Wednesday, December 31, 2008


To Life!

I am glad to see 2008 come to a close. There was hurt, sadness, disappointment and loss woven through too many of its days to call it a good year.

And yet good did occur. Junior survived five years of wartime and too many tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, and for that we are extremely grateful. I am back at work in the church in a place that I love, and Ken and I both have a lot to offer that parish, as indeed they have much to offer us. I am getting my feet back under me with increasing sureness. I am closing the year exercising maternal instincts and love while fostering the puppies, and there is deep joy in that. Down in my bones there is hope that fuels optimism, and with that comes a "can do" liveliness that I haven't felt for a very long time.

This week I buried two souls. One had lived a relatively long and contented life, and though her later years were marred by alzheimer's, her spirit transcended the disease that imprisoned her mind and body. The other was 30 years old, a young and vital life robbed by cancer. The farewells to each of these women were sad and celebratory, and as tributes often go, those given were testimonies to the best that each of these women had to offer. It is at times like this that I take stock of my deficits and fine tune my desires to do better, be better as a person, priest, friend... When my day comes I want my life to have mattered.

I continue to learn about faith, love, friendship, marriage and family, and though it isn't always evident, I believe that such learning informs changes in outlook and even, yes, behavior! Such changes can come slowly, and the learning sometimes needs repeating, but it comes. That is the way it is. That is life. And here's to it.

Happy New Year. Happy Life!

Monday, December 29, 2008

this is my son

There were some classic “Juniorisms” this Christmas:

One of our gifts was a sample pack of coffee that included House Vienna blend. “Does that come with those little sausages?” he quipped.

Santa gave each of us a “Life is Good” shirt, with a request that we take a group photo wearing our shirts. Three of us were ready to go for our photo shoot, but Junior was not wearing his. Why? “I can’t wear a shirt that says life is good,” he says, “my life is great!”

And in the perhaps-you-had-to-be-here category… I had fed the pups shortly before Trisha and Junior arrived Christmas night. When they got here we exchanged hugs and hellos and then he said, “Where are those puppies?” I escorted him to my office where the little ones were in their box. He picked one up and was carrying it around when it pooped on him. “Whoa!” he laughed, and she pooped again. We outfitted him with a towel to prevent further wardrobe casualties, and though he avoided further soiling the puppies were just getting going. When it came time to head to bed it was also time for the wee ones to have another feeding. Junior and Trisha offered to take the feeding so that I could go to bed, an offer I welcomed. Trisha and I got clean papers and a towel to put into the puppies’ box while Junior went to heat the bottles. A moment later we heard him in the doorway and turned to discover that he had learned a lesson earlier about pooping puppies: he stood there with bottles in each hand wearing nothing but an apron and a mischievous grin. (Photo is a reenactment)

And then there's this--his favorite Christmas present? Not the hunting paraphernalia, the rockin' clothes, the cash or even the gift from Ema. His favorite gift was this ornament.

What takes the prize for this holiday, however, was a moment at the Opry Saturday night. There's a song by Rodney Atkins than Junior claims is his song for Ken. It's a wonderful song about a young boy who imitates his father and wants to grow up to be just like him. During the early part of the show I was thinking that it would be nice if there were a song that could somehow capture the special "mother-son" relationship that he and I have. Heck, I thought, I might even have to write my own song since it is a pretty rare thing to hear about. Well, I didn't have to wait long to be proven wrong. A family bluegrass group called Cherryholmes performed a song called "This is my Son." Half way through the song the tears were rolling down my face, and I reached across the back of the seats to touch Junior's shoulder. When the song ended I turned to look at him and he said, "I love you."

Here's the song.

happy 5th day!

Since we are still in the season of Christmas I hope you'll indulge some continued postings on the subject! There are a couple of posts yet to come that are awaiting pictures from the camera and some thoughtful composition. In the meantime, just a wee reflection today.

For whatever reason Christmas memories from childhood have been in abundance this year, and they are beginning to inspire thoughts about Christmases of the future. For instance, Christmas decorating had a theme each year, inspired by holiday traditions of all kinds. One year it would be the magi, with the three wise men adorning the top of the piano, decorating the mantel, and showing themselves in displays of cards collected from previous years and mounted on backings of ribbon or fabric tacked to the hallway closet door. Another year it would be the "12 days," and a partridge in a pear tree would find its way into the decor. There was also a banner hung above the fireplace, a felt backing with lines of thin, gold ribbon forming a musical staff, and small tree ornament balls in gold placed to form the notes of the repeating line, (sing with me now) "and a partridge in a pear tree." Other years it would be music, and the decorations would again reflect the theme, and cards would be displayed...

It is really genius, I think, to do this. For one thing it keeps Christmas decorations from suffering the fate of familiarity, and it allows the creative spirit to be engaged each year with fresh vitality. The themed decorations didn't banish the items that came out every year by any means, they simply added a focus. There was comfort with the old and inspiration with the new--the best of both worlds. So Mom, thanks for all the hours and love you put into making Christmas last through a lifetime!

There are a host of other memories too: making and decorating cookies that were individually wrapped and taped to a conically shaped tree made of green foil wrapping paper. Each of us kids had our own tree that we then took to school to share with our class; making toffee and spiced tea mix to take as gifts to neighbors and friends; the family Advent calendar that hung on the back of the front door...

I also remember finding time to myself to plug a set of headphones into the stereo, put on the music from "The Nutcracker," turn on the Christmas tree lights and sit tucked into a space beside the end table near the Christmas tree to be warmed by the lights and music. Snug, cozy spaces were favorite places for me to relish solitude.

There are more memories, but this is a blog, not a book. And you get the idea.

Seven days left!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Keith Urban, redux

Junior’s been itching to get to the Grand Old Opry ever since we moved to Lebanon almost three years ago. This weekend we finally got there, and better yet (in one sense), it was back at the Ryman Auditorium, the downtown location associated with this country music institution for so many years. As it happened we lucked out with the bill: Julianne Hough and Keith Urban.

Keith Urban was utterly charming. For one thing he wasn’t in ratty blue jeans and a t-shirt. He actually wore a button-down shirt and what looked like, dare I say it, a comfortably worn pair of jeans sans tears and holes. (I suspect Nicole’s influence). But that’s not the charming part—simply an improvement in appearance, in my opinion.

The Ryman is actually an “intimate” setting, at least compared to stadiums and the like where so many concerts take place these days, and considerably smaller than the current Opry venue. The Ryman holds about 2000 people on two levels.

When Keith came on stage he told the audience that his wife’s family is in town for the holidays, and she told him it would be lovely if they could all go to the Opry while they were here. Could he call them up and ask if he could perform? (Is that cute or what?) He did, they said yes.

After his first song (he played solo, no backup band, just Keith and his guitar), a member of the audience lifted his three-year-old daughter up onto the stage to offer Keith a rose and a little stuffed monkey. Keith thought this was really cute and started to talk to her. She got shy and turned away, so Keith bent down to be at her level and tried again, asking her name. She would have none of it, so her father replied, “Ellie.” Without missing a beat Keith said, “Wow, Ellie, you have such a deep voice.” He continued to try to engage her, but to no avail. Sweet, sweet moment.

He then asked if there was a stool that he could sit on for the next number, and a woman near the front of the stage called out, “you can sit on my lap!” He laughed good-naturedly, then after a stool was offered settled into “Making Memories of Us,” which he dedicated to Nicole (somewhere out there in the audience).

He had planned two songs, the standard Opry set, but the host for his half-hour invited him to sing a third. He asked the audience for suggestions, and people shouted out all kinds of ideas. “Well, that was a mistake," he chuckled. He finally settled on “Somebody Like You,” and launched into it with full audience participation, country style. You know, like when he gets to the chorus he stops singing and the audience continues on for him? At about the third time around of that the audience was in full swing, and they imitated his “you-uuu-uuu-uu-uu-uu” with such vigor that he broke up laughing. In fact, he was laughing so hard that he couldn’t collect himself to pick up the next verse. He stopped and laughed. Tried again. Laughed. It was the greatest thing.

Not to slight Julianne Hough, who is utterly adorable, she did a great job as well, but her performance just didn't have that added personal touch. We'll cut her some slack, she's new at this (and since we adore her anyway, it doesn't matter). We also had a little fun prior to the start of the show. Our seats were in the last row downstairs, on the far right, just in front of the WSM radio booth. When we got there a guy was inside being interviewed. People (okay, women) kept coming up to the booth to take pictures through the window. Trisha and I kept wondering who the guy was. Turns out it was Chuck Wicks, to which we replied, "who?" We learned when we came onstage that he sings "Stealing Cinderella." Oh! That guy! (Hey, he's a newcomer, not recognizing his name is okay). More fun was that Julianne also came into the booth and sat on his lap for a laugh. All ten feet away from us.

The only disappointment was that my colleague, Stu Phillips, was slated to be on the program last night but was a last minute cancel (well, somebody had to give up a slot to make room for Keith!). He has offered repeatedly to have us come to the Opry as his guests and come backstage. Bummer that of all nights when it would have been such fun to do that we couldn’t! I think I’ll give him a good ribbing next time I see him, which may, in fact, be today.

The kids are still asleep as I write this, and pictures are in Trisha’s camera, so I’ll try to post those later. In the meantime I'm enjoying thinking back on a fun evening and savoring the memory.

Happy Sunday, it sure is in this house!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

happy st. john's day!

I actually have a quiet moment to myself, a rare event this last week. Monday through Wednesday my spare hours were committed to completing Christmas shopping, getting groceries, cleaning the house, and so on. Ugh! I am now committed to putting deadlines on next year's calendar to accomplish certain tasks and not procrastinate. I am not a fan of last minute anything at Christmas! Though we would have loved for Junior and Trisha to be with us for the entire day on Christmas, it worked out just fine that they didn't get here until dinner time. I was on Santa and Elf duty until lunch time, after which point I shifted gears to play the role of domestic diva. In between, of course, there was a puppy feeding schedule, but that never felt burdensome.Anyway, half an hour before the kids got here Ken and I actually had a few moments to sit and relax! A good thing, too, because once J and T got here we were in high gear until 2:30 in the morning! We didn't eat until 9:00 or so because we got so busy talking, and then there were presents to open!
By late afternoon I confess that the stressed, nonstop task-focused nature of the day had worked to deflate my spirits significantly, but when J & T arrived that all changed. We had a great evening and lots of fun. We love Trisha, and she is a good match for Junior in so many ways. By the time we finished with stockings in the wee hours, I was a zombie, and the kiddos kindly offered to take care of feeding the pups so I could go to bed.

When we got up the next morning Junior was fast asleep on the couch with a cover half open over him. I got him properly covered and pillowed (look, Mom--it's the pillowcase you made me when I was a kid!) so he could catch more comfortable zzz's, and the rest of us chatted, cleaned up the mess from the night before, and enjoyed coffee.
A planned trip to Cracker Barrell for breakfast turned out to be Mexican for lunch, and before I knew it it was 3:30 in the afternoon before I had a chance to take a breath and a break. Phew! After that I spent more hours than should have been required to make a blog to post our Christmas letter, but at least now it's done. If I didn't send you a link (it was the middle of the night after a puppy feeding when I sent it out), you can see it here.

This afternoon the plans are to go see the holiday decorations at the Opryland Hotel, then head downtown to go to the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman. Keith Urban (hmmm, where have I heard that name before?) and Julianne Hough are part of the lineup, and I won't even start to tell you what we went through to get the tickets!

Well, that's enough for now. This has turned out to be a happier holiday than I anticipated it would be, and I am grateful for that.

Friday, December 26, 2008

puppy update

Finally, some puppy pictures! Three weeks and a day today.

The top photo is of the pups in their most typical pose: asleep! They feast, they pee and poop, they recover from the combined effort. Rinse (do not miss this step!) and repeat. Mom isn't around to take care of this essential step Are they not the cutest?
I have finally allotted names to them for functional purposes--these are not names I would attach permanently to any of them. Top left is Flora--she has the markings of what looks a bit like a fleur de lis on her forehead, hense the name. Spooning with her is Goldie (self-explanatory). In the relatively jumbled and indistinguishable mass of the rest of them we have Blackie (almost no markings on her face whatsoever), Wee One (the smallest), or Little Bit, and finally, Big Boy (the only boy of the lot).
In the second picture Flora is taking nourishment. Gulps, and gulps of nourishment.
And in the final photo Wee One rests her head while her lips nuzzle my thumb.
We know the mom is a Golden Retriever. Junior thinks the father is Rottweiler, given coloring and head shape. He may be right. If so, these will be large, sturdy dogs!
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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Joyous Christmas!

Christmas greetings to everyone! We are beginning our day by the light of the tree and the sound of hungry puppies! It will be a mostly relaxing day for us (still have a few presents to wrap, but I'll get those done early). Junior and Trisha arrive around dinner time and then the day will feel like Christmas to me, but it will be nice for Ken and me to enjoy a quiet day together. I hope it's a wonderful day for you and yours, and that love and laughter rule!
Merry Christmas!

Updates: the puppies are doing great. Growing like weeds, noisy when they're hungry, and last night slept through the night! At this time there are no plans to keep any of them. I am fostering them through difficult days and enjoying being able to fuss and coo over them.

The ticket that wasn't: turns out that my insurance card was in the car all the time! Right there in the back seat in its original envelope, buried under some other "stuff" that doesn't belong there. Grateful once again for the grace of that day!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

okay, this sucks

I had two doctor appointments yesterday. At the first I said, "I want to talk to you about my mind, I think it's vanishing." I shared the anecdote about the time recently when I went to put leftover soup in the refrigerator and instead I put it in the microwave. Ken brought this to my attention with grave concern. Alas, my mind is being age appropriate. Between menopausal changes, medication and stress, results are typical. I think Ken will be relieved to learn that. But the best part about sharing this concern with the doctor was her summary response: "midlife comes at a bad time."

But the bad news was yet to come. At my annual physical in the afternoon I learned that I had high cholesterol. Say it ain't so! Since the early days of testing those ranges doctors have told me that my cholesterol levels were enviable. Enviable! So where is this coming from? My diet is exceedingly free of cholesterol-friendly nutrients, and though I don't get the kind of exercise I should, my vital signs are quite good, thank you very much. "Oh," the doctor says, "when you reach 45-50 your cholesterol is 20% diet and exercise and 80% genetic." Thanks, Dad!

So now I am joining the ranks of the aging population that includes daily multiple pill-popping. Apparently my body hasn't caught on to the fact that I am a non-conformist. We'll have to have a talk.

My grandmother had a hand-lettered phrase posted in her bedroom in her later years. It read "Old age is not for sissies." She would know. She was no sissy. She also claimed that if you weren't old you wouldn't understand the profundity of that saying. Well, I have one thing to say to you, Boppy. I'm gaining on you!

Merry Christmas Eve to all, and to all, good health.

Monday, December 22, 2008

things I love about this time of year... addition to the usual
~ Mail carriers make their rounds wearing Santa hats
~ Small businesses have plates of cookies out for customers and clients (this has included UPS, the doctor's office, and the accountant, to name a few)
~ Christmas lights, however sparse or extensive
~ decorated mailboxes
~ Caroling parties
~ stockings
~ wrapping presents
~ holiday fragrances in the house
~ Christmas music on the stereo while I'm busy cleaning, wrapping, cooking or baking
~ the glow of lights on the tree
~ packages that arrive
~ snow (if only we had some!)
~ nice things people do for complete strangers just because
~ fires in the fireplace
~ and this year, a puppy asleep tucked inside my robe while I type...
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

sunshine on a cloudy day

It was a dark and stormy day yesterday, or almost. Gray and rainy, in any event. At breakfast Ken said he wanted to drive up to Clarksville to visit the grave of his daughter, Brooke, who died from SIDS when she was 6 weeks old. He hadn't been there for a while, and she had been on his mind.

We got off the highway a few exits early and took on the state roads toward our destination. And there I was, heading downhill, not paying attention to speed, when I passed the local sheriff. Foot immediately came off the gas, but, uh-oh, in my rear-view mirror he was doing a U-turn.

I began to slow down, and sure enough, as he got closer to me his lights came on. I pulled over.

"I'm Corporal L," he announced, "with the Cheatham County Speed Enforcement Department. Are you aware how fast you were going?" The truth is, I wasn't. I told him so. I had my registration out, and my stomach was dropping as I realized that my current insurance card was not in the car. I explained as much to him. In the meantime, he noticed the "clergy" tag on the dash.

"Who's the clergy?" he inquired. I stated that it was me, and he asked where I served. Ken and I both noticed that his shoulders slumped a bit. "I'm between a rock and hard place," he observed. "State law requires that I cite you for driving without proof of insurance." I told him I understood, and then he sealed his decision with the following question. "Where you folks headin'?"

Ken piped up that we were going to the cemetery, just as I said, "his daughter's grave." You could see the officer's thoughts cross his face as he looked down the road and closed his book. "You all go ahead. Be careful. And get your insurance document up to date."

I thanked him as he backed away. Ken and I looked at each other as the rain started to hit the windshield. "Well," I said. "The good news is that now it's in my consciousness to remember to take my insurance card out to the car." He just laughed.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all, journey safe.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


The other day I stopped in at my local boarding kennel and dog rescue facility to see what sort of rascals might be there for adoption. I am really missing Dooley, and though another dog won't replace him, they will begin to grow into that empty space in my heart and offer me another furry face to love.

Nancy, the owner and patron saint of rescued animals (in my opinion), was overwhelmed by a number of things, among them a litter of ten puppies that were two weeks old and suddenly orphaned. The owners of these pups didn't know how to, and wasn't up to the care necessary at this age to keep these puppies alive. Nancy had five of them and the the other five were being fostered, but only until this weekend.

"I'll take them," I found myself saying. I came home and told Ken that it would be the best Christmas present he could give me if he would consent to me bringing them home for a while to foster. "Sure!" he said. Merry Christmas!

They are too young to be utterly adorable, with squished in noses, closed eyes (that are starting to open) and closed ears. Oh, and sharp little toenails! But they are adorable nonetheless. The mom is a Golden Retriever, and dad is anyone's guess at this point. There are four black and one golden, and I am working on names.

Pictures later. When they're asleep they are all cuddled together for warmth, and when they're being fed, well, my hands are a little full to act as photographer. So in the next few days when I'm not finishing up Christmas activity I'm feeding puppies and teaching them how to pee and poop! Thank you, K-Mart, for cheap towels.

Friday, December 19, 2008

will everyone please relax?

There is way too much broohaha over Barack Obama's choice of Rick Warren to offer the invocation at the inauguration. The most vocal rejection of this choice comes from gay rights activists because Rick Warren believes that marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman. There are others who think that Warren is tainting himself by associating with Obama at all. It is the usual in politics--you can't please everybody.

Personally, I think Warren is an inspired choice. Choosing him extends an olive branch of sorts to the conservative right. They should appreciate the enormity of this--I can't think of a conservative who would have acted in like manner (I'm not saying there aren't any, but none in the public eye come to mind). Warren's role at the inauguration signals to the right what Obama said in his acceptance speech on election night, "I hear you." He understands clearly that he is president of all the people, not just those with whom he agrees or those who voted for him. Warren is offering a prayer, not policy. Billy Graham did the same.

Rick Warren is not a bad person. He is not arrogant or rude, and perhaps more importantly, he does not demonize those with whom he disagrees. He is a man of clear and strong convictions, passionate about his faith and about sharing that passion with others so that their faith may, in turn, be enriched. I think that's a good thing. He is also opposed to gay marriage. His understanding of scripture leads him there. I do not believe, however, that this belief defines him as a person. Each of us is greater than the sum of our parts and our beliefs. It would be one thing if Rick Warren was on a crusade to persecute gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered people, but he's not. He is simply like many other conservative Christians (and non-Christians) that hold this particular view.

Obama has been amazingly expansive in his view of how to equip his administration to make the best choices for what is good for the American people. Whatever his own views on particular issues, he has the wisdom to understand that sometimes a path that diverges from the course he would like to set will yield the greater good. His selection of Rick Warren reflects that thinking. Let's embrace Obama's wisdom and move on. There are far, far more important things to spend our energy on.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

christmas rush

Sorry to miss posting yesterday. I had one all written and ready to go and it evaporated into some portion of cyber space. I had spent considerable time tracking down the image I wanted to use, and you know me, I tend to write with care so it was too much, given time constraints, to reconstruct it all.

The gist of my post was this: where are all the Christmas cards? We've received about a dozen so far, and here we are with a week to go before Christmas. Ordinarily at this point we have about 50 or 60, with between 5 and 8 each day in the mailbox. Not this time! I know the economy is bad, but...

I have three more packages to post, and I will try to get those out this morning. We're all being told that this is the last day to mail to assure Christmas delivery. Ach! Mom, one of them is to you all!

We have company coming for dinner tonight--it's our pastoral care core group, of which Ken is a member, and he invited them to meet at the house. Well heck, if they're coming here for an evening meeting they may as well eat! Curried chicken stir fry with coconut milk and peanuts (it's yummy), and I'm still trying to figure out what to do for dessert. I had been thinking about meringue nests with fruit--one of the group is trying to avoid gluten . I have a mental image of the ones Mom used to make and it keeps calling to me.
Better dash--there's lots to get done today and the day isn't getting any younger. Hope yours is stellar!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

a slice of sunday

Here's a shot of the setting of our Sunday evening. The Christmas tree is now decorated, and there ARE presents under it, though you can't see them in this picture (they're small). Ken loves to have a fire going on a cold day, so once we got home from a friend's party he started it up. I have also redone the mantel. It had pointsettias and cedar sprigs along it, but alas, I lack my mother's green thumb and didn't tend the pointsettias very well. They dropped their leaves like crazy and looked like they belonged in Charlie Brown's conservatory. I have opted (close your ears, Mom) to go with artificial, which I can't kill. Fortunately I found very real looking garland and some red berries, along with sprigs of ivy that now decorate the stretch of mantel with some festivity. It isn't a well lit space, so it is hard to see even when standing in front of it, but I'm working with what I've got. I did manage to put a couple of candle fixtures up on the ends (not lit in this picture--I forgot about that detail), but nothing else will fit.

And a word about that chair and footstool on the right. We picked that up at a warehouse that sells off hotel furnishings when hotels remodel or refurbish. This set came from the Opryland hotel, and I've got two of them, plus a pair of standing lamps, at my office at the church. The chair and footstool cost $89. Talk about a find!

Anyway, back to Sunday. One of the nice things about being back at Epiphany is the people there. There are old friends from my time there before, but I am also enjoying getting to know and building relationships with those who are new to me. Among them is Yolande. Like Ken, she's the kind of person who never met a stranger, and we both enjoy her so much. She hosted a holiday open house Sunday afternoon and demonstrated that she deserves the sobriquet given to her by her friends: the hostess with the mostess. Check out this spread!

But besides being a wonderful hostess, Yolande is one of the giving and generous people I know. In the short time that I have been at Epiphany she has "been there" for me more than you can imagine. When Ken has had his health blips of late, she's the first person I call. It is a blessing for me to have such a person in my life, especially when the rest of my sisterhood lives so far away. And Yolande, I'm not just saying this because you are reading this blog, I would have written this anyway! Hugs to you!

And hugs to the rest of you all. You all bless my life and make it richer.
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Monday, December 15, 2008

perhaps my favorite song of the season

Although this isn't specifically about Jesus' birth, this is a beautiful song, and wonderfully written.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"checking the list" meme

Thanks to Jayne, who had this on her blog this morning, I have something to post here! Things from this list that I have done are in bold.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band - does jamming in the living room with your brothers count?
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain (actually hiked up a mountain)
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang/played a solo

11. Bungee jumped - and I don't intend to!
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch

15. Adopted a child - how about a dog?
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
- the picture is in my college yearbook!
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon - Ha!
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset

31. Hit a home run - I say "Ha!"
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language - I tried to learn Gaelic--resources for self-teaching in this part of the world are extremely limited!
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David in person
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant - I paid for someone's toll once...
44. Visited Africa - technically, yes, I've been to Egypt, but that is such a limited experience of Africa...
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
- I rode in the front seat, does that count?
47. Had your portrait painted (it was done in pastels)
48. Gone deep sea fishing - I was along for the ride and too young to hold the pole
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater

55. Been in a movie - Do I get half credit for being on the CBS evening news?
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Gotten flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

65. Gone sky diving - some things are better experienced virtually
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one

94. Made a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake - but I've floated in the Dead Sea!
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Gotten a speeding ticket

Some of these things are on my to do list. Others--not so much. You?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

by request

I've been asked to share some of the gems I discovered while dusting out the cobwebs of my church memory and redecorating the space a bit. Fun stuff! It's been interesting to me that, at least online, the mainline Protestant denominations tend toward overviews of the topics I'm wanting to research. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox sites, on the other hand, are taking me into another world, and it's fascinating. A tip of the biretta, as is said in high church circles, to those two for providing me (and us) with such rich information. (See picture of biretta, called by some of us, irreverently, the silly little hat.)

Today's tidbit is the difference between a hymn and a carol. A hymn praises or offers praise to God, and is generally joyful and reverent in its musical tone. It's lyrics also tend to be instructive, and it is not uncommon for the content of a hymn to be based on on a scriptural text. For instance, the Advent hymn Prepare the way, O Zion:

Prepare the way, O Zion, your Christ is drawing near!
Let every hill and valley a level way appear.
Greet One who comes in glory, foretold in sacred story,
Oh, blest is Christ that came in God's most holy name.

is based on the Gospels of Mark (1:3) and John (1:23), that harken back to the prophet Isaiah, "In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God" (40:3).

A carol, on the hand, is narrative in nature. Stemming from the medieval mystery play the carol is designed to teach the Christian story of the Incarnation to those who could not read. Like stained glass windows, the carol shares the story by means other than the written word. For instance, the Christmas carol Away in a manger:

Away in a manger, no crib for his bed,
the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay
the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay.

Make sense? I'll try to me a bit more mundane tomorrow. Cheers!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

one last word on the 12 days

I'm afraid my post yesterday came across as critical of anyone who didn't celebrate Christmas during the 12 days. That was not my intent, and that is not how I feel. I am truly sorry if anyone felt that I was being disapproving. Not true! Hell, our tree is up, I've got music on, the house is decorated, and I shop all year long when I can manage to. Furthermore my creche is breaking all the rules. Not only is Jesus already there but so are the Magi! (Of course, Jesus is permanently attached to Mary, so it's a little hard for her to be there waiting for his arrival.)

My complaint about the 12 days is that the reference to them is misused. It is yet another occasion when a symbol is appropriated out of its original context, and its original meaning is either distorted or lost all together. And in some cases (and I'm not referring to the 12 days here) a new meaning becomes attached to the symbol that takes on a life greater than even the original symbol carried. At times the original source of an icon's value is acused of being a fake (wish I could think of an example at the moment, but I'm in a hurry--still have to to the hair, face, and get dressed thing before getting over to the office in the next 30 minutes).

A wise man once told me that as a priest if I was going to break the rules, at least know that I was doing so (like with the creche--I know how it is supposed to be set up, and maybe next year I'll do something about that). His point was that making decisions and choices out of ignorance was not acceptable. This applies to all facets of life, but the object lesson for me took place in a professional context. Being informed is critical not only to making good decisions, but also because when we are informed we help maintain the framework of common understanding.

Okay, this post is getting into deeper stuff than I ever intended, and I'm afraid I can't wrap this up neatly at the moment. I just wanted to clear the air and try to right what I felt had been a wrong. And now I'm afraid I need to excuse myself because I have an urgent date with the blow-dryer.

Have a great one!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

those pesky 12 days

I'm preparing an intensive Confirmation Class for some parishioners as we anticipate the annual visit of our bishop January 4. Ordinarily such a class would meet for a period of about 8 weeks, but since I began my appointment at the church in November, the bishop's scheduled visit and two major holidays all clanged together in a two-month period, there is no opportunity for "the usual."

No problem. This is stuff I can do pretty well in my sleep, but we are going to be a small and thoughtful (read "smart") group, so I want to do better than pretty well, and I've been brushing up.

Holy Cow, if you'll pardon the seasonally appropriate pun. There is some really cool stuff out there that I knew nothing about! Like the origin of Advent calendars (without knowing it my Mama raised me right--we had a tree on our calendar); the three-fold coming of Christ (and here we've been talking about the second coming like THAT was the ultimate); the difference between hymns and carols...

I'm having a ball with all this minutiae that is actually quite meaningful. Of course this stuff would be fun for me--I'm a person who loves metaphor and symbols, and the Church is loaded with it. Who knew (well, I guess God did) that becoming a priest would be such a good fit for me?

