Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Prophet in His Own Land

Imagine my dismay to go to my library, here in Michigan, today and discover that we have all of three Ernest Hemingway books on the shelves, none of which are the Nick Adams stories.

Oh, well.

I came home with two books by Jim Harrison, Hemingway's regional heir apparent.

And my copy of Sleeping With Bread, a book that's been recommended to me by three different people in different life contexts, arrived from Amazon.

And -- there's Amish rhubarb pie in the fridge. As Garrison Keillor sings, "Mama's little baby got rhubarb, rhubarb..."

Things could be worse.

Compassion, or...Whatever

Ever feel you've been had?

As frequent visitors may remember, earlier this year Fellow Traveler and I attended a Lost and Found concert at our church which featured an informational table for Compassion International, an organization that promotes sponsorship of needy children overseas. Despite some real reservations about this organization -- its fundamentalist agenda, homophobic content in its literature -- we made a decision that helping a kid is more important than contending with whatever institutional bull doody is trying to keep us from doing so, and that if a couple of musicians we respected supported the organization we'd give it the benefit of the doubt.

So we signed up. We signed up for an automatic payment plan right out of the bank account.

And then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Compassion International has never followed up. When I e-mailed them, a couple of months after the concert, to inquire why no money was taken out of the designated account to help our kid, there was initially no response; then I got an e-mail saying that there was some sort of bureaucratic issue with the automatic payment. I responded.

And then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Well, we've had it with these people -- not only for their hateful attitude toward gay people but for their seemingly lackadaisical followup on behalf of a kid they claim they want to help. Could have fooled us.

A photo of Vijoy, the child we wished to sponsor, is still on the refrigerator. He's still in our prayers. I pray that someday the quality of his life will improve because of people who actually care about his wellbeing as a fellow human created in imago Dei and deserving of nurture and respect, more than they care about promoting their own religious agenda.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Five: Book 'Em

This week's RevGalBlogPals Friday Five is about one of my favorite subjects: books.

1.Do you think of summer as a particularly good season for reading? Why or why not?
For the past couple of years we have been so busy every summer that I find it difficult to take book breaks the way I would, say, on a blizzardy winter weekend.

2) Have you ever fallen asleep reading on the beach?
I can honestly say I've never fallen asleep on the beach, period...although I did recently fall asleep in a lawn swing outside a friend's lakeside cottage.

3) Can you recall a favorite childhood book read in the summertime?
When I was a kid I devoured books from the public library. One year I read every Thornton Burgess animal book on the library shelf; another year it was the Laura Ingalls Wilder books; another year I was fascinated by mythology and read every book the librarian could find on that subject. I loved books about science and animals. When I was a very small child, a neighbor lent me several Flower Fairies books, and I hoped against hope that fairies also lived in my back yard, and even set food out for them in hopes of getting on their good sides.

4) Do you have a favorite genre for light or relaxing reading?
Detective novels and humorous essays, definitely.

5) What is the next book on your reading list?
Funny you should ask. Several weeks ago I read about how Hemingway's The Nick Adams Stories had been the focus of a statewide reading program last year, and my reaction was, "Hmmm...well...better late than never." I'm waiting for an uneventful weekend to begin this project. And I do have Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential on my roundtuit list as well.

Our Parish Anchoress

One of the lay ministers present at our lay ministry meeting last night is struggling with MS. Formerly a very active woman, and one of the real matriarchs of our congregation, over the past year or so her health and mobility have noticeably declined; this spring she fell and broke her ankle, so now she's further impeded by a walker and walking cast.

During our discussion, she spoke very passionately about her love of preaching and her enjoyment of mentoring within our synod's lay ministry program, a job she had to give up after losing the ability to drive. She talked of her frustration at not being physically able to participate in worship leadership the way she had previously.

But then she added that she believes God closes one door in order to open a new door, and told us about her prayer ministry -- how she engages in a daily discipline of praying for every single person (and there are many) on our congregational prayer list, as well as for the concerns of people who contact her directly. One person noted, when asking her for prayers, "I'm asking you because I know you'll pray."

As she was speaking, I thought about Julian of Norwich, physically constrained both by the discipline of her calling as an anchoress and by her own health problems, who became a beloved spiritual counselor and pray-er for the people of her community.

