Thursday, April 30, 2009

reporting live from the local "wife saver"

This is a brief report from the "wife saver," a combination take-out and eat-in dining establishment that serves, essentially, chicken. And things southern. You know--banana pudding and sweet tea. "Put a little south in your mouth" is their slogan. They're just 10 minutes from the cottage and they have Wi-Fi here. I was desperate for a communication link that took fewer than 10 minutes to load an Internet page. Additionally, I had to send attachments for Sunday's bulletin and announcements to the parishioner who prints our bulletins, and time was getting short!

Not to mention that the phone at Melrose wasn't working for four days. This is not a great shock in the rural world where local phone companies attempt to imrove their technology and don't quite get it right when they make the switch. This is not to disparage rural areas--only to recognize the reality of budgets and resources in those areas. Sigh.

This has not been the vacation I imagined, but the weather has been glorious (GLORIOUS!), the sunsets modestly colorful, the view spectacular as always, the company great, and the soul-nourishment beneficial notwithstanding stresses that pop up here and there. I think that this afternoon I will actually have a chance to read on the porch!

Pictures will follow another time. I'm tackling one technology challenge at a time! Thinking of y'all and hoping all is well in everyone's world!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

we're off!

I'm pressed for time this morning as we work toward leaving, first for church, then for Melrose! I'll report in as I can. Getting to the Internet from there is long distance dial-up. It's not so much that we're remote (15 minutes from Augusta, Target, Starbucks and the New York Times...) but that we're in a poor and rural county just over the state line. I'll see you when I can!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

four to one

This is me yesterday afternoon after getting off the phone with customer "service" at Charter Communications, our new, full-service (as in bundled) telecommunications provider. You may recall that there were some issues with the installation of/transition to their digital package earlier in the week.

The issues continue. I went to watch some Tivo's programs yesterday afternoon and discovered that none had been recorded since the changeover. Hmm. One thing was clear. Something was amiss since the installation. (First rule of computer programming--among other life situations: when something was working and now isn't the first question you ask is: what is different between then and now?)

I won't belabor the details of my encounter with Charter's customer service department when I called to say, in short, "this isn't acceptable." Let's just say that after speaking with four people--one of them a supervisor--the notion of satisfying the customer wasn't in their play book. At least I had a chance to exercise my acquired skill of not being pushed around when I was told "no" by the likes of such. I was so annoyed that I went to the computer and googled the company, actually finding a listing for their headquarters and a phone number to call. I took a breath and plunged in.

What does it tell you when the automated voice at the other end of the phone at corporate headquarters offers the options, "are you a residential customer, a business customer, or is this a customer service escalation?" I pressed "3."

Abbie took my call, and could not have been more gracious, understanding and sympathetic to my plight. She immediately diffused my anger and set about the task of resolving my dilemma. Further, here it was Friday afternoon, we leave for vacation on Sunday (read: there are a bunch of programs to record during that time), and our window of opportunity to set things right is small and far from optimal. But she did it. A technician will be here late this afternoon to make the adjustment to our system and all should be well. Now, was that so hard? A customer has been satisfied and the earth did not have to move to make it happen.

I have mixed feelings about how to look at Charter. They have provided less than adequate service all through this process, which gives them a very low score in the competence and service areas. And yet, they have a level of customer service that in the end put the conflict to rest. How to evaluate...

Remember Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof? When beseeched by a daughter to change his "no" to "yes" he takes his conflict to God. "On the one hand," he says, and offers up a point to support his case. Then, "On the other hand," he weighs an argument made by the opposition. It's one of my favorite depictions of personal struggle to which a sense of fairness is applied. Tevye rocks.

I think I am a fair person. This situation won't stick in my craw and I will move on and enjoy my television and my Tivo. I don't hold grudges. I will smile this afternoon at the technician and be pleasant and thank him for coming and making things right. I will do all that I can to be sure they are right before he leaves. And for the 20th time since moving here and giving up my satellite (trees interfere with our access to the southern sky) I will renew my pledge to return to satellite as soon as it is possible.

I think that's fair.
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Friday, April 24, 2009

friday five: bucket list edition

At RevGals this morning Singing Owl writes: Four days of being mostly in bed with a really bad case of flu (do not worry--I will give no detail) has me pondering the fragility of life. LOL! Death, however, has been cheated in my case and I am up and taking nourishment. In that vein of thought, do you have a "Bucket List"? In other words, from the movie of the same name, five things you want to see, do, accomplish, etc. before you kick the bucket?

This is something to which I haven’t really given a lot of thought. But for the sake of playing along (and hey, why not think about it?) here is what today’s list looks like:

1) I’d love to see the Grand Canyon. I’m not really a desert person (though I came to appreciate it after a trip to Israel), but the magnificence of this place calls to me with increasing frequency as I get older. I don’t think it’s the aging part of aging, if you know what I mean, but the maturing. I have a deeper appreciation for so many things as I trip over life or it splashes over me.

2) Visit Cantabria on the north coast of Spain. I discovered this gem quite by accident one day, and fell in love with its geography. It strikes me as a kind of blend of Switzerland and Scotland. I'm a landscape girl, and the more dramatic a landscape, the better for me. Like a carrot on a stick. Gotta go!

3) Learn how to paint watercolor. It is my favorite style of painting—I love the capacity for intense or muted color, and softened edges that invite the viewer into a gentler world. I took a course some years back but didn’t learn how to paint. The instructor was more interested in giving us assignments and correcting or admiring our work than providing us with the tools to take us deeply into the art. Melrose is the perfect place to paint, and it is a lost opportunity whenever I am there.

4) Build a klatch of friends who gather regularly for good times and even better relationships. The great disadvantage of changing geographies in one's life is the lack of history one has in a place. When I lived in St. Louis people had grown up together, been in each other's weddings, knew all the same people (for better or worse). I don't regret having lived in different places, but I lament the impact that has had on long term relationships.

