Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Sad, but true

Last night Andrea, her father, and I had a brief disagreement about how Janelle's name is spelled. Relatively unexceptional, to say the least, except that in the end we agreed on a spelling that, upon inspection of her birth certificate, proved wrong. How sad is that?! So, in a preemptive attempt to stave off future debate (and, alas, error), my daughter's first name has two "l's", while her middle name has only one. Hence, Janelle Helena. There is, we are happy to report, no controversy regarding her surname, except perhaps to note the accent that properly appears over the "i" in Rodríguez.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Reception history

The title of this post will mean something very different to my colleagues who read this blog, but what is meant here is simply the account (historia) of our reception at Port Columbus International Airport. I apologize in advance for any confustion my choice of title may have caused.

Our plane was scheduled to land in Columbus at about 16:00, and as it was only about thirty minutes late I would consider that we landed, pretty much, on time. Our families, however, eager to not miss a thing, arrived at the airport in plenty of time to ensure that we didn't arrive before them. That is to say, they arrived sometime between 14:00 and 15:00. They were fairly stir-crazy by the time we emerged, which didn't mix particularly well with the normal kind of crazy with which they are normally afflicted. Here my Mum and Papa (the older people in the middle of the photo) wait with (from right) my brother Miguel, sister Danielle, and Danielle's "special friend", PJ. In the background is visible representatives of my wife's family, but we'll get to them in just a bit.

At this point some of our more astute readers are scratching their collective heads and asking themselves, "How did Rafael and/or Andrea take pictures of people waiting at the airport before they arrived?!" At which point I smile and touch my nose; some secrets must be kept. But moving swiftly on, here my grandmother Carolyn (on the left) waits with Andrea's aunt, Karen. I think in total we had fourteen people waiting for us, and Andrea's cousin and her boyfriend met us for dinner. All in all it was an impressive welcoming party, as you'll see. I wish I could affirm with confidence that this is how much our family loves us, that their excitement to see us is fairly typical of them. But I have a nagging suspicion that Janelle was the big draw. Like Ringo Starr touring with Sir Paul McCartney, we were just the opening act.

Well, needless to say, we did eventually arrive. Seated as we were in row 5, we should have been nearly first off the plane. But because we boarded our plane so late (that story is embedded in the much longer account of our Coming to America) our carry-on luggage was much further back on the plane. So we were a bit late disembarking the plane. But here Andrea is reunited with her father and my mother for the first time. Two things ought to be pointed out: first, Barry hasn't seen his daughter in well over a year, and yet in these first few moments of reunion his gaze is already diverted toward his four-week-old granddaughter. Second, I am nowhere to be seen in this photo, and neither are the two heavy bags and guitar we had on the plane with us. That's because I am lumbering up behind Andrea and Janelle, heavy-laiden with our remaining luggage, somewhat like Shrek's donkey. [Note: m-w.com defines lumbering as "to move ponderously," which strikes me as a fantastic definition, even if it isn't necessarily the most helpful.]

Among Janelle's most excited admirers were Andrea's sister, Kim, and her oldest kids, Emily and Matthew. This is Janelle's first experience with her cousins, relationships I hope get stronger as she grows older. I'm beginning to notice something of a pattern that suggests my little angel is . . . well, sneaky. You, our faithful readers, have seen overwhelming photographic evidence that Janelle is not always placid, but whenever she meets someone new she slips into "Cute Sleepy Girl" mode. This, of course, makes her Papa look like a grumpy old git for telling people she can be a pain in the butt. So, after nearly two hours of fussing and yelling from Newark to Columbus, my little girl has, all of a sudden, turned on the charm. And it works. Even on me.

