Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Brief debrief

I can't tell you how I've been. Not yet, anyway. Maybe I will eventually. God has been furrowing deeply, molding firmly, digging His fingers in painfully.

A year ago this week, I found out I would have this poem published, in The Christendom Review. I thought, then, that I had suffered. And I had -- but not like I would. And I know my suffering now will be eclipsed by even greater later in my life, as God continues to sancitfy me. But it is, as Laura said, so much easier to pray for relief than for sanctification.


To lighten the mood: guess what?

One of my friends here in Blacksburg just opened an Etsy shop, and her work is adorable. She sews, but all of her creations are entirely upcycled, so they all have stories beyond their present life. My personal favorite are the vegetable placemats.

Upcycled Cloth Placemats with Vegetable Appliques
Image: Katherine Lile, via Etsy

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My friend Harry -- and why you love him, too

Friday evening, Andrew and I were invited to dinner at our pastor's home. Deep into the grilled chicken, homemade bread, and fruit salad, and at some point after his daughter laughed so hard she spewed milk across the table (never seen that happen in real life before, I must say), the conversation slid comfortably into a topic that has been pounced upon and happily jawed over by millions of people worldwide since 1997.

Harry Potter.

Image via, artwork by Mary GrandPré, special edition cover for Deathly Hallows
(isn't it awesome?)

I confess myself a shameless addict to the scar-headed hero's story, but as Andrew and I were driving home, I wondered how it is that this story, more than any other I know, has the power to draw people together, to make a stranger say, "I love that story, too!" and laugh at a joke about a Crumple-Horned Snorkack in a way that no non-Comic-Con-attending person would about any other story, even a phenomenon like Star Wars or (God forbid) Twilight.

So, why does Harry entrance us so?

Because, dear reader, when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone first appeared in bookstores, I (and every other young-twenty now) was nine years old. When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows finally reached my hands, I was a sophomore in college. Ten years of my life, from age 9 to age 19, were spent in the company of Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and in countless delighted hours reading their adventures and wondering how deep J. K. Rowling was winding the mystery. Almost half of my life to date, I have not only known of Harry and his companions, but have also read of their struggles, seen them (as well as Rowling's writing) grow and mature -- as I myself was growing and maturing. You see, reader, I grew up with Harry.

I believe that the majority of Harry Potter fans in the world love Harry for this same reason. Not because of the fantasy world he lives in, not even for Rowling's brilliant storytelling and championing of true and honorable (even biblical) ideals like love and redemption, but because to us, Harry is someone we know well. We've been friends with him for ten years. We know what he would say if we asked him this or that question; we know how Ron and Hermione would react to this or othat situation. So when someone acknowledges a mutual love of the series, it's really acknowledging a mutual friend. "Hey, I know him, too!"

I love Harry Potter because I appreciate Rowling's craftsmanship, her themes, and her heart.
I also love Harry Potter because I grew up with him, cared about him, Ron, and Hermione. I've spent ten years of my life with those people, and ten years is a long time.
I like Harry because we're friends.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Modern Poetry Blues

Yesterday, I decided that I would act like I live here in Blacksburg: I got my library card. And, as Arthur taught us, Having fun isn't hard when you've got a library card! (if you don't believe me, see for yourself)

I walked into the Blacksburg Public Library, and paused. It is beautiful in there: full of community event bulletin boards, happy posters, pleasant workers, and shelves and shelves of books. I walked in and thought, I want to work here! And then it hit me: of all the positions I've held in my rather diverse work experience, I loved nothing like I loved working in the library. I think, when I'm able, I want to pursue a Masters in Library Science, specializing in children's literature. Doesn't that sound lovely?

I left the library with three books (Oliver Twist was checked out already...): Julie and Julia by Julie Powell, How to Buy the Love of Reading, by Tanya Egan Gibson, and The Best American Poetry 2010, edited by Amy Gerstler and Devid Lehman. 

Poetry. I need to get back in the game. That's exactly why I checked out the most recent collection of lauded American poetry: to see what poetry is now. I'm terribly old-fashioned, I know, but it saddened me to see the purposeful, careful, genius structure of traditional poetry replaced by prosy free verse that seems more self-important than concerned with containing a deeper idea, a beauty deeper than its own brilliance.  

I'm sure as I continue through this anthology, I will find poems I love and see the merit of, and perhaps I will learn to appreciate all of them for what they are, but now, sipping my coffee and reading the first handful of poems, I wonder what happened to men like Keats and Hopkins and Frost. We've replaced the subtlety of form and complex images with the shock of too-honest similes, too obviously full of sex, despair, or sentimental childhood memories.

I know many disagree with me, and perhaps I'm just not as informed on the subject as I should be, but I wonder what is to be gained by discarding structure, form, and purpose for a so-called freedom that shamelessly disregards the history and literature of hundreds of years; we've discarded the original masters like Shakespeare and Wordsworth for the more recent rebels, like William Carlos Williams, who dare to write obtusely and baldly, forgetting that poetry is about sound and sense and not a blank page on which to rant and shock.

It makes me sad to see that poetry, like our culture, like academia, literature, ethics, art, and relationships, has ceased to be based on its own foundation. I know I shouldn't be surprised, since we live in a world fast decaying, continuing the Fall that began thousands of years ago. I hate that beauty, too, is tainted and changed.
I wonder, if our poetry seems apathetic about its past, about the deep and beautiful tradition of its history, what's a girl to do?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Blue(berry) Heaven

Guess what grows in Virginia?

Photo: Andrew Sweeny
Andrew and I spent yesterday morning at a local farm, filling our bucket with pounds and pounds of the biggest, most delicious blueberries I have ever seen or eaten. The farm is completely natural; no pesticides or anything, so you can eat those guys straight off the bushes -- and eating is encouraged. Did you know that flavor in blueberries varies from bush to bush?

 I kept thinking about Robert McCloskey's Blueberries for Sal.
Image by Robert McCloskey, Image via

"Little Sal picked three berries and dropped them in her little tin pail ... kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk!"

My berries went kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk, so loudly and delightfully in my large tin pail -- until, of course, Andrew and I picked over a gallon, so the plunking stopped.

Photo: Andrew Sweeny

And, of course, like Sal, we ate as many as we put in our bucket.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wedding pictures! (indulge me a bit here)

I haven't posted a single picture from my wedding! I'm still waiting on our official wedding pictures from our fabulous photographer Kelly, but I can show you a few of my favorites from the candid shots I've been given (and though a few of these are on Facebook, not all of them are. I'm not just copying, no worries!).

My yellow tea kettle is whistling. How happy. Peppermint tea!


The weekend of our wedding was splendid. It was such a blessing to be surrounded by so many friends who love us and are rooting for us and our marriage. It eases all doubts when you marry someone you know you love, who is your best friend, and who is highly approved by your other friends. Andrew is friends with all my friends, and I love all his friends. I can't imagine how some people decide to marry without such support. I realize all circumstances are different, but I know that community has such an incredibly important role in my life -- and should in the life of everyone, especially those who claim the name of Christ -- that I can't imagine marrying anyone outside the context of such a wonderful, loving and supportive community.

That said, the community wedding weekend was wonderful. All the bridesmaids stayed at my parents' house with me, so all my friends from different places had to meet each other and be friends. Ha! I love each of those girls so deeply, and each of them has blessed my life in a tremendous way -- I wouldn't have shared the day without any of them. Thank you, my dear ones.

The Friday before the wedding, Andrew's extended family had a luncheon, since it was basically a family reunion for them. Andrew and I, and my immediate family, joined them, then we met up with the wedding party at the coffee shop for the afternoon.

Then, the rehearsal. My parents live about ten minutes from the Hill House, where the wedding was to take place. In that ten minutes, between leaving my house and arriving at the Hill House, the weather changed from too-hot June sunshine to a perfectly torrential monsoon.

Needless to say, the rehearsal was a bit scattered -- inside, then outside, then back in as the rain came and went, teasing us.

Photo credit: Rachel Jones

You can see how shiny the bricks are from the rain.
But, everyone was a good sport about it.

Photo credit: Rachel Jones

I don't know if you can tell, but we're standing in a giant mud hole.

Other than the rain, it was a nice evening. Dinner was excellent, though my appetite had begun to go already due to nerves, so I couldn't eat as much as I would've liked.

We made sure the wedding party knew the essential dances -- working at summer camp gives you odd priorities like that.

Photo: Rachel Jones

Andrew and I (with some help from Ridge Haven people, of course) taught them the essentials: "Cotton-Eyed Joe", and the ridiculous but oh-so-fun "500 Miles."

They thought I was crazy, but that's okay.


Saturday was a perfect day, so I won't bore you with my chatter. Just look at these lovely pictures!

Photo: Rachel Jones
We were married here, at the Hill House in lovely Abbeville, SC.

Photo: Rachel Jones
Our two superb ministers: Jeff Thompson and Andrew Lupton; Andrew and his best man Dwight

Photo: Chris Kloc
My lovely girls and Andrew, waiting for me.

Photos: Tim Moss
My dad and I rode up in a horse and carriage -- not typical Millie, but it was my wedding day.
It was fun.

