Thursday, October 28, 2010

H is for Halloween Weekend

I'm in the shop for the weekend. So the FaceBook focus and blog energy will be directed elsewhere.

Have a Happy Halloween!

I'll try and report back with I is for . . . . . in early November.

Monday, October 25, 2010

G is for Geek (or Gleek?)

Okay, just trying to stick to the alphabet theme I have rolling on the blog for the moment. I love GLEE! But I don't feel called to blog about that at the moment.

So I shall opt to write about being a geek for this post. I had to look up the difference between geek and nerd as my research for tonight. When I consulted Wikipedia on both terms, not only do they refer to one another at some point, they both refer to "intellectual" pursuits. Let's just suffice it to say that not only do I come from a long line of intellectuals (my dad even looked like  a nerd for so many years with his horn-rimmed glasses and 501 peg leg, button-fly Levis long before either was fashionable), I married into a geek/nerd family. My brother-in-law the artist ALWAYS has a pen in his pocket. My husband's school friends call my husband "Doc," because he was always smarter than them. All of us Clarks and Skovs are amazing spellers. I am only slightly embarrassed to confess that in my household the unabridged dictionary gets more use than The Good Book. I suspect my children both have larger vocabularies than mine. The eldest likes to "Geek Out" with his friends. My youngest didn't think the 31 on his ACT was sufficient. (See my eyeballs rolling! I was satisfied with my 24 on the ACT!)

As a lesser Geek/Nerd than my parental units and my rocket-scientist sister, I had to strive for my own expression of geekyness. My little sister is two and a half years younger than me, yet I only managed to beat her to college graduation by two weeks. (I was not a salutatorian in high school, nor did I achieve my BA with honors as she did.) I found my own world of living out my nerdiness in the Episcopal Church. My immediate family wasn't religious so I asked my Episcopal Priest uncle to baptize me when I was 13. (There is a longer story here, but I use that one at work, so I'll spare you the details.)

I began my Church Geek career as one of the first four female acolytes at Grace Church in Galena, Illinois, with Beth McDermott, Tisa Johnson, and Jennifer Clayton. From there I became a lector at St. Paul's Church on-the-Hill across the street from my Macalester College dorm. At St. Luke's Hastings I signed on as a lector, Eucharistic Minister, and Altar Guild helper.

In the early 90s I was recruited to be a Youth Minister and also worked on my Worship Leader and Preaching licenses. Currently I hold licenses for lay ministry leadership in many areas. I take great pride in serving as an Acolyte and perhaps enjoy teaching new acolytes (servers) more than anything else I have done in relationship to our liturgy.

So here's the funny part. (Well, perhaps ironic would be the better word.)

Tonight I took a Spiritual Gifts Discernment survey. My lowest ranking gift was "SERVING."  It ranks in the classification of "I would have to work hard to do this gracefully." Cracked me up. It is one of the hardest things I get to do now and then. I just didn't ever before realize that there was a reason I had to work so hard at it. I guess it's not in my nature!

The good news in the survey is that all the things I do attempt to do within the context of church (mission and ministry) do seem to be in my high range of strengths. I ranked a perfect 20 in "Administration." (No surprise there - one interim rector rightly accused me of being officious - I had to look that one up before I felt both insulted and proud, so you can look it up, too.)

My second place spiritual gift was "Teacher" with one point shy of perfect = 19. I love teaching, even hard subjects like SERVING!

My next highest rankings were "Apostle" and "Discernment," closely followed by "Caregiver, Exhortation, Missionary, Pastor, Deeds of Power, and Wisdom." All of those Spiritual Gifts ranked as 17 or above out of 20. Many of their descriptions identify with Youth Ministry and Spiritual Mentor.

The survey also taught me that I "could easily do" all kinds of things, even the ones ranked at the lowest end of my scale including "Healing, Knowledge & Tongues." I know, weird church words. Sorry. I find it all fascinating. It's somewhat like a Personality Inventory tool for church geeks. I guess my new letters would be ATAD!

The blessing in all of this is that I truly do feel affirmed as well as honored to be called into ministry where I can offer my best gifts for the greater good. Then again there were budget and staff cuts in my office again this month. You'll notice tongues wasn't one of my greatest gifts. So is anyone out there willing to help me translate my Church Geek letters into a Myers-Briggs for another profession if it becomes necessary?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

F is for FaceBook

Many of us have a love/hate relationship with FaceBook. And most of us who choose to remain in the FB game have settled into a routine about how we manage our Social Media habit. I spent a good amount of time tonight showing a friend who is not on FaceBook how it works and how I use it for both personal and professional purposes.