This photo is probably best entitled, "Dueling Grandmas." Susan is Andrea's mom and so is properly Janelle's grandmother; Carolyn (left) is my grandmother, so she's actually Janelle's great grandmother. But due to a trip to the cinema when I was eight with my grandmother, I have a hard time using the words "great" and "grandmother" so closely together. So we're trying to get everyone accustomed to "granny," a word about which Carolyn is somewhat less than excited. And yet I have a feeling that, whatever we end up calling these two ladies, they will be an important part of Janelle's awareness of being loved, and that greatly.

There's something about a baby that gets the women in our families to circle round like wagons on a prairie. The equivalent for the men in our families is a television, particularly if it's on, particularly if a football (not soccer) game is on, particularly if it's an OSU game. At any rate, we're beginning to get a sense that Janelle's public loves her, and yes, Janelle loves her public. I'm chuffed with how our families have taken to her, of course. But I'm also a bit concerned that the high level of spoiling that will take place will make any discipline that must occur difficult. Not that I'll be involved in any discipline; I'm already wrapped around her finger. But still, things could get difficult for her mother.

Personally, this is one of my favorite pictures from our arrival in Columbus. Here's Janelle with one of her aunts, Andrea's sister Kim. I'm not sure who's more impressed with whom, but this particular aunt-niece relationship seems to be starting off swimmingly (a word I don't use often enough). Kim is a professional baby whisperer (okay, so the link isn't exactly relevant; but you know what I'm getting at), and as her home is a scant 25-30 minutes from where we'll be settling down, I predict Andrea and I will be "delivering" Janelle to her aunt for babysitting . . . er, privileges . . . fairly regularly in the near future.

After she had her baby fix, Kim handed Janelle off to her eldest offspring and baby-whisperer-in-training, Emily. Emily is my favorite niece (well, also my only niece). The first time Emily held her cousin she (Janelle) started crying, and she (Emily) handed her back fairly quickly. But when we spent three days in Dayton the following week, Emily was not only able to handle Janelle when she was crying, but she was even becoming fairly expert at settling her and making her happy. One final note: as you can see from this photo, Emily is as tall as her mother. The last time I saw her this was not the case, and I am just amazed at how quickly she has grown/is growing up. This will not be the case with Janelle, also known as Our Lady of Perpetual Youth. The Papa has spoken.

Astute readers may have noticed Barry lurking in the background of the last photo, somewhat like the Hamburglar at a McD's grand opening. Unable to resist his puppy-like whimpering any longer, we handed Janelle over to her Papaw. The expression on her face is not the result of any social faux pas on Barry's part; this was Janelle's reaction to a number of people (you'll see this borne out in the following photos). Nevertheless, despite all the fussing she managed to grab hold of my father-in-law's spine and twist it round her finger, bending his mind to her will almost without effort. Atta-girl.

I'm not so sure anything needs to be said about this picture. It's just a cute shot of a gorgeous girl. Really, I shouldn't be all that surprised that my daughter takes great pictures. Still, it's worth a brief moment of silence . . . just to appreciate the awesome beauty that is Janelle Helena.

[shhhhhh . . . I said "moment of silence!"]

As promised earlier, here's another shot of Janelle in full-scream. Indiscriminating readers may be tempted to comment that this is obviously my Papa, Janelle's Abuelo, as they detect more than a passing resemblance between him and me. Do not yield to this temptation. Everyone's opinions to the contrary, we are not that alike, we do not look alike, and, as he will confirm, we do not have the same sense of humor. Our readers may also sense some level of defensiveness in my tone. But you're wrong. You're ALL wrong. Every one of you.

[Breathing deeply and counting to ten. . . . 9 . . . and 10.] Okay, moving swiftly on. Here's another photo of Janelle screaming, this time in the arms of her cousin, Matthew, eldest son of the famous baby-whisperer mentioned above. Matthew's is a gentle spirit that promises to make him a wonderful cousin (as, indeed, all of Janelle's cousins will be), though his somewhat overly cheeky grin in this picture makes me just a bit worried about what he may be thinking. As the only son in a family that includes three daughters, it is probably something along the lines of, "Girls are a pain in the bottom." (This, actually, is consistent with Matthew's reaction when he found out Andrea and I were having a girl: he threw a fit. I was sympathetic, though I have to admit that I've since adjusted quite well to being a Papa with a beautiful daughter. In fairness to Matthew, he's adjusted quite well to having a female cousin.)

