Friday, October 31, 2008

Had Enough of Campaign 2008?

As a wise old Zen master once noted, there's not much left to do at this point but have a good laugh. Enjoy!

Friday Potpourri!

I always liked this category on Jeopardy! too: Potpourri!

1) Your work day is done and the brain is fried, what do you do?
Go to the gym and watch The Barefoot Contessa as I'm pounding away on the treadmill. (Ironic, wot?)

2) Your work week is done and the brain is fried (for some Friday, others Sunday afternoon), what do you do?
Go home and try to enjoy some mindless TV and enjoyable magazine reading (yes, I multitask my recreation)...but find myself falling asleep on the sofa.

3) Like most of us, I often keep myself busy even while programs are on the TV. (Yipes. RevGal read my mind.) I stop to watch "The Office" and "30 Rock" on Thursday nights. Do you have 'stop everything' tv programming or books or events or projects that are totally 'for you' moments?
You know, I even multitask while watching my heroine, Rachel Maddow. But -- when I garden, or when I'm grocery shopping at the food coop, I'm "in the zone."

4) When was the last time you laughed, really laughed? What was so funny?
At our house we really laugh quite a lot of the time, usually while we're snarkitizing television programs or while we're in the car. It doesn't take much.

5) What is a fairly common item that some people are willing to go cheap on, but you are not?
Food. We will cut back on other things to avoid eating cheap/processed/hormonally enhanced/genetically altered/chemically tinkered-with crap.

Bonus: When was the last time you gave until it felt good?
I am feeling gratified about getting my congregation hooked up with a needy local family through our county social service agency, and actually seeing people get excited about helping these folks. And I of course get geeked on anonymously fulfilling Christmas wish lists. Love it. And Fellow Traveler is getting a similar lift getting our Sunday School kids involved in sending Christmas greetings to troops overseas and disabled veterans.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Return of the Lord Protector

Quick -- name a frowny-faced, high-eyebrowed fanatic intent on purging society of all that does not fit his crabbed, puritanical worldview.
No...not him...I mean Richard Dawkins.

Now he's angry at fantasy. He says it encourages an anti-scientific worldview.

The moral of this story: If you scratch a militant atheist deeply enough, you find a militant fundamentalist.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New York, New York!

We're going there for Thanksgiving!

After a momentary panic about lodging -- a task we'd delegated to a hotel-industry in-law whose employee discount wasn't enough to pull a room down into our price range -- we got online and found an affordable "boutique" hotel right in the theater district. We are actually going to be lodging closer to the Macy's parade setup than our kids who are working the parade. We are near museums we want to visit. And as women who, like Napoleon's army, travel on our stomachs, we were also delighted to find some modestly priced eateries of interest within the immediate neighborhood of our digs, including Chinese and Indian restaurants with appealing menus and Zip Burger, which I've heard good things about already.

Did I tell you that we're going TO NEW YORK? FOR THANKSGIVING?


So -- in between the balloons and Rockettes and all that jazz -- do any Constant Readers have tips for fun places to visit, and good-and-cheap places to eat?

Buns (and Back) of Steel

Well, it's been about a month or so since we worked out a barter deal with the local gym -- we manage their website in exchange for memberships.

Despite interruptions due to various illnesses and distractions, FT and I have managed to work out at least three or four or five times a week. I am walking and/or cycling for 15-20 minutes per visit; I'm sticking to a goal of two miles total, but have been tinkering with the resistance controls to change things up. In addition, I've been doing some weightlifting: a series of core fitness machines every workout, plus alternating shoulder and back exercises.

Good news: I am slowly losing my Michelin Woman profile. And my back, especially my upper back, feels 100 percent stronger; no more toothache-level neck and back pain. Bad news: I've now become Brick House Covered in Flubber. But it's progress nonetheless.

We were even talking about branching out into Wii yoga at our house. (Alas, our gym does not offer such classes.)


Now, if I could only extend my newfound personal discipline to my prayer life. Sigh.

Simul Iustus Et Peccator

Fellow Traveler and I are standing in our narthex this past Sunday, at a register where we have been invited to list the names of the departed saints in our own lives, for reading aloud during the Sundays in November.

FT has listed some names, including those of my parents. (No jokes about my character issues earning them sainthood.) Now it's my turn.

Then I add a few more: My maternal grandparents. My friends Bill and Rozie, from my sojourn up north.

Later on that day the thought occurs to me that I had cherrypicked through my mental inventory of the dead, leaving out family members who'd been less than stellar examples of ideal Christian behavior; who'd been physically and emotionally abusive to spouses, children and other family members; who'd been rabid bigots; who'd done some bad stuff to other people in the course of their time on this mortal coil.

Who do I think I am, sorting saints from sinners? Isn't that exactly the same thing I criticize in holier-than-thou hyper-Christians? How are the people on my "bad" list any worse than I am, at my worst? How are the people on my "good" list any better? And how would I know, anyway? Who am I to presume to plumb the depths of people's hearts and souls and motivations?

Maybe that Romans Bible study is working.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ignernt an' Proud of It, Part Deux

Christopher Hitchens neatly nails the arrogant ignorance of Sarah Palin and the Christianista wing of the GOP here . Best quote:

Those who despise science and learning are not anti-elitist. They are morally and intellectually slothful people who are secretly envious of the educated and the cultured.

I remember, in the comments section of a blog I frequently read, one of the Christianista respondents whining about he and his fellows in the amen choir being portrayed as "ignorant." Well, as Forest Gump's mama pointed out, stupid is as stupid does.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ignernt an' Proud of It

A snapshot of race relations in rural America.

Sounds like the diner-counter conversations in Outer Podunk, sadly.

What in hell is wrong with people?

Whither Reformation Sunday?

I'm standing in church today, singing "A Mighty Fortress" with the customary gusto of one who's grown up in the bosom of Michigan's Lutherland. I mean, it's Reformation Sunday. Our day. The one day in the year when a people accustomed to dwelling far in the background of both popular culture and American Christian culture can represent; can celebrate our contributions to the greater Church.

But I notice that no one else around me is singing with any energy. I'm reminded of my college days, when I'd sometimes accompany my Roman Catholic friend to Mass and marvel at the huge, standing-room-only congregation's anemic singing.

Come ON, people, I think. It's Reformation Freaking Sunday! Whatsamatter with you?

