Wednesday, April 30, 2008


If I thought it was daunting to go through my closet yesterday and look at how things looked on me, today's axe had to swing as well: Colors.

Most of my clothes are of the hand-me-down variety. Very tasteful. Nicer than anything I could ever imagine. But from my very pale very blond friend. I, on the other hand, have gigantic almost-black eyebrows and dark brown hair. It took me a long time and much scrutiny to figure out what the undertones in my skin are. Warm, not cool.

So, I need to be wearing browns, creams, corals, olive...those sorts of colors. Not black. Not white. Not violet. Not blue.

And black has been my staple! Almost all my shoes, cardigans, artsy looking wrap, velvet tops...all in wash-me-out black.

And a great deal of violet and white. Colors that look just perfect on my friend. And Hideous on me.

No wonder I feel "ridiculous" so much of the time. I look in the mirror and I just don't fit myself.

Wednesday's are "family day" at the thrift store. Half off on most of the tags and 99 cents on all the others.

I procured a dress that will be turned into a brown skirt (to replace the numerous black ones I own), some tops in cream, brown, coral and one red one (in the right shade). And a long brown duster style sweater! And a linen summery at-home dress...also in a correct color.

Needless to say, these things actually look good on me. Oh, shock! I no longer feel ridiculous. And trying them on was a revelation: It's much less depressing to try on clothes when you pick the right styles and colors to begin with.

And it was all only twenty-one dollars. Thanks to the sale day at the thrift store.

Just Wondering

I have a fun little tool that you can see if you scroll down to the bottom of the page. It's called MapLoco and it lets me see how many hits this blog gets. And where. Cool map.

So, I'm lying in bed this morning, thoughts drifting around, wondering who could have checked my blog from nowhere in the middle of the indian ocean? (Turns out there's an island called Mauritania with over a million people out in the middle of the Indian ocean).

But all that thinking (I now have a headache!) made me wonder: Would MapLoco be able to track someone logging on from a Submarine?

Is this a national security hole?

Probably not, you know, but I was just wondering....

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It's So You

I'm currently working my way through the book _It's So You_ by Mary Sheehan Warren.

Oooof. I shed many a tear today. The book is about helping yourself develop a nice wardrobe that reflects your style, personality, etc.

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a really really REALLY bad dresser. Really. I'm not just saying that.

I was half way afraid that I would take some quiz and that the test result would read as follows:

You are a hopeless frump. In order to best express this fashion style, you must always wear lumpy old cardigans in unflattering colors, birkenstock sandals, tunic tops and vast floral skirts.

Oh wait, that's pretty much how I dress. Lately I've flattered myself to be improving, so I've been buying long sleeved t-shirts in skirt-coordinating colors to update my look a bit. Oh yeah, THAT was a brilliant move, let me tell ya! Turns out those tops were shaped all wrong for my "body type".

There are four different body types, I learned today. So that I won't steal the author's unique insights into human physique, and how best to dress the various types (and she did have good advice) I will modify them a bit, to help you, the blog reader understand the emotional impact it might have on one, to be labeled as one of the various body types.

Type 1 (the most common body type) would be the fruity fertility godess with baby-making hips. All positive. Sounds good to me. I consider this particular shape to the the most beautifully feminine in a classic sense. Alas, I do not possess it.

Type 2(The standard of the fashion industry) is the ancient-time-piece body type. Charaterized by balance and the much desired small waist. Again, not me.

Type 3 (sort of an up-side down pear) would be the...ahem..."valentine" shape. Awwwwwwwww, love! What can be so bad about that? Hmmmm? I was hoping.

But no. Alas, when I took my measurments, I learned that I am Type 4: Something square-ish, that the postman or the UPS guy would deliver. As in "get rid of"..."pass along to someone else". As in "collapse this discardable piece of packaging so that it can be put in the recycling bin". Yes, it was "the box." And losing weight won't change that. I'll just be a smaller box.

And that was before I even got the the bra section. She wrote that a bra couldn't possibly last longer than two years. Two years! I'm doing well to get six months of effectiveness out of a bra, and if, as the author says, bras should not drag or pull...HA HA HA!

So, a few more tears.

I kept reading.

Then it was time to actually start going through my closet.

Oh, I forgot to mention: At one point it said that nothing could be done unless the reader was in possession of a non-warped full length mirror. I didn't own one. Not even a warped one. So I went to the store. The kids needed more milk anyways. Discovered how much I hate activities involving mounting hardware (with missing screws) and tools.

So the new mirror is hung. Oh, was that ever an eye-opening experience! All those "cute little t-shirts" were not so cute after all. Turns out the flowy tunic tops were better, after all, except that too many of them are in the wrong colors!!!!

What ever shall I do????? (rhetorical question for you-the-blog-reader's amusement).

So, I'm exhausted now. And I have nothing to wear.

Helpful book. At least I know what my fashion type is. Sigh. It starts with the same letter as "ridiculous". And can best be summed up as: long flowy skirts, tunic tops and birkenstock sandals.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Knee Pain

I think I know why the Orthodox Church forbids kneeling between Pascha and Pentecost: It is so we can all recover from the bursitis in our knees and hips which we developed during lent and Holy Week.

You would think, having just been kind enough to my body to loose 20 pounds, my body would be kind to me and NOT get something like Bursitis. BUT NO!

This article was helpful for me, and might be helpful for others of you who are in the same condition as myself.


Christ is Risen!

Christ is risen from the dead
trampling down death by death
and upon those in the tomb bestowing life!

Image found here .

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Pascha Preparations

We've been so blessed. Here's our very full Pascha basket. I sort of paid attention to some traditional things, and sort of ignored what's traditional in favor of stuff that suits us.

The bread is a Swiss "Zopf" (which just means "braid") but it contains loads of butter, milk and eggs, so I decided it would do. There's a cream cheese and horseradish spread in the basket with XB, the Russian initials for "Christ is Risen", on it.

Beyond that, there's just loads of salami, summer sausage, Nutella, Toblerone, Milk chocolate, dried fruit (for my health nut daughter who does not like candy), Cadbury eggs, Wine, Cheeses galore (I'm particularly looking forward to the Gruyere Cheese!)

The only non-food items we crammed in this year are a small Psalter (Purse sized!) from the LXX!!! and a decoupaged Icon print of the Passion. The other books and presents are going to have to stay home.

And here's a shot of the dogwood and redbud bouquet with hanging blown eggs that we decorated.

I'll admit to laziness and say I didn't put any red eggs in my basket because there will be lots of those at Church, and last year we had too many.

I'm so excited!!!!!!!


I lifted this picture from John at Orthographika (see my blogroll). This is a picture of my little store-front Church this week. The icon that is on the table dates from the early 1800's (yes, it really is 200 years old, is an historical artifact, and is one of the earliest, if not the earliest pieces like this with the embrodery in English instead of Russian or Greek). The words are: The noble Joseph took Thy most pure body and laid it in a tomb."...or something close to that.

The icon is of Christ's dead body. The gospel book is sitting on top of it, and His face is covered with the same cloth that is used to cover the Holy Gifts (the bread and wine that are used in the Eucharist).

When Orthodox Christians approach this icon during Holy Week, we make two prostrations, kiss the feet, the gospel and the cloth, and then another prostration. All forms of love and veneration belong to the prototype. So what this really means is that the bows and kisses are for Jesus Christ.

I really like the flowers, and I love this icon. I just wanted to share a visual image with my blog readers of what my week has been full of.

Dreams and Wishes and Hopes

I don't normally allow myself to dream or to wish, so this is sort of like therapy for me.

-I dream about going to the beach for camping and resting. Why the beach? I don't know...but there it is. I want to look at the ocean. And build a sand castle. And get gritty and itchy.

-I wish I had a camera that worked, that I could take more pictures of my kids and life. I'm really bad at taking pictures and I'm desperately camera shy. I've started making friends with the photo booth on this mac, and the fact that I have a picture of my face posted on my blog is HUGE progress.

-I wish my back yard were mowed. And that dandelions did not grow so fast.

-I dream and wish and hope to deepen relationships and friendships, both new and old.

-I wish I had more time and energy to have people over for dinner more often.

-I wish for a fire pit in my back yard and for summer time weenie roasts.

