Monday, August 31, 2009
And yet if I know nothing else, I know this. God has us right where He wants us. Outstretched hands waiting like eager children for good gifts. Because really aren't our lives already filled to overflowing with abundant riches? If one of the lessons to be learned in Aberdeen was how to cling lightly to our "things" as sojourners in a far country, one of the lessons of being "between jobs" is to hold fast to the unwavering steadfastness of our Father who holds us in the palm of His hand. I do not know what tomorrow will bring. But this I know. I am a child of the King. All my earthly needs are met in Him. I must live with a heart of gratitude for today and lay aside the cares of tomorrow. He is sufficient.
I can only hint at how difficult it is for this particular planner to embrace such uncertain certainty, to live in the now. After all, this is life. Not what is to come in the ensuing months, years, decades. No, life is now.
The month of September kicks off with a family vacation for us down to Atlanta to visit Trey's family. We fly out tomorrow morning. I am taking some time off from work just to relax and recover a bit from the hectic pace of life lately and hopefully catch up on a bit of blogging. Trey returned from Aberdeen with more than just edible treats. He brought back many gorgeous photos (see above) predominantly of Old Aberdeen and ideas for a number of future blog posts, including Cooking for Blokes, Sin, a Marischal College Facelift, the Heraldic Ceiling, and others. I also promise some very cute photos of 5 week old lab puppies we visited on Saturday. Good stuff to come!
Saturday, August 29, 2009
As she mentioned in an earlier entry, we are nearing the completion of our work in Aberdeen and I thought it appropriate at this time to thank publicly all those who have made its 'completion' (nothing is official until all 'minor corrections' have been made, approved, the University sends official notification, and the degree is awarded) a reality. As anyone who has worked on big projects before knows, you are acutely aware of those who have sacrificed, contributed, and made your work possible. This is particularly true in the case of completing a marathon-like program, the PhD. It is oftentimes the case that those who have sacrificed and given the most go largely unnoticed and unrecognized and I especially do not want that to happen here. To put it quite simply, without the support of many individuals, among whom the chief is Becky, this work could never have been completed. In an effort to honor all those who have helped I thought I would include page 3 of the thesis, the "Acknowledgements" portion.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS"First, I would like to thank my thesis advisor Nicholas J. Thompson who provided judicious and valuable insight throughout the entire process of research, writing, and revision and who often offered much-needed perspective and encouragement. I would also like to thank the members of staff of the Special Collections at King’s College, the University of Aberdeen who graciously provided invaluable assistance in the research process. I would especially like to thank Mrs. B. J. Ellner and Miss M. B. J. Gait who patiently and diligently tracked down materials from the University’s substantial holdings. I am also most grateful for the help provided by those members of the library staff during my work as a tutorial instructor and teaching fellow at the University. To those members of staff of the Bodleian Library, British Library, National Library of Scotland, University of Edinburgh, and Bibliothèque de Genève, Université de Genève I am deeply indebted for their excellent assistance in locating correspondence, manuscripts, and rare books.
Second, I am grateful to my family in the United States whose love, understanding, and support have made this work possible. Without the generous support of my mother, Jan Holloway, and my in-laws, Andrew and Susan Fletcher, it is scarcely conceiveable that this research would ever have been undertaken and completed. I am especially grateful to my late grandfather Ernest R. Holloway Sr. of Dallas, Texas whose generous financial gift has helped to make the costly venture of living and studying abroad a reality.
Of course, throughout our entire time in the Aberdeen program we have witnessed God's abundant, faithful, and gracious provision for us as a family. Ultimately, he is the one who has brought us to where we are today and so we say . . . soli Deo gloria.Most of all I would like to thank my wife Rebecca whose sacrifices, love, and devotion to me and our three children, Addison, Davis, and Genevie, have made this work what it is today. Her role as my loving companion and mother of our children has been complemented by her indefatigable labors as my chief redactor, literary critic, and constant supporter. To her and our three beautiful children this work is most affectionately dedicated."
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Although Genevie lost it about half an hour from home on the way back, the kids actually did mostly fine. Trey was a trifle over dressed coming from the cool Scottish climate to sweltering 90 degree heat and humidity in our northeast and promptly changed into shorts and t-shirt when we got home. He came bearing many gifts including Walker's Thai Sweet Chili Crisps. Good man! He and I are off to dinner this evening to celebrate his job well done.
