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

We were walking hand in hand through our neighborhood tonight.

The man in the white t-shirt and jeans stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, twiddling his cigarette between his fingers and eying us intently.

“You’re bubbly.”

He said, pointing to Noel.

“You’re lovely.”

He said, pointing to me.

And then, with the man clearly pleased with this couplet, we parted.


Friday, July 4th, 2008

Back in our CovCol days, Noel and I lived on halls in the same dorm that had (helpfully, for our purposes) proclaimed themselves to be “brother and sister halls.” This was a nice idea. Under the guise of spirituality-glazed affection, it gave some members of each hall their most regular and sustained contact with folks of the opposite sex. Occasionally, Second South would grow distracted by the bright young things on Third South or Third Central would saucily invite Sutherland to dinner. But, in a rather impressive commitment to hall-to-hall fidelity, Second South and Third Central managed, overall, to maintain this purported “brother-sister” relationship.

Clearly, this racket worked out well for us.

When Noel and I got married, I was ushered into a sub-coterie of Second South: Manville. The Manville boys were a big part of our lives in Chattanooga. We ate Sunday suppers and watched soccer together. Noel and I counseled several of them through relationship beginnings, endings, and false starts.

Noel, meanwhile, became privy to the energetic, and generally loud emotional lives of some of my Roomates in the Lord. On occasion, he was asked to speak in defense of his entire gender. He remained unperturbed when Rachel and I would dissolve into tearful messes on his couch. He didn’t understand the girls, per se, or why the decibel level needed to be so high, but he loved them because of what they meant to me.

This weekend is the third Second South + Third Central marriage in the last four years and the second Manville + Roommates in the Lord wedding. Brien and Kelly’s wedding weekend extravaganza in Ft. Lauderdale is bringing together some of the people who know me best and who are dearest to my heart. It’s a family reunion, of sorts: two unrelated but tightly bound groups of friends who have history, traditions, and plans for the future.

In our card for Kel and Brien, we’ll tell them how precious this group of friends have been and how delightful it is to have them joined together, again.

Because, like your mother-in-law told you, you don’t marry a person.

You marry the family.

An Eva Hesse Kind of Week

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

It is telling of my weakness that brief, punchy criticism directed towards my abilities in a none-too-important quadrant of my life can swiftly debilitate me. The specifics of the criticism were really immaterial; all I took away was a panicking sense of self-doubt, a questioning of my calling, and the impulse to cry any time someone asked me about my MA thesis.

Sometimes I have days or weeks that remind me of particular artists. I’ve had Fred Tomaselli days where everything seems like a fascinating, jubilant burst of colorful bits. I have had Kiki Smith weeks, where I am acutely aware of the aches and longings of those hurting around me. I have had Lorna Simpson days where the lingering, haunting effects of our culture’s past wrongs ask to be mourned. I’ve even had Marcel Duchamp days where life is just…wackier. (I can’t really say that I’ve ever had a Rubens day, though. I’m not sure what that would entail.)

The last five days — feeling incapable, fearful, and insubstantial — have been part of an Eva Hessa kind of week.

rope piece 1970

Working in New York through the sixties, Hesse worked both within and against the dominant minimalist aesthetic, creating works that toyed with materials and with its relationship to the viewer. Her works often projected out into the viewer’s space, blurring the demarcations between painting and sculpture, object and environment. Many of Hesse’s works, particularly in the late sixties, used new industrial – and dangerous – materials such as latex and fiberglass to create sculptural works which were powerful in their fragility. This work, Rope Piece from 1970, is a drooping, amorphous installation that evokes the body with a minimalist nod. Looped and dangling, the rope somehow still suggests a body.

My own body, while so tense from the stress of the last few days, recognizes itself here. It’s a body aware of weakness, a body on the brink of tears. My fear of others’ opinions — and thus my frequent forgetting of my freedom in Christ — can cripple me. I transpose the criticism of one area onto the substance of my very calling. Should I be in grad school? Should I be writing a thesis? Is my work meaningful? Original? Substantial? Why can’t I write a normal sentence?

With a sister in Darfur and a sister-to-be who is under great expectations, this existential crisis over my academic ability seems rather silly. To some extent, surely it is.

Yet the beautiful thing about Eva Hesse weeks is that I am also reminded of the Incarnation. The Incarnation is the Word becoming a tired, broken body. It is God being born in bloody straw, sweating as he walked, needing naps, crying bitterly. The Incarnation is the God giving dignity to particulars, saying “yes” to the importance of form and flesh and sight. The Incarnation is the reason my unsteady heart and welling fear need not paralyze me. And the Incarnation reminds me why this is my kingdom calling in the first place.

An Inscrutable Code of Dress

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

A few days ago, Noel forwarded me an e-mail relaying key information about his upcoming company Christmas party.

The attire for the Holiday party is any of the following… Festive, After-Five, Business Casual, (No Jeans Please)

To me, this this dress code is, indeed, inscrutable. Having chosen the life and career path that leads through the extended labyrinths of academia, where professors dress in anything from turtlenecks with gypsy skirts to full-body ensembles in eggplant. Occasionally, there is a sweater vest involved. Also, mismatched earrings.