I wonder if this is to a certain extent a function of attracting more members without a Lutheran background, who have neither the informational grounding nor the exposure to Lutheran culture to really understand why this Sunday is special. Or perhaps it's because there's less tension between Lutheranism and Roman Catholicism these days, when more often than not both our traditions find ourselves in solidarity over and against fundagelical American Christian culture, and the serious differences that do remain between our traditions tend to be treated with the same forbearance exercised around a holiday dinner table on behalf of more difficult members of one's family: Uncle Joe really is a decent guy...just don't get him going on religion.

Who knows. And I know that party spirit, and the divided Body it encourages, is one of those things cautioned against in Scripture.

But I still miss old-school Reformation Sunday.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Making an Impression

Who knew that I had a way with the young'uns?

Constant readers will recall our Big Adventure earlier in the year with our great-niece. She loves being read to, and specifically loves being read to by yours truly -- whom she refers to as Uddah Edden, as opposed to her Auntie Edden, aka Fellow Traveler. Edden,in case you're wondering, is a small-person's approximation of our shared first name.

Great-niece's Army dad, who re-upped earlier this year, was deployed this month to the Middle East. Her mom reports that, one evening when Great-Niece was being fussy and obstinate about going to bed, she burst out, "If Daddy not here to wead to me, I want Uddah Edden to wead to me! I want to see Uddah Edden and Ariel!" (Ariel is our pondside mermaid.)

Uddah Edden may have to score a copy of Goodnight Moon and make a long-distance call.

LC Goes Contemporary Christian Format

No, no, no, no. It's not what you think. I haven't gone over to the dark side of "Christian radio."

Part of that is aesthetics; I just don't like it. Part of it is political; having listened to Christian talk radio, I'm disinclined to listen to musical programming broadcast on the same stations for the same reason that, if I were Jewish, I wouldn't listen to music on a White Power station. Something about sandals and sand and shaking and moving on.

But I'm hearing more contemporary Christian music than I have for a long time, thanks to the gym, where every so often the patrons switch the station from headbanging classic rock to a local all-music Christian rock station.

My impression is...sounds like any other "hits" station. You've got your jangly, edgy alternative sounding stuff, maybe followed by some rap, maybe followed by a power ballad, maybe followed by...well, you get the idea. And I generally can't discern the lyrics anyway -- it's just a lot of wonk-wonk-wonk -- so whatever spiritual uplift I might derive from these Christian themed songs must be purely on a subliminal level.

On the other hand, while trying to twiddle the dial in FT's Jeep the other day I wound up listening to another local Christian first I thought I'd wandered onto a "light hits" station until I realized that the glurgy "my boyfriend" tribute being warbled by the singer was all about her boyfriend Jesus. Oops.

So my close encounters with contemporary Christian music these days haven't killed me...haven't made me stronger...haven't done much of anything except make me miss traditional choral music more. But not in the gym.

Fascist Flashback

The Thirties are more ways than one:

St. Louis Students Disciplined For "Hit a Jew Day"

Worse than this story is the enabling commentary by adult respondents here and elsewhere online.

What is the matter with people? Be the grownups, for God's sake.

Some of Those "Values Voters" We Keep Hearing About

With a hat tip to Andrew Sullivan ...if you can't get people to vote "Yes" on California's Proposition 8 because they want to, a little Sopranos-style intimidation might do the trick:

"Make a donation of a like amount to which will help us correct this error. Were you to elect not to donate comparably, it would be a clear indication that you are in opposition to traditional marriage. ... The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to but have given to Equality California will be published."

My response would be, ""

WTF Indeed

Last week I laughed out loud reading Christopher Buckley, freshly fired from the family enterprise at The National Review for his disavowal of the McCain-Palin ticket, musing on the future of the conservative movement in the United States:

"The smart ones in the movement should get together right after the election at the Greenbrier or the Homestead, you know, where they typically have these kinds of get-togethers, and have a long dark night of the soul," he says. "And I'll tell you what the conference should be called: Conservatism--What the Fuck?"

(Just a personal note that I, back in the days when I had abundant free time to read lots more magazines than I do now, read The National Review even though I agreed with very little in it, simply because I enjoyed William F. Buckley's wit and intelligence...two commodities no longer much in evidence on that side of the ideological divide.)

Well -- Rod Dreher, like many other pundits, quoted Buckley the Younger's suggestion in his own blog (albeit with the bad word bowlderized for the sake of sensitive Moral Majority types), and asked for reader feedback on what topics such a conference of conservatism might include.

The responses, on this post and his related posts, include some real humor...some insight...but, geez Louise, there are some squirrely conservatives out there. I can't believe the respondents who spoke approvingly of Putin's Russia as a model of an emerging socially conservative state.

WTF indeed.

A Moveable Friday Five

There are places I'll remember
all my life, though some have changed
some forever, not for better,
some are lost, and some remain... -- The Beatles

RevGalBlogPals' Singing Owl is anticipating having her adult child and family moving in with Mom and Dad. So moving is on her mind:

This post is about locations. My husband has lived at 64 addresses in his life so far (16 with me) and he suggested the topic since we have moving trucks on our minds.

Therefore, tell us about the five favorite places you have lived in your lifetime. What did you like? What kind of place was it? Anything special happen there?

If you have lived in less than five places, you can tell us about fantasy location.

I responded, on that blog, that I didn't think I had five favorite locations. But I'll share what I have:

1. My childhood home. I grew up in a hip-roofed stone farmhouse, on the family farm. I loved our house, especially the front porch; I even loved the quirks, like the cavernous crawlspace under the attic stairs and our mysterious kitchen "door to nowhere." (The grandparents had originally wanted to build an outside stairway, but for whatever reason that never happened.) I also loved the farm in its entirety -- the barn, the outbuildings, the pastures and fields. I spent a large chunk of my childhood simply wandering our property, observing nature and thinking my thoughts.

My senior-year dorm. Unlike many of my fellows, I lived on campus all four years of college; maybe because I enjoyed living in the oldest extant residential section on campus. The buildings had a palpable history; they were pretty, inside and out; they were cozy, quirky places to live, unlike the spartan Soviet-style newer dormatories; and residents took pride in place. My senior year -- thanks to my pulling an all-nighter in line to win the privilege of dwelling there -- I lived in an "alternative" residence hall, among these old grand dames of student housing, that had been retrofitted to accomodate communal kitchens on each floor, in lieu of a common cafeteria. This dorm tended to attract not only students looking for cheaper digs, but what we'd now call "crunchies" -- neo-hippies and other noncomformists who tended to be vegetarians or whole-foods aficionados. I hated my roommate that year (she was definitely not "crunchy"), but I loved my floormates, and my surrounds. If you're ever visiting Michigan State University and happen to pass Williams Hall -- give it a cheery wave, from a grateful Class of '83 happy camper.