That will have to suffice for pictures and commentary about our arrival and reception in Ohio. There are plenty of other things to say, and lots of pictures for illustration. There are pics of Janelle with her Granny (okay, okay; her great grandmother), with her Grandma Ché, as well as of her uncle Mitch (as elusive as pictures of the ill-named cat-fox animal), and many, many more. But it will have to wait for another time. Until then, I hope you've enjoyed my offerings so far.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Silly updates only a Papa would appreciate (1.2)

This one concerns primarily Janelle's parents. I just thought you'd all like to know that five weeks after Janelle's birth both Mama and Papa report being back to their pre-pregnancy weight. For Andrea this is obviously quite a feat (though, it must be said, she only weighed 137lbs. the week she went into labor). For Rafael this news is not so great, as he had lost weight during the course of the first two trimesters. Andrea credits her return to 110lbs. to a steady regiment of breast feeding and carrying Janelle halfway round the world. Rafael credits his return to [weight censured to protect the innocence of the children] to a steady diet in keeping with Western holiday traditions.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Something about piggies and markets

With an appreciative nod toward Anne Geddes and her brilliantly creative photos of babies, Andrea took this picture of me and Janelle. No prizes for guessing who is who. All that needs saying at this point, I suppose, is that Janelle is in the unfortunate circumstance of having inherited my toes and her mother’s feet. Still, somehow she manages to make it all work together.

Coming to America [an update]

The ever-observant duo Alison and Gill have written the following:

Glad to hear you got back sort of safely. Did your luggage ever reach you - was it completely ruined? Do let us know. Have a great Christmas!

I apologize for not completing the story of our luggage; here is how that tale progresses:

I was told in Columbus that our bags had been isolated from the rest of the luggage and should’ve been on our plane, but it had somehow not made our flight. So on Friday afternoon a representative from Continental Airlines delivered my six bags to my father’s house in Canton, OH. Four of our bags were fairly ruined, with the contents of three of those likewise violated by the offending oily substance. Somehow the other two suitcases seemed to have escaped relatively unscathed. Continental has given us two small, very nice rolling suitcases and two large rolling duffel bags to replace our damaged luggage. There is yet another bag that requires replacing. As for the items contained therein, Andrea and I will spend the rest of this afternoon going through the damaged bags, salvaging what can be saved and finding replacement values for each item that was irreparably soiled. Continental is being fantastically gracious in dealing with this problem (as illustrated by the four nice bags they’ve already given us to replace the ones we’ve lost). It is, nevertheless, a hassle to have to go through this at all.

A word should be made here about WIS's content and the subject matter of the posts that find themselves published on this site. The rationale behind WIS is to provide a forum for me (and Andrea) to ponder out loud about what matters most to us. This post, then, is a bit out of place. At the end of our flight, when we landed in Columbus, it was a relief to find myself safe with my beautiful wife and daughter and greeted by our loving families. Sure, it’s nice to have all our items replaced by the airline with whom we entrusted them. But (and this will definitely sound a bit cheesy) if I were left poor and hungry and yet still had my family with me, I would be more blessed than I deserve.

Saying good-bye to a fantastic department

This post properly belongs somewhere between the account of Janelle's thanksgiving service at Christ Church and the account of our journey to Strange Lands. But the updates on this site are like ancient Christian accounts of Jesus' life and teaching: they make no pretensions toward chronological accuracy as we would understand the term. That said, the Department of Biblical Studies, of the University of Sheffield (I refuse to capitalize 'the' or 'of', and I absolutely will not include the newly inaugurated full-stop; click here for an explanation), has been much more than my place of work for the last two years. So here are a few vignettes of our leaving do, which took place on Monday, 28 November 2005.

