Showing posts from February, 2008

Star Wars according to a 3 year old.

This is SO CUTE! I'm not a big Star Wars fan, and I'm also not a big fan of other people's three year olds doing cute things...but this combo just is too much!

taking the hobbits to isengard

A Day of Rest

I have declared it thus. Today.

Yesterday we ran around like madwoman and madchildren, getting groceries (I still like Aldi's!) at three different stores, and preparing our house for guests. And then cooking, etc.

I'd invited some new friends who hail from Burundi for dinner, and we wanted everything to look good. The kids were very helpful in getting it all done, so I'm extra proud of them today. Our dinner was a roaring success, despite language barriers all around. (My French improves rapidly, as does their English.)

Besides, we usually call Fridays "Fun Friday" and only do the core school work and then do something like play a game.

Today, I think it's going to be the Lord of the Rings Movie Marathon. Perhaps. All of them.

So, in the spirit of that, I offer you the following, which is one of my kid's favorite Youtube works of art these days: They're Taking the Hobbits to Isengard!

I particularly like the progression of response videos, …

Rules, Rules, Rules!

I think from the outside looking in, all the rules in Orthodox Christianity can look like so much legalism. Do this, do that. Don't eat this, do eat that. What's the point?

Well, why does Bob Greene tell Oprah to get off her butt and do x, y, and z? Why does he tell her to eat or not eat certain things? To get her in shape and keep her that way, of course.

It's the same way with the Orthodox Church. It is basically a very old and very effective training course for overcoming one's passions and for building spiritual strength, for preparing one for being with God.

But the irony is, the further one goes on this path, the deeper one's awareness of one's own sins. So you never get to the point where you are saying "Yah, I'm perfect now!" If you are, it's called delusion and is very very spiritually dangerous. The Russians have a word: "Prelest". It means spiritual delusion.

So, I was out at a Chinese restaurant last night…


About half of a bag of pinto beans, cooked (overnight in the crock pot works just fine), drained.

Mash them up and add a packet of onion soup mix (I checked. It does not contain beef). Add some oats, and some flax seed meal that have been turned to slime in a bit of boiling water (egg substitute). Stir well.

Form into patties and roll gently in corn meal.

Bake for a while until they smell good.

Make a burger in the usual way. These taste very good. Almost....meaty.

A Monk Talks

Last night, Wes, B, and I went to over to the lecture hall in UK's library, and heard Hieromonk Alexander (that means he's a monk who's also ordained a priest...not all monks are priests), from the Holy Cross Hermitage Monastery in West Virginia, give a talk. The title of his talk was something like "The purpose of Orthodox Monasticism in the World Today". Interestingly enough, the purpose of monasticism in the world these days is much the same as it has always been: To produce saints as efficiently and quickly as possible.

He gave an overview of the history or monasticism, showed us slides of various famous Orthodox monasteries, including St. Catherine's in Egypt, which is one of the oldest monasteries, and is located at Mt. Sinai.

He also gave brief intros on some of the men and women who, in recent past, have been great spiritual monastics.

-The monastic life was developed as a radical way to keep the gospel commandments as thoroughly as poss…

In God's Other Hand

My son comes to me, holding his hand carefully cupped. "I think the universe is shaped like a ball"...."And if there's an alternate universe, it's in God's other hand."


Scissors. No maroon dye yet. Husband hates it. Who cares? It will grow.

Things Depressed People Do

Eat too much...OK, that's not an option.

Consume chocolate: In the form of homemade sugar free hot cocoa. Perhaps I should have some now!

Try and fight it: prayers...check. Exercise...check.

Drink wine: Not really much of an option. (the whole calorie thing).

Take a nap: tried that.

Cry: did that.

Do strange things with their hair: Contemplating this. It keeps getting shorter and shorter. I've promised I wouldn't take the clippers to my own head again, but I never said anything about scissors, and I could get pretty darned short with those, too.

