Friday, June 30, 2006

Friday Poetry Blogging

I Hear America Singing

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day--at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.
-- Walt Whitman

RevGalBlogPals Friday Five: Got Independence?

Weighing in on the weekly meme:

Do you celebrate 4th of July (or some other holiday representing independence?)
Sure. I live next to a lake, and some of my more affluent neighbors are fond of spending biiiiiiig bucks on professional (and illegal in my state) fireworks; their spontaneous fireworks displays over the water are longer and more impressive than the official celebrations around here. The hard part is finding a good vantage point, surrounded by the woods as I am, without being eaten alive by mosquitoes and deer flies. A mitigating factor: the presence of fireflies; so you have kind of an entertainment double-header going on, with colorful fireworks sporadically bursting from above the treetops, while the fireflies put on their quiet and leisurely show below.

Reading over the Constitution and Bill of Rights ain't a bad way to celebrate either. And listening to some Sousa.

When was the first time you felt independent, if ever?
Believe it or not -- the first time I ever bought my own bed linens for my first-apartment bedroom, for some reason it made me feel as if I'd finally arrived as an independent adult.

If you're hosting a cookout, what's on the grill?
I'm picnicking, not grilling, this year...but if I were grilling I might reprise the margarita chicken I made on my contact grill the other weekend: marinate some chicken in a half-cup of thawed nonalcoholic margarita mix, a quarter-cup of lime juice, the grated zest of a lime, two minced cloves of garlic and a grind of mixed pepper; sprinkle with salt (the coarse kind, if you're into the aesthetics of the thing) and grill. Muy tasty -- I sliced it over salad greens tossed with orange sections and avocado, and offered it with a choice of ranch dressing or homemade dressing made from more thawed margarita mix, lime juice, garlic and olive oil. Now, if I had to choose between burgers and hot dogs, I'd go with burgers. (I don't even care what kind of burgers -- chicken, pork, veggie, salmon -- all good in a bakery bun.) If my choice is between hot dogs, I will pick skin franks (Kogel brand rules) over skinless franks every time. And as for soy dogs -- soy dogs are best buried in the flower beds for extra nitrogen, in my humble opinion, because they're fit food for neither man nor beast, and this is coming from a dedicated Birk-wearing, food-coop-lurking type.

Strawberry Shortcake -- biscuit or sponge cake? Discuss.
This is probably traitorous to admit...but I could never stand the little supermarket shortcake spongecakes, which always tasted stale to me. My mother switched to pouring the strawberries over yellow box cake, which I enjoyed a lot more. But now, in adulthood -- I want either a biscuit with my shortcake or, if I'm feeling righteously healthful, a slice of angelfood cake.

Fireworks -- best and worst experience
The best experience was when I was a little kid, going with my aunt and uncle to the fireworks show in a neighboring town...the excitement of being around all the other "oohing" and "ahhing" people just as much as the actual show, I think. I don't think I have a worst experience, except for one summer when I was home for the holiday and had to comfort my parents' terrified dog during our neighborhood fireworks extravaganza.

Alas, no bonus points: While I've seen 1776 several times, Ben Franklin was the only memorable character for me. (And for some reason, in trying to recall the details of this musical, all that comes to mind is music from Damn Yankees. I guess this is what happens in middle age.)

P.S. In case some of you are checking in to see what sort of pretty flowers (or, as an old high school friend who grew up in Indiana might say, purty flars) I am posting for my Friday bloom bloggery -- I couldn't find my camera cable this morning. This is not a good thing. But if I find it I will post a pic.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Ad Hoc, Ad Loc and Quid Pro Quo...

Ad hoc, ad loc and quid pro quo...so little time, so much to know! -- Yellow Submarine

Hat tip to Rainbow Pastor for the following meme:


Name five things you are glad you learned in seminary/ministry training, hope to learn in seminary/ministry training, or wish you had learned in seminary/ministry training:

1. I wish that my lay ministry program got more into systematic theology. In fact, I'm considering dropping some serious change to take a do-it-yourself systematic theology class through the ELCA's continuing education program, for my own edification. It's good that we're studying The Story pretty much book by book, in a fairly rigorous way, but I want to better understand and articulate Lutheran theology -- what we do with The Story once we know it; how it all hangs together, how we frame it, in terms of thinking about and talking about God. I see a deficit in this regard among some of my fellow lay ministry students as well; at my retreats I've heard amateur theologizing from the peanut gallery that's made my hair stand on end because of its screaming un-Lutheranness, but I want to be able to confidently explain why it's not a Lutheran way of thinking.

2. I want at least a rudimentary knowledge of reading music...enough to see a pointed Psalm tone in a hymnal and be able to hum it, or get the general gist of an unfamiliar hymn. I feel handicapped in this regard, especially since so many of the others in my lay ministry program are gifted singers and musicians. I really feel like the deprived stepsister sometimes, musically speaking, during our corporate worship. I'll just sit here in the corner with my cinders while all the rest of y'all keep singing... (Actually, I hate not knowing how to do things. It drives me absolutely bat-ca-ca crazy, whether it's swimming or sight-reading or fixing things around the house. Any amateur therapists out there, feel free to analyze.)

3. I wish our program got more into the "people" part of doing lay ministry. We have periodic skill days where we've tackled subjects like initiating/leading educational programs and methods of anxiety management in the context of change and conflict within congregations...but I think we could do more, even though at this point I'm not sure what the "more" means.

4. I wish we got more into the worship choreography. Maybe we will; I don't know. Speaking as someone who spends a lot of time living in my head and not so much time getting comfortable in my own skin, I sometimes feel like a lumbering bovine when I'm front-and-center in worship, trying to stand in the appropriate manner and make the appropriate liturgical gestures. I'd like a skill day with a Bob Fosse of liturgical movement who'd teach us the moves with panache...who'd make us practice, practice, practice until it flows naturally.

5. I'm glad that we're getting a rigorous, challenging biblical education from our visiting seminary professors -- material that makes some of the students squirm. I really believe that this type of biblical education should not be the province of a chosen few, but should be integrated into religious education programs from cradle to grave. It's time. I truly think that's what Luther had in mind for the Church someday -- not a leveling of religious education to the lowest common denominator, but rather a lifting up of the laity in terms of their access to a real religious education. I don't think he would have wanted the Small Catechism to remain the measure of adult religious formation in a society where most Lutherans are relatively well educated and ready for a more challenging exploration of "What does this mean?"

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Missing Aunt Flo

I first made the acquaintance of my Aunt Flo at the age of eleven. Oh, I'd heard rumors about her...my mother's furtive, awkward and obviously embarrassed attempt to explain who she was, after I'd asked about the content of the Kotex boxes in my parents' closet. I figured, at the time, that she wasn't someone I really cared to meet anyway.

