Monday, March 16, 2009

Overwhelmed with Gratitude

That’s how I’m feeling right now. It was really an incredible week in Connecticut. I’ve barely had time to stop and think, much less blog, so I’m taking this opportunity – 30,000 feet in the air with no desire to pull out my Nonprofit Leadership final – to catch everybody up (I obviously won’t post until I actually get home). Bear with me – I know this is long, but I had some extremely touching, memorable and some surreal experiences this week that I think you’d be curious to hear about.

I flew out on Tuesday afternoon. I took the train to the airport since Bruce was working. Everything was really smooth with the exception of the fact that I over packed (as usual) so I was carting around a lot of stuff. The funniest thing I had to carry with me was one of my heavy winter coats – it was 80 degrees when I left Atlanta but I knew I would need it in Connecticut (and I was right!!). The flight into White Plains, NY (HPN) was smooth. I had actually landed, got to baggage claim, grabbed my suitcase and was out on the curb waiting for my mom to pull around before I was supposed to have landed!! My mom was still on I-684 when I landed so I had to wait which made me laugh considering how often I’ve waited close to hours for people coming into Hartsfield Jackson in Atlanta (ATL). My mom was so sweet when I landed – she took me straight to the high school so I could see my dad and the state of his musical. I know this is always a really hard time for my mom – my dad and Bethany are so busy with musical stuff and rarely home and I appreciated her bringing me there. I miss not being a part of my dad’s shows. It was such a part of my life for SO long and now there’s just not much I can do from Atlanta.

We went home and by then Bethany’s train from the city had come in so we went out to dinner at Kent Pizza Garden. I secretly wanted to go out because I had a 75% chance of running into someone that I knew – and I was right!! That night Barbara and I went down to Bulls Bridge to sit by the fire, drink and eat chocolate cake. Perfect, right?

Wednesday morning my mom and I were off and running. We went to the First Congregational Church of Washington for a discussion on our regional minister’s dissertation. The chapter that we were discussing was on clergy authority and it was something that I hadn’t really thought about theologically before, only systematically and logistically. Mike Ciba (the regional minister) was really great at leading the discussion and I felt like I could speak up (and we joked about how I could tell them “what they were teaching in Seminary these days”). The one strange part about the discussion was the fact that the church in Washington was the first church I remember going to. When I was born, my mom was serving a church in Monroe, Connecticut, but moved to Washington to be the Director of Christian Education. We never lived in Washington, so we played a strange role in the church as pastor’s children (and husband) and I remember little about the church. But what I do remember? My memories were dead on. It’s so strange – I remembered things like the stairs leading up to the offices, the wall of clergy portraits, the island in the kitchen and the front lawn. It was strange and surreal. But it felt good to be back.

The discussion went until 2:30 and my mom and I raced back up to Kent for a meeting with my florist, a local woman in Kent. We met her at her house and looked through books and magazines and settled on some ideas for her to run with. I told her that honestly she was the expert and I trusted her judgment. I showed her a picture of my dress, the girls’ dresses, the tuxes and I’m confident she will do a beautiful job. From there we ran back to my parents’ house to take the dogs for a walk and then down to the liquor store to talk to Ira, the owner, about our alcohol options for the wedding. He gave us WONDERFUL suggestions, cost cutting and cost effectiveness suggestions, food for thought (drinks for thought?) and said we could plan the rest by e-mail!! I love when I can do things by e-mail. So then we went back to my parents house, took the dogs out (noticing a trend with the dogs?) and then met Bethany and the caterers at the community house. We talked through the menu one more time (we had actually settled on that a couple of months ago) and then looked at setup. We actually took tables out and set up half of the room so we know how where the buffet and appetizer trays are going to go and how the seating chart will look. We hauled all the tables back, the caterers left and then my cake bakers showed up. I adore both of them. Wendy goes to my church and I’m friends with her three daughters. I used to work for Caralee when she owned (what is now) The Villager. She gave me full reign over the restaurant over the summers and I loved it!! I was in such great shape the summers I waitressed. She’s also a big Packers fan, so Bruce liked her right away. Anyway, I digress – the cake is going to be FIVE TIERS. How incredible is that. I tried to draw a sketch of what I would like and what would work with what they were used to doing and I think we landed on a happy medium.

