Saturday, June 27, 2009

Straight Outta Compline

Word up, my fellow liturgicals:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Tales of the Lovelorn; Or Christians Behaving Badly

Yesterday afternoon a friend of ours who's a gifted carpenter came by, vehicle loaded with an impressive array of power tools, to help us in our ongoing garage renovations -- to finish a window and doorways, to cut down a workbench to a reasonable height.

Our friend has just gotten out of a disastrous relationship -- controlling behavior, passive aggression, belittling/patronizing, lying and, it turns out, infidelity.

"I just want to find someone nice," our friend said, sadly. "Why is that so hard?"

Making things worse was the other party's wearing of religion on her sleeve: Her sending her kids to parochial schools; two previous relationships sanctified in a church setting; her disapproval of our friend for "not wanting to talk about faith stuff."

"I have a whole new perspective on the kind of people who go to church," our friend muttered.


This type of behavior -- in the lesbian community and in the Christian community alike -- disheartens me. I hate the idea that someone who is not a part of the faith community can be hurt so badly by a fruitcake Christian; someone who doesn't get the idea that, as Christians, our relationships need to be grounded in mutual, self-giving respect and love. I also hate the idea of involving minor children -- and they will be involved, no matter what school they go to or how many weekends they're sent to the non-custodial parent or how platonic their parent attempts to paint her or his latest love interest -- in serial relationships.

Yes, we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Yes, church is a hospital for sinners, not a hotel for saints. No, we don't always live up to our reputations as followers of Christ. No, we don't always treat other people, including our loved ones, the way we wish to be treated. But you know what? First we need to get honest about that, and then we make an effort to change the behaviors we know hurt other people and keep us from our own potential as persons who help mend the broken places in the world. We make ourselves accountable to something other than our own inclinations at any given moment.

It seems to me, in my currently peevish frame of mind, that 12-Step programs seem to do a better job at this than most churches. But even then, "First you need to admit that you have a problem."

If You Knew Gertie Like We Know Gertie...

As usual, we took Gertie to church yesterday -- Gertie loves church, especially because it means at least one romp at the nearby township park -- and, as usual, when the church kids came around the Jeep to say hello, Gertie cowered in a far corner.

Last week, when I took her to the church office with me for the day, it was the same thing; when the pastor dropped in for a chat, and when one of our friends who'd noticed our vehicle in the parking lot stopped in to see what was up (this being a very small town), Gertie retreated behind my chair, and no amount of cajoling could get her to emerge from the corner.

One of the reasons I love Gertie so much is that she reminds me of me. Being around adults all the time as a small child, not having to endure the rough-and-tumble of siblings, I entered kindergarten as a precocious, confident and even cocky kid ready to take on the world. But my lack of peer-to-peer social skills painted a metaphorical target on my back; within months, thanks to an assortment of class and schoolbus bullies and indifferent school employees, I was transformed into a pathologically shy, timid child for whom every day of school was an endurance test of mocking, teasing, lunch-money-extortion and exclusion. I fell ill with pneumonia three times during that first year of school, and looking back I'm sure that at least part of that was due to the effects of stress and unhappiness on my already vulnerable immune system.

We don't know about Gertie's early life; we only know that when we found her she was living in a pathetic makeshift rural "animal rescue" amid at least a dozen large, snarling pitbull mixes on chains. Our first vision of her was as a puppy darting between pens of vicious dogs many times her size. I'm sure that those formative months imprinted on her puppy brain the idea that the world can be a very dangerous, hostile place where, in the end, you're on your own.

So I understand Gertie's timidity around people. I really do.

But I wish people could see her when she's happy and relaxed, with her mamas and Mollie the cat and selected dog friends. She is funny and charming -- yesterday, when her sheltie pal Daphne came by for a visit, she took her on a tour of the place like any proud homeowner. ("Now, this is our are my's the living room, and my's where mamas keep the cookies...") She is whip-smart -- she not only plays games with us, but invents her own games, like "read me my e-mail" and running with her tennis ball to the pond, dipping the ball in for a second, then running back. And she's simply sweet. She loves snuggles, kisses and tickles; she lives for those brief moments when Mollie, her idol, deigns to touch noses or give her a brief head rub. She even has, dare I say, a sense of humor; she knows what activities make us laugh. Some days she just whacks us with her paw, then looks up and grins, tail wagging.

If you knew Gertie like we know'd love her too. She's a good girl.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Just Say NO to NAIS

I'm committed to fighting the proposed National Animal Identification System, which endangers the livelihood of our already beleaguered small family farmers by forcing them to electronically ID every one of their animals. Lean more on my food blog , then contact your legislators and the USDA and tell them you, as a consumer, do not want Big Ag forcing small farms out of business by imposing this legislation.