Paul and Minna, the two people with whom I spent the most time in the department, invited the rest of the faculty and staff and postgrads to Paul's flat for an informal send-off. I apologize for not having a good picture of Paul and Minna; but here's a good one of Minna holding Janelle. The occasion was well catered by the tireless Jen, who seemed to be always circulating about the room with a tray of something or other that had only just emerged from the oven. In fact, I can't remember a time when anyone was without something to chew on or something to sip on. It was such a wonderful time that, afterwards, Andrea commented that we should leave Sheffield more often just for the social occasions.

Minna and Jen have formed something of a special relationship over the last year or so, as both have undertaken (and successfully completed, it must be said) the insane task of running a distance which belongs more appropriately to the category 'Distances that Ought to be Driven in a Motorised Vehicle'. Here they are ostensibly joining in the gaity of the event, but my suspicion is that they are actually looking down at all of us unmotivated folk who couldn't walk 26.2 miles in a week. Okay, okay; I'm probably projecting my own feelings of inadequacy on these two lovely women. But it seems to me that much of the history of the world is probably the result of similar insecurities. But I digress . . .

One of the things that really impressed me about this leaving do was the calibre of guests involved. Besides internationally known scholars such as Loveday Alexander, James Crossley, Hugh Pyper, Barry Matlock, and Diana Edelman, we were also graced by the presence of (from left) Richard, Paul, Steve, and Matthew, all of whom are fellow postgrads and toilers on the field of Biblical Studies. (The adjoining picture has not been doctored in any way; Matthew really is about twice as tall as Richard.) Undoubtedly the conversation in this picture was concerned with the dating of some prominent potsherd - whether it should be assigned to 454 BCE or 424 BCE and whether it supports or undermines the account in this or that biblical text. No . . . wait just a second . . . I seem to remember these four gentlemen arguing about whether Merry or Pippin was the better hobbit. Thankfully, we managed to break up the argument before things turned to violence.

In the end I must give a heart-felt thanks to Minna and Paul for a wonderful evening. I will always remember fondly our time in Sheffield, including people who haven't been mentioned here. There may be many places in the United Kingdom where one can pursue a PhD in biblical studies, but I will always be of the opinion that Sheffield is one of the very best. Minna has commented elsewhere on WIS:
It's great to observe the warm tone with which you remember your stay in
It's true, Minna; Andrea and I will always remember Sheffield warmly. Thank you to everyone who helped us feel at home in a foreign land.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Coming to America

We’ve known today was coming for a while now, but that hasn’t made it any easier. As with our experiences moving to the UK, moving back to the USA has been dramatic, eventful, emotional, etc. Apart from being awake for the last thirty-one hours and rushing about doing all of the last-minute errands that require doing before an international move, saying good-bye to all our friends and the people that have become important to us during the course of the last two and a half years has been physically and emotionally draining. But the apprehension and sense of loss that has accompanied our leaving Sheffield has been complemented by the anticipation of moving home, seeing our families and introducing them to Janelle, and seeing the friends we left behind over two years ago. At any rate, here’s a (relatively) brief account of the last forty-eight or so hours, or, How Janelle was Ripped from the Only Home She’s Ever Known.

T minus 29 hours [04:10, Wednesday, 7 December 2005]:
Of course we have been preparing for our move overseas before now: we’ve shipped about 80% of our things from the UK, followed the necessary administrative procedures with the University and with Andrea’s work, prepared our flat to be empty, and so on. But now things kick into a higher gear. Janelle has apparently been waking Andrea up for over half an hour, and Andrea decides that 4:10 is an appropriate time to get me up out of bed. Well . . . I say ‘bed’; I’d fallen asleep on the living room floor. Still, after about five minutes I realize that I’m surprisingly alert for being awake at such a pagan hour, and it is then that Andrea and I figure out that Janelle has actually (for the first time) slept for about five hours straight. So with our new-found rest we get up and begin packing the things we hadn’t packed up to this point (which is to say we started packing just about everything). I had forgotten what it felt like to have had so much sleep in one go.