-I wish my back weren't so messed up and that my knees did not hurt.

OK, that's enough for now. I find myself getting maudlin and realize I have not taken my meds this morning. This is, of course, not the full extent of my wishes and dreams, but some things are just too private for the internet.

And yes, I'm blogging from home on Holy Saturday. When I came home last night I knew I'd have to choose between this morning's Liturgy and tonight's Liturgy. Pascha wins.

But the birds and squirrels and gorgeous spring blooms are making my heart happy, having spent some time on the back porch enjoying them. And the iris bulbs that I planted last year are going to bloom this year! I'm so excited!!!

Friday, April 25, 2008

The 12 Gospels

Actually, there ARE only FOUR Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. "The 12 Gospels" is what we call our evening service on Great and Holy Thursday because Orthodox believers gather to read the entire account of Christ's betrayal and crucifixion from all four gospels, and they are divided into 12 readings.

In between each Gospel reading are litanies and hymns and the priest censes the Church. It takes a long time. For during the gospel reading, we each had a beeswax candle that we lit. There's always plenty of fire to be easily reached, from the oil lamps under the icons, so it was easy to re-light our candles for each gospel reading. The service was about three hours long.

In an Orthodox Church, the icon of Christ on the Cross is removable, and almost life-sized. At St. Athanasius we usually keep it up front, on the left hand side if you are facing the iconostasis (icon screen), and as we enter the Nave and venerate the icons, we get to venerate the cross with Christ crucified (we do this by making the sign of the cross, bowing from the waist to the ground (all of this is called a grand reverence), twice, then kissing the cross, then another grand reverence). There's also a little basin of sand in front of it where one can light a beeswax candle and stick in the sand in front of the icon. The little beeswax candles that we light are physical representations of our prayers (we say a prayer of intercession for someone whilst doing it) and are also a fragrant offering to God. ((Thank you God, for the honey bees. Lord, have mercy and heal them!)) )

But I digress.

Last night, the icon of Christ, called the Corpus, was not on the cross. And the cross was in the middle of the Nave. The room was darkened and the service started. (I arrived late because a brother as ill after our common meal and asked for a ride home and I took him.) But I made it just in time for the first Gospel reading, and so we stood with our lit candles in the darkened nave and listened to the Gospel. Then litany, censing, hymns, and another Gospel reading. And so the cycle continued.

I was really able to enter into the story. For some reason, in hearing the Gospels of the passion of Christ, like no other account or book I've ever read, it's like I was THERE. And that is what the service is designed to do.

After the sixth reading we all made a great prostration (kneeling face down on the floor) and stayed down for a good long while. The choir was singing a very sombre song about Christ's crucifixion. And the corpus icon was being hung on the cross. With nails.

I told my wiggly youngest daughter to think about Jesus dying on the cross. And she did. And she started weeping. Then I started weeping, too. And others around us were weeping. Then we stood, still weeping and praying, and the service continued. Like I said, it was like we were there. And in an "eternal reality" sense, we were there, and HE is here. Crucified in our midst. And so, in that Holy Space, time and eternity collapse and the real reality pokes through for the living community of Christ to experience once again.

And I thought about Mary, watching her son being nailed to the cross. The hymns described her grief. And her hope in his promised third day resurrection.

And so we wait.

I woke up this morning feeling like I'd been bludgeoned. Just. So. Tired. As it should be.

And the old Spiritual is in my head:

Were you there, when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there, when they crucified my Lord?
Sometimes it makes me want to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there, when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Sometimes it makes me want to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Sometimes it makes me want to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?


What else can we do but bow down before Christ, and before his cross? I think the hymn "The Old Rugged Cross" captures Orthodox piety about the cross of Christ perfectly. Even in how we reverence it.

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suffering and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.

So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For 'twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He'll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I'll share.

So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.

Words & Music: George Bennard, 1913

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A View from the Back Porch

Earth Day: Was that yesterday? Or recently? It was hardly on my radar screen, except for some mention on someone else's blog. In my world, it's holy week. Here's a shot of my current back porch icon collection.

But by happy circumstance, my dryer broke down yesterday, so for my ghetto Earth day celebration I procured some clothesline and clothespins. The repair man can't get here for another week. A good way to use some of that free solar energy. I think I shall keep this up as long as the weather permits, which ought to be most of the time for the next several months.

And what's really sad is, I wonder whether the neighbors will be upset, having to look at our laundry hanging on the line. Oh, for simpler times!

In my neighborhood, walking and hanging out your laundry is sort of a poverty thing. Funny how it's good for the environment, too.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

An Ancient Byzantine Hymn

in the voice of the woman who annointed Christ's feet. Also known as the "Hymn of Kassiani" the 9th century Nun who wrote this song. (I love the way that in Orthodoxy we remember everyone's names.)

Sensing Thy divinity, O Lord,
a woman of many sins,
takes it upon herself
to become a myrrh-bearer
and in deep mourning
brings before Thee fragrant oil
in anticipation of Thy burial; crying:
"Woe to me! For night is to me,
a dark and moonless madness
of wild-desire, an eros of sin.
Receive the springs of my tears
Thou Who gatherest the waters of the oceans into clouds,
bend to me, to the sorrows of my heart,
Thou who bendedst down the heavens
in Thy self-emptying Incarnation,
I will kiss with my lips Thine immaculate feet
and dry them with the locks of my hair;
those very feet
whose sound Eve heard at the dusk in Paradise
and hid herself in fear.
Who shall count the multitude of my sins
or the depth of Thy judgment,
O Saviour of my soul?
Do not ignore Thy handmaiden,
O Thou whose mercy is endless".

My own prayer today joins with hers that I would have tears for my own sins and that I would find myself weeping at the feet of Christ: "Do not ignore Thy handmaiden, O Thou whose mercy is endless."

Sunday, April 20, 2008


I was feeling very sick during Church this morning. Exhausted, but also my back was hurting very much, shooting pain down both my legs. I've not been to the chiropractor in too long a time. (I need to find a new one.)

After Liturgy, I asked Father Justin to anoint me with oil and pray for me. We quietly did that. He used oil from the vigil lamp of the grave of St. Xenia of Petersburg. We prayed to the Lord, of course. "...just as you healed Peter's mother-in-law..."

My back and leg pain went away, and I was able to help clean up after common meal.

I'm still going to lay down and try to sleep this afternoon, though.

Glory to Thee, O Lord! Glory to Thee.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

An Overview of Holy Week for the Curious

And so the whirlwind begins. Last night and this morning we gathered for Vespers and Divine Liturgy to commemorate Lazarus' being raised from the dead after four days of rotting in the grave.

As he is, so are we all. Rotting and dead, that is. The same thing struck me when I was reading the Gospel this morning. I'm about midway through the Gospel of Matthew, and Jesus is going around having compassion on the sick and the suffering, healing them, and forgiving their sins. I realized that that is me. The sick and the suffering. Spiritually more than physically, but that Jesus came to heal and restore that which was broken and sick.

And the resurrection is the logical extension of that reality. Father Justin spoke of the horror of this great feast. The horror of this beloved friend of Christ being dead. The horror of God weeping at the tomb of a mortal man. The horror and shock of Jesus saying "I am the resurrection and the Life", a short time after having said "before Abraham was, I AM."

It's creepy, almost, and the cosmos trembles. And the surface is scratched in Hades as it has to give up Lazarus when Jesus calls to him "Come forth!"

And so today we get a glimpse of the Resurrection to come. And tomorrow we walk to Jerusalem with Christ shouting and waving palm branches: "Hosanna in the highest!" and all is glorious. And we catch our breath. And in every Orthodox Church the passion gets re-lived in real-time as we continue through this week.

It is as if time is stood on end, and nothing matters but being there. And in the evening, when we normally have Vespers, we are doing Matins services, and in the morning Vespers. Because the Author of Life is voluntarily going to his death. The world is upside down.

Monday and Tuesday: In the mornings, we pray the Hours, and read the Gospel of Matthew together as a community. And we gather for Bridegroom Matins in the evening .

Wednesday will recall Judas' betrayal with a kiss, and the tearful repentant kisses of the woman who anoints Christ's feet. And Jesus washing His disciples' feet. Matins in the evening with anointing afterwards.

Thursday, in the middle of the day is Vesperal Liturgy of the Mystical Supper, and then it REALLY gets going on Thursday night, with the reading of all the Gospel accounts of Christ's Passion. This is a very long service, but just amazing. To stand and hear the story told again. To enter into it. Even to suffer with it. Fatigue sets in at this point, and it is only the beginning.

The cross gets brought out into the middle of the Nave, and the icon called the Corpus gets nailed to the cross. Unlike anything else, these services have a way of pulling me in, back in time. Being there. And we should be tired. It seems right. We prostrate oursevels, we cry. We kiss Christ's feet.

Friday morning, during Royal Hours the passion is re-lived again. Jesus is on the cross. At 3 pm he is brought down during the Entombment Vespers. The icon of His body is gently laid in state. We make prostrations, and kiss Him.

Friday Evening are Holy Saturday Matins with Praises, and we start liturgically anticipating the resurrection already. A new tone of joy enters into our deep sadness. Hope.

By Saturday morning, we are fully into the liturgical day of Holy Saturday, and we celebrate Vesperal Liturgy...fully anticipating the resurrection and glorying in the harrowing of hell, in the longest Liturgy of the Church year. Often Catecumens are baptized and/or chrismated on this day. As it ends (well after noon) the book of Acts is read continuously until Paschal Nocturnes start at 11:30 pm.

Most families go home, take naps, make preparations, and return to Church late in the evening. At midnight we have a procession and Paschal Matins start. After an hour and a half we move seamelssly into Divine Liturgy, so that at around 3 am we are done and ready to break the fast: Meat, eggs, cheese, and much joy. Usually we are pulling out to head home around 5 am for some sleep.

I can't really describe the fullness of what happens during Orthodox Holy Week. Each service takes at least an hour and a half, and many of them are 2-3 hours long. It's exhausting. It almost kills us, but it is glorious!

Here's a link for a better explanation of all of this.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Orthodox Women's Fashion Show

OK, I'll admit it. I like clothes. Most of what I get is from the thrift store, but that's OK. I still like to look nice. And appropriate. And modest. My biggest picky-point is that if one googles something like "modest Christian Women's clothing", one often comes up with stuff that looks like it's trying to recapture "Little House on the Prairie".

So, I was thilled to see this:

Recently a fashion show for Orthodox Women's Clothing was held at the Kremlin Palace. According to the article, which I read translated on Babel Fish, this fashion show was very well received.

I am so very amused because this is SO how the women in my parish dress. In America. In a mission parish. Never having been to Russia. (Except most of us are a bit fatter and less pretty than these Russian Supermodels...but still).

I find it interesting, that without a specifically stated code of "how to dress modestly" most tend to gravitate towards the same stuff. And I also find it interesting that it is very close to the stardards of dress that are specifically spelled out in Orthodox Judaism (tznius). Close, but less legalistic. And I find it very nice that there is nary a calico print to be found.

The theme of the fashion show was the 12 feasts, and if you look at the pictures, you can see a reflection of the liturgical colors in the colors of the outfits. It is not uncommon for people to wear blue for feasts of the theotokos, white or light colors for Pascha, etc. For an explanation of the ever-so-complicated color scheme, go here.

Follow the link to check out the pictures. My favorite was this one:

Holy Friday clothing might look like this (most of us, for some reason show up in black):

I also liked the look of this red outfit: It almost looks (shock!) islamic, but to that I just have to say: WE were doing it first!

I was pleased. And amused. I suppose it's healhty to smile at oneself now and again.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Fun Party Game

I'm obnoxious at things like Baby Showers and places like that, because I'm good at word games. And so many shower games are word games.

Well, tonight was no exception, and I had particular fun turning this list of 20 words (only half of which had anything to do with baby stuff) into a story. And yes, it's rather braggy of me to blog about it, but here I go anyhow...

breast feeding
traffic light
cell phone
chain saw

_A Very Bad Day_

My diaper was dripping while I was stuck at the traffic light in front of Walmart. Eighth week of Lent. My mobile phone was fried due to a lack of blanket coverage by my lousy cell-phone provider. Clearly, customer service takes a backseat. Light turns green, but the water table was over-flowing into the street, so I'm helplessly stuck in front of this huge puddle. What a bad day. If only I hadn't lost my calendar! Then it might not BE the eighth week of Lent, and I could be surfing the internet while sucking down my favorite pacifier: a bottle of wine back at my home-girl's crib. Yah! What-ever!

I finally get around the puddle amongst a long line of cars--a chain! Saw a stroller careening down the road straight for the chain of cars, so I grabbbed an old engine-oil smeared onesie that lives on the floorboard of my car. Threw it out the window and under the wheels of the careening stroller, averting at least one disaster in my very bad day. I'm a hero. I should crow. Or coo. Or something. Pride fills my breast, feeding my ego. Until I remember my diaper, that is.


As you all can see, I started a blog roll. My blog reading is rather eclectic. Don't be offended if you aren't on there yet. I'm adding to it slowly, as I get organized. There are some really good blogs out there that quite put mine to shame.

Drop me a line if you are regular reader and want me to include a link to your blog.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A "Get to Know You" Quiz

Lifted from

Let's play tag-if you have a blog, TAG you're it! Copy and Paste your answers to these questions onto your blog!
Four Things about Me

A) FOUR PLACES I GO OVER AND OVER: Church; The library; The grocery store and the thrift store.

B) FOUR PEOPLE WHO ENCOURAGED MY FAITH ALONG THE WAY: My parents, Father David Rucker (and Matushka Rozanne!), Father Stephen Freeman, who chrismated me and my current priest, Father Justin Patterson. There are many others, but having a spiritual Father is SUCH a good thing!

C) FOUR OF MY FAVORITE FOODS: chocolate, biscuits, spaghetti with meat sauce and parmesan cheese, and nachos.

D) FOUR PLACES I WOULD RATHER BE RIGHT NOW: Bed, some beach somewhere, a really really comfortable bed, on vacation anywhere. Europe would be nice.

E) FOUR MOVIES I WOULD WATCH OVER AND OVER: Anything Jane Austen, Hunt for Red October, K19 Widowmaker, Ostrov.

F)FOUR THINGS I LIKE ABOUT THE ORTHODOX CHURCH: Jesus Christ being the Head, the Sacrament of Confession, The Sacrament of the Eucharist, and the Fasting/Feasting cycle in the life of the Church. Do I have to stop at only four things?

G) FOUR OF MY FAVORITE HOBBIES: reading a good book with a nice glass of wine; sewing; blogging; walking.

I can't wait to see who reposts this, if you do leave me a comment so I can check it out!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fait Accompli!

I know, I know! It's not like it was rocket science or any particular accomplishment for me to produce this dress (meaning, it's not my first dress, I'm very good at this sewing thing and so this does not represent a stretch on my behalf.)

However, I do get excited and attached to my projects and I want to share...

This one was Butterick B4443 from the Sew Easy line of patterns.

Was the pattern easy to use? I suppose. Since I lined it, I basically just used the pieces for cutting purposes, and then put it together my own way. So, it's not possible to give a good review of the pattern's ease. However, the dress looks so very much like the drawing/model photo that I am tickled pink.

Oh, and I made the skirt longer.

Reading this Week

Just finished: _A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue_ by Wendy Shalit. (I believe this author has a new book out called _Girls Gone Mild_, as well.) I LOVED this book. It is a scholarly and insightful critique of our culture. For me, as a woman, it really put some focus on vague feelings of discomfort that I've carried with me for years, but have had trouble putting my finger on. I would say it is a "must read" for anyone over the age of 18, men and women alike. Lots to think about.

And in stark contrast, a few weeks ago I read _Bridget Jones's Diary_ which embodies, ironically, the epitome of all that Shalit pundits against in her writings on modesty. (Can "pundit" be used as a verb? I did, so I guess it can....)

Also recently completed: _Virus Hunter_ by C.J. Peters. If you liked _Hot Zone_, you will like this autobiographical book by a scientist who regularly traveled to hot zones all over the world to hunt down viruses, work on epidemiology and do the lab work so that we humans can better understand these disease causing not-quite-creatures. Eeeewwww, Ebola! Gives me the shivers!

Currently Reading: _Orthodox Dogmatic Theology_ by Father Michael Pomazansky and translated by Hieromonk Seraphim Rose. This one looks good. I started it this morning so I'm not very far into it. The language is simple and approachable, though. Not one of those theology books that deliberately is so obtuse as to render it unreadable.

Next Up: _A Higher Form of Killing: The SEcret Story of Chemical and Biological Warfare_, by Robert Harris and Jeremy Paxman. This one will dovetail well with _Virus Hunter_, since Peters often referred to the Bio-weapons program that our government had going on during much of the Cold War. I suppose it will fall into the 20th century history category.

I set aside Xenophon's _The Persian Expedition_. I dream of being the type of person who delights in reading the ancients, but so far I must admit that I struggle to actually do so.

But as much as I'd like to snuggle down with a good book, I have to finish sewing this Pascha dress and get some exercise this afternoon. There is always tonight, I guess.

Monday, April 14, 2008

How to Make a Fully Lined Bodice

Updated with more pictures.

1.Cut two of each piece that comprises the bodice, except for the facings. Ignore any facing pieces. One set of pieces will be cut from the main fabric, and the other from a lining fabric. It is always possible to line the fabric with the main fabric, but if your material is light/see-through, use something solid for lining.

2.Sew the bodice pieces together if there are princess seams or anything like that, and then sew together at the shoulder. Do the same with the lining. Press all seams flat as necessary.

3. Sew the underarm seams together on the bodice. Do the same with the lining. Press seams flat.

4. Right sides of the fabrics together, carefully pin the lining to the bodice at the neck line, and down the back or front, depending on where the bodice closes.

5. Sew the seam you just pinned, being careful to keep things smooth around the neck curve.

6. Clip the tightest parts of the curve with traingular notches so that the seam will turn right side out and lay flat.

7. Clip the corner so that there's not a bunch of fabric bunched up when you turn it.

8. Turn the seam right side out and press.

9. At this point you can either topstitch around the seam you just pressed, or just leave it, or stitch the seam allowance to the back by opening things up again, sewing near the seam you just put in and then ironing it all back down. Don't do this without first pressing, though.

10. Press it.

11. Go to your armholes and either set a sleeve in, and then zigzag around the raw edges, or fold the lining and the outer bodice towards each other, pin like crazy and then do a little seam near the edge to hide the raw edges. On this dress, the cap sleeve only encompasses part of the arm hole, so you can see how I sewed it onto the outer fabric, and whipstiched the lining in place where the sleeve is set in, and did the fold-together and stitch thing at the bottom half of the armhole. Whipstitching the lining only works because the sleeve itself is lined and the stitches therefore don't show on the outside.

12. When you sew the skirt on, only sew it to the outer fabric. Then fold the lining up and hand stitch in place for a very neat finish on the inside of the garment. With the exception of the sleeves, there should be no raw edges showing at all. If the skirt is lined, put the selvages of the lining facing the selvages of the outer skirt and it's very nice on the inside.

This is good to do if the bodice overlaps for button holes, or a zipper can be set into the back of the garment. (I prefer to sew a hidden zipper in by hand to the liner.)


This is the last week of Lent, and I can hardly believe it!

And now it's time to reflect a little bit on Lent. Was it anything big, spiritual, transformational? I always enter into Lent with high hopes and great expectations. And I'm always somewhat struck by the ordinariness of it all. We fast, and attend church more (and get grumpy more!), and pray more and give alms intentionally more and go to confession for the grumpiness (among other things)...and yet it's all done by the same old "me". Instead of a big tranformational moment of glory its just the drips and drabs of an ordinary life lived in pursuit of communion with God.

My eyes are thus opened to my own poverty. The smallness of my own faith. How lax my efforts are, and how easily I dismiss the still small voice in favor of chasing my own desires and passions.

And it's so easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of this business of life. What am I going to feed the kids? Does everyone have clean clothes to wear? What foods do I need to buy next week? I need to get some sewing done! And for heaven's sake, I ought to BLOG something profound!!!!! Surely there's something profound happening here, and I ought to have something to say about it????

But then I come back into that realization of my own poverty of thought, poverty of spirit, and I think of how remedial all of this is. I think of how I really do need the prayer of St. Ephraim. I think about standing beside the way to the cross next week, and participating in those events with a poor heart.

Perhaps Lent has done its work, after all.

Prayer of St. Ephraim:

O Lord and Master of my life
take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power and idle talk.

But give rather a spirit of chastity, humility, patience and love to Thy servant.

Yes, Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother.

For blessed art Thou unto ages of ages, amen.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Sometimes, when I'm driving home from Divine Liturgy, I look around and am amazed that there are people for whom nothing has transpired. I want to shout "THE WORLD HAS CHANGED TODAY!" "CHRIST HAS VISITED US!" "HEAVEN HAS TOUCHED EARTH AGAIN!" "THE BODY AND BLOOD OF OUR LORD HAS BEEN FREELY GIVEN TO US, COME AND SEE!"

But people are walking down the street, as usual.

Or jogging along with their ipods full of music, as usual.

And my hope is that for them, something has transpired, after all. Even if they do not know it...yet.

Because when I look at the world, the veil seems so thin, and there are all these people, God have mercy!, whom He loves. It's not that God isn't constantly pulling all to Himself. Because He is.

And I don't want to be asleep, as a human, if my role in worship is indeed to stand and offer up all the world to God, and ask in prayer for his mercy on us all. I truly hope that this includes all my friends, my cat, my home, my food, the stranger walking down the street and the skinny jogging woman with the ipod.

Because the world is changed. It is not what it once was. God is with us!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Goodbye, Debbie.

Today we had to put our very old and very very sick kitty, Debbie, to sleep.

We are all sad.

Goodbye, Debbie.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Mind Games

Some thoughts on the weight loss process:

One thing that I've noticed is how much of a mind game losing weight is. For instance, for several weeks I've been ekeing along, barely losing anything, and even a small gain. After the small gain I decided to get focused and boom, lost more than expected, and suddenly I'm down into the bottom five pounds of this decade (ten pound increment) and I'm SUPER motivated to push it down into the next decade. Whereas two pounds ago, it seemed like a huge hurdle and that it would take me forever. It's all in my head, and it's all a numbers game. And what's in my head is what determines what happens in my kitchen and on the scale.

Why does motivation wane and wax and wane and wax like that?

Another thing I notice: slog, slog, whooosh, slog, slog Whooosh! And it averages out to be about five pounds a month. That's niiiiice and Slooooooow in the grand scheme of things. Mostly the slogging happens when I make excuses for myself and don't follow the eating plan.

What time is it, and what will I be doing six months from now????? Shopping for a completely new fall wardrobe, I hope. At the rate I'm going, I ought to be at my goal weight by then. Even with the slogging.

I've decided that I have no desire to be a fitness buff. I just want to eat my smaller, healthier portions and go for my nice long but fairly gentle walks, and enjoy my life, digging in the dirt a bit, and mowing the yard when it needs it...that sort of thing. I would like to get a bike or a tricycle to get around some, but a part of me is scared of traffic.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

10% Goal!

Today I hit my initial "lose 10% of your starting weight" goal with weight watchers. I'm very happy, but also very aware that I still have a LONG way to go.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Pascha Dress

Today's work was sewing dd2's Pascha (Easter) dress. I cut it out yesterday, so it only took me two hours to put it all together. It is based on Simplicity 4163, which is a girl's blouse pattern in the "That's So Raven" line. I altered it in the following ways:

1. Instead of messing with an interfacing around the neck line, I just lined the whole thing. It's much simpler, and the fabric we chose was so thin it had to be lined. I always opt for lining something rather than messing with interfacing if I can.

2. I lengthened the bottom part of the blouse to be the skirt. It falls to just below the knee.

3. Because of the embroidery on the fabric itself, we decided not to put any lace trim on the dress.

I really like the way this turned out. It looks even prettier on my daughter, but since I don't post pictures of my kids on the internet, the hanger photo will have to do.

The dress has sort of a modernized "Pride and Prejudice" look about it, which is cool, since my daughter just got done reading and enjoying that book.

I highly recommend this pattern (Simplicity 4163), even for someone without very much sewing experience. There are no buttons or zippers to mess with and it goes together very nicely. Fashionable, too.

It is difficult, these days, to find non-skeetchy-looking girl's clothes (especially Easter dresses, most of which look like they are made out of lingerie fabric and are not much more substantial...don't get me started!). And the other very very frumpy in the name of "modesty"??? I think not, either. I think we hit upon the right balance with this one.

Here's the pattern:

Monday, April 07, 2008

I LOVE that I got to say this today:

Heard coming from the back yard: "Moooooooom, such and so kicked me right in the BUTT!!!!"

My response: "So, TURN THE OTHER CHEEK!"


Weighing in on the whole "Pregnant Man" thing...

...this is nothing to do with biology or a miracle or anything. After all, this person who is having a child has, lemme see....TWO X chromosomes, a vagina and a uterus, and until suffering an ectopic pregnancy recently, two ovaries, fallopian tubes...all the girly bits, except for the breast which had to be surgically removed.

So, a woman is calling herself a "man". Yentl lives!

The only reason the media (Oprah) has made a deal of this is that someone, somewhere, has an agenda to push the idea that there is a difference between biological sex and this something something we call "gender". Ya think?!?!

Is there, or isn't there? A difference between sex and gender, that is...

I tend to be conservative on these sorts of things.

I wonder how long it will take before this discussion filters into the churches and becomes the hot topic there? I give it five to ten years, and mainstream protestant churches will have yet another thing on their dockets to rant and rave and about and to split over. Or perhaps it is already happening and I'm just out of the loop?

Are there the occasional messed up people out there? Yes, of course. That's what therapy is for. Or repentance.

What about, after-all, the notion that we are creatures, created by God? The idea that we do not belong to ourselves because we did not make ourselves.

And if we are our own, then all bets are off and there just aren't any boundaries to anything anymore, and we have a nation having discussions about a legally-defined-man-who-is-a-woman having a baby.

That, in my view, is what this is ultimately all about.

Don't I Wish!

...and yet another day starts with a youngster informing us that she threw up in bed. The same youngster who was vomiting the other day. So much for our afternoon outing to a friend's house.

But the sun is shining, the coffee is strong, and the day awaits! How bad can it be, really? (This is what a pessimist sounds like who is trying to be optimistic). This way, I'll get further on the sewing work I'm supposed to be doing this week.

Does anyone feel overwhelmed yet, about how soon it will be Holy Week? Two weeks before the madness begins! A mere two weeks!

And then it's daily rushing hither and yon, wondering what to feed the kids as we madly dash out the door for yet another worship service. It's hoping that they manage to figure out something decent to wear. It's hoping I manage to figure out something decent to wear...not that anyone's keeping track, and not that it's about keeping up appearances...more like respect and please don't wear those torn up bluejeans.

There was a lady at the megachurch I attended as a teenager who would literally wear a brown burlap bag on Easter Sunday. It was her form of hippie protest against Easter Dresses. OK, I think she missed it, but then it's also easy to miss the mark in the other direction, too, and make Easter all about the old fashioned white gloves, pastel purses and dresses with a matching hat. It's not that, either.

The point of new clothes at Pascha is to recall and remember and relive our baptism. Our new life in Christ. Being clothed with garments of righteousness...that sort of thing. There is a time and a place for human celebration and that includes good food, good wine, good smokes and new clothes. And if there ever is such a time and a place, the Resurrection is that. And it's not "showing off".

So, it looks like I'll be sewing, or cutting out, some Pascha (that's the Orthodox word for Passover/Easter) dresses this afternoon. The sooner I start them, the sooner I'll be done.

I'm amazed at how much I'm craving chicken these days. Yes, I AM that base. Kentucky Fried. I suppose that lent has a way of stripping a person down to the nubbins. You really find out what's on the inside. And in my case, a great bit of it is wanting what I want when I want it (NOW!) and how I want it. How much further can I get stripped to the nubbins? I feel like since December my life has been one long stripping. But in truth it hasn't been. I mean, it could always be worse, couldn't it? I could have someone actually die, or we could loose everything in a house fire, or dh could lose his job...yes, it could always get worse.

But still, I want to mean it when I pray each day "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." I truly want to mean it. Or do I want to want to mean it? Something.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Home alone on a Sunday morning...The only time this ever happens is when I’m feeling sickish. Yeah. That would be me. And the real bummer is, I’m sitting here, and there is so much right in front of me TO DO. Starting with the screen of this laptop: it needs to be dusted. How does one dust a lap top screen, anyways? (It’s a mac).

I currently, without removing myself from my chair, can see three baskets of laundry that need to be folded.

The top of the coffee table is completely covered in crap: a box of colored pencils, books, papers, hair brush, kleenex box, CD’s a pair of scissors, junk mail, my planner, a bug catcher...sigh.

I see that the jumbling tower game has fallen off the game shelf in the corner and is spilled all over the floor. (I ought to save that for one of my minions to clean up later when they get back home. )

An open box containing a new modem from our internet provider sits in front of the dusty TV, waiting to be instelled. Cat food is scattered under my desk, my shoes are muddy and need to be cleaned off, and my desk is a disaster. As bad as the coffee table. And the cat is curled up, upside down, on a pile of clean laundry that got dumped on the couch.

Moving into the kitchen...the dishes need to be washed. Knowing the floor, it needs swept and mopped as well. What is it with kitchen floors? As soon as I sweep or mop, or both, it’s dirty again? Why oh, WHY did I ever install white vinyl flooring in there?? (It was probably on sale).

And so on and so forth.

My life is very small. If I divide the size of my house by the number of people that live in it, it averages out to 250 square feet per person. No wonder I feel like there’s no place to put anything.

That’s because there’s no place to put anything.

I want to go to England. And tour Europe. I want to ride a train. A plane. Stick my toes in the water on a beach somewhere. I want to get in the car and just drive until I get someplace interesting.

Knowing me, that would be the public library. It’s only two miles away. Technically, I could walk it. I have, in the past.

Oh, and I really really want to go to Russia. Not that I speak Russian, or anything like that. And Romania. I hear it’s gorgeous there. I’ve seen pictures. Looks much like the non-alpine parts of Switzerland without all the money.

I’ve got it bad.

7:28 AM -

Friday, April 04, 2008

Sitting Still on a "Sick Day"

so I may as well do this fun-looking survey that I lifted off a friend's blog:

Your ex is on the side of the road, on fire. What do you do?
Football tackle him to the ground and roll around to get the flames out. Hope I don't get burned too badly.

Your best friend tells you she is pregnant. What is your reaction?
Congratulate her and be genuinely excited for her, and secretly thank God that it isn't me. Ask her if she needs me to sew a baptismal gown for the baby.

...realize that I don't officially have a "best friend"....

When is the last time you wanted to punch someone in their face?
The only time I ever had the urge to punch someone in the face was in college and I ended up boxing him in the ear instead. Not a good moment in my life, but you should
've heard what he said to me...

What is the last thing you spent money on?
groceries, yesterday...sigh.

Do you think you gained or lost weight this past month?
overall, lost

Crunchy or Puffy Cheetos?
crunchy, but in real life, neither.

The first person on your friends list just called you a bitch. What do you have to say to them?
Forgive me, a sinner.

Congratulations! You just had a son. What’s his name?
Do I have to make up a name for a hypothetical non-existent son, or the son I already have? Lets go with hypothetical: David John, or something like that.

Congratulations! You just had a daughter. What’s her name?
Hypothetical: Anna Emelia, or something like that.

What are you craving right now?
More coffee

What was the last thing you cried about?
my own sins

When you buy something and your change is 2 cents, do you keep it or tell the cashier to keep it?

What color is your tissue box?
Happens to be blue this time.

Do you have a ceiling fan in your room, and if so, is there dust on that fan?
Yes. and yes, gobs of it. About twice a year I notice the dust as I'm drifting off to sleep, and think I ought to do something about it. About once a year I do.

What is the last voice mail you received about?
A friend who I was supposed to go to coffee with had to cancel due to illness.

Have you ever blocked someone on MySpace before?
Just spam.

Scariest thing you’ve experienced in the last year?
The days my daughter was catatonic in the hospital and we did not yet know why or what it was. I just saw her shutting down and I thought she was going to die.

Do you wear a name tag at work?
Work? I'm a stay-at-home-homeschooling mom, so I sit on my arse and eat bon bons all day. No name tag required for this life.

Who came over last?
I think the last person over was Fr. Justin, for dinner a couple of weeks ago.

Do you drink beer?
Not very often, as I don't particularly like the taste.

Have your brothers or sisters ever told you that you were adopted?
Not that I recall. I look too much like my dad.

What is your favorite keychain on your key ring?
My library barcode

What was the last movie you watched at home?

Last night, just for something to sit down and veg with, dh and I watched a horribly stupid kids movie called P.U.N.K.S. that was made in the mid 90's and was so bad we didn't even bother letting the kids watch it. It wasn't objectionable bad, just stupid bad. Bad plot, bad acting, bad set, that sort of thing. I went to bed before it was over.

Where do you hurt?

Currently, my left hip is really hurting, current fibromyalgia flare-up. My knees tend to bother me, and my lower back is ALWAYS an issue. I'm such a crip!

What’s something fun you did today?
This survey! But later on I'm planning on decorating some blown eggs with my daughter and making them into Pascha decorations.

How many states in the US have you been to?
I'm too lazy to sit and figure it out, but I will say that I've never been further west than Arizona, and that only when I was a baby.

What kind of milk do you drink?

Currently, light soy milk. But I don't actually drink it. I stick it in my coffee and bake with it.

What are you going to do after this?
Finish drinking my coffee and pray morning prayers. Perhaps I should dust my ceiling fan, eh?

Who was the last person you went shopping with?

All four kids, to the shoe store the other day. Heaven help us!

What about your favorite dessert?

You are asking this of a formerly obese person? Fine, you shall get a long answer:

It depends on my mood...but generally I like things like Tiramisu, or Italian Cream Cake, or shortbread cookies (especially the huge ones from Panera), or that walnut blondie at Applebees with the white chocolate sauce on it...I also like pie (especially the crust) and cheesecake, and chocolate stuff. Generally creme-filled cakes of multiple varieties.

In real life, I like an orange. Or a few grapes. Or a carefully measured portion of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

What is something you need to go shopping for?

Two of my girls still need Pascha shoes, and tights. I also am running low on peanut butter, Smart balance light margarine and cooking spray and cat food. Things I forgot to buy yesterday.

Do you have the same name as one of your relatives?

What kind of car do your siblings drive?
My sister drives a Mustang convertible, and my brother is always driving something snazzy and cool, but I can never keep track...he's way cooler than I am. I drive a minivan, while dreaming of the fuel efficient compact car I will drive when my kids are grown.

Has anyone ever mistaken you for a family member?
Over the phone, my priest thought I was my second, almost-twelve-year-old daughter, the other day. I have a high squeaky voice, I guess.

Favorite pop-tart flavor?
I like all the pop tarts, but the pink ones with the sprinkles make me especially nostalgic of 1974, watching cartoons on a Saturday morning when we lived in Abilene, Texas one summer. But I should say, pop tarts are not something I eat these days. Too much sugar.

Do you know anyone in jail/prison?
Not that I know of. But a friend of mine was arrested spent the afternoon in jail a few months ago. She got off, once she went to court, though.

What are your plans for the weekend?

Hopefully going to Church...but I might end up at home cleaning up after sick kids. Who knows?

Do you like the color green?
Especially spring green.

Who was the last person to send you a text message?
I only ever get text spam.

Last restaurant you went to?
Common Grounds coffee shop, last Sunday night, dh and I went out for a late night date.

What is your ringtone?

It's awful, and I need to change it: C3PO says: "Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is aproximately 3720 to 1." But I'm lame and can't figure out how to re-do the settings on my phone. I haven't tried very hard, though, because the only time I think of it is when my phone is actually ringing and I'm in traffic driving down the road.

Do you look like anyone famous?

I've been told I look a little bit like Madonna, but I'm just a "wee bit fatter". Ha!

Would you ever want to go back in time?

I always daydream about it. I also think of a plot where someone studies stuff like greek and latin, old High German, that sort of thing, and then discovers a portal to get back to medieval Europe, and has to make her way in the world without being burned at the stake as a witch. And then I read Outlander, and was like "Diana Gabaldon STOLE my one and only plot idea!"

Do you believe in karma?

I believe there is a whole lot of divine mercy and grace in this world and that all of our lives would be immeasurably worse off if we simply got what we deserved. But I do believe there will be a Divine Judgement.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Score: Four

Four kids feeling sick, that is. Two of them have vomited.

Just now, and at 3:30 am last night.

My constant nagging refrain to the kids now is: "I WILL PAY YOU MONEY IF YOU VOMIT IN THE TOILET!!!!"

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Big Feet!

My nine and a half year old son wears a men's shoe size--and not the smallest one, either!

(We went shoe shopping today. I guess his days of superhero light-up sneakers are OVER.) :-)))))

Just thought I'd share.

Bad Dreams

I was going through a set of rooms where I'd been staying. Seems like it was a hotel room or something but it had weird dark wood paneling. Suddenly I had a very creepy feeling, like "something is different". I looked at a small table near the door and realized the telephone that had been sitting there earlier was not there anymore.

I heard the lock click and knew I was locked in. With an intruder.

Nowhere to run. Panic. I will be harmed.

Then I woke up.


I'm trying to decide if I like this recurring dream or the one I used to have, of slipping off a cliff ...or the one where I'm drowning in a river.... the least.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

St. Mary of Egypt

Today it really blessed me to read the life of St. Mary of Egypt. Today is the day of her repose in the Lord. This from the OCA website:

Commemorated on April 1

St Zosimas (April 4) was a monk at a certain Palestinian monastery on the outskirts of Caesarea. Having dwelt at the monastery since his childhood, he lived there in asceticism until he reached the age of fifty-three. Then he was disturbed by the thought that he had attained perfection, and needed no one to instruct him. "Is there a monk anywhere who can show me some form of asceticism that I have not attained? Is there anyone who has surpassed me in spiritual sobriety and deeds?"

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, "Zosimas, you have struggled valiantly, as far as this is in the power of man. However, there is no one who is righteous (Rom 3:10). So that you may know how many other ways lead to salvation, leave your native land, like Abraham from the house of his father (Gen 12:1), and go to the monastery by the Jordan."

Abba Zosimas immediately left the monastery, and following the angel, he went to the Jordan monastery and settled in it.

Here he met Elders who were adept in contemplation, and also in their struggles. Never did anyone utter an idle word. Instead, they sang constantly, and prayed all night long. Abba Zosimas began to imitate the spiritual activity of the holy monks.

Thus much time passed, and the holy Forty Day Fast approached. There was a certain custom at the monastery, which was why God had led St Zosimas there. On the First Sunday of Great Lent the igumen served the Divine Liturgy, everyone received the All-Pure Body and Blood of Christ. Afterwards, they went to the trapeza for a small repast, and then assembled once more in church.

The monks prayed and made prostrations, asking forgiveness one of another. Then they made a prostration before the igumen and asked his blessing for the struggle that lay before them. During the Psalm "The Lord is my Light and my Savior, whom shall I fear? The Lord is defender of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?" (Ps 26/27:1), they opened the monastery gate and went off into the wilderness.

Each took with him as much food as he needed, and went into the desert. When their food ran out, they ate roots and desert plants. The monks crossed the Jordan and scattered in various directions, so that no one might see how another fasted or how they spent their time.

The monks returned to the monastery on Palm Sunday, each having his own conscience as a witness of his ascetic struggles. It was a rule of the monastery that no one asked how anyone else had toiled in the desert.

Abba Zosimas, according to the custom of the monastery, went deep into the desert hoping to find someone living there who could benefit him.

He walked into the wilderness for twenty days and then, when he sang the Psalms of the Sixth Hour and made the usual prayers. Suddenly, to the right of the hill where he stood, he saw a human form. He was afraid, thinking that it might be a demonic apparition. Then he guarded himself with the Sign of the Cross, which removed his fear. He turned to the right and saw a form walking southward. The body was black from the blazing sunlight, and the faded short hair was white like a sheep's fleece. Abba Zosimas rejoiced, since he had not seen any living thing for many days.

The desert-dweller saw Zosimas approaching, and attempted to flee from him. Abba Zosimas, forgetting his age and fatigue, quickened his pace. When he was close enough to be heard, he called out, "Why do you flee from me, a sinful old man? Wait for me, for the love of God."

The stranger said to him, "Forgive me, Abba Zosimas, but I cannot turn and show my face to you. I am a woman, and as you see, I am naked. If you would grant the request of a sinful woman, throw me your cloak so I might cover my body, and then I can ask for your blessing."

Then Abba Zosimas was terrified, realizing that she could not have called him by name unless she possessed spiritual insight.

Covered by the cloak, the ascetic turned to Zosimas: "Why do you want to speak with me, a sinful woman? What did you wish to learn from me, you who have not shrunk from such great labors?"

Abba Zosimas fell to the ground and asked for her blessing. She also bowed down before him, and for a long time they remained on the ground each asking the other to bless. Finally, the woman ascetic said: "Abba Zosimas, you must bless and pray, since you are honored with the grace of the priesthood. For many years you have stood before the holy altar, offering the Holy Gifts to the Lord."

These words frightened St Zosimas even more. With tears he said to her, "O Mother! It is clear that you live with God and are dead to this world. You have called me by name and recognized me as a priest, though you have never seen me before. The grace granted you is apparent, therefore bless me, for the Lord's sake."

Yielding finally to his entreaties, she said, "Blessed is God, Who cares for the salvation of men." Abba Zosimas replied, "Amen." Then they rose to their feet. The woman ascetic again said to the Elder, "Why have you come, Father, to me who am a sinner, bereft of every virtue? Apparently, the grace of the Holy Spirit has brought you to do me a service. But tell me first, Abba, how do the Christians live, how is the Church guided?"

Abba Zosimas answered her, "By your holy prayers God has granted the Church and us all a lasting peace. But fulfill my unworthy request, Mother, and pray for the whole world and for me a sinner, that my wanderings in the desert may not be useless."

The holy ascetic replied, "You, Abba Zosimas, as a priest, ought to pray for me and for all, for you are called to do this. However, since we must be obedient, I will do as you ask.

The saint turned toward the East, and raising her eyes to heaven and stretching out her hands, she began to pray in a whisper. She prayed so softly that Abba Zosimas could not hear her words. After a long time, the Elder looked up and saw her standing in the air more than a foot above the ground. Seeing this, Zosimas threw himself down on the ground, weeping and repeating, "Lord, have mercy!"

Then he was tempted by a thought. He wondered if she might not be a spirit, and if her prayer could be insincere. At that moment she turned around, lifted him from the ground and said, "Why do your thoughts confuse you, Abba Zosimas? I am not an apparition. I am a sinful and unworthy woman, though I am guarded by holy Baptism."

Then she made the Sign of the Cross and said, "May God protect us from the Evil One and his schemes, for fierce is his struggle against us." Seeing and hearing this, the Elder fell at her feet with tears saying, "I beseech you by Christ our God, do not conceal from me who you are and how you came into this desert. Tell me everything, so that the wondrous works of God may be revealed."

She replied, "It distresses me, Father, to speak to you about my shameless life. When you hear my story, you might flee from me, as if from a poisonous snake. But I shall tell you everything, Father, concealing nothing. However, I exhort you, cease not to pray for me a sinner, that I may find mercy on the Day of Judgment.

"I was born in Egypt and when I was twelve years old, I left my parents and went to Alexandria. There I lost my chastity and gave myself to unrestrained and insatiable sensuality. For more than seventeen years I lived like that and I did it all for free. Do not think that I refused the money because I was rich. I lived in poverty and worked at spinning flax. To me, life consisted in the satisfaction of my fleshly lust.

"One summer I saw a crowd of people from Libya and Egypt heading toward the sea. They were on their way to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. I also wanted to sail with them. Since I had no food or money, I offered my body in payment for my passage. And so I embarked on the ship.

"Now, Father, believe me, I am very amazed, that the sea tolerated my wantonness and fornication, that the earth did not open up its mouth and take me down alive into hell, because I had ensnared so many souls. I think that God was seeking my repentance. He did not desire the death of a sinner, but awaited my conversion.

"So I arrived in Jerusalem and spent all the days before the Feast living the same sort of life, and maybe even worse.

"When the holy Feast of the Exaltation of the Venerable Cross of the Lord arrived, I went about as before, looking for young men. At daybreak I saw that everyone was heading to the church, so I went along with the rest. When the hour of the Holy Elevation drew nigh, I was trying to enter into the church with all the people. With great effort I came almost to the doors, and attempted to squeeze inside. Although I stepped up to the threshold, it was as though some force held me back, preventing me from entering. I was brushed aside by the crowd, and found myself standing alone on the porch. I thought that perhaps this happened because of my womanly weakness. I worked my way into the crowd, and again I attempted to elbow people aside. However hard I tried, I could not enter. Just as my feet touched the church threshold, I was stopped. Others entered the church without difficulty, while I alone was not allowed in. This happened three or four times. Finally my strength was exhausted. I went off and stood in a corner of the church portico.

"Then I realized that it was my sins that prevented me from seeing the Life-Creating Wood. The grace of the Lord then touched my heart. I wept and lamented, and I began to beat my breast. Sighing from the depths of my heart, I saw above me an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos. Turning to Her, I prayed: "O Lady Virgin, who gave birth in the flesh to God the Word! I know that I am unworthy to look upon your icon. I rightly inspire hatred and disgust before your purity, but I know also that God became Man in order to call sinners to repentance. Help me, O All-Pure One. Let me enter the church. Allow me to behold the Wood upon which the Lord was crucified in the flesh, shedding His Blood for the redemption of sinners, and also for me. Be my witness before Your Son that I will never defile my body again with the impurity of fornication. As soon as I have seen the Cross of your Son, I will renounce the world, and go wherever you lead me."

"After I had spoken, I felt confidence in the compassion of the Mother of God, and left the spot where I had been praying. I joined those entering the church, and no one pushed me back or prevented me from entering. I went on in fear and trembling, and entered the holy place.

"Thus I also saw the Mysteries of God, and how God accepts the penitant. I fell to the holy ground and kissed it. Then I hastened again to stand before the icon of the Mother of God, where I had given my vow. Bending my knees before the Virgin Theotokos, I prayed:

"'O Lady, you have not rejected my prayer as unworthy. Glory be to God, Who accepts the repentance of sinners. It is time for me to fulfill my vow, which you witnessed. Therefore, O Lady, guide me on the path of repentance.'"

"Then I heard a voice from on high: 'If you cross the Jordan, you will find glorious rest.'

"I immediately believed that this voice was meant for me, and I cried out to the Mother of God: 'O Lady, do not forsake me!'

"Then I left the church portico and started on my journey. A certain man gave me three coins as I was leaving the church. With them I bought three loaves of bread, and asked the bread merchant the way to the Jordan.

"It was nine o'clock when I saw the Cross. At sunset I reached the church of St John the Baptist on the banks of the Jordan. After praying in the church, I went down to the Jordan and washed my face and hands in its water. Then in this same temple of St John the Forerunner I received the Life-Creating Mysteries of Christ. Then I ate half of one of my loaves of bread, drank water from the holy Jordan, and slept there that night on the ground. In the morning I found a small boat and crossed the river to the opposite shore. Again I prayed that the Mother of God would lead me where She wished. Then I found myself in this desert."

Abba Zosimas asked her, "How many years have passed since you began to live in the desert?"

"'I think," she replied, "it is forty-seven years since I came from the Holy City."

Abba Zosimas again asked, "What food do you find here, Mother?"

And she said, "I had with me two and a half loaves of bread when I crossed the Jordan. Soon they dried out and hardened Eating a little at a time, I finished them after a few years."

Again Abba Zosimas asked, "Is it possible you have survived for so many years without sickness, and without suffering in any way from such a complete change?"