I love it when FaceBook allows us to connect with people and memories we might not share if left to our Luddite devices. My friend Peggy has a FaceBook page but currently doesn't have access due to her computer situation. Her mother died in July, and Peggy's oldest daughter had scanned in a bunch of old family photos (Grama Gayle's album) into a FB album. We had a fantastic time clicking through the album and hearing stories of Peggy and her family. It was a real blessing.

On an entirely different note I connected yesterday and today with some old friends from my hometown in Galena, Illinois, including an old boyfriend's little sister. Today (10/21) is the birthday of my first full-fledged boyfriend, Chuck. Unfortunately he died a violent and tragic death in 1987. But that's not what any of us are dwelling on today. Birthdays are for celebrating life. He would have turned 52 today.

I started dating Chuck the summer of 1977. He was older than me; I was still in high school and he wasn't. But we had some common friends and had so much fun that summer. We lasted as an official couple for the better part of a year. Neither of us had a clue how to be in a relationship, so it was rocky with all of that teenage stuff going on. We spent most of our time out on the Mississippi River with friends. That winter we all practically lived at Chestnut Mountain Resort, working and skiing and partying our little hearts out.

In the years that followed our inevitable break-up we always remained friends. Now and then Chuck, or his parents, came to my rescue (like the night I tapped on the wrong window when stranded in town because my truck was in a ditch with two flat tires! His parents came to the window and let him sleep while they drove me home. Tom and Donna were such understanding parents.)

Some of my favorite memories include being the first water skiers on the water each year. Chuck, Larry, and Phil used to take their first slalom trip wearing sweatshirts and jeans and jumping off the dock on one ski. Every one of them landed back on the dock, not getting any clothing above the knee wet. They were so competitive but so encouraging of one another. I never managed the jumping off the dock trick, but I can still get up on one ski!

Chuck drove a VW Bug for a long time, but once he was out of high school and working he bought a green Dodge Ram Charger. I remember the fall he bought snow tires. Four days after he got the snow tires on the wheels we had a big storm. My sister and I were waiting for the bus at the end of our rural driveway in the snow when we saw Chuck coming down the road. He was beside himself with excitement as he pulled up in front of us.

"It's a snow day! The bus isn't coming. Let's go four-wheelin'! Hop in!"

He trusted me with anything and everything. He taught me to ski (snow and water) and how to drive (cars, trucks, and motorcycles). The day after I slid his precious Ram Charger off a steep curve on a gravel road (Rocky Hill Road to be precise) and through a fence post into a pasture, he picked me up after school and made me drive home. "You gotta get back on the horse right away," he encouraged. My father was furious that I was stupid enough to drive someone else's vehicle again. Chuck took all of the heat and apologized to my father. (Although it was Larry who picked me up the morning of my 16th birthday to take me to the Driver's Exam station. No, I did not have my parents' permission nor did I know that Larry was coming to collect me that day. It was my Sweet Sixteen gift. and yes, I passed.)

The years I spent hanging out with Chuck and his friends were the years that built upon my own parents' love of the outdoors and of living life fully and playfully. I will always be grateful to Chuck. He was truly a generous soul.

In fact, 33 years ago today, when he turned 19 and was "legal" in Illinois I was with him when he drove through The Stable Inn in Galena, Illinois, and purchased his first legal 12-pack of Strohs. That night I confessed that I hadn't known it was his birthday and apologized for not having a gift ready.

"That's okay," he reassured me, "because I have one for you."  With that he handed me a little brass padlock that had the letter B engraved on the front. I had been begging him for it for months. He told me that it would be my good luck charm. It has been on my keys ever since.

Thank you for everything, Chuck. I kicked back with a can of beer, took this picture, and told this story tonight in honor of you. Happy Birthday.

(P.S. I drive a beat up old Jeep Wrangler now, I have my season pass for the local ski area, my junky old boat is out of the water, and I have my motorcycle permit. I hope that makes you proud.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

E is for Election

I know it's not Election Day until November, and you can't help but miss the season with the annoying political ads of all stripes blaring at us on TV and over the radio. I actually have to travel on Election Day, but I booked my flight in such a way that I should be able to vote in my sleepy little township hall on my way to the airport.

Even though it's not a Presidential Election Year, we have a pretty heated race for governor in Minnesota going right now. As usual we have an independent candidate plus the two "major party" candidates. Minnesotans are more individualistic than party-minded in our voting. And more often than not we win the prize for best voter turn-out in all of the states.

I don't get to vote in the hotly contested Clark vs. Bachman race. I don't live that far north. Oh well.

