current city:Â Springfield, VA (suburb of Washington DC)
living situation:Â I live with my husband Robert and my “blessed trinity” of children: Caroline (age seven), Margaret (almost five) and James (almost three). We have two geriatric cats, Maya and Willy, whoâ€™ve been withÂ Robert and meÂ since the beginning of our marriage 16 years ago.
Our neighborhood is classic suburbia in many waysâ€”JulyÂ 4Â block parties and neighborhood yard sales. But itâ€™s also wonderfully diverse. We seeÂ women wearing hijab pushing their kids in strollers in our neighborhood, and there are more than 100 languages spoken here in Fairfax County.
occupation: I am pastor ofÂ Idylwood Presbyterian Church, Falls Church, VA, and a writer. I just finished a three-year stint as a monthly columnist for Presbyterians Today, our denominationâ€™s magazine, and am one of the founders of Fideliaâ€™s Sisters, an e-zine which is by and for young clergy women. Iâ€™ve written for secular publications too; I even had a short piece published in the Washington Post Style section a few years back! And I am working on two book projects, although it fills me with anxiety to say that out loud, because Iâ€™m not sure whether theyâ€™ll ever get done.
how do you structure your time and space?Â I work part-time for Idylwood, which is a small congregation. When I tell this to fellow pastors, they usually look at me knowingly and say, â€śOh come on, thereâ€™s no such thing as part-time ministry, right? You just get paid part-time for full-time work.â€ť I am on a mission to prove them wrong! This is my second call at part-time status. I started out full-time as an associate pastor of a large church seven years ago, and when James was born I asked to move to half-time. The congregation was gracious to make the change. Now I work 2/3 time.
Itâ€™s a constant struggle to find the balance. Iâ€™ve had to make peace with being the â€śgood-enough motherâ€ť and the â€śgood-enough pastor.â€ť But most days, I wouldnâ€™t have it any other way. I love the work I do, preaching, teaching and caring for this quirky congregation. Yet my schedule is flexible enough to take Margaret to â€śtap and tutuâ€ť class at the rec center and lead Carolineâ€™s Brownie meeting from time to time. I work shortened days, which allows me to exercise in the mornings and still beÂ homeafter the bus drop off in the afternoon. I work a lot of evenings too.
I have an office at the church, but I do a lot of work in my home office. Itâ€™s located in our dining room, which we converted into a creative space/study several months ago. In fact, I named my blog â€śThe Blue Roomâ€ť in honor of this room. You can read more about itÂ here.
Our childcare situation is a dream come true. A neighbor who used to teach preschool began a daycare in her basement when her own daughter was born. She follows a curriculum but itâ€™s more relaxed with the feeling of being at home. Sheâ€™s half a block away, which makes mornings and evenings much less stressful. My mother lives downtown, which allows Robert and me to have date night a few times a month.
using the metaphor of seasons to describe the phases of womenâ€™s lives,
-what are the particular challenges and highlights of your current season?Â Our family is settling into what the church calls â€śordinary time.â€ť Itâ€™s not one of the high holy seasons, such as Christmas or Easterâ€”things are just trucking along, and thatâ€™s OK. Green is the symbolic color of this season, implying growth, so I associate ordinary time with the summer months. Weâ€™re enjoying our kids at their current delightful stages of development, we like our jobs, our house feels like â€śhome,â€ť et cetera.
-what season(s) preceded this one?Â Weâ€™ve been through a lot of transition, which I associate with springâ€”planting seeds, watering and weeding, et cetera. Thereâ€™s a lot of beauty in the spring but a LOT of work as well (so Iâ€™m toldâ€”I donâ€™t garden, itâ€™s enough to keep our kids and cats alive, and I canâ€™t handle anything else!). Iâ€™ve been at my job almost a year, and my husband recently changed jobs as well, and that creates stress. Also, our kids manage to pick up every petty illness, fever and cold thatâ€™s out there, and they are NEVER sick at the same time. One gets better and the other one catches it. So our normally well-run household has been off the rails for several months.
-what season(s) might your future hold?Â Even as I live in the moment and try not to speed along my kidsâ€™ growing up, I admit Iâ€™m ready to get past the constant physical exertion of having young childrenâ€”dressing them, feeding them, wiping their butts when they poop. I will not miss diapers and sippy cups.
That said, I know from parenting our second grader that the needs are still there as they age; in fact these needsÂ only get more complex (homework, juggling activities, relationships with friends, et cetera). We don’t over-program our children but Iâ€™m a little freaked out to think about how I will get them from place to place. Even one activity a week per child adds up when there areÂ three of them! However, I love watching our kids grow more and more fully into themselves. I guess Iâ€™m doing that too.
favorite family activities: We love to go downtown to do the DC stuff: museums, the zoo, pedal boating in the Tidal Basin next to the Jefferson Memorial. This summer we lived at the pool. Weâ€™ve started doing more hiking, with a recent trip to Shenandoah National Park. We eat dinner together most nights, but Sunday night is family night, which for us means a pizza â€śpicnicâ€ť in the basement while watching a TV show everyone likes (currently Mythbusters).Â
favorite solo activities:Â Reading, lunch with friends, blogging, wandering around downtown DC, visiting a museum, getting a massage or pedicure. My morning walk is really important to me. Iâ€™ve recently gotten into the online courses through the Abbey of the Arts which is a great outlet andÂ something I can manage with my schedule.
source(s) of inspiration:Â I am inspired by artists whose lives and work speak of simplicity, wholeness and authenticity. David Wilcoxâ€™s music never ceases to inspire me, and Carrie Newcomer has provided my lifeâ€™s soundtrack for almost 15 years. Mary Oliverâ€™s poetry is a great inspiration, especiallyÂ â€śThe Journey,â€ť which is a personal mission statement of sorts.
best MakeShift moment:Â Parenting is one big improvisation, no?Â I call it parenting parkour. There have been many MakeShift moments, but the first one I thought of was seven years ago, when I was being approved for ordination. I had to attend a big meeting of the presbytery (local district of Presbyterian churches) and give a short speech and answer any questions. Caroline was six weeks old, and I knew she would get hungry right when I was supposed to be â€śon,â€ť so I ended up pumping in the backseat of the car while Robert drove us down the Capital Beltway. I always wondered whether the truck drivers said anything to one another about me on their CB radiosâ€¦
findÂ maryann on the web at http://theblueroomblog.org/Â
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