Friday, December 31, 2010

Let's Go Out....with a Blaze of Glory

December 31.  How in the world did we get to the end of 2010 already?  I don't know about that, but I do know this -- I am ending this year with three funerals and one wedding.  Not quite a movie, but close enough, I suppose.  

This has been an eventful year.  I have served three different parishes in the space of 2010.  Just a year ago, I was nearing the end of my familiarization time with St. Anne's Parish Church in Edinburgh.  In February, I began the next bit of that work with the Abercorn Parish Church linked with the Pardovan, Kingscavil, and Winchburgh Parish.  THEN, on August 1, I preached for and received a call from the Armadale Parish  Church, where I began my ministry on September 1 (after moving into the manse on August 12).  Since then, I have celebrated one baptism, solemnized one marriage, and officiated at 21 funerals.  Hmmm -- no wonder I feel a wee bit weary!

The role of parish minister is different from any I have had before.  Because I am responsible for a geographical area, anyone living within that area can call on me for pastoral services, usually weddings and funerals.  I have also been part of the school life here in the two Primary Schools and the Secondary School.  If the parish minister role was something new, then the opportunity to talk about faith with students IN THE SCHOOL is even more out of my realm of experience.  When I mention to teachers that this is something I would never have the opportunity to do in America, I get blank yet astonished looks in return.  It is such an integrated part of their way of thinking -- that children should be taught about faith (not just Christianity) so that later in life they know what they are choosing -- that they cannot imagine not having it in the schools.

I will say that my first winter here has been made more notable because of all the snow we have had.  I think we had 28 inches on the ground at one time.  Asher and Anna are a mere 8.5 inches high at the shoulders.  They were not amused.  I shoveled a path for them, then Asher figured out that he could stay right by the side of the house and get a good way around it.  He doesn't much care for taking walks in the cold -- but at the age of 12, I suppose he has good reason.  Anna would run anywhere.  Timothy prefers being by the fire.  Then again, he is a cat.  They say that this has been the worst winter since 1962 or so.  And they had to save it until I got here....

As I end this year here, I can't help but think about some of the things I have learned....

  • Soup is good, and even better when it is homemade and someone brings it to you.
  • Sweeties (candies and cookies -- aka biscuits) are ever-present and home-bakes are the best.
  • You must always prepare for the worst weather, even if the day looks sunny when you leave the house.
  • Warm snow boots are essential.
  • An umbrella is even more essential.
  • Sunglasses and umbrellas go together.
  • In theory, Americans and Scots speak the same language.  In reality, not so much.
  • There are a lot of different Scottish accents, but even here they can't understand people from Aberdeen.
  • Gas fires are incredible on long, cold winter nights. You turn them on, then turn them off.
  • Short-legged, long-haired dogs are seriously not feasible for muddy terrain -- unless you like bathing them a lot.
  • Hat hair is inevitable in the winter.  Soggy hair is generally inevitable in the summer.
  • Kilts on men are....well, what can I say?
  • It is possible to go a lot of places on foot or by public transport here.  It isn't always convenient, but it can be done.
  • The English are still suspect.
  • Riding in a hearse is really quite comfortable -- as long as you are in the front seat.

I am preparing for my first trip back to the USA next week.  It is the first such sojourn since I arrived here on July 24, 2009.  I can't help but wonder how I have changed and how it will be evident when I get there.  What I know is this -- the odyssey that began in my heart in 2003 and became a reality in 2009 is continuing.  People here ask why I came to Armadale, a very unlikely destination for an American immigrant.  All I can say is that I am home.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Yankee Doodle Came to Town

Each weekday afternoon at 5:00 p.m., I hear the tinny yet cheery strains of "Yankee Doodle" coming down Mount Pleasant.  That is the signal for the children to come out because THAT is the tune attached to the ice cream truck.  Oh, and it comes at 6:00 on the weekends.

The first time I heard the truck coming, it rather took me aback.  It seems so odd to hear that tune  floating up a small street in Scotland -- perhaps because I am (to many Brits) a Yank, which is a more generic term for Americans here than it is in Georgia, where I was decidedly not a Yank.