So I think I'll take advantage of the Minnesota Public Radio "Select a Candidate" tool. It's a pretty good technique for sticking to your own issues and learning about the stands of the candidates'. It will help me learn about some lesser publicized races from an issues perspective rather than attack ads.

A couple of female friends have sent me a fascinating email about women's voting rights and the sacrifices that were made for women's suffrage. I looked up the veracity of the claims and found a good website at It's a pretty sobering reminder about how far we have come in less than 100 years. It reminds me of my pledge earlier this summer to vote as an informed and responsible global citizen, having seen the power and influence of US policy in the Middle East first hand.

I encourage you to click the links above in this post to learn more about the Brutal Treatment of Women and the personal and very physical sacrifices that were made by courageous women who simply wanted to be treated as intelligent human beings with equality and respect.

Most importantly, regardless of your personal party preferences, please join me in making the time to be informed about the issues and candidates, and taking the time to vote on Tuesday, November 2. (It's not too late to engage in the absentee ballot process if you won't be home that day!) Thank you!

(Photo on top is Alice Paul and photo at bottom is Helena Hill Weed.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

D is for Dip

"Dip" is a term of self deprecating affection in my family. I use the term in referring to myself when I commit some form of stupid error in logic or function.

In my family of origin dip is often used in place of accusing one's sibling, parent, or child of being an idiot when one is experiencing a mental challenge, forgetfulness, or a full blown brain fart.

I trust you get my drift.

Today I was having one of those days that I  couldn't seem to get anything just right. You know those days; slightly disorienting, troublesome, distracted, tedious. Sigh.

After walking through the grocery store this evening, list in hand, I checked out and walked to the Jeep to deposit my purchases, cradled in my reusable shopping bags, only to realize that I had neglected to get chicken stock; the reason I needed to go to town in the first place. Thankfully I remembered before returning home. I pulled my little shopping list ouy of my pocket in the parking lot to see how I could possibly have forgotten my essential ingredient for tonight's supper.

It wasn't even on my neat little list.

"I am such a dipshit!" I exclaimed out loud to myself.

Oops. There I go, swearing at myself in public again. Which is also a dippy thing to do.

Dip is such a wonderfully expressive and relatively inoffensive insult. You may not agree with me, but in my family it always brings a smile that helps one recover from the offending moment.

Well, it always makes me smile, anyway. I guess you might need our Clark Family reference to understand why.

Do you ever read Johnny Hart's comic strip, B.C.?

When the eventually famous strip ran in the Sunday funnies my father laughed uproariously and passed the paper around the room. You know, the strip that shows the "Dip in Road" sign as Thor is pedaling past the goofy looking caveman sitting on a rock in the road? In this three panel strip Thor is distracted in the first panel, gains steam while looking backwards in the second panel, and goes sailing across a physical dip in the road and makes the observation, "I don't believe it." in the final panel.

Compulsive confession time: I didn't get it. I didn't understand why my dad thought it was so funny.

He patiently explained to me that as Thor was distracted by the goofy guy, who could be classified as a dip, Thor failed to observe the road-sign warning and then crashed into the dip in the road, having failed to slow down. (I guess it was that visual that I think should have been illustrated in a fourth panel in order to complete the story!)

I still didn't really get it. My dad just shook his head and said, "Think about it for awhile. Maybe it will catch up to you."

I am such a dipshit sometimes. But at least I can laugh at myself. :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

C is for Costume Shop

It all started with my mother's boarding school trunk and some hand-me-down clothing; mostly dresses and skirts. My mother constructed my sister's and my costumes every year. Perennial favorites on my part included spectacularly spooky home-made witch's hats, or the red velvet and lace dress with some form of tiara or crown. Mother made my sister a truly amazing and cozy lion costume one year using the fringe from an old bedspread to create the lion's mane. We sometimes coveted the sleek or glamorous store-bought costumes of our peers, but we often won contests due to the creativity and detail provided by our clever mother.

Eventually we no longer required her assistance as we got the hang of the create-a-costume thing. Dress Up was one of my favorite childhood games no matter what the season. When my hometown, Galena, Illinois, began the Halloween parade my senior year in high school, I marched in my father's beekeeping gear on ice skates playing my piccolo (which fit inside the netting). I won first place for most creative costume.

In college I was awarded a work/study grant. My new advisor in the Dramatic Arts Department at Macalester College asked me, "Can you sew?" "Yes," I replied. That single syllable of a response landed me in the costume shop as a seamstress and backstage gopher. I couldn't believe my luck!

Following marriage and children I began creating my sons' Halloween costumes while they were still infants. Arthur was the Pillsbury Doughboy before he could walk. Joren was Rabbit from Winnie-the-Pooh, all cozy in gray corduroy. I also began sewing costumes to help clothe the Hastings Community Theatre cast for our annual melodrama productions.