"Believe me, Abba Zosimas," the woman said, "I spent seventeen years in this wilderness (after she had spent seventeen years in immorality), fighting wild beasts: mad desires and passions. When I began to eat bread, I thought of the meat and fish which I had in abundance in Egypt. I also missed the wine that I loved so much when I was in the world, while here I did not even have water. I suffered from thirst and hunger. I also had a mad desire for lewd songs. I seemed to hear them, disturbing my heart and my hearing. Weeping and striking myself on the breast, I remembered the vow I had made. At last I beheld a radiant Light shining on me from everywhere. After a violent tempest, a lasting calm ensued.

"Abba, how shall I tell you of the thoughts that urged me on to fornication? A fire seemed to burn within me, awakening in me the desire for embraces. Then I would throw myself to the ground and water it with my tears. I seemed to see the Most Holy Virgin before me, and She seemed to threaten me for not keeping my vow. I lay face downward day and night upon the ground, and would not get up until that blessed Light encircled me, dispelling the evil thoughts that troubled me.

"Thus I lived in this wilderness for the first seventeen years. Darkness after darkness, misery after misery stood about me, a sinner. But from that time until now the Mother of God helps me in everything."

Abba Zosimas again inquired, "How is it that you require neither food, nor clothing?"

She answered, "After finishing my bread, I lived on herbs and the things one finds in the desert. The clothes I had when I crossed over the Jordan became torn and fell apart. I suffered both from the summer heat, when the blazing heat fell upon me, and from the winter cold, when I shivered from the frost. Many times I fell down upon the earth, as though dead. I struggled with various afflictions and temptations. But from that time until the present day, the power of God has guarded my sinful soul and humble body. I was fed and clothed by the all-powerful word of God, since man does not live by bread alone, but by every word proceeding from the mouth of God (Dt 8:3, Mt.4:4, Luke 4:4), and those who have put off the old man (Col 3:9) have no refuge, hiding themselves in the clefts of the rocks (Job 24:8, Heb 11:38). When I remember from what evil and from what sins the Lord delivered me, I have imperishible food for salvation."

When Abba Zosimas heard that the holy ascetic quoted the Holy Scripture from memory, from the Books of Moses and Job and from the Psalms of David, he then asked the woman, "Mother, have you read the Psalms and other books?"

She smiled at hearing this question, and answered, "Believe me, I have seen no human face but yours from the time that I crossed over the Jordan. I never learned from books. I have never heard anyone read or sing from them. Perhaps the Word of God, which is alive and acting, teaches man knowledge by itself (Col 3:16, 1 Thess 2:13). This is the end of my story. As I asked when I began, I beg you for the sake of the Incarnate Word of God, holy Abba, pray for me, a sinner.

"Furthermore, I beg you, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, tell no one what you have heard from me, until God takes me from this earth. Next year, during Great Lent, do not cross the Jordan, as is the custom of your monastery."

Again Abba Zosimas was amazed, that the practice of his monastery was known to the holy woman ascetic, although he had not said anything to her about this.

"Remain at the monastery," the woman continued. "Even if you try to leave the monastery, you will not be able to do so. On Great and Holy Thursday, the day of the Lord's Last Supper, place the Life-Creating Body and Blood of Christ our God in a holy vessel, and bring it to me. Await me on this side of the Jordan, at the edge of the desert, so that I may receive the Holy Mysteries. And say to Abba John, the igumen of your community, 'Look to yourself and your brothers (1 Tim 4:16), for there is much that needs correction. Do not say this to him now, but when the Lord shall indicate."

Asking for his prayers, the woman turned and vanished into the depths of the desert.

For a whole year Elder Zosimas remained silent, not daring to reveal to anyone what he had seen, and he prayed that the Lord would grant him to see the holy ascetic once more.

When the first week of Great Lent came again, St Zosimas was obliged to remain at the monastery because of sickness. Then he remembered the woman's prophetic words that he would not be able to leave the monastery. After several days went by, St Zosimas was healed of his infirmity, but he remained at the monastery until Holy Week.

On Holy Thursday, Abba Zosimas did what he had been ordered to do. He placed some of the Body and Blood of Christ into a chalice, and some food in a small basket. Then he left the monastery and went to the Jordan and waited for the ascetic. The saint seemed tardy, and Abba Zosimas prayed that God would permit him to see the holy woman.

Finally, he saw her standing on the far side of the river. Rejoicing, St Zosimas got up and glorified God. Then he wondered how she could cross the Jordan without a boat. She made the Sign of the Cross over the water, then she walked on the water and crossed the Jordan. Abba Zosimas saw her in the moonlight, walking toward him. When the Elder wanted to make prostration before her, she forbade him, crying out, "What are you doing, Abba? You are a priest and you carry the Holy Mysteries of God."

Reaching the shore, she said to Abba Zosimas, "Bless me, Father." He answered her with trembling, astonished at what he had seen. "Truly God did not lie when he promised that those who purify themselves will be like Him. Glory to You, O Christ our God, for showing me through your holy servant, how far I am from perfection."

The woman asked him to recite both the Creed and the "Our Father." When the prayers were finished, she partook of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. Then she raised her hands to the heavens and said, "Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, for my eyes have seen Your salvation."

The saint turned to the Elder and said, "Please, Abba, fulfill another request. Go now to your monastery, and in a year's time come to the place where we first time spoke."

He said, "If only it were possible for me to follow you and always see your holy face!"

She replied, "For the Lord's sake, pray for me and remember my wrechedness."

Again she made the Sign of the Cross over the Jordan, and walked over the water as before, and disappeared into the desert. Zosimas returned to the monastery with joy and terror, reproaching himself because he had not asked the saint's name. He hoped to do so the following year.

A year passed, and Abba Zosimas went into the desert. He reached the place where he first saw the holy woman ascetic. She lay dead, with arms folded on her bosom, and her face was turned to the east. Abba Zosimas washed her feet with his tears and kissed them, not daring to touch anything else. For a long while he wept over her and sang the customary Psalms, and said the funeral prayers. He began to wonder whether the saint would want him to bury her or not. Hardly had he thought this, when he saw something written on the ground near her head: "Abba Zosimas, bury on this spot the body of humble Mary. Return to dust what is dust. Pray to the Lord for me. I reposed on the first day of April, on the very night of the saving Passion of Christ, after partaking of the Mystical Supper."

Reading this note, Abba Zosimas was glad to learn her name. He then realized that St Mary, after receiving the Holy Mysteries from his hand, was transported instantaneously to the place where she died, though it had taken him twenty days to travel that distance.

Glorifying God, Abba Zosimas said to himself, "It is time to do what she asks. But how can I dig a grave, with nothing in my hands?" Then he saw a small piece of wood left by some traveler. He picked it up and began to dig. The ground was hard and dry, and he could not dig it. Looking up, Abba Zosimas saw an enormous lion standing by the saint's body and licking her feet. Fear gripped the Elder, but he guarded himself with the Sign of the Cross, believing that he would remain unharmed through the prayers of the holy woman ascetic. Then the lion came close to the Elder, showing its friendliness with every movement. Abba Zosimas commanded the lion to dig the grave, in order to bury St Mary's body. At his words, the lion dug a hole deep enough to bury the body. Then each went his own way. The lion went into the desert, and Abba Zosimas returned to the monastery, blessing and praising Christ our God.

Arriving at the monastery, Abba Zosimas related to the monks and the igumen, what he had seen and heard from St Mary. All were astonished, hearing about the miracles of God. They always remembered St Mary with faith and love on the day of her repose.

Abba John, the igumen of the monastery, heeded the words of St Mary, and with the help of God corrected the things that were wrong at the monastery. Abba Zosimas lived a God-pleasing life at the monastery, reaching nearly a hundred years of age. There he finished his temporal life, and passed into life eternal.

The monks passed on the life of St Mary of Egypt by word of mouth without writing it down.

"I however," says St Sophronius of Jerusalem (March 11), "wrote down the Life of St Mary of Egypt as I heard it from the holy Fathers. I have recorded everything, putting the truth above all else."

"May God, Who works great miracles and bestows gifts on all who turn to Him in faith, reward those who hear or read this account, and those who copy it. May he grant them a blessed portion together with St Mary of Egypt and with all the saints who have pleased God by their pious thoughts and works. Let us give glory to God, the Eternal King, that we may find mercy on the Day of Judgment through our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom is due all glory, honor, majesty and worship together with the Unoriginate Father, and the Most Holy and Life-Creating Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen."