Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Poetry Blogging

The Upper Midwest doesn't do spring well, or at least not according to the standards of, say, England, which I'm told actually has a discrete season of spring. In Michigan we alternate between cold, gray, Novemberesque rains; sudden, strange bursts of 75 degree, sunkissed weather that send schoolchildren out the door in the morning in shorts and flip-flops; and snow or ice storms. And then it's summer in earnest, at the end of May. Peas and primroses do not do well here. And it is very rare that our Easters, unless they're very late, in any way resemble the popular Easter Day image of flower-kissed meadows and butterflies and fuzzy nestlings. (Unless you count, say, the hardy offspring of early breeders like crows and owls, whose pictures would probably not sell a lot of Easter cards.)

Here is a poem about late springs.

Friday Five: It's Going to Be a Loooooong Week

The RevGals' Friday Five:

Will this Sunday be Palms only, Passion only, or hyphenated?
At our place it is Palm Sunday, complete with cardboard palm fronds to wave around...and it's going to be mostly about the kids, from what I understand.

Maundy Thursday Footwashing: Discuss.
For the past several years our church has had, in lieu of the traditional Maundy Thursday Eucharist service, a kind of agape meal -- stew, homemade flatbread and other accompaniments -- with a narrated liturgy, culminating in Eucharist around our tables, with participants serving one another the bread and wine. At the beginning, as we enter into the fellowship area, members of the Worship Committee meet us and, instead of washing our feet, wash/dry/lotion our hands. It's still a way of modeling service and humility, I think, and is both logistically easier and less intimidating for worshippers than the footwashing.

Share a particularly meaningful Good Friday worship experience.
Tenebrae services really move me -- the stripped altar; the reading of Jesus' last words and the loud thud of the Bible being shut; the silent procession out of the church. (Our congregation has a hard time with the silence.)

Easter Sunrise Services--choose one:
a) "Resurrection tradition par excellence!"
b) "Eh. As long as it's sunrise with coffee, I can live with it."
c) "[Yawn] Can't Jesus stay in the tomb just five more minutes, Mom?!?"

Oh, I love the early service -- not only for the evocative atmosphere, there in the faint but growing light of sunrise, but because it frees the rest of the day for celebration with family and/or friends. I once attended an 11:00 a.m. Easter service; just not the same.

Complete this sentence: It just isn't Easter without...
"Christ the Lord is Ris'n Today"!

Bonus question: Easter Vigil:
Believe it or not I have never been to congregation had an Easter Vigil for a couple of years but I think the service burnout got to people. If it were logistically feasible for me to pack in this observance I think it would be really cool.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Doing Theology

This weekend I could be going to a one-day workshop on Lutheran theology at our synodical office -- it's actually a class for aspiring Synodically Approved Ministers, or SAMs; we lowly bush leaguers at the bottom of the lay ministry hierarchy may tag along for credit. Instead, I'm going to a party. What the heck.

My question, though, is why Lutheran theology isn't front-loaded into the program in the first place, so that students have some conceptual scaffolding to support all the biblical studies. I mean, we have Dan Erlander's Baptized We Live as an assigned reading, but no one ever seems to follow up on whether we students actually read it or got it. And I've heard enough un-Lutheran theology being promulgated by Lutheran laypeople whose adult catechesis seems grounded in pop-Christian books and radio to think that maybe Lutheran adult education needs to seriously revisit "What does this mean?"

Another rather disappointing indication that all the sweat and tears and angst I poured into my application was for nought. Ability to fog a mirror seems to be the major qualification for enrollment; after which there is no evaluation process in which I am a partner, no feedback, no mentoring except for peer support groups, no indication that anyone cares about my actual spiritual/vocational formation.

I'm hoping it'll be a good party.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Veggie Tales

Whole Foods Market.


During an excursion to Ann Arbor this weekend I had my first Whole Foods Market experience. Oh, my. Ohmyohmyohmy. Fellow Traveler said that I appeared to go into shock upon entrance, and stayed that way most of the visit. I forgot half the things I'd wanted to buy there. The produce...the meat and fish and poultry...the various deli islands...the shelf merchandise...the cheese...the cheese!...


And semi-dittos for the Trader Joe's just down the street. What a fun place to shop...and great prices.

Some days it is so frustrating to be stuck here in the white-bread-and-bologna region of the state -- it's not really about cost of food, by the way, but rather local culture -- where the chances of either a Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe's ever locating here are about equal to the chances of unicorns being discovered in the state forest. I keep telling myself that at least I have access to a friendly, fairly comprehensive, reasonably priced food cooperative 45 miles away...but still...

Anyway, I was feeling inspired today after work, so I made myself a vegan supper, courtesy of ingredients from my humble coop -- Tofutti faux sour cream, which is one of the few soy analog foods that I think is just as good as the real thing, and seitan, a traditional Chinese food made from wheat gluten -- if you kneaded flour for a long time under running water until all the bran and starchy stuff sloughed off, you'd wind up with seitan. Seitan, like tofu, is useful in that it's quite bland and absorbs the flavors of whatever you cook with it; unlike tofu it has a pleasant chewiness. And this is what I made, with contact-grilled asparagus (pre-rolled in olive oil and kosher salt) on the side:

Seitan Stroganoff
4 oz. Tofutti sour cream
1/4 cup water
1 tsp boullion (I used Better Than Boullion mushroom base, a very handy substance to have in the fridge to perk up soups and sauces -- it's a little spendy but lasts forever)
1 TBS flour
a good grind of pepper

Mix all of this together and set aside.

Meanwhile, sautee in a little oil until soft:

1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic


8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 8 oz package seitan, chunked (a few splashes of tamari soy sauce makes it taste a bit more meaty and substantial)

Continue cooking until mushrooms are soft. Add the sour cream sauce to mixture. Simmer for another 5 or 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve over whole wheat noodles.

Now, if you like steak the way I do, you are never going to mistake meatless stroganoff for the original...but this was pretty good. The Codeman, who is a fairly adventurous eater for a dog, would have none of the seitan, but he did lick all the Tofutti sauce off.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Your Ecological Footprint

Think you're living lightly on the earth? Take this test, and you may be unpleasantly surprised to learn otherwise. (I learned that if everyone were as resource-squandering as myself, statistically speaking, we'd need 2.6 planets to sustain us all.) Warning: You need to think in metric on this website, or have a metric converter handy, to answer some of the questions.

Leave Me Alone

I heard there's a meme going around somewhere called "What Famous Painting Are You?" I think that right at this moment I would be The Scream, and what I'm screaming is Leave Me Alone! My income tax conundrum, since Mom died, necessitating outside tax preparation help for the first time in my four bosses (that is not a typo)and the various frustrations associated with work...intermittent health anxieties involving myself and the people and pets around fibroid, which I sometimes picture as the in utero monster in Alien...even, sadly, my church, which sometimes feels like a needy, cheeping little baby lay ministry program, which is turning out to be a huge disappointment on multiple levels, although I feel compelled to soldier on until the house, which I have no time or money to keep up...

Gaaaaah! If this were the survival of the fittest being played out on some sun-scorched savannah, I'd be Lion Chow.

I am so tired right now I'd like to sleep for a week. I'm too tired to think.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday Five: Rivers in the Desert

This week's RevGalBlogPal challenge:

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19, NRSV

"As we near the end of the long journey toward Easter, a busy time for pastors and layfolk alike, I ponder the words of Isaiah and the relief and refreshment of a river in the desert.

For this Friday Five, name five practices, activities, people or _____ (feel free to fill in something I may be forgetting) that for you are rivers in the desert."

1. My domestic life. My weekdays tend to be pretty spiritually arid, to follow our metaphor. My weekends -- generally spent in domestic pursuits with Fellow Traveler, at either of our homes -- are oases of love and calm and contentment. There is something about having someone waiting for you (or in my case my special human someone, plus three canine faces pressed against the windowpane) at home at the end of a Friday afternoon that erases all the Sturm und Drang of the workweek; and at the risk of sounding a little "cosmic" I think that feeling of home is a foretaste of our coming home, at the end of things, into the presence of God and the Communion of Saints.

2. Music. Of assorted kinds. Bach organ preludes...chant...worldbeat...jazz...blues...folky coffeehouse stuff.

3. Learning. I know I do a lot of kvetching here about my experiences in lay ministry training, but the consistent bright spot in the whole thing is the educational component. I love listening to our lectures, and asking questions. And I love learning in general; I think that resolving to learn some new thing every year in a systematic way -- Spanish or swimming or fly-tying or growing orchids -- is a splendid idea. Interestingly, I spend a lot of my 9-to-5 life feeling stupid; so building a knowledge base in some area or competency in some skill lifts me up and makes me feel like I'm living into the sapiens part of my enfleshed existence.

4. Prayer. As much as I enjoy a system of fixed prayer, I think the kind that really get me from day to day are the 5 a.m. extemporaneous kind. There is a certain honesty, a lack of artifice, lying there in the dark with no distractions and no excuses, that makes it one of the most real places in my life.

5. Nature. I was reminded of this the other day, reading some ancient and contemporary Celtic prayers from Iona, with their evocative images of sea and sky and shore. I think my concern about the environment is fueled in part by my own experience of feeling close to the Divine in nature.

Thanks, Wikipedia , for the Colorado River photo.

Friday Poetry Blogging

On my way to work this morning I saw several woodlots with galvanized buckets hanging from trees -- it's maple syrup season here in Michigan.

Now, you'd think there'd be all sorts of lovely, evocative, hooray-for-spring poems dealing with this annual ritual of the north...but all I could find was this rather macabre vision of working the sugarbush, from the maple tree's point of view.

Maybe I'll compose my own poem:

Pancakes, French toast, teriyaki
Maple syrup -- ain't we lucky!

Or not.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mud Season

Watching a young citizen of Outer Podunk stomp through a supermarket parking lot in very large Wellingtons made me think of a line an old friend of mine used to use to describe this time of year: mudlicious and puddle-wonderful.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What's Wrong With This Picture?

I'm reading a depressing Yahoo! News factlet about the government of Uganda reneging on preserving a tract of its endangered rainforest. (Whenever I hear about petulant developing-world leaders gleefully despoiling their own countries while wilfully ignoring international pleas to cease, I'm reminded of that old girl-group song, "And don't tell me what to do...and don't tell me what to say...'cause you don't own me.") As I'm reading this I'm watching, from the corner of one eye, one of those decadent consumer-fantasy Target commercials...followed by the opening shots of a television drama about a serial killer who gets his gets his jollies watching people burn to death.

I think I'd like to be in a different species.

Monday, March 19, 2007

De-Clutter is Still De-bilitating

My Flylady experiment is not going well.

As you will recall, at the beginning of the year I decided I'd sign up for the daily Flylady e-mails nagging at me in a "Oh, mah pore precious li'l ol' sweetie" Southern belle way to pick up after myself and make my home more civilized.

After a couple months of e-mails, my daily reaction upon seeing the newest one is to want to crawl into a corner and whimper. Actually, I want to beat these women off with a baseball bat, then crawl into a corner and whimper.

I am so tired when I get home from work that the only thing keeping me from falling into bed at 5:30 pm is my dog, who expects dinner on the table.

In Flyladyland, of course, women do not work outside the home, so fatigue is no excuse for not swishing and swiping and "blessing" your home by keeping it regularly spiffed up. Yeah, well.

If someone knows of a de-clutter motivational program that isn't quite as Stepford Wives, I'm all ears.

The View From the Back Pew

This past Sunday Fellow Traveler and I did something in church we almost never do -- we sat in the very last pew, back by the sanctuary door.

The church was packed for a double baptism, and our usual forth-row pew-spot was taken. (One of our senior saints once whispered to my mother and me, as we all took our favorite places, "We're just like cows in the barn, headed for the same stanchions every time.") But we were not dismayed. You see, because of our small, cramped, user-unfriendly sanctuary with only one central aisle, attempting to leave church at the end of any given service is reminiscent of the cul-de-sac parade route scene in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. This Sunday, though, if we sat in the very back, we could make a quick exit before the parishoner bottleneck trapped us mid-aisle, zip home, eat our lunch and watch NCAA hoops all afternoon. It was a Sweet Sixteen miracle.

When I was growing up, my parents favored mid-sanctuary -- not close enough to the pastor to make eye contact, but not way in the back with casual attendees and squalling infants. Since I've been old enough to choose my own pew, I've always been a front-of-the-church sitter; well, as front-of-the-church as a Lutheran gets without coercion, which is maybe the third row. As a short person, I like sitting where I can actually see what's happening, and as someone whose dimming middle-aged ears were further compromised by a youth spent around farm equipment and loud rock-and-roll, I also like to hear what's going on.

So I'm a back-bench newbie. And I'm telling you, it's a whole different experience there.

For one thing, I found my location very marginalizing. Even in a tiny sanctuary like ours, the service seemed very far away -- almost in a different room. It was hard to see; hard to hear.