3. Cadillac, Michigan. I can't say much about my rental accomodations...but for the most part I enjoyed living in the community of Cadillac -- which, sadly, is often treated as a convenient pit stop by vacationers speeding up to more glamorous resort areas in the northwestern Lower Peninsula of Michigan. Cadillac has a wonderful city park system that includes everything from lakeside walking trails to wooded picnic areas to a band shell to the city Sound Garden where you can get your rhythm on via all manner of permanent installations. It has a good, utilitarian business district that includes convenient big-box stores, a few interesting boutiquey places and visit-worthy restaurants of all price ranges. They have a very nice summer music series at the city band shell -- lots of jazz -- and a well-regarded First Night celebration New Year's Eve.

4. Cold Comfort Cottage. My neverending home maintenance woes of my favorite things is sitting on the front porch, or in the wintertime watching the birds from the dining room windows. It's generally quiet and peaceful, the surrounding woods creating a welcome buffer from the rest of the world.

5. The Big House. I am learning to love the trees surrounding The Big House, although the woods isn't as accessible as that around CCC -- the ground is so uneven that you're constantly having to anchor yourself against a tree to keep from pitching forward into a humus-y divot...which isn't advisable considering the poison ivy that infests much of the wooded part of the property. (We are considering having our landscaping friend make a winding path through the trees for us, that we can cover with wood chips and keep cleared.) But the more I wander around the more things I notice, like a large, exciting (to me) colony of ferns that I can't identify. I am increasingly interested in improving the aesthetics of our backyard pond, which I love to walk around because it reminds me of my childhood exploring the marshes and ditches of the farm, and in getting some of the local birds to visit our bird feeding stations. I enjoy our patio. I absolutely love our front room, a small, bright room filled with antique furniture and memorabilia; if we have a "no electronic media" evening we like to sit in here. I like our dining room. I love the artwork that The Kids have given us, and our own contributions in the past three years.

Hmmm. I guess I do have five favorite places.

Bonus: My fantasy living location is in a vintage -- 30's or 40's era -- cottage, not necessarily in this state. Over on my food blog someone pointed me to her blog, all about life in her 40's-era log cabin, and it inspired me; ditto my cousin-in-laws' equally cute, cozy inherited weekend hideway up near Traverse City. I think dismantling these examples of Upper Midwest Americana in favor of the conspicuously consumptive, McSame McMansions now infesting our lake areas (wonder what's going to happen to them now, in the wake of the economic downturn?) was a mistake, and a loss.

Butcher? Baker? Candlestick Maker?

As Constant Readers know, I have been contemplating making a career change. Yes, I know; the cusp of a Great Depression is not such a great time to be doing this. Timing's never been my strong point. But you know the old saying (possibly apocryphal) that the Chinese symbol for "danger" also connotes "opportunity."

Anyway: As we've been discussing this in our household, one of the criteria I've been using as I decide what to do when I grow up is job portability in a rural setting. As geeked as we are about our upcoming trip to The Big Apple -- we're not moving there, or another big city. Ever. We like living in the country, even though thanks to a certain notorious Vice-Presidential candidate we now labor under even more of a burden of perceived hickdom than we had before.

But what do you do to make money in mid- or up-north Michigan? I mean -- we don't even have a Mall Wart within 30 miles in any direction for chump-change employment. (Not that I'd work there.) No matter how many crunches and suspended kneeups I'm capable of in the gym these days, I'm past the age where full-time manual labor is a viable option.

Here are some of the ideas that have been bouncing around in my mind, as far as continuing my education.

Webmaster/web designer. This bland and badly maintained blog notwithstanding, I actually have some street cred here in terms of creating written content; and the techie stuff I can learn. Fellow Traveler was once told by a vocational counselor at the VA that the webmaster market is saturated, but this has absolutely not been our experience here in the toolies -- businesses and organizations want and need people to set up and maintain their websites, especially to reach younger consumers who reach for Google, not the local phone book or newspaper, for information on products and services. We already barter our webmeistering services for our gym membership; who knows what other ways we can use this skill for the benefit of our household?

Personal property appraiser. Both FT and I are interested in certain types of collectibles, and we've talked about someday leveraging our interest into a part-time garage-office business. The sticking point with this area of expertise is training and credentialing; there are apparently no schools in Michigan that offer any sort of coursework in this field. The schools that do are out-of-state and generally lacking in a distance-education option. And laws regarding professional credentials very from state to state. But we think that, as our society faces a major economic upheaval, people are going to regain an interest in investing in very least, the potential for return on investment is better than hoarding one's cash in a crawlspace or under a barn floor. So if I can find a distance-learning option for this field, plus ingratiate myself with any local experts willing to take a newbie under their wings, this might be worth pursuing. Plus, it's fun, and educational; it's amazing what you learn about history, design and decorative arts.

Medical biller. Fellow Traveler has had some experience in this, and she says that it's a perfect, portable skill for someone whose identity isn't fully invested in his or her job. You take a stack of medical records; you input the information, in coded form, on the 'puter; you go home, or close the home office door behind you, when you're done; and life is good. Our local community college offers a fast-track course in medical billing.

Anyone else have any good ideas for short-term vocational training leading to a second-income job that has some legs in a changing economy and in a non-urban environment?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

One of Those Days When I Wish I Were Buddhist

With a hat tip to Andrew Sullivan :

McCain-Palin Ticket Plagued By Obama Witchcraft!

Can I tell you how sick I am of fascist, racist, fence-post stupid, superstitious, ridiculous Christianista wack jobs?

Dear God in heaven, save us from this freak show of decompensating religious rightists.


On Sunday, at church, I also launched our Project Christmas campaign, to assist a needy area family referred by the county Department of Human Services office. (The countywide Christmas Project gets its list of needy households not only from social-services rolls but also from referrals by concerned friends and neighbors, other helping professionals, and self-referrals.)

I actually took on the task of choosing a family, out of two ring binders full of referrals. It was a sobering experience, holding all this need in my hands, turning the pages and trying to decide which family to select on behalf of the congregation. ("And this is still early in the season," remarked the coordinator. "You should see it in another month.") The family I chose -- mom on disability, two kids -- listed "FOOD" multiple times on its holiday wish list. The mom, in the space reserved for her own wishes, remarked, "I don't want nothing special."

This is one of those undertakings that I've always wondered why we haven't tackled as a congregation. And the answer seems to be because noone's thought of it before. We tend to be very inward-turned; maybe because many of our own families are struggling with illness and financial difficulty. And because our church is in a remote corner of our county, far from the county seat or indeed any population center, folks don't always seem to know whom they belong to as far as community resources. Someone from church recently told me she was very surprised to learn that our county transit service operates in the area: "Who knew?"