Reflections on our year back in the US to follow, I promise.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Second trick I'm calling the shimmy shake. Not familiar? Let me describe. She gets into a regular crawl position in her bassinet and rocks back and forth, causing the entire bassinet, which is on wheels, to move across our hardwood bedroom floor. Her sleeping arrangements will have to be modified. Quickly.
Trey has been away since Friday evening when he flew to Scotland for his viva. For those of you this side of the pond who don't know the term, the viva is the UK name for the defense. It is the final hurdle in the series of requirements for the degree of PhD. In this case, Trey was examined by an internal and external examiner in his field. They questioned him extensively about his thesis. I have been told by a reliable source that tradition places the examinee's chair just beyond a sword's length from those of the examiners, a tradition borne out of time I suppose when disgruntled candidates would seek to settle the score with their braun rather than their brains.
This morning Trey sustained his viva, which incidentally in days of yore was defended at Aberdeen from sunup to sundown, or so our family historian informed me. This one, blessedly, was not that long and ended with the happy result we were hoping for.
I've lost count of the number of times I've been asked why on earth someone would want to do another PhD. In fact, those who understand it least are usually those embroiled in or who have actually earned their first. It is a difficult question to answer and a natural one, to be sure. However, I think my mom's analogy explains it best. It's like an artist who has a masterpiece inside of him struggling to come out. Trey had to do it, and God blessed his desire by removing all obstacles to its pursuit, including my own resistance, a topic I promise to write about further. There were many professional reasons to pursue another PhD, but the most compelling of all were the personal ones, the intense drive to pursue a subject doggedly for over three years, embrace it, understand it, live it. Trey is a historian in every sense of the word. Don't be offended if he forgets your name the first 10 times you meet. I've often joked that he will only remember it immediately if you are already dead. He looks at the world through the eyes of history. He is traditional and measured. Every subject, and I mean every, from the sublime to the ridiculous, theology to sports, is interpreted in light of that which has gone before.
Very few every complete a PhD. Even fewer complete more than one. The discipline and focus required to do so is hard to comprehend. I have lived with it for eight of our 9 1/2 years together and I feel like I have only a rudimentary understanding. Trey, and he will protest and ask me to remove this but I refuse (I think I've earned the right), is a remarkable man. With now 5 degrees behind his name he willingly clips little fingernails, changes messy diapers, makes up silly stories, wrestles on the floor and then with grace and ease moves onto Latin poetry, obscure archival research, and grueling hours of late-night writing.
To say I'm proud would be a terrible understatement. I truly admire Trey's commitment to his craft. He is the best man I've ever known, and although right now our lives are full of waiting for the next step, there is great satisfaction in the quiet resolution of this epoch in our lives, that which gave birth to this little blog in the first place.
Here's to you, Trey. Well done!
Monday, August 24, 2009
Yesterday, after evening church, I went to retrieve Davis and Genevie from the nursery. To my surprise Davis was sporting a pink t-shirt and the ugliest pair of plaid shorts I've ever seen, shorts that were a full-size too big. Apparently a misapplied sippy cup top had failed to hold the apple juice within and the contents made their happy way down Davis's entire outfit. In a word, they were soaking. Cue hideous substitute, albeit dry, outfit.
As Davis was released from his nursery confines and allowed to roam free in Reception Hall, his gargantuan shorts fell to the floor, ankle-cuffing him to the spot where he landed. He looked up from his furrowed brow and bellowed in great disgust, "My pants are falling down!"
There is something truly hilarious about the innocence of this age which finds the stranglehold of dropped trousers more nuisance than embarrassment. I seriously lost it laughing.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
With a week I'd like to pretend never happened for reasons too numerous and banal to recount now nearly over, I'm indulging myself in a rare treat -- blogging. Let the therapy commence.
I meant to blog about this particular anecdote over a year ago. I know it's rather tardy, but is it too cliche to say, "Better late than never?" In this case, it's true.
Those of you who have spent any amount of time around Trey in real life will probably have noticed his penchant for gear. Gear? Yes, gear. You know, athletic apparel, warm-up pants, fleece pullovers, dry fit shirts, baseball hats. In fact, his casual wardrobe is almost exclusively comprised of such labels as Nike and Adidas. Most prized of all are his football shirts (not the American variety), which include Barcelona, the USA, and Brazil (pictured above).
More than a year ago now Trey and I were taking one of our daily walks through Aberdeen. As we passed Matalans on a beautiful, sunny day enroute to Pizza Hut down by the beach, a man, who barely spoke a lick of English, accosted us. Actually, he did speak English, just not the understandable variety. In his thick Aberdonian accent, he proffered the latest model Brazil football jersey and asked Trey, who was wearing the very same, whether he wanted to buy the one in his hands for 20GBP. His great delight betrayed a gummy, toothless grin. With immense self-satisfaction he breathlessly informed us he had just run over from the nearby sporting goods store next to Asda where he had stolen the shirt, or so Trey later translated for me because I was completely lost.
OK, let's recap. Man steals a Brazil shirt from a store, runs three blocks away, finds random person on the street wearing a Brazil shirt and offers to sell another one to him for 20 quid. As the Scots would say, "Ach, you must be jooooookin'." I'm guessing there's a reason this man is stealing and not working for a living.
Definitely not the sharpest tack in the box.
Monday, August 17, 2009
The first time I came across this little gem I just knew I had to knit it. (And in case you're like me and you feel that woodland urge to create toadstools, here's the pattern. Have at it.) This is actually not for Evie although I probably should make her one. She's full throttle into the grabbing, shaking, gumming, exploring phase. Rather, it's a welcome to the world gift for baby Wilder, the 4th son of one of my blog friends Laurel. You have to see the picture she posted of her new little nugget. He's breathtaking.
The genius of this pattern is that you can use up all those little bits of yarn form other projects and it only enhances the colorful fun of the finished toy. Into this particular mushroom went a little of the alphabet blanket, some stuffed bunny, and a pinch of baptismal dress. Positively scrumptious. And the rattler inside? A cat toy. Didn't I tell you it was genius?
Friday, August 14, 2009
Yesterday after Evie's bath, I casually let slip that last night would mark the commencement of Baby Bootcamp.
This is the look she gave me.
Well, my Baby Bootcamp is really quite easy...for me that is. You see, Evie has not been blessed with that natural sleep-through-the-night gift that the boys had early on. Oh, I know she can do it because she was doing it a month ago, but she has reverted. Three nights ago took the cake. She roused just about every two hours. Not to feed, just to fuss. It made for one very unhappy mama.
Those of you who know me, know I'm pretty hard-core about sleep. Addison slept through the night at 10 weeks without incident and Davis by 12. Evie is now 5 months and with my new work schedule, I've reached the end of my proverbial rope. Interrupted sleep just ain't cuttin' it.
Welcome to Baby Bootcamp. The three bedrooms upstairs are currently occupied, so we needed a solution to get Evie away from the rest of the family in case she needed to cry it out in the middle of the night. Last night after she was sound asleep and the rest of the family had settled in the for the night, Trey and I moved her bassinet downstairs. I fed her to help her make it through. We closed our door and put two fans on so neither of us could hear her.
At 6am I awoke, out of habit no doubt, and poked my head into the hall. Nary a peep. My mom, who hears everything, said she didn't hear her at all last night. I suspect that she probably did awake at some point but without me to rouse and respond she put herself back to sleep. All along I suspected that was the issue. In fact, that was what got Davis through the night when he was an infant. We put him in our loft for a couple of nights where I couldn't hear him and -- BAM -- he started sleeping through. I think they need to learn to self soothe and re-enter sleep after middle-of-the-night rousing. A few more nights downstairs and we'll welcome her back.
After what a cheerful mood I've been in all day, I'm just kicking myself that I didn't do this sooner.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Wanted: one small assailant, female, 2 feet tall weighing no more than 13 lbs., last seen worming her way along the ground, considered armed with copious amounts of drool and therefore very dangerous...
Wrong picture. Not a mug shot. Actually a passport photo. Blast! Baby girl, thus begins a lifetime of unflattering, washed-out identification photos. If only they could look more like this.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
I had high hopes of a lengthy post for our Saturday activities, but alas it's already Tuesday. Short and sweet will have to suffice. We celebrated my grandfather's (you know White Papa) 87th birthday down the shore at my aunt and uncle's house. They have a pool, and I promise in the next day or two to dig up photos from this very same celebration 4 years ago when Addison was just a wee 6 month old. You won't believe the difference.
The boys continue to be a lesson in contrasts. When A was just a baby he was pretty skittish about the pool and I had a sneaking suspicion that would continue with this adventure. Sure enough I was right. And just as I anticipated, D was fearless. He kept saying to me, "Go away, Mom. I don't want this!" (meaning the flotation device)
Pretending the Coke cap was a little hat.
Addison did eventually get more comfortable in the water. Sitting atop it on a boogie board helped.
And once the inner tube was removed, Davis kept saying, "Let go of me, Mom!"
We didn't get any shots of Evie in the pool although she did try it out. Sadly our camera battery died right before she hopped in. She, like Davis, loved it from the first. I didn't keep her in too long because it was a brisk 78 and she's such a peanut. Didn't want to chill her.
She found an Arizona iced tea bottle (empty, of course) and went to town. I think she's telling me she's teething.
Either that or she's really ready for solid food.
Don't worry. That's not Davis's Corona.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
For once I am at a loss for words.
(Cue long-winded explanation with small caveat...I use the word "breast" a lot.)
When I saw Bebé Glotón this morning on the news, I knew I had to blog about it, but what exactly to say? A toy company in Spain has just released a breastfeeding doll that makes sucking noises when positioned next to the "daisies" on the included halter top. The baby cries as though hungry, nurses, and then burps when held over the shoulder. Wow...
Here's my disclaimer. I wholeheartedly support breastfeeding. I believe women ought to be able to feed their babies whenever and wherever they need to without stigma or persecution. I believe it is natural and normal, not lewd or indecent. However, those who choose to bottlefeed, which includes me with my firstborn from about 8 months on, more power to you. My feeling is, whatever works for you, do it. Motherhood is tough enough without agonizing over the feeding method. The most important point is that your child is nourished, not in the first instance how.
Furthermore, many little girls, including yours truly, have imitated the breastfeeding that they see in the home long before the invention of Bebé Glotón. It's not weird or disgusting. It's perfectly normal. Children are inherently imitative. It's the primary way they learn about the world around them. I have distinct memories of nursing my baby dolls just the way I saw my mom feeding my younger siblings.
So media squeamishness aside, since I hardly take my prompts from them, what exactly makes me revolt about this whole marketing scheme? Is it really "promoting" a healthy view of breastfeeding? Or am I just another victim of breast-crazed western culture and subconsciously adhere to the notion that breasts are primarily sexual not functional. I would answer no and no to both queries. My issue with this product is two-fold:
1) Nipples are not daisies, as obvious as this may seem. If the company really believes in this product, shouldn't they go all out? Give the halter some melons for crying out loud. Otherwise, what message are we sending? Still seems like we're saying breasts are inappropriate even for a breastfeeding doll toy. A little schizophrenic if you ask me.
2) Part of the beauty of breastfeeding is that it is so accoutrement free. You don't need to "buy" anything to do it. Isn't the whole idea of buying a breastfeeding doll therefore counter-intuitive? After all, girls are born with them. You don't need to buy anything to pretend to breastfeed. You can use the "old-fashioned method" and just do it.
Ugh, sometimes capitalism just makes me shake my head. Anything for a buck, or a euro in this case.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
If you have been married for more than a week, you need to see this movie. Despite its vague resemblance to a cheesy, after-school special and some moments of seriously rough acting, Fireproof creeps up on you slowly and leaves you with meaty food for thought and a convicting challenge to examine your own relationship. Very rarely do Trey and I watch a movie that stays with us much beyond that evening, but this one, we have not stopped talking about it since we saw it last week. Why? Because at the end of the day its message is so uncompromisingly simple. We love because He first loved us.