And then there's -- God bless 'em -- the children. We were fortunate in sitting next to two young families with relatively well-behaved kids and well-thought-out coping strategies (lots of snacks and quiet amusements), but even so -- our congregation lets the kiddos run wild and free, so every five minutes we had to move our legs and let the little crumb-crunchers scoot past, up and down the aisle. Other little kids and even older, middle-school-aged kids, were constantly pacing in and out of the sanctuary.

The noise level is a lot higher in the back -- and not just due to children. I'm appalled at how adults who should know better just talk to one another all through the service -- and not sotto voce. And then there was the necessary but further distracting activity of the ushers and other helpers waiting in the wings, as it were, just behind us.

"Tell me again why we're sitting back here," whispered Fellow Traveler during a musical interlude. I pantomimed a dribble and a lay-up. "Oh...right."

Our back-of-church self-exile reminded me of what they told us in catechism class about worship services in the time of Luther -- clueless, mostly inattentive peasants crowded at the back of churches waiting for the Hoc est enim corpus meum and elevation of the Elements so they could call it a Mass and bail.

But I found my experience to be instructive as well. Among other things, it reminded me that those of us who find ourselves front and center need to speak and move in ways that can be seen and heard by the people in the farthest pews. It also made me wonder if there were logistical ways to re-incorporate the back-benchers into the service -- to lessen that seeming psychological distance between them and the worship proper, even in the case of distracted parents and hyper middle-schoolers and blabby others.

I'd encourage any of my good-do-bee readers -- especially folks involved in worship planning and leadership -- who've never spent a Sunday in the back pew to try it sometime. You'll learn something. And it will make you want to gather in the people who stay at the margins of your worship service.

Where All the Women Are Strong, All the Men Are Good-Looking, and No One is Queer

Imagine my deep disappointment to read this op-ed piece by Garrison Keillor.

Not only is Keillor's premise offensive and unfunny, but I'm sure I'm not the only reader bemused to have the morality and quality of my relationship critiqued by a thrice-married individual who left one wife in the midst of an extramarital affair.

And I'm sure financially strapped public radio stations all over the country are less than thrilled to have the creator/emcee of one of their dependable Pledge Week cash cows trash-talking a segment of their listenership. Nice.

Keillor once noted that the worst invective that one could utter in a self-effacing community such as Lake Wobegon was, Who do you think you are? I guess that's my question for you, Mr. Keillor: Who do you think you are?

UPDATE: This is from the Prairie Home Companion website:

"Ordinarily I don't like to use this space to talk about my newspaper column but the most recent column aroused such angry reactions that I thought I should reply. The column was done tongue-in-cheek, always a risky thing, and was meant to be funny, another risky thing these days, and two sentences about gay people lit a fire in some readers and sent them racing to their computers to fire off some jagged e-mails. That's okay. But the underlying cause of the trouble is rather simple.

I live in a small world — the world of entertainment, musicians, writers — in which gayness is as common as having brown eyes. Ever since I was in college, gay men and women have been friends, associates, heroes, adversaries, and in that small world, we talk openly and we kid each other and think nothing of it. But in the larger world, gayness is controversial. In almost every state, gay marriage would be voted down if put on a ballot. Gay men and women have been targeted by the right wing as a hot-button issue. And so gay people out in the larger world feel beseiged to some degree. In the small world I live in, they feel accepted and cherished as individuals, but in the larger world they may feel like Types. My column spoke as we would speak in my small world and it was read by people in the larger world and thus the misunderstanding. And for that, I am sorry. Gay people who set out to be parents can be just as good parents as anybody else, and they know that, and so do I. "

Okay. Apology accepted. But I would think that someone who's made a name for himself representing the sensibilities and foibles of the "larger world" between the coasts would have the insight to realize that his words would travel far beyond the insular world of arts and entertainment.

St. Patrick's Day Revisited

Since my only real connection to Irishness is a fondness for Celtic music and a significant other with some Irish branches on the family tree, St. Patrick's Day has always been one of those holidays I've largely experienced from the outside. And my "theology of suspicion" tends to kick in when I think about how, as Celtic countries became Christianized, women actually often lost legal rights and status; I think whenever we Christians start getting a little too cocky about the ethical superiority and all-around swellness of our belief system, the remembered witness of women, indigenous peoples, forced converts and others in our history should give us a corrective thwack on the side of the head. How ironic, how often it is that the "not yet" ideals of equality and harmony expressed by Paul find themselves grinding against the "now" of our enculturated prejudices.

But -- St. Patrick, himself a former slave, was by all accounts a compelling anti-slavery activist. Despite whatever misogyny he'd picked up elsewhere -- his Lorica, in its non-Bowlderized version, contains an amusing plea for divine protection against the evil machinations of "women, wizards and smiths" -- made a positive impression on many Irish noblewomen who left their families to found convents. And the conversion of Ireland, compared to the Christianization of populations elsewhere in Europe, seemed less bloody, less forced, more organic and less contemptuous of the previous culture.

So, anyway -- we didn't engage in any public St. Patrick's Day frivolity, but we did have quite a fine Irish-ish dinner Saturday night. Here are some of the featured players:

Guinness Glazed Brisket
1 corned beef brisket, rinsed and dried thoroughly (discard spice packet)
1 cup brown sugar
1 bottle Guinness Extra Stout

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Rub brisket all over with brown sugar. Place in roaster (I spray mine with baking spray beforehand -- you'll be glad you did). Pour Guinness around brisket, and very gently pour a little over the top as well. Bake for 2 1/2 hours. Let sit for a half hour, then cut very thinly against the grain. (The original recipe suggested adding vegetables of your choice an hour before the brisket is done; this is WAY too late, because I added an extra half hour and still wound up having to microwave the veggies; I also found the vegetables a little too sweet for my taste. So I'd recommend cooking the cabbage, carrots, potatoes, etc. separately.)

This is, more or less, mashed potatoes with a generous dose of cooked chopped green onions added, and a generous dollop of real butter plopped into the middle of the bowl as you serve them.

Irish Soda Bread
3 cups unbleached flour -- pastry flour if you can get it
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
a pinch or so of sugar (but don't tell your Irish friends you added it)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl, using a fork. Make a well in the flour mixture and add 1 cup of buttermilk, stirring well. Slowly add the rest of buttermilk to make a soft dough like a biscuit dough. Turn onto a floured surface and gently knead for about one minute -- you do not want to overknead. Pat into a flat (maybe inch-and-a-half-thick) round; slash an X into the top using a sharp knife dipped in flour; place on a baking-sprayed cookie sheet. Bake for 45 minutes, or until bread is golden and sounds hollow when tapped. Wrap in a damp tea towel to cool. This simple recipe is surprisingly tasty -- especially, to me, the next day, sliced thin and toasted. And here's a fascinating fact I just learned: Soda bread became an Irish staple because hard whole wheat, the high-gluten variety you need to make yeasted bread rise, was scarce in many parts of Ireland; so soda became a predominant bread leavening by necessity.

Easy Bailey's Cheesecake
1 graham cracker crust, chilled in 9-inch springform pan
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
4 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. Bailey's Irish Cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Blend cheese and sugar together until smooth. Blend in 1 egg and Bailey's Irish Cream. Add remaining eggs, one at a time. Pour into chilled crust. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Refrigerate. Add whipped cream and chocolate curls if desired.

Artwork: St Patrick icon, Nicholas Markell, Bridge Building Images

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Friday Five "Have-Tos"

Well...after ingesting a gallon of coffee and diet cola, it's come to my attention that I missed an entire half of the RevGal Friday Five challenge: the "have-tos" of my day.

Since I've already accomplished most of the work ones, it being after 4 pm and all, this should be easy:

1. Pick up proofs from the printer down the highway in another community, and drop off some marketing stuff elsewhere in the general vicinity. (Check.)

2. Write a press release. (Check.)

3. Work on a newsletter. (Well...sort of.)

4. Buy a pound of can't-live-without-it Just Coffee Ethiopian yrgicheffe. (Check.)

5. Install a new shower curtain liner. (Tonight.)

I hope you enjoyed this peek into the glamor and intrigue of my everyday life.

Friday Poetry Blogging

Evidently basketball don't get no respect from poets. Oh, no. Unlike the scores of poems about baseball, you have to really work to find a basketball poem. But I found one , by Edward Hirsch. He shoots...he scores.

Friday Five: If I Could Do What I Want, What I Really, Really Want

This Friday's quintet query from the RevGalBlogPals: What five things would you rather be doing today than what you are doing?

1. Looking out at Crystal Lake from my new, interesting, agreeable workplace, anticipating a lovely St. Patrick's Day weekend with Fellow Traveler and the critters in a new Benzie County abode. (Hmmm...I think a leprechaun has pinched me and put me under a spell, or else I'm so spent from lack of sleep watching b-ball last night that I've begun hallucinating.)

2. Planting the mixed heirloom tomato seeds I got in the mail yesterday and placing them in my sunny dining room window.

3. Doing some long-neglected housework in the light of day, while I'm at least partially awake...which is the opposite of when I usually try to clean the house.

4. Taking a walk around my neighborhood.

5. Baking bread.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


It's especially timely, with the film Amazing Grace currently playing in theaters: Revisiting the subject of slavery. It isn't a "wayback" subject, either; some human-rights organizations estimate that there are now more persons living in slavery on this planet than ever before. And they're all over: children sold into servitude by desperate, indebted parents; sex slaves; enslaved prisoners of war.

Gannet Girl, on her blog Search the Sea shares the story of a freed slave. It will make you angry and sad and frustrated and ashamed, all at the same time.

Back when I was a younger chik, at college, I was an active member of Amnesty International; I think I wrote letters on people's behalf every single week. I also sent a few dollars of bottle-deposit money to an organization that helped rehabilitate victims of torture. As happens with many of us, once I became entrenched in the preoccupations of confirmed adulthood, I slowly drifted out of my activism; not because I had become disillusioned -- I thought then, and still think, that these grassroots efforts are not wasted, no matter how small on our parts and how big and scary the problem -- but because I'd gotten busy with the busy-ness of a working adult.

I've said here before that this is a fairly unstructured Lent for me; but one of the things I would like to reincorporate into my life is advocating for people outside my own circle of loved ones and friends and "tribe"; of regaining that outward-reaching way of living that I used to embrace.

Putting the Mental in Fundamentalist

Before tuning in to March Madness tonight (go State!), I happened upon an online discussion about marriage. A Christian fundamentalist -- a female fundamentalist, no less -- was giving her moral approval to arranged marriages, and even to the Old Testament principle that a rapist is obligated to marry his victim. Because, of course, "the Bible tells me so."

Now, I understand that it is a character deficit on my part, not being able to deal with others with equanimity and a certain detachment -- but I just don't know how to be around people this f*****g stupid. Especially when their stupidity is directly related to practices that demean and sometimes kill women.

Meanwhile...I just read on Yahoo! News today that more and more Afghan women and girls are reacting to the "traditional family values" inflicted upon them by fathers, brothers and husbands by setting themselves on fire.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Sound of Silence

I grew up in an old hip-roofed stone farmhouse that my father had retrofitted on the inside with innovations like wood paneling in the living room. Evidently one day during this process the drill slipped, because one of the panels sported a little, perfectly round hole in the middle, just low enough for a small child to insert things into. I remember, one day, scribbling out messages on tiny pieces of paper, then rolling up the papers into scrolls and pushing them into the hole. I'm not sure why, or who I thought would find them and respond. But it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I thought about that the other day, after sending an e-mail to the lay ministry program informing them that I have a work conflict with our next scheduled retreat and won't be able to attend, and asking if I could nonetheless receive copies of any written materials given out at that retreat. Because, like the hole in the wall of my childhood home, my communications with this program seem to wind up in the same dark limbo of non-response. Not even a form-letter "Thank you for your input."

Yesterday I checked my e-mail. Wow! Not one, but two messages from the program. Maybe I was wrong, I thought. Maybe I'd get an actual personal e-mail from a Power That Be. I eagerly opened the letters.

They were group e-mails informing our class of another upcoming event; one a duplicate, sent by mistake.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Monday Meme-ing: Sleeping With Bread

A few posts ago I was semi-lamenting the dearth of memes going around the blogosphere these days...well, lo and behold, I found a website called The Daily Meme just chockful with ideas for memes -- even starting your own meme-based blog.

One of the cool memes I found there was Sleeping With Bread. The title references how, in World War II, displaced children found it easier to fall asleep if given a bit of bread to hold at night; an assurance of care and nourishment from day to day. The Sleeping With Bread meme is based on the Ignatian practice of examen, of reality-checking our lives by regularly reviewing them both in terms of the things that have brought us closer to God and the things that have drawn us away from God, and using our insights into our own experience to ask God for presence, strength and spiritual nourishment.

If you choose to play, pick a duration of time -- the past day, the past week, the past month -- and ask one or more of these questions:

For what am I most grateful? Least grateful?
When did I give and receive the most love? The least love?
When did I feel most alive? Most drained of life?
When did I have the greatest sense of belonging? Least sense of belonging?
When was I most free? Least free?
When was I most creative? Least creative?
When did I feel most connected? Least connected?
When did I feel most fully myself? Least myself?
When did I feel most whole? Most fragmented?

Since I'm at work -- not exactly an examen kind of place -- I will have to defer my response for later tonight...but if anyone cares to share here, feel free. And if you want to share this meme on your own blog, go for it.

Spring Comes To Outer Podunk

Today on my lunch break I saw a sure sign of approaching spring -- a turkey vulture circling languidly above downtown Outer Podunk.

Now, a first turkey vulture of the year isn't nearly as evocative as a first bluebird or first robin...but here in the Upper Midwest we will take any harbinger of spring we can get.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Anfechtungen, there's an impressive German word for you; not quite as impressive as Geschwindigkeitsbegrenzung (speed limit), my all-time favorite German word, but fun to say nonetheless.

What does it mean? For those of us who live in Lutherland, it refers to the life trials and emotional pain that are part of the human experience; the nagging, stinging, aching consequences of human-beingness that may cause us to question God's goodness and love: Illness; depression; anxiety; the sting of our conscience when we do or say or think something hurtful and wrong; relational frictions; the damaging consequences of our own and other people's sin; our helplessness and outrage at injustice and pain around us; **** happening; the insidious little voice that whispers in our ears:

God doesn't really love everyone.
Where is God now?
If you were a better person you wouldn't feel this way.
If you were a better person this wouldn't have happened.
A good God wouldn't have let this happen.
If you were just more [insert virtue here], or less [insert vice here], God would love you more.
You aren't good enough.
You're hopeless.
God hates you.

As Luther pointed out, the Adversary, the Accuser, often works in the medium of piety, of religiosity, to nudge us into spiritual despair; our own thoughts, or the accusing, damning words and behaviors of "good Christians."

Anfechtungen, in Lutheran theology, are part and parcel of the Christian experience. They're with us always, like an arthritis that sometimes aches, sometimes stabs.

Today in his sermon my pastor, talking about today's Gospel lesson, noted that we have two ways to handle the manure that falls into our lives; we can either let ourselves be smothered in it, or we can allow the Gardener to dig it in around us -- to help us spread out our roots and grow in an outward direction, our own experience of hurt helping us be more sensitive and reponsive to the pain and need of others; to be what Henri Nouwen called "wounded healers."

Good Eats From the East

If you're ever really, really bored some weekend and want to turn your dinner into a craft project, try making wontons.

We weren't bored yesterday -- we went to an exhibit of Frank Lloyd Wright architectural memorabilia, plus some amazing multidimensional "light paintings" and photographic works at the Midland Center For the Arts -- but we came home and made steamed wontons anyway. They were awfully good, and not all that difficult to assemble once we hit on a process.

Here are the two recipes we tried.

Veggie Wontons
1/2 pound firm tofu
1/2 cup coarsely grated carrots
1/2 cup shredded Napa cabbage
2 tablespoons finely chopped red pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 egg, lightly beaten (totally unncessary, in my opinion)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (also unnecessary, at least this amount)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Bowl of water, plus additional water for steamer
35 to 40 small wonton wrappers
Non-stick vegetable spray, for the steamer

Cut the tofu in half horizontally and lay between layers of paper towels.

Place on a plate, top with another plate, and place a weight on top (a 14-ounce can of vegetables works well). Let stand 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, cut the tofu into 1/4-inch cubes and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the carrots, cabbage, red pepper, scallions, ginger, cilantro, soy sauce, hoisin, sesame oil, egg, salt, and pepper. Lightly stir to combine.

To form the dumplings, remove 1 wonton wrapper from the package, covering the others with a damp cloth. Brush the edges of the wrapper lightly with water. Place 1/2 rounded teaspoon of the tofu mixture in the center of the wrapper. Shape as desired. Set on a sheet pan and cover with a damp cloth. Repeat procedure until all of the filling is gone.

Using a steaming apparatus of your choice, bring 1/4 to 1/2-inch of water to a simmer over medium heat. Spray the steamer's surface lightly with the non-stick vegetable spray to prevent sticking. Place as many dumplings as will fit into a steamer, without touching each other. Cover and steam for 10 to 12 minutes over medium heat. Remove the dumplings from the steamer to a heatproof platter and place in oven to keep warm. Repeat until all dumplings are cooked.

(Cook's note: We left out the cilantro, hyped up the hoisin and soy sauce a bit, and added a little dab of chili paste. We steamed the wontons in the microwave -- put about a half-inch of water in the steamer, heated it up for five minutes, added the wontons and nuked those for about five minutes. And -- we found that very swiftly dipping the entire finished wonton in water kept them from unwrapping and from drying out on top.)

Pork Momos

about a half pound or so of ground pork
1 large onion chopped very fine
8-10 cloves of garlic chopped very fine (don't be afraid)
3 tbsps soy sauce
1 tbsp chilli sauce (we used Korean garlic chili paste -- yum!)
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
Salt to taste
vegetable/canola/sunflower cooking oil
wonton wrappers (the original recipe called for homemade dough, but we weren't quite that culinarily ambitious)

Heat a little oil in a pan and fry the onions till translucent. Add the garlic and fry till it begins to turn golden.
Add the meat and brown.
Add the soy and chilli sauces and mix well.
Add the freshly ground pepper, salt to taste and cook till the pork is done.
Dab a tiny bit of water on the edges of the wontons. Put a dab of pork in the center of each circle. Fold the edges over the pork and pinch and twist to seal or fold the momo in half and pinch the edges shut. Get as creative as you like with shapes, as long as you make sure to seal the edges well. Place the momos in a steamer and cook for 10-15 minutes. These goodies, by the way, are from Sikkim, in the Himalayas.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Genocide, SBC Style

Read it and weep.

Friday Poetry Blogging

I've been thinking about Deus abconditus a lot this past week; so finding this poem by Wendell Berry was serendipitous. And -- here in Outer Podunk one can hear spring birdsong in the air every so often these days; all the better to read this.

Friday Five: Matters of Taste

This week's RevGalBlogPals challenge: Name five things you like a lot that some close relative or significant other did/does not like. This could be food, movies, hobbies, music, sports or whatever springs to mind.

1. Chocolate. I love it, and consider it a food group. Fellow Traveler hates it. So when she gives me a gift of chocolate -- like my Valentine's Day custom-printed M&M's -- I consider it something of an act of sacrifice as well as of love; sort of like when I gave my rabidly conservative late father a -- shudder -- Rush Limbaugh book one Christmas.