But then one summer day I decided to ride my bike over to my mom's sister and brother, who owned a farm several miles away. I'd been feeling strange, twinge-y sensations in my gut all morning but thought they were due to something I'd eaten. Imagine my surprise and alarm when I arrived at my aunt and uncle's place and found that I was bleeding profusely, right through my pants. I remember my aunt's kindly but flustered explanation of what was going on, and the unusually quiet ride home in their truck with my poor bachelor uncle. I remember my mother's less-than-reassuring observation that "This is just the beginning -- your life is going to get a lot harder," and my father's obvious discomfort in being around me, something I was not used to at all; he treated me, his heretofore li'l buddy, as if I'd just been irradiated. And I remember being taken, that day, to the store to procure my own box of Kotex.

Uh-oh. That's what I thought, curled up in bed that evening, weeping, knees clutched against my cramping abdomen, feeling blood pulsing out of me with each contraction. Uh-oh. Uh-oh. Uh-oh.

So that's how I got to know Aunt Flo. And yet, after this most unpromising introduction, her visits soon became run-of-the-mill. I insisted on purchasing tampons (thank you,Teen magazine) despite my mother's skepticism ("I could never use those..."), which diminished the ick factor quite a bit; and I started learning the rhythms of her visits: things like her punctuality; her tendency to show up during the dark of the moon, and at night; her quirks, like cramps only every other month. And soon I'd gotten to the point of being able to discuss Aunt Flo with my peers, and discover that most of us were all experiencing the same things. We spoke knowingly of being "on the rag," swapping war stories and Midol.

A few years and many chest-pounding, running-with-the-wolves feminist authors later I'd not only accepted Aunt Flo's monthly visitations, but celebrated them as manifestations of female power. I knew that the cultural squeamishness and downright contempt aimed at Aunt Flo in various cultures over the centuries -- the separation of menstruating women from the rest of the community, the ritual uncleanliness, the petty humiliations -- had their basis in a primal male fear of this phenomenon -- of bleeding without wound, of bleeding elicited by the moon, of the mysterious forces ruling female sexuality and fertility, beyond the capacity of prescientific societies to comprehend. Oh, the boys may have framed the issue in terms of their disgust -- but we women knew, down in our bones, that they were actually scared witless by Aunt Flo's feminine mojo. Yeah, yeah, yeah -- we'll sequester ourselves over in the red tent so we don't adulterate your masculine purity [nudge-wink] with our polluting [nudge-wink] "unclean" [nudge-wink] presence. [Whoo-hoo! The red tent!]

It was just about the time that I had finally truly embraced Aunt Flo as a sisterfriend that she began a pattern of erratic behavior. If I were under a lot of stress or not taking care of myself, she'd maybe skip a month, then come back and linger for two weeks. Once she appeared to move in with no intention of ever leaving, necessitating my having to have her surgically evicted. (A process that my then-gynecologist described as involving "maybe a moderate amount of discomfort," which is something like saying that being repeatedly run over by a cement truck involves a moderate amount of discomfort.)

These days Aunt Flo is likely to stop in for just a day or two -- barely a visit. Sometimes she just kind of hangs around the doorway, bags in hand: Maybe I'll just go to a motel this time, honey. And -- I kind of miss her. I mean, I know she can be messy and inconvenient, and I've often treated her like the crazy relative we all try to avoid sitting next to at holiday dinners...but after 35 years we have a history, Aunt Flo and I. And it actually makes me a little sad when she doesn't show up. I'm anxious that one day she'll leave and not come back; that she'll find herself a nice little condo in Florida and stay there. I -- I'm not ready for that. Not yet.

So, Aunt Flo, if you're reading this -- I have a snuggly afghan and a cup of tea waiting for you. Potato chips. Chocolate. Advil and a heating pad, even, if you're in an owly mood. Seriously -- I want you to come over. Don't be a stranger.

The Joys of Bustin' Rocks

Some of you may remember a public service announcement from long ago – I can’t even remember what for – that featured a sweating chain gang working in a quarry, while a prison overseer smirkingly promised to “introduce yew to the joys of bustin’ rocks.”

Well, with apologies to all who showed up on Sunday or Monday looking for my customary sermonette on Sunday’s Gospel lesson – that’s what I was doing Sunday instead of sitting in church or blogging: slinging rocks around.

Let me back up. Saturday was a lovely, almost perfect day here in northern Michigan, and I spent much of it traveling along the Lake Huron coast to to visit a community art fair…or what was billed as an art fair, but actually turned out to be a crap -- I mean, craft fair. You know, with the plywood bend-over ladies for your yard, the crocheted scrubbies for your pots and pans, and so forth. (Note to self: Look for the word juried in the local calendars of events, you idiot.) Anyway, in amidst the soy candles and toilet-paper caddies and tole-painted “Gone Fishin’” signs I actually did find a couple of very lovely, evocative, professionally crafted photographs of northern Michigan scenery, soon to grace my living room; my travel partner and I had a dee-lightful lunch (ironically provided by a regional barbecue guru whose joint is all of 30 miles away from where we live, who happened to have a concession up at the fair); and we had a great time sightseeing along the coastline – lighthouses and sailboat regattas, forested scenic drives and bodacious summer homes and folkloric/historic little villages. But I was also, to use the technical medical terminology, expecting a visit from my Aunt Flo, so by the time we were halfway home I found myself nursing an atomic one-sided hormonal headache, the kind that make you feel as if your eyeball is liquefying and oozing out of its socket, and had lost whatever energy I had left from the morning, to the point of feeling like a limp sock. “I think I’m going to stay home tomorrow and sleep in,” I groaned, anticipating a Sunday spent lyin' upon mah faintin' couch bein' ministered to by an attentive maidservant proffering heating pads and ibuprofen.

But when morning gilded the skies I was up and about –- Aunt Flo having apparently changed her mind again (more about that in a future post) -– headache-free and at least marginally perky. And in the meantime my pal and I, on arriving back home, had heard that a mutual friend was in a jam. This person juggles a full-time big-city job with weekends spent simultaneously caregiving and trying to fix up the family cottage. And she’s also had some fairly recent orthopedic surgery. Anyway, she was faced with what I will describe as a landscaping emergency that needed to be resolved by early afternoon when she was scheduled to head for home. “Maybe we can help her,” suggested my pal. So I found myself donning beat-up jeans and a Beefy T, and after swallowing about a gallon of restorative coffee headed toward the friend-in-need’s cottage, in a tiny resort village that makes Outer Podunk look like the big city.

There is something about manual labor – strenuous work that has a beginning and an end, with signs of progress along the way -- that is profoundly satisfying to me. I used to feel that way when I was a kid baling hay, and I felt that way on Sunday hauling loads of stone in a wheelbarrow while my pal and another friend shoveled and the friend in need spread and smoothed. In two hours the four of us got-er-done, with hours to spare -- in fact, with the neighbors barely roused for their Sunday brunches (this despite the cacaphony of rock hitting wheelbarrow, and my half of a duet version of "Chain Gang"). Our mutual friend even had to wink back a few tears as she thanked the rest of us for coming over.

