Monday, December 22, 2008

Merry Christmas 2008

Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukah. Cheerful Kwanzaa. For our pagan friends, solstice salutations. It’s bit late for Eid ul-Fitr greetings, but what the heck. For those of you accustomed to our usual late holiday card: an early happy King Day to you, and to all our friends who are Democrats or liberal-leaning Independents a very, very, very happy early Inauguration Day to you!
This year we are either a) going green, b) going cheap, or c) getting realistic. This e-greeting will kill no trees, use no stamps and not require of any of the Lederle-Ensign household the Herculean effort required to boldly go where no one of us has gone before: the post office. To underscore the upside of e-missives even more, this letter has hyper-links for your optional edification or just to see lots of pictures from our lives over the past year or so!
It’s just been that kind of year … or two, as last year’s letter got written but never made it out of my laptop … which was stolen (in March).
The stereotypical annual family holiday letter gets panned, unfairly in my opinion (which should come as no surprise!), for incessant bragging on the successes of the previous year. Well, in our own special twist, our highlights include one high-school dropout and one parent arrested among a slew of more mundane events.
OK. Bud did not actually drop out of high school. His parents pulled him out after seeing one too many progress reports – and we use the term “progress” advisedly – that showed a great gap between promise and performance. As we’ve explained to the Arlington Public Schools, “we gave you one of the smartest kids in the country, according to various standardized tests, and you couldn’t engage him.”
So, believing that it does take villages to raise their own idiots, er, I mean children, we turned to friends, family and the community college system to create what has become a wonderfully rich 18-month experiment in self-directed learning. The path has included studying early childhood development in a hands-on way both through a child care center and as a two- or three-day per week full-time child care provider for the three-year-old son of close friends in Rockville, MD. (The latter experience produced my personal favorite line from the past year when Bud called me at church one afternoon and said, simply, “potty training sucks.”) Bud has also taken numerous classes at Northern Virginia Community College, and has found the college scene much more compelling than high school. It will all culminate, we trust, in Bud receiving his high-school diploma from the Clonlara School in the spring, right on time with his friends at Wakefield. This time next year, we hope to be telling you of his adventures in college.
Martin entered Wakefield as a freshman this fall, and though the first few months have been a bit rocky – the education of boys is not all beer and skittles – he is such a different child from his older brother that we trust the school will do a good job of narrowing the gap between promise and performance this time. We shall see. In the meantime, Martin is swimming like a fast fish and growing like a slender weed. He also fiddles with the orchestra, and fiddles around too much on Facebook. He spent another happy session at Hanover in August and is preparing this month for winter camp right after Christmas. He remains quiet (too quiet) at school and quick-witted at home. (This afternoon’s example: a concept for a new TV show about a cranky veterinarian who only takes the strangest cases: Dog House. It’s still never lupus.) Martin is a gentle, thoughtful, playful, creative, very hairy young man, who has already donated one ponytail to Locks of Love and could produce another one with a few more shaggy months.
Hannah is also a hairy little one, with long, flowing locks she waves with all the sass a nine-year-old girl can muster. She is a strong-willed, independent fourth grader, who loves to read and play with Josie, her best friend of the past five years. Life is going to take a drastic turn for Hannah in 2009, because Josie’s dad is a state department officer heading to Tunisia for two years beginning at the end of the school year. Already we are exploring a trip, because the Atlantic is not wide enough to keep these two girls apart for two whole years.
If we get to go, you can feel happy that your tax dollars are supporting our journey, as Cheryl has been a full-time employee of your federal government since early this year. She continues to love her work in the office of strategic initiatives (sounds way too much like the CIA) at the Library of Congress. Her primary responsibility is educational outreach – helping make the digital resources of the world’s largest library available to kids in classrooms across the country. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it! Well, you’ll be happy to hear that Cheryl remains her humble self, reading, baking the best pizza anywhere, chasing children, putting up with David and knitting like a surgeon on speed … or something.
David, meanwhile, really did get arrested – with 40-some others at the March 9 Christian Peace Witness for Iraq and Olive Branch Interfaith Peace Partnership. We’ll be back at it next month, celebrating the legacy of Dr. King and the hope inspired by the incoming administration. At this point, there are no plans to get arrested again. Speaking of the new administration, if you’re looking for a free place to stay for the inauguration, drop us a line. We’ve still got floor space! Beyond continued work for peace, the ongoing ministry at Clarendon continues to be full of life and energy and love, and we’re looking forward to being part of this vibrant little community of faith for as long as God calls us together.
Metro DC has come to feel like home to us, and we love sharing the sights of this great city with friends. As a result, we get to host lots of folks from the famous to friends and family. Hannah’s room doubles as guest room, and last year she gave up her bedroom to John Bell, Rick Ufford-Chase, Noah Budin and host of other wonderful folks who don’t have web presences to link. As you might guess, we’ve hosted a lot of wonderful conversations, and most of the problems of the world have been solved on our front porch. Alas, the world has little noted the wisdom we have to offer. Ah, well, we’ll welcome you whether or not you’ve got a website or any particular wisdom. So come and see us in ’09 – unless we’re in Tunisia!
Grace and peace,
Bud, Martin, Hannah, Cheryl & David

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Facebook Politics, this time

Seems Facebook has become the site-du-jour for various bits of interesting chatter. This conversation occurred on my friend and colleague, Tim Simpson's page.
Headline: Prop. 8 Sponsors Seek to Nullify 18K Gay Marriages

What kind of person wakes up in the morning and says "I think I'm going to try and invalidate thousands of people's marriages today"? There are reptiles who aren't that cold-blooded. Should we be surprised that the one who has been chosen to argue this Prop H8 case before the CA Supreme Court is Kenneth Starr?
Commenter 1: those marriages should be nullified because they are wrong in God's eyes.
David Ensign: Even if they were wrong in God's eyes -- which many of us do not believe -- what business is it of the state to deny legal rights, responsibilities and privileges based solely on the individuals being part of a broad class to any couple who desire to enter into a binding legal contract pledging their lives and property to one another (and thereby ... Read Morebeing granted tax privileges, partner benefits rights, child-custody rights, and roughly 200 additional rights/responsibilities/benefits that accrue to straight married couples)? Where ever religious communities stand on the issue, this suit seeks to nullify legal status. God's eyes will not be involved -- although I would argue strongly that God's love already is.
Timothy Simpson: That kind of reasoning might work for the Taliban in Afghanistan or the ayatollahs in Iran, but in American jurisprudence, saying that God doesn't like something is a theological, not a legal argument which has its place in a church but not in a courtroom. There are people in America who think that God doesn't like blacks being married to whites but we don't pay attention to such reasoning. If we deny gays the same rights as straights, we have to have different reasons than this. And in this case, to go back AFTER THE FACT and tell people who have adopted or conceived children, who have bought homes, started businesses and done everything else legally and contractually that married couples do everywhere that their marriages are null and void is simply unconscionable. How could Christians do that to the children of such families? Could you imagine the government breaking up your own children's family like that? I certainly can't and can't imagine that this is what God wants.
Facebook is the place to be!