2. Janis Joplin. I like her music; Fellow Traveler hates it.

3. Cartoons. My parents used to be absolutely mystified by my adult enjoyment of cartoons -- whether favorites from my childhood like Bullwinkle ("Come, Natasha -- vee get moose und sqvirrel") or "adult" cartoons like The Simpsons. In their minds, cartoons were for kids -- period. I remember trying to exegete an episode of The Simpsons for my parents, pointing out the sly allusions to popular culture and such, and having them look at me as if I were mentally impaired. "You really can't grow up, can you?"

4. Recreational cooking. My mother sometimes had a difficult time understanding how I could find cooking relaxing, or why I would happily launch into a recipe with 20 ingredients and ten steps when I could just buy an instant mix that made a reasonable (to her) facsimile instead. She also used to shake her head at my tendency to get odd culinary urges in the evening -- bringing out the cookie-making ingredients at 9 p.m., for instance.

5. Recreational shopping. While I am the dispositional opposite of a mall rat, there are times when I can spend a whole day in a big-box store just seeing what's there -- I'll have some "need" items on my list, but then I'll find myself wandering around just to sight-see the merchandise. (For those of you familiar with Meijer's stores -- those are my favorite stalking grounds when I get in this mood.) For Fellow Traveler, this is the equivalent of pounding bamboo splinters under her fingernails. This is one of those "May there be spaces in your togetherness" things, I think.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

How Weird Am I, Really?

Remember memes? Once upon a time new memes seemed to spread through blogdom every week. I got a kick out of them.

Well, here's a new one, courtesy of RevGalBlogPal Cathy at Cathy Knits and More. Even though the rules state that I need to tag six readers to continue the meme, I'll let you decide if you want to play too...just tell me if you do so I can read your responses on your blog. So, without further ado, here is the Weird Things About Me Meme:

RULES: People who get tagged need to write a blog post of 6 weird things about them as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names.

1. When I am at home and deep in thought, I often find myself pulling the collar of my sweatshirt or PJs up over my mouth...not to chew, mind you; just to pull over my mouth. I don't know why I do this; I just do.

2. I hate making left-hand turns. In order to avoid left-hand turns on busy corners I will drive a block or more around the neighborhood, then go straight across on a light. I add extra time to my travel itineraries in cities because I know I'll be playing games like this en route.

3. I do not care to stand under large, dead trees. There's something sinister and creepy about them. When I was a small child I was actually afraid of being anywhere near a dead tree.

4. When I'm out of town and staying at a hotel, I enjoy reading the Yellow Pages of whatever community I'm in.

5. I think that Rice Krispies and walnuts, mixed together, make a mighty fine snack.

6. One of my favorite housekeeping tasks -- really, about the only one that doesn't make me want to run away from home -- is steam-cleaning the carpet.

I'm sure Fellow Traveler and my coworkers could provide you with several dozen more Weird Things About Me, but this will have to do for now. So go blog!

Bend It Like LutheranChik

Foot update: My foot, which Constant Readers know took a beating this weekend when I tripped over it in a most ungraceful manner, is doing much better. I can now put my weight on it flat-footed without discomfort, which is an improvement over the first three days of my infirmity, when I spent many hours with my leg elevated and an ice pack -- well, actually a pound of frozen Frenched green beans; they were more effective than frozen corn -- on my swollen digit. But shoes with heels are out; I tried on some pumps yesterday morning to try and create a semblence of workplace professionalism and nearly hit the ceiling when my weight shifted to the knuckle of my big toe. Pressing directly down on my instep -- not a good idea either. But I can walk all right,in my Minnetonka mocs, if I don't go too fast or pivot too hard in any one direction.

It's been interesting to me to actually feel my foot mend; I'll be sitting there, and I can feel a kind of warmness and "buzziness" in the joint, after which my foot always seems to feel more normal. Fearfully and wonderfully made we are; and the way I need to be considering my congenital clumsification factor.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Theodicy For Dummies

I really, really hate being busted. But I have to bust myself.

In my other online discussionary endeavors, I tend to be an enthusiastic rah-rah cheerleader for the Lutheran viewpoint that our relationship with God is not a kind of cosmic transaction where we submit “X” number of good-works points to get God to love us (or at least not hate us); that it’s not a multiple-choice test where our job is to think enough of the right things about God to get a passing grade on some presumed divine test; that it’s not about whipping ourselves up into a tent-meeting come-to-Jaysus frenzy of emotion; that it’s really all about faith – about a trust relationship with God, that God draws us into.

It makes me sound like I know what I’m talking about, do’n’t it.

But when the rubber meets the road, as they say…well, let’s just say that my trust relationship sometimes swings upon the thinnest of threads.

I was up much of the night this past weekend with Cody, my dog, who suffers from the type of heart failure common to old dogs and old humans alike. He was wheezing uncontrollably; his cocktail of heart medicines, which usually keeps his condition under control and has extended his life far past the expectations of his vet, didn’t seem to be kicking in. And he was obviously in distress; he’d breathe a few normal breaths, and then I could feel his little body tense up in anticipation of another round of hacking. So I sat with him on the sofa; held him very tightly in a sitting position, which seemed to help a little; talked to him in a low voice; gave him extra increments of medicine in hopes that I’d reach some tipping point of effectiveness.

And I prayed. Now, if you have a 15-year-old dog with a heart ailment, every good day with him is a gift. I know that. And I’m ready, when the time comes, to let him go on what my Anishnabe neighbors call the long walk. But sitting with him as he struggled in obvious discomfort, praying for whatever outcome that would be the best for everyone, even if that meant that Cody would have to leave us…I seriously began to doubt that, in Dan Erlander’s words, God loves us and means us well. It didn’t seem that God was on my side here, or even on the job. Or maybe our sad little household tableau in the living room was like one of those self-contained glass biospheres that some hands-off Deity was observing with mild interest: "Hmmm…We note now that the Homo sapiens is experiencing apparent cross-species empathy with the aging Canis domesticus. Hmmm..."

Do something. Why don’t you do something. He doesn’t understand what’s wrong with him. He’s just a scared little dog who can't breathe. Why are you torturing him like this? If he’s going to die, why don’t you let him die now, instead of letting him suffer? And if he’s going to get better, why are you letting him suffer?

Of course, in the grand scheme of things, and in the context of the much more intense suffering that goes on in the lives of all sentient beings and especially those of us with the rationality to think about suffering in general and our own in particular – this tale of early morning veterinary woes is almost like a parody: Theodicy For Dummies, starring Cody the Dog. (Who, by the way, finally fell asleep, and who is feeling much better, thank you.) But it was pretty real to me. And in the morning, after the crisis had passed and I’d had time to think about it all, one of the things that had struck me was my easy willingness to abandon my own professed beliefs about God – to demote God from a loving God who may be Deus absconditus in our human perception but who is nonetheless always working behind the scenes to make all things well, to an impersonal force of nature, or an incompetent cosmic bureaucrat – or, worst of all, to an enemy; an oppressor.

My other observation -- after marinating in my disappointment at myself for awhile -- was that if I’d completely lost my faith, I wouldn’t have been bothering to talk to God at all, even to rail at God. A thin thread is still a thread.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Joy of Giving Up

I haven't given up a lot this Lent. Nothing, really. No attempts at systematic self-deprivation this year.

Well...I take that back. I have given something up. I have given up the fantasy -- the "wish-dream," to sound Bonhoefferian -- that the ELCA cares about the spiritual formation of its membership...about helping Lutherans grow into their lives in Christ in a deeper, more mindful manner.

That's not to say that individual Lutherans in the ELCA do not care about spiritual formation -- I'm privileged to know many who do -- or that there aren't pockets of strong, intentional spiritual practice within our denomination.

But I don't think this is a priority among the power-brokers in our denomination. Nor, sadly, do I think it's a priority in the pews. Despite our place within the Church catholic, I do not think that our particular church culture, either at the top or at the grassroots level, supports the type of spiritual direction that gives people access to the tools of traditional Christian practices that add depth and dimensionality to the faith experience.

The thing is -- letting go of the idea that my lay ministry training is ever going to include a spiritual-formation component, letting go of the idea that the ELCA is all that interested in the ministry of spiritual direction, letting go of the hope that someday there will be a groundswell of Lutheran lay interest in such stuff -- it's liberating. It means that I no longer have an excuse to not get on with it, instead of waiting for this program or that class or this official pronouncement. And I have the comfort of knowing that I have allies, spiritual friends, from a variety of Christian traditions, who've come to similar conclusions.

Spring Fever Hits

I have just placed an order with Bountiful Gardens, a way-cool seed catalog, for a sampler packet of tomato seeds -- kind of an edible science experiment featuring seeds of multiple heirloom/open-pollinated tomatoes -- some rainbow chard and leaf lettuce. Despite the disaster of last year's Night of the Ravenous Deer attack on my tomatoes while I was on vacation -- I'm ready to try again. And so is Fellow Traveler, who wants to try some tomatoes and peppers in a small enclosure in her yard.

And I'm looking with renewed interest at my neglected collection of houseplants, which have been languishing under my indifferent care for the past year. I'm wanting to repot them; to get them in some rich new soil; to make amends as well as add amendments. I want to again be the Girl With the Green Thumb, whose apartment used to be green with vigorously growing ivy and ferns.

I think spring fever has finally come to my house again.

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Having had my fill of rich, artery-clogging entrees for's a lunch that's been hitting the spot for me.

pita bread
leaf lettuce

My attempts at eating lower on the food chain always seem stymied in the end by the problem of time -- just finding the time for all that peeling and chopping and cooking. This is a quick and tasty way to feel healthy and virtuous.

Monday, March 05, 2007

"Worth the Knife Injury" Chili

This is my cook-off chili recipe, courtesy of Fellow Traveler, who found it on the Internet; according to the website, it won a chili cook-off of its own. As you can see, if you are keeping a meatless Lent, or if you are on a low cholesterol diet, this probably isn't the recipe for you. We added a can of drained kidney beans, but they weren't in the original recipe. For the sweet sausage I used a half-pound of breakfast sausage and a half-pound of leftover mild chorizo. And I substituted more fresh garlic for the garlic powder -- I really dislike garlic powder -- while up-tweaking the amount of cumin. The flavor really improves the second day, so it's a great chili to make in the evening, then stick in the fridge and reheat for tomorrow's supper. I am still nursing an owie on my finger from cutting up the sirloin, but all things considered it was worth the pain, and the amassing of multiple ingredients.

1 pound of sirloin cut in cubes
1 pound of ground sirloin or chuck
1 pound of sweet sausage ground or out of casings
4 tablespoons bacon drippings
4 large cloves of garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 can of Guinness Stout
1 small can of beef broth
1 large can of diced tomatoes
1 cup tomato sauce
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 or 2 Whole jalapeños, seeded and halved
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon onion powder
3 tablespoons of sugar
In a Dutch oven, brown the meat in the bacon drippings. Add the garlic and onion and cook until just transparent.
Add the beer, the stewed tomatoes and tomato sauce, and bring to a boil. Add the onion powder, kidney beans, chili powder, paprika and pepper, sugar and stir well. Float the jalapeño halves on surface of chili. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Check occasionally to see that liquid covers the meat . If it begins to look dry, lower the heat and add a little beef broth.
Remove jalapeños from surface and stir in the additional chili powder, ground cumin and onion powder. Return jalapeños to chili, cover, and simmer over very low heat for an additional hour.
At the end of the cooking time, you may adjust the taste with additional chili powder, cumin, onion and garlic powder, if desired.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Gathering In

It's a maternal image of God that resonates with many of us: God as a mother hen, trying desperately to gather her wayward chicks under her wings.

Growing up on a farm, I have firsthand knowledge of hens' sometimes tender, sometimes fierce maternal instincts. Every once in awhile, if our female ducks laid too many eggs to easily brood all of them, my dad would place some of the eggs under a broody chicken with no eggs of her own. Not only did the hen accept the eggs, but she eventually accepted her strange, web-footed babies, even when they did inexplicable things like hop into the drainage ditch for a swim while Mama, feathers a-ruffle, paced in alarm at the water's edge. One summer two of our chickens brooded a cooperative nest in an old equipment shed, hatching about two dozen chicks between them and raising them all together. And one of our little bantam hens, annoyed by the presence of our chicken-indifferent barnyard mouser Tigger a little too close to her babies, suddenly launched herself at the unsuspecting feline, riding Tigger's back and pecking viciously at her head until the cat hightailed it away from the chicken coop and the triumphant hen jumped off to rejoin her cheeping brood.

Those are happy hen stories. But, nature being red in tooth and claw, things aren't always sanguine in the poultry yard. With very few exceptions, most hens will not accept the chicks of other hens; if a hen with very young chicks dies, the other hens will chase away or even kill the orphaned babies, while half-fledged chicks able to fend for themselves are still ostracized by the other chickens and live furtive lives on the margins of the flock, raggedy and stunted and vulnerable to predation.

So when I think about Jesus comparing God to a hen and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to her chicks, I also think about the perils of the chicks who've wandered beyond the protection of their mother's wings, and find themselves in a cold, hostile, dangerous world. But unlike the finite reach of a mother hen, the saving reach of God spans far and wide -- beyond the width of a wooden crossbeam, back into the past and forward into the future, into infinity. And that is good news.

Artwork: "Black Hen With Chicks" by Gabriella Denton, at New Mexico Creates .


As I write this I'm sitting with a sore foot elevated on a chair, thanks to a fluke-y accident yesterday at Fellow Traveler's house. We were watching college basketball on TV -- I sitting on one foot on the sofa, as is my custom -- when I got up to let a pet in or out; I can't remember which; and tripped over my numb foot, stubbing my big toe hard...seeing-stars hard. It was such a stupid thing; one moment I was limping along on my fallen-asleep limb, the next I was doubled over in pain. My toe swelled up, and FT wanted to drive me to the ER...but I wimped out. Remembering my time in the ER with my mother last year, and also remembering a couple of supremely frustrating trips to the local hospital for my own minor medical emergencies -- I just didn't want to spend aggravating, molasses-slow hours there on a weekend afternoon. There were hopeful signs that my toe wasn't as crunched as I thought -- no fractured bones piercing skin; no discoloration; ability to wiggle my digit a little. So we went the elevation and hour-on, hour-off ice-pack route until the swelling went down. I jury-rigged a pillow-platform for my foot in bed and was able to get a few hours of sleep.
And now today I've been largely sedentary, my foot propped on sofa cushions on a kitchen chair while I blog. I was joking to FT (who has been regaled by my farm-girl stoicism regarding such injuries, and who still thinks I should get my foot X-rayed) that now I'm going to have a rheumatic "weather toe" that'll ache whenever the barometric pressure drops. But between the very real fears surrounding my GYN exam last week, the relatively minor annoyance of this mishap and a bandage-swathed finger accidently sliced while making chili for a charity cook-off that wound up being cancelled by our recent blizzard -- the fact of my embodied, mortal existence has been hitting home recently. I'm reminded of Annie Dillard's observation, in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, that the natural world is so often chewed -- chunks bitten off; holes gnawed in; broken; frayed. That's me, all right.

Last week's Gospel lesson found Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. And to me, each of his temptations represented an escape from participating in our common humanity; an end run around enfleshed reality. Never be uncomfortable or in want. Defy the laws of nature. Insulate yourself from the rest of humanity with power and wealth. And each time, Jesus said, No. Jesus chose the route of solidarity with the rest of us -- as flawed, as subject to misfortune, as chewed and frayed and stubbed as we are.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

An Artsy-Craftsy Friday Five (On Saturday)

I've been preoccupied with a chili cook-off, a blizzard and a sick dog for the last couple of days, so I'm a little behind the weekly schedule. Anyhoo...

Would you call yourself "creative"? Why or why not?
I think of myself more as a creativity voyeur -- in other words, I very much admire and enjoy other people's creativity. I find that, except for writing, trying to be creative myself tends to make me anxious and perfectionistic and ultimately uncreative.

Share a creative or artistic pursuit you currently do that you'd like to develop further.
I do a lot of hack newsletter and such like work on the job. I really don't know what I'm doing, and rely on templates and a mack-daddy clip art collection to get by. I would like to become more comfortable doing this kind of stuff, and transfer those skills to web design.

Share a creative or artistic pursuit you have never done but would like to try.
Take music lessons.

Complete this sentence: "I am in awe of people who can _____________."
Where to begin? I am in awe of people who can sight-read. I am in awe of people who can improvise on musical instruments. I am in awe of people who can sing in harmony. I am in awe of people who can knit patterns in multiple colors. I am in awe of quilters. I am in awe of persons who can embroider French knots. I am in awe of people who can watercolor. I am in awe of people who can start with a blank page and create a pleasing print or website layout ex nihilo.

Share about a person who has encouraged your creativity, who has "called you to your best self." (I'm pretty sure that's from the Gospel of Oprah.)
I grew up in a home where one parent tended to be disdainful of any pursuit that couldn't be parlayed into a money-making venture while the other was self-critical and unconfident, gave up on most creative projects and constantly predicted failure for mine (which often feeds into a self-fulfilling prophecy.) But my aunt, my mom's sister -- a free spirit and very creative person herself -- encouraged me to try any craft or skill that interested me; didn't hover and critique; let me be silly and "color outside the lines."

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Ever discover something online on your way to something else?

I was looking for some artwork to go with a poster I was making for work, for a senior center hosting a group called the Jackpine Pickers...I Googled jackpine, and eventually my meander brought me to the artwork of Tom Thompson , a Canadian painter who specialized in wild landscapes. I love it so much because it reminds me of my trips to northern Michigan. Exploring further, I even found cross-stitch patterns for Thompson paintings; it was enough to make me want to revive my formerly ardent interest in this pastime. (Believe it or not, a few years ago I could knock off a fairly decent 18-point cross-stitch project every couple of weeks...artsy-fartsy things like reproductions of A Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady and William Morris prints.)

If I could decorate Cold Comfort Cottage any way I wished, I'd like it to be filled with artwork -- originals and nice prints, vintage and contemporary -- reflecting the "up north" landscape and lifestyle. I can definitely see a Tom Thompson on the wall.

Artwork: "Algonquin October, 1915," Tom Thompson

A Little Song...A Little Dance...A Little Seltzer Down the Pants

Rod Dreher, aka Crunchy Con, featured blogger for Beliefnet, doesn't like clowning clergy . Well...a lot of people don't, including me. I'm sorry, but if I knew an upcoming service at my church was going to be a clown service, I'd probably drive 50 miles down the road to the nearest high-up-the-candle Episcopal parish. I just don't like clowns; with the exception of Krusty the Clown, they've creeped me out ever since I was little and watched The Greatest Show on Earth.

So while I find Dreher's hyperbolic anti-clown rant a little over the top -- evidently he not only dislikes clown clergy but wishes the ones from the Woodstock generation would die off quickly (I always find it droll when self-appointed guardians of traditional family values respond to people they don't like by wanting to kill them) -- I am not entirely unsympathetic to his sentiments.

On the other hand...down in the comment section, someone bearing the screen name "Ignorant Redneck" suggests that clowns are -- get this -- a gay plot. All the clowing clergy he's ever encountered, he says, are flamboyantly, aggressively gay.

You know -- after awhile you get used to being blamed for STDs, for the breakdown of the nuke-u-lur family, for the decay of morality in the arts and entertainment...but for cripe's sake, do the haters have to blame us for clown worship services too? Is there nothing they won't blame upon the gay community?