So I told my friend about Julian. "I think you're our parish anchoress," I said.

It's a wonderful thing to have.

The Thing That Ate Our Church

At our lay ministry meeting last night I found out that our synod wants to collect comments from members of our congregation concerning the in-process ELCA statement on human sexuality, which can be found here .

I find it interesting that, to my knowledge, we're never asked to practice similar group discernment with ELCA statements regarding, say, peace in the Middle East or a Christian response to the environmental crisis or any of the other social issues the church has addressed over the years.

I am so tired of the church being constantly distracted by what a friend of mine calls The Troubles. (Yes, I'm aware that the proposed statement covers many aspects of human sexuality, but we all know the direction this discussion will be headed, really, in most congregations.) I'm reminded of that classic West Wing line: "Why do you have to turn everything into a thing?"

I read the report. It's fine, as institutional reports go. Now, let's, for the love of God, move on, before this thing turns into a thing in our parish.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Our CSA Flowers

Aren't they pretty? And we get them every week.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Where Sheep May...Um...Safely Graze

Fellow Traveler's and my adventures in locovoria continued today after church when we drove to Midland to pick up a delivery of freshly butchered lamb from a farm that raises Icelandic sheep.

These beasties are a wild-looking lot, in a variety of woolly colors, with sickle horns and narrow-pupiled, goatlike eyes; anyone squeamish about purchasing meat directly from the farmer while looking into the faces of future dinner entrees still on the hoof in the field need not worry, I don't think, about emotionally bonding with these particular sheep. We did, however, find the Icelandic sheepdogs the family also raises quite a lot of fun -- very curious, friendly dogs, two of whom happily hopped into our Jeep.

Anyway -- we came home with 40 pounds of chops, steaks,roasts, stew meat and ground lamb. (Three steaks are currently marinating in some Smoking Loon cabernet mixed with garlic, olive oil and rosemary.) We also got a tip from the farmers about their neighbors who raise natural pork, and about their farm open house coming up this fall, where they plan to invite other local farmers and food processors who sell directly to consumers -- including a mill in a neighboring county that still grinds locally grown grain.

Is dis a movement?

P.S. It's now nearly 9 pm, and we are luxuriating in happy food comas after enjoying our marinated, charcoal-grilled lamb steaks with authentic pita and grilled leeks from the food coop (I split the leeks lengthwise and nuked them for a few minutes, then finished them on the grill), garbanzo bean salad and cucumber-yogurt salad. The lamb was rich...mild...tender.

Waiting at Table

Well, readers, today was the day I presided over the Eucharist for the first time, in the absence of our pastor.

Unlike preaching, a task that normally causes me some major anxiety both in terms of preparation and execution, I was remarkably calm during this portion of the worship service; by God's grace I was able to get out of my own way and enter, first into the ancient rhythm of the liturgy, and then into the eyes of my fellow parishoners -- some of whom come to the altar burdened in heart-rending ways -- as they came up with outstretched hands. What a gift to be able to offer one another when we are weak; hurting; seeking; sad.

I was smiling all the way home.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Blinded By Science

Our church's Vacation Bible School, slated for next month, was originally going to be themed around Augsburg-Fortress' "Rainforest Adventure" curriculum. That has since been nixed, because the material was deemed too challenging.

Not for the kids. For the teacher.

This poor young mom was in a major state of freak-out, at the last committee-of-committees meeting I attended, because she was afraid of the science aspect of "Rainforest Adventure." Assurances from others that she was fully capable of handling the class didn't help.

I am trying to maintain some sense of sympathy here, but -- this curriculum isn't rocket science, folks.

There is something about women who model learned helplessness about science that just drives me crazy -- you know, who go all Lucy Ricardo/Nathan-Lane-in-"The-Birdcage" when asked to interact with nature or otherwise think seriously about the physical world.

So...our kids are doing "Veggie Tales" for VBS this year. Sigh.