T minus 24.5 hours [about 09:00, Wednesday, 7 December 2005]:
We’ve made considerable progress on stuffing most of our remaining earthly possessions into six (hopefully) well-constructed suitcases. Andrea has taken some time to attend to herself (a rare treat for her these days, what with two people expecting her to take of them) and even bathe Janelle, and I am feeling satisfied that we’ll actually be ready to leave Sheffield tomorrow morning. I’m getting ready to get about an hour’s kip as I know I have a lot in front of me today.

T minus 21 hours [12:30, Wednesday, 7 December 2005]:
I'm off to the city, really for the last time. As I walk out the door toward the bus stop my mobile phone rings, and it's my Mom and Papa calling and excited that they get to meet their granddaughter in 36 hours. We talk until the bus comes, and I head into the department in order to get some last-minute errands done before my 14:30 meeting with my supervisor. I had about 25 books to return to the library before we left the country (don't tell anyone, but I still have one with me! It's okay, though; you can renew them online), and I had some hours to turn in and a lot of good-byes to say. I left the deparment for the last time as a resident of Sheffield at about 16:30; perhaps the strangest part of this journey is that I don't have the key to the postgrad room that's been a mainstay on my keyring for the last two years. But I'm off to return a bag I'd bought but didn't need, to pick up some beer and chocolate for homegroup tonight, and to see Paul and Jen, who've featured elsewhere on this blog. There was a lot to do at Paul and Jen's, most of which doesn't merit discussion here. Paul and I messed around with computers and enjoyed a bottle of Leffe together while Jen made some dinner whose main ingredient was stinky cheese.

T minus 12.5 hours [21:00, Wednesday, 7 December 2005]:
I arrive an hour late at my last homegroup meeting. It is definitely good to see everyone again before we go, though saying good-bye was difficult and a little strange. We enjoy the beer and chocolate mentioned earlier, amongst other things, and we also share a bottle of pink champaigne which our friends Mike and Becky bought for us. Only with truly good friends can you enjoy Thornton's chocolate bars and pink champaigne in plastic cups, so this night was very special for us. Afterwards we went to Greg and Julie's house to have one last beer together and say good-bye a little more intimately. Greg will be working in the morning, so this will be the last time we see each other for a while. This is one of the most difficult good-byes I've had to go through . . . and that, perhaps, will have to suffice in this most public of fora. Except to say that I was proud as I watched my friend hold my daughter for the last time (for a while, anyway); as he would say to her quite often: "Who's your god-daddy?"

T minus 4.5 hours [just before 05:00, Thursday, 8 December 2005]:
Julie brought us home a few hours ago, and the three of us set ourselves about watching Janelle, packing our remaining things, and cleaning our flat. Rich joined us just before 05:00 to pack our luggage in his People Carrier (which, when translated, means mini-van). We shut the door on our flat for the last time at about 05:10, and Rich and I followed Julie, Andrea, and Janelle down the A-57 toward Manchester. Rich and I were largely quiet along the way, partly because I hadn't slept in the last twenty-five hours and partly because neither of us were looking forward to saying good-bye to each other. Rich has been a good friend over the last two years, not simply for bringing me a burger and chips whilst my wife was in the throes of labor (that story can be found here), but for innumerable reasons which are best left unspoken. Though I suspect he would disagree, I can assure you, faithful readers, that Rich (and his family) has been a blessing to me and my family more than I could ever hope to have been a blessing to him. And he continues to be.

