Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Now Entering the Retail Desert

So I've been thinking about Lent, and what it means to me, and how I wanted to observe it this year. There are always the typical things to give up - chocolate, Diet Coke, swearing - but I felt like I really wouldn't be learning anything from a dietary or verbal deprivation (not that I don't need to be depriving myself of some food!).

Now this may seem like a digression, but bear with me. We get a lot of packages at our house. Ray loves to stay up late and shop eBay for deals on model helicopters, I love to get up early and surf for yarn or books, and our family loves to send the kids packages for every holiday or non-holiday. Last Monday Amelia had a major meltdown because Ray got a package and she didn't. This is the child who has every toy, book, stuffed animal imaginable. That's when I hit upon what to do about Lent. Our family needed to go on a buying fast. The plan is that we only buy items we truly need - food, gas, plants for the garden that we're planning - and we leave off the things that we want, whether they're for our own personal use or for the house.

For the record, I am the only one excited about this. Well, maybe Jack, too, because after all how many frivolous items can a 15-month need? Amelia has warmed up to it after I explained how much fun we can have making things out of the supplies we already have in the craft closet, playing with the toys she already has, etc. Ray's first response was, "Pentecostals don't do Lent." After some cajoling and some Fat Tuesday eBay activity, I think he's on board.

So, I'll report back in about 40 days and let you know how our time in the retail desert has gone.

Monday, February 23, 2009

You Can Go Home Again

When I was sixteen or seventeen, my mother and I drove up to Birmingham to visit UAB’s campus. We were driving around looking for a parking space when I first saw the Honors House. It was an old church repurposed for some sort of classroom. At the time, I didn’t know what for. I just knew that I had to be there. It was a calling as strong as any I’ve ever felt before or after.

As part of the Honors Program, I spent a lot of hours at that old church. I thought deep thoughts, had soul-searching conversations, explored my ideas of race, religion and social justice. Sitting on an old, busted sofa beneath one of the gorgeous stained-glass windows, I kissed my husband for the first time. I played pool and ping-pong. I studied. I lived.

This last weekend Ray and I had the chance to go back to the Honors House for the program’s 25th anniversary. Things have changed as they always do. There’s a new director and assistant director. The inside of the building has been renovated. The people we knew then have grown up, accepted more responsibilities, had kids, gained weight or lost it, but for those of us who came back – and I suspect for many of those who didn’t – the Honors House and what it stands for still shines like a beacon. Sounds dramatic, I know, but I really mean it. The HP was the closest thing I have ever known to a utopia, and it was absolutely wonderful to be there this weekend.

It was also absolutely wonderful to have an adult weekend. I love the babies, but this was the first time we’ve been away from both kids since we went to Mexico in 2007, and that doesn’t really count because I was pregnant with Jack. But now that he’s weaned (wiping of slightly tearful eye) it was the perfect time to get away. We stayed at the Hotel Highland and lucked out with a spectacular room – top floor with views of Five Points, the Vulcan and UAB. To top it all off, I got to have dinner at Surrins with my old college roommates.

Now it’s back to reality!