A Verbal Friday Five

Some Friday Fives are very easy to respond to. This one is a "thinker"...hmmm...

The author of Life is a Verb, Patti Digh worked her book around these topics concerning life as a verb:

Say yes.
Be generous.
Speak up.
Love more.
Trust yourself.
Slow down.
As I read and pondered about living more intentionally, I also have wondered what this Friday Five should be. This book has been the jumping off point for this Friday.

1. What awakens you to the present moment?

At the risk of sounding cliche', our four-leggeds are very talented at grounding me in the present moment. They experience their lives as NOW, and draw me into that. (Just as an immediate example...nothing can get me out of a sleepy under-the-covers morning reverie like a cold, wet dog's nose pushing itself into my face: Wake up!)

2. What are 5 things you see out your window right now?
1)my two personally designed hanging flower baskets -- one containing a rather striking and unusual cerise-and-chartreuse coleus and a very dark purple ivy geranium, and one that holds a fancy begonia, coleus, pastel salvia and sweet potato vines 2)our lovely spirea bushes 3)our almost-empty hummingbird feeder, whose bee guards have mysteriously disappeared from the feeding stations over the past week 4)our pond, covered in fuzzy tree seeds 5)Mollie the cat, blinking.

3. Which verbs describe your experience of God?
complicated; humorous (this happens more often than one would expect); subtle.

4. From the book on p. 197:
Who were you when you were 13? Where did that kid go?

When I was 13 I was an extremely smart, extremely competitive, quirky girl beginning to emerge from a lonely childhood; beginning to find my people in junior high school. That kid was worn down by my parents' insecurities, anxieties, educational/experiential limitations and angry/unloving relationship with one another; by peer pressure; by internalizing others' expectations of how I should be. (Can you tell that perhaps I've broached this subject in therapy before?)

5. From the book on p. 88:
If your work were the answer to a question, what would the question be?

An interesting question to ask of someone who's currently not working at a paying job. Perhaps the question is, "If you had the freedom to do whatever you wanted, what would you do?"

Bonus idea for you here or on your own--from the book on p. 149:
"Go outside. Walk slowly forward. Open your hand and let something fall into it from the sky. It might be an idea, it might be an object. Name it. Set it aside. Walk forward. Open your hand and let something fall into it from the sky. Name it. Set it aside. Repeat. . . ."

Since I'm still sitting here in my nightie, that's probably not something I'm going to be doing in the next few minutes. Ask me again later today.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

...With All Fingers Still Attached

Stained glass class went very well.

It was a good day. Long but good. Next week we start an actual project.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Tomorrow Fellow Traveler and I begin a new household venture: We are going to learn to make stained glass.

This is something FT has wanted to do for a long, long time, for creative and therapeutic reasons alike. I've always loved stained glass -- my 60's-era childhood coincided with the great hippie renaissance of stained glass, and I remember wanting to live in an old house with stained glass door and transom panels, and today I am a great admirer of classic stained glass designers like Edward Burne-Jones and William Comfort Tiffany -- but until now I never imagined attempting to create stained glass artwork myself. Between my perfectionistic deer-in-headlights response to new challenges and my tendency toward klutziness, I probably wouldn't have chosen a hobby involving rulers, sharp objects and a soldering iron; but I am trying to stretch out my comfort zone, if only because I want to live with the beautiful things I can create if I learn how to do this well.

We recently kitted ourselves out with the requisite tools, and tomorrow we are going to our first class in Bay City, where we learn how to use said tools, and how to handle glass without severing an artery; we'll also pick a simple design for a first project. (Not the lovely stained glass you see here, which is part of a window in the Liverpool Cathedral; hat tip to someone named Tim Rutledge, whose photo popped up when I did a Google search.)

I Sing the Body Electric?

Today while I'm at church Fellow Traveler is busy wiring an electric fence for the vegetable garden -- a necessity in a suburban neighborhood that includes an entire herd of deer, plus raccoons and rabbits.

Yesterday afternoon we set the post for the controller and the grounding wire, and pounded in the stakes; by the time the sun went down it almost looked as if we knew what we were doing.

Actually, FT is a precise and methodical thinker, and has the schematics in hand. Still, before I left I said, "Please don't flip the switch until I get home."

Progress is being made:


I've noticed a developing phenomenon in my role as assisting minister.

Our pastor has started using me as kind of a sidekick in his sermons. I am the Ed McMahon to his Johnny Carson. He will make a salient point, or cite a Scripture text, or share some anecdote I told him in the past week, then look over at me in a meaningful way. I nod my head. He'll ask the congregation to raise their hands in response to a question ("How many of you ever feel...?" and then look at me. I nod and raise my hand.

Last week he was hitting on all sixes, and I found myself continually bobbing my head up and down. It made me almost -- almost -- want to break out into some un-Lutheran deacons'-corner affirmation: "You preach it, brother!" "Tell the truth!" Got a witness!" "Amen!"

Problem is, maybe a half-dozen people in the congregation would get the allusion; the others would simply conclude that I'd fallen off my trolley, or farther off my trolley than they'd originally thought.

Grace Note

Usually the sidebar adverts on Facebook are nothing short of annoying, but I rather enjoyed the new promo for the television show Saving Grace: "Embrace Your Grace."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Goofy Christians Online

One in an occasional series...

Did you know that Lutheranism is an apostate hotbed of pagan Mariolatry?

You bet your sweet least according to this fascinating expose' of Lutheran theology by David J. Stewart, disciple of one Max Younce, ThD, someone who probably wouldn't invite Herr Dr. Luther to the faculty club for a collegial beer. (Enjoy the MP3 rants.)

Meanwhile, a warning for us all from Mr. Stewart: "If you hail Mary, you're hailing Satan!"

Hey, hey, hey -- don't talk about Homegirl that way, buddy.

Seedy Musings on Yesterday's Gospel

Sunday's Gospel text is here .

I'm the most impatient gardener in the world. I'm the adult equivalent of a small child digging up the bean she's just planted in a styrofoam cup to see if it's growing yet.

I've been gradually filling in my vegetable garden over the past two weeks -- two weeks of unusual rain and cold. The unseasonable weather amped up my angst over the health of the seeds in the ground. At one point I envisioned them all rotting in the sodden earth...of losing the long-season cucurbits altogether, and having to replant all the beans. My home-grown tomato plants had been literally flattened by two days of heavy rain; they'd never recover, I thought sadly.

Of course none of this happened. One evening I walked down to the garden and saw a thin green rows of emerging seedlings in my "salad" section, while squash plants were pushing their way out of my hills. The moribund young tomatoes were green and upright again.

Seeds grow in their own time.

Likewise, Jesus says in the Gospel lesson, the Reign of God grows in its own way, in God's own time.

Sometimes we Christians forget what Jesus said. We become triumphalists, wanting to take society by storm and force our vision of God's reign upon it like garden-show landscapers creating an artificial back yard under glass in the dead of winter -- it may look nice for a time, but it's unnatural, unsustainable and ultimately doomed. Or we attempt to seed Christianity into unwilling others on an individual basis, like a gardener attempting to plant flowers in pure sand, then getting angry at the sand for not producing a flower garden. Or we, like me, become easily discouraged when we don't perceive what God is up to in what looks like barren soil -- including the fallow places in our own lives. We want God's Reign to be something "big" and something "now."

But that's not how God works, according to Jesus. God works slowly and quietly, like a seed in the ground or yeast in a batch of dough. Our "yes" to God, our willingness to let God use the soil of our lives as a garden patch and to keep that spot tended, is our job; God will take care of the sowing and the growing.

Friday, June 12, 2009

A Foodie Friday Five

Yay! A Friday Five that hits the spot, so to speak, at our house -- I am en route to a local church yard sale so this will not be a particularly articulate or lengthy post, goes:

1. Grocery shopping--love it or hate it?
I generally love it. I'm always puzzled by the glum and even angry faces I see at the supermarket. Really, the only time I ever don't like shopping for food is if we're planning a party or have been tapped to bring food to a function and have that time and performance pressure.

2. Who is the primary food shopper in your household?
That would be me. Fellow Traveler loves to cook, but shopping not so much, especially in ginormous chain supermarkets that tend to make her start hyperventilating and looking for an exit.

3. Do you have a beloved store like TJ's which is unique to your location or family?
We love Trader Joe's as well -- unfortunately the closest TJ's is almost three hours away, so we only get to shop there on our infrequent trips to the Detroit/Ann Arbor area. We also love Whole Foods -- as constant readers know, the "no-commitment" tag-end cheese bin is one of our very favorite things -- but have the same dilemma shopping there. (We've taken to toting a cooler along with us on our trips downstate so that we can load up with provisions at both stores.) My favorite store in our own area is the Greentree Food Cooperative, where we do a great deal of our grocery shopping. It's a small store with a crunchy-granola vibe...friendly staff...competitive prices...lots of local/regional foods...great music (I actually do take this into consideration in quality-of-shopping)...everyone in the store, staff or customer, seems happy to be there. What a concept.

4. How about a farmer's market, or CSA share, as we move into summer? Or do you grow your own fruits/veggies/herbs?
Sadly, the concept of Community Supported Agriculture has not arrived here in the greater Outer Podunk/Castorville area. (And probably never will.) If we were in the vicinity of a CSA farm we'd join in a heartbeat. We do, though, have an assortment of Amish roadside stands we patronize all during the growing season, and especially in the later days of summer we purchase most of our vegetables there. We also have a nice farmer's market in our county whose owners grow their own produce; I love driving past the fields of growing vegetables, knowing that those are what I will find inside the store. We also visit the Midland Farmers' Market from time to time, although we're finding fewer truly local growers there and more produce retailers who are actually getting their stuff from places like Eastern Market; which rather defeats the whole idea of a farmers' market. Sigh. (I'm told the onerous regulations involved in selling produce to the public through these venues keep a lot of smaller growers out of the game. Which is why we get a perverse kick out of patronizing famiilies' humble roadside stands instead -- Fight The Power.) When it comes to meat, we have increasingly weaned ourselves off supermarket meat, and instead buy it from places like Graham's Organics, a local farm with its own organic/sustainably grown meat market, and other small establishments where we can discover the pedigree, so to speak, of what we're eating.

5. What's the favorite thing you buy at the grocery store?
That's a hard question to answer. I myself have a great deal of fun in produce sections -- particularly at our food coop, where as the summer progresses we'll be seeing more vegetables from the Swier Farm, a local organic grower. We also like trying ethnic foods, so on our perhaps monthly excursions to Meijer's, our regional big-box store with a huge, diverse grocery section, we stalk the ethnic aisle looking for sauces and ingredients. Because FT has an easier time digesting grains than a lot of other foods, I'm also always on the prowl for interesting whole grains and pastas that aren't too hard on the digestive system and that can be made in our rice cooker (one of the greatest inventions of all time). Tough, fibrous grains like rye or wheat berries are out, but we do enjoy quinoa, specialty rices and interesting pastas...Israeli couscous is one of our newer discoveries, and we just love the texture and ease of cooking.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Week Two at the Church Office

It was a little busier yesterday at church -- I received three phone calls as well as a visit from the pastor, who was taking a break from his sabbatical cottage remodeling project. He is having a blast learning carpentry from a mentor-friend of his -- among other things, they are creating a meditation room, which I think is very cool -- and, he notes, just getting physical instead of spending most of his day inside his and others' heads.

Fellow Traveler and Gertie accompanied me yesterday; FT worked on the church website for awhile, but was thwarted in uploading it when we realized we didn't have the passcode to the church's wi-fi, and no one could tell us what it was or where it might be written down. (Once upon a time I could get very irritated with this sort of thing, which I'd attribute to deliberate obfuscation, but now I realize that communication breakdowns at our church are most often caused by general cluelessness. And this is especially true when it comes to technology.)

We ordered lunch from the local grocery store, where we're getting to know some of the staff even though I don't think they're quite aware that we're "church ladies" from down the street. I figure the local economy in the area surrounding our church needs every cent of outside money it can get. (Which is also why we've been patronizing this tiny store's meat counter -- where, among other things, we were able to purchase a significant whole pork loin for about $15; take that, big-box stores!)

I'm finding that it's very hard to concentrate on my take-to-work-work HTML lessons sitting in the midst of the pastor's considerable library; after a half-hearted attempt at coding an incredibly boring web page assignment, I found myself instead reading a book about the Amish,written by a German anthropologist...and a book about controlling religious communities...and a book about shamanism...well, you get the drift. Putting me in a roomful of books is like putting a diabetic in the middle of a Godiva shop and saying, "Don't eat anything."

Even though I feel like the Maytag repairman on my office day, I enjoy being at our church. It's making me feel a bit more connected to the community, even if only in terms of running down to the store for a sandwich. And I think the village appreciates the fact that the church isn't locked up during the day, like so many these days; that if someone needs to stop in, they can find a human being or two inside.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The Writer and the Ranters

So we're sitting at our garage sale this past weekend, enjoying the free show of people stopping by to browse our discarded belongings, when a matronly middle-aged woman began to peruse our collection of books -- a collection including many Writer's Digest how-to-be-a-writer books from back in the day when I thought I could read myself into writing.

"Is one of you a writer?" she asked.

"I do a little writing," I responded.

"I write historical novels," she replied. I raised a half-curious, half-skeptical eyebrow. "I'm on my fifth." Oh, really?

"What are your novels about?" asked Fellow Traveler.

The woman hesitated. "They're set in a certain county in Minnesota in the 19th century. They're about...well...why don't I just tell you my story."

So she did. She had no academic background in writing or journalism; she was "just a person" living here in Castorville. She'd had a difficult life, including an extended stint helping a self-destructive, bottomed-out young relative come back from the brink. At one point, she said, despite the successful mentoring of the young person, she found herself depressed, weary of living and considering ending it all.

"Then one night I had a dream," she continued. The dream focused on a solemn Native American man telling her an extended story about some place in Minnesota she'd never heard of before. She saw scenes of the story. Then the man gave her a word that she understood to be from the Lakota language. And she woke up.

She said that, after this dream, she felt compelled to begin writing the story down. The plot, the characters, the setting poured out of her day after day, for hours as she sat and wrote.

Meanwhile she tried researching the meaning of the word she'd heard in her dream. When she heard about a regional pow-wow where one of the elders present was a speaker of Lakota, she traveled there to ask him the meaning of the word. When she asked him, she said, he became visibly shaken. "Where did you hear that word?" he asked. So she told him her story. "You've been given a great gift," he told her.

The woman eventually traveled to Minnesota, where she discovered the same place names she'd dreamed about. When she got to the community where her novel was based, she found the same surnames in local cemeteries and public records. She then asked if there were any Native Americans in the area, and was directed to a nearby reservation. She told her story to one of the reservation employees there, who took her to meet an elder who was also a shaman.

"I've been expecting you," was the man's first comment when they met. "The Grandfathers have given you the gift of this story in thanks for saving a life."

The woman self-published her firt book, had modest success in that venue, and has kept writing ever since.

Fellow Traveler and I sat fascinated as this local housewife told us her story. My own skepticism struggled mightily with the tantalizing thought, What if it's true? The woman gave us her card and invited us to lunch.

FT and I often joke about being, as one of my Facebook friends put it, flypaper for weird; but this was a positive, good weird.

Thinking about this encounter, I found myself contrasting it with the fundamentalist Baptists we run into Saturdays when we have lunch in downtown Outer Podunk. These people -- men in white shirts and ties, women in calico dresses -- descend upon the downtown around lunchtime and set up stations at major street intersections. There the men preach -- to the few pedestrians who stop in our town on weekends, to passing motorists, sometimes it seems just to themselves -- screaming, waving their Bibles around in the air, while the womenfolk sit silently with signs warning of hellfire and brimstone for those who don't repent.

The contrast between the spiritualities is striking. It reminds me of Matthew Fox's observation that fundamentalists believe the universe is conspiring against them, while mystics believe it's conspiring on their behalf.

I know which side of the street, so to speak, I want to be on. And it's not with the sour saints. It's with people for whom "God is alive and there's magick afoot," who speak and act like people who've been invited into a conspiracy of hope and healing.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Mutant Ninja Turtles

As I'm watching the latest torrent of rain pour down upon our backyard pond, I'm thinking how long it will be before we can rid ourselves of Charlie I and Charlie II, the resident snapping turtles who have been ravaging our fish and scaring our neighborhood wood ducks.

Charlie I is a mossy-backed lug maybe 2 feet long or so from head to tail; Charlie II is somewhat smaller but equally ugly and menacing. In the morning we see them floating on the pond surface with only their noses protruding, like alligators.

Since we first told our friends and associates about the Charlies we've gotten all manner of advice on how to rid our pond of them -- everything from dispatching them with a gun to scooping them up with a large fishing net.

Fellow Traveler has actually attempted one turtle-catching method recommended by our church organist's husband, who's become keenly interested in our project: She made a fishing line with rope, attached the largest hook she could find to one end, tied the other end of the rope to an old bleach bottle and tried fishing for the Charlies with chicken livers. Here is what happened: The liver attracted our assortment of minnows, bluegills and small goldfish. Charlie I was also attracted...but instead of aiming for the liver, s/he stealthily moved beneath the bait, then to FT's horror rose up to devour a hapless goldfish.

We have even offered interested parties a bounty for removing these reptiles from our pond. So far we've gotten no takers, even among people who claim they enjoy eating turtle.

Bottom line: The Charlies must go. They need to be taken out (interpret that phrase any way you wish). Whether they wind up terrorizing their fellow wildlife in a backroads marsh or crispy-fried on someone's dinner table is a matter we'll leave to any intrepid turtle catchers.

Two "Thumb's Up!"

Despite cold and damp more reminiscent of late April than early June, we had a splendid time in Michigan's Thumb region. (Note to non-Michiganians: Hold your left hand up, knuckles up, with your fingers together so that you form a mitten; the Thumb corresponds to your thumb. I don't know what those of you without anatomically shaped states or countries do to give directions.)

We set out in the early morning with intentions of eating breakfast at the Mussel Beach Drive-In just north of Bay City, on the strength of enthusiastic diner recommendations on TripAdvisor. When we got there, we found that the place's reputation was accurate -- so much so that a line of increasingly frustrated potential customers snaked out the door. We wound up down the street at McDonald's for just enough carbs and protein to get us going. So much for patronizing scratch-cooking restaurants, we thought glumly. But, temporarily refreshed, we set off again, and after getting temporarily semi-lost on the marshy backroads east of Bay City (worth it for seeing white egrets, up close and personal, in the ditches right next to the Jeep) we found our way to M-25, the highway that follows the Thumb coast.

While we had no real itinerary other than a free vacation guide we picked up at the gas station next to Mickey D's, we had wanted to check out local fisheries. The bad news is that hardly any exist anymore, thanks in part to an ongoing cattle-rancher/sheepherder feud between Michigan's commericial fisherpeople and sport anglers that has decimated Michigan's fishing industry. But -- while on a potty stop at the local park with Gertie, who came along with us -- we did find the Bay Port Fish Company, in the tiny village of the same name, a fantastic place to buy fresh fish right off the boat -- boneless filets of salmon, whitefish, perch and walleye, plus an amazing variety of uncleaned fish. Had we been coming home instead of heading out, we would certainly have come home with pounds of fish, and I may have even been persuaded to school myself in the use of my dad's old filet knife in order to tackle some of the whole fish. We found ourselves brunching on the most delicious home-smoked salmon, unceremoniously stuck in a brown paper bag...buttery, smoky and rich. Bay Port is the home of a fish sandwich festival in mid-summer, and we would love to return there.

Having tasted travel success with a new discovery, we were ready to head up the coast. We drove through Caseville, home of the Caseville Cheeseburger Festival -- a weekend paen to Jimmy Buffet and al things Parrothead -- a community where old-school Michigan weekend cottages and amusements seem to be battling with mondo condos and McMansions for supremacy. And they have a very interesting, historical cemetery. (Because of Gertie's need for speed and love of cemeteries as steeplechase paradises -- we actually have to spell the C-word now -- we are becoming acquainted with dozens of graveyards all over the state.)

We made it to Port Austin, at the tip of the Thumb, around lunchtime. The Garfield Inn, a lovely old home that once housed ill-fated President James Garfield's best friends -- also reportedly home to Garfield's ongoing affair with the missus of this couple -- was closed until evening, which was too bad because I'd wanted to see the restored 1850's-era interior and Garfield memorabilia. There's another historic-building-turned-restaurant in town, The Bank, but we weren't feeling quite fancy enough to eat there (which is pretty illogical in a flip-flop-intensive resort community; but it was Sunday); so we instead went to Joe's, a rather anonymous looking, dinerly pizzaria/Italian food joint down the street and had great cooked-not-thawed meals -- a scratch Italian wedding soup followed by eggplant parmesan for me, spaghetti with white clam sauce for FT. We also did a little window shopping of tourist tschotshkes, and wound up purchasing a Michigan/Michigan State "House Divided" flag for our front yard for football season -- something we'd been looking for for over a year.

Our window of opportunity for going back to Bay Port for fish was slipping by quickly, so we decided to keep going up the highway. My Thumb vacation guide had mentioned a winery near Bad Axe, so we thought that might be a good end-of-the-rainbow destination for our day. After almost missing our turn -- I happened to notice a hand-lettered sign on the side of the road, which tells you something about the newness of this agri-tourism endeavor -- we finally found our way to the Dizzy Daisy Winery and Vineyard, whose claim to fame is a wine list of 20 varieties, from conventional varietal wines like Rieslings and Pinot Noirs to fruit wines reminiscent of Grandpa's cellar creations -- cherry, raspberry, strawberry, and even novelties like rhubarb and white currant wines. We found a very un-snobby establishment on a working farm, in what appeared to be a former milkhouse, and a helpful young employee giving out free tastings. I will go on record as happening to enjoy the rhubarb wine, which made FT's face go into spasms; both of us found the currant wine undrinkable (green pepper is not a flavor I find attractive in any wine, and especially not a dessert wine); we did purchase a pleasant cabernet/merlot and a muscat, so this final sidetrack excursion was not in vain.

En route back to the highway we stopped at a deli/charter boat company and found they sold some of their own home-smoked salmon. This wasn't as prettily trimmed as the Bay Port Fish salmon, but it was delicious, so we bought several filets to take home. We asked the proprietor if there were any places in the immediate area to purchase fresh fish, since Bay Port was closed for the day; he shook his head and explained that there was no local market for fresh fish, and that the licensing regulations for selling it retail were just too onerous for "little guy" businesses like his. When we left, we bemoaned, again, the lack of respect that Michiganians have and have always had for their own natural resources -- whether the now-extinct grayling that were once so numeorus in our rivers that people caught them by the basketfuls and then couldn't eat them fast enough, or today's local produce and meats and artisan foods that most people pass by. "Don't it always seem as though you don't know what you got 'til it's gone" indeed.

We backtracked home, through these resort towns and small farming communities like Unionville and Sebewaing, where cars on the main drag are likely to be sharing the highway with tractors. (Enjoying Native American place names like Sebewaing and Quanicassee are another reason to travel in this area.) Passing miles of farmland made me sentimental for my own childhood on the farm, and for the farming lifestyle that has largely disappeared from my own hometown to be replaced by a kind of meaningless pre-fab "country" subculture that has nothing to do with the people who actually settled and farmed the area. It got me waxing philosophical about both people's relationship, or lack thereof, to the land upon which they live, and to the desireability of creating meaningful work based in communities, work that gives residents pride in place and genuine roots.

I'm still waiting to be convinced that Michigan's northeast coast is worth spending a day exploring -- we never seem to come away from those trips thinking, "Wow! We'll be back there again!" -- but we were definitely charmed by the places and people of the Thumb. Next time, we want to visit on a warm, sunny day, do more outdoors tramping and historical sightseeing and perhaps drive farther into the interior. But there will be a next time, guaranteed.

Gay Pride Month at Our House

While exploring the little coastal communities along Michigan's Thumb yesterday we happened to see a rainbow flag hoisted above a cottage. Fellow Traveler laughed as I gave it a jaunty salute.

"It's Pride Month," I noted. "What are we going to do to demonstrate our pride?"

Fellow Traveler became thoughtful. "You know," she responded, "as far as I'm concerned every day is Pride Day for us because we refuse to be anything except who we are."

I thought about this later, and it's so true. I remember the constant anxiety -- about what, I wonder now -- of living in the closet, even when I was single. I was so afraid of people's disapproval. Every day was like that scene in All That Jazz where Roy Scheider as Bob Fosse, looking into the mirror in the morning, throws his jazz hands into the air and proclaims, "It's showtime!"

The show is now over for me, and it has been nothing but a relief. And, a few awkward moments here and there aside, we've been amazed at the degree to which people, even in our small town, simply accept us. Because we share a common first name, a lot of our friends -- people from church, people with whom we do business -- know us as a unit, as The Lutheranchiks; as one of our Amish neighbors exclaimed after I showed up at her door to special-order one of her children's handicrafts, "Oh -- you're one of The Lutheranchiks!"

Believe me, I understand the value of the gay community periodically gathering in public, as both affirmation and as a counterpoint to all those who would chase us back into the shadows of secrecy and shame. But as for me and my house, we find that the best way we can live into the promise of a just and equitable society that includes us is to simply do that -- to be The Lutheranchiks on the street, in local businesses, in our church, on the road; no excuses, no lies. In our cultural milieu, it's as radical a thing as we can do. And that's where we, as a household, find our pride this month.

Goofy Christians Online

An occasional feature...

Whew...good thing we bought some dead animals on our trip to the Thumb yesterday -- now God will like us!

Vegetarians: Signs of the End Times

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Adventure Trip Weekend

This has been a weekend of adventure at our house.

Adventure #1 was mine today, as I headed to a meetup with a high school friend of mine who'd looked me up on Facebook some time ago and who's been keeping in touch with me since. Facebook may get a lot of bad press as a time suck and extended exercise in self-absorption, but it is a wonderful way to reconnect with long-lost friends.

This friend -- a fellow animal person who understood perfectly when I had to apologize for our nonfunctioning Gertie-mangled seatbelts -- and I had a wonderful scratch-cooked lunch at the Mulberry Cafe' in Clare and spent a couple of enjoyable hours just yakking, catching up. I have to say that life has a way of texturizing, of dimensionalizing, childhood friends that makes it a real delight to meet them again after a long absence.

Tomorrow morning Fellow Traveler and I are setting out on Adventure #2. We've had such a busy week, culminating in the last day of our extended garage sale today, that FT announced, "I wish we could just get away -- away away -- for one day and go somewhere we haven't been before." Excited by the prospect of avoiding the annual recitation of the Athanasian Creed, I said, "Sure!" We're pretty well traveled in our fair state, but neither of us knows a lot about Michigan's Thumb region, so that seemed like a worthy destination. We have no itinerary to speak of...we're just going to drive east until we find a good breakfast place, drive east some more until we reach Lake Huron, and then follow the shoreline until we decide to come home. Or something like that.

Assholic Christians Revisited

I know that I shouldn't, but like a moth to a flame or a smack addict to a needle I find myself drawn to the Crunchy Con . I've fairly successfully weaned myself of my morbid interest in other crackheaded Beliefnet Christian blogs (Reformed Chicks Blabbing -- what the hell is that mess all about?), but for some reason I keep going back to this one.

