With peace, but with tears

This morning Chris let our congregation know that after 8.5 years of full-time ministry at RCRC he will be stepping down as pastor and leave full-time parish ministry sometime in June.  There were tears and then standing ovation by the congregation in appreciation for his work and years of service.

I was a mess this morning, I started crying even before he made the announcement because I knew it was coming and the doxology was a tear-jerker.  I wasn't even going to try not to cry. I had a big wad of tissues stuffed into my purse. I got some big hugs before and after the service.  I had some good and some awkward conversations. But that big sad moment that I had been dreading is done. Chris and I have a lot of peace about the decisions and the reasons we have moved to make the changes we have but our exact plans are still not fully set.

So what is next?

We are staying here. We are not moving. We own our home and want to finish raising our children here.  Our daughters love their schools, I love my job and we all love the area and the many friends we have made.

A few months ago, after  several years of questioning and prayer, Chris decided to apply to the University of Rochester's CPE program with the goal of training to become a hospital or hospice chaplain.  The time Chris has spent doing hospital visits with ill or dying and their families has been one of the most rewarding and consistently satisfying parts of his job as pastor. Hopefully he will be accepted into the program.

He also pursuing being accepted a minister with the Presbyterian Church (USA) in the hopes of finding a pastoral care or other part-time position within that denomination. 

We have a lot to think about it and figure out in the coming months, so we will covet your prayers that doors keep opening



Marlena Graves's A Beautiful Disaster

At RCRC I have the incredibly privilege of helping lead one of our adult Sunday school classes.  We have two adult Sunday school tracks at RCRC, one is a bible-study track and the other a book-discussion group.  In our book-discussion class we tackle books on theology, spiritual living and other material that comments on christian faith. In the past year we have read  Lewis Smedes's memoir  "My God and I", Gordon Fee's book "Paul, the Spirit and the People of God:" and we just finished a unit, discussing the play Athalie by Racine and wrestling with the biblical passages in Kings and Chronicles that served as its inspiration.

We just are about four chapters into our discussion of Marlena Graves's book on suffering, "A Beautiful Disaster".  Marlena is a former youth leader & member of our congregation.  Marlena and her husband Shawn moved away for Rochester right at the same time Chris and I moved here.  We know each other mainly through social media and through acquaintances.  It has been a blessing to discuss the book as mixed group, those who personally know her and those like me who know her through her words.

I think all of us in the book-study class are being blessed and challenged by Marlena's book and I wanted to share here some of our discussion questions, so those who are not able to participate with us every week can still share in our discussion.


Dropbox link to our discussion questions

Winding down: The Summer Wrap-up


Our summer was fun, busy and wetter than we expected. After our travels out West, we came home to a week and half of family visits. Papi and Rosalia stopped in for a 24hr whirlwind visit, dropping off a car for me (I know I am terribly blessed!), before rushing back home to Florida. We had just a long enough break from torrential rains to enjoy the visiting the American side of the Niagara Falls together. Hot on their heels was my sister Rosie, her wife Kendall and my Mami, who came to visit for the week. We toured around Rochester, walking down Park Ave, taking a boat tour of the Erie Canal and sharing a lot of wine and stories. We closed out that week with a big birthday party for Chris's 40th birthday. His Aunt Sue and his cousin Jackie dropped in for the party, and we had fun even though it drizzled the whole time.

A. went off on her first sleep-away summer camp. She spent two weeks on the campus of Houghton College taking part in the Cshey School of Music. She returned to us very much a teenager. She made tons of friends and already made plans to return next summer. While she was gone, Z. took part in RMSC's Wilderness Survival day camp. She learned how build a fire, basic orienteering skills and most of all for the first time in her life was at camp without any friends and family around. She made friends and had a fun time, and grew up just a bit more.

I took most of July off from book reviewing, and I have spent the rest of the summer trying to catch-up. I have also dug out boxes and boxes of items to be donated from our crawl space in the basement. It is was liberating to get rid of so much, even if it is only a portion of what we should get rid off. I caught up in all sorts of other household projects, so hopefully the house will tolerate being ignored for another year when the school year starts again. I have started working on my fall lesson plans, planning and registering for fall conferences, and buying our Feb Break plane tickets.

Chris had a good summer. We enjoyed his Sunday evenings off together, and took advantage of the extra time to go visit his family. We loved visiting with his mom and siblings over Civic holiday weekend in London. We love giving our girls time with their cousins. We also went up last week to Cambridge to visit with his a Dad's side of the family. The family had gathered to say good-bye to his uncle Bert who passed as few days later. Again we were blessed to spend time with with aunt, uncles and cousins. Even though everyone's hearts were heavy, we enjoyed each other's company, and seeing the smiles on the little toddlers too you to know why everyone gathered. Chris is on his way now to Brampton so he can join the family for the funeral service tomorrow.

Even though gray clouds fill the sky right now, we are doing well. School is around the corner and we are getting ready. There is of course as much anxiety as hope in our hearts as we look ahead, but we trust that with God's blessing we will have a good school year, A.'s last at RCS.

So please pray for us, that Z. and A. have a good school year, pray for our friends battling cancer (Carolina, Jennifer and Bill), the Fluits as they mourn, and for my Mami as she settles into her new life in PR.





Taste Test

Late yesterday afternoon, Aay, Zee and I were enjoying a pre-dinner snack of Laughing Cow original swiss cheese wedges, which Arwen proclaimed to be TASTY! and finished off three wedges in quick succession. I grew up having the Laughing Cow bites, tiny foil wrapped squares that were shelf stable and a staple of my pack lunches as a child. Sadly Laughing Cow no longer offers the original version of in the bites here in the states (they were availble in Canada last year), only offering the very plasticky light version, which my girls rightly rejected.

Cheese 007Aay's evident enjoyment of the cheeses prompted her to ask if we could go and buy and taste a bunch of different cheeses. I told her we could, in fact if Daddy was game we could even make a dinner of it. So this morning after I took out my new bike for a quick ride to pick out of first delivery of fresh veggies from our CSA, Porter Farms's delivery point, less than 2 miles away, we headed out for our saturday family day. We played a round of putt-putt at Wickham Farms, we crossed the parking lot to our YMCA and went for a swim. They had a giant dragon play slide in the exercise pool, and then both girls practices many of their new swimming skills, like underwater diving and glides. After our pool time we drove down the road to the supermarket and wine store. Chris went off to replenish us and I set out with the girls to select the cheeses we wanted for our taste test. We ended up taking home 11 different kind of cheeses, Piave, Muenster, Brie, Campo de Montalban, Feta, Wensleydate with Cranberries, Fontina, Humboldt Fog, Beemster, Havarti,  and Emmenthaler Swiss. Once at home we set out several kinds of crackers, sliced meats, olives and bruschetta topping. Everyone got 11 little cards with the name of a cheese and a pen. As we tasted we were asked to jot down our impressions, and whether we judged the cheese good, okay or bad. Chris and Zee were juding on the same pace and Aay and I did them in the opposite order. 

We had a blast. The girls tried everything, even the Humboldt fog, which took some courage even to get Chris to try it. (I thought it was marvelous).Cheese 014 Cheese 015  Zee marked hers with circles (good), checks (okay) and Xs (bad). We had a ton of fun. Talking about how each flavor and texture was, what we liked or didn't like about them and then experimenting by combining the cheese and with the fruit and meats we had on the table and seeing what  combinations work. The  girls  really got into that, and we  talked about  on of the scenes in Ratatouille where Remy is trying to explain to his brother about tasting things not just gobbling it up. Great time!  For the record. Aay's favorite was Piave, Zee: the Feta, Chris: The Havarti and Me: The Humboldt Fog.


I just read a really nice email from the nice folk at www.cypressgrovechevre.com makers of Humboldt Fog, who really enjoying reading about our taste test. Since it was my favorite of all the chesses we tasted I want to make sure I shared their website with you.  (July 11, 2008) Buen Provecho!

Loving Freecycle!

After moving into our house last fall I signed us up to the Rochester NY Freecycle yahoo group and was able to give away the big desk that the previous owners had abandoned when they left. It was very rewarding to give it aways to someone who could use it. Being on a freecycle list can be annoying in that people request expensive things (one I noticed recently was a request for LCD/Projection TV),  often without doing so in the proper formatted way, but I guess they figure no harm in asking, and sometimes a little sad in that in some of the wanted items come with some sad stories, like someone looking for a replacement lawn mower since their previous one was stolen. Clothes move surprisingly fast, as do couches, and beds. But other odd things move too, like lots of magazines and chicken coop making materials.

I use my junk email address to subscribe to the digest, which means that I go days without reading, since I don't need to get things off freecycle generally, but I love to list things there. However the other day I just happen to look at the digest and noticed that someone was listing, Little Yellow Flag Irises. She was thinning out her garden and was looking for takers. She posted this picture on the freecycle group page, 1b33

And I knew that I had to email her immediately since they look so similar to my mom's Japanese Irises.

Not identical but should do just fine in the flower plot on the north side of the house that is mostly bare.

So yea! for free pretty plants.  Maybe I will be able to give away some of the extra produce (read:BEETS) we might not use up from our farm share in the summer.

Snow Day

Sunday is a work day in the Fluit Household, which might seem on the surface somewhat offensive to some, but entirely understandable once you unpack it. Chris as a pastor spends most of Sunday either preparing or leading services and for the rest of us, while not "working" at church aren't having a sabbath either. So Saturdays tend to be our Sabbath. The day we tend to spend together, resting. Anyone who has grown up in a Pastoral family understands this. However today we are having a unusual Sunday Sabbath thanks to the Snow.

For the last few days the paper and news have been covering the crippling storms the souther midsection of the country. My Dad and I even talked about it on the phone. Like my experience growing up in Hurricane country we have been watching this particular storm work its way our direction since Wed. On Friday morning I made a point of going to the grocery store and stocking up on essentials, like bread, milk, canned soup and meat. Not planning for power-loss ice-storm but certainly for not having to run out into the weather if I didn't have to.

Last night after coming home from dinner with friends Chris got on the internet and checked the weather reports and then checked with the executive committee and see what the call would be. The forecasts mentioned that the it would cause hazardous driving conditions and urged folks who could stay to home to do so.  The call was made to cancel Sunday services and reschedule the Christmas Program for the following Sunday.

This morning it was slightly disappointing to wake up to a less than impressive 5" of snow. Seeing the day develop Sunday AM services were probably doable, but now by 11:30 things are starting to ramp up. And we will probably go out in a little bit and start up the snow blower and clear what has already accumulated before the rest of the stuff comes down.

But despite that the snow hassles, and the inconveniences of cancellation, I am actually still really thankful for the unexpected restful day it will be. Our day was scheduled to the hilt, with Sunday AM services, caroling at noon, then Christmas rehearsal in the afternoon flowing straight into the program in the evening. A instead we are going to go nowhere. And that in the end is okay.

Be safe where ever you are, keep your speed in perspective. Stay warm.

Oh and if you like reading about the art of Forecasting and how this storm has been a huge headache for those trying to tell us what the weather is going to be like and why, check out the Accuweather,com blog, Meteorological Madness by Henry Margusity Sr. Meteorologist and Severe Weather Expert. The Sunday 8 am post was really interesting.

This storm has been a disorganized mess since yesterday and why? The upper-level system has remained detached from the primary low and is juts now catching up to the surface low over Ohio. The primary low has been reluctant to develop overnight despite sitting in a puddle of warm air. To top it off, Olga swirls over Cancun yesterday, blows-up in the Gulf of Mexico and most likely pumped the ridge up along the East Coast, thus sending plumes of warmth north. Most likely, Olga was a tropical storm last night prior to reaching Florida given the buoys reports of 30- to 40-knot sustained winds. When is the last time you saw a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico in mid-December with a raging snowstorm in the Midwest and ice/sleet falling in the mid-Atlantic...and to top it off, you add very cold arctic air sitting across New England. From a meteorology point-of-view, it's fascinating to watch, from a forecasting point-of-view it's been a nightmare since Wednesday. I know a lot of you are disappointed about the storm, I know I am given I have about an inch of sleet and ice on the ground this morning with a temperature now at 32 degrees, up from 29 since last night. But like I said the other day, don't count every flake that falls in your backyard, study the meteorology of the storm and learn to appreciate how complex the weather patterns really are. Lets be frank folks, this is only Dec. 15 and we have 3 1/2 more months of true winter to go, and looking at the long range models, there's at least 3 major storms to deal with prior to the end of the month, all of which will have their share of snow and ice problems...so we are not done yet...

Sorting everything out.

I think it would be putting it mildly to say that our lives have been a jumble since early August, when we accepted the call to come to Rochester. Our belongings were quickly packed up in boxes for the move, or laid out on the driveway for strangers to purchase or carted off to the dump. It wasn't till we moved in here 12 days ago that we have been able to start un-jumbling not only our belongings but our emotions.

In a lot of ways Chris had to jump feet first into the deep end of the pool in terms of Church work without the benefit of having a settled home life and space. That has been a real challenge, and I really thank God for all the people that have been there for Chris, to provide encouragement and support. It has been very hard for me to not to be able to be able to do that in the way I did in Brooks, but we have also been working on sorting out my new role here in Rochester.

This is a vastly bigger church so they way I used to relate to members is just not possible. I am much less informed or involved in the everyday Church decisions. [I need to make sure everyone is clear here that I don't mean anything of a confidential nature, Chris has always striven to keep the confidences of those who speak with him.] Chris and I no longer share a workspace and as result see each other much less than before, and we are still trying to get our social life sorted out. Date nights have been few and far in between and it is deeply ironic to both of us that having left our one-screen theater behind and are once again the land of the multiplex we have yet to watch a movie together. Yet last night thanks to the generosity of some church members we had a chance to go downtown and enjoy Handel's Messiah at The Eastman. We had lot of fun there, enjoyed each other's company as we people watched and walked together back and forth from the theater and our parking garage (we accidentally parked next to Geva Theater, so we had to trek about 3/4 of mile in the chilly temps, thank God!, that I have my scarves unpacked now.)

And last but not least the house continues to get sorted out. I bought three bookcases for my office space downstairs and have been able to unpack a lot of things, and I also started sorting thru my boxes of girly art supplies and have started organizing our new craft closet. These might seem like trivial things to other people, but for me they are very significant since it means that, we can enjoy our books and art supplies again as a family and it gave me so much joy to see Arwen, hands sticky with glue, working busily at a project, and not having to say, soon to the question, when can we paint again?

I still have much to sort out, boxes of financial papers and old bills, that are mostly destined for the fireplace  and I still have a couple for essays to finish for my grad school application, but I am getting there. At least I am starting to have the mental space to work on that again.

As things improve however, life isn't without challenges, as my mom just canceled her Christmas trip here as she had to travel to PR yesterday so she could help here siblings care for my Abuela Gisela who they believe suffered a heart-attack on Tuesday. It is likely that this means that they will finally make new arrangements for her care as result and she really need to be there. She still hopes to come up for a few days after New Year's. Please keep my maternal family in your prayers as they sort things out.

pictures soon.

Corbett's Glen


Tonight was GEMS night for Arwen. Rev. Tineke Cornelison offered to leadSept_156 the girls on a Nature Walk through Corbett's Glen, a really enchanting natural area just minutes from where we are living right now. I have driven past the little parking area nearly everyday since we got into this house. I no longer have to wonder. It was such a lovely place for walk. Although with 14 energetic girls it was more of Fall Trot. We walked to the Fall and watched some men fly fish, and then walked back through the woods with squishy soil covered in fallen leaves.

I wasn't planning on going on this walk originally, but Zanneke wanted to drop Arwen off, but I knew she would get such a thrill out of the walk to, I grabbed her shoes, my camera and our jackets and we made just added our selves to the troop.

The trail is as easy going as you want to make it. The older girls twice choose the high-road (walking on a narrow ridge braided with tree roots), while the Arwen and Zanneke joined me on the low-road on the way back. Even though it got dark before we made it back to the parking area we all made it back in one piece.

City Saturday

I know there lots of city-based church members who would have loved for us to buy in the City. In the end we looked but didn't find the right place for us. I think buying into the city takes a bit more work and time to get to know its individual neighborhoods. The city-dwellers not only touted But I think we will prove them wrong on how often we suburbanites will come into the city.  I am adding a new posting category to my blog, "Discovering Rochester", so I can tag my posts about getting to know our new community.

This morning I drove into Rochester to meet a new friend who had invited me to join her on her Saturday morning Public Market trip. I met her house and we drove down from there. I came prepared with my Wegman's reusable grocery bag and backpack and I left loaded down with way too much food, but it was hard to resist all the varied and colorful produce at such reasonable prices. There were dozens of vendor providing everything from Fresh Pasta Ravioli, cheeses, Apples, eggs, sausage, baked items, raw honey, exotic beans to Empanadas and Flea Market goods.

My absolute favorite purchase  of the day was also my very first. A bunch of Culantro, tied together with a rubber band. I held the culantro to my nose, and breathed deeply the smell of Puerto Rico. I was able to buy at the Puerto Rican food stand, where I conducted the majority of transaction in Spanish. 

The Culantro is like Gold to me, because in all my years of living outside of Puerto Rico (13) I have never found it, not in the Michigan Bodegas or The Alberta Ethnic food stores where I got the rest of my supplies. I knew that it was theoretically available on the mainland, and undoubtedly available in New York City, and quite possible to grow in Florida where my mother lives, I just never gotten a chance to buy it. But there in my hand, the first purchase of the day was a bit home. There were also plenty of Plantains, which I am actually quite surprised not to have found at the Wegmans after if the Safeway in Brooks can carry Plantains why haven't I found them? In addition to the Plantains there was yautia, malanga, ahi dulces and  Puerto Rican Aguacate (avocado). Also later on a different stall, I got to buy a nice and reasonably fresh Quesito from a local bakery, next week I am going to jot down the address of the bakery on the off chance they carry Pan Sobao.

Soon my bags were full of fresh potatoes, local apples, green beans, eggplant, zucchini, raw honey, peppers, grape tomatoes,  little yellow tomatoes like those I had to abandon in my garden in Brooks. Like I said way too much food and I even passed on the in-season NY grapes and fresh eggs because I was already well stocked of both at the apartment.

I think I will be making the Public Market part of my weekly routine. I want to try it out Thursdays soon to see it on a less hectic day, but I liked the energy and pace of the Saturday market just fine. After we got done at the market. My host also drove my to the Pittsford Dairy, and while I took home some milk, appreciating that the Chocolate Milk was sweeted with Cane Sugar and not with Corn Syrup, I am not quite sure and ready add whole another stop just to buy milk. Nice milk though, although they didn't carry 1% which Chris prefers.

After coming home, I gathered my Chris and the kids and we went downtown to Strong National Museum of Play. The girls had a blast. They wore their new superhero costumes (Supergirl and Wonder Woman), and zoomed around the main floor. We were there over 4 hours and didn't see everything on the main floor let alone, give careful attention to the up-stairs exhibits. Next time we come, we will likely bring a sack lunch, plan on meeting place (we got separated after lunch due to dueling girly priorities and didn't run into each other till nearly an hour later).

We did got a family membership so we plan to come back on a less busy day (today, Bob the Builder opened to the general public, and man was he mobbed!). We will see how often we do come down, and bring family, and if we use the membership a lot we might upgrade to the Patron level, because for $45 buck more it gives you 2 free guest passes in a addition the the family passes, 4 passes to the Butterfly house and reciprocal membership at Children museums across the country and the world. At this point the family membership pays for itself in two and half visits and does get a discount at the museum stores and off the prices of extra guest tickets.

So City Saturday was a really pleasant way to spend our day, even if the trip to the comic book store that was tacked on at the end wasn't nearly as successful due staff inattention and store disorganization, too things that were very different the last time we stopped in there.