You know, it was a pleasure; a real pleasure. And while I missed my church family a little bit that morning, I was happy to be able to help someone in another branch of the family. Now...if I can just make up with Aunt Flo...

Monday, June 26, 2006

Syriana

Yesterday a pal and I saw George Clooney’s Syriana, newly out on DVD. I love George Clooney, and knew how committed he’d been to the making of this film, and was looking forward to seeing it…but, alas, I didn’t become as emotionally engaged in the story as I thought I would; maybe I’ve reached the point of jadedness where the premise of the movie – the mutually self-serving, cynical collusion between governments, big business and the various underworlds that operate under the radar of polite society -- no longer holds any shock or surprise value.

For me, though, the most memorable and disturbing part of Syriana was the subplot involving two young Arab men who’d become radicalized by their ill-treatment at the hands of an Arab dictatorship supported by the U.S., and wound up in a madrassa, a fundamentalist Islamic school, where they were trained to become suicide bombers. Now, if this had been a big-budget, lowbrow film, the head of the madrassa would have come right out of the Villain department of Central Casting – the Middle Eastern equivalent of a black-hatted, mustachio-twirling scofflaw. Instead he was portrayed as quiet, friendly, compelling, morally unambiguous and sincerely pious; honestly, scenes of his interaction with the two young men reminded me of Jesus as depicted in biblical epics like The Greatest Story Ever Told.

It was a sobering reminder that sincere, devout people who truly believe they’re carrying out the will of God can do very, very, very bad things to other human beings – crimes as bad as the most amoral and self-serving among us are capable of committing. So whenever we’re tempted to play the Good Us Vs. Evil Them game, we need to reality-check ourselves and our own capacity for hate and hurt.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Friday Bloom Blogging

Pansies, lobelia and dusty miller, in the little pocket garden next to my back steps Posted by Picasa

RevGalBlogPals' Friday Five: I Scream, You Scream...

Ice cream: for warm weather only or a year-round food?
I can eat ice cream anytime.

Favorite flavor(s)
Ben & Jerry's Phish Food; chocolate sorbet; coconut sorbet; Rocky Road; plain chocolate; Breyer's vanilla; strawberry cheesecake; coffee.

Cake cone, sugar cone, waffle cone, cup?
I am a slow ice cream eater, so I need to have it in a cup or else I'm dripping melted ice cream all over the place.

Childhood ice-cream memory
My aunt and uncle making homemade ice cream for me.

Banana splits: discuss.
I like bananas; I like ice cream; however, I've never been particularly compelled to pair the two. I'd rather have a hot fudge sundae any day.

Bonus Question: What are the ingredients/steps for making an ice cream soda?
At my house, growing up, ice cream sodas meant vanilla ice cream in a glass with Vernor's or Faygo Redpop poured over it. But when my mom's cousin from Detroit came to visit, she would make chocolate egg creams with chocolate ice cream in a glass, followed by a generous shot of chocolate syrup, followed by soda water.

Friday Poetry Blogging

The Woman in the Ordinary

The woman in the ordinary pudgy downcast girl
is crouching with eyes and muscles clenched.
Round and pebble smooth she effaces herself
under ripples of conversation and debate.
The woman in the block of ivory soap
has massive thighs that neigh,
great breasts that blare and strong arms that trumpet.
The woman of the golden fleece
laughs uproariously from the belly
inside the girl who imitates
a Christmas card virgin with glued hands,
who fishes for herself in other's eyes,
who stoops and creeps to make herself smaller.
In her bottled up is a woman peppery as curry,
a yam of a woman of butter and brass,
compounded of acid and sweet like a pineapple,
like a handgrenade set to explode,
like goldenrod ready to bloom.

-- Marge Piercy

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Slow Food Fast: Two Recipes

So...anyway...I've been doing a lot of cooking lately.

Quick cooking; cooking I don't have to do a lot of thinking about.

Here are two recipes that have good things in them, are fast and taste good:

Tuscan Tomatoes and Beans
1 can Italian-style diced tomatoes (which you can fake, if you just have regular diced tomatoes, with the addition of onion, garlic, basil and a little bit of olive oil)
1 can white beans of your choice, drained
rosemary, to taste
extra garlic, if you wish
2 TBS of balsamic vinegar


You mix these ingredients together and simmer them for maybe a half hour. That's it; that's all. Serve over pasta of your choice (whole-wheat is good), with some grated Italian cheese of your choice. It is even better if you make it the night before, then reheat it the next day.


LC's Easy Pasta Salad
2 cups dried rotini or penne pasta, cooked, drained and cooled
about 2 jars marinated artichokes, drained (I tend to "borrow" artichokes out of the jar, so it's probably more like a a jar and a half in my actual recipe)
roasted peppers, jarred with garlic
black or pitted kalmata olives, drained
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
cracked pepper

good quality grated Parmesan/Romano cheese

Mix ingredients in proportions pleasing to you. (Pick out one or two of the garlic cloves in the pepper jar, chop and add those.)

You didn't really want that Lean Cuisine, did you? I didn't think so.

Relationships: A Grace Place

I've been thinking a lot about relationships lately. (And in response to the raised brows I hear sproinging around cyberspace, all I'm going to say is that, in the words of my late mother, if you keep doing that with your eyes, one day you're going to wake up and they'll be stuck that way. Of course, perhaps you want to look like Mr. Spock. But I'm just giving you fair warning.)

Specifically, I've been thinking about the difficulties faced by people who've grown up in families where there was not a lot of love and affection between parents, where there was ongoing unhappiness and anger and fighting and perhaps even outright abuse, when they in turn find themselves in a relationship.

I think perhaps the first barrier to cross is sheer disbelief. If you've grown up in a household devoid of parental love, it may be difficult to believe that anyone would in turn want to love you. Friendly overtures may be met with "Who -- me? You can't possibly mean me."

And with the disbelief may come a certain degree of distrust: What's the con? I remember, during my student days, sharing an apartment with two preppy sisters whose family was like a secularized version of The Simpsons' Flanders family. They were physically and verbally affectionate with one another; they were kind and considerate to one another; they were playful. They didn't bicker or yell; if there were problems, they worked them out in a calm and rational way. And my jaded first impression of them was, They put on a good show. Until I had the opportunity to see the family in action without their awareness of my presence, and I realized that this wasn't a con; that they actually were this way, whether someone was watching or not. And I recall feeling a pang of longing, and a stab of sadness.

If love does come to someone who's grown up in an angry, dysfunctional family, lack of context can also make navigating the normal differences and everyday frictions that occur between people difficult. I remember one epic fight during my childhood that began with my father's sarcastic comment about a cobweb in the corner of the ceiling -- a damned cobweb, fer chrissakes -- that wound up lasting for weeks, with much screaming and crying and divorce talk punctuated by terrifying silences. You just never knew what would set off my parents. And I find that even now part of me freezes whenever I'm around people disagreeing about anything, or when I find myself disagreeing with someone whom I care about: Cubbies versus White Sox, thermostat up versus thermostat down. I did not grow up in a home in which people could disagree about things, or offer constructive suggestions, without everything turning into A Thing. I might maintain a poker face and sound entirely calm and rational when I'm in these situations these days, but internally I'm frantically engaged in emergency cognitive self-therapy to keep my grip on a healthy perspective.