My mom and I got home after a LONG day and collapsed. I talked to Bruce on Skype (thank you to whoever created webcams!!) and I fell sound asleep. I woke up groggy but needed to get moving quickly because I had an 11:30 meeting with my Church & Ministry Committee and was meeting Micki (my mentor or “Yoda” as I’ve been calling her) at 10:45 for coffee. My mom went to work for an hour, I took the dogs out and she and I headed to Goshen, Connecticut. She met with C&M first to talk about how the church is while Micki and I had coffee and then I took the hot seat. I thought the meeting went well – I was honestly in a little bit of a fog because of the day before, but I got good responses and felt like I answered the questions they posed as prayerfully as possible. Mike Ciba (the regional minister whose dissertation I was discussing the day before) was there and asked what I wanted to do post-graduation. I was completely thrown off by the question because I wasn’t expecting it!! But I was so grateful that he asked because now I know that they are thinking about it and really want me to do so as well so I have something to do come next June. I have such a great committee!! After the meeting was the clergy luncheon and then the executive council met – I’m obviously not on the executive council but my mom is so I had and tried to do homework. We raced home afterwards to take the dogs out and grab my bridal gown and everything that goes with it. Then it was down to Danbury for my fitting. The fitting was another surreal experience for me – I’m going to be a bride!!

Bethany met us at David’s Bridal for the fitting and then she and I went to the high school so I could see my dad’s students rehearse Act One. For those of you who don’t know, my dad is a high school choral director and directs the All School Musical every year and has for close to 30 years. I literally grew up in the theater – on nights when my dad would have rehearsal and my mom had meetings at the church, Daddy took Bethany and me to rehearsal and we got passed around the cast and stage managers. His shows have become quite the production and are extremely professionally done. And I’m not just saying that because he’s my dad. They really are something to be seen. My dad was awarded Teacher of the Year at the beginning of the year and my mom and sister and I were (and continue to be) SO proud of him. This year they are putting on Beauty and the Beast and everything is bigger and better than I have ever seen. Complete with smoke machines, animated roses, confetti canons and a rain curtain. Right before the rehearsal started, two things happened. I was sitting in my dad’s office with Jonathan Grauer, the band director, and one of Jon’s students walked in. Jon introduced me to him as “Mr. Keck’s daughter.” I realized at that moment that I no longer have an identity at New Milford High School – my real connection is through my father, I am that far removed. SO strange. So then Jon showed me the video of his marching band’s show from that fall. The band has come so far from where they were when I was drum major. I’m so proud of the music program!! So I sat through rehearsal and got home in time for the ER reunion. I haven’t watched the show in years, but the reunion was well worth it to see.

Exhausted again, I told my mom that we were NOT going to drive to New Haven the next day to go to IKEA. I was too tired. She protested a little, but I think she was grateful for a day off. She met with her accountant in the morning (tax season) and then we literally laid around for much of the early afternoon. Then she and I went to the AT&T store to replace our phones, home to walk and bath the dogs and then had dinner with Courtney. Wow – bathing two little dogs is an experience, that’s for sure!! I’m so happy Lilly cleans herself. We met Courtney at Pizza Garden (again) and ran into even more people. We almost closed the place down, came home and collapsed.

This brings me to Saturday morning (have you noticed I’ve been doing a lot but not a whole lot of homework?) – my bridal shower!! And talk about being SHOWERED. I was showered with gifts, affection and love. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect party. I’m touched that people are so excited about my wedding. As frustrating as the process can be at times, times like my shower make it all worth it. I wish I had gotten a chance to talk to everyone a little bit longer, but hopefully I made enough of an effort with everyone. I don’t think I will ever be able to thank Bethany enough for all she did for the shower – THANK YOU BETHANY!!!!! It was perfect and beautiful!! Courtney and I decided we needed to be pampered after the shower. We went and got mani/pedis in New Milford. I know it probably wasn’t the most productive use of my time, but I thought I needed the escape. The woman who owns the spa took great care of me because Courtney told her I was a bride to be and I didn’t get home until after 9. At that point I felt the need to get Bruce on Skype and pull out all my presents so he could see them. That took about two hours (I was also imputing CDs at the time). I went to bed late and was up and running on Sunday morning for church.