The Evangelism Committee -- which consists of Fellow Traveler, another person and myself, decided to spearhead the adoption of a Project Christmas family, because the Gospel "good news" isn't just a spiritual construct -- it's also loving by doing. That's how we see it, anyway.

And the good news about our good news is that it seems to be exciting people in our congregation...which is especially good news in these tough economic times. I was just asked, via e-mail, by a church member if our Project Christmas family needed help with a Thanksgiving meal as well.

It's a good thing.

When in Romans...

On Sunday, as I mentioned, I found myself tasked with leading the second installment of our congregation's Sunday morning Bible study on the Epistle to the Romans.

Looking around at the dozen or so expectant faces around me, I realized I'd forgotten how hard it is to teach a class...on anything. And I realized that we were heading into the territory, in Romans 1, of the dreaded "clobber verses." Oy gevult.

So being the expert procrastinator that I am...I changed the subject.

I started off with a review of what I've always thought was the brilliant advice I've received from more than a few instructors over the years regarding how to responsibly and mindfully engage Scripture: What does this say? What does this mean? What does this mean for me/for us as a faith community now? I talked about how, as Lutheran Christians, we honor all these questions; I talked about how, historically, whenever Christians focus exclusively on one of these questions to the exclusion of the others, they get themselves and others into trouble.

Then I launched into a Cliff Notes review of the historical and cultural contexts of Paul's letter -- the conflicts between Rome's Jewish community and new Christian believers, the conflicts between Jewish Christian converts and pagan Christian converts; Paul's tackling these and the larger theological issue of soteriology from a distance.

When we finally got around to reading from the text, we found ourselves at Paul's thesis statement about justification by grace. That was good for another quarter-hour discussion about why this is the linchpin of Paul's theology. And then we had to stop, so we could get ready for the worship service.

Like I said...when it comes to putting off difficult things, I am an expert.

The Silence of the Bees

On Saturday, Fellow Traveler and I went to the farm of our "lamb lady," just north of Midland, for her local growers' open house. She and her husband raise Icelandic sheep and Icelandic sheepdogs, grow lavender, and conduct a mail-order wool business; in addition to their farm goods being available for sale, they invited other farmers who do business directly with the public to set up booths on their property.

We crunchy-granola foodies were in hog heaven, so to speak. We had a great time.

But there was a sad and troubling note during our visit. Our hostess, while taking us out into the field to admire her sheep, told us that she'd had to abandon plans to market her new sideline of lavender honey -- something she'd been very excited about offering customers this fall. Her hives had been doing fine all summer...but when the beekeeper came around a few weeks ago to check on the progress of the honey, he discovered that most of the worker bees, and the honey, had simply vanished into thin air; there was not enough honey in the hives to sustain the few insects that remained over the winter.

This strange phenomenon has a name: colony collapse disorder. No one knows why it's happening -- some have suggested a new disease, or pesticides, or even widespread cell phone and other wireless usage disrupting the magnetic field -- but CCD is happening across the globe. If you Google that phrase you'll find some very sobering information about how the disappearance of bees, whose pollinating work is necessary to support all manner of agriculture, is threatening our food supply.

I thought about that on Sunday afternoon when, just to get my ailing but stir-crazy partner out of the house, we went hunting for "road apples" through the farmlands of our county. In past years I've been able to collect lots of wild apples from roadside trees. This year we found hardly any. This may be due to several factors, including other human foragers clued into the possibility of free food for themselves or for their critters...but I wonder if a diminished number of bees also impacted the amount of fruit on the trees.

This makes me incredibly sad. I'm reminded of the old Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Only Enjoyable Moment of This Presidential Campaign... far as I'm concerned: Amy Poehl's SNL rap:

All the mavericks in the house, put your hands up
All the plumbers in the house, pull your pants up

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Long Day

Our pastor was gone today, so I had to be at church bright and early at 9:00 a.m. to lead our Romans Bible study, plus lead worship at 10:00...and then stick around for a congregational meeting afterward. (Fellow Traveler, who's been battling walking pneumonia for two weeks, went from a good day yesterday to Darth Vader sounds this morning, and decided to hold down the home front.)

So my morning was a blur. We're at the cottage this weekend, and I was going to mow the lawn and start putting up storm windows. That didn't happen today.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Five: "Show Me the Money!"

It's Friday. I have a sermon to preach on Sunday. Bits of it are rattling around in my brain, each paragraph trying desperately to hook up with another in hopes of creating a coherent train of thought.

But in the meantime...I'm going to play Friday Five. And, in honor of Sunday's Gospel lesson with Jesus and the denarius (as one commentator wryly noted, wouldn't it have been funny if Jesus, after delivering the "Render unto..." advice, winked and pocketed the coin: "Gee -- thanks, guys!"), it's all about coins.

1) When was the last time you flipped a coin or even saw one flipped in person?
We actually did this at our house not all that long ago, but I can't remember why -- we were probably deciding where to eat dinner. ("Where do you want to eat?" "I dunno...where do you want to eat?" "I dunno....where do you want to eat?")

2) Do you have any foreign coins in your house? If so, where are they from?
Somewhere at The Cottage is an old Philippine coin, with a hole in the middle, that I think one of my uncles sent the family during World War II when he was stationed somewhere in the Pacific. And with Our Neighbor To the North just over yonder, there is certainly Canadian coinage all over the place, although I never notice it unless I attempt to put money in a newspaper kiosk.

3) A penny saved is a penny earned, they say. But let's get serious. Is there a special place in heaven for pennies, or do you think they'll find a special place in, well, the other place?
I came from a home where no penny was left behind...we used to have a big ol' pickle jar for pennies. I enjoy the modest "aha!" of adding up such change and enjoying a small windfall for myself and a favorite charity -- especially nowadays when you can schlep your piggy bank to the nearest supermarket and feed the change into the automatic coin counter. As for my thoughts and feelings about pennies specifically...I have to say, I really don't have many thoughts and feelings about pennies.

4) How much did you get from the tooth fairy when you were a child? and if you have children of your own, do they get coins, or paper money? (I hear there may be some inflation.)
I honestly don't remember. I think it was a quarter, a couple of times. My parents, who were older than most, did not seem to have a lot of stamina for maintaining childhood rituals like tooth-fairy largesse, putting up Christmas stockings, etc., from year to year. It was like, "Aren't you too old for the tooth fairy? [Sigh] How many years are you going to want to keep this up, anyway?"

5) Did anyone in your household collect the state quarters? And did anyone in your household manage to sustain the interest required to stick with it?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tissue Time

Maybe it's because I have a nephew-in-law in the Army who's a dog lover, who's re-deploying to Iraq this month. Maybe it's because our beloved elderly four-legged neighbor Charlie the pointer -- Charlie who visited us multiple times each day for dog biscuits and pats on the head, even in these last weeks when he was so doddering and confused that he sometimes couldn't remember where he was or why he was here -- finally crossed over the Rainbow Bridge yesterday. But I'm sitting here alone in the office, sniffling over this video. Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan -- follow the link.

A Trippy Friday Five

It's all "bidness" in this week's Friday Five -- business trips, to be exact.

1. Does your job ever call for travel? Is this a joy or a burden?
Very occasionally I'm sent on a training or to an event out of town. If it's fairly close by, I don't mind it. If not -- I'd rather not. When I was in training for lay ministry, I went to quarterly retreats all over outstate Michigan; these were mostly enjoyable, but I still missed being home, and was glad to get back.

2. How about that of your spouse or partner?
We usually wind up going to Ann Arbor a couple of times a year for medical reasons -- but most of our traveling is for pleasure, not business.

3. What was the best business trip you ever took?
Several years ago, around the first week of November my boss couldn't make it to one of her professional association meetings at Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville, a few miles south of Benzonia. Crystal Mountain is an impressive outfit -- a ski resort, hotel, golf course, conference center, all-season housing development and home of the Michigan Art Park, a series of mostly outdoor art installations that convey a sense of "up north." Anyway, I was dispatched to the resort to make use of our non-refundable reservation, take notes during various workshops and schmooze. The actual work part of the conference was mind-numbingly boring, but we enjoyed a good meal -- what I remember most, actually, were the beautiful floral arrangements utilizing both cultivated and wild flowers, grasses and fruits from the resort grounds. The last morning, a Friday morning, of the conference the only event on the schedule was some sort of association sendoff cheerleading blah-blah-blah with no actual informative content I got up at the crack of dawn, checked out early and drove to Beulah for breakfast at the Phoenix Cafe. The sky was a dramatic gunmetal gray, with an occasional snowflake drifting down to earth; the local public radio station, in honor of the first snowfall, was playing "Sleigh Ride." The leafless trees on either side of the highway were starkly beautiful in the morning light. It was a lovely, lovely morning.

4. ...and the worst, of course?
At the beginning of my current job I was sent to a volunteerism conference in Lansing. Not surprisingly for impoverished nonprofit staffers, many of us conference-goers were put up in a run-down, dirty, nasty-ass Franchise Motel That Shall Remain Nameless; it should have been renting rooms by the hour. In my first workshop the speaker noted that the attrition rate for volunteer coordinators is so high that she was sure that most of the attendees were new hires, and furthermore that we wouldn't be back at the next conference. I sat there thinking, "Omigod...what have I gotten myself into?" The rest of the conference was a roller-coaster of happy-clappy self-talk about the Joy of Volunteerism interspersed with glum statistics about the decline of the volunteer ethos in much of society, and advice for attracting new volunteers that it was obvious the presenters didn't actually believe would work. I drove home in the throes of both professional and existential despair. I'm thinking this is not the outcome the organizers had in mind. Oh...and just as a cherry on top of this experience, I came down with the flu the morning of the last day; I drove the two hours home in a fevered, nauseous stupor, and pretty much fell into bed.

5. What would make your next business trip perfect?
Little traffic...pleasant accomodations...interesting conference material. Which pretty much limits the possibilities to my lay ministry sideline.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Cedar is a small, one-blinking-light village in the middle of the Leelanau Peninsula. It doesn't have the cachet of the resort communities on either coast.

What it does have is a great butcher shop -- Pleva's.

Pleva's fame has spread throughout our state and beyond largely because of Plevalean, a mixture of ground beef and cherries conceived by owner Ray Pleva. Plevalean has less fat and more nutritional value than regular ground beef. I've had it; it's great. And if you're one of those people who has issues with mixing meat and don't know that there are cherries in your burger; you really don't.

But aside from Plevalean, Pleva's is well known for its excellent maple- and cherry-smoked meats. We stopped by during our vacation for some high-protein road snacks, and muchly enjoyed the hard-smoked sausage sticks.

Cedar was settled by Polish immigrants, so Pleva's also offers ethnic specialties like kisczka and pierogies. (If you read my food meme a few posts down, kisczka is another central European variant of black pudding. I like it, but it's definitely an acquired taste.)

Next door is a natural-foods grocery that, ironically, carries a lot of vegan vittles like tempeh, and also has a pretty awesome wine and beer section. I was personally pleased to find hardneck garlic there; it's so much more flavorful than the bland supermarket variety, and it is more suited to growing in northern climes like ours.

You can check out Pleva's here .

And as long as you're in the neighborhood you'll want to check out Longview Winery and the Cedar Rustic Inn. Longview offers some incredible wines -- we like the food-friendly whites; and if you enjoy dessert wine, try the cherry port with a chocolate truffle for a yummy cherry cordial experience. The Cedar Rustic Inn, just next door to the winery, serves good, honest comfort food, and lots of it, with an emphasis on fresh local ingredients; on the evening we visited, at the suggestion of our bed-and-breakfast host, we had delicious pot roast over smashed potatoes and chicken marsala over potato gnocchi, both served in heaping portions. I appreciated the fact that my side of mixed vegetables hadn't been chiseled out of a food-service-superstore freezer bag and just tossed onto the plate as an afterthought; they were fresh and carefully yet simply prepared. We also enjoyed the cozy inn decor, which included a framed crazy quilt and hooked rugs with up-north themes.

Cue the Banjos...

Someone stole the Obama signs at both our residences, so yesterday FT went to the local Democratic Party office for replacements. She found the door locked.

The apologetic young intern who finally undid the door explained, "You wouldn't believe the crazy rednecks we have to watch out for around here."

Oh, yes, we would.

Have We Told You That We Heart Rachel?

I think Rachel is one of the only things keeping us from fleeing to Canada.

Check her out at 9:00 p.m. on MSNBC.

Sit Down and Shut Up

Read the "compassionate conservative" response to one story of a member of the working class, on Rod Dreher's blog .

And these are the "good Christians" who feel they have the moral authority to lecture the rest of society.

My advice? Sit down and shut up, before you slander Christ any further.

Blackstar Farms

Blackstar Farms bills itself as "An Agricultural Destination." And it is. It's a spendy bed-and-breakfast; a winery; a creamery; a stable; a farmers' market.