Still, there is some truth in the song title, because I have come to town.  While I don't wear a feather in my hat -- I don't much care for hats, except in bitter cold weather --  I do have good lips and know how to wear my lipstick.  This has not escaped the notice of the ladies and girls of Armadale.  

We celebrated Communion yesterday, formally at the morning service and less formally at the monthly evening service.  While I followed the general form for the Lord's Supper in the Church of Scotland, I also used bits that I brought with me from the States.  In the Presbyterian Church USA, as in many other denominations, this was observed as World Communion Sunday, the Sunday in which we note that churches around the world all observe communion at the same time.  

Odd thing -- that concept had not been heard of in Armadale.  Nor was it anywhere mentioned in any of the Church of Scotland information I viewed during the week.  It would seem that World Communion Sunday may not be as "world" as I had always thought.  Still, we shared in the Supper yesterday and because Yankee Doodle had come to Armadale, the good folks of this town are now part of the tradition.  We sang "I Come with Joy," a more recent hymn that truly rejoices in the family meal.  This was, from many reports, the first time that this church had experienced a celebratory Communion as opposed to a funerary one.  

It was just after the evening service, as I was greeting participants at the door, that one lady went out saying, "Well, that was different."  I had to laugh, because when I say that, I know that I have not yet made up my mind whether or not I liked something.  I have a strong suspicion that it probably meant all of that and perhaps more.  Still, it was a good evening, a good day.  And around the world, the faithful are celebrating communion with one another this Monday, whether we are around a table or not.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Prejudice in the Land

I am between job elements at the moment.  I have been at one of the local primary schools today leading their Friday morning assembly and will leave in a bit for a funeral of a community member.  She was not a member of the church, but she was still part of my parish and receives my care at this time.  Both of these situations are very different from ministry in the States -- but I think I like it this way.

There is, however (and completely unrelated to either of the above activities), a prejudice in this land.  It is pervasive and not hidden at all.  It is a prejudice against.....tumble dryers.  Yes, tumble dryers.  

If you ask anyone here about using their tumble dryer, the first response you get is a stare of disbelief -- as in "why would you want to do THAT?"  The second part of the response is a statement about the smell of clothes freshly dried outside.  The third part is a statement about the inefficiency of tumble dryers.  The fourth?  Well, the fourth is a stereotypical Scottish response -- "besides, why waste money when you can dry outside for free?"  Yes, some stereotypes have a basis in reality, and that one about Scots hanging onto their money is quite true in this sense -- and the Scots I have asked about this quite readily affirm it.  

So, when you come to visit me, please be ready to dry yourselves with rather crispy towels.  They will have been dried on the line (as God meant for them to be).  I will be wearing my crunchy underwear (dried on an airer inside -- I refuse to hang my undies out for everyone to see).  

And now -- I feel a need to go hang out some wet clothes.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

And Now It Is All Real....

I Am Official.  Last Wednesday night, September 1, I was inducted as the minister of the Armadale Parish Church and have begun walking alongside the members of the church.  

The induction service itself was wonderful.  In addition to a church full of Armadale and West Lothian Presbytery folks, there were two coaches that arrived -- one with St. Anne's members and one with Abercorn, Winchburgh, and Kingscavil members.  It was very moving for me to see  representatives from 5 congregations present.  I have been blessed with the people I have come to know in the past year.  We laughed together during the service, then shared again in the vows of induction -- promising to serve God as we work together in ministry.  

Then came Sunday, my first as the pastor to the parish.  Once again, we laughed and sang and prayed together.  The rounds of meetings have begun for me -- meeting people in the street when we are out, meetings at the church as I get to know the workings of this particular church.  Even after a year of familiarization, there is still much to learn.  While I got the general picture before, now I am learning the specifics of this place and time.  

This is not only a time of saying hello.  It is also a time of saying goodbye.  For the first time in my life, I am not a member of the Presbyterian Church (USA) or its predecessors.  I am not certain that this has sunk in completely yet.  This is now my home and the Church of Scotland is my church -- yet there is part of me that still (and will probably always) carry my roots with me.  How can I not?  I was shaped into who I am by what I have known.  That will not change.

