Friday, December 17, 2010

Is it beginning to look a lot like Christmas?

Like so many other people, I have been thinking a lot about Christmas.

Ever sense I was a small child I could not wait for Christmas, I was the reason my parents came up with the, "you can't get up before the sun" rule on Christmas morning. I was just so excited and so ready to open up the gifts that I could not control my excitement any longer, and sleep for another minute. It may sound silly, but as my sister (who is six years younger) and I were growing up I can remember every Christmas eve, we would try and have a slumber party in a different room in the house. This always worked well because we would move before we would have to sleep in the bathroom :) Recently I have been thinking back to these moments a lot and trying to decide if I still have this excitement for presents. Like it is said so many times in the bible, we have a lot to learn from the innocence of children.

And as I think about this more and more, I am convinced that Christmas is not the same for me as it used to be. I would be lying if I told you that I did not like getting gifts, but for me Christmas is so much more than getting gifts but rather it is more important to give gifts. I am the type of person that starts shopping for Christmas presents the day after Christmas (which by the way, has great decoration sales). I simply love walking into a store and seeing that perfect present and buying it for important people. Then I love to spend hours and hours wrapping gifts, to make them look perfect so that it can be ripped to shreds within minutes. And then you know that you have done a good job when you see that smile on someones face. That is the moment that I can not get enough of.

I can not tell you how many times in the last week, I have been asked the question, what is the best present that you ever got. I also was asked the question (many times) what is the best gift that you ever gave. So for these two questions I thought that I would share my answers as well as some of my housemates answers. Here is what we said.

gave - Over the past four years, my aunt and I have gotten really close. So last year I decided that I wanted to get her something that I knew she would love, and would never by herself (but not be SUPER expensive). So I went to the store and circled the store many times, then I saw some football jerseys (which my aunt is a big Colts fan). Being in Illinois, however, they do not sell Colts jerseys. So on the way to family Christmas in Ohio (which was really pushing it time wise). But after a last minute stop on the way, I had my jersey and wrapped it in the car.

got - For some reason I can not get a stupid pair of pink boot slippers out of my mind. In 2003, my dad was very sick. It was our last Christmas together, before he died, which I think he knew at the time. He was getting ready to go to Switzerland to get medicine that they did not have in the U.S. so I thought that Christmas was not going to happen, because we needed all the money for dad. However, I was wrong, this was a huge Christmas full of excitement. Mom got us each several gifts, we got several gifts from santa, and then for the first time (I think ever) dad each got us gifts. I think that he knew that it was his last Christmas, so he made it extra special that year. The one gift that I remember are the slippers, that I asked him for. Thanks DAD!

Clara (thanks for typing yours up :):
Received - After approximately 10 years of writing HORSE in all caps at the top of each birthday and Christmas Wish-List, about two weeks before my 16th Christmas, the time finally came! My parents shared the news and left me jumping around the house waiting, oh so impatiently, for the arrival of my very own Quarter Horse mare! With her came a bridle, saddle, and most exciting of all a pregnancy! Diamond was due to foal in late spring! The absolute jubilee I found in my new horse and her coming baby far surpassed any other gift, and will probably hold the record for many Christmases to come!

Gave – My brother and I raised, exhibited, and sold livestock starting at age six. By the age of ten, we had tearfully parted with multiple market steers, lambs, and pigs. Pain that was only eased with the passing of time, and the coming of the pay check! The money we made at the fair amassed a small fortune for some ten year old farm kids who received no allowance. As encouraged as we were to save our money, Isaac and I became very interested in Heifer International. When Christmas rolled around, we pooled our fair money to buy two sheep in honor of our grandmothers. Not only were our grandmothers proud, but in the end we were able to share the gift of livestock with those in poverty. The gift of livestock, a gift that we knew all about.

Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year with people that you love. The Elgin BVS House is quickly spreading east and west for the holiday season, returning to our homes.

Peace and Good Tidings!

Monday, December 13, 2010

December Ramblings

What a Storm!

Welcome to the deep freeze, my friends. At this point you may be wondering, "How bad can winter be? At least your roof didn't cave in!" To which I reply, "Shut up, you're ruining my blog!"

An intellectual might then ask, "Why don't you think of something else to discuss, rather than bring up the weather each week." Alright, smarty-longjohns, have it your way.

Don's guide to life in Elgin, or

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Caterers

Is there anything you can hate more than people who have it better than you? I'm speaking rhetorically, of course, I don't hate anyone - just say things under my breath at. Well, I can think of one: people who have it better than you, don't realize it, and complain about how bad things are for them.

Example the first:

The hardest part of today was deciding what to blog about. It's a fine line between humourous and crude, between thoughtfully new points of view and irrelevant slop. My life is so hard! I have to write this blog, and the best I can come up with is "Yep, it's still cold here!" In numerous countries tonight, thousands of emaciated children desparately try not to think about the lack of things in their stomach. My life is not so bad.

Example deux:

Today at work, I stamped, labeled, and mailed around 300 Christmas cards with the help of my somewhat-higher-up-but-not-quite-boss batman to my robin Cal. I worked 8 am to 4:30 pm, made dinner, talked with housemates, and then declined into a delirious state of mental inactivity known to most as "couch potato." Currently, I am warming myself with the heat produced by a laptop, though with the battery a shadow of it's former self it is eternally tethered to the wall, hardly retaining the convenience responsible for its fame. That is the worst thing about my life right now: my laptop battery stinks.

Meanwhile, in other cities, laptops are being stolen (and not returned, with no note regarding why and providing no contact information). Fellow volunteers work long hours, sometimes seven days a week, with little reward but the internal estimation that they are indeed doing the good they set out for. Indeed, for a sickening majority of souls, life does not afford the rewards so deserved, and yet for the privileged they come without asking.

Upon moving to Elgin back in the day in 2009, I was immediately struck by the dischord between church as a universal body of believers and church as an office building next to the highway. Some practices of the general offices offended me. I'm somewhat ashamed to say that every other Wednesday, a caterer provides snacks for the entire building. The food is quite tasty, but the fact that Sunday's donations pay for Wednesday's snack time at the office rather than, say, feeding the hungry children I mentioned earlier, digs away at my stomach.

Time to Learn Something

The subtitle for this post, how I learned to stop worrying and love the caterers, tells you that there has been an attitude adjustment. Still upset by a lack of austerity, I accept that it is not my role to police the spending habits of the seventy-odd leaders compiled into the office. People need time off or they burn out. Work is stressful, and some of the people in my building write and care for large sections if not all of the denomination. Sometimes you just need a stinkin' doughnut!

Compared to the conditions of the people our hearts break for, we have it easy. It should be hard for me to relate to even my fellow BVSers who try to withstand screaming clients, 80-hour weeks, and the occasional crime. If there's one thing I know, it's that I have it easy.

As Christmas surrounds (truly a season to me now), my letter to santa is quite short. I want to continue to spend time with friends new and old. To grow to love the place I find myself, wherever that is. My prayer is that I am not blind to the resources around me, the abilities in me, and the vast options ahead of me to better fit into the machinery of the holy body. Likewise, that I may, whenever possible, enable others to do the same, is the charge of my soul.


Christmas is upon us, so I will say, "Tis the Season for Random... Things."

Family Christmas Photo

Is it sad that the only sweater I own is an ugly one?

The workplace

View Larger Map

My Office (as seen from Google Maps)

The Only Guide to Tic-Tac-Toe You'll Ever Need

is right here

I didn't mention Bill Bryson once this time. Aren't you proud?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Here Comes the Son

Although it's COLD and snowy in Elgin, Florida was very bright, and comparatively warm! Carol and I traveled to Orlando to Disney World for the Youth Summit Workers Conference last week! We enjoyed visiting the parks and riding a few rides, as well as getting some rejuvenation and ideas for leading youth! 