We enjoy Blackstar Farms' merlot, which is one of the best red wines you can find in this northern clime. The oaked chardonnay is good as well. If fruit wine wrinkles your nose, Blackstar's pear wine might lead you to a wine metanoia; it's light and crisp and refreshing. We also love its raclette cheese and herbed cheese spreads. The farmers' market is a work in progress, but we've gotten some good locally grown food products there.

One of Our Favorite Vineyards

We're big fans of Shady Lane Cellars in Suttons Bay. Shady Lane is located on the road of the same lane -- in an old stone chicken coop, believe it or not. They have some lovely wines, and also serve a wonderful goat-cheese-and-cracker appetizer between spreads. You can choose to sit inside, or outside in a heated tent with picture windows onto the hilly landscape.


We drove up to Northport, at the very tip of the Leelanau Peninsula and visited Kilcherman's Christmas Cove Farm , home to over 200 varieties of heirloom apples. When you get to the farm, you walk into a utility building lined wall to wall with the owner's antique soda bottle collection, and filled with dozens and dozens of varieties of apples -- all sizes, colors and shapes. It is absolutely incredible. I'm told my mouth was hanging open as I gazed upon this place.

We bought all sorts of apples -- Russet and Strawberry and Lady and Cox Pippin apples. We bought cider made, we were told, with 50 different varieties.

For me, this really was like Christmas.

If any readers are interested, Kilcherman's makes sampler boxes of heirloom apples and sends them anywhere...check out their website.

And here's a picture of Christmas Cove itself:

From Our Travel Files

Boskydel is the oldest vineyard on Michigan's Leelanau Peninsula...a meandering trip inland from M-22, where most of the local vineyards have tasting rooms. It's on Otto Road, which twists and turns for several miles until it reaches the eastern shore of Lake Leelanau. The winery is off the map of the local vintners' association.

We finally reached Boskydel's tasting room -- in a modest barn overlooking the lake. A wagonload of grapes, with hovering yellowjackets, stood outside the door. Fellow Traveler walked inside, while I took pictures of the surroundings.

"How are you doing today?" Fellow Traveler asked the elderly proprietor.

"None o' yer goddamn business," he replied.

Fellow Traveler -- who is usually never taken aback by anything -- was taken aback...but only momentarily. "Okay," she finally responded. "I'll play your game. Why isn't it any of my business?"

"I hate it when people ask stupid questiosn. You're going to leave here a few minutes from now, and you won't care how I am." The curmudgeonly vintner's silent assistant nodded in assent.

At this point I entered the tasting room.

The proprietor placed several bottles of wine onto the counter. "I've got seven kinds of wine here. You can try them, or not."

We tried the whites. They were pretty good. Cheap, too. We bought a few bottles.

"Well...have a crappy day," suggested FT. The proprietor, and his companion, finally cracked a smile.

We love this man. If any readers are ever in Michigan's Leelanau County, you absolutely have to visit this winery.

Chocolate Heaven

Imagine creamy homemade chocolate caramel crafted from local honey, then covered in more rich chocolate, then sprinkled with grains of coarse sea salt.

Grocer's Daughter Chocolates of Empire, Michigan -- one of our stops up north -- makes these. For a chocolate lover, they're tough to eat in public without making embarrassing happy sounds. Which is why I finished mine off in the privacy of our home.

Grocer's Daughter will ship cross-country. I'm just sayin'.

Saved From What? Saved For What?

Until I get around to uploading my vacation photos...I suppose I'll have to do some theology here.

Here is a great essay by Fr. Martin Smith, "Are We Still in the Salvation Business?", that I've been passing along to my churchy friends. It's about the Church, in these latter days, reclaiming the term "salvation" from its current loaded and exclusionary definition, and returning to its roots of wholeness and meaning -- two things sadly lacking in much of modern life.

Being a member of our church Evangelism Committee -- more proof, if you need it, that God has a rollicking sense of humor -- this piece spoke to me. And especially since my own parish's circa-1950's constitutional definition of "evangelism" -- basically going after backsliders and hitting them up for what amounted to a membership fee to continue their hatching/matching/dispatching privileges at our church -- is so utterly stupid, and contrary to the Gospel, and not what we're about as a faith community.

It's a great article; hat tip to bls of The Topmost Apple .

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Jeep Lag

I'm going to blog. Really I am. About our trip...about food...about faith stuff...all kinds of things.

But I need to rest up first.

It's amazing how tiring R&R can be.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Incredible Edible Meme

This one's been traveling the rounds for awhile...I had it bookmarked and then forgot it. Since I've started my food blog I notice I've been neglecting that topic here, so maybe I need to remedy that.

This is a list of food and drink that someone -- I forget who -- thinks we all need to taste before we die. The boldfaced items are things that I myself have actually eaten.