It's not even the posts, as aggravating as they usually are, that get me, but the responses.

Honestly, if I didn't know I'd miss Jesus if I jumped off the C bus, these people -- these misogynistic, anti-Semitic, homophobic, xenophobic, retrogressive people who seem to feel that they're the only worthy standardbearers of the Christian faith -- would drive me to neopaganism faster than you can say, "So mote it be."

I think I need to wear a rubber band on my wrist and snap it hard whenever I find myself navigating toward that website.

Friday, June 05, 2009

A Moving Friday Five

This is a subject that I will not say is near and dear to my heart...but it's one I recently lived into. So here goes:

A big move is looming, name one thing that you could not possibly part with, it must be packed ?
I think one of the odder items that made it to my "must save" list this time around was a very old Hartz Mountain song food can dating back to my paternal grandmother's canary. My dad used to store his fishing sinkers in it. It's now on top of our pie safe in the mud room. My hen-on-nest collection, including my mother's Westmoreland milk glass chicken, was also spared the humiliation of the garage-sale table; selected hens will be showcased on our kitchen pantry.

2. Name one thing that you would gladly leave behind...
I did leave behind all my antiquated and energy-inefficient large appliances. Good riddance. And a lot of stuff went to our amateur movers -- actually our lawn guys, making some extra cash during their seasonal layoff -- as a bonus.

3. How do you prepare for a move

a. practically?

Being a fairly impractical person suddenly pressed into moving within a three-week time frame, I wasn't very organized; I collected cardboard boxes from work and did some preliminary sort-and-toss as I could before my time ran out. During the packing, I tried to pack thematically; then according to where the items were originally ("Kitchen Drawer"); toward the end we just threw stuff in boxes.

b. spiritually/ emotionally?
By thanking God that this opportunity to get out of Cold Comfort Cottage and its many drawbacks as a living space dropped into my lap, while simultaneously fretting and stewing about the logistics of the process until my more left-brained partner came to the rescue with A Plan.

4. What is the first thing you look for in a new place?
After my experience at Cold Comfort Cottage, my requirements include space -- the ability to stand with arms outstretched and not hit something -- light and adequate indoor plumbing.

5. Do you settle in easily, or does it take time for you to find your feet in a new location?
In my past moving experiences I've not had a problem; odd for someone who never moved until she was 18. Even in a challenging atmosphere like Manhattan...I remember walking past a row of apartments on the edge of the Village this fall and thinking, "There's no nature...but if I had to, I could live here."

Thursday, June 04, 2009

My Exciting Day at the Church Office!

On my first day of summer office hours, I:

-attempted to do a truncated Morning Prayer in the sanctuary but was simultaneously flummoxed by my lack of a BCP and weirded out, for some reason, by the sensation of being there all alone;
-Played Chain Rxn on Facebook;
-tried to remember how to turn the overhead lights on in our old sanctuary, which is now our office and Sunday School space;
-ordered takeout from the cafe';
-waited for the phone to ring;
-perused the pastor's bookcase

Think 'Maytag Repairman Goes to Church."

I did finally receive a phone call, of some importance -- one of our senior saints fell, appeared to be significantly injured and was on the way to the hospital -- but the caller was one of the other lay ministers, looking for a relative, and when I asked if I could do anything she said no. I mentioned the incident to the gal at the cafe', who is also a member, and she said, "Oh, yeah -- we know." Which is how things work in a village this small.

At 2:55 the pastor called to ask how the day had gone, and I think just to talk. He is using part of his sabbatical time to fix the family cottage, so I shared our own tales of household improvement (we're putting in a new toilet even as I type -- I should say FT is putting it in, with me providing minimal tool assistance). He said he thinks this summer schedule is swell, and good training for all of us when he retires.

And that was it.

I think next week I'll be more prepared.

When Good People Do Something

Ellsworth, Michigan is one of those tiny northern Michigan villages that has hung onto viability as a village through decades of economic ups and downs. Lately, though, that has become more difficult as downstate Michigan's woes continue to batter outstate communities dependent on tourism and financially comfortable retirees.

One of Ellsworth's many retail casualties in this economic downturn was the local cafe'. But a Christian Reformed church in the area decided that a friendly, welcoming place to share good food and conversation was too important a village asset to let slip away. So its members -- in the spirit of Wendell Berry's "practicing resurrection," I thought as I heard the story -- resurrected the restaurant and turned it into a non-profit, staffed by community volunteers.

Some good news, for a change, in our state: The Front Porch Cafe'.