Friday, May 29, 2009

A "Big To-Do" About Friday Five

This week's RevGalBlogPals Friday Five centers on big plans for the upcoming summer season:

1) What home fix-it project is on your Big To-Do?
Well, the big biggie is fixing up Fellow Traveler's new stained glass studio in our front garage. This garage has been a catch-all for some time, including the flotsam and jetsam from Fellow Traveler's former home and mine. A couple of weeks ago we got serious about sorting through it all and either integrating it into our home, selling it at our garage sale or tossing it. So we have some brand new space perfect for crafting, but we have to paint the long main worktable, fix some plumbing, come up with a storage plan for supplies and spruce up the small office space attached to the building.

2) What event (fun or work) is on your Big To-Do?
I have to do double-time on my class, which is very easy to set aside for other intervening life events. And for the next two months I'm in rotation for office hours one day ata church.

3) What trip is on your Big To-Do?
We are reprising our first vacation in the Upper Peninsula. (Famously postponed for several days until Fellow Traveler could pass a troublesome kidney stone...we definitely do not wan to reprise that.) We want to visit the Wooden Boat Show in Hessel again -- Hessel and the Les Cheneaux Islands are a very pleasant destination -- and maybe strike out in a new direction.

4) What do you wish was on someone ELSE's (partner, family member, celebrity, etc...) Big To-Do?
Grading local gravel roads, definitely...we were exploring the county one evening when we hit a real washboard road, and poor Gertie wound up trembling in my lap.

5) Getting inspired? What may end this summer having moved from the Big To-Do to the Big Ta-da? Of course the glass studio; and an estbalished vegetable garden; and, if I can fit it in, the rock garden we've wanted to put in the back yard. We have the rocks...we just need to re-do the plantings.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Garage Sale, Day I: The Aftermath

A Vaycay Friday FIve

Today I happen to be working -- we are in the middle of Home Consolidation Garage Sale Day One -- but here's a picture of me several vacays ago outside Margaritaville in Orlando; an appropriate photo, I thought, for this week's RevGalBlogPals Friday Five:

1) What did your family do for vacations when you were a child? Or did you have stay-cations at home?
We never, ever went on a vacation when I was growing up. We didn't even have stay-cations. We made hay during my dad's weeks off; not exactly festive, although my mom did make remarkable meals when the neighborhood teenagers or my great-uncles came to help out.

2) Tell us about your favorite vacation ever:
That's hard to say because we have enjoyed them all in their own way. Fellow Traveler's and my first "away" vacation, in the Upper Peninsula, was a lot of fun -- we still had getting-to-know-you jitters on this milestone event, but we still had a splendid time; even though we wound up waking up in the middle of the night to take Cody the Maltese on constitutionals throughout uptown St. Ignace. Romance, thy name is peeing dog in the moonlight. (And seriously, for persons interested in the UP, we highly recommend the Hessel/Les Cheneaux Islands area -- it's a beautiful place, and their vintage wooden boat show at the beginning of August is great fun -- and Taquamenon Falls; if you ignore the annoying, touristy tourists (which we, of course, are not) you will see some awesome nature.)

3) What do you do for a one-day or afternoon there a place nearby that you escape to on a Saturday afternoon/other day off?
It depends on the season and how much time we have. If we can't get away for an entire day, we enjoy our county recreational area, formerly a private hunting club -- a sadly underused property that has a nice picnic area, hiking trails and a river with a scenic deck. In the fall we like to look for apples either at local orchards or growing wild along fence lines. We also like driving around our local Amish neighborhoods. Our day trips have ranged as far as Cadillac and Benzie County to the north and Ann Arbor to the south.