"Hot Town" Friday Five

This week's RevGalBlogPals Friday Five is a word-association paen to the Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer in the City":

1. rooftop The house of my childhood -- a fieldstone farmhouse that used to be my paternal grandparents' -- had a hip roof. Most of the houses in our neighborhood did. I like them. Although when I was small I had a fascination with A-frames and desperately wanted to live in one. That's about all I have to say about rooftops. Sorry.

2. gritty I associate grit, not with summers in the city, but summers in the country. It's chaff, actually -- when you make hay, even if your role is driving tractor, you get covered in chaff; it goes down your throat and down your shirt collar and gets up your pantlegs. I remember the relief with which I'd head to our shower in the basement and wash off after a day of baling. Oh...and remember Lava soap? Another gritty memory of summers on the farm.

3. hot town(yeah, I know, it's two words) Again, I have associations, not of living in the city, but of my childhood in the country. During the dog days, when the mercury crested above 90, we often fled to our mostly-unfinished, so-called Michigan basement. I also actually enjoyed staying there during heat-generated summer thunderstorms.

4. night One of my favorite things to do on a summer evening is sit on my front porch, or on my back stoop. I love it when darkness falls, where you can actually feel the texture of it against your skin. And I enjoy the sounds and sights of nighttime -- flittering bats and nighthawks and owls and crickets.

5. dance At the risk of saccharine gag inducement out there, I have to share yet another Cute Pet anecdote: Gertie loves to dance. FT dances with her every day; gets her up on her hind legs and waltzes her around to the tune of "Can I Have This Dance (For the Rest of My Life)?" The late Codeman also used to enjoy dog-dancing.

To see a very young John Sebastian singing "Summer in the City," you can go to the RevGalBlogPals website.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dinner, Michigan Style

I tried a new trick on the grill today -- I made planked whitefish.

I soaked a couple of cedar planks -- back in the day I understand that the pioneers just used cedar shakes, the same things you roof your house with, but I bought some thin one-use planks specifically made for the grill -- for several hours, then oiled them. Then I placed whitefish filets skin-side down on them. I rubbed them with half olive oil, half butter, sprinkled them with kosher salt, and then added some fresh herbs from the herb garden -- lemon thyme on both pieces; dillweed on one and a mixture of fennel, chervil and tarragon on the other. I placed these over direct charcoal heat, closed the grill and cooked them for about 20 minutes.

Absolutely outstanding. We had them with steamed spinach, tossed salad and Three-Buck-Chuch sauvignon blanc from Trader Joe's.

I just love charcoal grilling out on the front porch. My favorite weekday evenings are spent there.

The Children's Hour

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Is This Really Necessary?

Candidates' Wives' Cookie Recipes.

It's Two-Thousand-Freakin'-Eight people...are we not over this sort of trivializing nonsense?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Foodie Fun

We're sitting in the living room in happy food comas after a fabulous dinner. I marinated some chicken breasts in a mixture of olive oil, Three-Buck-Chuck sauvignon blanc, minced garlic, scallions, salt, pepper, lemon juice and zest and a handful of fresh herbs from my rain-drenched and burgeoning new herb garden -- sage, basil, marjoram, rosemary and summer savory. Then I grilled these over apple-chip-infused lump charcoal. Yum; good stuff.

Another happy discovery: I microwaved a few small Yukon gold potatoes until not quite done, tossed them with kosher salt, olive oil and rosemary and placed them, with a couple of garlic cloves, in some perforated aluminum foil. These I placed on the top shelf of the grill while the chicken cooked underneath. To my delight, the potatoes absorbed some of that great applewood flavor. There's an ice cream/barbecue joint in a neighboring city that serves delicious smoked potato salad; I've tried to replicate this flavor with minimal success; now I think I know the trick.

And -- calloo, callay -- I got an e-mail from a farmer in the next county, someone who raises heritage-breed Icelandic sheep and other small stock, saying that she's about to take a couple of lambs to market; would I like to buy some lamb? Visions of shashlik and Irish stew and curry and chops dancing in my head, I said, oh, yes.

It Preached...All of It

I honestly had fun preaching yesterday -- even though (like many of you, I suspect), it didn't come together entirely until about 6:00 in the morning. And unbeknownst to me our organist came up with just the right combination of hymns to touch on the same points I was making...I love that sense of synergy.

And -- remarkably -- my nascent food-share plan made a huge hit with the congregation; as I explained my idea during the announcements, you could almost see lightbulbs going off in people's heads. One of our newer members cornered me after the service, a huge smile on her face, and said, "I have got to talk to you." Turns out she's another one of those people who feels sorry for orphaned vegetable starts in late-spring nurseries; she has over 40 tomato plants and pepper plants she rescued from garden-department oblivion this year, and is rarin' to both give her surplus away and organize a canning/freezing bee. Wow.

Our pastor is at confirmation camp next Sunday, so I'm preaching again. And...the designated AM has a family commitment, so I will be literally ministering "the full meal deal" for the first time. (For those of you outside the ELCA, or at least my synod, we lay ministers can receive a special, case-by-case dispensation from the bishop's office to celebrate the Eucharist.)

Nervous? A little. But just a little. Now.

Time For Wining

Michigan merlot?

Am I serious?

Oh, yes.

Michigan is not noted for red wine -- the climate, I'm told, doesn't always support the grape varieties best suited for good reds -- but Black Star Farms in Suttons Bay has come out with an absolutely fabulous merlot.

I had some 2006 Black Star Farms Arcturos Merlot yesterday with our Greek-seasoned buffalo burgers in pita. (About once a month we head about 25 miles down the road to the town of Standish, on M-23, which among other things boasts a great fruit-and-meat market selling locally raised buffalo meat for cheap.) Outstanding; that's all I can say. Smooth; rich but not heavy on the palate; flavors of berry, raisin and clove, maybe a touch of pipe tobacco. Two thumbs up for this wine, outstaters. And Black Star Farms is also investing heavily in sustainable/organic farming methods and eco-tourism (their vineyard includes a bed-and-breakfast), and promoting local organic farming by hosting an ongoing farmers' market on premises. It's a company doing a lot of good, innovative things here in Michigan; if you're a wineac or Upper-Midwest-bound tourist, definitely check them out, online or on the road.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Good Summertime Gifts of God

Strawberries...rhubarb...asparagus...and Great Lakes Tea and Spice Company's wild rose white tea. If you like jasmine tea, you will love white tea infused with real rose petals. The fragrance is out of this world too.

Friday, June 13, 2008


I'm preaching this coming Sunday -- our pastor has us lay ministers on a monthly rotation now, in addition to our filling in if he's away. I'm looking forward to it.

After mulling over the Sunday texts a bit, I think I will be tackling the topic of Lutheran evangelism -- which reminds me of the joke about the old German who loved his wife so much that one day he almost told her.

Seriously -- I think that we often get a bad rap for not being more "out there" about our faith; that it's seen as a sign of lukewarm spirituality or theological ignorance. After pondering this perception for awhile, I've come to the conclusion that it's really more about our history -- our relatively late entry as a faith tradition into a multicultural milieu where religious doctrine is a commodity in the marketplace of ideas rather than part of a shared cultural heritage -- and our discomfort/distaste toward what has constituted "evangelism" in our interactions with other flavors of Christians.

But be that as it may, we do have a particular ray of theological light, we Lutherans, that is sometimes obscured by a bushel -- and that's our understanding of grace; of God "always coming down." And many of our Christian neighbors are in as much, or even more, desperate need of this insight than the increasing pool of completely irreligious Americans. As I blogged earlier this month, I recently came upon an online correspondent desperately worried about the state of grace of a young autistic relative who, the person noted, couldn't comprehend or vocalize the Baptifundigelical "sinner's prayer" in a meaningful way. For this person, God apparently is the bridgekeeper in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, demanding a password in order for us to cross over to the "saved" side of God's equation. Now, I know that this individual is misunderstanding his own tradition's ideas about salvation and accountability, which grants a kind of dispensation to the mentally disabled; but still...what a sad and anxious way to go through life.

We Lutheran Christians have some real good news to share in these situations. So let's do it.

That's the gist of my sermon, anyhow.

Friday Five: Life's a Beach


This week's Friday Five is on "beachfront property":

1. Ocean rocks, lake limps? Vice versa? Or "it's all beautiful in its own way"?
Being a native Michiganian, and having very little exposure to ocean beaches, I have to vote for lakeshore life. Although I'm sure that all of you who live near the ocean love your beaches too.

