Wednesday, July 30, 2008

On the Other Hand...

We've been in quite a giddy mode anticipating our household merger. But the logistics have taken a 180 since I last wrote.

I've been spending many a sleepless night trying to figure out how to upgrade Cold Comfort Cottage the way we'd like -- finishing the Michigan basement, remodeling the bathroom and spare bedroom and kitchen, and adding some additional room. The numbers haven't been adding up in my head. A visit to our friend J, a compulsive home improver who has been working on her house for years, just added to my anxiety. And the cottage is a 20-year-old prefab, not a stick-built home; how smart is it, really, to turn this into Extreme Home Makeover, Outer Podunk Edition?

Finally today, when I stopped at home for lunch after a speaking engagement one county over, I blurted out to Fellow Traveler, "Do you really think we'd save money living here?"

Turns out she's been rethinking this thing too. And, for reasons too numerous to list here, we seem to have simultaneously come to the conclusion that maybe it will be easier and cheaper in the long run to make The Big House our home base, mortgage and all.

I really am not emotionally invested in CCC; because my parents moved there after I left home, it's never felt that much like "home" to me. I enjoy the backyard nature, but the house not so much. And The Big House has a huge backyard surrounded by a wooded buffer, with wildlife aplenty, so I'm not losing that in a move.

Good thing we didn't start packing. But we're still going to have a great garage sale.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Quiet Time

Our church, as I've blogged about in the past, is growing into its new worship space. And one of the things our people are trying to adjust to is having an actual narthex area for socializing outside the sanctuary. Some people get this; some people don't.

Yesterday our bulletins included a bookmark-sized slip of paper, crafted by our Worship Committee, with suggestions for spending quiet time before the service starts -- ideas for prayers, for personal reflection, for resources in the hymnal. It was pretty cool, actually.

We'll see how it goes.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

In a Jam...In a Pickle

This weekend we went on a canning frenzy -- actually, Fellow Traveler was Canner-in-Chief (one-handed, yet!) while I supplied washing and cutting assistance and brute strength as needed. We canned blueberry-cherry jam and kosher dill pickles...I lost count, but it was a lot.

The jam is terrific. The pickles are going to the fruit cellar to cure for awhile, but they look awesome, with garlic cloves and dillweed flower heads and spices floating about among the pickle spears.

Today we told the church ladies we would contribute 3 dozen jars of jam -- blueberry-lime and blueberry-cherry -- to an upcoming community event where they'll be selling their quilting projects. They were thrilled.

Does this mean that we have become church ladies?

Chicken Lickin'

We had our first Amish chicken, fresh from the G. family, today...I rubbed it with olive oil, kosher salt, pepper and fresh herbs, stuffed it with more fresh herbs, celery, onion and garlic, and roasted it at a low temperature with fingerling potatoes and carrots while we went to church. When we got home from church I made a mixed bean salad with some green and wax beans from the farmer's market, a can of organic salad beans from the food coop, and a dressing made with mayonnaise, a splash of cider vinegar, some sugar, a grind of pepper and a generous spoonful of Sleeping Bear Dunes honey mustard.

This rocked, baby. The chicken was worth the two-month-and-then-some wait.

Our coop has issued a challenge to its members to try and eat 80 percent locally grown foods during the summertime. We're not there yet, but we're trying.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Five: On the Road Edition

I am not going to be online much at all today -- I am living through a Week of Hell at work; 'nuff said -- but I will play Friday Five today. Which is:

What are the five things you simply must have when you are away from home? And why?
1. coffee -- to achieve morning consciousness
2. a local newspaper -- just to see what's up where I'm at
3. Internet access -- to stay connected to the wider world
4. decent sleepwear -- because, as my mother pointed out, what if there were a fire in the hotel and I'd wind up standing outside in my nighties?
5. folding money -- I know it's unwise to carry a lot, but I feel impoverished without a comforting little bump of folded bills in my pocket...even if I use a credit card all trip long.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In a Jam

I'm having a metanoia moment.

We just made two batches of blueberry-lime jam. It is so indescribably good. We made half-pint and miniature jars, many of which are going to wind up in family's and friends' Christmas baskets.

I never before thought of ever making my own jam. As far as that goes, I've never really had a burning desire to can. (Perhaps because of many summers spent steppin' and fetchin' during my mother's own formidable canning schedule.) I've enjoyed our salsa and applesauce from last year, but the process frankly didn't really inspire me in the way that it inspired Fellow Traveler.