Then 15 years ago I was approached by a local costume lady who was ready to sell the business and move to Mexico. "I don't have any money, but sure, I'll buy your costume inventory if you'll finance me at a tiny interest rate."

And here I am, kicking off the 15th season of this crazy habit. We're up to 11 volunteers who are the amazing women who gather to play dice and dress up for most of the month. Currently Princess Kathy has seniority amongst the crew. I believe that Mary, Linda, and Barb came on line next. Then we welcomed Beth, Peggy, Janet and Phyllis. Two daughters of the crew are working, too; Katie has earned her grown-up stripes and Danika is close to earning hers, too. This year we applaud Norma for bringing a new element to our habit; prop construction and set design.

I have to also commend my husband and sons. Dale is the handyman that keeps some things in functional order. And when that is beyond his capability he is the official to pronounce things broken beyond repair. Arthur actually knows the collection pretty well and can complete a rental form and transaction correctly. Joren, who spent the first season of his kindergarten year riding the bus from the costume shop the one year we were in downtown Hastings, knows the collection well and frequently raids the shop to costume 24 and 48 Hour Film Festival competitions.

So here we are again. Another month of Dress Up. I am blessed with friends and a wonderfully whimsical avocation. Wanna come out and play?

Check us out at

Monday, October 11, 2010

B is for Bicycle

I bought my current bicycle approximately 10 years ago. It's starting to show some potentially irreparable wear. But we are still good friends who enjoy going out to play.

I don't remember my first tricycle, but I do remember that first time I pedaled down the sidewalk of Wesley Avenue in Evanston, Illinois, the summer of 1966, on TWO WHEELS. My father was chasing behind me - or so I thought! As I glided into a grassy yard to make a calculated crash landing, certain that my father would catch me before I tipped over, I put my feet down and managed to avoid crashing all by myself. I turned around to see my grinning father half a block behind me clapping.

MY HEART SOARED! I was a big girl now and knew the personal thrill of riding a two wheeler, all by myself. All my hard work and the coaxing and encouragement of my Dear Old Dad had finally paid off. Next lesson, applying breaks and turning corners. I was ready to move on.

My first big girl bike was a blue banana bike with red streamers at the ends of the handle bars. I failed to put it away in the basement within weeks of acquiring it and sure enough, it was stolen, never to be recovered. There were many tears over that expensive lesson. My next bike was a far less glamorous garage sale bargain. But it was a two wheeler and it was mine.

I am still in the midst of my lifelong love affair of pedaling a bicycle. Having moved to Galena, Illinois, when I was 8 years old, I learned the challenge of pedaling or walking my bike up some pretty steep hills. But once you're at the top of said hill, the thrill of coasting down has got to be the next best to thing to personal flight. (Yes, I love skiing on snow and water, too!) I bought my first 10-speed from Allison Gillies for $50. That bike lasted me through high school and most of college.

At Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, my best friend and I bought an old school tandem Raleigh that we named Mrs. Finch. We had grand times riding her about. It was good fun terrorizing boyfriends by insisting they sit in the back and pedal while I steer. Dale once wrenched the rear handle bars clean off when he was sure I was steering us into a tree. For the record, we did not crash and I laughed long and hard at how certain he was of my inability to steer. I think he still regularly scrapes the foot pegs on the motorcycle while turning as a method of payback for that incident.

My current velocipede was purchased when I was still working at St. Luke's in Hastings. We live about seven miles from church and I decided to invest in a bike rather than a health club membership. I actually did ride my bike back and forth quite a bit. I rode that particular patch again yesterday in honor of the 10/10/10 Global Work Party Day to make my personal contribution to reducing carbon emissions in the world. 

I felt good about making my personal contribution to the global effort, but I also remembered all the other benefits of using this basic method of personal transportation. In spite of traffic on the highway, it's still a very peaceful means of movement. I like the technical challenge of trying to maintain a steady rpm by using my gears and my muscles and breathing. I thoroughly enjoy seeing evidence of wildlife, especially when I spot a critter that hasn't succumbed to roadkill.

I find that riding is rhythmic and eventually I am lulled into a reflective if not meditative and prayerful state of contemplating my life and the world. It is a good place to think and pray.