2. Year-round beach living: Heaven...or the Other Place?
Oh, it's definitely God's country, even in the wintertime. Although I've never taken much of a shine to ice fishing -- too cold on the feet.

3. Any beach plans for this summer?
Well, we already had our annual springtime Leelanau Peninsula excursion, which included some lovely sightseeing along Lake Michigan (those of you contemplating a visit to these shores will want to visit the old fishing village of Glen Haven, north of Empire, which is now an historical site -- you can visit an old cannery-turned-boat garage/museum where the Park Service and friends restore old lake ships, buy tourist gewgaws at a restored general store, picnic on the grounds and take a lovely stroll through the dune grass and along the beach.

4. Best beach memory ever?
When I was a kid I loved going still fishing with my dad on the shores of our community's many small lakes. One of my fondest recent memories is of FT and my first trip up to northwest Michigan -- back before we were calling our outings "dates." We visited the Lake Michigan beach at Frankfort, then went up M-22 to Empire and checked out the lakeshore there.

5. Fantasy beach trip?
Believe it or not, I enjoy the idea of rocky northern beaches to warm southern ones. We want to visit Prince Edward Island and Maine one of these years, and will definitely be walking the beaches there.

Bonus Points: Art/Music/etc. that speaks to your experience of beaches:
Even though it's a ways inland, the snippet of Howard Hanson's "Symphony No. 2" with which the Interlochen Arts Academy ends each of its concerts says "Lake Country" to me.

Do What You Love...

I realize that I'm having a kind of slow-motion revelation about vocation.

Last night, as an exercise in cheering myself up, I thought about the activities of the week that brought me pleasure and a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of engagement in something meaningful. What came to mind were planning my sermon for this coming Sunday; getting in touch with some organic farmfolk in -- I can't believe it -- my own county, who are trying to organize a CSA and otherwise promote their products; and working on my own little project for connecting church members with one another and church neighbors who grow food.

What I'm feeling right now is a gentle urge to follow my heart and my interests where they lead, and concentrate my energies there -- something that I've never felt the freedom to do because of my blue-collar family's assumption that real work is by definition hard and unpleasant, and something you do because you have to and not because you want to.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Recovery Ward

Fellow Traveler is back home -- very tired, and in a lot of pain, but doing fine.

Here's how things work sometimes at the VA: When she got there, she was informed by her nurses that she was getting prepped for a carpal tunnel release. "No, I'm not," she said. "I'm getting my thumb joint replaced." "No, you're not," argued the staff. "It says here you're getting a carpal tunnel release." One nurse scolded her for wasting time by refusing to sign her release for treatment. "I am not signing off on a surgery I'm not having," FT insisted. "I want to see the doctor."

After some huffing and pouting from the nurses the doctor was summoned -- and was livid to discover this surgery snafu, which evidently originated with an intern's paperwork error. In addition, it turned out that FT's surgery was supposed to involve an overnight stay at the hospital, not the day surgery she'd been told it was. At this point FT informed the doctor she wasn't going to remain in the hospital long enough to have another stupid mistake inflicted on her, so the doctor agreed to let her come home that afternoon.

So, anway...FT is hopped up on Demerol, still feeling pretty tough...but dreaming of golfing and kayaking and even the ability to hold a large coffee mug again in her right hand.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I Hate My Job: Rinse and Repeat

Confession time: I am finding it increasingly difficult to drag my leaden fanny to work each day. Whatever passing satisfaction I may get from bits and pieces of my job are no longer sufficient to sustain my morale. I'm fed up with bureaucracy, with local and office politics, with multiple bosses, with ungrateful clients and surly volunteers and oblivious citizens, with trying to cheerfully promote programs that have outlived their usefulness, at least in their present forms. I'm tired. I just hate it.

And I feel guilty for hating it, because for God's sake we're in a recession, and I should be thankful I have a job. At least that is what the embedded endless-loop tape of my parents' Advice For Living is telling me. But I also recall, many years ago, telling my father -- a promising student who was yanked out of school after 8th grade to help on the farm, and whose subsequent work life was one hard-labor blue-collar job after another -- that I wanted a job I could really enjoy, and seeing the wistful look on his face when he responded that he never thought of work as something to enjoy.

Why do I feel entitled to work that I enjoy? Who do I think I am?

I don't know. But right now I feel like my work is strangling my soul. I feel like my pepper plants, which drowned this weekend in their containers during a local downpour while we were out of town; I came home to find them completely submerged in water, too far gone to save. That's what work feels like to me.

Maybe it's because the contrast between my work life and the rest of my life -- my life with Fellow Traveler, family and friends, my work at church, my burgeoning interest in promoting local food in this area and the surprising networking that's led to -- is so dramatic. My offwork life is immensely satisfying. It's a good life. And my only -- my only -- motivation in grimly schlepping off to the office morning after morning, at this point, is to get home again as soon as possible, where I really live.

There's a part of me that is hoping that this profound and growing dissatisfaction is a sign that something else is opening up for me in the future; that one door, it seems, is closing so that I might move ahead to a new, open doorway. Or maybe I'm just a burned-out case.

I only wish I knew what I really wanted to be when I grew up.

The Bionic Woman

Fellow Traveler is going under the knife tomorrow -- to get a new and improved right thumb joint. Believe it or not, these days this is outpatient surgery; she should be ready to go home about the time I get out of work tomorrow.

FT's RA makes her thumb so painful that sometimes the stabbing, aching sensation literally takes her breath away. She had her other thumb joint replaced several years ago, and that has been such a success that this spring she decided it was madness not to have the procedure done on her right hand.

So we'll be calling FT "Lefty" for about the next five weeks. Tomorrow is going to be somewhat stressful, but that's a reasonable payoff for an end to debilitating pain.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Summertime Meme

RevGalBlogPal St. Casserole and others have been passing around this meme:

1.) What first tells you that Summer is here?
Dandelions -- more of a summer than a spring thing, to me.

2.) Name your five of your favorite distinctively Summer habits or customs.
Taking down the storm windows. (Ack.) Getting an ice cream from the local mom-and-pop ice cream joint. Hanging out on the front porch in the cool of dusk, or with breakfast coffee on the weekend. Watching Fourth of July fireworks. Visiting an art fair.

3.) What is your favorite smell of Summer?
'Round about the beginning of July, when the days are getting hot, there's a certain combination of pine needle and woodland herb that I just love -- if I could figure out how to capture it in a potpourri so I could take a therapeutic whiff of it in January, I would.

4.) What is your favorite taste of Summer?
Strawberries -- berries of any kind, actually; rhubarb; charcoal-grilled meat; honey rock melons; ratatouille.

5.) Favorite Summer memory?
When I was a kid I used to pick wild strawberries in our pasture -- I'd disappear for an entire day and bring back quarts of strawberries.

6.) Extreme heat or extreme cold? Which would you choose and why?
I'd much rather be cold than hot. It's easy to find natural remedies for cold -- do some brisk exercise like snowshoeing, or build a toasty wood fire -- but for extreme heat, not so much.

7.) What books do you plan to read for the season?
I don't know how much reading time I will have this summer...but I do want to read something by Anthony Bourdain, the snarky host of "No Reservations" on The Travel Channel. And there are, I think, at least two books by fisherwoman Linda Greenlaw (of The Perfect Storm fame)I've not yet read that I'd like to read, re-inspired by "The Deadliest Catch."

6.) How does the Summer affect your faith? Is it a hindrance or an ally?
I know it affects my church attendance, in the negative direction...on the other hand, I think the increased outdoor time provides more meditative, listening-for-God moments.

Like this meme? Then tag -- you're it. Pass it on.

Friday Five: Picture It

This week's Friday Five is all about pictures:

1.How important is the "big picture" to you, do you need a glimpse of the possibilities or are you a details person?
For me the devil is in the details. If I'm not careful I can get completely mired in details and lose the big picture entirely.

2. If the big picture is important to you how do you hold onto it in the nitty gritty details of life?
Anti-anxiety medication and therapeutic self-talk helps. Sometimes. A little.