An annual trip would be nice…

5) Take an Alaskan cruise with my husband. I've been on one cruise in my life, and that I took with some friends a mere ten days after Ken and I were married. We joke about how I took our honeymoon without him, but he has a tender spot around the fact that we haven't done something like that together.



Thursday, April 23, 2009

counting the days

The first thing to report is that Ken seems to be A-okay. The infection that was likely in his lungs has lost its punch and his white blood cell count is normal ounce again. Lungs sounds clear. Heart rhythm is normal. Relief! He continues to be short of breath and fatigued, but all signs point to his cardiomyopathy. He has not been getting the exercise he needs for a stronger heart, and that is the only thing that will bring him back to healthier functioning. Now that his feet are getting the proper care the podiatrist has indicated that in another week he is free to walk.

Thank you all for your prayers and concern. These have been days lived in suspension while we didn't know what was going on.

The second thing to report is that we are telecommunicating on all fronts once again. I am not wireless at the moment, which is not the end of the world as long as I keep my computer in my office. We have a new router that we have not been able to connect adequately, and no matter how many times we "retry" and follow all the instructions, we are still batting zero. I will live "hardwired" for now and return to solving the wireless problem later.

The third thing is that we are now back on course for our departure Sunday to Melrose!!! See that door to the right? Imagine walking through that door to a porch running 30 feet or so across the front of the house with a view looking toward the west. That is pre-sunset light you see through the doorway. Take a seat on the glider, one of the porch chairs, or climb into the hammock and settle in for happy hour. It's a family tradition and when you're at Melrose, you're family! (For some reason I can't locate my pictures of the porch during HH, or I'd post those!).

I can post this picture of the view just after a late afternoon thunderstorm. I love the mist in the valleys between us and the Savannah River. Don't you just want to pull up a chair and stare? Well then, come on!!
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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

sixes and sevens today

This morning's post comes from a remote location: Ken's office. We switched communication carriers yesterday from AT&T to Charter (an economic decision), and whatayaknow, my wireless router only takes input from a phone line! (Ah, the speed at which changing technology makes perfectly good accessories obsolete.) Ergo, no internet on my computer until we resolve that situation. And let's not jump to conclusions about how relatively simple that would be--a boatload of ideas are afloat here about the least expensive way to accomplish this! In addition, only one of our three land-line phones are operating. This, after the guys came back TWICE yesterday to resolve that same problem once already and to take care of another installation matter they overlooked on the first run. I'm not happy about any of this, but I'm not spewing discontent the way Ken is. Let's just say that's not pretty.

As if that isn't enough to throw my equilibrium, we are also on pins and needles today for Ken. We are going on the fourth week of his less-than-good health. He is walking with less pain, thank goodness, but reality hit last night that foot health, while manageable, won't ever be restored. Picture a grumpy person. But that's the least of our issues. He has been short of breath, the white blood cell count is out of whack, and antibiotics to counter whatever infection is at work have not done the trick. This morning he goes for additional bloodwork and CAT scans. There's a chance that the infection is in his heart (though his lungs continue to generate phlem). He has decided to close the LLC aspect of his business which, in short, means no more big jobs, and no more employees. The expense of that was eating him alive in this slow economy. Did I suggest picturing a grumpy person? Add mopey to that. I'm not trying to be unkind. It's just a reality with which I live at present.

When I have a moment to myself--standing in the kitchen with a topped off cup of coffee in my hand--I look out the window at a world that looks radically different from the agitated and swishy one (think washing machine) that I experience within. It's quiet, peaceful, blossoming and green, and the morning light seems to caress every aspect of my view. It serves to remind me that other worlds are available to me, I simply need to visit them (in my mind, in my heart, in my dreams...) and stay open to looking at it all with a broader perspective. I wish I could wave a wand over Ken that would serve to encourage him to depart from his chaos and disappointments. I have lived in those shoes (pardon any projected pun), and I choose not to let them do my walking for me. "Give me grace to accept the things I cannot change, and the will to change what I can." Or something like that. It works.

The TV/phone/Internet issues? They'll get fixed. Maybe not as soon as I would like to, but I'll deal with it. His health? For myself I can pray and take action where I am able. I can, and do, seek support and affection from my circle of loved ones. For him I am here and available to him, and will do what needs to be done to support and provide care for him. These are not fun times, but I've been through worse. We'll get through it.

We can use your prayers, your good thoughts, your candles, your hopes, and all other good things sent our way. Winning lottery ticket numbers would be welcome as well. I promise, we'll play them.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

one day at a time

Disclaimer: the image to the right is not mine. I am posting it as motivation to myself to get back to the discipline of logging daily life through what scrappers have come to know as Project 365. I am almost always better responding to specific criteria when it comes to creating in the scrapping realm than to start with nothing more than photos and perhaps some thoughts for journaling. I get inspired by seeing what other people do, and I am not the least bit above what is called scrap-lifting. The point is to get the job done, as my friend Kathy would say. I also admire how some minds take one person's concept and make it their own, accomplishing the same end. This "January" layout does just that.

This year, at this time in my life I am not sufficiently organized in my mind, or in my work space, to do justice to the notion of P365. But I don't have to. It has already made a difference in capturing some pictures I wouldn't have thought to take otherwise, and inspired another idea that is more important for me at this time.

My mother and brothers have email. My father does not. In an effort to keep him up to date with the details that are worth sharing but seem too mundane to get into over the phone, I have decided to create a synopsis "newsletter" for him. I had thought to do this each week, more in keeping with P365's intent on daily life-logging, but the reality is that it's hard enough to get a monthly newsletter done for the church, never mind a weekly sample to my father. A less regular effort will have to suffice.