1. Venison. I absolutely love it. Sorry, Bambi.
2. Nettle tea.
3. Huevos rancheros.
4. Steak tartare. Although this used to be a special New Year's Day treat for the old men on my mom's side of the family -- they'd eat steak tartare, drink a lot and sing sentimental German songs until they were all weeping into their beer.
5. Crocodile.
6. Black pudding.My people call it Blutwurst. And it's actually pretty good; the cholesterol content is enough to infarct an elephant, though.
7. Cheese fondue.
8. Carp.
9. Borscht. Not to be braggadocious, borscht rocks.
10. Baba ghanoush. The departed, and much missed, Northern Delights Restaurant in Benzonia, MI, used to make a great baba ghanoush.
11. Calamari. One of my favorite seafoods.
12. Pho. Pho, no.
13. PB&J sandwich.
14. Aloo gobi. Sounds like something that lives in an aquarium.
15. Hot dog from a street cart.
16. Epoisses.
17. Black truffle. I think in my past I have eaten some restaurant offering that had a homeopathic miniscule of truffle in it; which didn't impress me at the time.
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes. Gill's Pier Winery's Cheerio Cherry is the bomb -- dry enough to enjoy with a pork, turkey or game meal.
19. Steamed pork buns.
20. Pistachio ice cream.
21. Heirloom tomatoes.
22. Fresh wild berries. I used to spend much of June, as a young person, bent over in our pasture picking wild strawberries -- one year I picked 12 quarts, many of which made their way into pie. There is no comparison between wild and tame berries for intensity of flavor. Ditto blackberries...I love the wild ones; they are worth every scratch and yellowjacket encounter to obtain.
23. Foie gras.
24. Rice and beans.
25. Brawn, or headcheese. Another tribal-identity dish of my ancestors. One year we even made it from scratch at home -- my dad somehow obtained a hog's head (hence the name) from a butchering neighbor, and we boiled and spiced and hacked that thing into headcheese. As long as you don't think very hard about the ingredients, and as long as it's properly vinegary, it's not that bad.
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper.
27. Dulce de leche. Only the ice cream.
28. Oysters.
29. Baklava.
30. Bagna cauda. Sounds like a chiropractic ailment.
31. Wasabi peas. Wasabi almonds, too...yum.
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl.
33. Salted lassi. Salted, no. The hippie-dippie fruit-juice-and-buttermilk mixture, yes.
34. Sauerkraut. Das schmeckt gut.
35. Root beer float.
36. Cognac with a fat cigar. Not even in a fantasy.
37. Clotted cream tea.
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O. My coworkers think this is high mixology. 'Nuff said.
39. Gumbo.
40. Oxtail. Good, but not as good as short ribs.
41. Curried goat.
42. Whole insects. Not intentionally, anyway.
43. Phaal. No, I won't bow down to Phaal! Oh -- that's Baal. Anyway.
44. Goat's milk. I have a tricky relationship with caprine dairy products. Some of them are all right. Others are so...goaty. Know what I mean?
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$130 or more.
46. Fugu.
47. Chicken tikka masala.
48. Eel. My homesick Prussian great-uncle once brought an eel home from Eastern Market to my great-aunt and beseeched her to cook it. She had never done such a thing before, but tried to prepare it according to his memories of his mother's eel cookery. According to family legend, the result was so foul that the entire pot had to be thrown away. I had this tale in mind the first time I had spicy eel rolls in a sushi bar...but I actually enjoyed my eel.
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut.
50. Sea urchin.
51. Prickly pear. I believe I've had salsa made with prickly pear. It wasn't all that remarkable.
52. Umeboshi.* I think I've probably eaten this as an ingredient or garnish in an Asian dish without knowing what it was.
53. Abalone.
54. Paneer. I think I have had paneer as part of a dish at the now-closed Indian buffet restaurant in Midland that my mom and I visited once in awhile.
55. McDonald's Big Mac Meal. About once a year I get a craving for this. I try to lie down until the feeling goes away, but sometimes I succumb.
56. Spaetzle. I love both making and eating spaetzle, although I don't think I have my grandmothers' dexterity in the former.
57. Dirty gin martini.
58. Beer above 8% ABV. I'm sure I have.
59. Poutine. Despite my Canadian friend Dan's high regard for this dish, I've not tried it. Nor have I dipped my fries in mayonnaise, as they do in the Netherlands. The thought of either makes my gall bladder pucker in trepidation.
60. Carob chips.
61. S'mores.
62. Sweetbreads.
63. Kaolin. This sounds like the name of a foul-smelling old-school disinfectant that my dad used to keep around the farm. I hope it's not the same thing.
64. Currywurst. Because my family's experience of Germany is fossilized in the late 19th century, I'm having a difficult time with the idea of curry and Wurst together...although I'm sure it's very good.
65. Durian.
66. Frogs' legs.
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake. No, yes, yes, yes.
68. Haggis.
69. Fried plantain.
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette. Ecch.
71. Gazpacho. FT makes the best.
72. Caviar and blini.
73. Louche absinthe.
74. Gjetost, or brunost. I can't get past the color.
75. Roadkill. I have had barbecued beaver in a bun (long story), but it was trapped, not run over.
76. Baijiu. God bless you.
77. Hostess Fruit Pie.
78. Snail.
79. Lapsang souchong.
80. Bellini.
81. Tom yum.
82. Eggs Benedict.
83. Pocky. These are thin shortbready Chinese fast-food cookies. They taste better than the name sounds, but I'm pretty much off any food product that comes from China these days.
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. I'm thinking a three-star Mobil Guide restaurant doesn't count. It was good food, though.
85. Kobe beef.
86. Hare. Cottontail and domestic rabbit, actually. And I very much enjoy it...just the other day on my food blog I was bemoaning a lack of local sources for fresh rabbit. My mom used to flour/season wild rabbit, brown it well in a decent amount of oil, brown a mess of chopped onion, and throw the whole thing into a pressure cooker. The meat was so tender, and the gravy was incredible dolloped over mashed potatoes. And the sad thing mother was so rabbit-averse, I think because of the rodent association, that she wouldn't touch the stuff. Talk about a labor of love.
87. Goulash. The real deal -- oh, yes. But I like the American mac-and-beef variety as well.
88. Flowers. I've had fried squash blossoms (yummy), chive and nasturtium flowers in salad (yummy) rose petals and violets (pretty but tasteless).
89. Horse.
90. Criollo chocolate.
91. SPAM. I was generally an enthusiastic eater as a child, but I had to work up to SPAM...oftentimes, accompanied by fried eggs, a Friday-shopping-day fast supper at our house.
92. Soft shell crab.
93. Rose harissa.
94. Catfish.
95. Mole poblano. Mole something, anyway.
96. Bagel and lox. My first and only experience of lox, I expected the sort of hard-smoked fish I was used to growing up. The lox texture made me gag. Now that I'm a fan of sushi, I wonder if I would like lox.
97. Lobster Thermidor.
98. Polenta.
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. I suspect, though, that this only made up a percentage of beans labeled "Jamaican Blue Mountain."
100. Snake. My game-eating relatives, who would eat nearly anything, somehow failed to go in this culinary direction. Thank God.

Bonus round: Most unusual food you've ever eaten: Fish head soup. It was my maternal grandmother's special recipe, usually made with pike during winter ice fishing season. It was a kind of thin chowder with a milk base,onions, potatoes, pickling spices with extra allspice and bayleaf, chunks of fish and the aforementioned heads. It was another one of those contractual-obligation in-law recipes that my mother would make for my father while refusing to eat it herself. I thought the soup part was okay; I couldn't bring myself to tackle the heads of the fish, leering at me with their glazed eyes and toothy rictus grins. I'm actually rather curious about the exact ethnic pedigree of this dish; this grandma's people came from an area of central Europe that was either in Germany or Poland depending on what year it was, and where the cuisine was a Gulasch of German and Eastern European dishes. Or maybe she just made it up.

If you're reading this, you're tagged. Bonus points for the most unusual food not on this list that you've ever eaten.

Who Put the Crunch in Crunchy?

It's so cute when conservatives borrow progressive ideas, then act as if they've invented them.

Where's my old "Think Globally, Act Locally" T-shirt, anyhow?

A Franciscan Friday Five

On this feast day of St. Francis, the RevGalBlogPals Friday Five has a Franciscan slant.