4) What's your best recommendation for a full-on vacation near you...what would you suggest to someone coming to your area? (Near - may be defined any way you wish!)
Okay. Then I'm going to define "near" as "between Midland and Mackinaw City, and invite all Michigan-curious readers to a quality vacation in the Benzie-Leelanau County area of the state -- in and around the "little finger" of our state mitten. Foodies will enjoy following the Leelanau Peninsula wine trail, fine dining in some lovely local restaurants (we enjoy Trattoria Funistrada on Glen Lake, and right down the road is La Becasse, another well-regarded establishment) and finding local produce stands and artisan foodcrafters of various kinds. Kayakers, boaters, bikers and hikers can enjoy three seasons of adventure, while skiers and snowshoers also have plenty of options in the area. If arts and crafts are your thing, the Leelanau and surrounds are home to many creative folks specializing in everything from fine art to soapmaking. History buffs can enjoy places like the ghost town of Glen Haven and the Port Oneida Historical District, a series of 19th century farmsteads being preserved and restored by the National Park Service and local volunteers. Lighthouse lovers can find places to visit all along the shoreline. Our favorite place to stay when we're up north is the Sleeping Bear Bed and Breakfast between Empire and Traverse City, which has lodged and fed us admirably (one of the innkeepers is a professional chef with French credentials) for an affordable rate, and which provides a handy Mission Central for sightseeing in all directions.

5) What's your DREAM VACATION?
I haven't been on it yet, but I have been promised good times in Vermont and in the Maritime Provinces, especially Prince Edward Island. We were headed there this fall, but the arrival of G-baby in November has us headed to the Big Apple instead.

Hope you all have a great, relaxing/refreshing Memorial Day weekend. Meanwhile...the customer always comes first so...gotta go!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

LC's Adventures in Ecumenicism Continue

It's been a busy week here, as we continue to condense our two homes into one. We've been cleaning out packing boxes, closets, cupboards -- getting serious about things we want, things we need and things we need to give to someone else.

The other morning we stopped at the local mission to unload a couple bags of clothes. This mission is run by a highly exciteable self-identified "sister" of unknown denominational affiliation who's notorious for her frequent right-wing, homophobic rants in the local newspaper. We normally eschew this mission for the larger and more professionally run mission connected to our local Roman Catholic parish, but on this particular day we wanted to quickly unload our baggage, so we drove around the corner to The Sister's place. I volunteered to walk into the place and engage with the staff, and steeled myself in preparation to meet The Sister and her church-lady volunteers.

As I stepped through the service entrance, my foot met air -- I hadn't noticed the drop-off -- and literally fell into the midst of several older women sorting through a tableful of clothing.

"LutheranChik! Are you all right?" The voice was familiar. I looked up to find an ex-coworker of mine -- a similarly scarred veteran of my former place of employment.

After we determined that I was uninjured from my mosh-pit dive into the back room, we got to talking about what we'd been doing for the past few years. My friend had heard that I'd been involved in lay ministry training, so I talked to her about some of the things I've been doing at our church.

"Might you be interested in leading worship at another church sometime?" my friend asked. It seems her own Church of the Brethren congregation was between pastors, and her husband had been tasked with finding supply preachers for the summer.

Now, keep in mind that, prior to my grand entrance, I was crabby and defensive and determined to spend a minimum amount of time dealing with anyone in that place. Also keep in mind that Lutherans and members of the historic peace churches have had a difficult and occasionally violent relationship over the years.

I came out of the building grinning. FT, who'd been waiting in the car, shook her head. "I heard you laughing in there. Don't tell me you met someone else you know?" FT is always amazed at my ability to run into people I know, no matter where we travel. So I told her the whole story. She thought it was great. So did our pastor, this past Sunday, when I asked him if it would be okay to do a little ecclesiastical cross-pollination.

This might be fun.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Five: "Friends" Edition

From the RevGalBlogPals' Friday Five post:

Ever since I found out I could be the hostess for the third Friday Five of each month, I have not been able to get the thought of friends out of my mind. Being an only child (all growed up) who moved around a lot in my lifetime, friends have always been very important to me. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: "The way to have a friend is to be a friend."

So today let's write about the different kinds of friends we have, like childhood friends, lost friends, tennis friends, work friends, and the list goes on. List 5 different types of friends you have had in your life and what they were/are like.

As a bonus, put a link to a new (to you) blogging friend and introduce us!

1. School friends. Sadly, I've lost contact with nearly all my college friends, but I do maintain contact with some of my high school pals, either running into them here in greater Outer Podunk or through the virtual-reunion magic of Facebook. I have gone to one high school reunion, which was quite interesting because almost none of my old posse were present -- I wound up socializing with people who weren't in my inner circle back in the day. And I had fun with them.

If I could meet up with my college friends, I'd definitely want them to be the gang from Martin Luther Chapel and University Lutheran Church. Good times.

2. Church friends. This is a pretty diverse group encompassing everyone from li'l kids to our 90-year-old church matriarch to the folks from my LMTP program. Because our faith is very often our only commonality, this is the most challenging bunch of peeps in my interconnecting circles of friends.

3. Blog friends. I've certainly made some terrific friends through this medium. (A fact that I wish would spur my creative impulses here.) I'm always in awe of the writing ability and the insight of my blogfriends; it keeps me humble, as well as connected.

4. Animal friends. I can't forget my animal buddies, past and present. Actually, as I type, Mollie the cat is curled up above my head on the top of the sofa, while Gertie -- who just lost her tennis ball -- is standing at her toy box, looking up at me as if to say, "Well...are you going to help me find it?"

5. Facebook friends. This is an interesting intersect of the above groups (well...with the exception of my animal friends, who so far haven't friended me on Facebook, although Gertie is regularly read reports of other friends' pets).

I haven't been blog-surfing lately, so for my bonus points I'll add a new category of friend: The marketplace friend. We tend to make friends -- not social friends, but recognize/smile/wave friends -- with a lot of people selling goods and services around here: Yard Guys, Lamb Lady, Angie at the Coop, Mrs. Mast and Mrs. Gingerich in the Amish community, the Brass Cafe owner and head chef, Tony of Tony's Tacos...I could go on and on. We're loyal customers when businesspeople do a good job for us; we're friendly; we give affirmation and occasionally constructive criticism. We truly enjoy interacting with these people.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

You've Got Mail

Both Fellow Traveler and I spend a good part of our day -- often too much time -- at our laptops. This ia often frustrating to Gertie, who just can't understand what's so darn interesting about this machine.

About a month ago she started pushing onto our laps, putting her chin on the keyboard, looking at the screen. So we started saying, "Gertie, would you like us to read your your e-mail?" and either reading whatever is on the screen or just making stuff up.

Gertie loves this. It's now a daily ritual.

Anything you want to say to Gertie?

Friday, May 08, 2009

A Grave Situation

As I've blogged about before, one of Gertie's favorite pastimes is running steeplechase over headstones in cemeteries, so we regularly take her around to the local abodes of the dead for some R&R. Of course, we don't stop at cemeteries where observances are taking place.

Today while I was lunching with a friend from my lay ministry training days, Fellow Traveler took Gertie to what's become her favorite cemetery, a three-sectioned area with hills and valleys and over a century's worth of headstones to hop over or careen around. Usually Gertie will stay within sight...but on this particular day she sped down the driveway and disappeared.

Fellow Traveler Gertie. So FT walked up and down the hilly graveyard, searching for her: "Gertie! Gertie, come!"

FT finally found Gertie. Sitting at the edge of a new grave, in the midst of mourners and clergy, gazing solemnly into the hole.

"At least she wore black," I noted.

A Buggy Friday Five

RevGal Sophia writes:

As I was walking the beach today, I was surprised and delighted to find it swarming with ladybugs. The sweet little red beetles are one of my favorite insects and also my daughter's blogname--though as of this morning she was thinking of changing it to Butterfly. I'll keep you posted.

This got me thinking about spiritual insect trivia: Did you know that medieval mystics and theologians esteemed the bee for its dedicated work and transformation of ordinary ingredients into sweetness? That Spider Woman is an important creator Goddess to many Native American tribes? Or that Francis of Assisi was reminded of Jesus not only by lambs being led to slaughter, but also by worms (think "I am a worm and no man" from the Psalms)-- so he picked them up and took them out of stomping-vulnerable spots?!
In that spirit, this week's Friday Five is a magical mystery tour through God's garden of creepy crawlies!

1. Ladybugs or ladybirds? Pillbugs or roly-polys? Jesus bugs or water skeeters? Any other interesting regional or familial name variations?

Ladybugs; pillbugs; water skeeters; and of course the bane of northern climes, especially in coastal areas, the annoying little no-see-ums that fly up your nose and onto your eyeballs in the late spring.

2. Stomp on spiders, carry them outside, or peacefully co-exist?
I am in the carry-them-outside school. Fellow Traveler is in the "stomp first, ask questions later" school.

3. Favorite insect?
I think honeybees are my favorite -- they are so important to our environment, and they're so fascinating to watch. (Ever seen one do the "honeybee dance" to let her sisters know where the flowers are? I have...very cool.) I'd challenge my fellow gardeners reading this to grow more bee-friendly plants in their yards and gardens, to help our beleagured bee populations.

4. Least favorite?
It's a tossup between dirty, disease-bearing, disgusting cockroaches -- which have no redeeming qualities that I can think of -- and deerflies, which are a terrible, painful nuisance around here in mid-summer, and which can also act as vectors for blood-borne disease. Fortunately for me, cockroaches are relatively rare here in outstate Michigan except for scattered concentrations of human beings in apartments, dormitories and such. But I invariably get bitten by deerflies; I even have a scar on my upper arm from one such bite that somehow got infected and left an ugly souvenir.

5. Got any good bug stories to share?
Our Miss Gertie, who has become something of a precocious only child in the absence of her late dog-sister Cassie, loves to watch bugs. She'll sit under the maple tree next to our patio and intently watch the ants scurrying around underneath. My parents' old poodle mix Mitzi also loved ants; one day I saw her watching them on the sidewalk and wagging her tail: Hello, little buddies!

Bonus: One of my favorite bug books: Hope For the Flowers.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Friday Five: Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!

A very thoughtful Friday Five this May Day, touching on ritual as a part of our faith experience:

1. Are ritual markings of birth, marriage and death important to you?
They are, which is why I'm sad that they're so diminished/devalued these days in the popular culture. And I think excessive, over-the-top extravagance and personal indulgence of bad taste (either in an attempt to be hip and ironic or because one doesn't know any better) is a kind of devaluement. I'm sorry, but people who take marriage seriously as a celebration of a sacred bond of love and respect don't get married by Jumpsuit Elvis in a drive-through chapel in Vegas. Yes, I'm a mean stick-in-the-mud with no sense of humor...on this topic. As stepmother to 30-somethings, I sometimes mourn the aridity of that generation's ritual life -- of their sense of the Sacred touching the touchstones of the seasons and of our human lives.

2. Share a favourite liturgy/ practice.
I get a lot out of praying the Daily Office, even in a thinky, non-full-body way sitting at my laptop. When I take my turn having an office day at church, I think that I am going to take my show on the road and use the sanctuary for this purpose. If anyone happens to be there and wants to join me -- all the better.

3. If you could invent ( or have invented) a ritual what is it for?
I'm not sure that there isn't already a ritual for any event or condition I can think of. But right now, sitting here, I'm thinking that we need more rituals related to people's employment, since so much of our time and attention is invested in our work. I think retirement is a tough transition for people, even those who've longed for it for years; it might be an interesting exercise to create a spiritual ritual launching a new retiree into a new life of possibility.

4. What do you think of making connections with neo-pagan / ancient festivals? Have you done this and how?
As some long-time readers know, once upon a time I was what I'd call an agnostipagan. I have a fondness for celebrations that, like May Day, have their roots in the pre-Christian festivals of Europe, just as I have my ethnic roots in that place. So I have very little patience with Christians who feel compelled to eradicate everything that may even have a hint of pre-Christian spirituality from Christian practice or the Christian calendar; because that isn't authentically who I am, or who they are either. On the other hand, I think it's possible to overly romanticize our pagan past -- my German ancestors may have had some quaint, evocative ritual celebrations of various kinds, but they also did things like strangle and drown sacrificial victims in sacred lakes as gifts to their deities to help keep the crops growing. Overall, though, I'm more alarmed by the pagan values implicit in the recent Pew study finding that self-identifying devout American Christians seem to be more tolerant of government-sponsored torture than the population at large than I am about Christians wanting to celebrate springtime and harvest and the circle of the year.