I will start with a few more pictures to make sure you are all good and jealous before I get to the idea for this week's blog :) (insert evil laugh here)

Disney's Coronado Springs Resort- a quite exotic place to have a youth conference

Seems very strange to have tropical flowers blooming in December

Disney Sunset

The Magical Kingdom- where dreams come true

While being on a rather exotic vacation during BVS tenure is rather contradictory in itself, I experienced several other anomalies during the trip. I could never quite get the hang of Christmas in Florida. Although Disney made a conscience effort to decorate with tree, poinsettias and lights, it all seemed very out of place. One morning as I was walking from the conference center back to our room I heard the voice of Goofy singing from a speaker nestled beneath a palm tree, a fern, and some tropical flowers. In the spirit of the season he belted "White Christmas". Sorry Goofy, dream of snow as you may, I wouldn't count on palm treetops glistening with snow under clear and sunny Florida skies. 

With all this sunshine and warmth I'm not really sure how Floridians prepare for Christmas. Decorations, cold weather and snow really help me get into the Christmas spirit... but is it really the right spirit that I am getting into? Maybe the Floridians actually have it easier. After all, it's not the snow and twinkling lights that prepare us for what is actually coming. The Church of the Brethren Advent devotional lays on my night-stand tempting me to get into the real spirit of Christmas. Its title, Emmanuel. God Is with Us, quietly reminds me what it is I am really waiting for. 

Each year it is so easy to get caught up in the hustle of purchasing presents, traveling to visit family, and eating delicious food. Even this year, in a time where I am working to live more simply and in community, I find it difficult to push aside the material preparations and prepare my heart for the coming of Christ. I appreciate the reminders of the true importance of Christmas, whether it be an advent devotional, or a small nativity scene set up beside our Christmas tree in the BVS house. Let each of us be reminded of why we celebrate. So as we decorate, and buy a few gifts, and sing the lyrics of the familiar carols, let us also embrace the coming light, not just the sun, but Jesus himself. 

Said the king to the people everywhere, listen to what I say. Pray for peace people everywhere, listen to what I say. A child, a child, sleeping in the night he will bring us goodness and light. He will bring us goodness and light.


Monday, November 29, 2010

'Tis the Season

First of all, I should start by saying that my internet has been sketchy recently, which is why the post is a little late. The internet at the house was not working and over Thanksgiving the internet where I was, was not working but here goes.

Every week at the office, we have devotions as a staff (Clara and I do). This week we talked about relationships, which I thought was rather fitting as we headed into the holiday season. Here are some key points from our conversation: when building relationships it needs to be an even give and take. With both parties contributing and having responsibilities for the good of the friendship. With each piece that we add to the relationship the nicer, better wall it becomes that sometimes is indestructible. However, sometimes life gets in its way, which can cause pain.

Serving Others
Like every other week, this week we also had our house devotion. This particular week we talked about serving others, which I found to be extremely fitting considering it was Thanksgiving week.

"When we help others, it is like we are entertaining angels."

Often we do not yet know this impact of holding the door open for someone and what will become of it.

Like the movie The Holiday (which I happen to be watching as I type this out), one of the main characters enters a new world, then once she steps away from her life she finds an opportunity to help out one of her new neighbors, which becomes a great friendship. Making time to helps a  others get wrapped up in us that we miss the opportunity to serve.

Being Grateful
Thanksgiving is a time to really sit back and take time to think about the gifts that we have been given. Going along with this, I made my housemates make thank you turkeys, identify these things that each of us are thankful for. Here our are turkeys (I am an educator, what can I say...).

Food for thought
I have been thinking a lot about the Holiday's what the holidays truly means. For me, I think that we need to remember the true reason for the season and remember to not get to wrapped up in the commercialism. 

Someone at church on Sunday, a friend of mine said something during the announcement time that I have been thinking about a lot. She said that we need to remember what Christmas is all about. Remember the less fortunate this holiday season. But also remember, that when you go and buy a gift for someone, don't get caught up in how much money you spend and thinking to yourself how great you are. But think about the way that giving makes you feel, the warmth that you feel in your heart and work for that feeling rather than the other.

Now Clara and I are preparing to go to Florida for a conference.
Pretty excited.

I hope that this makes sense, talk to you later.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Talkin' Trash

A Blank Slate

Beginning to write, I spun a yarn in my head of spiritual practice, related it to basketball, and gave witty examples of the fun that is Elgin. Then I scrapped it and started over. Why? Because it was too much, too broad, and no one likes basketball.

I started reading Bill Bryson's Made in America last night. It's a quirky (as only Bryson can be) history of America's version of the English language. The first story Bryson tells is of the first Thanksgiving, which is quite fitting this week. Did you know that the natives that met the Seperatists at their colony spoke English? Well, not fluently, mind you, but the English language in one form or another had been in America for hundreds of years.

I'm telling this story to relate it to the experience of being a BVSer in Elgin. I think our house is pretty darn special, and not because of some new carpet in one bedroom. Our house in the middle of our street has a rich history of volunteers, including a few traditions handed down. Most importantly, through the years there has been wisdom and advice passed down generation to generation on how best to act out the simple, challenging life of a BVSer.

Without the knowledge and effort of past volunteers, we be missing out on so many things:
  • Woodmans: a local grower focused grocer that is also employee-owned. It's a bit far to get to, but the prices are worth it.
  • Attic parties: the attic at the BVS house is quite large. It is also scary. Which makes it perfect for Halloween parties. Pictures forthcoming.
  • Van etiquette: Who knew that parking in a garage eliminates the need for scraping your windshield in the morning? Also, if someone wakes up and decides that they are just too excited for work to contain it, they can start the van early and warm it up for the rest of us!
  • Recycling: Our house has, at times, obsessed over this.
  • Patience: It is always easy to get upset at housemates for being late in the morning. It's better to wake them up yourself! It's easy to get upset at housemates for not washing their dishes. It's better to wash them for them! It's easy to get upset at housemates for talking loudly in the other room. It's better to talk with them! Most of all, it's better to be patient with each other, for patience is a fruit of the spirit (in the NLT, at least. In the NIV it's "forbearance," which makes me think of student loans.
Of course, with any living organism like a house (quiet, you know what I mean) there is room for change and growth depending on the personalities present. I can easily recall many new ideas that have come up since I moved to Elgin.
  • Family Photos: Last year, we took a photo at Christmas time. This year, we are upping the ante. I'm not allowed to give details, but let's just say season's greetings!
  • Composting: This isn't really a new idea, since the house has composted in years past, but it was reinstated this summer. This time around, we're trying not to get in trouble with the authorities. Yes, it's smelly, especially if one of us forgets to take our compost outside in the evening.
That last point brings me to the original topic I had in mind. Trash.

Talkin' Trash

According to the Clean Air Council, the average American is pathetic. More specifically,
  • (s)he produces 4.39 pounds of trash per day and up to 56 tons of trash per year.
  • (s)he throws away 73 plastic bottles every year.
  • My personal favorite, (s)he receives more than 26 pounds of junk mail every year. 
  • During the holidays, (s)he will produce 30 pounds of trash, 25 of which is wrapping paper and packaging. Gross!
Now, average statistics aren't all you need. For example, the average American also will use 60 disposable diapers each year.Obviously, that doesn't make sense. What does make sense is recycling and composting (good segue, Don!) They are easy, and in most places recycling can be picked up by the trash company. Composting can be more involved but is well worth it, especially if you or someone you know gardens. (I mean, if someone you know gardens who lives nearby and wants to pick up your putrid decaying compost. I would not advise mailing the stuff).

In Elgin, you can recycle any of the following:
  • Glass containers
  • Aluminum containers
  • Aluminium containers for the Brits
  • Alumnimum containers for the spelling-impaired
  • Cardboard
  • Paper (even junk mail!)
  • Plastic. Any plastic. Plastic milk jugs. Plastic packaging from electronics. Plastic magazine wrappers. Plastic this. Plastic that. Plastic dog. Plastic cat.
  • Batteries
  • Electronics
  • Anything that looks recyclable
  • Anything you think should be recyclable
  • Anything that ever touched one of the above
  • Jehovah's Witnesses tracts
You can already sense that we recycle a lot. It's true! Add to that the fact that we compost 99% of the food waste we produce, and let it stew for a minute (don't let the compost stew, it smells). We don't produce much "trash" at our house. And all because we have 2 plastic bins: one for recycling and one for composting. It does not take that much effort. 

So I'm pretty proud of our little setup. Anyone interested in taking our compost?


Sunday, November 14, 2010

so, what is this so-called service?

Clara here. 

Brethren Volunteer Service... what exactly does that entail? Not, what is BVS as an organization, but what exactly does being in Brethren Volunteer Service really mean? While many people who I talk to about BVS concentrate on the volunteer part. Not that volunteering for a year isn't significant- it’s an incredible thing to leave our home and our loved ones behind, to move to a new place, and a new job. But to me, one of the most important things about BVS is the service that we complete during our volunteer time. 

In preparation for a breakout session at Powerhouse at Manchester College on "The Treasure of Service", Carol and I have been exploring what it is to serve, how we are called to serve, and how each one of us can serve. 

So, what is the definition of service? 

Service is giving your time, skills, knowledge, or presence to someone in need. To serve requires that one become a servant, a humbling action that puts the needs or comfort of others above one’s own. 

The service that we offer is one rooted in the love of Jesus; Jesus, who loved and cared for everyone; who healed the socially unclean; who stepped out of societal norm and had relationships with those who were hurting, or culturally unacceptable. In his final days, he knelt before his disciples and washed their feet as a symbol of his love and humility to them, and all people. Jesus even had the meekness and grace to serve his peers. 

As Christians, we serve out of a love for him, a love for ourselves, and a love for humanity. It is my hope that each of us would have the strength to serve someone everyday; that we could not only serve the sick, the impoverished, the hungry, but also our peers, and even our enemies. Whether it is to offer a helping hand to a friend, or just holding a door for someone, may we seek the opportunity to to serve. May each one of us have the courage to kneel before the people we respect, and humble ourselves to wash their feet. 

So, while I get to spend my time in BVS living in community, deepening my faith, and traveling around the world for workcamps, I hope that it is my service that will shine out.

Matthew 25

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
   34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
   37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
   40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bonding Experience

Wow! How is anyone supposed to follow that? Oh well we will see how it goes.

This is Carol now.
Coming to Elgin was not a far trip by any means, I have lived in Northern Illinois for the last nine years, so coming up to Elgin was less than two hours from my house. I grew up in the Church of the Brethren and often times I feel like I live, eat, sleep, and breathe Brethren. When I was thinking about what I wanted to do after college it almost became an internal battle about what the next steps should be. I thought about using my degree, but then I got an email about working with the youth and the young adults of the denomination and I got to travel, that was the selling point and I filled out the application. After accepting the job, I knew that BVS had just fallen into my lap and that was where I needed to be for the next year. So while many of my friends were preparing for Graduation with no idea what came next my mind was at ease, because I already had a job.

Our First House Party  
       There is a tradition that goes back many years that around halloween each year the BVSers host a party. Even though they did not have a party last year we decided that we wanted to try and bring this tradition back. The part that I did not mention was the fact that our attic stays decorated for Halloween year round. What other house has its own guillotine, spider webs, table, chairs, skulls, and candles up year round? This year we decided that we wanted to jazz up the decorations a little. So we got a hold of our friend Patrick, who loves Halloween, for a few extra additions. These included a witch with a light-up magic ball, a person being hung, chopped off heads, and a few other things. So really all we needed to do was decorate a little more some other parts of the house, send out invitations, cook some food, and get all dressed up. As Clara mentioned we already had our costumes, the rest came together rather easily. Then the evening of our party we had several people from work and church that came to our party and I think that everyone had a good time.

A Bonding Moment
Every week as already discussed we have a house devotional. We take turns leading this so this week it was Don's turn to lead us. After reading some scripture he raised the question, "How would you describe the life of a BVSer and what advice would you give them?" Here is what we said:

 Carol - Life is like a boat. Much like the story of Jesus and Peter out on a boat. Jesus then gets out of the boat to walk on the water. Peter gets out of the boat and follows Jesus. Also walking on the water, until he begins to question what is happening. It is then that he begins to sink. We need to remember to stay a float, not questioning the awesomeness of our year. And most importantly for me, don't question the decisions that you have made.
Clara - A BVSer is like the Odyssey. A series of stories with the challenges but as you get over and through them, the next one doesn't seem as bad. Advice - be prepared for anything.
Don - A BVSer is like a person that has been dropped off on a foreign planet. Remember to get out of the ship and discover your surroundings. Don't race back to the ship when you hit a crater.

Doing things a little backwards
So after our celebration, some people at the office all decided that we had not had the full fall experience, we never made it to an apple orchard, did not go to the pumpkin patch, and we did not make it to a corn maze. Major Bummer. So we decided that we need to fix this. However, when we went to make this plan all of these things either had limited hours or were already closed. So what are a group of young adults going to do on an evening in which this is what they have planned and none of it will work out?...Well here is what you do, you go to a grocery store (or two) looking for pumpkins, that are now on sale thanks to Halloween being over and then you take them and carve them. So we had eight people carving 5 pumpkins. It worked out fairly well. In the end we created a Church of the Brethren Pumpkin, a BVS pumkin, a coffee mug with steam pumpkin, and your typical jackolantern. Why you may ask, just so we could eat the delicious seeds. 

Going our seperate ways
We are now reaching the point in which we all have our own things to do. Clara is already at home for her cousins wedding. Don and I leave later tonight for a conference. Sunday Don leaves for another conference and Clara comes back. It will be interesting to go back down to only two in the house next week, with the other always there in spirit. Safe Travels!

Blessings, CAROL

Friday, October 29, 2010

Finding Our Way Home

Where have you been?

I suppose you need to know a few things before I tell my story. I grew up on the East Coast - the highest elevation in my home state is a hill down the street from my high school (450 ft). Moving to Northern Illinois, the landscape is even more depressing. Not only are there no mountains, but it seems like the weather machine is stuck on "boneshattering cold," with some maintenance person frantically pressing "simulated Ice Age" to see if it makes any difference. It doesnt't.

Something Illini may be unfamiliar with: terrain.
So when I say that Oregon is beautiful, I fear that you may not fully grasp the tingly feeling that comes with these memories. For two solid weeks, we lived in the wilderness. The loudest sound I remember hearing was the neighbors driving their firetruck, (long story) and they live probably a quarter mile down the road. Camp Myrtlewood is in a natural meadow, surrounded by all sorts of trees like Doug Firs, Redwoods, and of course Myrtles. If you climb the mountain behind camp, you are rewarded with a shirt soaked with sweat a view of miles and miles of untouched rolling Oregon landscape.

Quiet Time

During a session at orientation, titled "Paying Attention at Your Project," one of the activities was to sit still and listen. Just listen. There were a couple birds tweeting irregularly. Some footsteps on gravel. The breeze through Douglas Firs.

No traffic. No sirens. No airplanes!

Last night, for devotions, we each meditated on a word for ten minutes. Our goal was to find a quiet place without distraction, so I sat on the couch in the dark, lit a candle, and closed my eyes. After about fifteen cars and a few dog barks, it struck me how rare it is for us to find a true moment of quiet. Before orientation, I had probably never been somewhere so peaceful. Here's to you, Myrtlewood, for just being.

A Road Less Traveled

(It's Just Too Long)

Sadly, all things must come to an end. The three of us were blessed with the task of driving a diesel van 1,807 miles back across the country after orientation was done. There's nothing quite as striking as the noise of a diesel engine droning on after the most peaceful three weeks of your life.

We left Friday around noon. Driving without stopping we could have been home by midnight on Saturday. Because we enjoy things like sanity, we chose to take our time, see some sights, and eat once in a while. Friday we drove through Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and into Montana. The Columbia River is a scenic drive, but then you cross into Washington and it starts raining instantly. It's almost like they're trying to preserve their reputation as a bland and dreary state. Oh, that's just Seattle.
Gee I'm offensive. I hope nobody cares! I just read a Bill Bryson book in which he rips on just about everything he sees in the United States. He insulted Delaware, which is rare, but alright because I do so occasionally. So I hope you can take these ramblings lightly.
OK so the drive through Washington was depressing. Idon't remember Idaho at all, except that it ended, which was nice. Into the evening we drove, Montana stretching onward endlessly. The receipts say we ate at Taco Bell for dinner. I fell asleep. You should feel privileged to have this information disseminated with my express written consent.

Saturday! What a day! After driving for a couple hours, we arrived at Yellowstone National Park. I had been there as a small child, but unlike watching a favorite childhood movie again, this did not destroy the happy memories. In fact, this time I actually got to DRIVE!

Here's my guide to driving in Yellowstone:

 0. Look at your map. There might be roads closed. We did not know this. We drove an extra 2 hours to get back to the route we wanted.
1. Drive 5 under the speed limit.
2. Take pictures. All the time. This is best accomplished with a co-pilot. I do not recommend driving off some of the ledges.
3. If you see something you like, pull over.
4. If there is an animal in front of you, pull over. It probably won't. If it's a buffalo, pull alongside it and offer to take it's picture for a small fee. They are kind folks.

Sorry, friend. Hitchhiking is only legal in Oregon.
5. If there is a car behind you, pull over.
5a. As they pass you, stick your tongue out because they're obviously either a) late for a flight or b) about to hit a buffalo
6. Pack a lunch and toilet paper. We drove through October 16th. On October 15th, 95% of the park shuts down. The remaining 5% does not include a toilet.
7. Post your photos online. Preferably on your blog.

Possibly a pet of a park ranger. This fox was just hanging out in the street
These people were everywhere! We have 300 photos to prove it.

I think this was an Amish mule deer. He was about five feet from my face when I stepped out of the van

After Yellowstone, the most interesting stop for me was Mount Rushmore. I had never been, so this was a treat. I may not be a flag-waving, cry-during-the-national-anthem patriot, but I'm proud of some of the ideals that our nation was founded on. Plus it's people's faces carved into a mountain! THAT IS CRAZY! We walked up to the viewing area in pitch black, wondering which wall the mountain was hiding behind. It took a minute for our eyes to adjust and realize that they had turned the lights off.

Now, I blame budget cutbacks. These are hard times for everyone, even dead presidents. But isn't there some sort of fund set up to keep a light on for them? It seems rude, like the mountain is just a display at a museum that gets covered up at night. These are four of the best presidents in the universe! Now, if George Washington had a giant sleep mask, and Lincoln had a stocking cap, maybe that would be alright. OK rant over. With some clever camera work and help from a Canadian photographer, we managed to get a few photos in the dark.

I'm just speculating, but it may be more beautiful at night. Without the lights.

What are we here for?

This house that the three of us live in is a pretty new thing for BVS. Sometimes I feel like a lab rat in some grandiose experiment that could change the world. Sometimes I get grumpy and shut my door. You know, it depends on my day. There is a lot of struggle that goes on daily in our house. It is not always fun, it doesn't always feel right, but the peace in the quiet, understanding in the conversation, smiles at the table, and love all around make it clear that this is something beautiful, something from God. That's my opinion, for what it's worth.

Your new friend,


Monday, October 25, 2010

mobile, agile, hostile

elgin bvs blog number 1 :) We are beginning an intentional community BVS house in Elgin. We will combine money, shop, eat, have devotions and overall just be, together. We are also attending Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren and becoming an active part of that family.

I'm new to this who blogging thing, so here's a go at it!

I'm hearing cows outside the bvs house... but alas, there are no cows. I'm trying to convince the other house members that we should get at least one calf for the back yard, but they aren't currently going for it. I also tried to get them to drop me off in a cow field in Wyoming on our incredible (but quick) drive back from BVS orientation in Oregon. Although we did get to visit Yellowstone, Big Horn National Park, and Mt Rushmore, we only got to breeze by the cattle of the west. We had a grand trip to Oregon and are getting re-settled into our lovely community home.

Yay for halloween! We dressed for our first party as Morticia, Pugsley, and Wednesday... and of course we had Thing with us! We are planning our BVS attic party for this coming week... we have costumes, food, and decorations... but we have yet to send out invitations, so I reckon we'll see how this goes. If you're reading this you are welcome to join us on Sunday, October 31 at 6:00 pm.

Following Ben's spaghetti supper, we are currently eating mellowcreme pumpkins and  watching the best movie of all time. a few quotes... can you guess the movie? "I'm not an answer to your prayers, not a savior, Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King, or the Easter bunny. I'm just a football coach", "That's a momma joke", "Alice, are you blind, can't you see the family resemblance? that's my brother" :) Ben and Carol are snapping and grooving to the music, while Carol and I are trying to refrain from reciting every line. It's a good night to be in BVS.

Blogs to come weekly from here on!