1. Saint Francis experienced a life changing call. Has anything in your journey so far challenged you to alter your lifestyle?
Moving back to the old hometown and living with one's parent as a middle-aged adult was a lifestyle-altering experience -- some of that good, some of that not so much. And transitioning from entrenched singlehood to couplehood has been, as I think Luther put it, a school for character -- mostly a school for my character as I'm forced to think and act like a grownup in a relationship. Never a dull moment, I may add!

2. Francis experienced mocking and persecution, quite often in the comfortable west this is far from our experience. If you have experienced something like this how do you deal with it, if not how does it challenge you to pray for those whose experience is daily persecution?
I am ashamed to say that I do not remember the persecuted Church in my prayers as often as I should...perhaps because we live such complacent lives, we folks of faith, in a free society.

On the other hand...while "persecution" is too strong a word, I've certainly experienced discrimination in other areas of my life. I still remember my encounter with a local backwoods skinhead in a grocery store near my church; his deliberately standing in my way and bumping into me as I tried to navigate the aisles. More recently, FT and I found ourselves sitting in a local tavern that was supposedly open for breakfast...and never being served, despite the presence of other diners enjoying their eggs and toast; I'm quite sure this was "accidently on purpose." We wound up walking out. How do I deal with stuff like this? By not apologizing for who I am. Life is too short to live in a continual self-conscious cringe.

3 .St Francis had female counterpart in St Clare, she was influenced by St Francis sermon and went on to found the Poor Clare's, like the Franciscans they depended on alms this was unheard of for women in that time, but she persisted and gained permission to found the order. How important are role models like St Clare to you? Do you have a particular female role model whose courage and dedication inspires you? If so share their story....
I think I've shared this before here: My maternal grandmother was a kind, creative, curious soul whose evil stepmother -- this nasty woman was right out of a Grimm's fairy tale, to hear the family history -- pulled her out of school at age 10 and more or less kicked her and her equally inconvenient sisters out of the house to go fend for themselves. (My great-grandfather was evidently quite a spineless wonder to have allowed this.) Which they did -- Grandma became a domestic in a progressive Jewish family of intellectuals and attorneys, including one of the only female attorneys in Detroit at the time. They loved her, and actually wanted to set her up with one of their boys...but instead she wound up marrying my grandfather. She led a very, very difficult life as a sharecropping farmer in mid-Michigan; the family was always at the brink of financial disaster, she was sick to the point of being homebound much of the time, and her marriage was unhappy. But she never lost her love of learning; she enjoyed the domestic side of farming as much as she was able to do; and she was a kind, conscientous parent. Even though I'm at the tip of this particular branch of the family tree, I like to think that my own life has been a kind of vindication of both her aspirations and her experiences; that in the end they weren't in vain.

4. Francis loved nature and animals. How important is an expressed love of the created world to the Christian message today?
I think it's vitally important. I think that sectors of Christianity, particularly those preoccupied with eschatology, are rife with a kind of Gnostic indifference to or even contempt for the created world. This is just wrong, theologically and every other way, and gives detractors of Christianity yet another reason to assume that Christians are ignorant and otherworldly to the point of being no earthly good.

5. On a lighter note; have you ever led a service of blessing for animals, or a pet service, was it a success, did you enjoy it, and would you do it again?
Well, if we weren't dropping The Girls off at our friend's and heading up north for a mini-vacation this Sunday, we might have been participants at a local blessing of the animals conducted by a LARC (Lutheran-Anglican-Roman Catholic) trio of churches in the area. Although we suspect that Cassie and Gertie might benefit from full-blown exorcisms, not just an ecclesiastical sploosh of holy water.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Martin Luther Rap Battle

The things you find on YouTube...God bless church-geeky kids:

A Shameless Hussy of a Wine

A few weeks ago, en route to Saginaw, we stopped at Cork-n-Ale, a really swell little store on M-47, and made some experimental purchases based on our own unique household wine research -- to wit, we looked for cheap wine with cool labels.

But Peirano Estates' The Other is more than just a pretty face ( on the shelf. It's an absolutely delightful wine that tastes more expensive than it is -- rich, plummy, blackberry-y, raisiny, with hints of tobacco and oak. We had ours with grilled lamb chops. It's definitely a wine we'll drink again.

But you might not want to donate that spare bottle to the church least not with the label intact.

Lessons Out of Season?

I love autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. I love the color; the coolness; the sense of completion, of gathering in the harvest and preparing to tuck in under the cover of snow. My mother used to talk about how happy and relieved her mother would be, back in Great Depression, when the last of the year’s canning was toted down to the family fruit cellar, filling up the last empty spaces on shelves bejeweled with jars of vegetables and preserves.
I guess that’s why I don’t find myself being terribly moved by the lectionary readings of late. I missed my Tuesday Lectionary Leanings deadline this week mostly out of residual viral funk and preoccupation with catching up…but I also suspect I “forgot” because the readings just didn’t add up to much for me. The natural world, for me, is much more spiritually and otherwise evocative than what’s going on in the lessons right now. It’s a lot easier to be pagan in the autumn, particularly when the contemporary Church doesn't always seem comfortable in that intersection between the spiritual and the physical. (Witness the half-hearted "harvest festivals" cropping up in Evangelical churches, not as an actual acknowledgment/celebration of the harvest but simply as a tribal back-atcha to the despised Halloween.)
And – maybe it’s just me – sometimes it seems that, as we straggle through the final Sundays in Pentecost, the lessons lose steam anyway; they don’t have the thematic coherence of other seasons in the Church Year. I’m usually really ready for Christ the King Sunday to put an exclamation point at the end of what feels like a very long-drawn-out ellipsis.


The muse has been silent here for the past almost week, thanks to a vicious upper respiratory infection that hit both Fellow Traveler and myself. Its intensity ebbed and flowed for five days – Thursday afternoon I was Dead Woman Walking through our agency’s annual volunteer appreciation luncheon; Friday night, as noted, FT and I were well enough to go out of town to dinner; but then on Saturday we both wound up sick and bed; and so on and so forth.
Yesterday I rallied enough to return to work, although my brain felt as if it were struggling to labor underneath a thick application of chewing gum, and I even went to the gym for a half-hearted go-round on the treadmill.
You’d have thought that with all my abundant free time over the weekend I’d have something interesting and/or insightful to write about. But I didn’t. No; I lay there with glazed eyes toggling the remote between BBC America and “The First 48.” On Black Monday it was only by accident that I happened to catch MSNBC and find out about Wall Street imploding. At that point I was so immersed in virally induced self-pity that all I could think was, “As if I don’t feel bad enough already.”