Monday, July 31, 2006

Nasty Nausea and Thrift Store News

I seem to have a stomach bug. Stayed home from Church yesterday, (which was a bummer because everyone is so dear and I really miss it when I don't come), and slept on and off. Finally after getting somewhat dehydrated and rectifying the situation with a couple of pots of mild peppermint tea (an old Swiss remedy) I was able to vomit. Not enough, though.

Still feeling icky today. Warm drinks make me sweat, which is good I guess. Meanwhile I'll stick with mint tea, saltines and sugar free vanilla ice cream. Morning but not the best for me, I'm finding out.

Blech, blech, blech.

I guess I'll go camp out on the couch and play board games with the kids.

Ah, yes, thrift store news:

I went to the thrift store Friday pm just to get some "alone time" and see if there was anything nice in the sweater department. Most of what I own is BLACK and I've decided I need more color in my winter wardrobe. Summer is the time for winter thrift store shopping because everyone's cleaned out their closets and all the good winter stuff is just hanging there, waiting to be plucked. So, I came away with some very nice sweaters, mostly pink, which goes really well with BLACK, so that's a start. And I found dh a whole stash of Tom Clancy novels for, like, a buck total. Couldn't resist. Life is good.

After I got home from Thrifting and grocery shopping, I started doling out the goods and my son (whose love language is OBVIOUSLY gifts) realized he was the only one in the family who did not get something new. I mean, no big deal,'s just shampoo and new toothbrushes etc. that people NEED, but to him it was a very big deal.

So...Saturday morning I took him to the thrift store for some "treasure hunting"...he could pick out one thing. He found a cool Incredible Hulk electronic game. Perfect.

We also found (oh, fortuitous moment!):

Batmat cartoon video
An excellent working microscope (combined with the good microscope kit that came with the wretched non-working microscope from last Christmas we are all set up in the not-visible-to-the-naked-eye department.
A cool cranium game called Ziggity
A wide assortment of magnets in a magnet kit that will serve us very well when we cover magnets this year.
Trivial Pursuit Junior

All this stuff was NOT out on Friday night. Just to prove that the early bird catches the worm.

From now on, I need to start a Christmas stash, and quit just bringing and plunking down my thrist store treasures.

What a blessing! Especially since last year's Christmas was a total BUST: I either got them things that immediately broke or that they did not like so well, afterall. I think I'm going to pray more about our family's needs, and also buy "group gifts" more. These seem to work out well.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Something to smile about

I stepped out of the shopping center this evening, to dusky overcast skies and the smell of rain. Drifting on the breeze was wonderful, live saxaphone music coming from a black man in the back of his pickup truck. He was playing Jazz like only a black man can, (even when it's politically incorrect for me to say so).

It was wonderful, like a breath of uniqueness in a sterile, prepackaged buy-this-now-and-don't-think world.

I rolled my windows down so I could catch as much of his music as I could.

I drove out of my way to thank him for his wonderful music.

I smiled.

Changing the world

Well, I had the joy of keeping my nephew and niece for about 24 hours after "Grandparents camp" was over, and before my brother could drive up from big city down south to pick them up.

Such cute kids! My niece is two and in the throes of potty training. She has a day care deadline to meet by mid August, I think. She's doing really really well. I even managed it without the "treats" although she's sly enough to try and talk me into extra freezy pops for about half an ounce of pee in the potty....."I don't think so, missy!" Yesterday I tried to convince her a raisin was candy. It is, afterall, just as forbidden on MY diet as candy is. We called them fruities and it was good, but the request for the freezy pop was probably revenge for my raisin ploy. It's not like I had not been spoiling them rotten with snacks upoon request and extra freezy pops anyways. After all, it's only 24 hours.

I'd also forgotten what it's like to take care of kids who can't read. My nephew kept asking me what different cereal boxes say. I'm SO not used to that. And of course there was the stack of books I read to my niece, which was to be expected. At our house, being able to read was considered just as essential a milestone as pottying and I think I celebrated the advent of quiet chapter book reading time with as much gusto as I did the end of diapering.

And apparently I was thoroughly conned into offering everyone a bed-time snack last night. Manipulated by a two year old who NEVER gets a bedtime snack at home, I learned today, and, who the kids confirm, also did not get a bedtime snack at "Grandparents camp"....hmmmmm. She's good. It was 9 pm and I was suckered into pulling out the cereal and milk. And of course, what is good for one, all must partake in...six kids. Dh bought extra milk on his way home from work last night at one in the morning.

Meanwhile, I am recuperating from the exra mayhem. I think that the next two weeks may well prove to be overwhelming. We have two birthdays, AND curriculum to purchase and coop classes to pay for, one kid going to camp and a cat that needs a rabies shot. And School supplies for my middle schooler to buy, since school starts on the 16th of August. I don't want to wait until the last minute this year, like I did last year. That was a nightmare.

So, you see, ordinary, ordinary, ordinary. My ten year old said something very sweet: "They say that you have to go out and do big things in order to change the world, but I think you can change the world just by being home and having kids." She looked at me. "Am I changing the world?" "Yeah, Mom. You are."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

I always did love a good missionary story!

It's been a very crazy non-normal week. Last weekend we had a big family get together, with many meals hosted at my house. I say meals because our place is too small to sleep everyone, so it was motels for the out of towners and my sister and BIL at their place here in the same town. Good times had by all, but it left me physically squashed. But thanks to Mamaw and PopPop camp, all the kids and cousins are with them so I have had blissful quiet and freedom for the past couple of day. Dh took Monday afternoon and Tuesday off and we headed up to Louisville Monday evening, and back by midnightish. Tuesday we went and saw "The Devil Wears Prada"...very Faust, if you ask me. I liked it. Dinner was at home. Today was a work day, which was nice because I got all the laundry done, got weekly lesson plans laid out for the entire school year (yah, I'm homeschooling 2nd grader, 3rd grader and 5th grader this year.). It helps to have a plan. I'm not so scared anymore.

Vespers tonight wasn't vespers, it was an Akathis to St. Iakov. What a beautiful akathist to such a beatiful man! Missionary stories always give me chills and make me choke up, and this one was no different. So here it is, cut and pasted from

Commemorated on:
July 26

Troparion & Kontakion

Father Jacob (Netsvetov) of Alaska was born of pious parents in 1802 on Atka Island, Alaska. His father, Yegor Vasil'evich Netsvetov was a Russian from Tobolsk. His mother, Maria Alekseevna, was an Aleut from Atka island. Yegor and Maria had four children who survived infancy; Jacob was the first born, followed by Osip (Joseph), Elena, and Antony. Yegor and Maria were devoted to their children and, though of meager means, did all they could to provide them with the education which would help them in this life as well as in the life to come. Osip and Antony were eventually able to study at the St Petersburg Naval Academy in Russia, becoming a naval officer and a shipbuilder, respectively. Their sister, Elena, married a successful and respected clerk for the Russian-American Company. But Jacob yearned for a different kind of success, a success that the world might consider failure for "the righteous live forever, their reward is with the Lord" (Wis. Sol. 5:15). And so, when the family moved to Irkutsk in 1823, Jacob enrolled in the Irkutsk Theological Seminary and placed all his hope in Christ by seeking first the Kingdom of God (Mt. 6:33).

Jacob was tonsured as a Subdeacon on October 1, 1825. He married a Russian woman (perhaps also a Creole) named Anna Simeonovna, and in 1826 graduated from the Seminary with certificates in history and theology. On October 31, 1826, he was ordained to the Holy Diaconate and assigned to serve the altar of the Holy Trinity-St Peter Church in Irkutsk. Two years later, on March 4, 1828, Archbishop Michael, who had earlier ordained Father John Veniaminov (St Innocent), elevated the godly deacon Jacob to the Holy Priesthood. This, however, was no ordinary ordination. As if he were a new Patrick, hearing the mystical call of his distant flock, Father Jacob yearned to return to his native Alaska. And the all-good God, who (satisfies the longing soul and fills the hungry soul with goodness" (Ps.107:9) heard the prayer of his servant.

Archbishop Michael provided Father Jacob with two antimensia: one for the new Church which would be dedicated to the glory of God in honor of St Nicholas the Wonderworker in Atka, and one to be used for missionary activity. On May 1, 1828 a molieben for travelers was served, and Father Jacob, his father, Yegor, (now tonsured as reader for the Atka Church), and his matushka, Anna, set out for Alaska.