So what do you do if this is your personal history? One alternative is to simply repeat it -- to give into your childhood conditioning and become your parents. One alternative is to conclude that relationships are too much Sturm und Drang and opt out. And one alternative is to get honest about who you are and where you've been -- and garner the courage to take the leap anyway; to let yourself be transparent with and vulnerable to another human being; to be willing to mindfully live your way into the sort of relationship you wished your parents had had with one another, even though you know that it will take work, and more work for you than perhaps for other people with different family backgrounds.

The really interesting thing, though, is -- isn't this a reflection of our relationship with God? We're born into a dysfunctional, soul-killing world that turns us in on ourselves; creates barriers between ourselves and our relationship with God and with other people. Nevertheless, God loves us; comes down and claims us as God's own. Our natural inclination is to fear and distrust God; to resist God; to question God's love and motives, and maybe even God's existence. But God's love isn't daunted, and God continues to woo us into relationship. And even as we find ourselves moving in God's direction, find ourselves saying "Yes" to God, we still struggle with that disconnect between life as we have experienced it and the life we long to live into. But we find that the struggle is worth it; that it is a crucible in which our character is formed and transformed.

Just as God's grace touches and molds us, we have the opportunity to be agents of grace in others' lives. And, knowing what I know about the alternative...isn't that what I want to be? Even if it's difficult?

At my church, during our Prayers of the Day we include a prayer that our homes and relationships be places where God's love and grace are made real and immediate for us. And to that God's people say: Amen.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Silver Lining

As anticipated, the election of Bishop Schori as Presiding Bishop of the ECUSA has sent social conservatives into a frenzy of outraged bloviation...which begs the question, Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

After reading one fulminating fundamentalist compare female clergy in general to "trained monkeys" -- I've come to the conclusion that it's a good thing. Because the more assholic and hysterical the public reaction of these folks, the sillier they look. And they look pretty damned silly now.

So to the religious bigots out there I say: Keep talking. In fact, tell us what you think about EVERYTHING.

The "Five Things in Various Places" Meme

Otherwise known as priming the pump for a "real" post one of these minutes, or hours, or days:

5 Items in my Fridge

1. a tub of Tofutti faux sour cream (which is pretty good, actually)
2. my stash of coffee for the next day or so(Just Coffee Ethiopian, fresh-ground...I keep the beans in the freezer)
3. a small jar of Amish hot pepper jelly (which I brushed over a grilling chicken breast maybe a minute and a half before it was done. Wowsers, was that good. It was well worth gumming up my contact grill. A friend o' mine also recommends hot pepper jelly with cream cheese on bagels.)
4. a bunch of asparagus from the local farm market
5. most of a pint of locally gathered maple syrup, ready for the French toast I am making this weekend

5 Items in my Closet

1. a laundry-basketful of my various shoes

2. a 15-year-old paisley challis skirt/shirt ensemble that haven't fit in years but that I hang onto because I like the colors and because I hold on to the increasingly unlikely hope that I'll be able to wear them again someday

3. the tank top half of a dressy twinset that I love but cannot find...it's there somewhere; I know it is...

4. my very favorite woolen tweed jacket (a Land's End closeout special on major sale -- retail is for suckers), all wrapped up for the season

5. my infamous Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

5 Items in My Car (keep in mind there are, like, 195 items in my car)

1. my travel mug
2. my way-cool amber shades that cast a pleasant, rosy Maxfield Parrish glow upon the world
3. a very ugly black raincoat that I keep as a weather backup/mini-tarp on the back seat
4. my original-cast Godspell cassette (yes, I still have a tape deck)
5. my lay ministry class-notes portfolio (I guess to have on hand in case I'm ever called upon to do emergency exegesis while on the road).

5 Items in my Purse (keep in mind that there are, like, 195 items in my purse

1. a dog biscuit that the bank teller gave my dog, that he refused to eat
2. Icebreakers mints
3. a spare cell phone charger
4. a tiny personal day planner that I regularly fail to use
5. a battered church bulletin from several months ago

5 Items on my Desk

1. a CD wallet
2. a copy of Craig Koester's Revelation and the End of All Things
3. a stack of "round tuit" household bookkeeping stuff that I am procrastinating tackling
4. a packet of Avery labels
5. a recipe I pulled off the Internet

5 Items Flowering in my Garden

1. pansies
2. phlox
3. nasturtiums
4. fancy-leaved geraniums
5. a domesticated mullein -- very unusual, cream-colored with a mauve eye

You Go, Girls

Well, these are exciting times as women are elected to the top leadership positions in their church bodies -- new ECUSA Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori (oh, that's fun to type), and Joan Gray, new head of the PCUSA.

Reading the blogs of persons in both these denominations...I just want to jump up and down with you in glee, in spirit if not in person. Well, maybe in person too, if I were in the room with you.

And I did experience a wee bit of wistfulness: Hmmm...wonder when the ELCA will elect a female Presiding Bishop?

I think the first female Lutheran pastor was ordained in one of the Scandinavian countries shortly after World War II, and Constance Parvey became the first Lutheran woman ordained to the pastorate in the U.S. back in the early Seventies -- but before we in the ELCA congratulate ourselves on being so darn progressive, it should be noted that sexism is still alive and well in our church body. Oh, the angry social conservatives have, I think, mostly decamped to other church bodies, which I personally think is the best place for them. But the last statistics I saw showed that the ELCA lags behind other denominations in terms of numbers of female clergy; many ELCA congregations are still loathe to call a female pastor; female seminary graduates often have a harder time finding a job. There's the old "don't rock the boat" argument that, in our circles, often presents itself in a golly-jeepers, forelock-tugging way: Well, gosh, ya know, I don't have a problem wid da lady preachers myself, Ole, but I tink dat if we call a lady preacher some of da others are gonna quit da church.

And lately I've noticed a re-rearing of the ugly head of gilded-cage sexism disguised as an appeal to female superiority and concern over contemporary men's discomfort with taking an active role in churches: The idea that women are much more spiritually evolved, and will always be the more active members of faith communities, whereas men are knuckle-dragging, not-terribly-bright and, to borrow a term from the fundies, hopelessly carnal creatures, Neanderthals whose lives are mostly spent scratching their crotches, emitting bodily noises and mentally undressing the women around them, who are naturally averse to attending church unless there's a good ol' boy up there at the pulpit to reassure them that, no, they're not faggots; that Real Men Go To Church. So, the argument continues, we women, being the spiritually advanced humans that we are, need to humor these poor, dumb beasts by graciously submitting to their authority, and letting them run the show. (Just as a point of interest: I used to be privy to -- long story -- the conversations of a gaggle of fundamentalist women who in public strongly promoted the idea of male headship/female subordination -- this seemed to be, in fact, a major tenet of their church -- but who in private spent most of their time dissing their husbands as clueless, fairly subhuman louts who couldn't think or work their way out of a paper bag without major female assistance, and who also spent a lot of time collectively pondering ways to do end runs around their husbands' supposed household authority. So in the unlikely event that any male social conservatives are reading this: When Wifey is looking up at you shyly with her doe eyes and telling her how happy she is that you are exerting your male headship in your home, my field observations would seem to indicate that she is, in fact, faking it. Which makes one wonder what other times she's f- -- well...don't worry your big, brawny, authoritative head over that.)

So while we can celebrate the lives and ministries of strong, faithful women like Schori and Gray who have been called to service at the highest levels in their churches...it's still a long road to the kind of freedom described in Scripture where "all are one in Christ Jesus."

But...I'm still smiling. You go, girls.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

RevGalBlogPal Friday (Kind of) Five

Better late than never...

In what kind of environment do you sleep best? (e.g. amount of light and noise, temperature, number of pillows, breathe-right strip, sleeping in the buff, etc.)
Minimal light and sound; not fussy about pillows as long as they're there; need lots of warmth. (I am a big fan of oversized flannel nightwear for about 10 out of 12 months of the year, and also use layers of blankets on my bed. Yes, I know; I'm so sexy it hurts.)


How much sleep do you need to feel consistently well-rested?
How much can you get by on? What are the consequences when you don't get enough?

I find seven hours of sleep just about right to feel well-rested. I usually get six, punctuated by one potty interlude for the dog. If I don't get enough sleep, my cognitive ability and perception plummet to dangerous levels.

Night owl or morning person? Definitely morning person. I love to be up extra early, to slowly ease into the day.

Favorite cure for insomnia? Prayer; or, alternately, detailed fantasies involving subjects like landscaping, interior decoration and so forth.

To snooze or not to snooze? Why or why not? No; too stressful. I'm one of those people who, if I'm afflicted with insomnia, will lie in bed thinking, "Dang -- three more hours until I have to get up...dang -- two more hours until I have to get up...dang -- one more hour until I have to get up."

Planting Seeds

Several years ago I heard an audio essay on the radio -- I can't remember the program -- where the narrator talked about his Ukrainian grandmother, transplanted to Chicago, a woman who had known tremendous hardship in the Old Country. She always planted a garden in her back yard; and in that garden she always reserved space for the seeds and pits of fruit she'd bought in the grocery store: cherries, apples, plums. Her children and grandchildren made fun of her small orchard nursery: Was she afraid of running out of food again? "We'll buy you fruit, Grandma." And at her age, why would she embark on this ridiculous project anyway? "We'll buy you a tree from the nursery, Grandma, if that's what you want."

The grandmother replied that she knew what it was like to experience hunger, and she wanted other people, even people she didn't know, to one day be able to enjoy fruit picked from their own back yard.

This old, stubborn and in her family's mind highly eccentric Ukrainian grandmother is a lot like the God Jesus describes in the parables we hear today. A God who takes the small, the simple, the insignificant -- and grows God's Reign out of them; something big and lush and extravagantly productive. How this happens we can't understand, or plan, or control; we're just asked to trust the process.

What would the Church, which is all of us, be like if we did, individually and corporately, trust the process -- if, in the words of Paul, we truly did walk by faith and not by sight? What would the Church be like if we got our own opinions and attitudes and prejudices and agendas out of the way and simply walked with Jesus in the lead, letting God be God for us?

As many of our church bodies gather this summer for their national assemblies, and as many of us continue to discern our own roles in Christian community, it's a question we might want to keep in mind. How willing are we to be to let our thoughts and words and actions become the seeds for God's creative, redemptive, sustaining work in the world?

"Tree of Life" silk challah cover

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Weekend Bloom Blogging

Last year I bought a blue columbine for my blue pocket garden on the northeast corner of my house. The original plant doesn't seem to like its home -- but it spawned a seedling about a foot and a half away, in a slightly sunnier spot. Who doesn't love a volunteer?

Blue columbine Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 16, 2006

Friday Poetry Blogging

In Progress

Ten years ago it seemed impossible
That she should ever grow so calm as this,
With self-remembrance in her warmest kiss
And dim dried eyes like an exhausted well.
Slow-speaking when she had some fact to tell,
Silent with long-unbroken silences,
Centered in self yet not unpleased to please,
Gravely monotonous like a passing bell.
Mindful of drudging daily common things,
Patient at pastime, patient at her work,
Wearied perhaps but strenuous certainly.
Sometimes I fancy we may one day see
Her head shoot forth seven stars from where they lurk
And her eyes lightnings and her shoulders wings.

-- Christina Rossetti

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Boob Job

Well, I had my second mammogram. About ten of them, in fact. The diagonal shots where they really torque you into position, then slam the machine down on you like a pannini press. And I am feeling it. (Go ahead and make the wringer joke.)

Here's the story: One of the original mammograms showed a light splotch, an area of extra density, in my right breast. My doctor suspected that it might simply be due to an accidental creasing of tissue during the mammogram process, but wanted to double-check...hence the multiple re-takings of this particular shot. And the mammographer couldn't replicate the spot. "That's a good thing," she noted, showing me the clean films.

Having worked myself into a frenzy of fear and self-recrimination in the hours previous -- thinking about an aunt of mine who died of metastasized breast cancer, slowly and painfully, and reciting a litany of regret: I should have been more careful and consistent in self-examination; I should have lost more weight; I should have exercised more; I eat too much soyfood; I don't eat enough soyfood; it was the birth control pills I've had to take over the years for my GYN problems -- seeing the films was a tremendous relief.

I need to hear the final word from my doctor, of course; but obviously my frame of mind has changed considerably over the last 24 hours. It made the other two events in my week's trifecta of fun -- our annual assessment at work, when the stress level in my office shoots up to stratospheric levels as auditors from the next layer of our bureaucracy go picking through all our files and records, and a letter from the local court demanding that I sign up for jury duty -- fall into perspective. My good pal, who stayed with me Wednesday when I imploded into a frightened, angry puddle and then came with me to the radiologist's, took me out to dinner last night -- Buffalo Wild Wings, which for the uninitiated among you is a noisy and seriously unserious franchise sports bar, normally not our natural entertainment habitat but just the antidote for two days of major Sturm und Drang. (And I was chipper enough to down several mango-habenero chicken wings...not for the weak of heart or palate. The burn kind of made the other pain go away, for awhile.)

But, seriously (once again): All the emotional turmoil and physical discomfort of this process has been worth it in terms of making sure that I am healthy. I can't say this strongly enough to other women reading this: Take care of yourself; get those mammograms and annual exams. Single women with no kids have a statistical tendency to ignore their women's healthcare, and this isn't a good thing. And there are programs to help women with limited incomes obtain access to these services. So just do it. I'm glad I did, despite everything.