I'm dreaming of maroon.

Would that be ridiculous? My friend, Lisa, is a cool and artsy type and totally has the funky hair color thing going on and it rocks. And she's like, six years older than I am. Perhaps she can get away with it because she's cute and all that.

I'm more of the oaf type than she is.

Sometimes I wish I were one of those black women. You know the style...with the super short hair, and…

Looking forward to Lent

I'm looking forward to Lent. The longer I've been Orthodox, the more this time of year draws me. There's a "downshifting" that happens as a community, and personally, and in some ways it has already begun, although we are still a week away from meatfare. (Meatfare Sunday is the last day we eat meat, a week before Lent officially starts, as we clean out our freezers.) I suppose this feeling of slowing down is due to the fact that the Lenten triodion has begun. In the three weeks before lent, we start thinking about getting our hearts ready for repentance.

First comes the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee. Second is the Sunday of the Prodigal Son. And last, we remember the Last Judgement. (As if that weren't enough, we contemplate Zaccheus' repentance the week before. Bombs away!)

Talk about a comprehensive program to get us all primed for repentance!

And I want my heart to be primed. I want to be ready. I want to be the good soil, to foll…

Stressed and Distracted

For some reason, I feel like this week and last week I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off. (My mom used to say that, and no doubt her mother and her mother did, too.) Nowadays, chickens with their heads cut off don't run. They are usually hanging upside down in a meat processing plant. But I digress...

I've had so much on my plate. And I don't really like the feeling that I'm forgetting something. And I keep forgetting to write things down and so at least three times this week I've accidentally doubled up on commitments because I'd forgotten about some other thing.

This is SO not normal for me. Usually my life is quite the opposite. So I'm hoping things will slow down just a little bit soon.

And my oldest is acting like she's getting worse again, and perhaps coming down with something (which can make the whole catatonic phenomenon worse).

I enjoyed shopping at Aldi's today. So did everyone else from this end of t…


My patron saint is St. Juliana of Lazarevo. Also known as Juliana Lazarovskaya. She was from the town of Murom, in Russia, and lived about the same time that the Pilgrims were sailing for the New World.

Juliana was illiterate, and was orphaned at a young age. Raised with an aunt and uncle who did not share her piety, and mocked her when she would recite the psalms (which she had memorized at the age of 12!). Juliana's hope was to become a nun.

But then the son of the local overlord caught a glimpse of her and no one else would do, he had to marry her. And her family insisted on it. So, this pious young woman finds herself going from being the local orphan girl, to married to the local gentry and suddenly in charge of the estate, as her in-laws happily turned all the chatelaine duties over to her. In other words, she went from working to working. She also bore seven children, some of whom died in infancy and one of which was murdered when he was a young man, by his truste…

Lunar Eclipse

It's really too cold to enjoy the Lunar eclipse tonight, but I did go out and take a peek or two. I even let the kids stay up late, under the condition that they be quiet and get some of tomorrow's school work done since they'll be trashed in the morning.

But they did, and then got just too darned sleepy to make it to the full eclipse, so one last look, then off to bed.

I was five minutes late peeking at the full eclipse, so when I noticed the time on my computer, I rushed out side so see the barest sliver of moon shining past the earth's shadow.

Speaking of is time for darkness and bed.

Sleep well.

Experimenting with a Policy of Non-Replacement

For a while now, I've been somewhat in a "non replacement mode". Let me explain.

I feel that I own way too many things in this world. And even after a big clear out before Christmas, our house is still quite full of lots of possessions.

So I decided some time ago, that if something breaks, I'd see if I could get by without it, rather than replacing it.

(I rather think I'd draw the line at my stove, fridge, freezer, washer and dryer, though, and the computer for the kid's school work and cars. Just saying.)

So, since this resolution, I've broken more dishes than I can count. Pots and pans seem to be wearing out. I've broken my pampered chef bar pan stone. My favorite serving bowl is gone. A less fave serving bowl is also gone.

