30 April 2008

Rebuilding Together

Rebuilding Together * Metro Chicago is part of a national non-profit program that arranges free home repair for disabled, elderly and low-income individuals on the last Saturday in April. This year, I believe there were approximately 90 homes that several thousand volunteers helped to repair. Each home has a corporate sponsor that provides the necessary funding. We participated with about 20 others from our church and went to Chicago's Englewood neighborhood to work on the home of Rev. Henry and Ollie. Rev. Henry is the pastor of a beautiful church several blocks from their home (see picture below). We enjoyed the time to paint, landscape, spruce up and brush off, but more than that, it provided a wonderful opportunity to meet Rev. Henry, Ollie and their family, to work alongside each other, to rebuild together. It my hope that Rebuilding Together will not just be about one Saturday in which we leave our comfy Northside lives to put some fresh paint on a wall, but that it will be about developing partnerships, forming relationships. And then the real work will begin.

25 April 2008

Waking Up... to Construction

Twice this week we have awoken to some serious construction taking place right across the square from us as one more blessed condo building goes up in Chicago. Wednesday morning: 6:30am. This morning: 5:15am. And I'm not talking about sweet little construction noises like hammering or biscuit joining. I'm talking about taking a crane and dropping steel beams onto concrete. We've called to report violations of the noise ordinance and now we need to figure out if they have a special permit to start construction work before the break of dawn.

So, this morning, after abandoning any attempt to return to sleep, we decided to get up and make the most of it. And I must say, it wasn't long before the annoyance and frustration turned into laughter and silliness. We got ready for work and went out for breakfast. The city seems to come alive between the hours of 7:00 and 8:00am. We watched the empty, quiet restaurant fill up with people and conversation. The streets, seemingly wide and available only moments before, became crowded with vehicles and pedestrians. And before we knew it, we were off to work, having savored those few peaceful moments between construction and traffic. Not a bad way to start the weekend.

23 April 2008

We Remember Thee Most Fondly

Tis the birthday of our dearly departed Shakespeare.

"From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April dress'd in all his trim
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing
That heavy Saturn laugh'd and leap'd with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odor and in hue
Could make me any summer's story tell.
Or from their proud lap pluck them while they grew;
Nor did I wonder at the lily's white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
These were but sweet, but figures of delight;
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seem'd it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play."

Sonnet 98

21 April 2008

Antiques & Garden Fair

Andrew's new employers graciously purchased tickets for us to see the Antiques and Garden Fair this weekend at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. It was a wonderful opportunity to see some lavish antiques, beautiful plants and gardens, and to welcome the much anticipated advent of Spring. I even spotted a vendor from my home town, Londonderry, NH, and upon speaking with the dealer, discovered that I went to high school with his son. A small world indeed. Here are some pictures of our favorite finds:

18 April 2008


Ah yes... my family.

17 April 2008

Taking a Step in an Organic Direction

In the past year or two, I feel I have come a long way in terms of how I view food, and more specifically, the food I eat. But before I launch into what I have learned and how I have changed, I should provide some clarifications in the way of a disclaimer:

I am not a health food junkie.
I rarely take vitamins, despite Andrew's greatest attempts.
I am by no means a Whole Foods worshipper (more on this later).
I am not someone who will buy organic at any cost.
I am no expert on sustainability.

While these things still are and have always been true for me, it should be noted that before a year or two ago, the words "organic" and "sustainability" would have barely entered my vocabulary. Perhaps it is due to all the organic hype as of late, or perhaps it comes from being immersed in an urban setting (Chicago) or a socially conscious setting (our church), or maybe it's because I'm getting older and have a greater interest in how I care for my body and spend my money, but whatever the reason (and it's most likely a combination of all the above), I am ready to engage the topic.

