August 02, 2007

Minnesota, Take 2

We're home. After a year and a half of thinking, praying and wondering, we pulled into the Twin Cities this afternoon after three straight days of driving. It feels great to be back -- the streets are familiar and we know we have a church to go to on Sunday. Have we mentioned we bought a house? It's the cottage we've been dreaming about all these years:

It's in St. Paul and we're thrilled to be moving in soon. Until then, our friends Bjorn and Sarah were nice enough to let us stay at their house while they're on vacation.

Of course, our joy being back is muted by the terrible bridge collapse yesterday. We were driving through Montana when Ben finally reached me. I couldn't believe the news, and though we were still probably 1,000+ miles away I just wanted to do something, help somehow. I couldn't. I just prayed, sped to our hotel where I glued myself to CNN. Prayed for the families. Called Tracy in St. Paul who was luckily safe and sound. As we reached NPR range today Ben and I both listened to each press conference, every bit of information we could. We have been so impressed with the Twin Cities leaders -- their grace and dignity in handling this tragedy. Also interesting are the stories of the pedestrians who jumped in the river to save people and those who helped the children off the school bus -- surely there are countless more. This is the spirit of Minnesotans I believe, and truly the spirit of the Midwest. Probably the spirit of all people in the midst of a tragedy.

Anyway...we're just so glad to be back.

July 02, 2007

“Don’t visit unless you intend on staying. It’s just that good.” – Garrison Keillor

Mr. Keillor was, of course, referencing his home state of Minnesota. A lot of people assume Minnesota is some barren wasteland in the middle of the frozen tundra. They don’t know what they’re missing. Try gazing at Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, riding your bike on the miles upon miles of dedicated bike trails in the Twin Cities, or just drinking coffee on the shore of Lake Superior in Grand Marais and then tell me it’s a barren wasteland.

The truth is, we’ve missed Minnesota for a long time. We only lived there for a few years, but it got in our blood. And so, we’re heading back. I’ll continue exploring my new passion for financial aid as a Financial Aid Counselor at Anoka Technical College, just north of Minneapolis. Nikki is looking at a variety of options in public relations.

Portland is a nice place. I can understand why a lot of people want to live here. But ultimately we had to heed the words of Garrison Keillor, the patron saint of Minnesota. And so we gladly head back to the Midwest, a little bit older, hopefully a little bit wiser, and completely ready to embrace who we are: Minnesotans.

March 21, 2007

A Change of Direction: Trying a New Church

Finding a church in Portland has been a rather interesting (and disappointing) experience for us this past year. There was the Presbyterian church where no one spoke to us for five weeks. We tried an Episcopalian church, but it lived down to every cliché of that denomination (just a couple of old people talking about how enlightened they were and badmouthing more conservative Christians). And we can’t forget about the stereotypical, non-denominational church in the suburbs. We didn’t like it, but we kept attending because we didn’t want to hurt the feelings of our college friends who believed the church was the greatest thing since Super Mario Bros. 3.

We’ll save the hardcore analysis of our inability to find a church for another day. Let’s just say that we decided it was time to scrap our usual game plan and move out of our comfort zone. With that in mind, we found ourselves visiting the Evergreen Community. Our fellow Minnesota transplants, Kobie & Travis Moore, have settled in nicely over there.

Overall, it was a good experience. Some random observations from our visit:
  • I had been reading the blog of Bob Hyatt, the pastor at Evergreen. I got the feeling that he was just a normal, down-to-earth guy; someone you could have a beer with. After Sunday, I still think that’s true.
  • Kobie introduced us to Chris, the Associate Pastor, who bears a striking resemblance to my brother, Joe. He also lives in our neighborhood. You have to love it when Multnomah Village represents.
  • They’re a church plant that meets in a pub. I have some church plant experience. I tell you, being in the pub made me feel very nostalgic for the days when Church of Cross was meeting in the social room at my apartment complex. Not having your own building really gives you a certain energy that is lost when a church “settles down” into a permanent space. I could definitely sense that at Evergreen.
  • They don’t do typical sermons. It’s more of a guided discussion. (It’s not as shallow and annoying as it sounds.) It went better than I thought it would. People were engaged and polite. Plus, my mind didn’t wander like it usually does during sermons (and it always does).

Bottom line: I got the feeling that at its core, Evergreen is a community of people struggling together to figure out what it means to be the people of God in a broken world. That sounds like Nikki and me. I don’t know if that means we’ve found a new church home, but I do know that it means we’ll visit again. (Of course, with Nikki out of town on business this Sunday, I might chicken out and “be sick” instead of visiting by myself. We’ll see.)


March 11, 2007

Annie mugs for the camera

We've had Annie for two weeks now and she's doing just great. We took our first trip to the dog park yesterday where she romped with dogs twice her size tirelessly. We went back again today -- it's just so fun to see her run in an all-out sprint! She can't do that in our backyard. Here are a few pics of her playing with her toys today, and just sitting pretty for the camera.

March 10, 2007

Heroes in a Half Shell

For those of you out there like Ben and I, who grew up in the 80s and 90s, you must be horrified nand slightly amused (like me) to learn that there is a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie coming out. Seriously? Yes, seriously. We grew up with Raphael, Donatello, Michaelangelo and Leonardo -- and now they're coming back into our life?! Wild. Except now they're called "TMNT." This only conjures up memories of another childhood memory...when another group of childhood idols needed a new image to recapture what they once had. My favorite was always Joey. :)

March 04, 2007

A dog who loves to chew

This weekend was incredible. The rain stopped, the sun came out, and the temperature climbed to near 60. We took long walks with Annie who's getting over kennel cough so can't stop and sniff the other dogs like she'd like to. Three more days of antibiotics and park!

We did come across a wonderful little store that just opened up about two blocks from us -- Healthy Pets Northwest. I was in search of toys that Annie couldn't chew through in less than an hour, and they were happy to help. I bought a rope, tied at two ends, that also serves as dental floss! Also, a very durable fabric frisbee-type toy. She's had both for more than 24 hours now and both are still in tact despite lots of chewing. I think we've found some winners!

In completely non-pet news, I also broke down and bought a smart phone...I have been traveling for work a little more lately and feel a smart phone will be really handy so I don't have to break out my laptop every time I need to check e-mail. I can't believe I finally broke down and bought one, but I did. It's kind of sickening, but kind of exhilarating.

Here's to another good can just tell spring is in the air. The daffodils are blooming, some little purple flowers are too, and daylight savings time is only a week away!

March 01, 2007

Do you know the way to San Jose?

I do now. I took my first official trip to California this week for work -- spent a few days with the Hotmail team, and as strange as it sounds, had a great time. Silicon Valley is amazing -- you can practically feel the high-tech power oozing from everyone and everywhere. I was there to spend time at the Microsoft campus, of course, but my cabbie drove me past the Google campus just for fun, and pointed out the Yahoo! campus too. It wasn't all Hotmail talk...we also ate at an amazing Vietnamese fusion restaurant called Xanh in downtown Mountain View.

Can't wait to visit California again...for leisure next time!

The MS campus in Mountain View...right down the street from its rival, Google.

Yummmm...Xanh. My favorite was the green beans smothered in peanut sauce.