Emerging from this context, these random and randomly capitalized words — “Festive,” “After Five,” “Business Casual” — seem obtuse, exclusionary, and even foreboding. Had I not done my research on Google, I may have assumed that “Festive” would be fulfilled by wearing something like:


Turns out, “Festive” is just code for “sparkly.” A shiny blouse, some sort of extravagant bling, a sequin or two. It remains unclear if this reported definition of “Festive” means Noel should wear something like this:


“After Five” is also problematic. To simply declare a particular type of attire “After Five” presumes a hegemonic consensus on what one wears post-five o’clock. What about class? What about race? What about gender? It’s colonial, really. And, should you be wondering, at this time of year, after I finish with school, I am most likely to be wearing this after five:


And, judging from extant literature on the subject (which is how we roll in grad school), the definition of “Business Casual” is still fraught. Even Noel’s company cannot trust its employees to correctly interpret the coded phrase without the helpful parentheses: “(No jeans).” If business folks don’t know what it means then, really, how much hope can I really have?

On the other hand, given the sheer range of formality and, um, tastefulness, of attire at last year’s party, perhaps giving a suggested attire — no matter how inscrutable — is still an improvement.

Now to go buy that elf costume…


Sunday, November 25th, 2007

While growing up in Hawaii had distinct advantages, fresh and affordable Christmas trees were not numbered among those perks. When I was especially wee, my parents bought small, rather scrawny trees from the parking lot of Foodland; unfortunately, I was so young that they had to place the precious evergreen in the playpen for its own protection. By the time I was in grade school, however, my dad had decided that his allergies could no longer endure a month of expensive agony and we bought a surprisingly furry artificial tree. My parents told us that its shaggy appearance had to do with its attempt to approximate a Canadian Pine.


My mom, however, continued to harbor a deep and persistent love of the smell of evergreens. Every year, she and I would go on a special “smelling” date. After completing a grocery shopping excursion, we would detour into the temporary tents set up in the market parking lot. We would watch the men spray the foamy fake “snow” onto trees at customers’ requests, marvel at the amazing shrinkage which occurred during the tree-netting process, and, then, burrow our noses into the spicy, woodsy branches. Having secured our Christmas smelling fix, we could proceed with the rest of the holiday season.

So imagine my utter delight when, during our year of dating, I realized that Noel — who sometimes seems to be allergic to most airborne plant matter — was not allergic to Christmas trees. Sweet joy indeed. In anticipation of our third Christmas together, we brought our chosen conifer home today, lugged the Christmas boxes up from the basement, and sipped Noel’s amazing peppermint hot chocolate while we decked the tree, primarily with Noel’s extensive collection of childhood ornaments.

There is something about setting up our own little Christmas tree, tucked into the corner of our dining room, that asserts our family-ness. And there is something about being able to smell a Christmas tree every day, rather than just in the parking lot of Foodland, that is a strange but delightful perk to being an adult on the mainland.

Loving the City

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

Prior to moving to St. Louis, I probably would not have announced any particular love for cities. I would certainly have told you that rural Idaho was not my schtick. I would probably have even proclaimed that large, mainland suburbs freak me out. Still, I would not have thought to tell you that I wanted to be an urbanite. Now, a year later, I have grown to love living in this city.

New Friend at the City Museum

(Loving a gargoyle at the City Museum)

I had a list of reasons for loving the city: the art, the food, the diversity of people, the energy, the accessibility. But those scattered perks had yet to coalesce into a coherent theology of living and investing in a city. Today, our assistant pastor (pulling from some of Tim Keller’s ideas on urban evangelicalism)gave me words for that.

A city, by its nature, is a place of refuge. Cities began as places of refuge, a place to be safe from the elements, enemy attacks, or hungry animals. Those who flock to the city today tend to be the impoverished, the homeless, the hurt, and the addicts, the refugees, immigrants, welfare recipients, and low-wage earners. They come because they need the city. They need a grocery store and a laundromat that is two blocks away. They need the concentration of minimum requirement jobs. They need wheelchair accessible curbs. Often, those who despise the city are those who are powerful enough to get along without it.

The city magnifies cultural development. Keller says that cities function like magnifying glasses, enlarging and intensifying all that the human heart contains. This, of course, includes both our divinely given, culture-making impulse and our inherently sinful nature. Cities thus become testaments of what God has called us to do and what he has forbidden.

The city is a place to meet God. The city is a place of spiritual restlessness. The crush of ideas and cultures packed so tightly together is unsettling. Rather than seeing the city as a place of spiritual decay, perhaps we can instead see it as a place of spiritual longing, a field ready to be sown and watered.

In Jeremiah 29:5-7, God tells His exiled people to invest — to make a home and a life — in a city they despised:

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

It is in this context that He promises to give us a future and a hope. I want to think about the city — and our life in it — this way. Our little house, our mostly black neighborhood, the Eritrean restaurant owner who thinks Noel is a technological wonder, the Chinese architecture students who spent Thanksgiving with us, the university down the road, my friend Amy who lets me drop in her house just to visit, the black single mom that gives me fashion advice, the metro full of slightly smelly people, the workers who recognize me at the local coffee shop… this is our investment. It’s easy to romanticize the city, or to romanticize the impact that our daily, simple life has in the city. But all of this reminds me that I need other people. I am not — I cannot be — self-sufficient. And only when I am weak, does He make me strong.