And one day, when I finally get my closet overhauled and my workspace begs to be put to creative use (right now it just begs to be cleared), I hope to scrap some of the daily slices of my life. If nothing else those words and images will reflect what has mattered to me, what has surprised and frustrated me, and may, in the end, reveal a journey I would not have recognized otherwise. We'll see.

In the meantime, each day is to be savored. Whether we make it to the end like a race well run, or stumble to its conclusion, it is ours. One sip of coffee, one newspaper-read, one task, one meeting at a time, it is uniquely ours.

Enjoy.
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Monday, April 20, 2009

last call

I know this comes across as desperate. That's because I am!

This lovely necklace is what I want to wear to Trisha's graduation. Think of making a Silpada purchase as treating yourself to a lovely piece of jewelry for my birthday. Your purchase helps me earn this, which means we both come out winners. Now is that so hard? Go ahead, you can do it. There are some really beautiful items and I'm confident that everyone can find something they like. Mother's day is coming! Graduation is coming! A "just because" day is right around the corner! Just visit this sight (easy to navigate) and then contact my consultant, Shannon (who is an absolute delight) to let her know what you want. You will have my deepest appreciation.

Okay, now I'll stop begging--I know it's not becoming and I don't do it well.

Other news? Spring is beautiful here. We're at that "early greening" stage with the dogwood and first iris in bloom. I'm seeing a lot of first light since McKinlee gets me up early, and there's something magical about the hues of this phase of spring at dawn that makes me want to freeze the images. (I can actually do that in my mind without too much trouble. As a senior in high school I remember traveling a road plentiful in dogwood and thinking that I might never see its beauty again at that time of year--several weeks later in northern latitudes--and I burned the scenery into my memory. I can still picture it.) I really need to make a visit to Cheekwood, our local botanical garden, to capture the fullest sweep of what blooms right now. If the weather cooperates I might just head over there this afternoon after making a couple of pastoral calls this morning.

And you--have you had a good weekend? Is spring in bloom where you live? And wouldn't you love a new piece of jewelry?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

when the shoe doesn't fit

Get rid of it! It turns out that Ken's foot pain is the result of wearing the wrong shoe size. He's managed to do this all of his adult life, we think. I know, go figure! The podiatrist diagnosed bone spurs on both feet, a tearing tendon in one, and shortened achilles tendons in both legs. A pair of inserts and orthopedic crocs later, Ken is a new man.

He nearly burst through the door with his enthusiasm running ahead of him when he came home, his pain eased for the first time in weeks. He headed straight for the bedroom with gleeful purpose--purging his shoes. The picture of the chair laden with his discards made me laugh, as well as grab for the camera. By the end of the day the shoes had been delivered to Goodwill and he was still riding high.

The next morning I reached into the closet for something and realized I lacked the right vantage point to get to what I needed. There was a row of shoes in the way! I'm not sure why these shoes and boots continue to occupy space (and tantalize the puppy), but the balloon of my previous laughter felt burst by their presence. Perhaps these aren't the wrong size after all--the test now is whether or not the insert fits into the shoe appropriately. And here I thought I was going to be able to tease him about parting with what so many woomen think of as necessary accessories (and who knows, maybe men, too).

Not Ken, however. Shoes, to him, are about getting the job done, be it a work boot or a dress shoe. There are no duplicates in different colors or styles. He simply wears what he needs. Now his simple need is the correct size.

There are, no doubt, multiple metaphors in this. The one that grabs my attention is about what it costs us to exist in anything that doesn't fit us well. Shoes bring on physical pain. Clothing, discomfort and self-consciousness. Image--now there's something that we could spend hours discussing. And of course there are relationships and vocations, too. If it weren't Sunday morning and I didn't have the need to get to church nipping at my heels, I'd probe all of that a bit. Perhaps it is just as well that I leave the canvas blank for the reader to draw their own conclusions (or paint their own scenarios). I'll simply offer this invitation. Is there a "shoe" in your closet that doesn't fit? Just think of the possibilities if that space opened up for one that does...

Happy trekking.
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Saturday, April 18, 2009

the dooley dogwood


It's been a bit over a year since we lost Dooley. I continue to miss him deeply, though I confess, as well, that McKinlee's presence has begun to patch the vast hole that Dooley's passing tore in my heart. When he died Mom sent us an azalea that was intended to be hardy and plantable. In the meantime a magnolia seedling that we had transplanted from Melrose showed evidence that it had not survived our transplant efforts. The next step was clear. We wanted a tree where the magnolia had been, and a dogwood was next in line.

This spring as trees came into bud and began to bloom I crossed my fingers that my care-taking through the last seaon had been sufficient for the dogwood to take root and survive. More than that, I was eager for it to bloom. Bloom it did! The flowers are plentiful and radiant, and a new shoot has appeared just below the branch I had to cut off where Rigel had found a young limb to claim as his after planting.

It's a treat to have this favorite tree planted in memory of my beloved Boolah (a nickname), and for it to thrive and bloom. It will be with joy that I watch it grow and flourish in the years to come, just as my love for Dooley did.
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Friday, April 17, 2009

friday five: closet dreams

Over at revgals the friday five challenge is about appliances and dream kitchens. Much as I dream about the kitchen that would satisfy all elements of my cooking, entertaining, nurturing and containment needs, I am presently in the throes of designing the closet in my office.

Designing is a bit of a stretch, given the limitations the space presents, but in reality making the most of a space is what design is all about. Picture me rubbing my hands together with enthusiasm, because this is the kind of challenge that revs my engine. I am all about efficient utilization of space.

The closet pictured here is not unlike the space with which I am working. I have bifold doors that span a four-foot opening with about 15 inches of space to the left and right of the doorframe. The closet itself is about two feet deep. An air return vent occupies some of the floor and wall space tucked into the left side, but there are otherwise no real hindrances.

What impresses me about this picture is the lighting. I'm not sure that lighting is necessary in my closet, but it certainly wouldn't hurt. I will consult my resident handy man to determine if installing some lighting would require feats of extraordinary means.

And in the "for better, for worse" category, I have some existing storage containers that I would really like to use in the closet. One of them already occupies space in there now, but I think it could be relocated to better advantage all around.

My real problem is the quantity of "stuff" that I have to store.

There is scrapbooking, for starters. I have boatloads of paper that already have a dedicated storage system, thank goodness, but there are other accessories and tools that might need to have space allocated in the closet. The jury is still out on that one.

There are card-making supplies: envelopes and pre-cut cardstock, adhesive, embellishments and spools and spools of ribbon.

There are rubber stamps, stamp pads and colored pens, watercolor pencils, alcohol and other inks. And baby wipes. Let's not forget the baby wipes!

There are photography-related supplies: pre-cut mats for photos and camera accessories, and boxes and boxes of photographs (organized chronologically, at least!).

There are cross-stitch patterns, embroidery floss, hoops, canvas and other assorted items.

There are needlepoint canvases, yarn and unfinished projects.

And sewing. Let's not forget the fabric, thread, quilt, clothing and accessory patterns!

Knitting, too. I have actually parted with a lot of my yarn, which is space-consuming, but there is always more...

And then, of course, Pampered Chef materials: catalogs, folders for host packets, mailing envelopes, inserts and fliers for the host packets, two postage scales, and the record-keeping that goes along with that business.

I'm aware that my wee closet is insufficient to hold all of the above, but I've got to start somewhere to store and stash all my goodies. Once they are stored the space in my office then becomes free to utilize all those tools and products! That, after all, is the ultimate goal, and my eyes are on that prize.

Stay tuned, but I don't recommend that you hold your breath.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

indulge me

There's almost nothing cuter than a new puppy, and McKinlee is no exception. We've had some challenging nights with crating her--her young bladder and bowels don't yet have the control necessary to get through the night, and apparently I am sleeping so soundly that I don't always hear her calls to me to go out. So that last couple of nights she comes to bed. When she wakes up and gets active I know it, and out she goes.

Last night she woke up not long after she had already been out, and I cajoled her into cuddling. She fell asleep with her head resting on my chin (which would have been an awkward looking picture, to say the least), and after a little while I got her to move to a location that was equally cuddly but less intrusive to my sleep.

Gotta love these "awwww" moments.
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

moving on, brought to you by a shameless commercial

So here we are with a view of the chancel of the church, FULLY decked in Easter finery not only with lilies but FIVE stand-alone arrangements. I have never seen the church look so dazzling! Our sunrise service came off without much of a hitch if you don't consider the 40 degree temperatures that blessed the morning. We had 18 in attendance (a great number when you consider that this service has been reprised from ages past), including a visitor! What a hearty soul she was to brave the cold and be part of a community she didn't know. At 10:30 we had two visiting families overloaded with fussy children. Though wailing babies can be an annoying distraction for many, the presence of little ones makes me smile. Self-conscious parents usually tend to the noise before it becomes a problem, and such was the case here. Anyway, we had close to a full house (the front pews almost always go begging, like Elijah's seat at the table), and it was a joy-filled morning.

Switching gears--we had a fabulous time at the Silpada party last night. We were small in number, but mighty in fun. A great benefit of entertaining is that the house gets tidied, and it always looks so much better than its usual state when it is decorated with clutter. Now the dining table is absolutely clear (not to mention that it now wears its spring cloth), and for the time being the kitchen is reasonably tidied (just don't look at the floor, please!).

And here comes the invitation to my readers. There is a necklace that I would love to get to wear to Trisha's graduation next month (Trisha is our soon-to-be future daughter-in-law, if all goes accordingly). It's a departure from my usual style, which is a good thing, and everyone last night thought it looked great around my neck. I NEED YOUR HELP! In order to get this for free I need six more orders for my party. Wouldn't you enjoy freshening up your jewelry collection? Need a gift for someone (mother's day is right around the corner!)? Wouldn't some new bling just make your spring? Please visit my consultant's website to browse the catalog. Click on "contact me" to be in touch with Shannon to place your order. If I can't get the necklace for free I won't be able to get it at all (we have zero discretionary money). Sob!!! I would truly appreciate your assistance and YOU will truly appreciate your new jewelry!!

I'll quit the shameless commercial now and switch to a "rant update." Ken saw our doctor and the podiatrist yesterday. He has inflammation in his lungs, and is heading off to get blood work as we speak. He got a chest x-ray yesterday. The verdict is still out with that. The podiatrist told Ken he's wearing the wrong shoe size! That has led to bone spurs on both heels, a shortened achilles tendon, and a torn tendon in the bottom of his foot. No wonder he's in pain! He's now in orthopedic crocs and feeling much better when he's upright and ambulatory. He's also pitching essentially all of his shoes! And I am feeling better about everything.

Oh, happy day!
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Monday, April 13, 2009

rant alert!

I've been looking forward to today for weeks. The day after Easter. Down time. My time.

Tonight I'm hosting a Silpada party (jewelry, for the uninitiated-- and I will gladly take orders for you if you're interested. Go here to check out what they've got. Your order gets mailed to you directly, which is a huge plus!!). Yesterday afternoon I had a brief nap and then took my leisure to begin clearing the living room of clutter. The less I had to do today to get ready for this party, the better. I had every intention of enjoying this day, and this evening.

Then I woke to a poopy puppy and a poopy crate. I usually hear her during the night when she whines, and I don't object to getting up to take her out. It's what moms do. I don't object to cleaning up her poop. But I didn't hear her last night, and this morning it just pulled a plug. I began snarling internally.