This also coincides a bit with my usual annual desire to go on a rant about the abuse of the Twelve Days of Christmas. The Food Network's Twelve Days of Cookies (some of which I will probably try to make) and a few other web sites splash "12 Days of" stuff all over the place with such glee that it's hard to feel annoyed, but I am a bit of a stickler about this kind of thing. In the spirit of the season and of learning, however, I've decided not to rant, but relate.

The "twelve days of Christmas" refers to the season of Christmas according to the liturgical year of the Church. The first day of Christmas is Christmas Day, and they follow accordingly through January 5, also known as Twelfth Night. January 6 is the Feast of the Epiphany, which marks the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem and the recognition by humanity of God's divinity in the Christ child. (This very abbreviated lesson is now over.)

I have a friend who, with her husband, open their Christmas gifts to each other during the twelve days, one gift each day. One year I even did that with my friend Clare, since my package to her was shipped so late that it was likely going to arrive sometime during the "12 days." It's actually sort of a fun way to extend the season. And in some households I know, the Christmas tree goes up Christmas Eve and comes down on Twelfth Night, so as to be true to the season (according to the church year).

Whenever you mark the twelve days it is my wish for you that you enjoy them. I'll love you no matter what.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

just missed those 15 seconds of fame

Imagine this: a few days ago there was a photocopied note attached to our mailbox saying, "Dear Homeowner: on Tuesday [that would be today] we will be filming part of a new music video for Keith Urban in and around your town. One of the locations we are trying to secure is the exterior of ... a "60's" style ranch house..."

Well I wasted no time getting on the phone and calling the necessary number to say, "sure, use our house!" Not taking any chances I also emailed a response to the email address on the note. Well, the phone didn't ring and the only mail in my inbox has been a plethora of holiday specials boasting free shipping. Okay, I thought, at least it's entirely likely that they will be filming somewhere in the neighborhood. Come Tuesday I'll just stroll around the neighborhood and watch the filming.

Late yesterday afternoon I arrived home and noticed a very bright light at the end of the street, and silhouettes of bodies moving about. It was dark, and hard to make out what was going on. I went to get the mail and it suddenly dawned on me what was happening. The video shoot! Mail in hand I boogied up the street and chatted with the location manager. Turns out they juggled the shoot schedule, and Keith wasn't even there. Today they'll be shooting in another location (about an hour away) with Keith and the band in a barn. Oh well.

But there's hope for future fame and glory. The location manager commented with awe, "this is such a quiet neighborhood!" You betcha.

Monday, December 08, 2008

going bananas!

A week ago at church we put together fruit baskets to take to homebound parishioners, as well as a few others in the community whom we felt might enjoy a surprise basket of goodies. Ken took one of the baskets to deliver to a family later in the week when he was in their area, and kept it in his truck to help keep things fresh. Well, that works fine except for bananas, the skins of which turn brown/black upon refrigeration (as long as they aren't too ripe they're still good to eat!).

Not wanting to deliver less-than-prime fruit, he brought the bananas into the house, and they've been sitting on the kitchen counter. A moment ago a voice from the other room called to me, "you're making banana bread today, right?"

Yes, we're going bananas!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

for diversion and entertainment

Ah, a touch of Anglican Chant for the weather report (in the British Isles, so as not to startle you). Thanks to my colleague Lane Denson for directing me to the blog of Andrew Plus, who posted this. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

the other side of a choice

I mentioned here the other day that I was feeling sad about shifting the Christmas paradigm this year. Even though the shift is both necessary from a reality standpoint and desirable from a theological and ideological one, it comes with a cost as well. It's a denial of self.
I've concluded that part of the joy I derive from Christmas is genetic. My mother has the gene, and her mother before her. It has to do with expression. Both my mother and grandmother had collections of angel orchestras, and there are assorted other decorations and collections that come out every year that adorn home and hearth (and my grandparents were lucky to have a real, wood-burning fireplace in their NY apartment!). Christmas "accessories" afford us the opportunity to be creative with decorating, and we lunge at the chance.
I don't have the same vastness of collections that the women before me have and had. I am aware that not having had a family of my own spun my own experience of shaping Christmas differently than it might have been otherwise. I like family traditions, and I would have enjoyed sharing with children of my own the rituals that hold meaning for me from my childhood. Where I have been able I have borrowed other people's children from time to time to bring life to that unused part of my genetic makeup, but it is not the same.
Mom and I have lamented the "Christmas cutbacks." It is still early enough in the season that I may yet be able to engage in some rituals to buoy me as I experience loss. It helps to savor the warm glow cast by the lights on our tree, enjoy the drape of the garland through which I pass whenever I go to the kitchen, breathe the scent of holiday candles, and meditate on the scene of my nativity. There is rich meaning in what I have, even as I feel the pang of what is missing. And perhaps that is why I needed to write this this morning. To be reminded that my glass is half full, that I am richly blessed with what I have, and that it is up to me, from time to time, to create my own joy.
Hark, the herald angels sing, and I am among the chorus.