Thanks to all of you for your kind words, thoughts and prayers. They meant, and mean, a lot. But...hug carefully on my right side. Ow.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Damn

Last week I got my mammogram, as I do every year. Every year, it's normal.

This evening, after I got home from work, I got a call from the hospital radiology department. They want me to come in again for more pictures. They didn't say why. I was too flustered to think to ask.

Damn. Damn, damn, damn.

I go back tomorrow morning. Please keep me in your prayers.

Playing Hooky

Well, actually I wasn't. Our payroll person at work told me I wasn't using my vacation days fast enough and told me I had to take a day off this week. Wow...twist my arm.

So a friend and I headed up north to my favorite part of the state, the Benzie-Leelanau area along the coastline of northwest Lower Michigan. Actually, I wouldn't tell my travel companion where we were going, which added to the fun factor, especially because she's a flatlander for whom this was all new. ("West Branch?...Mackinaw City?...you're not going to tell me, are you?...")

It was a beautiful day; no rain, no bugs, not too hot, not too cold, not too many fellow tourists. We had lunch at the Phoenix Cafe in downtown Beulah; drove around the lovely Crystal Lake, oohing and ahhing over the aquas and azures of the water; then headed north to the Sleeping Bear Dunes in Empire, where, en route along the winding Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive through forests and cottonwood-dotted dunes, we enjoyed a terrific view of the Lake Michigan and the Manitou Islands; backtracked down to Frankfort; and made a stop at Beedazzled/Sleeping Bear Farms, which sells star thistle honey, the best honey in the world, as well as all manner of soaps and candles and sundry gifts. It really is a parallel universe, this part of Michigan; Planet Mellow, land of sand and seagulls, cherry orchards and woodlands, home of old hippies and young artists, boaters and bikers and hikers, denim-clad organic farmers and Izod-clad retirees, yuppies from Chicago tooling around in their Mercedes and good ol' locals in rusted pickups; the travel equivalent of a comfortable porch swing on a sunny, breezy summer afternoon.

The Frankfort light (photo taken last year, but you get the picture, so to speak)...one of the many stops on our itinerary Posted by Picasa

Monday, June 12, 2006

Talking About the Trinity

There will be an essay to go with this lovely photo...sometime. But just to give you some insight into how my morning's going, I just -- just -- stopped myself from rubbing a handful of middle-aged-broad anti-wrinkle cream, instead of hair goo, into my hair. "Bemused, bothered and bewildered am I." In a good way. But, anyhow...stop back later today.

Many hours later...

I remember, back in the day when I had started going to church regularly again and becoming more active in the life of the congregation, my pastor asking me to help out with an in-house Lenten devotional booklet themed around the question “Who Is God?” Would I, he asked, like to tackle the Trinitarian understanding of God?

In a classic example of fools rushing in, I said, “Okay.” But the more I tried teasing out one Person from another according to Scripture and the Christian understanding of the Trinity, the more intertwined I found the Three. God the Father is Creator – except that God the Son is the Word, in whom and through whom and for whom all things were made and in whom all things hold together – except that the Holy Spirit is the One who hovered over the primordial chaos and birthed creation. And you could likewise go through all the attributes of God and try to tie each one to one particular Person of the Trinity, only to find that it’s not that simple; that there’s a synergy within the Godhead that makes such an exercise fairly impossible. I know someone who compares it to a circle dance of three Persons holding hands, blurring together in motion.

We Christians find ourselves in a difficult position, trying to affirm a doctrine that anyone who is at all honest with himself or herself will admit is incredibly hard to define.

Which is why I am so fond of Henri Nouwen’s observation that the Trinity is a profound way in which to understand the relational nature of God – that God loves relationships so much, God is a relationship. And why I’m also fond of a friend of mine’s Trinitarian construct of the Lover, the Beloved and the Love that flows between the two.

What does this idea of a relational God mean for us? I think for one thing it suggests that so much of what passes as religious discourse completely misses the point: scorekeeping; nit-picking; line-drawing; handwringing over the factuality of this or that Bible text. Just as we human beings have a talent for messing up our relationships with one another, we have a talent for turning what the mystics among us would call God’s love affair with us into a business transaction, or a self-serving exercise in “I’m right; you’re going to hell” ego massage, or intellectual self-gratification with no root in a real relationship with a passionate and compassionate God.

For another thing, our Trinitarian understanding of the Godhead helps us shape our relationships with God and with one another. When Christ tells us, “Follow me,” one of the ways we follow him is into, on one hand, embrace of the Godhead, and on the other the embrace of our fellow human beings. The Way is not a solitary way. Even persons called, for a time or for the long run, to a life of seeming solitude are called to a life of prayer for and service to others. Julian of Norwich, the great medieval mystic who literally attached her life to that of Christ by becoming an anchoress – someone physically, permanently walled into an apartment within a church in an act symbolic of death to the world – spent her days providing spiritual counsel to the many people who came to her for help. She wasn’t navel-gazing, working her way into some nth degree of enlightenment; she was actively helping the people of God.

It’s a holy Mystery all right, this divine circle dance. And yet it’s a dance we’re all invited to join, spiraling into our own inner circle, surrounded and embraced by the Godhead. And there’s room for everyone. Bring a friend or two.


"Spectrum of Time," Peter Erskine Posted by Picasa

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Not Quite Right

Let me say, first off, that I enjoy David Edelstein's film reviews on public radio's Fresh Air. But in my experience, when reviewers begin to delve into the realm of religion they find themselves out of their element, and even the esteemed Mr. Edelstein is no exception here.

Yesterday on Fresh Air Edelstein reviewed Robert Altman's new film A Prairie Home Companion, loosely based on Garrison Keillor's weekly radio show. In attempting to describe the inhabitants of Keillor's fictional Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, Edelstein described Lutherans as a spiritually haunted people "who believe that you're guilty until proven innocent, which is pretty much never."

I had a good chuckle over this in the car on my way home from work. Not because Edelstein is wrong, mind you. He's much closer to the truth than the scandalized fundagelicals who think that Lutherans (and I'm sure some of us more than others) are decadent antinomians blithely sinning our way to hell in a handbasket. No; Edelstein got it righter. But he just didn't go far enough into the grounding of Lutheran theology.