I know what's going on. I call it husband interruptus. I anticipate my day going one way and his unexpected presence derails my plan. To be fair, it's not his fault. Ken's been sick for two weeks, though he pushed through the first full week of it with only minor symptoms, and then the second week worked ten-hour days until he woke up coughing blood. Thursday he went to the doctor and was diagnosed with bronchitis and a sinus infection, with the possibility of strep. And he's got a sore heel, which hurts when he walks. He's entitled to feel crappy, and he's off the hook for not participating in any household responsibility.

I'm cranky because I've just been through the most tiring week of a priest's year without domestic support. Holy Week is a wowzer, with multiple services, multiple sermons, spiritual and emotional highs and lows all rolled into a flurry of days. And still I had to prepare dinner. At least I had the good sense on Easter to make a crockpot meal, so I was able to put it together when I still had some sort of energy. I don't blame Ken for being sick, but I can, and do, feel irritated that he seems so clueless about the care-taking that I might like to receive. An acknowledgement would be sufficient under the circumstances. That's all I'm asking for.

I'm not looking for advice. I know what I need to do. This morning I need to rant. Having done that I will now head to the grocery store for tonight's goodies, finish cleaning the house, and try to salvage some time for myself. Tomorrow I'll tell you about Easter.
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Saturday, April 11, 2009

holy continuity

I can remember clearly the morning of my baptism 21 years ago. Heeding the counsel of a priest/mentor I immersed myself in every offering of Holy Week, and by Saturday morning I felt like spiritual pulp. In a good way. The week had done its work on me, and I remember stating that I felt like I was dead. In a good way. Empty. Void. My soul was shrouded in a kind of silence that echoed the tomb and offered no balm for the hearts broken by Jesus' death. And yet there was peace. Calm.

As I headed to church last night for our Good Friday liturgy the skies were gray and upheaval was on my mind. Earlier in the day members of the parish gathered for Stations of the Cross, aware as we did so that severe weather was headed our way. We felt that we would safely complete our liturgy and send people on their way before there was any danger.

During the stations the heavens opened, lightning flashed and thunder boomed. Love it when that happens. Holy timing. But when we had concluded the liturgy the tornado siren was singing its song and we headed to the church basement. Built into a mild incline our bathrooms are very safe in such weather, and we felt confident that we were secure in our cinderblock haven. To the south of us, lives and homes were about to be shredded. Literally.

Murfreesboro is a booming bedroom community of Nashville, home to Middle Tennessee State University and locale of a lot of Ken's work. We also know a fair number of people from my days there as interim at St. Paul's. A tornado cut a ten-mile swath through sections of town at about the time we were holding our Stations. Two are dead and others injured. There is ruin. So much ruin.

Upheaval was on my mind. The news from NPR about the continuing piracy standoff suggested its own kind of chaos, and the family of Richard Phillips, along with a global audience that joined them with concern, could do nothing but wait. Like the stillness of Holy Saturday there was nothing to do but be in anguish.

It was the stuff of Good Friday sermons, but I was not ready to preach it. Or so I thought. I did talk about the community that was born of the cross. About how suffering and anguish was made more bearable in the company of faithful others. I didn't mention Murfreesboro. I didn't refer to pirates. But the message was the same. It was a Good Friday reality for those stories and for many others around the world, I am sure.

Today Murfreesboro is cleaning up and the world continues to wait for some break from the Somalian stalemate. Chaos and stillness--the perpetual paradox that characterizes the journey that traces its way through our hearts and our lives. Like a tornado its path is unpredictable. Like a stalemate we do not know when or how it will end. What we do know is that we will move through it. Eventually. With God's help and the love and light of companions in faith and the good souls God sends our way we make our way through. And we are changed.

This morning I am heading to an Easter egg hunt. A break in this holy day of somber waiting for levity and laughter and the cuteness of children. It is all part of the mix. All holy.

Blessings to one and all, wherever life finds you this day.
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Friday, April 10, 2009

friday five: adoremus te

Adoramus te, Christe,
et benedicimus tibi,
quia per sanctam crucem tuam
redemisti mundum.
Qui passus es pro nobis,
Domine, miserere nobis.

We adore you, O Christ,
and we bless you,
because by your holy cross
you have redeemed the world.
O Lord, who suffered for us,
have mercy on us.

1. How will you pray and worship today?
I will lead worship at our Stations of the Cross at noon, and again at our Good Friday liturgy at 6:00 this evening. As much as is possible when leading, I will use both those opportunities for worship and prayer. I suspect, however, that more private devotion will be the route for honoring the significance of this day with integrity. I plan to spend some prayer time with my Virgin of the Passion icon, which has opened up new avenues to the divine for me this Lent. I expect that God, too, will surprise me by some means in the course of the day.

2. Share a powerful memory or memories of Good Friday past.
I was baptized at the Great Vigil of Easter when I was 30 years old. At the Good Friday liturgy the day prior to that, I was praying in my pew while the congregation was receiving communion from the reserved sacrament. My prayer touched upon the awareness that this would be the last time that I would have to stay behind and not receive communion, as the next evening I would be initiated into the Body of Christ and welcome at the table from that time on. It was a prayer of thanksgiving for the journey that had led me to this moment, and would lead me on to places unknown.

I was on my knees, my hands clasped in front of me with my head resting on my hands. I wept. I then felt a weight like a heavy blanket draped across my shoulders. I knew it was the Holy Spirit, and that she was blessing my triduum with her extraordinary, tangible presence. A couple sitting in front of me returned from receiving communion, and the woman saw me weeping. As she knelt down to say her own prayers she reached behind her and covered my hand with hers, not letting go while she prayed. Though I can’t recall entirely the chronology of those two episodes they are fused in my memory, so I believe them to be connected. They hold enormous power for me.

3. How have you grown and experienced God's love during this past Lent?
The last several years have been spiritually void in many ways. I was content for that to be so for a while, but then resented the emptiness that was seeping into the rest of my life. I began to pray for restoration to a life of more complete faithfulness, and eventually I prayed for transformation. The icon-writing workshop in which I participated this Lent was the vehicle through which transformation began, and my soul continues to be blessed from what began then.

4. In whom do you see the face of the suffering Christ most clearly?
I see the suffering Christ in those who seek justice and advocate for the needs of others. Reading The Last Week brought home for me anew the essential component of justice in Jesus’ ministry.

5. Where do you find hope for resurrection?
I always find hope in creation. Nature’s instinct for renewal and rebirth is persistent and stubborn. It models for me grace and perseverance, and evidence of God’s hand in the smallest detail.

Bonus:
I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year,
"give me a light, that I may find my way in the darkness."
And he said,
"put your hand in the hand of God, for it is better than light,
and safer than a known way."
--Minnie Louise Haskins
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Thursday, April 09, 2009

if the shoe fits...

Today I am wearing many hats. Or perhaps, to be more theologically in sync, I am wearing many shoes.

I am church administrator, putting together bulletins for tonight and tomorrow, and inserts for Sunday's bulletin.

I am vestry clerk, typing minutes from the last meeting to be sent out to members for proofing before distribution.

I am intercessor, lifting up the concerns of a friend for her colleagues whose positions were terminated yesterday at the hospital where they work. An entire department. History.

I am concerned wife, for a husband whose business and financial concerns are affecting his health.

I am priest, seeking to quiet my soul in mindfulness of the service to which I am called and as underscored in tonight's liturgy and ritual of foot-washing. In that same interest I endeavor to model faithfulness and a spirit of openness to the mysteries that draw us deeper into the heart of God.

I am mother, tending to the needs and training of McKinlee.

I am domestic goddess (it's okay, you can laugh), with vacuum, duster, windex and other sundry cleaning accessories ready to tackle the chaos that has overtaken the house.

I am neighbor, making a trip to Goodwill to take clothing and other items that are more than we need in our life, and baking to express kindness to one recovering from illness.

I am disciple, listening to the life and words of the spiritual master I follow

I am blogger, making an attempt to share my life, my thoughts, my interests and concerns with whomever chooses to be part of that sharing.

There are no doubt other shoes into which I will change this day. Tonight I will go barefoot so that my only role is to be the servant of Christ as I wash the feet of his disciples in my midst. In that vein I ought to go barefoot more often. Priests do have uniforms of a sort, but footwear is not among them.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

you go, girls!

Let the record show:

Three undefeated seasons. Count 'em. Three.

The University of Connecticut women's basketball team won the NCAA championship last night against Louisville without even blinking. This is the sixth national title in the last 15 years.

I am always proud to be from the Constitution state, but it is an especially great day when the women rock the sport's world. It's been a good year for the Huskies. I'll wear my UConn sweatshirt today with a grin. Okay, I'll wear pants, too.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

happiness is...

This morning happiness is a clean microwave oven. Ah, the simple pleasures of the day.

Whenever I hear the opening "happiness is..." however, I think of You're a good man, Charlie Brown, the musical that debuted off-broadway more than 40 years ago. In that production, to which a cousin of mine had some connection that I can no longer recall (help me out here, Mom), Gary Burgoff played Charlied Brown. This was before he became famous as "Radar" on M*A*S*H, and I was lucky enough to see the performance twice. The words to the song, moving as they are out of context, are even more so in the context of the play, because the blanks filled in within the song refer to parts of the storyline. In any event it's a wonderful song, a wonderful story, and a helpful reminder that happiness can be found in the small things within our day.



What makes you happy today?

Monday, April 06, 2009

(imagine the sound of morse code beeping)

I interrupt this blog regularity (you know, once a day?) for some much needed guffawing. I share this site with you courtesy of one of the revgals (whose own site is Dog and God) who shared it not long ago when we were indulging in a mega-sharefest of favorite blog sites that we tend to visit. It embodies to me what the LOL is all about, and I hope it lightens your day...

note to self

We had a Seder at church last night, an event that has become an annual favorite for many in the parish. This year, however, it was late in the game before I became aware that the person who had been putting the event together and organizing and delegating tasks was no longer in residence. Questions began to be raised in earnest a week ago, and got directed to the chair of our hospitality team. I stepped in front of her to take the shot.

"No, Y is not in charge of the Seder. She has other responsibilities and it would be unfair to overload her with this one as well." Fortunately I didn't have to twist any arms to assign a new chairperson. After K said that she would call D (chair of yore), and pursue some other queries, she voiced, "well, I guess I'm in charge."

Everything got done, although there was some last minute scrambling to address one critical thing: wine (no, liquor stores are not open on Sunday). And though it was a pleasant evening and we all learned or were reminded of symbols and stories related to our Judeo-Christian heritage, there are a few details that would improve the experience. I have begun a list so that when next year rolls around we will have things in place in good time, and in good order.

Seder debrief

--Designate one person to be in charge
-- Without being the person in charge, know the answers to all the questions (you’re going to be asked)
--A great idea: someone suggested getting a bin (with a lid) into which all the appropriate Seder materials would go: Seder plate, Elijah cup, booklets, yarmulkes (it’s time we got our own and didn’t rely on Herb to provide them—there will come a time when he will no longer be doing this). Tape a list to the underside of the lid that lists the contents, as well as the storage location of other, larger items (like tablecloths).
--Draw a diagram of the table arrangements.
--Know how many tables and chairs we have and how many we can seat in the undercroft. At some point we will max out.
--Make a note to coordinate a set-up and clean-up team
--Keep a menu handy, with recipes if necessary
--Arrange for childcare, and talk about ways to incorporate kids (as I recall, this meal is very much about kids!)
--Consider a separate children’s menu, if necessary
--Streamline the program so there is less redundancy and more participation
--Consider brisket as an alternative to lamb
--Consider alternatives to all the dishes except those with symbolic significance
--Add matzoth ball soup
--Take reservations so we know how many people to expect
--Use table arrangements that encourage conversation
--Use hospitable tableware (not styrofoam plates and plastic utensils)
--Place at each table: decanters of wine and grape juice, finger bowls and a towel
--Acquire wine glasses (think Old Time Pottery)
--Set table with pitchers of water and water glasses
--Don’t leave the wine to the last minute
--Consider having music
--Dance!
--Is there anything we can do to improve the lighting?
--Put all information into a booklet to serve as a resource

I hope that covers it. I'll be listening to hear what others have to say.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

passions

(With apologies to Kip--skip down below)

And so it begins, the journey of Holy Week. This morning we will bless palm fronds and process from the back door of the church around to the front, waving palms and feeling pretty much like idiots (at least I always do!). We then file into the church and parade around singing (for those who are "into it--others simply go to their seats).

When we get to the gospel reading all of sudden Jesus has been arrested and faces execution. And is killed. Huh? I've never heard anyone stop to ask, "what was the procession all about--what happened at the end of it, didn't he make a speech or something? Have a big rally and party?" That would be, no.

I've been learning about the procession of late as I have been reading Marcus Borg's and John Dominic Crossan's book The Last Week, which details each day in the life of Jesus (according to the gospel of Mark) from Palm Sunday through Easter. There is so much more going on in this procession than what we learn from what is recorded in scripture. So much more (too much to entertain here, alas). Suffice to say that it's worth pondering these few verses and asking the questions that don't have ready answers, to push our thinking past the all too familiar images and rituals to ask "what is really going on here?" As my New Testament professor would ask--what's at stake? There are times when the best we can do is ask the questions and consider the possible answers without trying to nail them down with certainty. I am trying to do that today as I lead a procession and and stand humbly with the task of offering commentary in the form of a sermon after reading that Jesus has breathed his last.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In more mundane matters, McKinlee was a major hit at yesterday's gathering of yard-salers and subsequent cookout. She disliked intensely being in her pen and amused us all by trying to climb out of it (shades of Ema!). She was accused (with humor) of being a drama queen, but I think it's more likely that she simply dislikes being separated from the gang. She is soooo a people person. She was only in the pen while we ate, and was otherwise content to lie at someone's feet, be held, or follow someone around. For the most part she wasn't interested in wandering and, when tempted to wander, was faithful in responding to the call of her name and the invitation to "come!" Good dog!

And at breakfast this morning Ken and I had a rousing conversation about gun control. These are usually intense exchanges, but not surprisingly so when you consider that I'm a pacifist and he's a military man and a hunter. We actually are in very close agreement about gun control matters, but he gets pretty passionate about expressing his view.

Wishing you passion in your day, of whatever kind fills your heart. (Jules, Kip and Janet, wish I could join you!)
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Saturday, April 04, 2009

palm saturday

I'm heading out this morning to join some friends at their yard sale. I have about one bag of stuff to sell--we're about yard-saled out at this house after our last one. But I plan to take Pampered Chef stuff, and a Silpada catalog (hosting a part soon!) and maybe I'll get some business. It looks to be a beautiful day, and after the sale is over comes the best part. No, not counting our money, but cooking out!

The only challenge is what to do with McKinlee. I will probably take her with me and take the portable kennel along so that she is not overly confined. But then again...

Have I mentioned how challenging it is to take a shower and dry your hair with a new puppy? Unlike babies these critters are quite mobile! The other day she needed a bit of a rinse herself so she came in with me, but I sure can't do that everytime!

What I want most from this day is to enjoy the everydayness of it. Tomorrow Holy Week begins, and no matter what sort of ordinariness occurs through the week it will be tinged with the hue of this annual, holy, rollercoaster journey. No matter how familiar the events, the readings, the music or the liturgies, it is never the same. We are never the same. That is the awful blessing of it.

But today I'm wearing jeans and working my Pampered Chef business. And loving on my dogs.

Love to you, as well.

Friday, April 03, 2009

friday five: time out edition

Sally at Revgals writes: Jesus was great at teaching us to take time out, even in that last week, right up to Maunday Thursday he withdrew, John's gospel tells us he hid! He hid not because he was afraid, but because he knew that he needed physical, mental and spiritual strength to get through...So faced with a busy week:

1. What restores you physically?
Oddly enough, cleaning the house. Not so much the vacuuming/dusting/kitchen-sink-scrubbing kind of cleaning (though that has its bonuses), but the tidying, putting away kind of cleaning. It’s productive physical activity, which is a win-win!

2. What strengthens you emotionally/ mentally?
Hmm… This may sound strange, but thinking back to other Holy Week experiences has a way of calming me and bringing me peace. I don’t remember the “crunch” times, but the soul-satisfying liturgical experiences. Like my first Easter Vigil in my home parish. I can still picture the candlelight filling the darkened nave as the light of the paschal candle spread through the congregation. Wow and Awe. I also recall the time I sang the exultet at the Vigil when I was a seminarian. That was humbling, and leveled the ground of my heart to receive the gift of Easter in a profound way.

3. What encourages you spiritually?
Mary. Gazing upon the icon I wrote a mere month ago grounds me. Whatever divinity she possesses, it is the human mother that comforts and encourages me. She's been through it all. Whether I'm struggling to accept someone else's choices, deal with loss or heartache, or discern a decision, she has been there. I find in her a profound depth and stability that helps me wrestle with my concerns without judgment, and she absorbs my tears endlessly.

I also find a strange peace in that she appears to offer the same to Jesus. Both his hands grasp her thumb as he looks toward the angels that represent his death. I can picture her putting him down and releasing his hand as he leaves her company. I do my best at that time to stand at the foot of her cross.