The story follows fire chief Caleb, played by '80s heartthrob Kirk Cameron, whose marriage is falling apart and on the brink of divorce. His wife Katherine is the Public Relations representative for a local hospital and other than stormy encounters in the kitchen as he arrives home from 24-hour shifts and she leaves for a busy day at the office, they exist as ships passing in the night. We never really know what causes their 7 year marriage to collapse, but we catch glimpses of Caleb's marital infidelity (internet porn) and other idols (boat obsession). In the meantime, Katherine begins to fall for a doctor at the hospital and decides she wants out of the marriage. Caleb's father, who has recently become a Christian, convinces him to hold off on signing the divorce papers for 40 days to try a "love dare" he sends in a personal journal. Each day offers a new practical challenge for helping to improve the marriage along with Scriptural encouragement. Caleb agrees half-heartedly and nearly gives up several times when his acts of kindness are met with rude rebuffing by Katherine, but somewhere about halfway through the "love dare" Caleb is brought to his knees, confronted by his own sin and tremendous need for God's help. He realizes that he can't truly love Katherine as he ought when he doesn't love God as he ought. Once he comes to faith, the remainder of the dare takes on a whole new dynamic and little by little true change is effected.
Besides its powerful gospel focus, the most compelling message of the film is that love is a choice, not a feeling. It is self-sacrificial and humble. Parasites in a marriage, addictions and idols that pull away our affection, time, and money, leach it of its vitality and give it little chance of survival. It was only when Caleb was willing to completely die to himself that his relationship was able to revive.
Even if you don't have an ear for contemporary Christian music, which certainly dominates the soundtrack, or the ubiquitous twangy southern accents of most of the cast, this movie is rock solid. Shot on a $500,000 budget, it grossed more than $33 million, a little hint to Hollywood that there is, indeed, a market for wholesome, and even overtly Christian movies. Amazingly, the entire cast was volunteer. The movie was produced by Sherwood Pictures, a ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church out of Albany, Georgia. The Love Dare is actually a real book, a 40 day devotional for married couples written by the church's pastors, Stephen and Alex Kendrick. Sherwood Baptist also started a ministry called Fireproof My Marriage to reach out to couples struggling in their relationships. What a novel idea, a movie with a purpose for good, not just entertainment.
Check it out for yourself.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Today they would not share. It did not matter how we responded, disciplined, negotiated. They were having none of it.
It was all over the new Mack truck Trey and I got them last night at Target (see above photo for those unfamiliar with the movie Cars). Actually I need to give Trey the full credit as it was all at his prodding. He has a soft spot for getting the boys little toys, particularly matchbox cars. Along with Mack, we got Mr. and Mrs. the King, but that didn't matter. NO. All that mattered was Mack, who fast became the most coveted and therefore the most disputed.
Trey hung in there valiantly all day even administrating time limits and fair swaps. I felt badly for him. After all, he was bearing the brunt of the bad behavior all as a result of trying to do something nice for them. But by the end of the day -- you know that point when you're just worn out, sick of it all, and beyond done -- he'd had enough. Both boys were sent to their room wailing, and I had the lovely duty of sorting it all out.
I stood in the hallway outside their room gathering myself, trying to figure out how I could explain this in a way they'd understand. You see 2 and 4 year-old logic isn't too advanced, and I knew that once they heard the edict -- shelving Mack for a day -- there would be gnashing of teeth to join the wailing.
And then it hit me. The Golden Rule. So simple. So basic.
Do unto others as you would have them do to you.
I talked with them about their behavior today. I asked them if they liked it when the other took Mack away. They both responded, "No!" I pointed out how wrong it was then to do that to each other when they didn't want that done to them. And then I went over the Golden Rule, having them recite it with me.
When I explained that Mack was taking a one day sabbatical as a consequence for their bad behavior today, they both lost it. I told them it was just for a day and that we would try again Thursday. Addison recovered but Davis just couldn't get it. He kept asking, "Why? Why?" It didn't matter how simply I explained it, he couldn't get it. Two is so hard.
But really isn't that us sometimes though? God says no, and we're so wrapped up in our own desires that we just can't comprehend the simple reason behind the answer. And just like a gentle Father He bears with us in our weakness.
Really it's all pretty basic.
1) Love the Lord God with all your heart.
2) And your neighbor as yourself.
Remember how when we first went to Scotland there was a whole list of things we missed? Like Cheez-its and candy corn? I'm not even sure I could remember the whole list now because over time we just learned to live without or find substitutes. The only thing that I never stopped craving and just couldn't be duplicated was a Philly cheesesteak. It's funny now how every once in a while I find myself longing for some of my favorite UK treats. Here is a sampling.
You haven't lived until you've eaten an entire Cadbury Bournville bar (200g) in one sitting. Not too dark. Just dark enough.
I'd never even heard of "sweet cream" flavored ice cream until we tried Mackie's, which can only be described as a little drop of Scottish heaven. It's as smooth and delicious as you can possibly imagine.
We discovered the cheapest bottle of Portuguese Rose at Morrison's and it became a staple. Effervescent and delightfully refreshing, it practically danced on your tongue. And as pretty to look at as anything. Plus the empty bottle doubled as a nice taper holder.
European butter is unparalleled. The high fat content makes any baked good incomparable. It even smells divine.
My number one weakness, a bag of Walker's Thai Sweet Chili Crisps. I could eat my weight in them...in one sitting.
In doing this blog I discovered that they've recently redesigned the package. Just not quite the same for me. I loved the little pile of chili peppers on the bag. Plus, their new package announcement proudly proclaimed, "Black is the new white." Hmmm...am I the only one who finds that slogan slightly problematic?
They still are the most addictive, delicious little snack ever invented.
Monday, August 3, 2009
So Friday afternoon I'm waiting on the train platform to take the High Speedline into the city to meet a couple of former co-workers for dinner at Jones. As I'm standing there the wind starts to pick up and I watch these incredibly black clouds roll in from the west. As they approach, the edge of the clouds starts to rotate around and around rather quickly. Not as quickly as a proper tornado, but enough to catch my notice and make me think, "Gee, that looks an awful lot like the beginning of a tornado."
I didn't have much time to ponder before the trained whisked up and pulled me away towards my destination.
I found out today that, indeed, there was unconfirmed tornado activity in the area and -- get this -- funnel cloud sightings.
So that is, indeed, what it was. Nothing so dramatic as the picture above, which again I stole from somewhere on the obliging internet a la my humidity post (sorry to disappoint), but a little exciting nonetheless.
Saturday, August 1, 2009
As a follow-up to my homesick post, I have to share a bit of University news. Although Trey is not a writer on this blog, he has always played an active role in feeding me topic ideas, blog titles, and photographs. Yesterday he drew my attention to this news release on the University's website. Apparently, restoration on the belltower of the Old Town House (or Auld Toon House in Doric) was just recently completed and Thursday they began ringing the bells every hour on the hour. The Old Town House is currently an information center for Old Aberdeen and the University. It sits at the head of High Street, the main street which runs past King's College. The bells have lain silent since the 1950s but have a voice once more thanks to a £2,000 fundraising effort.
I had a feeling that if I searched YouTube I would be able to find footage of the first bell-striking, and, sure enough, I was not dissappointed. Here it is, the ringing of the bells at the Auld Toon House, a structure dating back to the late 18th-century brought to you courtesy of the technology of the early 21st.
The beach along the North Sea.
For my other home, Aberdeen.
The other day Trey and I fell into easy reminiscence about our two years there, and the more I talked, the wetter my eyes became until big, fat tears rolled down my cheeks. I try not to think about it often or even look at pictures too much because when I do I ache. So deeply. I can almost taste the salty, cold air, and hear the screech of seagulls and the smell of diesel buses mixed with fish.
There is a line in the HBO John Adams mini-series where Thomas Jefferson says to John Adams of his time in Paris, "...one never really knows how much one has been touched by a place until one has left it." That is it. The longer I am gone, the more keenly I feel a connection to Aberdeen.
And so today I miss her gray buildings, littered streets, golden beaches, busy harbor, helicopter-filled sky. I wish I could've wandered the Outdoor Market on Belmont this morning or had a picnic in Seaton with Trey and the kids. I miss the bowlers in their flannel trousers and gleaming white windbreakers. I miss the nippy air, the vibrant green vegetation, the solid feeling of a pocketful of substantial pound coins, the quirky mannerisms, smiling pensioners, left-driving traffic, and a hearty "cheers!" at the till.
Yes, Aberdeen, you have touched me. Forever.
Addison along our front walk the week we moved in August 2006.