Sometimes I think that Keillor himself, a late-in-life Episcolutheran, has an occasional tendency to project a bit of his own fundamentalist background onto the Lutheran citizens of Lake Wobegon. But on his good days I think he would explain to Edelstein that Lutherans are not people wallowing in guilt, but simply people who know who they are; sinners and saints at once; simul iustus et peccator. "Every day in every way I'm getting better and better and better" isn't a tenet of Lutheran theology. Our understanding of the Christian condition comes closer to Julian of Norwich's wonderful illustration of a servant teetering under a heavy burden en route to the master, and every so often falling into the ditch along the road. We acknowledge that we're broken people, living in a broken world. When we confess our sins in our worship services, it isn't for the benefit of newbies among us who haven't yet achieved spiritual enlightenment, but for ourselves, all of us, because we know we haven't gotten it right, either in the things we've done or the things we've failed to do

Which is the bad news. But the good news is that God loves us -- not for who we are but for who God is -- and forgives us, and invites us to follow Christ boldly into the future. Luther used the term "boldly" because we simply don't always know what way is the right way; the situations in which we find ourselves don't always lend themselves to a cut-and-dried rightness or wrongness, contrary to the thin-lipped, nit-picking, bean-counting Phariseeism of so much of the religious world. We just don't know; all we know is that Christ tells us to follow him, so we do, as best we can in this world. And when we stumble along the way, we know that Christ can pick us back up and set us on the road again. That's how it works; that's how it goes with us.

Keillor's motto for Lake Wobegonians is We Are Who We Are. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Both. And I wish Ken Edelstein knew that.

An online friend and I have been corresponding about Life and Stuff, and last night she sent me the lyrics to Leonard Cohen's song "Anthem." In it he sings:

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.

Friday, June 09, 2006

RevGalBlogPals Friday Five: Rain

This week's RevGal quiz:

Favorite way to spend a rainy day
Curled up on a sofa, reading a book or hanging out with a boon companion.

Favorite song about rain
Oh, definitely "Stormy Weather." (But for you rock fans out there I'll mention Eric Clapton's "Let It Rain" and REM's "So. Central Rain," two of my favorite rain songs in that musical genre.)

Favorite movie featuring rain
I know I've been somewhat (well, more than somewhat) brain-addled lately, but isn't it raining in the last scene of Casablanca? That's one of my favorite films of all time. Key Largo -- another great flick, set during a hurricane.

Favorite piece of raingear, past or present
I used to own a beige trenchcoat that I wore into tatters. (Perhaps I was inspired by all those Bogie films.)

Favorite word for rain
"Oh! I don't have to water my plants today!"

Friday Poetry Blogging

I love this one; nice website too, from the Library of Congress:

The Hymn of a Fat Woman by Joyce Huff

Friday Bloom Blogging

Once upon a time, I was going to plant the little pocket garden by my back steps all in bright colors -- reds, yellows, oranges. I changed my mind...but not after I'd bought some of the flowers. So I put them in this long planter and placed it at a corner of my sidewalk. I thought it turned out very well, and both the bees and the hummingbirds dig it.

Nasturtiums, yellow petunias, "Molten Lava" coleus... Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Go See This Movie

Last night a friend and I went out to see Over the Hedge, the animated film about a group of woodland animals who, confronted by creeping suburbia, decide to taste (literally) the good life on the other side of the subdivision hedge.

You have to see this movie. It's excellent.

Let me count the ways.

It's incredibly clever, with sharp, witty dialogue that explores some serious issues -- "affluenza," environmental destruction, greed, dishonesty, what makes a real family -- in a truly entertaining way, unlike some the ham-handed didactics one often experiences in these sorts of kids' films. Parts of it are just hilarious -- slapstick for the kiddos, smart repartee for the grownups. The animation is fascinating.

And I tink da porcupines may haff been Looterns, eh?

Go see this movie.

Isn't It Ironic

Sadly, for purposes of my blog, I wasn't able to capture this image before it disappeared into oblivion, but...all day yesterday at my work computer, where MSN is the default home page, I was subjected to a photograph of an anti-gay protester holding in one hand a "MARRIAGE = 1 MAN + 1 WOMAN" placard, the other hand clutching a crucifix bearing the image of a particularly anguished Christ gazing toward the viewer. The crucifix looked poised for smashing into the skull of some nearby sinner.

Ironic.

And I won't even go into the timing of the Adminstration's sudden renewed interest in the issue of gay marriage.

Ironic.

Meanwhile, on the Ship of Fools , the subject of celibate marriage -- committed relationships where partners for, whatever reason, choose not to consummate that relationship -- is causing Koncerned Konservative Kristian handwringing: you know, is that household arrangement really a marriage, is there something baaaaad about a couple choosing that way of life, etc.

Ironic.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Mock of the Beast

So it's 06.06.06. Everybody real skeered?

Yeah. I didn't think so.

Anyway, in honor of this day and all the media hype thereof, I thought I'd share a funny eschatology story, courtesy of my pastor. (Whom I don't think will mind that I'm stealing it from his sermon Sunday.)

My pastor knows a couple, two gentleperson farmers, in northern Michigan; one of the spouses is a former nun. Back in her sisterly days, she went to a lecture given by J├╝rgen Moltmann, one of the greatest theologians of the last century, speaking on eschatology. As you might expect, the lecture hall was packed with serious Doctor of Divinity types; and as you might also expect, the lecture was extremely dry and academic.

At the end of the lecture Moltmann held a question time, and of course the audience peppered him with very scholarly queries loaded with polysyllabic theologyspeak. Then the nun -- a very tiny woman -- raised her hand. Moltmann asked her for her question.

"So -- what's the end of the world going to be like, anyway?"

The great Dr. Moltmann paused for a second.

"Vell, little lady," he answered, "it's going to be a zurrrrprise!"

Amen.

Monday, June 05, 2006

My Semi-Annual Biblical Literacy Rant

I'm reading Fortress Introduction to the Gospels, by Mark Allan Powell. It's a great book, written for laypeople.

But how many laypeople have ever read it?

When is our church going to start taking biblical literacy for laypeople seriously, instead of piddling around with the usual devotional-lite Bible studies that don't teach people how to read the Bible intelligently? Why is this such a hard thing? What is the payoff, for all concerned, in keeping people lazy and ignorant?

/rant

What To Make of Pentecost

So...what do we make of Pentecost?

"Happy Birthday, Christian Church"?

For those of us possessed of at least a smidgen of "the theology of suspicion," this makes for something of a dubious annual celebration. There's the whole history of organized stupidity and malice within the Church: the ignorant mob that destroyed the library at Alexandria...successive generations of censors and heretic hunters and inquisitors, leaving bloody footprints in their wake...systematic oppression of women, of Jews, of gay men and women, of indigenous peoples and anyone who had the misfortune to be of the wrong ethnicity or religion or doctrinal permutation of Christianity in a particular time and place. And then there are the nutters, benign and deadly alike: everyone from the followers of William Miller, who sat naked on a hilltop waiting for the imminent Second Coming, according to Miller's mathematical calculations -- not just once, but over and over again, as he kept recalibrating the due date -- to the murderous likes of Jim Jones and David Koresh. All Christians who thought of themselves as being guided by God's Spirit. In our Gospel lesson Jesus even mentions people who harm his followers in the belief that in doing so they're serving God.

Yay. Happy birthday to us.

So if this isn't the most useful way for at least some of us to frame the festival of Pentecost, then what are some alternatives?