My winter coat got cat pee on it this past summer and I've made it through this winter by layering jackets. (I will get a coat when I'm done losing weight.)

Of course there's my engagement ring stone, too. D…

I hereby solemnly swear...

...that I'm up to some good. At least trying.

I lifted this picture off The Ashram Blog since it IS a picture of me.

A rather snarly look on my face. Protesting mountain top removal coal mining. Part of a crowd begging our legislators to pass HB 164, the "Stream Saver Act". But really I was just squinting in the sun.

Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop...

Today while I was standing in prayer at Liturgy, we were praying Psalm 50: "Have mercy on me O God..." and we got to the part of "Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop and I shall be clean. Thou shalt wash me and I shall be made whiter than snow. Thou shalt make me to hear joy and gladness; the bones that be humbled, they shall rejoice..." That part in particular just stood out to me.

I'm the type of person that sometimes forgets that even after all my striving, and all my prayers, and all my efforts, that it is GOD who does the washing. It is GOD who does the cleansing, the healing. And that He actually will. That this is not an unrequited hope or love on my part.

And it's really talking about theosis here. That whiter than snow bit reminds me of Jesus revealing himself as he truly is on Mt. Tabor (Mt. 17:2) "And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light."

"Thou shalt was…

Highly Recommended

for those of us suffering from depression, SADD, grief, etc.

The Akathist Prayer Jesus: Light to those in Darkness by Archpriest Fr. Lawrence Farley.

Here's a link to the PDF: Jesus: Light to Those in Darkness

An Akathist is an ancient format of hymn dating from the 6th century onward. Akathist prayers/hymns are still being composed today in the Orthodox Church. The hymn consists of thriteen sections, and each section has a kontakion (verse thingy) and an ikos (another verse thingy in a slightly different format). If done correctly, one part is plain canted, and another part is sung. When I pray such prayers/sing such hymns, I end up plain canting the whole thing because I have not learned the melody sufficiently well yet to put it into the verses on the fly. I need to practice more. If anyone knows of a link where I can download the sheet music for the standard akathist melody, I'd appreciate it.

We must remember to call upon our Lord Jesus Christ in our times of da…


I asked my husband last night:

"Do you think I might be depressed?"
"How about you, you said the other day that you think you are depressed, too. But you seem so chipper about it."
"Yeah, well..."
"I think I started on December 1 when B went into the hospitial. So how long have you been depressed?"
"Since 1994 when my parents died. I'm used to it. And this feels the same."

That was an enlightening conversation. But I've got to take care of myself. And I don't really want to go out and get me some Wellbutrin or anything like that. I just don't. Not yet, anyways.

So there's this dark cloud, and I literally have to force myself to do everything. I'd rather just curl up in a blanket and stay in bed all day. But I won't.

I do find that when I get depressed, the housework suffers a bit. I think the kids have been picking up some slack, because I have not washed dishes in days, …


I've heard good things about Aldi grocery stores. We are finally getting one here in Lexington, and it's going to be fairly close to where I live!!!!

Their main competitor is Save A Lot, but it seems they might have even lower prices. I shop SAL sometimes, but can't always get what I need. Plus, SAL's dairy prices are sort of high and I've gotten a rotten chicken from them before. Eeeeeew!

I think I will most definitely check into this. Not that I expect to get EVERYTHING there, but you know...hopefully they stock brown rice and cornflakes and dry beans and basics like that.

And, in oh-so-German fashion, I get to bring my own bags. (Aldi is a German store chain and they are EVERYWHERE...all over the world, that is.)

Imagine me doing the happy dance......oh, yeah! oh, yeah!...

Ok, so don't imagine it. Not such a pretty thought.

I'll report back in next Thursday after I shop there.

Getting used to a new store....shudder.

Orthodox Fasting Practices

Again...Selena asks.

On Wednesdays and Fridays Orthodox Christians have "fasting days". Also, at various times during the Church calendar year, specifically the 40 days before the Nativity, the forty days (not counting but also including weekends and Holy Week) before Pascha (Easter), the Dormitian Fast in August (first two weeks of August) and the Apostle's Fast before the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, which varies in length from year to year depending on when Pascha falls.

In total we are fasting about 51% of the year, I think.

Rather than figure all of this out, we usually buy handy calendars (available in places such as Parish bookstores, etc.) that have the fasting days clearly marked.

How we fast:

The typical Orthodox fast is a fast from meat products, eggs, dairy products, olive oil and wine.

Not everyone keeps the full fast. Some only abstain from meat. Some might abstain from meat and cheese but allow an egg or some tuna fish if they have extra protein needs…

Some Pumpkin Recipes

Selena also was wanting a Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe, since she had an overabundant pumpkin crop this summer. (Imagine is summer down under! Such thoughts fill me with unaccountable glee as I slog through cold and snow....)

But before I post a desert recipe, I HAVE to post this one, since it is SOOOOO GOOD! and for my Orthodox brothers and sisters, it fits the lenten bill just fine, too.

Pumpkin Clam Chowder

1 onion, chopped
a handful of carrots, chopped
celery if you have it on hand, chopped (I usually don't)

Chop and sautee these. Add about 2-3 cups of frozen pre-cooked pumpkin. And a couple of cups of either water with veggie boullion or vegetable broth. Drain off the juice of two cans of clams and add that as well. Salt and Pepper to taste. Let simmer until all is tender and hot.

Chop the clams, meanwhile. BEFORE adding the clams, run the veggie mixture through a blender. This makes it nice and smooth. Pour it back into the pot and add the clams.

Heat up again.

Political Protest Rally

I did say to a friend earlier that today was my first ever political protest rally, but now I recall I did some kind of march thingy in Switzerland when I was about the age some of my kids are now. I remember marching, banners, etc. but I don't remember the cause.

I hope my kids remember this cause, though. Because it's so important.

People gathered today on the steps of our State Capitol building in Frankfort, Kentucky to agitate for the passage of the "Stream Saver" act, that would make it impossible for Mountain Top removal mining to continue destroying habitats, property, clean water sources and people's lives, not to mention MOUNTAINS here in Kentucky. I guess Tennesseeans and West Virginians will have to do their own agitating, since it is a state by state loophole-to-federal-laws situation.

But here's the thing: The headwaters of the ENTIRE eastern seaboard are in the Appalachian Mountains. Respect the mountains, people.

But Big Coal has big m…

Why I Homeschool and How I Do It....

Selena from Australia wants to know.

OK, the "why". I homeschool because I always wanted to homeschool. I've read one too many books by the likes of John Holt, and envisioned for my kids a bit more freedom and less structure.

I homeschool because when they were in public school is was horridly exhausting, to be overseeing homework at the end of a long day. Now I oversee their work in the mornings when I am fresh as a daisy.

I homeschool because every day, when they were in P.S. (and this was true for all four of them), they would come home emotionally drained and upset from the teasing, social interactions, etc. We have a very nerdy and introverted family and all day every day with other kids whom one does not fit in with was just too much.

I homeschool because I want to teach my kids the Orthodox Christian Faith, including taking them to Divine Liturgies for all the feasts, etc. And I want to be able to sit down with them and read the scriptures and speak of our fai…

The End of the Day

I was having such an interesting conversation with some of my friends tonight, and the topic of death came up. I wondered if I looked like I was sprouting a second head when I suggested that we all ought to constantly be in remembrance of our own deaths.

Just thought I'd share a wee bit more of where I'm coming from on that score.

In the daily cycle of my life as an Orthodox Christian, I recall death and resurrection every time I go to sleep and then, by God's grace, am granted another day in which to live.

An evening prayer goes like this one by Saint John Damascene:

O Master, Lover of mankind, is this bed to be my coffin, or wilt Thou enlighten my wretched soul with another day? Behold, the coffin lieth before me; behold, death confronteth me. I fear, O Lord, Thy judgement and the endless torments, yet I cease not to do evil. My Lord God, I continually anger Thee, and Thy most pure Mother, and all the Heavenly Hosts, and my holy guardian angel. I know, O Lord, tha…

Healthier Cornbread (less fat and more nutrition!)

1 cup corn meal
1/2 cup oats (food processored)
1/2 quinoa flakes
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup splenda or sweetener of choice
2 eggs
1 15 oz. can of plain pumpkin
1/2 can of water

Mix all together and bake in a sprayed cast iron skillet at 425 F. until done.

What if?

I think one of the reasons I'm feeling so down today is plain old envy. I have to struggle against that particular sin a great deal. I have a propensity in that direction, I guess.

I was reading blogs and was reading about a life long dream that got fulfilled in a miraculous way for someone. I'm happy for her. Really, I am.

And yet, envy rears its ugly head.

God knows my wishes. My dreams.

But somehow those are never the right ones.

Because He always says "no".

I despair of even knowing how to pray anymore. Because God always says "no". And as the years go by, I am able to look back at how often I thought I was asking for bread, but was really asking for a stone. And God said "no" and gave me bread instead.

So, I take a deep breath, and learn to pray "Thy will be done." Again and again I must practice this. And it is so difficult. And it is so hard. Hard because my eyes deceive me, and I still find myself reaching for…

One of THOSE days...

I feel all tense and coiled up inside. The house is a mess and my oldest dd keeps bursting into tears at EVERYTHING. I suppose that's life with a young teenager sometimes.

It took dh THREE hours to get home from work last night. Snow that turned into an ice storm .

And chiseling the ice off the car this morning was no fun. For now, everything is thawing, I'm just nervous that the temps will drop and wet stuff will re-freeze before he gets home tonight, and he'll be driving on ice.

And for some reason, even though it's Tuesday, I keep feeling like it ought to be Wednesday and I keep wanting the week to be further along than it is.

I'm just out of sorts.

And even prayers are difficult. And so many people are on my heart and mind that I just feel all knotted up with prayers and "Lord have mercys".

I know what I need to do. I need to do some house work. And then I need to exercise. And then I need to do some more house work.

I folded a huge pile…

They're Taking the Hobbits to Isengard!

Just kidding. (Yeah, I've been watching youtube videos, can't you tell?)

Tonight there is a lovely snow coming down, which will be much lovelier once Wes is home safe and sound. He called me after driving an hour or more and he was perhaps half way home. He said traffic was moving at around 25 mph on the interstate between Louisville and Lexington. God grant him safe travels tonight.

Well, the kids and I are going to our very first political rally on Thursday: Against Mountain Top Removal. Against the ruination of human and animal habitat in the world's second most biodiverse forest. Against asthma. Against flash flooding. Against homes being destroyed. Against Elementary schools down stream from dammed toxic sludge ponds. Against economic destruction of communities due to greed.

M is particularly excited. She's our environmental activist idealist type.

Meanwhile, I think we have too many lights on in this house. the kids are turning them off.


Good Morning, and Cooking Lite

Here's me in my jammies this morning and my vat of morning coffee in hand. Check out the ultra cool Raggedy Ann mug that my friend was getting rid of...It's become my new favorite mug because a) it reminds me of my new friend who was getting rid of it, and b) it holds a ton of coffee...always a good thing, and c) it allows me to indulge in a bit of nostalgia for my Raggedy Ann doll toting days as a pre-schooler. I think I wore that doll to shreds. I'm way too nostalgic about my childhood, but overall that's not a bad thing, perhaps, as it means I had a wonderful one. Which I did.

Anyways...I digress. I wanted to tell you all about some cooking I did yesterday. I had catfish nuggets waiting to be cooked in my freezer. So, instead of frying them, I did the usual egg/skim milk wash, cornmeal but then I placed them in a baking dish, sprayed them with cooking spray and baked them.

They were a hit.

Re-vamping old favorites is hard to do sometimes from an "I li…

Boring and Painful Back Exercises

...inwhich she eats a bit of crow...

I dutifully did those boring and painful exercises today. The first 3 exercises hurt like the dickens, just like they did yesterday. But then I moved on to other ones, equally boring and painful. But they didn't hurt my back so much as things like knees and wrists...supporting body parts.

OK, so I KNOW I"m obese and this makes it difficult to hold up my body weight and all that...hence the extra pain...

But I have to admit, my back feels better for having done ALL the exercises. And perhaps those "Fire Hydrants" (yes, it IS what you imagine!) will shrink my butt over the long haul. So it's not all bad.

Oh, WAIT! NO! I'M NOT OBESE ANYMORE...merely OVERWEIGHT!!!! I lost two more pounds this week, for a total of eleven and a half or so.

So, me and my crappy muscles are heading in the right direction.

If I keep up these hideous back benders, eventually I may be able to tolerate yoga.

"Your Muscles Are Crap"

Yes indeed!

The girl-child (college freshman) physical therapist told me that today. I'd neglected going to the chiropractor for over two months. In part because I was busy taking care of my dd. Another part is that my chiropractor changed his business from straight up chiropractic into a Healthsource Chiropractic/Physical Therapy franchise. Changes, changes.

And I don't like them. So I avoided going. In particular, I' don't like going to the chiro, after having done whatever exercises I've done for the day (today it was an attempt at a new Tae Bo video...and no, I couldn't keep up, but yes, I did move in general aproximation of an imitation of Billy Blanks for the alloted amount of time and my body generally felt noodlish) and then having to do more exercises in front of a bunch of college kids who are hired to oversee us middle aged geriatric types with bad backs, in an open room for all to see.

So, on today's menu of pain was an L1 stretch. I wa…

Playing with Dolls

Yesterday, B and I found a couple of huge bags of assorted yarns at the thrift store. Someone clearly had cleaned out their stash. Now it has become OUR stash. It's fun to have a box full of "play yarns" (in browns, blues, pinks, greens, beiges, black and one ball of bright red) and it reminds me of the bins of yarns at school, in my hand-crafting class, that my teacher had all neatly balled and sorted according to color. (Yes, it's all very quaint to think about, but that WAS Switzerland, and it WAS more than a quarter of a century ago. Egads! I'm OLD!)

My hope is that I can teach my kids how to do yarn-crafts like knitting and crochet. So far I'm only 25% successful. My son thinks it's too girly and my eleven year old would rather read a book. My youngest does some crocheting, but seems reluctant to move past the chaining stage. Sigh. B on the other hand, taketh after her mom.

In order to inspire them, I'm whipping up a cute cardigan to fit …

Snuggly Crochet Love!

Last night I finished my latest crochet project: A snuggly shawl. Here it is, draped over my husband's raggedy chair. In real life it goes down below my butt when I'm wearing it. I made it in a lighter color so that I can use it in the summer time to combat the evils of air conditioning....brrrrr.

It's made up in a lace-weight mohair blend yarn. The photo makes it look chunkier than it really is.

Now, using some 100% virgin acrylic! yarn I got at the thrift store, I am determined to learn how to knit lace! I'll report on how it's going at a later time. WHAT is virgin acrylic? That's what I want to know. How is acrylic in any way vigninal, or pure. Ah yes, straight out of the ground, into your knitting basket. Petrochemicals at their finest. Virgin, in fact!

Perhaps once I learn how to knit lace, I will make something beautiful out of something real. I also want to improve my crochet patttern reading and following skills. Unfortunately, I tend to make s…

The Meeting of Our Lord in the Temple