It is time now to venture out into the dreich (translate gray, rainy, and cool) day to the church's Thrift Store, one of the services we provide to the community.  I want to see how it all works and to visit with the workers and the shoppers.  They tell me I will also be able to have some coffee and "home bakes" while I am there.  It is all part of coming to know and becoming known to this new community that is now my home.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Twas the Night Before...

It will soon be August 12 (in about 40 minutes) and there are boxes littered around my apartment.  Most of them are filled, ready to be taped and marked.  Four remain, waiting to receive those last minute things -- the bits and bobs of cupboard items, the bathroom things I need for the morning, the papers I needed to make final arrangements for the move today.  The moving van will arrive at my current address sometime after noon tomorrow.  It also has two other stops to make to pick up things that I have either purchased or have been given.  Then -- we are off to the manse in Armadale.

If only my stomach would fit into one of those boxes.  It is in a rather large knot AGAIN this year. This is the third move I have made in just over a year.  I left the US on July 23, 2009.  After a month in one flat, I found and moved into this one because they accepted my pets.  Now, here I am moving again -- and this time the move is open-ended.  I have told my brother I will be staying a while, because I Hate Moving.  Actually, I suspect the staying will be because things are going well rather than because I dislike this process of moving, but in the heat of stuffing things in boxes, one does get a bit exasperated.  I think I have joined the Monty Python "Society of Putting Things On Top of Other Things."

Though I have been in this flat just short of a year, I have put down roots of a sort.  I have made friends in this neighborhood.  Even that little bit makes it hard to leave.  I will miss them, miss knowing how to get around without thinking about it much.  I know my shops, my favorite places.  It won't be long until I have new ones, but this has been my first home in a new country and it will always be so.

In the meantime, my furkids know that something is afoot.  Asher undoubtedly remembers that the last time this many boxes and suitcases came out, we were separated for a long time and then that was followed by The Trip That Would Not End.  Timothy seems the least affected -- but he is a cat.  Anna, the newest baby, is frequently found with her nose on my ankle.  She stepped on the back of my slipper yesterday and pulled it off -- that's how close she is following these days.  I have tried to remind them of that lovely garden they have visited, but it doesn't seem to have sunk in yet.

Ah, well.  Back to the boxes.  Back to stripping my presence from this place.  I wonder if the walls will remember me?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Moving Ahead

It is now August 4.  Three days ago, on Sunday, August 1, I was elected to be the pastor of Armadale Parish Church in Armadale, West Lothian, Scotland.  My induction service is set for September 1.  The vote was 171 for and 5 against.  I was prepared for a much higher dissent, what with being an American AND a woman, so was very pleased with the outcome.

This news is still sinking in.  I went out today and bought a bed frame, an iron and ironing board (for occasional use), a kettle (an essential in this country), and a toaster (an essential for me).  I had forgotten how much it takes to set up a household.  There is still a whole lot of shopping to do.

Being a minister in the Church of Scotland is part of the dream that led me to move here a year ago.  I wanted to live here and work among the people, rather than be a tourist.  It has proved to be all that I had hoped for thus far!

Armadale is a town of somewhere between 11,000 and 14,000 people (I have gotten different numbers).  My new church is the only Church of Scotland in the town.  So, with the exception of the folks who attend the small Methodist and the Roman Catholic Churches there, all the people of the town are considered my parishioners -- whether or not they are actual members of the Armadale Church.

The Church of Scotland considers itself a National Church with a Territorial Presence.  They have made a commitment to make pastoral services (funerals, weddings, baptisms) available to every person in the country.  There are geographical boundaries for each parish church covering the entire country.  I haven't yet seen the boundaries for Armadale, but I suspect I may not be able to walk to every house there in 5 minutes, as some of my colleagues are able to do in their parishes.  Still, I will be in a small town that has excellent access to the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow (it lies exactly halfway between them) and I can see grassland with just a few minutes' walk in nearly any direction.  

I will be living in a manse (translate church-owned house) for the first time.  It has three bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a large living room, a dining room, a study, a large kitchen, and a utility room.  Best of all, for Asher and Anna, my wee canine beasties, it has a fully fenced yard.  Asher has already performed a full perimeter check and pronounced it acceptable.  I will move next Thursday, August 12.  By the way, with that number of bedrooms, one will be set up as a guest room on a full-time basis.  I will begin scheduling visitors the week after I move in.  And yes, pictures will follow, as soon as I get out to take them.

What is interesting to me is that I have not felt as homesick as I thought I might over this year -- which is probably a good thing.  Monday night I enjoyed a bluegrass concert at the Winchburgh church by a group called Craig Duncan and Friends from Nashville.  My heart felt home with them, but it was different from homesick.  Oh -- if you get a chance to hear them, I highly recommend them.  

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Happy Anniversary (Version 1)

Happy Anniversary to me!

One year ago today, 11 February 2009, I was here in Edinburgh.  I interviewed with the Church Assessors of the Church of Scotland and with the psychologist that day, taking the second huge step toward moving (the first had been actually sending in the application).

So what has happened in the past year, after that interview?  Let's see...

I met Sam and Scot for the first time (see last year's blog).

I came home, had a very bad cold, and lost my voice for two weeks -- meaning that I couldn't even preach.

I decided that I would truly go through with this!  The recommendation came from the Church Assessors that I be accepted and I was -- then I decided that I really, truly was going to make a move to another country.

I finished the interim ministry I had done for two years in Woodstock, Georgia, going out with a bang with a surprise party the folks there organized that even included a piper.

I packed up my house and put all kinds of things in storage.

I tried to sell my house, no one wanted it, so I signed on with a rental agent.

I packed my house.

I said goodbye to Miss Gretchen.

I packed my house and put all kinds of things in storage.

I said goodbye to lots of people and tried to explain to some of them why on earth I wanted to move all the way to Scotland, why I didn't have an end date to this odyssey, and what I would be doing.

I packed my house.

I bought a one-way ticket to Edinburgh.

I packed my bags and said a temporary good-bye to my boys Asher, Joseph, and Timothy.

I.  Got.  On.  A.  Plane.  (Still wondering if I was actually doing this)

I said hello to the folks at St. Anne's Parish Church.

I said a joyous hello to my boys Asher, Joseph, and Timothy -- and a tragic goodbye to Joseph only two weeks later.

I said hello to some new friends.

I bought a car and began to drive on the left side of the road.

I said hello to Anna, my new girl.

I am in the midst of saying hello to the folks of Winchburgh and Abercorn.

It has now been just over six months since I arrived and there are times that I am still surprised that I am here.  I drive past a view of Edinburgh Castle several times a week and smile with the wonder of it all. 

It has been quite a year.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

And Sometimes It Is Difficult...

I sit listening to  Radio Nan Gaidheal (Gaelic Radio) from the BBC, thinking and remembering.

Much of this odyssey has been filled with joy, excitement, and adventure.  I have been in Scotland a little more than six months now and am feeling at home.  Yet...

Two things have happened this week that remind me how far away I am from my first and second homes.

The first was the blessing of technology that allowed my brother Thomas, his wife Tammy, and me to see one another as we spoke.  There are six time zones that separate us now, as opposed to the one that we used to have.  Still, we were able to visit via Skype last Sunday night.  It was great to be able to look at each other -- and astounding at the same time, given the divide of time and miles.  The last time we had seen each other was July 23 at the Atlanta airport.  We had passed each other for just a while -- I was waiting to begin my flights to Scotland, they had flown in that morning so that they could drive my truck back to Missouri.  They are planning to come over in the spring (whether or not they will tote golf clubs is to be determined) and I am looking forward with great excitement to the opportunity to hug them and show them around.

It has caused me to reflect on the centuries of travellers before me -- to think about how much more of a sadness it had to have been for them to realize that each goodbye could well be the last time they would see a loved one, to think about the utter joy a letter could bring even if it were several months old by the time it arrived.

The second was receiving word this morning of the sudden death of a church member and friend from the last congregation I served in Georgia.  John had been fighting cancer for 2.5 years -- but his death was still very surprising given the circumstances.  Through the magic of the Internet, his wife Judy was able to contact me and give me her phone number.  I called her, despite the five hour time difference, knowing that she was awake because we were both online at the same time.

The sadness this time stems from the fact that I am not there with her, to hug her and walk with her through this valley, a journey that we had walked much of together.  She and John had been stalwarts at Bible study (even the midst of his treatments), helpers in the church, support, and had even helped me pack for this move.  

The reality check sometimes happens -- and the reality right at the moment is that I am too far away to give the hugs that I would so like to give, to hand the tissues that I would have at hand, to laugh at the jokes and see the family members that are dear.  As much joy as I know as I adventure, sometimes it is difficult.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Back to the Future

[Prologue to the post -- the pictures you will see are a bit blurred.  My digital camera is one that Benjamin Franklin used, so it doesn't always work as well as I would like for it to.]

It is February 1 here in Scotland, as it is in much of the world (since it is 11:00 a.m., the day hasn't exactly begun everywhere yet).  That means that one phase of my adventure here has come to an end and another is beginning.

Yesterday was the end of my first six month placement, meaning it was my last day at St. Anne's Parish Church in Corstorphine (the west end of Edinburgh).  I was privileged to preach and officiate at the quarterly formal communion service -- and sad to say goodbye to a group of people who have loved me well.

They had a Burns Night-type of dinner Saturday night with over 100 people in attendance.  What I didn't know in the run-up to this get together was that it was also going to be a good-bye party in my honor.  It was a teaching time as well, since (as a minister in the Church of Scotland someday) I will be invited to these gatherings each year.  I had three duties Saturday night.  First was to enjoy the moment, which I did.  Second was to say the Vote of Thanks at the end of the evening.  Third -- the most harrowing of all -- was to parade the Haggis around the room.  Yes, harrowing.  Do you know how slippery a cooked haggis is when it is on a tray?  One tip of that blasted silver tray too far would have meant a pile of steaming haggis hash all over the floor of the church hall -- and it came close once!

Fortunately, the haggis gods were with me as I presented the "chieftain of the puddin' race" to Ian Wallace, who spoke the words of Robert Burns over said haggis and sliced into it (making it look like a steaming pile of haggis hash -- but it was supposed to at that point).  We then shared the meal of the traditional haggis, neeps, and tatties (mashed turnips and mashed potatoes).

The entertainment for the evening?  Music, recitations of poems by Burns, Highland dancing (including a sword dance), a toast to the lassies and the response of the lassies.  Apparently the only difference between this night and a true Burns night was the lack of soup being served.  

Did you know that the phrase about the plans of mice and men was penned by Robert Burns?  It is from a poem he wrote about farmer apologizing to a mouse for plowing through its house. I didn't know its origin until I heard it spoken Saturday night.  Do you know how hard it is to capture the movements of a Highland dancer with a slow camera?  I found out.  It is next to impossible.  I was exhausted just watching them -- and one of the dancers has a 10 week old baby girl!  Actually, that baby is one I helped baptize two weeks ago -- little Jennifer is a bit special to me.

What happens next? Tomorrow morning I meet with my new supervisor, Scott Marshall, who is pastor of the Abercorn Parish churches -- Abercorn, Winchburgh, Pardovan, and Kingscavil.  I will begin getting acquainted with what it means to be pastor to a cluster of congregations in a more rural area.  I will begin to learn the differences between presbyteries (Abercorn is in West Lothian Presbytery).  I will learn a whole new set of names and enjoy knowing a whole new set of people.  The difference is that I am not brand new to the country this time around.  I think one set of changes is enough...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Line-Dancing Cowboys and the Snake-Charmer

It has been just over a month now since Christmas and it has taken me that long to process some of the things that I experienced then.  

Christmas here is a bit more low-key than it is the U.S.  There is still a great deal of shopping and activity, but it was quieter overall.  I have been told that up until a few years ago, Christmas was still a workday for many people.  It just wasn't "done up" like I have known.