At any rate, we arrived at the airport, and Rich dropped us off at departures. After an emotional farewell he drove off, and Julie, Andrea, and Janelle joined me in the airport for check-in. We did the normal queueing for security, entrusted our six very heavy pieces of luggage to Continental Airlines (aka "the Satan"), and went to enjoy a light breakfast before we had to say our final good-bye (to Julie). As we walked through security on our own - all our friends left behind - I hoped I had done enough to let them know how much I love and appreciate them. If I haven't, I pray for the opportunity to rectify the shortfall. While we may never live in the UK again, I trust we will see our British friends again, and I look forward to that reunion.

Take off [09:20, Thursday, 8 December 2005]:
Our flight left promptly on time. We sat in seats 8B and 8C, bulkhead seats which were fitted to accommodate a bassinet for Janelle. Additionally, seat 8A was empty, so we had plenty of space on our emigration. The flight attendants were fantastic, and across from us (in seats 8D, 8E, and 8F) were three British women, one of whom had a baby four days older than Janelle. Janelle was absolutely brilliant on this flight, though at one point she did start screaming while she was in her bassinet. Unfortunately, Andrea was in the lav at this point, and I had fallen asleep. For some reason Janelle's crying doesn't wake me up, so when I finally did come to one of the flight attendants was trying to comfort Janelle without waking me. We landed safely and smoothly enough in Newark, NJ, where our pleasant little tale of international travel takes a dark turn.

8 hours after take off [12:30, Thursday, 8 December 2005]:
[note: all times are local, so 12:30 EST is just over eight hours after 9:20 GMT] We've finally landed on American soil. I'm not scared of flying, but I hate doing it. It's like someone ties your legs up with duct [gaffer] tape for a few hours and lays you in a seat that reclines back about 1.5 degrees. How is that helpful? But still, the plane has safely delivered us to Newark, NJ, and it's time to see if our luggage has had an equally successful journey. As we waited round carousel 13 for our bags, watching other passengers collect their suitcases and wander off through customs, it began to appear unlikely. 30 minutes. Then 60 minutes. No bags. This is enfuriating enough, but to add insult to injury there are also no Continental representatives immediately available. After a while I notice a rotund latina woman (let's call her 'Gordita') yelling at other passengers from my flight, and I realized that this is the customer service rep. I make my way over to the developing fray, and it turns out that about a dozen of us on flight CO 021 have had 'an oily substance' spill onto our luggage. I notice that the other passengers in this situation all have some of their suitcases, but not one of my six bags has materialized from beneath the plane. After yelling at some British passengers on their way to a cruise leaving from NYC, Gordita tells us that if our bags haven't appeared by now, then they've been ruined. If New York is our final destination we're to make a claim with Continental. If we're going on to somewhere else we're to make our connecting flights and file a claim at our final destination. Of course, it's now been over ninety minutes since our flight landed, so some of us have missed our connecting flights.

Andrea, Janelle and I make a mad dash to gate C-70 (I say 'mad dash'; I mean we waited for another forty minutes in a queue to go through security, then we took out our computers, took off our shoes, and walked through a metal detector to make sure we weren't carrying any dangerous materials or weapons, such as fingernail clippers, nose hair trimmers, an excess of paperclips, or any other items that would give us the upper hand in a bid to take over the plane. Sheepishly, I was carrying some wire cutters, and these were confiscated and added to some security worker's personal tool collection) in the hopes that we hadn't missed our flight. We were almost the last three to board our plane, so we just barely made it. The head flight attendant, Jennifer, was absolutely fabulous; at first I levelled some acerbic comment at her because I was in such a bad mood. Within two minutes she had treated me so well I was apologizing for my bad mood. Sometimes, just sometimes, Americans hit customer service on the head.

So anyway, now we're less than two hours away from seeing our families, and we have the added bonus of not having to worry about collecting any of our checked luggage when we get there. Janelle was less than impressed with this flight, so she screamed most of the way. We sat next to a saint of a man from Cincinnati who didn't seem to notice that he was sitting next to a screaming four-week-old baby for two hours. When the flight attendants offered him an exit-row seat with extra leg room and, perhaps crucially, no screaming babies immediately adjacent, he smiled and said he was okay. When I asked if I could have the exit row seat, Andrea flashed me a look that froze me where I was. So I just sat there.

