SoCS: the meaning of names

On Wednesday, I went to hear my friend Pat Raube and Martha Spong  of RevGalBlogPals read from their new book, There’s a Woman in the Pulpit. It’s one of those rare times when a publisher offered a book deal because of a blog.  It was great to be able to attend the reading and get my book signed.

Pat’s reading included a reference to her daughter’s name – Joan – and for whom she was named. I immediately thought of a welcome ceremony that Pat’s soul-sisters of Sarah’s Circle had held for Joan as an infant, which featured a coat of many colors that Pat had made for Joan.  It also included a personal blessing from each person in attendance, given verbally at the time and recorded in a book which Pat gave to Joan when she turned sixteen.

When we had a bite to eat together after the reading, the Sarah’s Circle members in attendance were reminiscing about that day and telling stories about names and their meanings and how we came to be called what we are called.

Even though Joan is about to graduate from Oberlin later this month – with Michelle Obama as commencement speaker! – I remember that I had written my blessing to her about the origin of our name. Joan (and Joanne) come from a Hebrew root and I have heard them translated as “God is gracious” or “gift of God” or my favorite “God’s gracious gift.” The last is the one I chose to incorporate into my blessing for Joan.

When I was a first year at Smith thirty-six years ago, I studied Latin with Professor Skulsky. One day she went through the class and told us all the origin of our names, although she was disappointed that none of us had names with Latin roots, like Amanda, which means “the woman who ought to be loved.”

Years later, there was a rise in popularity of Amanda as a name for new babies. My younger daughter had a number of same age Amandas in her class. I wonder if they knew the meaning of their name…

[Update: This post now has a postscript.]
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is: “name.”  Please join us! Find out how here:

adge by Doobster @Mindful Digressions

a new wrinkle

Besides joining in with Linda’s One-Liner Wednesdays, my other Wednesday staple is facilitating a spirituality study group at my church. For the last decade at least, this group has been all women  – with me, at 54, the youngest in attendance.

Today, a young man joined us.

He is about the age of my daughters, in his twenties, which makes him the age of some of the grandchildren of the other women.

It’s going to be an adjustment.  Part of it is the gender difference. Part of it is the age difference. The biggest adjustment, though, is that most of the women in this class have been studying and pondering spiritual topics for decades and have a lot of background and experience with different authors’ perspective. Even for us, Richard Rohr, whose book Immortal Diamond we are currently studying, is sometimes difficult to grasp at first hearing, as the concepts are so deep and rich. It must be daunting to be thrown into the midst of the book with no preparation.

I will have to contemplate how best to offer background and explanations.

If the poor man is brave enough to return next week…

Julie, Julia, and blogging

My first big exposure to personal blogging was the film Julie & Julia.  I knew that blogging existed in some vague way before I saw the movie, but hadn’t read many blogs or heard much about blogs that were written by individual folks.

I have to say that I was not impressed.

Julie, the blogger in the movie, becomes so obsessed with her blog about making all of the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year that she becomes whiny, petulant, and inattentive to her job, her friends, and her spouse. She gains media attention, notoriety, and a book deal, but the costs to everyone around her are high.

On the other hand, I loved the intertwined story of Julia Child in France.  Her question of “What should I do?” and her quest to figure out what that was and to pursue it with passion, persistence, and good humor, all the while staying connected to her spouse and her friends, resonated with me.

My greater affinity with Julia has a lot to do with some similarities.  Julia McWilliams Child was a proud member of the Smith College class of 1934. I am class of 1982.  That women’s college/liberal arts background was evident to me in her ability to tackle new challenges and discern her way forward, especially as an outsider at the very French and very male Le Cordon Bleu, later as part of a circle of women chef-teachers, and finally her decades of teaching people to enjoy cooking and sharing food through her television shows and cookbooks.

I also related to Julia’s age in the film. She was about 49 when Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published, which was my age when I saw Julie & Julia.  I could appreciate the re-invention(s) that women make in their middle years and the ability to keep learning and growing that makes re-invention possible.

Maybe, if Julia’s story were unfolding in the 21st century, there would be a fabulous blog or website to accompany her book and television endeavors.

Maybe not.

Still, despite my initial bad impression of blogging, here I sit, writing a blog post about it.

Julie taught me things that I didn’t want my blog to be:  limited to a narrow topic, time-constrained, high-pressure, all-consuming.

Julia taught me to stay open to change, to accept criticism but to maintain the integrity of my work, to remember to enjoy time with family and friends (and food), to persevere even when it looks like the goal is unattainable.

So, I find myself five years after the film with a blog that is almost a year old that is eclectic and (I hope seen as) thoughtful, that has started to attract a small group of readers and commenters who appreciate some of the topics I write about and the way in which I write about them.  I have also in these years rediscovered poetry and am working to improve my poems and find appropriate journals or publishers with a goal of being published in print.

Unlike Julie and Julia, I am unlikely to ever publish a full-length book. I may eventually be able to publish a chapbook of poetry, but it won’t be as a result of my blog – or my cooking.

And I won’t give up from the discouraging number of rejection notices.

Julia didn’t.



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