The First Congregational Church of Kent. It’s my sanctuary, it really is. I pull into the driveway and I feel like I’m home (I actually think the fact that the wedding is there will help with nerves before the ceremony). Since they were renewing their covenant with their liaison and social worker and the service was going to be a little bit different, my mom asked me to give an update on Seminary. It’s funny because for those of us who have gone through it or are going through it, the motions seem natural. But from the outside looking in it seems really unnatural, strange and confusing. I updated as best as I good, gave an overview of what’s going to happen next and then thanked everyone for their continued monetary support through the seminary scholarship fund. I was a little bit frustrated after church because I didn’t get a chance to talk to everyone, but I wanted to get into my conversations (more than a simple “how are you / good, how are you” type of thing). But I felt truly blessed to be part of a congregation where I’m overwhelmed by love every time I go back. It’s a gift, it really is. There is no other way to describe it.

After church I started the difficult task of packing. I knew I wasn’t going to bring anything breakable home with me, but I did want to try to get some of the non-breakables home. This wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be, but I did manage to squeeze some stuff into an extra carry on. Bethany brought me to the airport and we talked about our crazy heritage and she dropped me curbside, telling me to call if there were problems and she would turn around. But she really needed to get to the high school and work the box office for the musical. When I checked in the woman at the counter told me that the flight had been delayed until 8. We were supposed to leave at 6:30 and it was only 5. Oi. But it wasn’t worth Bethany turning around. So I tried to do some homework, but really needed to get online. My thank you notes were checked in my luggage, so I couldn’t do that so I flooded people’s inboxes with texts until they started to board. They boarded at 7:30, we all got settled, they pulled away from the gate, the engines were fired up, we got to the runway and the engines turned off. We were delayed into Atlanta so it wasn’t even worth taking off. I don’t remember what time we finally took off, but it’s 9:40 and we’re still in the air. Here’s something strange – I’m sitting next to two 20-somethings. One is a student at Emory and one went to Kent School and visited my mom’s church on certain weekends!! Strange. AirTran coincidence, I suppose. So that’s where I currently am. I do have a couple of things that kind of wrap up the whole week.

I will be back in Connecticut in two weeks to see my dad’s show closing weekend. I know this seems ridiculous, but it’s not. Bruce and I had been going back and forth on this – it was a time thing as well as a money thing. My mom told me before I left that she would split it if Bruce and I both wanted to go and my dad called me while I was boarding and said he would give me $200 out of his own money (he and my mom have set up their money so they each have “play” money) towards the ticket so I could be there and hopefully we could make up the difference with Bruce’s ticket. I almost cried. When I called my mom and told her I think she almost cried too. It’s not just a musical to us, it really is a family masterpiece and I am SO unbelievably touched, happy, thrilled, etc. that I will get to be there when the curtain goes up. My mom will book my flight as soon as I land and can call her with dates and times.

On a final note, when I turned in my Ursinus computer and transferred everything over to my new one, somehow I lost my Wicked soundtrack on iTunes. I’m not sure where it went. I burned Bethany’s copy onto my computer last night and was listening to it in the airport and stopped what I was doing when I heard the following line:

And this gift of this curse I have inside
Maybe at last I’ll know why

Elphaba (the “Wicked Witch”) sings this when her teacher tells her she has a gift and she thinks the Wizard will want to work with her. Elphaba had been struggling with her “quirk” and suddenly realized she needed to embrace it as something that is truly a gift. When I was in college, this line was inspiration to me as I made my journey to seminary. Most of my friends were getting science or education degrees and the concept of seminary was strange to most of them – me too, actually. I really didn’t know why. What good could I possibly do in the world with a “preacher voice” – did I really have substance to back it up? I thought/hoped/prayed seminary would help me find that out. Honestly – since I came to seminary, lost the soundtrack and stopped listening to the song, I hadn’t thought about searching for what Elphaba was.

And the truth is – because of everything I’ve reported on in this blog post – I’m starting to know why.

What an incredible week.

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