I am thankful for my bicycle. I hope I can remember the benefits and be intentional about riding more often, at least while the weather holds!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A is for Ally

I had a sheltered childhood. My relatively young parents (they were 20 and 22 when I was born) sheltered me from all kinds of things, like
  • violence
  • prejudice
  • hate
  • homophobia
  • organized religion
I remember an apartment in Evanston, Illinois, in the 1960's that was often full of adult friends with guitars and go-go boots, people who were black and white, couples who were same gender, and singles who were falling in love. I remember walking in protest marches against the war in Viet Nam, being early adopters of recycling efforts, and knowing that I might see the American Bald Eagle become extinct.

I remember my first understanding of human reproductive systems came in a lesson from an innocent question.

"Mommy, why do Jane and Wanda have to adopt a baby? Why can't they just have one. Wanda already has a daughter, doesn't she? Why can't she just have another one?"

My parents, although not affiliated religiously, practiced a radical hospitality that completely embraced the Baptismal promise to "Respect the dignity of every human being." It was clear to me that this was expected of me and my sister, too. There were no "buts." Humans are humans and all should be treated with respect and dignity.

I remember taking some heat as a mother when people would teasingly ask my primary school-aged sons, "So, do you have a girl friend yet?" And when they shyly answered in the negative, I would often counter with, "Do you have a boyfriend?"  As people assumed that I was making a joke I would explain very seriously that "I don't want my sons to ever have to come out to me or my husband. I want them to know that we love them unconditionally, just as they are."

Several years ago when I was a parish youth minister the phrase "That's so gay" came into vogue as a negative commentary. That became a quick course of study grounded in the Baptismal Covenant and revealing statistics about the number of humans in any random gathering who may identify as GLBT persons. Obviously the phrase was not welcome on the premises nor was it tolerated at any of our community events.

In the midst of the recent heart-breaking rash of teen suicides allegedly due to bullying of LGBTQQI persons, I can no longer sit silent. My own personal sphere of influence thought modeling accepting and affirming behavior is one thing. Attending weddings of LGBTQQI friends is supportive. But sitting silently and politely keeping my opinion to myself is contributing to the deaths of humans enduring misery and inequality who have been treated miserably by other humans.


I want to be an Ally. I hope you will join me. Please keep reading. Below is an explanatory paragraph that I found helpful. To read the full article by Gareth Higgins click here. It is truly an amazing column. I also highly recommend visiting the YouTube website for the "It Gets Better" project. Here's one of my favorites.

L(esbian)G(ay)B(isexual)T(rans)Q(ueer)Q(uestioning)I(ntersex) is a pretty good start; but another category has been privileged to join: A(lly): which, although its status is ambiguous in the cohort to which it wishes to orient itself, to my mind means anyone who cares enough to commit themselves to be educated about the structures of injustice faced by people whom the dominant culture defines as sexual minorities.  Ally can be a patronizing concept, of course; but I think that the more people who don’t identity themselves (or ourselves) as LGBTQQI consider the A label, the sooner we will experience conversation about sexuality as something that is good for us all, rather than merely stigmatizing socially constructed minorities.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A is for Autumn

We moved to this Backyard Labor Day weekend of 1997. The weekend Princess Diana died. A weekend I will never forget, for a wide variety of reasons. I remember the numerous people who turned out of the woodwork to help us. We weren't simply relocating a family; we moved the four Skovs, all their stuff, and Dress Me Up Costume Rental's inventory, all from a three bedroom split level on Goodwin Avenue in Vermillion Township, to a sprawling six bedroom house with outbuildings, 10 miles mostly east and a bit south on US Highway 61 in Marshan Township. It was a major undertaking. And the first thing that appeared that night when I finally hooked up the TV to the antennae was the horrific story from Paris of the Princess of Wales' car crash. She wasn't much older than me and I felt so horrible. I remember being very moved by the mountains of flowers that the public left as memorials for her along royal fencelines all over Great Britain.

That first fall on this property I took comfort and delight in discovering the grounds to which we had moved. Gracie Rohr, the only matriarch to have ruled the property prior to me, had been quite a gardener. As I roamed the yard in the crisp fall mornings I found delightful evidence of her planning and lucky assistance from Mother Nature.

This morning a beautiful autumnal day was in evidence at the break of the sun's ascent on the eastern horizon. Nessie and I climbed out of bed to take our morning constitutional out the back field driveway amidst the corn and beans. Upon return to our yard we explored the fall color. Then Joren and I hopped in a roofless Jeep to head for a meeting about Episcopal camping programs in Minnesota. We were both sporting our Copper River Fleece jackets to help protect us from the wind. We plugged in the iPod and sang at the top of our lungs. What a fun time.

Sunday, Ocotber 3, Dale and I celebrate our 23rd Wedding Anniversary. And we get to do it with our sons and friends, in full costume, hanging around at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. I truly do love this time of year and am truly grateful for all of the blessings in my life.