Who can tell of the perils and trials associated with such a journey? Travel in those days was never easy, either overland or over the waves of the sea. Nevertheless, aided by prayer and confidence in God's providence, the Netsvetov family arrived safely in Atka over a year later, on June 15, 1829. The new assignment for the newly-ordained Father Jacob would also prove to be quite a challenge. The Atka "parish" comprised a territory stretching for nearly 2,000 miles and included Amchitka, Attu, Copper, Bering and Kurile Islands. But this did not deter the godly young priest, for when he was clothed in the garments of the Priesthood, he was found to be "clad with zeal as a cloak' (Is. 59:17), and so he threw himself wholly into his sacred ministry. His deep love for God and for his flock was evident in everything that he did. Both in Atka and in the distant villages and settlements which he visited, Father Jacob offered himself as a "living sacrifice" (Rom 12:1). Having "no worry about his life" (Mt. 6:25 ff), the holy one endured manifold tortures of cold, wet, wind, illness, hunger and exhaustion, for to him life was Christ (Phil 1:21). Showing himself as a "rule of faith," his example brought his people to a deep commitment to their own salvation. Being fully bilingual and bicultural, Father Jacob was uniquely blessed by God to care for the souls of his fellow Alaskans.

When he arrived in Atka, the Church of St Nicholas had not yet been built. So, with his own hands Father Jacob constructed a large tent (Acts 18:3) in which he conducted the services. For Father Jacob the services of the Church were life: life for his people and life for himself. It was in the worship of God that he found both strength and joy. Later he would transport this tent with him on his missionary journeys, and like Moses in the wilderness, the grace of God was found wherever this tent was taken (Num 4:1 ff; 10:17 ff).

When his first six months had ended (end of 1829), Father Jacob recorded that he had baptized 16, chrismated 442, married 53 couples, and buried 8.

Once the church was constructed, Father Jacob turned his attention to the building of a school in which the children would learn to read and write both Russian and Unangan Aleut. The Russian American Company provided some of the support initially, with the students providing the remainder. This continued until 1841, when it was reorganized as a parish school and ties with the company ceased. Father Jacob proved to be a talented educator and translator whose students became distinguished Aleut leaders in the next generation.

Father Netsvetov led an active physical and intellectual life, hunting and gathering for his own subsistence needs, preparing specimens of fish and marine animals for the natural history museums of Moscow and St Petersburg, corresponding with St Innocent (Veniaminov) on matters of linguistics and translations. He labored over the creation of an adequate alphabet for the Unangan-Aleut language, and the translation of the Holy Scriptures and other appropriate literature into that language. St Innocent praised the young pastor for his holiness of life, his teaching, and for continuing this work of translating which he, himself, had begun earlier among the native peoples. After fifteen years of service, Father Jacob was awarded the Nabedrennik, Kamilavka, and Gold Cross. Later, he would be made Archpriest and receive the Order of St Anna.

These ecclesiastical awards do not tell of the personal sufferings of this warrior for Christ. In March of 1836, his precious wife, Anna, died of cancer; his home burned to the ground in July of 1836; and his dear father, Yegor, died of an undetermined illness in 1837. Who can utter the depth of sorrow felt by this God-pleaser? Yet he lifted up his voice with that ancient sufferer and cried, "shall we indeed accept good from God and shall we not accept adversity? In all this he did not sin with his lips" (Job 2:10). In his journal Father Jacob attributed all to "the Will of Him whose Providence and Will are inscrutable and whose actions toward men are incomprehensible." He patiently endured hardships and sufferings like the Holy Apostle Paul. He saw in these misfortunes not a Victory by the hater of men's souls (i.e. the devil) but a call from God to even greater spiritual struggles. With this in mind, Father Jacob petitioned his ruling bishop to return to Irkutsk in order to enter the monastic life. A year later, word reached him that permission was granted contingent upon the arrival of a replacement. None ever came.

Instead, Bishop Innocent soon came to Atka and asked Father Jacob to accompany him on a voyage by ship to Kamchatka. Who can know the heavenly discourse enjoyed by these two lovers of Christ as they traveled over the waves? This, however, is clear, the holy archpastor was able to accomplish three things in Father Netsvetov. Firstly, he applied the healing salve of the Spirit with words of comfort; secondly, he dissuaded Father Jacob from entering the monastery; and thirdly, he revealed to the godly priest the true plan of the Savior for his life, that he 'might preach (Christ) among the Gentiles" (Gal. 1: 16) deep in the Alaskan interior. Father Jacob continued to serve his far-flung flock of the Atka parish until December 30, 1844. A new zeal had taken hold of him, and it was then that St Innocent appointed him to head the new Kvikhpak Mission in order to bring the light of Christ to the people of the Yukon. Here, aided by two young Creole assistants, Innokentii Shayashnikov and Konstantin Lukin, together with his young nephew, Vasilii Netsvetov, Father Jacob "settled' in the wilderness of Alaska.

He learned new languages, embraced new peoples and cultures, devised another alphabet, built another church and Orthodox community, and for the next twenty years, until his health and eyesight failed, continued to be an evangelical beacon of the grace of God in southwestern Alaska.

Establishing his headquarters in the Yup'ik Eskimo village of Ikogmiute (today's 'Russian Mission') he traveled to native settlements hundreds of miles up and down Alaska's longest river (the Yukon) as well as the Kuskokwim River region. At the insistence of Indian leaders, he traveled as far as the middle of the Innoko River baptizing hundreds of Indians from various, and often formerly hostile, tribes. "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity" (Ps 133:1). He built the first Christian temple in this region, and dedicated it to the feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross. Here Father Jacob, in spite of failing health, joyfully celebrated the Church's cycle of services, including all of the services prescribed for Holy Week and Pascha.

Finally, in 1863, the evil One, who "walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Pet 5:8), sought one last time to get the better of the righteous one. So the devil, the father of lies, (John 8:44), inspired an assistant of Father Jacob to level spurious and slanderous charges against his master. This resulted in a summons to Sitka, issued by Bishop Peter. The godly pastor was quickly cleared of all charges, but due to his ever-worsening health, he remained in Sitka for his final year serving a Tlingit chapel. He died on July 26, 1864 at the age of 60 and was buried on the third day at the entry of the chapel. During his final missionary travels in the Kuskokwim/Yukon delta region, he had baptized 1,320 people - distinguishing himself as the evangelizer of the Yup'ik Eskimo and Athabascan Indian peoples.

This brief history has recounted the basic chronology of the saint's life and labors, but we must not neglect to relate his other deeds, that the light be not "hidden under a bushel" (Mt.5:15). In 184 1, Father Jacob encountered a group of women from his flock in Amlia who had fallen victim to certain demonic influences and teachings. Blaming himself for the seduction and fall of his spiritual children by the evil one, he informed the leader among them that he was going to pay them a visit.

Upon arriving, he found one of the women paralyzed, semi-conscious and unable to speak. He ordered that she be removed to another house apart, and on the next day when this was accomplished, he lit the lampada before the icons of the beautiful corner, vested himself in his priestly epitrachilion (stole), sprinkled holy water throughout the room, and began the first prayers of exorcism. He then left.

During the night he was notified that the woman had begun to speak but incoherently. He came immediately to her and performed a second exorcism. This time, she sprang out of her bed and stood next to the saint, joined her prayer to his, and accompanied them with prostrations. When the prayers were finished, Father Jacob again sprinkled her with holy water and gave her the precious cross to kiss. She regained full consciousness, a state of health and true reason - that is, even the false teachings of the evil spirits had no more part in her.

Once in November of 1845, Father Jacob was preaching in the village of Kalskag, where the local chief was also the head shaman. He spoke for all of the villagers and resisted the Word of God forcefully. But the saint, calm and full of the Holy Spirit, continued to sow the seeds of right belief and piety. After many hours, the chief fell silent and finally came to believe. The villagers, in solidarity with their leader, also joyously expressed their belief in the Triune God and sought Holy Baptism.

Father Jacob was a physician of bodies as well as souls. He often cared for the sick among his flock even to his own detriment. During the winter of 1850-1851 the saint was himself ravaged with illness. Yet he cared for the sick and dispensed medicine to them every day. Father Jacob's preaching often brought together in the Holy Faith tribes who were traditional enemies. One example from his journal reads:

"Beginning in the morning, upon my invitation, all the Kol'chane and Ingalit from the Yukon and the local ones gathered at my place and I preached the word of God, concluding at noon. Everyone listened to the preaching with attention and without discussion or dissent, and in the end they all expressed faith and their wish to accept Holy Baptism, both the Kol'chane and the Ingatit (formerly traditional enemies). I made a count by families and in groups, and then in the afternoon began the baptismal service. First I baptized 50 Kol'chane and Ingalit men, the latter from the Yukon and Innoko. It was already evening when I completed the service. March 21, 1853."

So it was that this apostolic man, this new Job, conducted himself during his earthly course. There are many other deeds and wonders which he performed, many known and many more known only to God. Few missionaries in history have had to endure the hardships which Father Jacob faced, yet he did so with patience and humility. His life of faith and piety are the legacy which he leaves to us, his spiritual children in America, and indeed to all Christians throughout the world.

My weird brain

...Today I was wondering if medicinal use of leeches to help with varicose veins might be something the medical community should investigate....

...We and some friends went to the Old Spaghetti Factory in Louisville the other night, after getting to venerate the myrrh streaming icon of St. Anna, and the meal was so bad, complete with two cockroach sightings, that the manager gave us each (each couple that is) coupons for a free dinner for four at Old Spaghetti Factory....redeemable anywhere, from what I understand. Do I HAVE to go back the the yucky one in Louisville?....

...and if you like Chicken Marsala, go to Johnny Carinos, not Old Spaghetti Factory. J.C's is better...and no roach sightings!...

...eczema, on someone's scalp. Food allergy? At one time we thought perhaps peanuts, but he hasn't been eating much of that since my peanut allergy, but HAS been eating more dairy as a result of us getting rid of the peanutbutter. And the eczema is worse. So...could be a dairy allergy? Anyone know about eczema?.....

...I'm also wondering why I can go through the day with such good intentions, and such good self discipline and then blow it at supper time....Why? Why? Why?....

...I think I'm the only person in america so thoroughly adept at spilling food things on herself that even a Tide stain stick does not help....

This is the sum of thoughts I have had today. ...It be scawy!...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Something I"m contemplating.... does one pray? does one pray earnestly, deeply, contemplatively, genuinely? does one pray without ceasing?

Is it that thought, that constant awareness of my need for mercy from God? Is it that whispered prayer on a sigh as the memory of an old friend falls out of nowhere into my mind? Is it the begging for mercy as one more time I am tested to the limit of my patience? Is it the asking for mercy once again after I've been pushed past the limit of my patience? Is it scrubbing the bathtub in humility, at least for one small moment of personal victory, rather than in anger?

Is it the constant conversation of my life?

Is it all this? Or is there more, something I"m missing?

Am I praying earnestly even as I go through my life? And if not, how can I tell?

Dancing Shoes

Tonight I bought some shoes. For contra dancing. Nothing special, just something with soft soles so I can move my feet freely. Difficult to dance in Birkenstock sandals, which is my usual podattire. I was looking for something that wouldn't be so pathetically obvious that I'd gone out and bought shoes just for....

Yes, that's right. My husband and I are going to take up contra dancing together. We had so much fun at our friend's wedding that we did the research and found that the place for contra dancing in our town is just about a mile or so from our house. (Sometimes it really IS nice to live so near downtown). All comers welcome and an imminently affordable entrance fee for the three hour long dance.

I'm so excited!

We were practicing together in our living room the other night, this one move that neither of us could figure out at the wedding dance. Between the two of us, we eventually figured it out, so there we were, two silly and tired thritysomthing adults promenading across the living room floor and then him spinning me around to head in the opposite direction. We put on a CD and liberally called it dancing.

Life can be so much fun sometimes.

Today I must

clean my house. I"m mean, we don't live life in a pig pen, we keep things tidy, but I have my ENTIRE family coming to visit. Tomorrow.

We have a list.

We have a PLAN!

It WILL get done. I want to get all the embarrassing spots clean, like the refigerator and the grungy corner behind the dishwasher where I keep my brooms and mops.

But meanwhile I sit at the computer and BLOG, for crying out loud, and the sad thing is, I'm blogging about NOTHING just so I don't have to get up and start cleaning house.

At least I have minions to make the overall load on each person lighter.

Did I mention that I HATE the scrubbing etc. and it's not so much the actual work of it, it's the fact that within seconds of getting it all done, it will be undone by life, the universe, the minions and everything.

So, God have mercy, here we go.

Update: The house is clean and I did not even loose my temper AND the kids did their share. A successful day, indeed!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Inquiring Minds Want to Know...

Here's the question:

Hi there. If you don't mind me did you come to be Orthodox? I am currently reading a book called The Way, and am enjoying it quite a bit!--abundanceinsimplicity

Here's the answer:

OK, starting at the beginning: I was raised in a very actively Christian non-denominational (or should I say trans-denominational?) home by parents who love and serve God first and foremost. For this and the faith they taught me, I am eternally grateful. Since my childhood was spent in Switzerland, where my folks were working with an interdenominatinal Swiss ministry, we attended, but did not join, the Swiss Reform Church. The issue that prevented our family from joining fully as members was infant baptism. Having come from, and out of, a strict Church of Christ background, my folks, and by extension me, just did not agree with that doctrine/practice.

When we returned to the USA, we became members of a large non-denominational charismatic Church that has also come out of the Church of Christ, so much restoration movement theology formed the thought processes of the places where I came from, even though there was some concious moving away from the CofC involved, too.

At the Charismatic Church during my teen years, I heard lots of sermon references against those "dead denominations" and there was much preaching on grace. I believed that there was nothing good or life-giving in places like the Methodist Church or the Lutheran Church, or especially the Catholic Church and that the Holy Spirit could not possibly be "moving" there. Orthodoxy was not even on my radar screen.

I started having questions, and was a serious Christian, bible reader, etc. having been baptized at the age of twelve while we were still in Switzerland. The questions during my teen years, coupled with a burgeoning eating disorder/problem centered around victory in one's Christian life over sin. Grace to cover over one's sins was good, and for that I was grateful, but I WANTED/NEEDED/DEEPLY DESIRED grace that would enable me to actually overcome sin, actually change, actually become a transformed person. I needed a God powerful enough to help me with my eating, for good.

College years: a time to meet new people and try new things. I got my hands on a copy of John Wesleys "A Plain Account of Christian Perfection" about the methodist doctrine of entire Sanctification and realized I was not the only person the planet who was asking or had asked the questions about holiness that I was asking. College was a time of contrasts: deep spiritual growth and seeking God on the one had, and violent sin, tears and repentance on the other hand. It was a time of brokenheartedness, confusion, and shame. I was, thank God, only in college for two and a half years, having accelerated my academics in High School to the point where I walked onto campus with 57 college credits under my belt. In many ways State U was good for me, and in many ways, not. While there, as I said, I familiarized myself with Methodism and ended up at Asbury Theological Seminary as a twenty year old kid.

Asbury is a non-denominational wesleyan/arminian school with the bulk of it's student and faculty population United Methodist or Free Methodist inbackgound, and it turns out my parents beat me there by one year, so even though I had the idea to go there before they did, I ended up "following" them, and living with them after college while I was in Seminary to save costs.

Between the ages of 21 and 25 I earned an M.Div., started dating, became engaged, got married and had a baby and supported my husband though shattering grief while we buried his parents and one sister, and tried to parent his youngest sister for a year (she decided to live with an Aunt and Uncle after that first year). I suppose I was pretty busy and overwhelmed during those years. Becoming a mother really changed by perspective on some of the feminist stuff that was being bandied about even at this very conservative and evangelical seminary and I retreated into motherhood. Spiritually, seminary was a dangerous time for me. In many ways, I was deeply lonely. In other ways, I was confronted with my own spiritual bankruptcy and did not have the tools or resources to know what to do with that. I felt like I was on a razor's edge, spiritually, and to stay afloat I sought out a more conservative environment. It was frightening to me to see the state of my own soul, and yet know that I'd been given the exegetical tools to make the Scriptures say pretty much what I wanted them to say and the training to preach. It felt like, if I let it, it could all become a game to me. I did not WANT it to become a game. There had to be something keeping me, as a potential minister/preacher on the straight and narrow. Something to keep me honest, and true to the core of the Christian Faith. What was that something? I did not know. (So began a felt need for Holy Tradition, that was as of yet unnamed, lurking to crop up again later) At the time, it seemed like an arbitrary decision on my part to stay conservative, to not embrace innovative theology. I decided not to pursue ordination, without even a full awareness of all my reasons.

After trying and not finding a good fit in the Free Methodist Church, my husband and I reconnected with some folks from the Mennonite Church where he'd attended while he was in college (having had an even more ecclectic church background than I"d grown up with) and we joined the Mennonite Church, not just that local congregation, but with a real embrace of anabaptism: values, theology, lifestyle, etc. We were Mennonite. We didn't drive buggies or wear plain clothes, but we did strive for simplicity and peace and I did wear a headcovering and some frighteningly ugly dresses for a while, as if ugliness an holiness were somehow on the same page.

Meanwhile, questions kept niggling. I started asking some hard questions: Why do we all individually have different interpretations of Scripture? (This in our Wednesday night Cell group meeting as we studied the Bible together, in a group of Christinas who all were Mennonite...not even to mention the vast theological and doctrinal differences between different protestant groups....) The pastor would shuffle his feet, look at the floor, and move on. I was the one who stopped the conversation every time. It was uncomfortable, to say the least.

The other big canversation stopper (but not really new to me) question that surfaced during this time was: How do we really overcome sin? What is the mechanism? How does God act? Why is this not happening in my life? From my reading of Scriptures it seemed clear that this was the expectation of St. Paul in his epistles to the Churches, but I was not experiencing the grace, even though I was a "spirit filled, tougue speaking (at this point in private), God-loving Christian person. The answers I was getting were unsatisfying: That we just go along as best we can and that God will just fix us once we get to heaven.

And another issue that was coming up: My husband and I were longing for intentional community with other Christians. Our pastor had us reading a series of articles about intentional community by some guy with connection to the Orthodox Church. Every thing we read appealed to us, but it was unappealing to others in the cell group. And it's not like the focus of these articles was overtly Orthodox, otherwise our pastor would never have used them as a discussion starter. Just an interesting coincidence.

Another question I was beginning to have was: What was the "deep magic" (to borrow a term from C.S. Lewis' Narnia series) that necessitated the atonement? The usual pat answeres were unravelling for me in the face of conversations with non-Christians who could NOT make sense of why God would be so cruel as to demand a blood price. Watered down protestant versions of Anselmian theology had come to the end of it's usefulness for me in the face of non-Christians who were deeply committed to living in non-violent ways in their relationships towards their children. It was humbling to me to see better behaviour modeled by some of these crunchy hippie types, in relating to children, than I was able to do in my own home, with my own kids, or than I was seeing modeled by others in my church.

At the same time in my life, I started experiencing a greater longing for Communion. Our Mennonite Church hardly ever served communion, and when I called up the pastor and asked him about it, he basically said it was too much trouble but if I'd bring the stuff and do the set up, he'd do it more often. So I did and we did. The mennonite belief, of course, is that it is a memorial...but to me it was something more, I think. My seminary days had infused me with the belief that whatever else it was or wasn't, that communion was a "means of grace" and that God would meet us there, spiritually. I was really longing for such a meeting. Coupled with this longing, I pulled out an old record called The Lord's Supper by John Michael Talbot (a Catholic monastic) who had the Catholic Communion prayers set to music. This record was food for my soul! It sang the Apostle's Creed, The Gloria, etc. I listened to this record every day: "Glory to God in the highest, peace to his people on earth! Glory to our Lord God the Heavenly King! O Lord Jesus Christ the only Son of the Father, Lord our God, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on us..." it seemed I could not get enough. I was hungry for the Body and Blood of our Lord in the Eucharist. Not just a memorial meal.

MEANWHILE...back at the ranch...(not literally a ranch) my husband was getting together still with a group of guys who had known and loved each other in college. They called it Thursday night Guys Group, and would have theological discussions, prayer, scriptures, etc. A general time of male bonding and support. This group, over the years, had evolved from seeking to hammer out a systematic theology amongst themselves (having members coming from various protestant backgrounds), to studying Catholic Theology and history, to eventually studying Eastern Orthodox theology and history.
Some of the guys were in the process of joining anOrthodox group associated with the Evangelical Orthodox Church (a non-cannonical group. See Becoming Orthodox, by Fr. Peter Gilquist for the story/history of the EOC and most of the EOC became Orthodox). It just so happened that the catechetical group was sponsored by a Church in Indianapolis (at the time called Holy Trinity Evangelical Orthodox Church) who happened to be the people doing the background singing on that John Michael Talbot album I was feeding on every day. Intriguing! Coincidence?

We also wanted desperately to deepen our prayer life. We started a prayer meeting in our home monday nights and no one would come except the pastor, and eventually even he quit showing up. This was frustrating for us.

Meanwhile, I was saying silly things like: "Let's be Amish." and waiting up late on Thursday nights for all the juicy tidbits that my husband would bring home, about how he'd argued and defended the anabaptist position until blue in the face against these crazy becoming-Orthodox friends of his.

One month, it was our turn to host guy's group. I sat, nursed my baby, and listened to the mens' rather rousing and spirited debate. I realized two things: My husband was doing an excellent job with Mennonite apologetics. He could tow the line and do it well. And he was doing it well. I was so proud. BUT, it was also clear that we knew nothing about what he was arguing against. Nothing.

Me, being the well educated intellectual breastfeeding mother that I was and the only M.Div. in the room, decided that it would be best to know what he/we were up against. So I innocently asked brother Bert for something to read, anything to read, that would acquaint us with this Orthodoxy stuff. He pulled out of copy of a book called "The Orthodox Way" by Kallistos/Timothy Ware. Being a nursing mom at the time meant I had lots and lots of reading time. I started the book right then and there. I read the entire thing pretty much in one sitting with a few hours of sleep that night.

It answered every question I had ever had on a deep and profound level. It was like, all the niggling things that had been "off" were set aright. My response was: "This is the BEST theology I've ever read! All my questions answered in one place!" I called up my husband all enthusiastic and said: "We need to be Orthodox!" I think my response was much akin to St. Photini's response (the woman at the Well) when she rushed back to the village and said: "Here is a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he be the Christ?"

So, the next night we decided to visit a Vesper's service, which at the time was being held in someone's living room. We went. It was humble, but beautiful and we prayed. There were some small icons at the front, incense, old old prayers that had been being prayed for two thousand years. Most of vespers, in fact was straight from the Psalms. Spiritual Food. Structure and words given for those too broken to find their own words to pray. Balm for our grieving hearts. People we could pray with. People who were intentionally seeking intentional Eucharistic community.

For six months we did Vespers (Evening prayers) on Saturday night and attended our Mennonite Church on Sunday morning. It shortly before Easter, when we'd made our "break" from the Mennonite Church and started going to Christ-the-Lifegiver full time. It was a hard break and even though we tried to do everything in a wholesome way, we did get accused of idol worship, and it ended up being ugly in the end. This breaks my heart to this day. (We Orthodox do NOT worship idols or icons at all. We only worship the Holy Trinity. We don't even pray TO saints, we pray "with the saints" and ask their intercessions before Christ, just as we ask each other for our prayers. They are alive in Christ, more alive than you or me.)

I started reading more of the early Fathers of the Church: Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Clement of Rome etc. Who were these men who led the Church in the generation after the apostles? In the generation after that? And the next, etc.? What was THEIR theology on such matters as apostolic succession, the eucharist, baptism, etc. Was I in commonality with them, or did my theology differ? Where was the "big break" between the early Church and that which was supposedly corrupted by Constantine? I found there was no such break, no great apostacy, no corruption, but rather a Church that continued to fight heresy on all sides, struggle against sin from within, and "hold the traditions [it was] taught, whether by word or our epistle." (2 Thessalonians 2:15). As Christ Himself prayed in his high priestly prayer: "Keep through your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are." that this unity still exists in the Church today, unbroken since the ministry Christ entrusted to the Apostles.