12.5 hours after take off [17:00, Thursday, 8 December 2005]:
We've finally reached Columbus, OH, and our families are all there to meet us just beyond the security checkpoints. They are noticeably excited to see us and to meet Janelle. Hugs and kisses are exchanged. The typical reunion, I suppose. My Papa and brother go with me to file a claim about my luggage; it should be said that the Columbus baggage people, Aaron and Mike, have been great as I've tried to sort this out. In fact, other than Gordita and her two cronies in Newark, the Continental staff were all without exception absolutely fantastic. The appropriate letter will be written, probably in the new year.

At any rate, we eventually make our way to Hometown Buffet, perhaps a strange choice for our first meal in the USA, but the food was actually surprisingly good. And anyway, we were tired, hungry, and we just wanted to be able to talk to everyone who had come to see us at the airport. It's been an experience, and after dinner I just want to get home and go to bed. Our journey is over, and so ends our experiences as residents of Sheffield, England. As the end of a phase in our lives, all of this saddens me terribly. But as the beginning of another phase, I'm terribly excited. Though it may no longer be international, the adventure of our lives continues. This is most immediately evident in the epic snow storm that fell as we were eating all we could eat. But this story has gone on long enough. Maybe we'll talk of the snow storm some other time.

. . . and the home of the brave!

After just half a week back in the USA I find myself bursting with pride and sighing to myself, "It is good to be home." Case in point: yesterday Andrea and I were paying homage to that greatest of American pastimes (shopping at Wal-mart) and looking for a remedy for nappy rash, which Janelle is just starting to develop. (For the visual thinkers amongst our readers: I guess I wipe just a touch too vigorously!) Amongst the various products Wal-mart stocks on their shelves was a product entitled (I kid you not) Butt Paste. The best part of all of this, however, is that I went to google.com and typed "butt paste" (quotation marks included), and it turns out that this product has its own website. It ought to be mentioned, in a more sombre tone of voice, that Butt Paste was apparently another unfortunate victim of Hurricane Katrina, so those of you beyond the commercial reaches of Sam Walton (which may or may not include ASDA, a company owned by Wal-mart) will not be able to submit your order via the internet.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

A Thanksgiving service at Christ Church Fulwood

Okay, okay. This may be a bit confusing, especially as the previous post concerned itself with Thanksgiving, the American holiday that falls on the fourth Thursday of every November. This post is not a repeat of the previous subject matter; it is, rather, concerned with the church service that took place on the following Sunday.

As many of you will already be aware, it is important for me and Andrea that we not take the decision to be baptized (Christened, really, as baptism does have some specific references that are mysteriously absent at most Christenings) away from Janelle. Though Christ Church Fulwood does baptize infants, they (especially our associate vicar, Jason Clarke) are incredibly gracious people who understand and allow us to uphold our convictions. Thus the Thanksgiving service at Fulwood, in which we gave thanks for Janelle's arrival, made commitments to raise her in the knowledge and experience of the gospel of God's love, and received commitments from the church to be a part of her faith development.

In addition, we were blessed to be able to have a joint Thanksgiving service with Rich and Helen, who were doing the same for their son, Thomas. Thomas was born exactly six weeks prior to Janelle. We were glad for the opportunity to be able to share this moment with Rich and Helen. It was, admittedly, a bit strange having a congregation pledge themselves to play an active role in her upbringing when we knew we were moving a quarter-way round the world in less than two weeks. But, as a local representative of the world-wide church, it was important for us to have the church commit itself to be a part of our efforts to raise her.