Photo: Tim Moss
And I saw Andrew's face...

Photo: Martha Faires
He had two perfect tears on his cheeks, one from each eye.

And then we got married!

Photo: Bonnie Sweeny-Hutchinson

Photo: Bonnie Sweeny-Hutchinson

Photo: Tim Moss

Photo: Bonnie Sweeny-Hutchinson

Photo: Bonnie Sweeny-Hutchinson

Photo: Rachel Jones

Photo: Taylor McKissick

Photo: Kelly Davie
My darling, wonderful girls.

Photo: Tim Moss

Photo: Tim Moss
Our beautiful and yummy cake was made by my best friend from high school and bridesmaid, Jessica Maddox. She's super -- and the cake was absolutely delicious. We only had a bite each, but sporatically during our honeymoon, Andrew and I would look at each other and say, "I hope they saved us some cake!"

Photo: Tim Moss

Photo: Tim Moss

Photo: Rachel Jones

Photo: Rachel Jones

Photo: Tim Moss
Everyone danced admirably.

Photo: Rachel Jones
Hi-fives and good-bye!

It was a blast -- a blart, as we used to say.
I'm so glad the day was splendid, and I'm so glad I don't have to do it again.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Interviews, Scams, and Corn Fritters

Job interview today! The only non-administrative job I applied for -- of course that would be the one I get an interview for. Sometimes I wonder why God keeps me out of the corporate world so fiercely.

The position I interviewed for is an "assistant to the innkeeper" position at a local bed and breakfast. The Clay Corner Inn, to be exact. It's lovely and relaxed and has the charm and personable workers that suit a small business. I would be a general help: housekeeping, laundry, some in the kitchen, some at the front desk. It's not my dream job, of course, but I think it would be enjoyable for the time being; the people seem pleasant, and there is the simple joy of "good, honest work," as the proprietor kept calling it. I should find out by the end of the week, I believe.

This interview came at the same time as an email in response to another job I applied for -- but this one quickly became obvious to be the very opposite of legit. A realtor needing a personal assistant because he travels so much (currently in Dubai?!), never mentioned a company name, terrible punctuation and grammar -- not at all how a businessman would compose an email or hire an assistant. After the second email, Andrew and I looked at each other and said, Wait a minute... I'm glad we realized the falsehood so quickly, but I feel silly for being taken in at all.


After a long and drawn out conversation about whether or not we wanted to just order pizza for supper, I left Andrew to study for his exam on Wednesday, and I pulled vegetables out of the freezer. We've been eating a lot of summer veggies, like summer squash (mmm!), zucchini, and corn on the cob. We had two ears of corn left, and I remembered a recipe I cut out from Everyday Food ages ago. What else can you do with fresh corn?

Corn Fritters! Yum!

My camera is still quite unresponsive (CPR doesn't work on electronics), but they look something like this:

See? Yum! Fresh corn and sweet batter, fried golden brown. What's not to love?

I used the recipe from Everyday Food, which you can find here. I modified the ingredients a little to fit what we already had in the cabinet: we only had two ears of corn, and I substituted Jiffy Mix for cornmeal. I kept all the measurements the same, just had a little more batter than corn, which was good, since we could really taste the sweet batter along with the sweet corn.

I highly recommend these guys. Different, but delicious.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Might is Right

Andrew started back to classes today, and I spent the day house cleaning and job hunting. I've gotten so accustomed to having Andrew around all day; it was a little pitiful how sad I was when he left this morning.

I spent a good while this morning reading through Hosea. I'm not sure why, but as I was walking down the stairs, I just suddenly thought -- Hosea. I'm going to attempt to strengthen my meditation muscles; or at least be more dilligent than I usually am in trying to get deeper into the meaning, rather than skimming the surface. I, an English major, a poet, of all people, should read the Bible well. And reader, I do not. It is one of the biggest shames of my life.

If God has impressed one thing upon me in the past two weeks, it is His sovereignty. He is in absolute control -- of all things. And more than just mighty, He is also not only wise and good, but faithful. He is completely trustworthy. He will never do anything against His character, never anything that is not for His glory and for my good. And I must trust this. Fear and uncertainty have no place in my heart if I truly believe that this is the character of God. I know I'll have to spend the rest of my life learning this lesson, but in all the frustation of a new place, of looking for a job, etc., I have been given grace to trust that He is good, and will do what is good.

"Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
whoever is discerning, let him know them;
for the ways of the Lord are right,
and the upright walk in them,
but transgressors stumble in them.
Hosea 14:9 (emphasis mine)