Monday, August 24, 2009

Tornadoes and Minnesota part 1

Last night after Veeka fell asleep, I walked out to see a blanket of stars over the lake. I never get to see the Milky Way like this, near as we are to the Big City.
But this week we are away from the maddening crowd in the Minnesota north woods. How did we get here? Well, last week I was sent on a business trip to cover the biennial convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. As it turned out, it was a good call because they ended up making ecclesiastical history in that they are now the largest American Christian denomination to accept gay clergy. Which is what they voted to do plus a few other things this past week. You can read the walk-up to the event here, and and follow-up here and some of the react here and here and here. It was one highly interesting event to cover because of a tornado that bore down upon the gathering on Wednesday afternoon that some saw as a warning from the Almidghty to not proceed along the path the ELCA seemed to be going. My blog on this highly interesting event (nothing like having a tornado heading towards you) is at the end of this post.
Anyway, my cousins who live in town were super-helpful in arranging care for Veeka while I was covering all this. After dinner one night with the Weispfennings (related to my late cousin Anne) who live on a lovely bluff overlooking downtown St. Paul (or is it Minneapolis?), I got lots of help from Allison (actually my first cousin once removed as she's the eldest daughter of my cousin Faith) who has kids Veeka's age. So Veeka stayed at the daycare next door to Faith and Allison and husband Jon (shown with Veeka in one of the photos) picked up Veeka in the afternoon so she could play with her second cousins once removed: Charlie, Lucy and Cassie until Mommy got home from covering the ELCA. It sounds complicated but it all worked out quite well.
Finally on Saturday morning we were free to depart and head 200 miles northwest of Minneapolis to a lodge I'd found on the Internet on Leech Lake which has turned out to be a world Veeka's never encountered. Yesterday she touched her first fish and a little girl (who was equipped with a Barbie doll fishing rod) showed Veeka how to cast for fish. She's also seen cattails (none of those in Maryland) and experienced bonfires and tasted marshmallows. She's learned to say "Minnesota" and is reading a little paperback I bought her on Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox (might as well inculcate her in the local culture. After all, her grandfather is from these parts).
Stayed tuned for more Lessons in the Wilderness. Attached is another photo from our visit to the Mall of America and the interesting creature we met there. And below is my WTimes post on the tornado:

It was just before 2 p.m. when someone rushed into the press room and told us to vacate the place fast. A tornado had touched down close by, we were told, and it was heading our way. We were covering the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's churchwide assembly in Minneapolis. The police wanted us all in a safe place away from the glass windows that encase the huge Minneapolis Convention Center.
So everyone rushed into the main hall to join some 1,045 voting members who were listening to a Bible on the prodigal son being given by Luther Seminary Old Testament professor Diane Jacobson. As she continued speaking, a palpable blanket of fear descended on the entire group as the doors to the outside hallways were shut, enclosing us in the giant room which apparently was the safest place to be in the case of a tornado. Worse, we could hear the winds howling outside. I thought of my rental car parked nearby and hoped it'd stay in one piece. It also did not help the general atmosphere that the air conditioning was set on minus 2.
And a tornado *was* headed our way. Just after 2 p.m., the twister knocked the cross off the steeple of Central Lutheran Church just across the street from the convention center. I walked outside afterwards to look at it and the steel cross was dangling high up in the air.
During the storm, ELCA President Mark Hanson read outloud the 121st Psalm to us to calm everyone down.
"We trust the weather is not a commentar on our work," said the Rev. Steven Loy, chairman of an ad hoc committee on a controversial statement on human sexuality that was on the floor that afternoon. The statement, which seems to open the door to greater acceptance of homosexual practice, passed by an exact two-thirds vote a few hours later. One or two votes less would have killed it. There was quite a gasp when we saw the results.
Later some of us were discussing in the press room whether the Almighty had sent a tornado to send the Lutherans a message. After all, one of the reporters said, the ELCA endured an electrical storm during one of their previous conventions - where human sexuality was also on the table - in Orlando.
And if God was speaking, was anyone listening?
- Julia Duin, religion editor

Friday, August 7, 2009

A year in Hyattsville

Well, here is a photo of my home into which we moved one year ago this weekend. The Virginia-to-Maryland switch has gone reasonably well; I really miss all the great restaurants and retail over there in the Old Dominion as what's available here in Prince George's County is not much to write home about. Then again, one of my great discoveries was a Massage Envy outlet that was almost half the price of what I was shelling out for shoulder rubs to the south. And the community "feel" to this area is lightyears better than what I had, plus the availability of kids, family-friendly stuff for Veeka, lots of people with children and WAY more support than I had available in Virginia made it a very good move.
Fortunately nothing awful, other than a broken garage door, happened my first year and the biggest problem I have is keeping my tomatoes out of reach from the squirrels. MUCH nicer neighbors than what I had in Falls Church (although the people immediately next to me in my former condo were nice enough) but the 2 Hyattsville list serves I am on have been invaluable as to helping me out in so many ways. Living only 5 miles from work is one good idea. The biggest pain has been switching doctors, etc. The first dentist I found here did not work out so will try another. Last week I visited what I thought would be Veeka's new pediatrician but walked out after we were kept waiting 40 minutes. There were no toys to play with and Veeka was bouncing off the walls. And the waiting room was dirty and there was little privacy; you could walk 3 steps down the hall and watch what was going on in one of the exam rooms. When Veeka did just that - run down the hallway and gape at a little screaming kid getting some kind of shot - I bolted.
My next choice for pediatrician is over the county line into Silver Spring - a longer commute but I was getting so many mixed reviews of the local kiddie doctors. A shame one must go to a richer county for better service but that is the way of it here in PG County which deserves some of the bad rep it has for things just being a lot shabbier than elsewhere in the DC metro area. However, the park system is great but apparently the schools are not - a headache I will have to face a year from now.
Veeka is growing like a little stringbean - up and down - but not OUT, meaning some of her clothes from two years ago are still fitting her. Am dragging her to that newest pediatrician a month from now for a physical just to make sure everything is on schedule but she looks as healthy as can be and gives the pre-school people fits because of her high-energy antics and refusal to take naps. I have gotten very strict about the latter and told her she MUST sleep at naptime (she is a bear if she does not) because I have gotten some very unhappy notes from her teacher informing me what a terror she is at naptime (rocks back and forth and sings to herself, wakes up the other kids, sometimes runs around the room - aargh).
Her vocabulary is doing great so no more special ed this coming year like she's had since she came here.
As for me, am passing around galleys of my new book which is available here should you wish to pre-order! More on that for a later post. Am preparing to go to Minneapolis in a little more than a week to cover the Lutherans so am using this coming week to wrap up many loose ends.