That summer we were received as catechumens in the Evangelical Orthodox Church, and the following Easter the kids were baptized and we were all chrismated. Orthodox in theology, but not yet under an Orthodox bishop. This was the year 2000. Our entire parish knew that eventually we would need to become canonical, that is, the Evangelical Orthodox Church would need to find a way to move into full communion with the historical Orthodox Churches to not only be Orthodox in our prayers and theology, but in our ecclesiology. This, for us and for several other mission churches that had been started by Holy Trinity E.O.C. happened early in 2002, much sooner than we'd all at first anticipated, due to some divine appointments and God-orchestrated meetings between our priest and an OCA (Orthodox Church in America) priest while he was on vacation. Our "mother Church" Holy Trinity, is now renamed St. John the Forerunner Orthodox Church, OCA under Archbishop Job of the Diocese of the Midwest, and our parish is renamed St. Athanasius Orthodox Church under Archbishop Dmitri of Dallas and the South.

This is a story largely about the interworking of theology and human relationships and about the hand of God.

Through the sacrament of confession, repentance and reconciliation I have found the ancient means through which Christian change truly IS possible. Just ask my priest or my friends: I am changing and becoming a bit more like Jesus.

Through the sacrament of the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ, I have found the time tested means by which I experience the living reality of "Christ in me the hope of glory".

Through the ancient offices, prayers, liturgies of the Church, I have experienced a time tested way to be drawn into and taught deeper prayer. Given words to pray when I'm too weak to come up with my own, taught to pray by the masters, so to speak. Carried in the arms of the Church.

Through the fasting disciplines of the Church I have begun, just barely, but begun nonetheless, to bring my body and my passions under greater control of the Holy Spirit.

And in Holy Tradition there is nothing which supercedes the Scpriptures, or contradicts the Scriputures, but rather like the banks of a river, Holy Tradition preserves the shape of interpretation and understanding of Holy Scripture to keep the Church and all her members in unity.

There is so much more that could be said. Forgive me, a sinner.

Recommended reading:

The Orthodox Way, by Bp. Kallistos Ware
The Orthodox Church, by Bp. Kallistos Ware (Church History from an Eastern Orthodox perspective...or the REST of Church history)
For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemmann
Q&A at (For a more complete history of our local parish which I heavily alluded to here.)

I hope this account is written in love in humility. For all my life, I will give thanks and glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, for being patient with me, a sinner, for answering my hard hard questions, and bringing me to a place of peace, of healing, and of growth. To God be the Glory in all things!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

This is Fun

Facial Recognition program that can match you up with celebrity faces. I did mine smiling and straight faced. Both times, it came up that I look like Zsa Zsa Gebour. YIKES! Straight faced, I also look like the president (as in George W. himself), apparently.

Have fun!

Monday, July 17, 2006

Not so deep thoughts

I have not bloggged anything truly profound in several posts, I guess. My head has been very full of big decisions, and issues, and concerns, I guess. I'll be homeschooling my three youngest kids next school year, so many decisions about curriculum, lessons, etc. have had to be made. I have a deep sense of peace about it. I'm already training them to sit and listen to good literature being read aloud. We are working our way through The Horse and His Boy (from the Narnia series, by C.S. Lewis) and after I forced them to it, the kids played legos quietly while I read about three chapters tonight. That was good. I"ve heard it takes two months of "detox time" for every year the kid was public schooled. So, six months for my son, four for my daughter, and nine months for my older daughter...but I think she's so relieved that she's already "detoxed".

I can tell the three youngest, the one's I'll be homeschooling, are visibly more relaxed now that they know what is in store for them and that they won't have the stressors they had last year. I know there will be other stressors, but the particular ones they experienced last year...what a relief.

AND, rumor has it that the school is slated for rennovation. While students are in class. yeah. Nice. If it were a school NOT in the inner city, you can bet your morning donuts that they'd be doing the rennovating over the summer, or better yet, building a new building. But no, not at this school. These kids apparently don't deserve the best. They deserve only a years-behind-schedule renovation that occurs around their already academically floundering ears.

I see the injustice of it. This is not our primary reason for going this route, but it is one factor. And I have options. Cozy ones. Sacrificial, but cozy nonetheless.

The cool thing is, I found a homeschool group, and I think we will fit right in. And there is theatre, which my two girls are excited about , and a Lego League that my son is gaga over. Good things are happening. Busy things. Things that leave me with not much to blog about.

Original Crafts

Here are some samples of some of my work. I diddle. I do a bit of this and bit of that. There needs to be more original stuff in the world, so here are some of my small contributions.

This one is my old classical guitar that I painted a few years ago. I've seen better folk art, but this was pretty much my first attempt. I like how it turned out. Have not painted much since. Brushes are expensive.

Free hand machine embroidery on a scarf. The other end is similar but different. I won't bore you with it.

One of my quilts. This was made with bits and scraps of new fabrics, but the pieces were torn, not cut precisely. I like the unique irregularity that this gives, but I doubt any professional quilters would approve too much. But my stitches are tiny and it brought me joy to make it, and brings me joy to look at it and use it.

202 quilt squares, 4.5"x4.5" each. Four old shirts. This is what happens when I iron dh's shirts and realize they are all frayed at the collar and cuff and elbows. It will take twice this many squares of this size to make a twin sized quilt top. Again, the pieces are slightly irregular and ripped as much as I could.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Wedding

What a fun day today was! It was the wedding, the dress I made, you know. Well, J and J are married, bride looked radiant and gorgeous, groom looked so very very know the drill.

It was also my first ever Orthodox wedding. No surprises, I'd read about Orthodox weddings before, but here are some impressions that stood out to me:

The wedding is on a Sunday afternoon, so we all got to see the bride and groom and all the family at Divine Liturgy this morning. There was a joyous anticipation through the whole day, and for the whole parish, and a certain rightness about this couple being together through the Liturgy and partaking of the Eucharist together before their betrothal ceremony.

After lunch at Church we all headed over to the wedding (well, we stopped by home because of course I got FOOD all over my white blouse and so did the kids get similarly grungy and we all had to change). We got there just in time and squeezed in the back.

Thing two: no vows. The big "do you vouch that you have not promised yourself to another in holy matrimony?"question was interesting. After it was established that neither had done so with another, it was basically announced that they were being blessed, and loads of blessings and prayers followed. The rings were exchanged at the entrance to the Church, and this without any vows the way is done in a western wedding.

Then the bride and groom are led forward to the front together, and then they are crowned with martyr's crowns, led around the table three times, and presented as husband and wife. Of course I'm leaving out the fact that there's a gospel reading, loads of prayers and blessings, etc.

It was all very different and beautiful. I liked it alot.

The whole service took an hour and the choir did a really really good job.


I had more fun than I've had in public in a really really really long time. There was contra dancing. It's the same kind of dancing you see in Pride and Prejudice, for instance, only the music was more like square dance music: guitar, banjo, fiddle, instead of the orchestra you would have had in England in the early 1800's. But the dances were the same.

I started out dancing with my husband but the first dance was a mixer and we danced around the circle and switched partners every twenty seconds or so. That was a blast. I realized that this type of dance really pushes the boundaries of what I'm culturally comfortable with as there was plenty of hand holding with perfect strangers. It's also the done thing to look into your partner's eyes to prevent dizzyness with all the twirling.

After the mixer dance, we all had different partners and the leader with the microphone had us stay with whoever we ended up with and get into lines for a lined up dance. This was the one I'd seen in P and P. Very very cool to be dancing those steps.

And I got lucky: My partner was hunky, taller than me, ten years younger AND very very good at Contra dancing. I think he was one of J's contra dancing friends come to the wedding. The perfect partner. I was glad, but felt a little sorry for HIM, being landed with me. But I smiled alot and did my twirls and felt like a girl again for half an hour. He was very gracious and said afterward that I was a quick study, when I thanked him for putting up with me.

Dh had fun, too, and got lots of compliments from sidelined friends who were watching, who did not think he had it in him to dance. Well, he sure did.

I hope that dh and I can go contra dancing some more, and on a regular basis. And perhaps in the future we will get to partner each other more. The only time I messed up the dance is when dh and his partner were "neighbors" to us, and I did a do-see-do with dh and got all flustered and went the wrong way. He he.

But the BEST thing, is that I was able to dance. Able to dance! I was dancing! Thanks be to God!!!!!

Friday, July 14, 2006

St. Veronica

by alana sheldahl
(luke 8:43-48)

...He must be the holy one from God
for he brings healing
with is power
he is love...

I am unclean and alone
sick in this body with no hope
I have been sufferinng for twelve long years
impoverished in body and in soul
I heard Jesus comes this way
I heard he healed the blind, the lame
I cannot touch him but I see him through the crowd
the one we’ve waited for,
so full of love and power.

He must be the holy one from God
for he brings healing
with his power
he is love...
He must be the holy one from God
for he brings healing
with his power
he is love...

Now I am reaching out my hand
I touch his garment on the fringe
and that is all I dare as I am
tainted, unclean, and cast out
But then I feel his healing flow
my bleeding stops that very moment
and Jeus turned and said: “Who touched me?”
“There are many here who press against you.”
“No, I felt my power.”

I know he’s the Holy Son of God
for he has healed me
with his power
he is love!
I know he’s the Holy Son of God
for he has healed me
with his power
he is love!

I cannot hide here in the crowd
He said he felt his power go out
and I know he knows he healed me
so with trembling I fall down
I tell those gathered of my shame
and of this healing, of my faith
if I could only touch his garment
I’d be whole again
I’d waited for so long
for this day and

Jesus is the Holy Son of God
for he has healed me
with his power
he is love!
Jesus is the Holy Son of God
for he has healed me
with his power
he is love!

And he said “Your faith has made you well, my daughter, go in peace, my daughter go in peace.”
Jesus is the Holy Son of God
for he has healed me
with his power
he is love!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

God Answers Prayers

I can't post the details, but I had a really really good evening, and I think some things I have been praying about may begin to come to fruition.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Sieg Heil!

I was looking for some BOOKS for my kids to read, in a hopeful attempt at raising the level of literature from Captain Underpants and the Case of the Bouncing Bionic Booger Boy, (or something like that) and am astonished once again, even though I've noticed this and thought this before, at:

1)The number of fantasy novels with pagan godess worshipping majyck heroine themes.

2)The fact that most all of the "series" of historical fiction books are about girls and their experience. American Girl, Dear America, Royal Diaries, etc. etc.

3) That there seems to be NOTHING comparable for boys. At least not on the scale and scope.

4) The stuff geared towards boys are dumbed down sports stories readers.

It's insulting. I'll say it again: It's insulting. I am not just the mother of daughters, I am also the mother of a SON, and at this point in my life I feel like there is hardly any societal support for the raising of him.

Now, from the perspective of enriching the lives of my daughters, these books (with the exception of the first-mentioned type of book) are GREAT. I don't, however, want to give them an inaccurate picture of history in so doing. Buut perhaps it's' just adding balance. Or perhaps not. I look at my own self, and if I'd been a girl or woman in those days and times I'd very much be interested in what I'm interested in now: Hearth and Home.

But from the perspective of being a mother of a SON, I am frustrated. He's a white male, and his kind seems to be the new outcast. There is nothing that is specifically designed to appeal to him except for junk literature: Captain Underpants, Marvel Comics, and junk series like Bailey School Kids and Scooby Doo. I don't much cotton to the notion that as long as kids are reading SOMETHING, it's OK. That's gov'ment grant money dependant public school talk.

He came away with a bigger and better Narnia book, all in one with nice illustrations. We are currently working through Horse and His Boy as our Family Read-Aloud. I encouraged my oldest to read "My Side of the Mountain" in hopes that eventually my son would love that book, too. She has alot of positive influence on him.

Meanwhile, I guess I just keep on trying.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Camping is so much fun!

And the best time to do it is on the "other" end of a weekend. Most folks go Friday/Saturday nights, so we went Sunday/Monday night and practically had the place to ourselves. One other tent with rather bland looking middle aged people in it.

And the park service lady stopped by to warn us of some copper heads living under the rock by where we'd parked our car. Lovely. Fortunately our snake bite kit went unused.

We had a grand time hiking and absolutely foundering ourselves on s'mores and bratwurst.

On our hike, we went down to a creek and played in the sand and the water at the foot of a waterfall. The kids and I hunted crawdads and built a sand castle, climbed on rocks and learned to skip stones. Yes, there was plenty of sand. The rock is sandstone and limestone, and the creek had washed down lots of sand. It was beautiful. Wes took them on a guided tour up to the top of Rock Bridge (a natural formation that required more climbing skills than I posess and longer legs than my youngest, so we stayed behind).

For the first time in my life I experienced the feeling of tiny minnows nibbling at my feet.

And all this with the gentle shade of trees overhead, and no glaring sunshine.

I especially enjoy cooking over a camp fire, gathering wood, the whole bit. There's just something about digging around in a hot bed of coals, and watching the sky darken. In the woods you don't really see a sunset, but you do see stars come out, and on the first night it was a full moon. Of course there were butterflies of many varieties, fungus, and ferns, evergreen trees and rhododendron in bloom.

We were sitting in the dark after the kids were abed and we heard scrabbling under the pic nick table. Lit the lantern and there was a long eared, black eyed mouse eating a Hershey Bar that someone had let drop.

Second night was clouds and I predicted rain. Sure enough, we woke up at 6:30 to spat, spat, spat. So we got up quick and built a fire before the rain got too hard. We thought the worst was over and we did manage to cook breakfast, were sitting around sipping coffee when the rain picked up. It took us not long at all to strike camp and have the van loaded back up. Wes and I were soaked to the bone doing that while the kids waited in the car. It was just easier that way.

By the time we got home, a mere hour away, the rain had stopped. We took showers, set up the tents to dry, laid out the sleeping bags, did LOTS of laundry and went out to Pizza Hut for lunch. We had planned to come home yesterday, just not quite so soon. Checkout was for two and we might have gone hiking. But we were so very very WET.

Currently Reading: Slouching Towards Gomorrah, by Robert H. Bork. Hmmmm. Interesting read. More on that later.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

How to refurbish a cast iron skillet

Cast iron really is the best thing to cook on, in my opinion.

So imagine my delight when I found a lovely ten inch cast iron skillet at the thrift store one day. Used cast iron delights me even more than new cast iron. I like the idea that something is old and still perfectly, delightfully good to use. I like the durability. I like knowing that countless generations of my ancestors cooked on castiron: Colonial and pioneer alike.

So, I've had this small, ten inch skillet hanging on my wall as decoration because it had crud on it. Mystery, thrift store crud. You know, black build up. Most likely food, but there's that thought: what if it's NOT food. Or what if it belonged to some weird cannibalistic sicko and this is Bubba crud. My brain goes in these directions.

So I googled on how to clean a cast iron skillet. The cure for the crud is fire. Lots of it. Hot heaping coals of it. All night long heaping coals. The kind only to be found on a camping trip.

Well, the first night out, of course we made fire. Foundered ourselves on s'mores and various types of wieners hailing from various teutonic european cities originally. All in the woods, in the mountains. Pure bliss. Trees are such gentle creatures and I can't get enough of them.

So, the cast iron skillet went into the fire. We built the fire around it, on it, in it, shoveled embers into it. It glowed, it set the tip of a stick on fire when I touchd it. I thought about theosis and played with the coals. Pure bliss.

Next morning, there sits my humble skillet. It passed the test. Gray with ashes. It had not cracked. I retrieved it. Gave it a quick rinse at the camp pump and admired the result: shiny, black metal. Not a bit of baked on crud to be found. No germ could have survived that fire.

So, I proceeded to cook a bit of bacon in it, and them some eggs. The eggs hardly stuck at all. Needs a wee more seasoning, but that will come in time. I'm so thrilled. Now I have a big skillet and a small skillet. Never again will I wonder if I should pick up a teflon skillet for cooking an omelet.

Now, you, too, can be on the lookout for cast iron at the thrift store, knowing that refurbishing it is as simple as a wood fire and some hot coals.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The crapification of America

Sometimes I get the impression that as long as we each have one of each, we don't care how shabbily or shoddily it is made. As long as it looks good on the outside and serves the moment, that is all we ask. If it breaks, we'll just buy another one, whether we need it or not...whether we can afford it or not.