To me a real weakness in the Church calendar is its disassociation from the cycle of the seasons; I'd like to see more ritual affirmation of the created world as a good gift of God in our worship year, even if it makes the neo-Gnostics and neo-Puritans nervous.

5. Celebrating is important, what and where would your ideal celebration be?
I like celebrations outside, and I like them to involve food, friends and fellowship. Pick a reason to celebrate!

In the Waiting Room

As my Facebook friends know, I had a trying afternoon at the doctor's office yesterday -- I had to wait an hour past my scheduled appointment time just to get into the office, and another 20 minutes in the examining room before the doctor strolled in, sans apology. Which is grist for a whole 'nother post, about my so far fruitless search for a healthcare provider that actually provides me with useful healthcare. But anyway.

While I was stewing in the waiting room, I tried to distract myself by reading magazines. As it so happened, the only ones in my vicinity were women's magazines -- Redbook, Ladies' Home Journal and Woman's Day. I've not paid attention to any of these in years, so I thought it might be instructive to learn what's up with the popular culture these days as it relates to (presumably) straight women.


First of all I found out about a kind of sanitary napkin one puts in one's pants in order to "go commando" in a hygenic fashion: "No more panty lines!" Because I guess panty lines are so horrible that going commando is a preferable state of affairs. Ecch, I thought. What is the matter with these people?

Then I moved on to a fascinating article, written by a male psychotherapist, on the perennial women's-mag topic of How To Keep Your Man. This therapist gave a number of handy hints for mind-canoodling husbands -- who, according to him, are a kind of hairy, smelly, clumsy subhuman creature less self-aware or socially skilled than the average bare-assed baboon -- into feeling loved and valued. He cited the example of a client who came to him complaining that her husband made a theatrical production out of bringing shopping bags in from the car and loading them on the dining room table, grunting and heaving as he did so. He said that, back in the caveman days, men had the job of hauling the mastodon back to the tribe; contemporary men don't have this opportunity for proving their ability to provide for their families, so women need to find ways to affirm male prowess in bringing home the bacon, the mastodon, et al -- even if it means feigning stunned admiration and gratitude as Hubs hauls in the Trader Joe's bags: "Oh, you're so strong and helpful! You're my big daddy! What would I ever do without you?" (My advice to any men reading this blog is to read your wives' magazines. You will be shocked at how badly you come off as a gender.) Oh, for God's sake, I thought. If Fellow Traveler or I ever acted that way toward one another one of us would be on the phone with Community Mental Health asking about emergency psych evaluations.

Next I found a heartwarming tale of fashionista Carson Cressley coming to the makeover aid of two large women who felt ugly and unloved Because, of course, the subtext hissed, no one wants to be with a fat cow like all you pathetic heifers reading this article...a point made clear by the fact that the dapper Mr. Cressley rated an almost-full-page color photo, while the the photos of the women in question, even in their "after" attire, were tiny thumbnails buried in the text of a subsequent page. I rolled my eyes; Yeah; that's affirming.
And then of course we had the disease-or-crime-of-the-month-hysteria articles -- how this often-ignored symptom or that bit of mishandled household hygiene, or that unknown psychopath weirdo down the street can kill you, so you'd better be very, very scared all the time. Oh, give me a break.

The recipes were not enough to redeem the crap all around them.

Speaking of which...if the magazine industry is following the rest of the print media industry down the toilet in this digital age, then please flush the women's magazines first.

Marty Speaks

"Here you see that Christ's kingdom is to be concerned about the weak, the sick, the broken, that he may help them. That is, indeed, a comforting declaration. The only trouble is that we do not realize our needs and infirmities." -- Martin Luther, sermon for 2 Easter.