Today, however, I think I caught the bug. In my mind's eye I saw rows of jewel-hued jam jars in the fruit cellar. And I thought of my maternal grandmother, who canned anything and everything edible on the farmstead to feed the poverty-wracked family during the Depression, who was happiest toward the end of autumn when the very last jar was placed in the very last shelf spot in her root cellar. For some reason I think she's smiling right now. is our recipe for blueberry-lime jam, from the Ball Blue Book. It kicks.

Blueberry Lime Jam

4 1/2 cups blueberries
1 pcakage powdered pectin
5 cups sugar
1 TBS grated lime peel
1/2 cup lime juice

Crush blueberries one layer at a time. Combine crushed berries and powdered pectin in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Stir in grated lime peel and lime juice. Return to a rolling boil and boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Adjust 2-piece caps. Process 15 minutes in a boiling water canner. Makes about 8 half-pints.

Fowl Play

Woot! We just got a handwritten note in the mail from the Amish family next county over who sell chickens that we can pick up our freezer-ready birds on the 25th.

"The Book of Faith" -- Make It a Family Affair

As some of you know, the ELCA has embarked upon an initiative, "The Book of Faith," encouraging members to read, study and discuss the Scriptures more regularly. Cassie says, "I just want everyone on Higgins Road to know that in our household we've all gotten with the program!"

Cap'n' Hooky

I called in sick this morning.

In the sense that sickness can be defined as a general state of not being whole, then my conscience is clear.

Right now, with the benefit of a decent amount of sleep, a shower and a quiet morning working on the church website with Fellow Traveler, it's as if every cell of my body and brain is murmuring, Thank you...thank you...thank you...

This afternoon I am doing some housecleaning and helping FT make blueberry jam.

Some days I feel as if my paying job is killing me by inches. Today I'm grabbing ahold of the rope and yanking some of that accumulated yardage back.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Regular readers know about the late Cody's Codeman Song, his special family themesong.

Well, we still sing dogsongs around here. They tend to keep the same melody(such as they are) with daily variations on the lyrics. The funny thing is, the dogs love them. Cassie loves to hear, "We love our Cassie/we think she's grand/we sit on the porch and hold her hand." Gertie gets all waggy-licky when we sing the Gertie Song, to the tune of "Barbie World": "She's a Gertie girl/in her Gertie world."

Even Mollie the cat blinks in appreciation when we announce her entrance into the room with a sung superhero "It's the Mollinator!"

An Era Ends

I retired my land-line phone number this month.

Having a land line seemed increasingly redundant, not to mention expensive, so I finally pulled the plug, so to speak. But I found myself feeling a little sad about letting go of a number that had been in the family since I believe my grandparents got their first phone on the old farmstead in the late 40's...back when phone numbers had letter prefixes.

Oh, wishes to the new household who winds up with it.

Mean Girls

Dealing with a spiritual bully got me to thinking about bullies in general.

The other week Fellow Traveler and I got an e-mail from an acquaitance we know from past barbecues and luncheon get-togethers. She invited us to a patio evening with a few friends of hers. She added that we could also bring friends -- but only if we ran their names by her. Because, she explained, some of the other women present at the parties we've been to together were a little too blue-collar; so she wanted to be sure that we only invited persons of a particular educational and occupational level.

As I read this missive, I was mentally transported back to the playground of Outer Podunk Elementary School. Our class queen bee Mean Shelley was informing me that I was not allowed to play jump rope with her and her friends. Moreover, I was instructed to stand at a defined distance away from them, lest onlookers mistake me for someone included in her circle.

Anyone who's ever been a "'tween" girl, or who has 'tween girls, knows that they can be vicious little divas. Thing is, usually they grow out of it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Beliefnet, Banality and Evil

There's this guy who prowls the Beliefnet Christian Welcome and Faith and Life forums -- I'll call him Billy Bob -- who drives me absolutely crazy.

He is, I think, a Southern Baptist of the Jerry Falwell end of that theological spectrum, so it's pretty much a given that I will strenuously disagree with almost everything he has to say.

But antagonistic online religious blowhards are a dime a dozen. That's not what drives me crazy.

This guy, Billy Bob, has a disturbing tendency to find some lost soul posting online in a state of spiritual distress -- and then verbally bash the hapless individual over the head with his King James Bible and pretensions to his own righteousness.

The other day someone began a topic thread explainng that s/he'd been the victim of an armed robbery, and had been so shaken by this experience that s/he was starting to lose faith in a good God.

Along came Billy Bob. Instead of offering this person comfort and encouragement, he lit into the robbery victim for daring to doubt God; for having such paltry faith. He suggested that if this person's faith were so easily shaken, then s/he probably wasn't a Real Christian[tm] to begin with, like Billy Bob.

Well, needless to say, I weighed in with what I hoped was more helpful and theologically responsible advice to the individual who'd been robbed at gunpoint. But I didn't address Billy Bob directly, because I was sure I couldn't do that without violating the Beliefnet Rules of Conduct.

I don't want to get all hyperbolic-Martin-Luther here -- but if Satan himself responded to this hurting individual, I am convinced that he'd sound a great deal like Billy Bob. And I couldn't help but think of what Jesus had to say about people who cause the anawim, the "little ones," to lose faith.

Lord, save us from your followers. Again.

Born To Be Wild

One of my coworkers -- someone I help out occasionally by procuring cases of "Three-Buck-Chuck" Charles Shaw wine when we travel to Ann Arbor and shop at Trader Joe's -- recently gifted me with several packages of venison from last fall's hunt. Included was a pack of two steaks; unlike the usual small medallions, these were the size of pork steaks, with round bones.

We were all ready to marinate and grill these, but the weather has been so iffy today that we decided not to attempt charcoal cooking. Instead I braised the steaks: I lightly floured/seasoned and pounded them, then browned them in olive oil; I removed them from the pan briefly and added sliced onions, a very thinly sliced carrot and two large cloves of garlic, minced, sauteeing them in the pan drippings and scraping up the browned bits from the venison. When the onion was soft I returned the venison to the pan and added a can of low-sodium beef broth, a couple of tablespoons of minced fresh herbs from the garden (thyme, savory, marjoram and just a sprig of rosemary) and -- secret ingredient -- about a quarter cup of dried mushrooms soaked in dry sherry to cover. (I found the dried mushrooms at the on-site farm market at Blackstar Farms winery in Suttons Bay -- they're grown by some outfit downstate. They're really not terribly expensive, and a little go a long way, especially if they're crumbled first.) I turned up the heat, brought the liquid to boil, then turned it down to medium and braised the meat for about a half hour.

I served this with a wild-rice/multicolored rice blend from the food coop, made like a pilaf by sauteeing green onion and celergy, adding the rice and stirring it around a bit, then adding seasoned water and thyme and cooking until the liquid was all absorbed; before serving I added maybe a quarter cup of quartered sweet cherries I borrowed from Fellow Traveler's jam-making supplies and some sweet-salty sliced almonds. I also had some great Swiss chard from the Midland Farmer's Market that I sauteed in garlicky olive oil, then splashed with balsamic vinegar before serving.

This was very tasty, and really didn't take all that long. (The rice can be made ahead of time.)

We love our Sunday dinners. This one was a bit on the exotic side, but still "cozy."

Friday, July 18, 2008

Whatcha Know About Green Bay?

I'm sending out a Cheesehead SOS.

A 20-something church pal of FT's and mine just relocated to Green Bay, Wisconsin, for a new job. She's an EMT who got her training as a commuter student, so this is her first time living away from home. We've been checking on her MySpace page every couple of days, and she sounds a little down and disconnected from her family and community.

Those of you who have any familiarity at all with Green Bay: What are some great places to go and things to do there (besides go to Packers games)? What insider tips do you have for a rookie resident? Where's a good day trip destination from Green Bay, if she wants to get out of the city and learn her way around the general area?

Friday Five: It'll Blog

This week's RevGalBlogPals Friday Five is all about one of our very favorite things:

So how did you come up with your blogging name? And/or the name of your blog?I have to give credit to Old Lutheran, the store that sells fun Lutheran-culture stuff, for helping hatch the moniker "LutheranChik." And Kelly Fryer gets a nod for the "'L' Word" part of my blog name. (To tell you the truth I read Reclaiming the "L" Word long before I ever saw an episode of The "L" Word...and FT and I just don't enjoy the latter at all. Give us Deadliest Catch or The Food Channel any day.)

Are there any code names or secret identities in your blog? Any stories there?em>
Of course there's me, LC...and Fellow Traveler...Semi-Stepsons and Semi-Daughter-in-Law...and the Children Raised By Wolves. I haven't come up with a clever nom de plume for my clergyperson yet -- Pastor Gonzo might be a good choice, but that would probably blow his cover, at least within our synod. (He, by the way, knows I have a blog but respects my not sharing it with him.)

What are some blog titles that you just love? For their cleverness, drama, or sheer, crazy fun?
I always chuckle at my friend Dan's Culture Choc. And RuthRE's You Don't Have To Listen, I Just Like to Talk, which pretty much sums up the philosophy at this laptop as well.

What three blogs are you devoted to? Other than the RevGalBlogPals blog of course!
Who introduced you to the world of blogging and why?
I am not going to list just three -- because I can't. What I do is set aside about one day a week to go blog-spotting; I'll go down the RevGalBlogPals list, and the Blogging Lutherans, and other assorted fellow bloggers. So it's an equal-opportunity kind of thing. One thing I've noticed, though, is that I've stopped being adventurous in seeking out new blogs for the rounds; I think I've reached a bloggy saturation point. But on the other hand I know -- know! -- there must be more good writing and simpatico people out there.

I was introduced to blogging by online friend bls, blogmistress of The Topmost Apple (it's very hot today, and I'm very tired, so if you're getting frustrated that I haven't linked to any of these cited blogs...sorry, but I just can't help you; that's why God created Google), via the Beliefnet website. I was intrigued by the idea of having my very own website to sound forth on anything I wanted to; and, being somewhat graphically impaired, I was attracted to the idea of templates that more or less designed the thing for me so that all I had to do was blather; and it was free.

Bonus question: Have you ever met one of the bloggers whose blogs you read? Yes; twice. Had lunch with one a couple of years ago at Traveler's Club and Tuba Museum in Okemos, a really cool place to hang out on a weekend afternoon. And I've met another blogger in a real-world way -- actually through my lay ministry education, before she had a blog and before I knew she had a blog.

My pastor says, "Wouldn't it be a blast if you invited all your online friends up to Michigan for a weekend?" Yeah, it would.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Big M

M as in merge. M as in move.

This week Fellow Traveler and I had a serious discussion about how we can best live our way into our future. And we've decided that it's time for us to abandon our dual-home lifestyle.

Fellow Traveler worries that by continuing to pay a mortgage on the Big House in these economic times, she's simply throwing away money that could be better spent on both of us, in a house that's already paid for. She also feels that her home is too big; too much to manage indoors and out. I feel we're throwing away money by double-spending on things like utilities and house maintenance. I feel trapped by my job which, even though it literally makes me sick in both body and mind, I need in order to maintain our current living arrangements. We both feel that, in a world where people literally die waiting for adequate shelter, it's morally questionable to share two houses for no good reason. And the novelty of doing that -- of loading up the vehicles like the Joad family every month and switching residences -- has frankly worn off for both of us.

Fellow Traveler also loves Cold Comfort Cottage. For me, that's the least compelling sell of this proposition. All I see is repair work that needs to be done, and I worry that what FT finds "cozy" now will feel cramped and inadequate later on. But FT loves the wooded surroundings, and the relative quiet; she says she finds a peace here that she doesn't in her own house.

And we both have a long-term goal of moving away from this area altogether. Where we're not sure, although northwest lower Michigan appeals to us greatly; or maybe we'll wind up in the Northeast, near FT's old stomping grounds; or maybe somewhere else entirely. Consolidating will help us save the money to do that.

So -- we are merging our homesteads; downscaling in size but not quality of life. We toasted our decision last night at The Brass Cafe', which seems to be our special place for celebrating our relational milestones.

I told FT that she needs to make a special visit to the garage and state her intentions to "Hank," my dad, at least part of whom she is convinced still inhabits his old man cave -- who seems to have taken a shine to her (I kid her that she's the son-in-law he always wished he had) and who does mischievous things like suddenly turning on the radio, or wafting the scent of his beloved Swisher Sweets around the place, when she's in there alone. Hank no longer consults with me; but I think that he would approve.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"Read, Mark, Learn and Inwardly Digest"

Gertie's review of Ernest Hemingway: "I very much enjoyed The Nick Adams Stories, particularly the later ones -- like, the last few chapters of the book. The back cover too. They were very tasty and fun to shred."

The library clerk just chuckled when I shamefacedly provided my $15 to purchase a new book.

The Media and the Fear Factor

I'm watching Good Morning America. They're doing a segment on "Breast Exams: Do They Do More Harm Than Good?" -- one they've been promoting incessantly since the program began. Mighty ironic since GMA personality Robin Roberts' breast self-examination helped her identify and then fight her breast cancer.

But wait! There's more! The gist of the feature is that some -- repeat, some -- women may become obsessive about monthly breast self-exams and wind up subjecting themselves to more biopsies and their attendant pain and anxiety. Their resident medical expert's conclusion? If you self-examine every month, don't stop doing it; but if you don't, or if this is a stress-inducing exercise for you, try to relax and have a more "informal relationship with your breasts." (No jokes, please.)

It seems to me that fear, not reassurance, is the guiding principle in airing pseudo-news like this. Michael Moore is right; the media thrives by manufacturing and feeding fear. And to the extent that we let ourselves be made afraid by the media, we disempower ourselves.

I think I am going to e-mail GMA and tell them what I think about their feature. Feel free to join me.

The One Who Goes Ahead and Shows Us the Way

The other evening while I was out shilling for my agency at a township board meeting Fellow Traveler took Cassie and Gertie to the recreational area near Cold Comfort Cottage to run off some steam. Gertie was, for the first time, introduced to the river toward the back of the property.

This river is quite rocky and fast-moving. Even the muscular Cassie sometimes has to work very hard to navigate through it. But she loves it, and as soon as the trio approached the observation/fishing deck Cassie cannonballed into the water.

Miss Gertie wanted badly to jump in too -- but she was afraid. She ran back and forth along the bank, barking in frustration.

This is the great part, Fellow Traveler shares: Cassie swam back to the bank. She showed Gertie a shallow spot where it was easier to get into the water. She positioned herself against the hardest flow of the water, steering Gertie around with her own body in a very intentional way until the younger dog was comfortable swimming, then helped guide her to an accessible point on the opposite bank. They went off on a short romp through the woods. When they returned to the river, Cassie again helped guard Gertie from the strongest of the current as the two made their way back to the deck.

When I heard this story, the first thing that came to mind was Luther's characterization of Christ as our Elder Brother, and our pastor's frequent reference to Christ as the One Who Goes Ahead and Shows Us the Way. Jesus is for us what Cassie the good dog-sister was for young Gertie.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Wolf Trap

FT got a call from Mama Wolf today. No "thank you" for taking care of her son this past weekend -- although we didn't expect that anyway. She did relate, like a naughty schoolgirl, how she was playing the system down at the local unemployment office by feigning looking for work so that the agency will pay to have the family car fixed; she has no intention, you see, of actually getting a job, but she makes the rounds of various businesses, has someone sign her paperwork and goes back to the unemployment office with seeming evidence of her having looked for work. After sharing this, she went in for the shakedown: Could she expect that we'd be buying her other two children new school clothes and shoes too?

This woman brings out my inner Scrooge: "Are there no workhouses?" I'd like to introduce her lazy posterior to the joys of manual labor. Grrrrrr.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Kid Goes to Church

We took The Kid to church this morning.

Let me back up: Last night we took The Kid to a Great Lakes Loons minor league baseball game at Dow Diamond in Midland. This is an awesome baseball venue -- Semi-Son-in-Law the sports maven and professional stadium aficionado can't believe how nice it is -- and The Kid had a great time, even though he could barely sit still for an inning before wanting to get up and explore the grounds. He came home with an armful of souvenir bling he bought with part of his chore money, plus autographs from several players and Lou E. Loon, the team mascot.

The game went into extra innings, so we suspected our young charge would be hard to rouse this morning at 7-ish. But he was a good sport, and we made it to church without complaint. As a matter of fact, The Kid had a wonderful time. He really likes our pastor, whom he'd met earlier in the week in his civilian mode. Our church friends, especially the older ones, welcomed him warmly and fussed over him and made him smile.

In lieu of our normal service we had a version of "Luther's Hymn Mass" -- instead of our regular liturgy we used some of the congregation's favorite hymns strategically placed to convey the same liturgical concepts. So there was a lot of hearty singing. When it came time for the sermon the pastor, to use an analogy appropriate for the previous evening, hit it out of the park, taking a Gospel text that can be used in ways to clobber "sinners" in a manner that The Kid hears at the various angry Bible-banging churches his mother takes him to, when she attends, and instead applying the metaphors of seeds and soil to God's love and grace scattered indiscriminately throughout all the rough patches of our lives. We had a baptism, which we got to experience up close and personal just a few seats fron the font. The Kid got a welcome and blessing when we took him up to the altar at the Eucharist. And -- I can barely believe this -- it turns out that one of our newest members was The Kid's speech teacher back at his last school, so they had a very happy reunion; she knows he comes from a dysfunctional home situation and has been concerned about him ever since he moved away from her district.

Afterward, en route to A&W for lunch, I asked The Kid, "So...what was the most interesting part of church for you today?"


Sometimes it all comes together in church. Today felt like one of those days.

Seeds and Water Drops

Our pastor's sermon today -- like, I'm sure, many other sermons across Lutherland and elsewhere -- was about God as the madcap, spendthrift sower tossing seeds anywhere and everywhere; about the freewheeling generosity of God's love and grace.

We also celebrated a baptism today. And as the kiddo was being marked with the cross of Christ forever, I couldn't help but think that, in what seems to be our neverending struggle as sacramental Christians to explain infant baptism to skeptical/hostile Christians of other traditions, one of the best metaphors for our understanding of Holy Baptism is that of God lovingly scattering the seeds of grace everywhere -- including the souls of those too little to be cognizant to know what's happening. That comes later. It's not about our being "just right" for God to come down and claim us as God's own; it's about God taking the loving risk to plant that seed wherever, whenever.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Life at Camp Kid

I am taking a much-needed break right now from Camp Kid -- Fellow Traveler is asleep, while The Kid, our former neighbor, is playing on the guest-room computer.

We are having the time of our lives making this a great weekend for our young guest, who comes from a "home" that isn't in any real sense of the word. I find my emotions swinging wildly between the joy of helping him have fun and real anger toward both his utterly incompetent parents and a system that fails him and his siblings again and again and again.

Sometimes I have to keep from crying. Today, rained out of our trout farm adventure, I whipped up an indoor picnic meal with crispy chicken, a couple of homemade salads and strawberry shortcake. Fellow Traveler asked The Kid if he wanted to eat casual in the living room or eat in the dining room; when he indicated the latter, she asked, "Do you ever eat meals at a table with the rest of your family?" and he said, "Never." For him just eating and conversing at table is a special event. Just living in a normal household -- one with a modicum of cleanliness, where adults care for one another and for him, where there's no fighting or drugging or dysfunction or strange adults crashing on the living room sofa on any given night, is an exotic treat for him. And he's such a polite kid; he picks up after himself and does chores and asks what he can do to help.

It breaks my heart to see how smart this kid is, yet how behind he is scholastically because of his parents' gypsy-like lifestyle -- he told us they've moved at least 15 times that he can remember, just in this state -- and their lack of support for his education. He's great with numbers, but can barely read; he wants to play on the computer but needs one of us to translate the simplest sentences and instructions.

A social worker friend of mine who works with the aging once told me, "I could never do child social work. I'd want to just carry a gun with me into the field and shoot the kids' parents. Or I'd wind up shooting myself."

I know the feeling. Frankly, right now it's impossible for me to even attempt thinking of this child's sperm-and-egg donors as part of "the least of these" I'm called to care about. I want to dope-slap them and scream in their ears, What the **** do you think you're doing? What in the hell is the matter with you?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Existential Crisis Redux

I'm driving home from my Professional Obligation Speech last night, at the opposite corner of my county, headed fast down a long, straight stretch of state highway, with ribbons of midsummer forest and farmland alternating on either side of me. As I usually do after I do anything, I'm mentally critiquing my presentation, thinking of all the stuff I should have said and the way I should have said it. I'm thinking about the desolation, to use the Ignatian term, I feel about my work in general, hanging over it like a dark, heavy cloud. Meanwhile, the other dramas of the day, in the lives of people I care about, are also tumbling around, colliding with one another in my head. Suddenly, out of nowhere, came the lyrics of a song I love, that I haven't thought about in ages:

I want to run
I want to hide
I want to tear down the walls
That hold me inside
I want to reach out
And touch the flame
Where the streets have no name

I want to feel, sunlight on my face
See that dust cloud disappear without a trace
I want to take shelter from the poison rain
Where the streets have no name

The Cub is In the House

One of the Children Raised By Wolves is staying with us through the weekend.

Ostensibly he's here to help with some household chores while Fellow Traveler is still recovering from surgery. We're actually just happy to get him out of his dysfunctional family situation, in their appalling wreck of a rented house trailer out in West Deliveranceville one county way, for a few days.

He's already had a busy first day. FT had called our pastor to get some information for the church website and found out that he, and our church family, have had one hell of a week -- sudden death, serious auto accidents, serious illnesses and, in one family, a parishoner's brother, missing for a month, found dead in the woods. (Our pastor is also a volunteer firefighter/first responder, so he is on the front lines of real-life drama in more ways than one.) FT and Cub whipped together some quick supper items for the parsonage and for another family we learned was in a crisis situation, then delivered them; I had to drive to another community for a work-related presentation; we finally rendevouzed later in the evening for a few quick rounds of Link's Crossbow Training.

I'm glad Cub got to meet our pastor and his wife in a setting other than church. (He was, however, briefly flummoxed by the church cemetery adjoining the parsonage: "Why do they live in a cemetery? That's sick.") He also got to experience a little bit of firefighter drama himself -- on the way home, FT noticed smoke rising from the roadside near our church and found the beginnings of a grass fire -- she quickly called our pastor, who sped over and, quite professionally, stomped it out with his boots.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Pssst...They Think We're Stupid

This morning, while munching my breakfast toast, I caught a new campaign ad for John McCain. Among other things, it touted his bucking his own party's platform in terms of advocating for conservation and support for new energy technologies.

The ad was paid for by -- the Republican National Committee.

Do these people think we're idiots? Wait...don't answer that.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Lamb What Am

Our adventures in lamb cookery continued this afternoon when we stoked up the grill for shish kabobs.

Here's how I made them: In one bowl I combined about 2 cups of plain low-fat yogurt with the juice and zest of a lemon; about a half a bulb of garlic, chopped; several substantial sprigs of fresh rosemary and some Greek oregano; a sploosh of olive oil; and sea salt and cracked pepper. To this I added maybe a pound and a half of lamb stew meat. (Since stew meat includes all the pieces-parts of our lamb that didn't fit neatly into standard cuts, we wound up with several bags.)

Meanwhile in another bowl I tossed chunks of zucchini and yellow squash, portabello chunks, wedges of Vidalia onion and grape tomatoes in a mixture of balsamic vinegar, chopped garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.

After a couple of hours I skewered the meat and the veggies on separate kabobs, shaking the excess yogurt marinade off the lamb pieces as I worked.

When the charcoal was hot I placed the kabobs on a sheet of perforated foil on the upper level of the grill, with more vinegar marinade spooned over the top, and began cooking them. After about 12 minutes or so we placed the lamb kabobs on the lower grill.

We cooked the lamb until it was medium rare -- maybe 7 minutes on each side -- during which time we continued to marinate the veggies, which grilled up tender but not too soft.

I served this repast with a few balls of marinated fresh mozzarella from Trader Joe's, pita bread (great for soaking up that seasoned olive oil) and 2005 Simon Hackett Old Vine Grenache.

The lamb was indescribably good -- so good that we've decided we really don't need to shop for beef anymore; this has become our red meat of choice. I've blogged about the Simon Hackett before; it has a lovely blackberry flavor with enough tannin to keep things interesting but not enough to make it bitter or heavy on the palate.

Dessert consisted of white peaches, another indulgence from our trip to Ann Arbor, halved and grilled. Very tasty.

My Personal DNA

Sleeping With Bread

During a quiet holiday-weekend evening I had an opportunity to read this book, by the trio of Sheila Fabricant-Linn, Dennis Linn and Matthew Linn. The title refers to anxious refugee children during World War II, who were finally comforted and calmed after their rescue when they were given pieces of bread to sleep with -- a tactile promise that they were safe and would be taken care of.

Sleeping With Bread actually a primer in the practice of examen, simplified and somewhat secularized for a general readership; it explains how a regular practice of mindfully exploring the things in our lives that feed us spiritually and emotionally and the things that seem to suck the life out of us can help us find meaning and direction.

This is a very present, pressing concern in my own life, so I found the book helpful. I also think it would make a great focus for a small-group study.

LC in the Big City

We, along with Fellow Traveler's delightful Aunt Helen, were in the Wayne/Westland suburbs of Detroit yesterday to help FT's aunt Alice celebrate her 90th birthday. We surprised her totally -- called her from the driveway and said, "What are you doing today?" -- and presented her with a birthday cake decorated with a graphic of her as a young woman that our local supermarket bakery crafted from an old photo. This was all a great deal of fun -- especially giving Aunt Helen some quality time with her sister, whom she hasn't been able to visit all that often, while FT and I drove over to Ann Arbor.

We really do not do the usual culture crawl in A2 -- for us it's Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, which are conveniently located within a short distance from one another. As we tell the staff there, we're on our semi-annual pilgrimage for provisions.

What I'm noticing though, since I've started networking with more foodies in our own neighborhood, is that I've grown more discerning about these trips. As far as meat and produce, for instance -- we have Lamb Lady and Farmer Ken and the Mast family; we don't need to import the same things from downstate. And now we're tending to use Whole Foods' deli more as an inspiration for our own scratch cooking than as a source for ready-made salads. We still appreciate the wine and cheese, though. (As did Cassie, who somehow snuck into the grocery bag while we were briefly out of the car and ate three small "no commitment" chunks of unfamiliar imported cheeses that I was looking forward to enjoying.)

Grape Jelly -- It' s Not Just For Sandwiches Anymore

This spring I put up an oriole feeder at The Big House -- one of the round flat syrup feeders with openings on top, little receptacles for grape jelly around the rim and a hanger that doubles as a skewer for an orange half.

Sadly, there don't seem to be any orioles in this neighborhood. But we are getting regular visitors to the feeder -- butterflies. They've been sucking up the syrup, but the grape jelly is what really gets 'em coming back.

The butterflies are quite bashful, so I've not been able to get close enough to take a good picture of them even with a zoom lens, but yesterday evening I'd say there were eight insects enjoying a communal jelly break on the feeder. Since entomology isn't my strong point I can't even tell you what kind of butterflies they were -- a kind of brownish gray with orange and dark spots. (Note to self: Get a field guide to Michigan butterflies.)

Here I Am...

Each month we've been featuring a "You Tube Pick of the Month" on our church website -- I just look around for some musical selection that fits the lectionary readings or general theme of the season. This month I found the following, that to me speaks to our wanting to grow into our faith as "doers of the Word":

Friday, July 04, 2008

Friday Five: Independence Day Edition

This week's RevGalBlogPals Friday Five is all about the holidays (belated Happy Canada Day, by the way, to all of you above the border):

1. Barbeques or picnics ( or are they essentially the same thing)?
With the disclaimer that Southerners and Westerners would both take offense at our labeling our wienie roasts and grilled chicken dinners "barbecues" -- to me a picnic means cold chicken or sam'iches, potato salad and the like, toted outside in a picnic basket. I love grilling at home; picnicking away from home.

2. The park/ the lake/ the beach or staying at home simply being?
I like being home (either one) for the holidays.

3. Fireworks- love 'em or hate 'em?
I enjoy them. The dogs, not so much.

4. Parades- have you ever taken part- share a memory...
Being in a parade is really not an item on my personal bucket list. Although I am looking forward to watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade this year right in NYC...booyah!

5. Time for a musical interlude- if you could sum up holidays in a piece of music what would it be?
Oh, that's got to be "Stars and Stripes Forever."

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Dinner With the Kids

Semi-Son-in-Law and Semi-Semi-Daughter-in-Law have been visiting us at The Big House for the last couple of days. Last night we treated them, Fellow Traveler's sister and niece to a barbecue...courtesy of our new mack-daddy charcoal grill, which SSIL helpfully put together for us much of yesterday. (All 130+ nuts, bolts and other assorted parts, as we've been reminded more than once. But he did get a good tan out there on the patio.) We served cedar-planked whitefish with our fresh herb-garden herbs; planked salmon that we'd marinated in Paul Newman's new lime dressing; tuna steaks from SIL/N; grilled asparagus and portabellos; Indonesian cucumber salad marinated in sweetened rice vinegar with a subtle but delightful kick of garlic chili paste; curried lentil salad with a splash of cherry vinegar and dried cherries. (Since I've had to work this week, "Lefty" got a lot of help from SSDIL as far as cutting veggies.) Dessert was pecan pie from our Amish bakery friend Lydia.

Good stuff, Maynard. The in-laws were impressed. And we kind of surprised ourselves.

Queen of the Night(mare)

All this talk of the earth moaning and groaning -- or, actually, screaming and squeaking and chirping -- made me think of Florence Foster Jenkins. FloFoJen was a wealthy socialite who fancied herself a talented opera singer. She wasn't. As you will soon find out, if you dare:

And Some of Us Are Reaching For the Airsick Bag...

For your perusal and amusement: A little online sermonette I came upon on the Beliefnet website.

I'm thinkin' this person probably isn't Lutheran.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

All Creation Groaning

Anyone else read this news article , and immediately think of the eighth chapter of Romans, where Paul talks about all creation groaning as if in childbirth? Groaning...screaming...potato....po-tah-to (especially to someone in labor). Spooky, no?