So, where do I stand? A few thoughts: First,
I do not dispute the fact that food grown organically is better for you and the environment. Pesticides and chemicals and hormones are bad. I get that. Second, I have come to understand and appreciate the difference between organic and local. The concepts are quite linked, but they are not interchangeable. True, oftentimes food is both organic and local, but sometimes it is not. Third, there are many benefits and implications for eating organic, locally grown food, and I acknowledge those benefits as a viable reason why I would want to invest my money and energy into making organic and local eating a priority.

My challenge with organic eating is best exemplified by the problem that the store Whole Foods presents. Whole Foods seems to have gained the corner market on all things organic. When you think organic, you think Whole Foods. And when you think Whole Foods, you think expensive, very very expensive. Assuming this line of thinking (which not all of you may espouse, I understand), the logical conclusion is that eating organically is a luxury. I would argue that even if you don't completely agree with this line of thinking, there is still some element of privilege that must be acknowledged when it comes to the choice to eat organically. It is a choice and that alone makes it a privilege. There are many many people who would love to make better food choices for their family but cannot possibly afford it. We must recognize that when we start making judgments about how people eat.

My understanding of the distinction between organic and local has helped me to start to reconcile this conflict. I am no guru when it comes to local, sustainable farms (see disclaimers above) and I don't have any stats in front of me to back up my claim, but I believe that local helps the organic to become more accessible. This isn't to say that Whole Foods doesn't carry locally grown food (although, I think it's fair to say that Whole Foods has taken a lot of the local out of organic). I'm only saying that it's just good business sense to cut out the middle man (or woman) and get your food from the farmer, right? And if nothing else
, when I buy locally I know that I am supporting local farmers and sustainable farms. And from my experience, these farmers are socially conscious; they want to make good food accessible.

Starting this summer our church is partnering with Mike and Clare's Farm in Ottawa, Illinois, as part of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program (for more info on CSAs, click here). Once a week, shares of freshly grown and harvested vegetables (some of which are well known and some of which I have never heard) will be delivered to our church. In addition, we'll be receiving shares of meat, such as grass-fed beef, pasture raised chicken and free range eggs, from Cedar Valley Sustainable Farm. It is our church's vision that we will not only take a more responsible approach to our food as individuals, but that as a community, we will use our CSA partnership to reach out to those in need.

Andrew and I are excited to start making decisions about organic food in a way that makes sense for us. While we've always tried to buy fresh, avoid processed foods and shop around the perimeter of the grocery store (some great advice my mom passed on), I'm glad to be taking that next step. The next challenge? Recipes using hakerei and tatsoi. No clue.

08 April 2008


"...Amazing grace, oh how sweet the sound
There was glory in the air, there was dinner on the ground
And my sins which were many, were washed away and gone
Along with a buffalo nickel I forgot to leave at home
But that seemed like such a small, small price to pay
For the blessed peace of mind that came to me that day
And it was down with the old man, up with the new
Raised to walk in the way of light and truth
I didn't see no angels, just a few saints on the shore
But I felt like a newborn baby, cradled up in the arms of the Lord
This road is long and dusty, sometimes the soul it must be cleansed
And I long to feel that water, rushing over me again."

-from "Baptism" by Kenny Chesney

Congratulations, Ian. We love you. (And you too, Alexander and Charlotte!)

02 April 2008


Although spring has continued to resist making a 2008 debut, Andrew has made his formal entrance into the world of landscape design. Yesterday was his first day at his new job with Topiarius, a landscape design company. Topiarius is a Latin word for ornamental landscape gardener, from which we get the word topiary. His primary task will be leading the crews responsible for the installation and implementation of the designs. We are both looking forward to the opportunities and experiences this position will afford him, not the least of which include being outdoors, building things, learning more about plants and landscaping, playing in the dirt, working for a small company (he is 1 of 4 on the team), getting a rock star suntan (or burn more likely), and most of all, getting the chance to use his artistic talents and skills in a new way. He has already been able to use his eye for design in combination with his experience at the Field Museum to offer new perspectives and suggestions. I have no doubt that Andrew will be a great addition to this company. I'm excited to see what they will create! Here are some samples from Topiarius's design portfolio: