Thursday, August 30, 2007

A chocolate kind of day

I found myself having a chocolate day. Just. Feeling. Down.

It was difficult, after yesterday's nature hike left me utterly exhausted and the house messy. You see, we went out into a new growth woods, and tried to discover the wonders of nature after our early morning Divine Liturgy. Nature Journals and pencils in hand, we went exploring. Soon we saw a skunk. That was fun. Never seen one of those before that wasn't squashed on the road. He was far enough away that we weren't worried about startling him. I'm sure he heard our noise and scurried away.

Growing things smaller than bushes and trees were rare, due to the lateness of the season and the drought. We did find lots of what was either wild carrot or wild hemlock. One is poisonous (the hemlock) and the other is actually edible, in its young variety. They are so similar, it can be dangerous, though, so I would not recommend going out and chowing on wild carrot root. (The carrot has a fuzzy stalk, and the hemlock a smooth one. The carrot leaf, when crushed, smells like carrot and the hemlock is stinky....I did some internetresearch today, can't you tell?. Wild carrot seeds are a traditional birth control method, in tea. They are an abortifacient when taken as a tea, so it's best to avoid.)

So, we sketched, we observed, we sweated and hiked. We even collected algae and creek water to look at under a microscope.

All this adventure left me too tired to tidy up after dinner. Too tired to make dinner (the family had to scrounge and my teenager made a stir fry).

All this to say that I woke up with a very stiff and sore body this morning and a very very messy house. Somehow I muddled through with tidying and school work. Now, I have set the kids to cleaning the main living area. Ordering Pizza for dinner.

All this to explain why it's a chocolate kind of day.

I just got so down about the fact that I can either do bland and normal, with no energy left for anything extra or special, or I can do an abbreviated version of extra and special (never as long lasting or as energetic as I'd like) and be totally bombed for the ordinary...that includes wiping a counter top, doing a load of laundry, or cooking a meal or stringing together a coherent thought. No. Energy.

I get mad about that sometimes. Why did God dole out to our family these illnesses? I try to learn to pray "Thy will be done." I really do. Sometimes the temporal worries of this life just overwhelm me. Pray for me.

And people still have to live. Even when I'm bombed.

At my house, eleven year olds learn to cook, so I have an apprentice in the kitchen these days, and one who is fairly competent. That's a big help.

A chocolate kind of day.

I'm here to testify that after two ounces of Jamison's Ghana chocolate (one was yummy milk chocolate, and one was medicinal 85% dark chocolate....neither was "legal" on my hypoglycemia diet, I could feel the seratonin releasing as I ate. Literally.

Goodness with a side of guilt, and probably some extra muscle pain.

Feeling better now.

Pray for me, though. I can use it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Quote of the week in my life.

A Catholic friend of mine visited Orthodox vespers with me last night: "Wow! It's like worship on Steroids!"

Yeah, that'd be us....{grin}. Afterwards we discussed how we'd both like to see an end to the [Not-so-]Great Schism in our lifetimes. Girls can dream, can't they? Well, at any rate we can pray.

Thanks for coming with me, my friend.

The One thing Needful


I've been reading through the book of Isaiah lately...large multiple chapter chunks in somewhat random order. I sit down, grab my Bible, and get lost in those words.

In a way it is fitting to do this week, since it was the prophet Isaiah who told us that there would be a forerunner, and it is the forerunner's forerunning that we remember today in the Church.

But oh, the heart of God expressed in Isaiah just leaves me dumfounded and overwhelmed by His love!: "Hearken to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am He, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made and I will bear; I will carry and I will save." -Is. 46:3-4

Such words! "I have made and I will bear; I will carry and I will save." just keep going through my head over and over again, like a Michael Card song. (Perhaps it already is a Michael Card song...)

"And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

I, I am he that comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like glass, and have forgotten the Lord, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth..." Isaiah 51:11-13

I don't really know what else to say about this, except that God is giving me His comfort these days in ways that I never thought I'd see.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

All the Fullness

For some reason, prayers were especially rich and full to me this weekend. Last night AND this morning, I was really able to BE there. Sunlight slanting in through the back windows as the billows of vesperal incense wafted around us with it's sweet fragrance. Choir voices joining with the rest of us "bless the Lord O my soul" and kids only occasionally distracting me.

Candle light, and Christ on the Cross off to the left, with beeswax dripping into the sand under soft candle glow.

Roses and hydrangea all around.

All the beloved people gathered in prayer.

My hips hurt.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Garment Dyeing

Maria asked in the comments section about how to dye a garment, so I thought I'd write about it here.

Dyeing can either be done on a stovetop or in the washing machine. I prefer the washing machine, as it is less messy, and so that is what I will write about.

Materials: Washing machine, clean garments to be dyed, rit dye, salt, detergent

Method: Make sure your clothes are clean, and stain free. Small grease stains will take the color differently and show up even more after you dye them.

To dye three shirts black, I got three boxes of dye. The darker you want your color to be, the more dye you need to use. Otherwise black is gray, brown is tan and red is coral.

Small load on HOT setting, mix the dye and a cup of salt in with the water and 1 tablespoon of detergent.

Mix, and then add the garments, and get them all the way in there. Let the water finih filling and start agitating. Half way through the agitation part, turn off the washer and let it sit for several hours.

Later, when you remember, start it up again and let the cycle continue.

When it's done, remove the clothes and dry them.

Run a cycle empty with a bit of bleach and wipe down any splatters that my have gotten on the inner lid or rim of your washer.

I have NEVER had any clothes in the following load have any dye effects on them, when doing this.

Assume your newly dyed garments are NOT color safe, and wash them separately or with like colors for a while after you do them. Perhaps throw an old white wash cloth in the load. Eventually the white cloth will stay white. After that you can throw caution to the wind, I suppose.

I just dyed what was originally a pink sweater (cotton with stretch), a bright pink cotton shirt and a pale purple linen shirt. The sweater is now a very dark/deep charcoal gray/off black color. The shirts are similarly black but the thread they were sewn with was apparently polyester, which won't take color, so I have the seams showing in pink and purple, respectively. I don't know if I like that or not. For sure I'll wear them around the house.

Often, when garment dyeing, the color is a bit splotchy. It's not going to look quite the same as something that comes from a factory. The splotchiness can be taken advantage of and enhanced in various ways. I think that's called tie-dye. He he.

It works best to dye natural fibers. Fake ones don't wick the color so well, or at all. If you can't wash a garment on hot for fear of shrinkage, I don't know what to say. Try it on cold but don't be surprised if you get less color.

Be adventuresome and don't have any set notions of what you will get. I've had both disappointments and some pleasant surprises over the years. One dress I tried to dye red turned out to be a lovely coral color, for instance, because I did not use enough dye.

I always try bleaching whatever I'm going to color first unless it's already white. The garments I did yesterday went through a bleach load but did not fade at all. Evil man-made dye vats!

If you are truly adventuresome, go out in the forest and collect one type of fall leaf, nut or berry in great quantity, boil them down to make a cauldron full of "tea" and boil/dye some cloth in it, with salt, and see what you get. For such an adventure, I'd use some uncut muslin fabric that can then be sewn into something lovely or some carded or freshly spun sheep's wool. Hang to dry. Natural things like black walnuts, chestnut leaves, cherry leaves, etc. can yield some very very lovely colors. I have not really done this in a very long time except in tiny amounts here and there. Other possibilities include tea leaves, coffee grounds or of course a year's worth of saved up onion skins.

Have fun.

Friday, August 24, 2007


Yesterday Molly came for dinner and we ended up having a grand ol' time going through my closet. I'm in a bit of a transition phase right now, somehow I've changed on the inside, and some of my clothes just aren't ME anymore.

Time for a revamp. She has such a good sense of style, being an artist and all that,and a real eye for color, and we ruthlessly went through everything. Prints and OUT, except for a very few subtle printed skirts and a couple of April Cornell dresses that just sort of flow the right way.

Other than that, it's blacks, browns, charcoal gray, that color of the sky just before it gets really dark, light blue, white, cream and maroon. If nature does it (black and brown tree bark for example) I can do it too. That's the rule. Black velvet/velour goes with anything except for more black velvet. I have three such items in my wardrobe. Linen is my friend in the summer. Flowing tunic length things, and fabulous scarves for drama.

Pink is totally verboten, forbidden, off limits, OUT, except for one deep rose silk scarf and a scarf that might possibly be silk that I've had since Switzerland that I will NOT get rid of.

So, today I bleached out some of my things to prepare them to be dyed black. I hope the color takes, especially on this one particular pink sweater that fits me well. It needs to be black.

I peeked in the bleach load and one sweater that was green is now a beautiful cream/off white color and I think it's going to stay that, rather than go into the dye bath.

I'm having fun doing all this. I'm also doing some sewing today, and I let the kids have the day off from school. It's a mom-feeds-her-soul/sanity day. I feel energized. This is good.

Now if I could just figure out what to do with my hair!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Must. Blog. Something. Profound.


Profundity escapes me. I refuse to be a faker and just cough stuff for the sake of.

Keepin' it real, folks. Lately I've been up to my neck in English grammar, grading math workbooks, and giving botany lessons. As much as my kids hate grammar, I console them with this: I hate it too, and have to give FOUR lessons per day in the subject.

One of my kids is Rain man, One of them is Hermione Granger, one is a budding radical, and the other is a guy stuck living amongst so many females that he just has to go ride his bike at times.

Tomorrow I'm taking a "teacher in service day" to get caught up on grading, get caught up on some sewing that needs to happen, and go visit some folks down in Wilmore.

Real life happens. That's one thing I like about Home School.

Check it out: for those of you who live in or near my town: Kroger has sirloin tip roasts on sale for 1.99 per pound. I bought a 21.85 chunk o'meat, had it cut into many plate sized steaks (each one of which is big enough for the entire family for a meal) and two roasts. That was a 28.00 dollar saving off the regular price. My friend Tabitha turned me on to the fact that Kroger will cut your meat for you, for free. I'm such a looser, I didn't know that. Usually my beef consists of ground, but tonight we dined on steak that was cheaper than ground beef. Glorious. And with it were fresh tomatoes, mustard greens and arugula mixed, some organic goat cheese (divine!), cucumbers, cantaloupe and grapes. My friend who came for dinner brought a delightful rice and spinch dish. We feasted. Just because.

I Loved this Book

Bobbie Faye's Very (very very very) Bad Day by Toni McGee Causey, published by St. Martin's Griffin

Oh, my! This book was hilarious. Now, don't go reading it if you can't tolerate a bit (Ok, so more that a bit) of southern cussin' 'cause that's just how Bobbie Faye talks, and to be quite honest, so would I if I had the kind of day she had.

The whole book, all 321 pages of it, covers one day. A very bad day, of course. Very very very bad day. Let's just say she wakes up with two inches of water in a trailer that's filling up like a bathtup, which eventually falls apart, and her day just gets worse from there. But Bobbie Faye somehow rallies. I won't spoil it. Go and read it for yourself.

I truly, truly hope they make it into a movie. I e-mailed the author today and she replied that some plans to that effect are in the works. Hope all works out.

Go check out and watch the youtube videos. It's just fun.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Is there a Gardner in the House?

Well, it's official. My oldest daughter has a green thumb. I sort of wondered what would develop when we brought her home and started home schooling her. Turns out, she started by growing things like alfalfa sprouts and the like.

Then, yesterday, suddenly some very interesting little pots of plants appeared on the back porch: She'd sprouted and started corn and beans IN HER ROOM! My goodness! And they made their appearance yesterday, ready to graduate from their little wet cotton nursery into the pots she prepared for them.

Today she planted sweet potatoes in an old tub and she tells me she's been reading up on container gardening. It is SO the wrong time of year...but the goal, at this point is green stuff, not food.

I, personally, have always wanted to turn some spare attic space into an indoor garden with the right kind of grow lights. Perhaps I won't have to do all the work, after all.

My son, who was complaining loudly about her planting sweet potatoes, is appalled. I overheard her asking him to promise to be nice to the plants.

She and I had a good laugh together over her newfound interest: Plants make the perfect friends for autistic kids, because they don't require social skills but you can still talk to them. ;-)

My two youngest got out the microscope today, and were busy comparing tap water to rain water. Then my second got some mud and they looked at that. It took some doing to convince my son that the squiggly thing he was seeing was NOT DNA.

And my youngest has been enjoying the pottery wheel she got for her birthday. I've always dreamed of trying that myself. Maybe if I ask nicely she'll let me borrow it a bit. What if we had a real one, and then built a kiln out back? One can dream.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Just for Fun

Having a good time creating cartoonish photos of myself with the distortions possible on this laptop camera.

A Different Kind of Piety

Last Thursday, I went to the Newman Center with my friend Lisa, and visited a noon day mass. Now, for those of you who don't know, the Newman Center is the Roman Catholic college campus ministry. There was a Newman center at the University I attended and I remember visiting once on a Sunday morning. I thought I was so "enlightened" then, to go in there a criticize everything...Oh, the arrogance of my youth.

I want to avoid that, this time around.

One of my best friends was Roman Catholic for a long time, and it has formed her in very very good ways. Yes, to the apostolic succession. Yes to their Eucharistic much good there. Sometimes I wonder why she bothered becoming Orthodox.

Coming from a background of Byzantine worship, now, for the past nine years, a few things struck me as so very different that I mistakenly said: "It felt protestant to me." Diarrhea of the mouth, no doubt. Upon reflection, that comment missed the mark and wasn't even what I meant. Just because my experience tends to categorize a dirth of icons, and folding chairs with protestant worship, does not make it so.

There was a chapel on the left as we entered the building. I only peeked in through the window. A byzantine icon of the Theotokos and Jesus graced the wall. My eyes gravitated towards that bit of familiarity. And of course the tabernacle containing the body and blood. I wanted to go in there and make some prostrations, say some prayers, but I was a stranger, a guest, and had neither the courage, nor the confidence that I wouldn't be somehow "showing off"...doing it "my way", so I did not enter the chapel of perpetual adoration. Next time, I want to go in there quietly. Perhaps sit and pray for a time.

Lisa showed me some of the old things in the nave. We went up to look at a very old crucifix behind the altar. There were chairs back there, too, as the altar table was out in the middle, sort of surrounded by a chairs in a circular pattern. It felt very odd to me to walk past that table, and up to look at the cross on the back wall. Space and how it was used was different, unfamiliar. I decided to go with the flow. Fr. Justin explained later that it's a theological emphasis on the gathering of the people of God around the Eucharist. Ok. Orthodox worship space emphasized the Kingdom of Heaven touching earth in the Eucharist. Ok. Space is theological. Different emphasis within the same larger framework.

The place where the noon time mass was held was off from the main worship space in a side wing, near the very old and beautifully carved stone baptismal font. I dipped my hands in the water and crossed myself, wondering if anyone noticed that I was doing it "backwards".

After a couple of minutes of sitting with what felt to me like nothing to gaze upon, a priest came out, garbed in a white robe with a plain green stole. I would have loved to ask him about his vestments. Of course the white robe was familiar, and I assume the stole is the western version of the phelonion.

With less ado and pageantry than I thought humanly possible, the worship proceeded. It was nice to sing an old song that I knew from my childhood, and to meditate on the words of Scripture: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God..." I remembered the time that the songwriter of that song visited our house in Switzerland. I didn't need the hymnal because I knew it by heart. Then, we stood to pray and I dearly felt the lack of icons to my wandering mind. Very short litany. But a good litany. Followed by a gospel reading. It happened to be the same gospel reading that we'd heard on Sunday morning. I wondered how the two lectionarys ultimately compared, in what was read when as it compared to the cycles of the Church calendar.

Everything was very short, but much of it nonetheless familiar. A different kind of piety. I noticed that when going up to receive Eucharist, the partakers would hold their hands out, cupped. The way the Orthodox do to receive a blessing. And those who went up to receive a blessing crossed their hand over their chests, the way we do when receiving the eucharist. The difference, I presume, is pactical: Leavened bread cut into pieces and put into the cup, spooned into our mouths, versus unleavened bread broken up into pieces and given into the worshiper's hands, followed by a sip from the chalice. Interesting.

So, there was much much less pageantry and much shorter prayers, but it was a mass that enables people to partake of the body and blood of our Lord every single day of the week. Wow. Eucharist every day. That would be something! I guess it happens in Orthodox monasteries, but in the full fledged hour-plus long version of St. John Chrysostom's Divine Liturgy. That'd be a bit much for a lay person to do every day.

So this, it was nice. It felt light and airy, much like the building itself. Light and airy in a good, ethereal sort of way. People gather to receive Christ. It was good.

I pray for an end to schism.

Friday, August 17, 2007

This feels like a JOB!

Home school is definitely more intense this year than it was last year. Don't get me wrong: I'm very much enjoying it. But I also am keenly aware that I'm going to have to find some "recharge my batteries" time each week, alone. I'm also aware that I need to find a balance with the housework.

Oy! I keep neglecting to fold laundry, moving the heap of clean stuff to my bed every morning and back to the living room couch each night.

I dreamed last night that that I was contemplating getting a job at walmart for 13 hours a week (weird, huh?) but that in my dream I decided against it because physically I'd not be able to do it. That's the barrier I always run up against in my life. I guess I know it even in my dreams.

Nothing interesting to add. I must go shopping for food. I want to buy more interesting things than food, but that's life, I guess.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos

Classical alto recorder music wafts downward from upstairs and a breeze is sporadically gracing the lace curtains in the living room to dance a little bit. The morning started cool, but has turned hot and muggy. Typical Kentucky August weather. The cool part was a bonus.

We were up bright and early this morning, out the door by 6:15 am. to make it to Divine Liturgy for the feast. I was so pleased to be there. This is one of the big things about homeschooling that I love: Being able to keep the feasts in this way. After we enjoyed breakfast together at Church, we decided to take a walk at the University of Kentucky Arboretum. Particularly appealing since we will be studying botany this year. We've started, but not gotten very far yet.

We saw some very cool plants that I'd never seen before. Many of them were labeled, but of course I did not write anything down...this time. Next time we go, will be with sketch pads, so we can do some nature journaling. One plant was BLACK. Black leaves and these shiny black berries the size of cherries, but in tight clusters...not on stems like cherries. The plant was low to the ground. I'd never in my life seen anything like it. Can't for the life of me remember what it was called, or even if it was labeled.

The path at the arboretum is two miles long, a big circle. It was getting on towards lunch time when we were there, so we did not have the energy to make it all the way around. I think places like that should make paths like spokes of a wheel going towards the parking lot so that people of varying degrees of fitness, health and disability can choose how long to make their walks without having to strike out across the grass. That's what we ended up doing. Not a problem for me, but I could imagine it might be burdensome for some.

So, do I have any reflections on the feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos? Well, I love how Jesus is holding her, brining her into heaven in this icon. It comforts me to know that she's the prototype Christian, so that is ultimately my fate as well: being held in the arms of Jesus like a little child.

This feast, while not in Scripture, goes very very deep into Holy Tradition, and has many very early witnesses from the early Church. Just as Phillip was miraculously transported by the Holy Spirit after speaking with the Ethiopian Eunich, recounted in Acts, so the Holy Apostles were miraculously brought back to Jerusalem from the places of their preaching when it was time for Mary to fall asleep in the Lord. A time for saying goodbye. The Christians in Jerusalem faced great persecution but God miraculously protected their procession to her grave. After three days, the apostle Thomas arrived (late again!) and wanted to venerate her relics, which had been gushing perfume from the time she died. When the tomb was opened, it was empty.
For more information about this feast, the articles at are always excellent.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Busy, busy!

Doing school with the kids is so much fun. But that's not what I'm going to blog about.

After I got the kids school work done, I had to run out the the post office and mail a certified letter to the superintendant of the schools to tell him that I'm homeschooling.

Then I got gas (felt like I drifted inton the gas station parking lot of fumes!) and picked up a gallon of milk that turned out to be clabbered. Oh darn! I guess I just HAD to make biscuits. Yum!

But that's not what I'm going to blog about.

I'm also not going to blog about the homeschool group kickoff event I went to. I generally can't stand those things, but I joined the Jessamine county homeschool group so that I could get my kids into P.E. at Asbury college. The kickoff was rife with crowds, a clown, one doilie wearing mennonite (talk about flash back!) and a few faces I knew from over ten years ago when I lived in Jessamine County.

But that's not what I'm going to blog about.

The cool thing I did today was restyle a couple of shirts I had. One one white linen shirt the sleeves were too tight at the wrist, so I cut them off and made elbow length sleeves, and did a cute scallop embroidery with my machine: White on white. And, I took the collar off to make it a mandarin collar, and did it neatly with a seam ripper and re-sewing the seam I ripped. I also altered a linen/rayon pale purple shirt in the same manner, minus the scalloped embroidery, since that shirt has a textured weave that would clash with cuteness.

I've been feeling very stongly like it's time to update my look. I need to dress in a more dignified manner. I own too many skirts with pink floral prints on them. Now, mind you, my skirt wardrobe is a far sight better than my DRESS wardrobe was about ten years ago. I have one picture in which I look very much like a chintz sofa, unfortunately. The skirts were a toned down version of that fashion mistake era in my life.

I'm finally ready to take the next step. I'm thinking solid colors in muted tones. I am, after all, thirty seven years old. Time for a little bit of dignity.

Seriously, if left to my own devices, I'd be wearing home-sewn dresses made out of quilting fabrics. Believe me, when I say that's my antural proclivity. Why, I do not know.

I'd better go. Time for family prayers.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Something a Little More Cheerful

Seems there's been plenty of "woe is me" on my blog lately.

Well, the repair man came and went and my oven is fixed. I"m grateful for that. Then, while I was a Church Wednesday night, my husband did the the broken dishwasher...because he'd forgotten it was broken. And it worked just fine, drained just fine, etc. I've been using it since. So, my dishwasher is at least temproarily healed, paise God! I figure someone is prayin' out there in blogland.

I often forget to pray about stuff like that. Or if I do, it's more of the "Why God?" type of payer. In my universe, every little thing tends to need to have cosmic and spiritual significance. For my salvation yadayadayada.

Let's see...took my youngest to the eyedoc today and she does not need glasses. She's barely borderline nearsighted with an astigmatism, but the doc said that for now he'd wait. She'll need them someday. But THIS is not that day!

I got some lenses for me put in some Ralph Lauren frames that a friend gave me. They are much cooler than the dorky what-was-I smoking-? frames I've been forced to wear for the past year or so. I was in a girly, sparkly mood last time I went to get glasses, and came home with some vaguely cat-eye shaped frames that had silver-markasite type sparklies at the corners. Those glasses have been the bane of my looks ever since, and I've cringed every time I look in the mirror. Grace, that's what these new frames are: Pure grace!

What else is good? My husband is finally cutting the lawn. Its been long and scraggly.

School is going well so far. We got three days in this week, and are developing a rhythm. I'm keeping up on the paper grading this year if it kills me. That's my big goal.

Speaking of goals, I realized today that I don't have any big dreams or life goals for myself. Is this a bad thing, or a good thing? I'm just totally wrapped up in my momjob of homeschooling and doing the things I do that my life is very daily. So I don't have a list of big dreams like ceasing to be a mediocre guitar player or traveling Europe. While I'd love to do both of those things, it just seems like life has framed me in in such a way that those dreams have ceased to be significant.

Either that, or I've just given up hope. I wonder which it is.

Ah, even my cheerful post ends on a morose note. That's just the way I am lately.

When is there going to be a cold front? I could use one of those right about now!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Coming to Amerika

LIsa S. asked me to tell the story. She knew me "back when".... fresh off the proverbial boat....plane in my case, but still. I get all teary whenever I see documentaries about Ellis Island. I never "did the Ellis Island thing"...that was way before my time, of course, but there was that lady, the Statue of Liberty, greeting me at the end of every trans-atlantic flight. Welcoming me to America. Such a foreign place. It certainly seemed so to me on November 2, 1982. The day we came over. And I can't say "Statue of Liberty" without the german "Freiheitsstatue" echoing in the background.

I'd visited, of coure, my parents being Americans, and all. All my grandparents lived in Texas, and I'm afraid that we all considered each other rather foreign, but were too polite to say much about it. The cousins who were close in age played with us, and we temporarily enjoyed such novelties as pop-tarts, fruit loops and constant television programming when we did visit. The weather in America was interminably HOT. At least the parts we visited at the times of year we visited. It was always summer, and always further south than where we lived in Switzerland. It always used to astonish me, looking at an atlas, that Texas was on the same level as northern Africa. That put the weather in persepctive, along with other evils such as poisonous snakes and grass burrs.

So, while I'd been to America a few times before November, 1982, it had always been as a traveler, with one suitcase. Very very temporary. It was never home. But it became that, or shall I say, is becoming that.

Pathetic. 25 years later and it still is not a perfect fit. I'll never BE Kentuckian. In a way, my husband who hails from Iowa is more Kentuckian than I am. I find that unless I have the whole God thing in common with someone, I just can't do a relationship very well at all. I somehow still don't know the rules.

So, the relative suddenness of our arrival in America was a big shock. Things went sour with the ministry work my folks were doing, and it was time to "come home". Except it wasn't coming home for us kids. It was transplant. In some ways we arrived here much like refugees. We left most of what we owned behind and just came. All my parent's life savings was cashed in to make the move.

My folks were the age I am now when we did it, and my oldest is the age I was when I came over. Perhaps that is why it's much on my mind these days. I can't imagine what it must have been like to be uprooted like that at this stage of life. It wasn't truly by choice, although it was technically. The kind of choice a family has when backed into a corner, perhaps, or pushed out a door.

So we left almost everything.

We came over.

Nothing fit.

Clothes were different here. Standards of beauty, hairstyles, all of it. And in the throes of irony I realized that when I'd gotten my long hair cut three months prior, in order to fit in better in Switzerland, I'd doomed myself to not having a popular hair style in the states. That was 1982, and at least in the south, girls were wearing long hair and barrettes with ribbons woven through them, streaming down long, in things like school colors.

The first week in America my face hurt. I spoke English, of course, flawlessly, with an American accent (no regional identifiers, fortunately), but I was not used to speaking it full time, and when I did it made my face hurt. I got used to that. But it was everything else.

The kids in my middle school (started the second half of seventh grade) were so mean to me. At least the mean ones. There were some nice ones, too. I remember a girl named Keisha who was very kind to me. She's african American, and as I'd never been around ANY black people before, I genuinely had a hard time recognizing faces at first. And of course we lived in a black neighborhood in Nashville right off the bat, so I totally did not know what to do with myself at the bus stop. It was all so foreign, and I could not understand the resentment that seemed to be directed at me from that corner. There was lots of that in 1982. I don't feel it nearly as much now-a-days. Perhaps because I'm not in middle school anymore. Perhaps we've all grown up a little bit, as a country. I don't know. (I still live "down town", for what it's worth.)

But nothing fit.

I remember bursting into tears on more than one occasion, those first few months in American middle school. And I remember sobbing. Homesickness. It usually hit me at night. I'd have to keep it at bay on the outer edges of my conciousness. I still do sometimes. Why is that?

My hair was all wrong. My shoes got made fun of, and then when I bought some Nikes (I thought the e was silent) I got the uncool color: bright blue, the color of the blue on the "save now" blogger button. It was scary.

Nothing fit. I couldn't get along with the kids in youth group, either. My parents seemed practically famous at our mega church, being the returning missionaries and all that. But for me it was nothing but culture shock. And the problem was, I didn't know what culture shock was. It had no name. It was just there. Hanging over me like a cloud.

So, that's what it was like coming to America. A 1976 white Convertivle Caddy, ET phone home that Christmas, everywhere. All the food had addictive amounts of sugar in it, and it was impossible to walk anywhere. It's so different here. People don't shake hands when they greet each other. Life feels more isolated. More disposable stuff. Everything is new and not built to last and even the roads and buildings somehow look like plastic. McDonald's. Everything is a franchise and there are no unique communities, it feels like. At least not on the surface of things.

At least I spoke the language. That made it easier. Or did it? If I'd have been an ESL student, everyone would have been able to tell how clueless I was about everything else.

Coming to Amerika.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Hunting Without a Tribe

I'll be honest. Money's tight. It is for many of us, but in our culture, we independent Americans don't like to talk about it. Kings and queens of the world, we are, and so we fake it. I'm so sick of faking it. I want to be real. Not asking for any handouts, but I think by being honest, some others, hopefully, will find encouragement.

Lots written on the national debt and the record setting levels of consumer debt. Our country, our own wallets: America and Americans are afflicted.

Recently I read a book called Affluenza. It's been out a few years, and it doesn't talk about anything that anybody does not know: Much of the debt in this country is because people are buying too much stuff, being materialistic, etc.

But there's another side to it, I'm convinced. It's not always about over-consuming. Sometimes it's the bare necessities. Even in the face of doing without, debt can mount. I want to talk about the underbelly of this debt problem from the side of the tracks that no one wants to be on (unless they are being "missional", that is). And the underbelly of the problem is this: We are a nation of people who are each of us "hunting without a tribe", to use caveman terms. Self sufficiency is expected of each of us, of each household.

When you grow up poor in the inner city, you yourself might make it through college but you are not starting your adult life out at the same place as a college graduate who did not grow up poor. You are starting out deep in debt.

Debt begets more debt. That is one angle of the problem. Yes, you can get your college degree. Yes, you can be that professional. But money is already tight at a time when other kids are getting help from mom and dad in the form of a car, or a townhouse, or whatnot, and you are on your own. Just the necessites. Debt begets more debt. The used car has to be repaired. Things get tighter. Student loans are due.

You know where I'm going with this.

You really can't get out of the inner city in one generation, especially when you are hunting without a tribe.

In so many little ways, things are stacked against you. Perhaps your teeth aren't quite as straight (perhaps?) as the other guy being interviewed for the same job, because his parents bought him braces and yours couldn't. Does it make a difference in how much you can bring in? In whether you get the job? I don't know. They say looks really matter. It probably does. Little things. It feels like it does. And watching your own kids grow you watch their teeth and pray to God they are straight.

Hunting without a tribe, living without a support system, you really don't get as far. When you don't have someone in your circle of friends who is handy, willing to help you out in exchange for dinner, or just because you are friends, or in exchange for whatever else you yourself are good at and can give, what ends up happening: Small things cost money. When there's no cushion to fall back on, debt piles up because life happens and life happens much more often when you are by necessity buying used or cheaper goods. A vicious cycle.

And it does no good to talk about the people in the mud huts cooking on cow patties on the other side of the world, because that's like comparing apples and kumquats. Yes, economies can be compared and one is poorer than the other, but there is also validity in saying that within the economy one finds oneself, if the necessities of life are hard to come by, or can't be come by without going into debt (like the ability to cook food, have a working oven for instance), then there is a level of poverty there. See what I'm saying? The lady in africa who has a cow patty fueled oven is better off than I am if my oven is broken and I can't afford to get it fixed.

We are so stinkin' dependent of STUFF to keep our lives running smoothly, machines to meet our needs and we can't just step outside of that. This is the economy in which we find ourselves. And it is burdensome.

I don't wish to minimize the suffering on the other side of the world, though, either. How do I even express all this rationally without doing so?

Health problems also exacerbate the reality of hunting without a tribe. Your needs are different than the usual. The needs of your family are different...special. How I hate that term "special needs". Because special is positive term and it is a lie. Special needs really means needy. Things cost more, are harder, take more energy and more resources on every level: emotional, physically, financially...all of it. How special! Awwww, warm fuzzies. And because of the politically correct bullshit of a term like "special needs" the impact is lessened and you are on your own in so many ways, even within understanding communities.

Again, not to minimize the suffering of, say, AIDS victims in Africa. God have mercy. It doesn't even compare. Those problems need to be addressed globally while at the same time these realities need to be addressed locally. And it seems like a Church thing to do both.

And I see, looking around me here in "da hood" that health problems and poverty go hand in hand. Its sort of the chicken or the egg question. Which comes fist? Yes. Poor health affects your finances. Period. We are blessed to have health insurance, but I know what it's like not to have it, and to pray every time your kid climbs a tree that there's no broken bones because a trip to the ER would break you. When you have poor health, it costs more. I've seen friends with no health insurance whose medical bills practically send them to the poor house. Hunting without a tribe.

So how do we, as Christians, learn to bear one another's burdens? How do we hold each other? I stem from such an individualistic culture, as an American, that I can hardly answer this question. As a Christian, the filters of my eyes tend to screen out Scripture passages that speak of community, and when I do see them, I long for that in a real and practical way while being clueless as to how I can be community to another. We are acculturated; in our parishes, in our relationships, friendships. You go so far, and no further, mostly. And I catch glimpses of community in the goodness of my brothers and sisters in Christ, meals for the new mothers, for those very ill, baby clothes exchanges, hand-me-down clothing, occasional sharing of resources in unexpected ways. Childcare exchange. Community. Proximity. A tribe. Twenty miles away.

Where's my tribe?


Monday, August 06, 2007


"Whom have I in heaven but Thee? And besides Thee I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and heart are weak and may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever."

...weak and may fail. That's where it's at today. God is my portion, but my dishwasher is on the fritz again, and so is my oven. I get lots of gas smell and a very slow preheat time. Sometimes I wish that God would portion himself towards me in a more material, fix-it, handymanish sort of way. Know what I mean?

The back door lock is broken, along with my dishwasher and dying oven. And the screen on the back keeps popping off, and my AC does not work and as of right now neither does our furnace. There is a big evil countdown clock in my brain counting down to the first weekend in October when it will get cold (it's always that weekend that we need heat.)

My house is always dilapidated. And no one to fix it. or way. Oh, I just Discovered a way. In fact, I have a Visa to travel to that country. Perhaps I will rid there on The American Express????? That's such a bad road.

I'm just sick and tired of living on planet earth. And don't write to me about at least I have two hands and I can wipe my own....@$$. Some people don't have hands. I know that. Some people don't have food, or children, or food to feed their children. Or husbands, even the non-fix-it-types. I know, I know. Loads of people have it way worse than I do.

But my own stresses are real to me. And I'm wondering just what Christ's Transfiguration has to do with my dishwasher and oven and fibro and other unbloggable stresses.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Seamstress is In

Just thought I'd announce it here:

I'm at a place where I'm open to sewing/needle work, if anyone out there needs to hire a seamstress. Fair trade labor, and all that. My home school could use a shot in the arm, funding-wise.

Long distance, I can do mantillas or free-hand machine embroidered cloths or scarves, baby gifts (cute rag dolls and such), baptismal gowns for infants, baby quilts, baby slings, etc.

Order now for hand knitted scarves or shawls for Christmas gifts. You get the drift. I can pretty much do anything.

Prices to be negotiated.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


How appropriate that today is the feast of the elevation of the Cross...and the Swiss national holiday. Watch till the end and you'll know what I mean. Of course I'm all weepy, crying and pathetic today. Figures.

Justice in the Burbs

Lisa Samson is a good friend of mine. Today, their book releases. I think it just might be a good one!

And if you have not read it yet, get your hands on Lisa's novel called Quaker Summer. God just might use that book to change your life.

First of August

Swiss National Holiday. Wish I could be there....

all pictures courtesy of the following google image searches: Switzerland, Jura Switzerland, Basel Switzerland, Swiss Yodeling