The other day when I was reading John Holt on poverty, he said something that really stood out to me. One aspect of poverty, he wrote, was the inability for the poor man to have access to the goods and services he needs or would need to make his life not feel poor. Not only is his income low, but no one is building affordable housing for his income braket even though it would be theoretically possible. It's just that more money can be made making vacation homes for the rich than decent housing for the poor. So John Holt says. So is the capitalistic economy in which we live. The bottom line rules. This was written in the early 1970's.

Much time has passed since then, and in certain way America is different. We have cleaned up our air and we have cleaned up our ghettos in some places, and we have Wal-Mart and other mega-discount chain stores. The thing about these places, and yes, I'm picking on the big one, Walmart, but I also will admit that I shop there...alot, is that, like I stated in my opening paragraph, they sell crap.

Sometimes it's american made crap, but other times it's most definitely NOT american made crap. The blouse I"m wearing right now...taking it off the check the tag...says it is made in india. How very nice. Probably a sweatshop. How lovely.

But I only cared about the twelve dollar price tag and how cute it looked on me. I did not care about the person who made it, in india. I did not care about the environmental footprint of this blouse being shipped on some big ocean barge all the way from there to here. No, all I cared about was that a) it was cheap, b)it looks cute on me and c) I did not have to go the the mall and spend fifty dollars on it.

And so it goes. I can have a grill that is cheap and "affordable" becaue it is made from such cheap materials that I can bend it with my bare hands. Where was that thing made, I wonder? But I'm an american, and I NEED that grill!!!!

And so we (the collective proverbial "we") have one of everything. Well, no, not really. But close. We don't own a cassette tape player, even though we soon will so we can include some books on tape in our lives. This is not a bad thing, but it just goes to show how much of a fraction of our income is spent on each individual luxury to the extent that we barely even care to ask ourselves whether all this STUFF is necessary or good for our salvation, or whatever. And this is even in a household that considers itself to a) be broke and b) be fairly disciplined in its spending habits, and c) conservative and deliberate in it's purchases. Wow.

It's overwhelming, really. And sad.

How much does a family of six really NEED?

But we can afford it even though we are mostly broke and somewhat "poor" due to our broke-ness becaue it's there, and it's cheap...but it's CRAP. Cheaply made, not made to last, destined to soon be replaced and fill a landfill.

I'm serious, the clothes I sew myself last far longer than the store bought ones.

Where did all the quality go? Not only in our material acquisitions, but also in our lives? I think the same could be said for eating habits, for entertainment...everything is quantity over quality. And I'm sick of it.

I'm ready for a turn around. I dream of taking a year and embroidering a beautiful table cloth that is completely unique and very beautiful. It would take time, it would require skill and patience, but in the end, it would be different from anything else in the world. Unrepeatable.

The unrepeatable is what we have lost, here in America. I say we start a revolution of unrepeatable things. Of unrepeatable people, or unique, homegrown, art and music. Of food that does not come from a box but rather from a garden and a cast iron skillet, and of conversations that are seasoned with salt and light, and godliness.

That is my dream. I"m tired of the crap.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Somebody asked about the mantilla I made

The ecological impact of thoughtless behavior

Today was fairly laid back until it was time to go the the chiropractor and take the kids and a huge laundry basket full of books back to the Library.

I tried to find something really intelligent to read and came away with some offerings by John Holt and one by Wendell Berry, whose name I picked up from the Crunchy Cons book. Also a tome entitled _Slouching towards Gomorrah_ which I think will be rather polemical and divisive, but perhaps worth a glance since I'd actually heard of the title at some point.

There is a chapter in John Holt's book _Freedom and Beyond_ entitled "Schooling and Poverty" that I got immediately caught up in, even though that chapter is found smack dab in the middle of the book. Even though written when I was likely still in diapers, his insights were profound and much of them true. His analysis of the cure for poverty not exclusively being educational hits home. I live in a poor neighborhood, even though we ourselves are not "poor". Yes, money is tight, but it is so by choice, so that we can improve our situation. He speaks of the tri-fold causes of poverty:

"The word "poverty" is too general, too vague. Let me try to make it more concrete by suggesting that it has three parts; employment, income, and material standard of life. A man feels poor and is poor when he has a bad job or no job, lacks money, and can't get the things that he needs. These components of poverty are closely related, but they are not the same. Changing one is likely, but not certain, to change the others."

So we live surrounded by people who do feel this hopelessness about their poverty or relative poverty. They don't have the income or the job that will offer them dignity or advancement opportunities in the long run. We have both in abundance. Even a blue collar worker who has the option of working over time for pay and a half has a sense of control over his work life and this can make a huge difference in morale. (I am of the contention that code monkeying is rapidly declining into a blue-collaresque profession.)

The impact of this on our family is sometimes disconcerting as we find ourselves, and more especially, our kids find themselves, NOT fitting in. It's the barrier of the way we talk, walk, carry ourselves, dress (even though our clothes come from Walmart or a hand-me-down bag or the thrift store), what we read, how we think, where we go the Church and how we vote. Even, perhaps, how we cook. It's our lack of interest in all things summer-evening-softball, nascar, and tatoo. It's politely nodding in supposed solidarity at yet another conversation about how "they" are ripping off the welfare recipients who should be getting more (being the person doing the talking). Usually I sypathize and say something about the atrocious health care in this country, conveniently omitting the fact that we even have dental coverage.

It's the HOPE that we have that our economic situation is on the improve that sets up further apart, I think. And the expectation that the future will be different, that we have options.

So, this John Holt stuff is a good read, and food for thought.

And after coming home from that outing this evenig I was SO TIRED. I made pizza. Frem scratch. Sugar free crust, Laura's Lean no antibiotics or growth hormone meat, and since I was SO TIRED...we ate on styrofoam plates with plastic forks and cups that were left over from our July 4th party the other night.

And what KILLS ME is that the environmental impact of that particular choice did not even register with me until three hours later when I was cleaning up the kitchen. DUH!

Next post: A spinoff on John Holt's definition of poverty that one component of it is that it is the inability to get what one needs. His assertion is that no one wants to sell to the poor man. This was written in the early 1970's. Now we DO have someone willing to sell to the poor man: Wal Mart. And every time I shop there I feel depressed because I feel like I"m buying CRAP. More later, on this subject...stay tuned.

More about Crunchy Cons

Well, I finished the book. It was excellent. As Laura put it, could have used some tighter editing, perhaps, but other than that, the content was great. As a matter of fact, I intend to buy a copy. My reason is, it reads like a who's who of conservative thought, in some ways. Dreher does ALOT of name dropping, and I'd like to be able to mark up a copy and do follow up reading on some of the names he dropped. Names like Wendell Berry, a fellow Kentuckian farmer/writer/philosopher. Sounds interesting. I did not know there were interesting people here in my home state...just kidding (sort of).

Basically, this book covered all the lifestyle bases of how people live: food, home, education, the environment, religion, and the last chapter, entitled "Waiting for Benedict" which is not about the current Roman pope, but rather takes a look at what it will take for adherants to Truth to survive the coming/come dark ages...St. Benedict having precipitated monastic revival which pulled Western Christianity through the fall of the Roman empire.

So, it really resonated with me in many many ways. The things he said about culture and beauty and economy could have come from my own lips. The things he said about religion I also consider to be true and very profound. To his credit, Dreher (a convert to Roman Catholicism) gives both Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy a very fair shake, and he also features an interview with an Orthodox Jew which was respectful and interesting.

Dreher does not mince ideas at all, but the overall tone of this book seemed postive and respectful to me. He spends his time describing what crunchy cons are, not polemicizing against those who are not. At least it seemed like that to me, who happens to agree with pretty much everything he wrote.

This book challenged me to take seriously the consideration of where my food comes from, and to at least start making small positive changes towards supporting more sustainability. That will be an interesting challenge on a budget, but I'm finding I'd rather have organic veggies or well raised beef than diet coke. Someday I hope to become a food grower, at least in a small way, not because I think it will be cheaper, but because it is the right thing to do, as a human being.