3. Name a book, poem, psalm, piece of music that transports you to another dimension
I love so many kinds of music that it's hard to pin down a particular artist or style as sending me more into "the zone" than another. One day it might be Bach; one day it might be Afro-Cuban music; one day it might be the blues.

4.Thinking of physical views, is there somewhere that inspires you, somewhere that you breathe more easily?
I do have a thing about being around trees. My road, for instance, is in a wooded area where the trees arch over the roadway and meet in the middle, creating a green, leafy tunnel. I love walking through this.

5. A picture opportunity... post one if you can ( or a link to one!)
Well, I'm not where my digital photos are right now, but for some cool photos of northwest Michigan -- one of my very favorite places to be in the whole world -- check out The Leland Report .

Bad Dog

Oh, Gertrude.

Gertie has been a Very Bad Girl lately. Bad as in chewing to ribbons at least four pairs of shoes (including a brand-new pair still in the box in the back seat of the car), a wristwatch, a quilt, unused electrical cords, several paperback books and household bills. Bad as in refusing to come when called, adding about 45 minutes to every family trip as we attempt to finagle her into the car or the house.

Now, keep in mind that she is only going on her third dog obedience class, and has been doing well in there. But FT and I had a serious come-to-Jesus meeting about what we are going to do with this delinquent dog, because this is new territory for us; we've both dealt with puppies before, and even a challenging puppy (Cassie was once kicked out of a Petsmart obedience class and asked not to return) but never a contrarian destructo-dog like Gertie.

Our first resolution was to take her on extended walks twice a day to expend some of that evidently pent-up puppy energy. We're on Day 3 of this regimen, and it does seem to calm her down and keep her asleep and out of trouble all night.

Our second strategy is to attempt crate training -- which, again, we've never had to do with a dog before. We have the crate, and are going to turn it into a dog-condo R&R haven for when the dogs have to stay home -- comfy cushion, frozen peanut-butter-filled Kongs and rawhide bones and squeakies and ambient music in the background. Considering that Gertie's only experience with such structures has been at the groomer's, though, we're thinking that at least initially she will not find the crate nearly as charming and cozy as we do.

And we are having to be very careful about not letting both dogs out leashless together, because they are double trouble -- they'll make a mad dash into the woods, and we won't see them again for two hours. (And when they come back, they're covered in mucky pond water or sand from digging after woodland critters.)

I keep thinking back to something my mother used to tell me: "If you ever have children, they're going to be the ones with snotty noses, two different socks on and syrup stuck in their hair."

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Martin Luther, Public Advocate

Sometimes it pays to read my synodical mail.

I just got our bishop's June letter, reviewing the recent Synod Assembly, and in it he mentioned that among other things attendees learned about Martin Luther's public advocacy. Did you know that he wrote about a thousand letters to public officials and pastors urging them to change practices that hurt the health and welfare of the common people?


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

On the Grow at Church

As frequent visitors to this blog know, I am a foodie. And I am also a proponent of locally grown produce and meat -- which can be frustrating in a part of my state where people frankly get more excited over the prospect of a new Wal-Mart.

As I was pondering this dilemma the other evening, and also thinking about our pastor's suggestion that all of us who garden plant a little extra to give away, to help stretch our neighbors' food dollars, the thought struck me: Why don't we help people in our congregation and surrounding neighborhood who grow produce or other food products hook up with people who want food products, and let them negotiate their own prices, if any? We as the church would simply provide some bulletin board space for people to list their "haves" and "wants" -- kind of a low-tech Craig's List.

I sent out an e-mail to some church folks tentatively floating my idea, and immediately got a response from someone who noted that in his household they regularly let much of their raspberry crop go to waste because they simply don't have time to can or freeze it. He thought this was a great idea. My pastor replied, "This is great -- run it up the flagpole!"

So I think I will.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

On Never Sharing the Stage With Small Children...

Our great-niece and her parents are on their way to a new home today. They stopped at The Big House yesterday to say goodbye to Fellow Traveler, who related the following conversation:

Child: Auntie Edden, wheh de Udda Edden? ("Edden" being a close approximation of our names...oh, well, so much for anonymity. This is a funny story.)
Fellow Traveler: She's at work.
Child: Wheh she work?
Fellow Traveler: She works with older people.
Child: you?