4. Share a favorite poem or piece of music from the coming week.
I first heard Herzliebster Jesu, Ah, Holy Jesus, sung by a mother and daughter with the most incredible voices that it rocketed to number one status in my list of holy hits. It still ranks up there at the top. Its fullest beauty is realized when the vocal parts can be heard. It was hard to find a piece like that to include here, but I finally did. My other favorite Holy Week hymn is much better known. From St. Matthew’s Passion, O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded. I could listen to these pieces over and over again.
5.There may be many services for you to attend/ lead over the next week, which one are you most looking forward to and why? If there aren't do you have a favorite day in Holy week—if so, which one is it?
My favorite service is a version of tenebrae that, unfortunately, we won’t be doing this year (maybe next year). I love the music of Holy Week, and we cram as much of it as possible into this service. The power of the readings, the music, and the darkening of the church as Jesus is abandoned by one and all cuts to the bone. It rocks my spiritual world.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

mama and puppy are doing fine

She's a love. And she's keeping me on my toes! She's full of curiosity and wants to check everything out--the emery board on my desk, my iPod ear pieces, the scrap of paper behind the waste basket that missed its target... Right now she's too small to play much with Rigel. He only has two speeds: zero and sixty, and when he's at 60 he can't stop himself from running over her frightening her to death. The saving grace is that when she is up on the couch with me and they can be nose to nose--then they nuzzle and poke at each other like old friends. In a few months when she's a bit bigger and they can play together they will wear each other out. Can't wait! She's also learning to take care of business outside, which is, of course, fabulous.

In other news, we had another intense Bible study session yesterday. We are reading Genesis. I mean really reading it. Line by line, just about, letting the text tell us what it says rather than us telling it what it says. We're noticing all sorts of things and asking lots of questions. For instance:
  • Since when are animals shrewd and cunning like the darn snake/serpent (don't be a smart aleck and say "since Genesis"--this contradicts the earlier description of the limitations of animals)?
  • And what's in it for him for duping Eve into partaking of the fruit (this one really stumps me)? Furthermore, there is no temptation going on here. Eve hands the fruit to Adam and he eats of his own volition. And by the way, it was to Adam that God gave the "do not eat" instructions in the first place.
  • And why are there only two trees of significance (the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) tucked into the garden? How are our heroes supposed to come by other knowledge (such as how to treat a bee sting)?
  • And why does God care that Adam and Eve might partake of the tree of life and live forever? If he wasn't interested in that possibility then what's the tree doing there?
The God depicted in chapters two and three so clearly reflect an agenda-driven author/editor after the grace of creation in the first chapter. Sort of makes one suspicious...

The grist for my mill, however, is this: if humanity's relationship with the soil is supposed to be about toil and burden forever more (Gen 3:17b), then how is it that some people find their heart's content in "toiling" in the earth? I contend that this reality transcends the curse of God, and if that is the case, then what can also be transcended is the curse that man would be the ruler of woman and restore women to the status of partner according to Gen. 2:20b. Hah! Strike a blow for women against patriarchy!

Back to more mundane things. I REALLY need to spend most of today on taxes. Time is running short and tackling Ken's business records will be an enormous task. There might just be a filing extension in our future!

And on that quasi-cheerful note, have a great day!

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

bittersweet


It was that kind of day yesterday. I did some errands, after which I stopped by the kennel for a puppy fix. I never know what dogs will be there. Sometimes dogs arrive and get adopted within a matter of days. All I knew was that I needed to spend a little time with whoever was there, get my face licked and my fingers gnawed and hold 'em and love 'em.

There were four there. Three were male, and I decided that if I was going to think about taking one home, it would be female. Memories of Rigel lifting his leg and marking the furniture were just too fresh... The-one-yet-to-be-named, pictured here, came home with me. She's a snuggler, a necessary quality this time around, and though she will probably get bigger than I would prefer, she's here for a test-drive. Is she not cute? We have no idea of her lineage but that doesn't really matter. What is known is that she and a couple of litter-mates were dropped off at the Lowe's parking lot and left behind. We think we'll keep her.

A few hours into life in puppy kingdom the phone rang. It was my friend Jayne, with bad news. Jayne and I met through the Episcopal message board on beliefnet. After months of logging messages she figured out that I lived about an hour from her and we arranged to meet. Enjoyable message-mates became fast friends, and while I was in Sewanee it was possible to get together with some regularity and gab for hours. Since moving from the mountain we don't see each other, something that has got to change (I really miss you, Jayne!).

Anyway, her news. She had just learned that another friend from beliefnet had committed suicide on Sunday. Lee was one of those people who lived in real time. He wasn't afraid to tell you what was on his mind, had a quick and sharp wit, and was just as quick to offer affirmation and acclamation to all who visited the board (unless you consistently ticked him off, in which case he expressed semi-polite toleration). Several years ago Lee was diagnosed with an uncommon cancer, an event that triggered a series of crises with which he battled to the end. No matter his issues, however, he was a support to the people he had come to know and befriend in a virtual community. He touched many lives, one of which was mine. In fact, I heard from him just a few weeks ago, checking in with me since we hadn't been in touch in a while, and I wrote him back eager to catch up. Now he is gone. As I write this the tears flow anew for a friend who brightened so many worlds, and made the world richer with laughter and smiles.

In the same day I gained and lost love. Days like that have a way of fusing events together, such that the memories blur and become one distinct impression. I am thinking that perhaps the one-yet-to-be-named might take on Lee's name to honor the friend who I pray has found peace. McKinley. I'll call her Kinlee to keep her name from becoming a mouthful. It has dignity but isn't stuffy. It's distinct, as was Lee, and as she grows she will attach to it her own unique personality. That sounds a bit like redemption--entirely fitting.

Welcome Kinlee; joy and balm for my heart. Farewell, Lee; good and faithful servant.
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