Here Andrea and I are holding Janelle and waiting for Jason to take our little girl and present her to the church. Yes, I am wearing a suit coat and shirt with a pair of jeans. Yes, I do look good in them. And yes, I did take the coat off immediately after the thanksgiving and spent the rest of the service in the shirt and jeans. I was playing my guitar in the worship band this particular Sunday (in fact, it was my last time playing with the band; perhaps a post about this will find its way onto WIS . . .), and it is quite uncomfortable for me to play my guitar with a suit coat on. It's too bad, though; as I so humbly pointed out immediately above, I do look good.

Here are Greg and Julie, both of whom are regular topics of conversation on this blog (and elsewhere, if I'm honest, but don't tell them that). Back in June Andrea and I asked Greg and Julie to be Janelle's godparents, which they agreed to do. I would like to take a moment to express my gratitude to them for the commitment they've made to be a part of Janelle's life as she grows up. I'd also like to acknowledge the rest of the Crookes-Walkley homegroup, who stood with us and with Rich and Helen as we presented our children to the church and continue to play an important role in our lives. Geraldine stood next to Greg and Julie (unfortunately, she's hidden behind the music stand in the first picture, above), and Jen is on the opposite end of the line (next to Becca and Chris, who are close friends of Rich and Helen). Martyn was on holiday in Barcelona, and Mike and Becky were in Surrey. But all of them are dear to me and Andrea, and we continue to pray for them as we start this next phase of our friendship, the one marked conspicuously by 3,756 miles (or 6,045 km) of separation. (I'm indebted to Ask Jeeves for this information, which was measured from Columbus, OH to Sheffield, England.)

Janelle's first Thanksgiving feast

This post is something along the lines of two weeks late; I apologise [. . . I mean apologize] to all our faithful readers for the long hiatus from updating you about what matters most in my family, and specifically it seems about Janelle Helena. But, as you may have guessed from the 'apologise/apologize' confusion, my family and I have just recently emigrated back to Ohio from Sheffield, and that, as you may well appreciate, has been rather chaotic. At any rate, that's enough of the apologizing; here's the story of my baby girl's first Thanksgiving.

Obviously, Thanksgiving as a celebration of some nearly specific events in Colonial American history is not as rigorously observed in the United Kingdom as they are in the good ol' US of A. Nevertheless, like missionaries venturing to far-flung heathen lands, Andrea and I have made it a point to celebrate this tradition with our British friends, and this year we focused on friends from our church, Christ Church Fulwood. At this point special thanks ought to be given to Janet and John (pictured here). They hosted our holiday feast, and everything was perfect. In addition, Janet prepared the turkey (kind of the centerpiece of any Thanksgiving meal, eh?), which was wonderful.

Here you can see what an enjoyable spread was put before us. In somewhat less-than-traditional (but much-more-affordable) style, everybody contributed something to the meal. Not that I can speak authoritatively on the subject, but I suppose this is probably just a bit more faithful to the original Thanksgiving meal (if such a mythical event actually happened). Personally, I think my favorite items were the sweet potatoes (brought by John and Valerie) and the pumpkin pie (which Andrea made), but that's probably because I have a bit of a sweet tooth. Everything was very good, though; even the cranberry sauce, which I normally give a miss, was homemade by Rich and Helen and was fabulous. We even took the leftovers home with us.

In the end the entire celebration was somewhat bitter-sweet. Everyone was lovely, and, as I've already said, Janet and John provided an amazing setting for a holiday tradition that was admittedly more important to me and Andrea than to them. The work they put into the day as a whole made it fantastic, a Thanksgiving truly worthy to be my lovely daughter's first. But in the back of my mind I could not (and still can not) get away from the thought that this was the last Thanksgiving I would celebrate with these, the best of friends for which two (or three) American sojourners could ask. I will miss everyone from Sheffield next Thanksgiving, and I like to imagine that perhaps some of these people will continue to observe this un-British festivity in honor (or, better, honour) of three Americans they once knew a long, long time ago.

[update: I just downloaded some pictures taken by Rich and Helen of our Thanksgiving feast, so I post them online for your perusal. I will, for once, spare you the running commentary.]