I thought of this over the weekend. One image that kept coming back to me was that of firstfruits. Because that's what Pentecost was originally all about, in Jewish ritual life. Perhaps it's more instructive for some of us to use this holiday, and this season, to celebrate the positive transformative power of the Holy Spirit in human lives -- firstfruits like love; joy; peace; patience; gentleness; goodness; faith; meekness (i.e., disinvestment in one's own rank or prerogatives); self-control.

And there's another dynamic to Pentecost, one many of us heard in our first lesson on Sunday: the widening circle of God's self-revelation, like a pebble thrown in the water. Who could have imagined that the warrior god imaged by a small, scruffy band of henotheistic Semitic nomads would, over the centuries, be transformed into the God we meet in Jesus, and who is worshipped literally around the planet? "Who knew?..."

As a well-known hymn puts it, there's a wideness in God's mercy...a wideness that spans time, place and the vistas of the human psyche. That's the movement of the Spirit that I think I want to acknowledge, with awe and gratitude, this Pentecost season.

Lovely (but copywrited) Pentecost art by Christiane Cappone here

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Saturday Bloom Blogging

Yellow lantana; magenta, purple and orange mini-petunias; blue lobelia; lotus vine.

The flow'rs of blooming spring Posted by Picasa

Saturday Beast Blogging

Something's up. I know it. This morning she got out the ironing board -- always a bad sign. It means she's going to tell me she's "going to work," which is a lie; she thinks it fools me, but I know that half the time "going to work" means leaving me home while she gallavants around somewhere. And she's not cooking yet; all the food is on the counter...but darn it, there's no cooking. The coffee isn't even on yet. She keeps saying the word "brunch." What in the heck is brunch? Can you eat it? Is there cooking?

Saturdays suck.

They're mean to me herePosted by Picasa

Friday, June 02, 2006

Blockbuster Friday Five

Courtesy of the RevGalBlogPals :

If you were a mutant, what ability would you like to have? (think superpower)
Invisibility.

Tell us about a memorable road trip you've experienced.
There was the time that several friends and I drove from East Lansing to Columbus in an old VW automatic whose wheel started falling off en route...we heard a strange clanging noise and felt a wonky vibration, and pulled over, and when our designated driver pulled off the hubcap numerous bolts fell out. That was pretty
memorable. And the car had no heater to speak of, so we were freezing. And we came back home with a contraband kitten who needed a trip to the litterbox but, alas, did not find one in the vehicle. But other than that it was a swell trip.

Do you enjoy solving riddles and working on puzzles? If so, what kinds?
You know, I am not normally a rabid puzzle person, but every great once in awhile I can get into crosswords. I'll do jigsaw puzzles with someone else.

Take two of your phobias and combine them to make a campy horror/disaster flick. What would it be called?
The Towering Infernal, in which our white-knuckled, trembling yokel heroine must navigate multilane urban rush-hour traffic...only to wind up on the top level of a very tall parking garage,looking out over the pedestrians below and promptly throwing up. (Note to one of my Constant Readers: Note that I said nothing about kayaking. So there's hope.)

Just how batsh*t crazy is Tom Cruise, anyway?
Crazier'n a whole forest full of fruit bats.

Friday Poetry Blogging

Thesaurus

It could be the name of a prehistoric beast
that roamed the Paleozoic earth, rising up
on its hind legs to show off its large vocabulary,
or some lover in a myth who is metamorphosed into a book.

It means treasury, but it is just a place
where words congregate with their relatives,
a big park where hundreds of family reunions
are always being held,
house, home, abode, dwelling, lodgings, and digs,
all sharing the same picnic basket and thermos;
hairy, hirsute, woolly, furry, fleecy, and shaggy
all running a sack race or throwing horseshoes,
inert, static, motionless, fixed and immobile
standing and kneeling in rows for a group photograph.

Here father is next to sire and brother close
to sibling, separated only by fine shades of meaning.
And every group has its odd cousin, the one
who traveled the farthest to be here:
astereognosis, polydipsia, or some eleven
syllable, unpronounceable substitute for the word tool.
Even their own relatives have to squint at their name tags.

I can see my own copy up on a high shelf.
I rarely open it, because I know there is no
such thing as a synonym and because I get nervous
around people who always assemble with their own kind,
forming clubs and nailing signs to closed front doors
while others huddle alone in the dark streets.

I would rather see words out on their own, away
from their families and the warehouse of Roget,
wandering the world where they sometimes fall
in love with a completely different word.
Surely, you have seen pairs of them standing forever
next to each other on the same line inside a poem,
a small chapel where weddings like these,
between perfect strangers, can take place.


--Billy Collins

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Chaos Theory

Once upon a time, while reading a book on journal-keeping that featured sample entries from volunteers’ diaries, I came upon one entry penned by someone working on self-esteem issues who devoted a page in her journal to a cataloguing of “Ways That I’m Mean To Myself.” And she was mean to herself, mostly through small but nonetheless life-diminishing acts of self-neglect.

I think that we can all be mean to ourselves at times, especially if we’re in a state of profound dissatisfaction with our lives, when we feel that we don’t measure up to a particular standard.

One of the ways that I can be mean to myself is by living in chaos – clutter; an unordered daily schedule; chronic procrastination. In my case I think part of it is simply due to some sort of low-level ADHD that keeps me constantly in search of intellectual and creative stimulation, so much so that I actually do forget what I was doing just minutes ago, and that I also sometimes just don’t see the wreckage of my previous distractions lying around me – the books on the floor; the mail on the table, the half-completed paperwork, the kitchen utensils on the counter. But part of it, I think, if I’m truly honest with myself, is some sense, deep down, that I am not worth being taken care of, including by myself.

Now, on a theological level I know where this feeling comes from, and it’s not from the team that’s on my side: It’s the Adversary, the Accuser. In the Accuser’s scheme of things, “THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS NO!” The Accuser lays down the Law, right on top of my head, with extreme prejudice, then gut-checks me for good measure, and laughs as I’m sprawled out on the ground: Loser!

But the Accuser, according to the Christian paradigm, doesn’t get the last word. As Paul puts it, for us God always has a YES! And the One in whom and through him and for whom all things were made and in whom all things hold together is working constantly to wrest order out of chaos, to mend the broken places – including the ones in our psyches.

So – I find myself developing tricks to manage my own chaos. At work, my day planner is my friend. I don’t try to micromanage every half-hour block of my day like some of my Franklin-Planner-cultist friends do, because that doesn’t work for me; but I do have my to-do list, and it’s important for me to make the little checks next to the items every day. At home it’s been trickier, without the external reality check of my mother (whom I suspect, ironically, had something of the same malady), to keep myself grounded in some type of schedule and daily system of neatening things up. Sometimes it comes down to, “If you’re in this room, pick one thing up and put it away. Just one thing.” But I’m trying. I feel the compulsion. I feel the slow, steady pull into order even as I sometimes still jerk away. And as I find myself living into myself, living into the person I believe God wants me to be and listening to the people around me who respect me and are rooting for me, I feel more of an incentive to respect myself by respecting my space and my time.