That being said, there were some very familiar elements to be had, especially when it came to church life.  More about those in a bit.  But first...

The relationship between church and schools here is much closer than it is in the States.  The parish minister is considered to be the chaplain for the local school as well, and if the head teacher (think principal) is willing to have the minister come in, she is invited to do short assembly times each week with a religious theme.  I will be leading my first one this coming Friday.  I can only hope they can understand my mongrel accent.

Anyway, just before Christmas, each school presented a Christmas program and most of them had a Nativity play of some kind or other.  Because MaryAnn, our parish minister and my supervisor, has a daughter and son who are in another school in our parish, I went to the one where I will speak on Friday so that she could be a mom that day and be with her children.  

The sounds in the large gymnasium/assembly hall were much the same as many others I have heard.  Parents and younger children rustled in with their winter coats, cameras of every variety adorning their necks and pockets.  As each family jockeyed for the best viewing position, a very serious young man from one of the older classes handed out programs and reported anything needful to the teacher who was organizing things.  I watched this all from my seat of honor as the parish minister (and yes, I was wearing my clerical collar so they would know what I was).  The decibel level rose with every family that entered the acoustically challenged room.

What followed was really a cute play of the Nativity with all the usual characters, the story line we have memorized through the years, and music that was both traditional and new.  There were only a couple of things that I didn't recognize from the original text.  They were the line-dancing cowboys and the snake-charmer.

Yes, you read it right.  Line-dancing cowboys and a snake-charmer.  In a Christmas play.  Noticeable, to say the least.  And there wasn't a shepherd in sight.

The cowboys were cast as the modern-day shepherds -- though to be truthful, in a land like Scotland where there are a WHOLE lot more sheep than cattle, I would have thought shepherds would have been appropriate, too.  Then again, I have never seen a shepherd even attempt a line dance.  That may be well beyond their job description.  Once I got past the shock of small Scottish children in cowboy hats, I was all right.  They were quite good at what they did.

The next surprise came when the snake charmer made an entrance.  It wasn't a real snake (which was probably a good thing).  It was a stuffed snake attached to the charmer's wooden flute, rigged so that when the flute was raised, the snake came up out its basket.  Why a snake charmer, you may be asking?  Well, it really does make a bit of sense.  You see, the charmer was accompanying the Wise Men from the East, and it makes perfect sense to me that they could well have HAD a snake charmer with them.  It's just that that particular detail had never quite made it into the biblical account of Jesus' birth.  Of course, neither did the fact that the baby Jesus would have had dirty diapers and SOMEbody had to change the holy nappies at some point.

Perhaps the best part of all this, upon reflection, is what it says about the coming of Jesus.  In a time when we absolutely must become aware that no one nation lives in isolation from any other, the children in this school widened the story of Jesus' birth to embrace East and West in new ways.  "For God so loved the world" we proclaim -- and here they made it clear.  

I think I rather like having line-dancing cowboys and snake-charmers in the Nativity after all...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Language Lessons

This first year in Scotland is my familiarization year.  It is a year of grace in which I have the opportunity to settle in and learn about the culture and church before taking on a parish of my own.  

Part of this familiarization has involved learning how things operate and how to operate myself within this culture.  It has also included unintentional language lessons -- those times in conversation when I have looked at someone in clear confusion as I tried to interpret what they just said.  I have, of course, returned the favor (one conversation included the phrase catty-cornered, which caused great amusement).

So, I now share with you a variety of new words for your edification, in no particular order...

Dreich, mingin' = gray, rainy, dreary.  Apparently, dreich is a bit "nicer" way to say it

rammy, stooshy, stramash = argument.  These are all about the same in terms of intensity, from what I understand.  A stramash can also be a disturbance.

bidie-in = your significant other with whom you live, without being married

dear = expensive

stocious = drunk 

chuffed = pleased about something

brass-necked = arrogant

bamboozled = confused

kerfuffle = confusion.  You can have a kerfuffle in a situation or your papers and things might be in a kerfuffle

dingin' doon = pouring down rain

to grass someone out = to rat them out

skip = dumpster

teuchter = a country person

waistcoat = vest

vest = camisole

braces = suspenders

wool = yarn, be it wool, cotton, or acrylic, or anything else

suss out = figure something out, work it out

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Watch Out, She's on the Road

December 19.  That was the day that driving in Scotland changed for a number of people.  That was the day that Ouiser (say Weezer -- she is a wee car) hit the road with me behind the wheel.  Any defensive driving courses they have taken have been well-used since then.

Ouiser is a 2004 Fiat Panda.  She is very small, especially compared to Minnie Pearl, my four-door truck who is now living in Arkansas.  She had only 15,000 miles when I got her -- I have probably put more miles on her in two weeks than in six months in her previous life!

Thus far, I have stayed on the correct side of the road.  I figure that as long as I don't see cars heading directly at me, I am probably on the right side of the road.  It has actually been easier than I had imagined it would be.  Of course, I look like a complete idiot as I go along because I am still talking myself through each turn and move.  I have apologized to a number of people, though they couldn't hear me.  Some of them were busy waving at me with one finger to hear any remorse....

The good part about a very small car is the maneuverability.  I had forgotten how small a space a car could fit into!  And the insurance costs are a LOT less.  My insurance was purchased through the Post Office.  It still feels a bit odd to think about the Post Office providing car insurance, but they do -- as do a number of other retailers.  One of those things that makes a body say hmmmm.....  

Anyway, my new friends Helen and Justin took their lives in their hands on December 19 and took Ouiser's maiden voyage with me.  We made it quite well -- until the briefest, most intense blizzard hit Edinburgh at 2:00 p.m. (such that everyone talked about it the next day) while WE WERE OUT IN IT!  Bless them.  They are very brave.

Time Flies When You Get Older

My parents used to tell me when I was a child that time would go much faster when I was an adult. I didn't believe them. I should have. That, among many other things, was one of the grown-up truths that I simply couldn't understand. Sigh -- they were right.

We have entered 2010 with a swiftness that belies my sense of belief. I have noticed (as others of you undoubtedly have) that it has been a long time since I have added to my blog. Well, it is a new year now, so here you have a new post.

It was summer when last I posted. There is now snow on the ground and it is all of 27 degrees outside. The days are very short. I have never before in my life prayed for the winter solstice to come like I did in 2009!

A brief summary of the past few months...

My boys -- Asher and Joseph, the miniature dachshunds, and Timothy the cat -- arrived safely on September 10. We were all overjoyed to be together again. On September 27, Joseph died unexpectedly, a victim to some kind of unidentified virus or bacteria to which he had no immunity. I was devastated. That is really the only way I can describe it. He was my clown, an affectionate little guy who never met a person he didn't like.

My work at St. Anne's Parish Church in Edinburgh has gone exceedingly well. The members have made a warm place for me in their lives. I have performed two funerals and assisted in one baptism, as well as led an informal communion service. I led a three-session Advent study on particular Christmas carols, participated in a whole host of Christmas activities, and have taken the past week after Christmas as holiday time.

On Monday, December 28, I drove to Yorkshire (yes, I have a car and I know how to use it) to pick up a little girl long-haired miniature dachshund who is now named Anna. She is a cream color and is simply beautiful. We have spent the week getting acquainted -- and finding each other. She has escaped from me twice and gone barrelling off down the road (and it is a busy road). Some new friends, Helen and Justin, have been more than kind in helping me find her both times. It is a rather heart-stopping way to begin a relationship with a new family member! While she is sleeping peacefully on the sofa beside me right now, she will be on a lead securely fastened around my wrist in a few minutes when we go outside...

I begin 2010 still somewhat surprised that I have begun it in a new country. I have been 5 months in a church and will leave it with sadness at the end of January to begin the next steps of my familiarization. I have no doubt that the people I will meet there will be as lovely as the people I have come to know and love already.

There will be more frequent posts forthcoming -- promise.  There are some quandaries, some observations, some language lessons -- oh, just all sorts of things.  In the meantime, I have a trip to Asda (translate -- Wal-Mart) to make...