Friday, December 05, 2008


It's good news, at least at the moment. The cardiologist doesn't think the chest pain is related to the heart, but is probably gastric. A prescription for an antacid product and a referral to the butts and guts doc down the hall was the result of our visit, and we were on our way. Ken is relieved and feeling vindicated--he's been pointing to stress all along as the culprit behind his distress. I think most of you reading this are thinking what I've been saying to him all along (in respectable intervals, of course, so as not to sound like a nag): perhaps it's time to do something about how he handles stress. By the way, I am also relieved.

Now we are dealing with medication side effects and a husband at home. A lot. Sigh with me. Two days ago I was holding Ken's hand at his bedside in the ER and fighting back tears, and this morning I'd be quite happy to have him out and about! I don't mind having him home, I'd just like him to recognize that I have a life, too, and things that I need to accomplish when I am home. I guess the bright side is that we might finally get the tree decorated today, and the boxes of Christmas "stuff" will finally get moved from the living room.

On another note: yesterday I took part in an "alternative Christmas market" at the local high school. Sponsored by the student honor society this gathering was intended to help home-based, direct sell businesses like mine. It was open to teachers in the county and a handful of others, and considering the small target audience I did pretty well: took several orders and booked two shows, with a potential third. That's better than most booth opportunities that come along, so I'm a happy camper.

Now it's time to consider how to make the best use of my day. I guess writing my "annual report" for Sunday's annual meeting should be on the list, along with a topic for that morning's adult forum. Ideas for the latter? Have a joyful day!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

a blip in the day

I never got to the blog yesterday morning. A certain husband began a conversation when I went to the kitchen to pour my coffee, and the next thing I knew it was time to get dressed to go to work. Ach! I had visions of titling the day's entry as "husband interruptus," and was feeling distressed, caught between desiring that precious morning time to myself and having time for conversation with him.

Mid-morning, however, Ken arrived home after doing some errands and complained of chest pain. Side effect of medication? Aren't you supposed to call the doctor if you experience that side effect? Yes, call the doctor, he said, and then, No, take me to the emergency room. This was a new kind of pain.

And off we went. I don't have a high degree of confidence in our little hospital here, but when it's the heart, you go to what's close, and that means local. Besides, we're about two miles away. We spent the better part of three hours there, most of that waiting for test results that told us virtually nothing. He wasn't having a heart attack, which was good news, but there was nothing to explain to type of pain he had had, either. There are some ills that, without explanation, you can live with. I don't find that acceptable when it comes to the heart. In Ken's case, a tear in the muscle means certain death, and that, particularly, is not acceptable.

We follow up with the cardiologist today, and my expectations are high. Tell us what we're dealing with, offer a diagnositic aid, give us something to go on. Life is at stake. I can live with husband interruptus. Living without that husband is not on my Christmas list.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I confess

We're approaching Christmas differently this year. Our own financial challenges mirror those of the economy, so our gift-giving this season will be considerably reduced. A handful of small gifts that I couldn't resist will wend their way to recipients later this week (or so I intend), but there won't be additional purchases. What funds we have will be directed to a charity to benefit those in circumstances more dire than our own. It is a decision with which I am more than happy.

But still. I really enjoy giving gifts to people I love, and I miss that quest this season. There are some wonderful gift stores in town, and other ideas pop into my head about things to do or create. I've been eyeing the box of Christmas wrapping paper with longing, and as I look at the bare space beneath our Christmas tree I wonder how it will look with just a handful of gifts below. The picture above is from two years ago, when the kids were here and we enjoyed an abundance of giving. (It was our first married Christmas, and the mom in me was a little out of control.)

It will all be fine. As I suggested to my congregation on Sunday, the season isn't about clinging to traditions. It's about reaching into the light within to carry us toward the light without. Along the way we are to share that light with others, and in the process discover that whatever darkness hovers around us, it lacks the power to conquer.

Today, Christmas music on the stereo and decorating the house will be the balm for my soul. That, and dipping into the light.
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Monday, December 01, 2008

a tisket, a tasket...

Instead of the usual Sunday school class yesterday we combined our adult and children's programs to make advent wreaths and assemble baskets of fruit and other goodies for members who aren't able to get to church. We had quite the assembly going, with all sorts of hands on deck reaching across the table, over other hands, or moving around the table and ducking in to place an item in a basket at an opportune time. I'm sure that some of the recipients (who live alone and don't get much company) are going to wonder how they're going to each all this bounty in a timely manner. Right now I'm not going to worry about that. The blessing is that a dozen or so members received a visit and a basket, and since several of our deliveries were made by two people, at least a dozen members "went forth" and touched the lives of others.
I was reminded on Thanksgiving, when Ken and I stopped at the hospital to see two members who were there that there are other people who deserve recognize as well: medical staff, fire department and police officers who work on holidays. The next time we do this we will remember to take some baskets to those folks as well.


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