The only chapter that had me itching under my collar of course was the chapter on homeschooling. Been there, tried that, found it to be something beyond the scope of my personal sanity. I know, I know. IMO it's still the ideal. It hurts to not live up to the ideal. But that's how it is in my family. I also like the fact that my kids are in band and orchestra and getting things like speech therapy. Enough self justification already, and moving right along.

Crunchy cons, Dreher says, live sacramentally, with an awareness of the permanent things, the important things and the interconnectedness of humans with the rest of humanity and the earth and all creatures that fill her...and our dependance on God who sustains all. This is something Dreher articulates well for me, a reader who is a part of a religious tradition that does view the world sacramentally. I wonder if someone from a Church which does not have an overt sacramental understanding of life the universe and everything would be left scratching their head over this aspect of the book.

Reading this book certainly won't make the struggle I experience at the polls on election day any easier, but at least I will know that I'm not alone.

I thought I was a libertarian, but looking at this book, I'd really have to say on the spectrum of political defninitions that I was defining myself that way for lack of a better category, and that morally and spiritually I fit much better into the Crunchy Con category than I do in the libertarian categorgy. I did not have any "aha" moments reading this book, and Dreher did not convince me of anything. It was more a matter of picking up a book that was surprisingly what I'd been saying/thinking for years myself.

So, now I've totally outed myself politically. If you want to know where I Crucny Cons.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Livin' the simple life

I decided to try and do something profound and real with my kids today, so we made homemade granola together. The More with Less Cookbook is still one of my all time favorite cookbooks, both for it's chapters on food philosophy (use less of the world's resources, share with others, feed the hungery, etc.) and for the simplicity and genuineness of the recipes. No junk food there, but also no fancy shmancy "can't pronounce the name of this complicated ingredient" stuff. So, homemade granola it is: I used maltitol and erythritol to sweeten it, so I can eat it, too. Oats, flax seed meal, wheat germ, dry milk powder and cinnamon...those were my dry ingredients. Basically just mix seven cups of dry to about one or so cups of wet ( I melted a stick of butter and added some disolved erythritol and maltitol "honey"). Stir wet into dry and toast for about half an hour. The sugar alcohols cook faster, so next time I'll use less heat. The recipe called for 300 farenheit. It tastes pretty good. Just mildly sweet. And only somewhat burned. Sigh.

Then the kids wanted to take a walk to the dollar store today. It's a mile there and a mile back. The weather looked dicey but it was sunny, finally, when we walked out the door. I was wearing a pale yellow linen dress and a cream colored short sleeved shirt over, and my birkenstock sandals.


Wet, through and through. How mortifying. I ended up buttoning the shirt just so there would be two layers of wet stuff between the world and my bra, and the kids insisted that they couldn't see my underwear. I hope they were being honest. I"m thinking that pale yellow linen would look very fetching dyed BLACK.

Nothing so unpleasant as sitting dripping wet in an air conditioned store waiting for kids to spend a dollar, with nasty wet birkis on your feet. My one consolation is that I did not have racoon eyes from dripping mascara. No makeup today.

So, on the way home I decided to stick our necks into the new thrift store that's about half a mile from home. I wondered if I could replace my defunct hand mixer on the cheap. And, there it was: $1.95 vintage hand mixer. And the motor is not burned out...yet. We are hard on those things. And a dress with to-die-for fabric that I'll either keep as a dress or turn into a skirt. It's been ages since I've gotten anything from a thrift store.

Nice pot of herb tea and an absolute MOUNTAIN of laundry folded once I got home. I still have to clean up the kitchen, but so totally don't feel like it. Time to be a grown up and do it anyway.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Baby Stepping towards

more awareness, more sustainability....hopefully less Walmart.

1. I discovered that Laura of "Laura's Lean Beef" fame has an excellent blog at It's nice to read the words and thoughts of the farmer who grows some of my meat.

2. I've noticed the newest fad in salad dressing is a salad "spritzer" spray that you spray on your greens. What a great idea, and I don't even remember the brand because of course the first thing I look at is the ingredients list, and of course the stuff has sugar in it. Blech. But olive oil, red wine vinegar and a one dollar small spray bottle work just as well. This falls under the "how to consume less" category.

3. Organic Kentucky grown tomatoes taste better than the pale red crap sold you-know-where. Duh!

4. I like my little house. It's cozy, and we don't turn the air conditioning on every single day. Today the thermometer read 101 in the sun, 97 in the shade. The air was on. I was baking a chicken. But what I was starting to say was that I'm just not all that interested in upward mobility or impressing people. Less stuff. Christmas is looming and already giving me stress. What to do? What to do?

5. Clean and tidy and home-made go a long way towards domestic satisfaction.

6. Free music: of course I like to play and sing. Sometimes I hear clarinet drifting down from upstairs. I love that. And now, more violin music is added to the mix. Not only does dh pull his out from time to time, but dd2 has taken up violin as well. She has started playing on the back porch...perhaps because that is often where I go to play my guitar. Looking forward to the day when the youngest two also have instruments. Better than Nintendo any day!

7. A few weeks ago I bought a turkey thinking it would make good eating, and it made me sick. Not food poisoning: Hypoglycemia. It was injected with sugar and other crap. So now, Dh says we'll spring for an organic turkey this Thanksgiving...if we are here at Thanksgiving, that is. Who am I to argue? It seems necessary. Sometimes I feel like I'm the canary in the mine.

8. Soynut butter...not too terrible an alternative to PBJ's. I've been longing to bake bread again. Perhaps I will. Soon. For awhile there I was too sick and tired. Now I feel like I have my life back. Thanks, God.

9. I've discovered that rapid rise yeast does not need sugar in dough. Of course I learned this making prosphora. But for pizza crust, I add some dry milk powder to feed the yeast instead of sugar, and then stir/beat the flour in very slowly to give the gluten a chance to break down. It makes a very light and fluffy dough.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Tw0 things I wonder about sometimes...

1) Why do I like submarine movies so much? Is there some Jungian significance or do I just like the fact that they are "there" and I am NOT? I mean, yeah, you have a bunch of men in a very physically cramped space with no resources execept what is on board and the technology of the submarine itself available to solve their problems...and there is always some sort of problem, otherwise it would not be worth making a movie about, no?

Last night Dh brough home K-19 Widowmaker. I love that one. Thus officially begins my submarine movie collection. Next I hope I get Hunt for Red October or that one about the enigma machine...

2) What do my recurring dreams mean, if anything? I know, everyone has them. My recurring dreams either feature slipping off a cliff (horrifying) or trying to save my children from a tornado (predictable) or (and this is the one that stumps me) waking up with long hair and being THRILLED about it. OK, I do think it would be cool to have long hair again like when I was a kid, but I want it to be long and gorgeous, and whenever I get my hair much past my shoulders it starts looking like what I call "hag hair". So maybe it's a desire to be young again, or a desire to have my problems solved instantly instead of working them out slowly and over time?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Free Range Organic Music

So, at the Farmer's Market this morning, I noticed that there were lots of "street corner musician" types. What an idea. Actually, I figured there would be, and I was already thinking along those lines.

So right after lunch, that's just what I did: I took my guitar down to the market, asked and friendly looking farmer if he minded music, and set up and started to sing my songs.

Open case, of course. I scored seven dollars and seventy five cents in about an hour, and had to stop because I blew my e-string. People were very friendly and smiled at me alot. (But I wasn't there to get money, just for fun.)

And then, as my we were leaving (one of my kids was hangin' with me), I went to use some of my earnings to buy a couple of peaches from the friendly neighbor farmer and he gave them to us for free...and he thanked me for the music!

Oh, and I'd made a sign that said: Organic, Kentucky Grown Free Range Music (No Growth Hormones, Antibiotics, GMO Free). That got many smiles.

Such great fun! Maybe I'll do it again next Saturday.

Currently Reading

Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, gun-loving organic gardeners, evangelical free-range farmers, hip homeschooling mamas, right-wing nature lovers, and their diverse tribe of countercultural conservatives plan to save America (or at least the Republican Party)
by Rod Dreher

Loving it, so far, even though I'm not a member of the Republican Party (or any political party for that matter) and have more libertarian leanings than anything else. But crunchy fits. As does ultra conservative in the non-current "republican" sense of the word.

This book is worth a read.

Now, my birkenstocked self is off to the Farmer's Market for some locally grown produce on this lovely summer's day.