Tuesday, November 08, 2005


I have been tagged by PhilippaAlan to name the top ten people who have influenced me, but they can't include God and family members. Since I once told an investigator that "Polaks don't have friends, they have relatives" (my stepfather is Polish, and I actually grew up thinking that the word "Polak" was a compliment), this promises to be a tough one. But we'll have to try.

1. Fr. Dean Panagos. In addition to being the kind of person who actually can do six impossible things before breakfast (one reason he doesn't drink coffee is that even without it, he's a bundle of nervous energy), he's the man who actually made me a choir director, and gave me my first real taste of spiritual direction. Sort of a modern-day St. John Chrysostom, not that he had a "golden tongue," but he's one of those people who just can't stand to see anyone hurting - and it galls him when someone can help, but doesn't. A real example of Christian living.

2. An anonymous cantor at the Lutheran Church in Kingston, NY. We were on vacation in upstate NY eons ago, when I was still Lutheran, and visited this church one Sunday. Because it was summer, there was no choir, but a female cantor sang all the responses with a voice as pure as a mountain stream. I listened to her, captivated, and thought, "Oh, if only I could sing like that!" - then went home and worked at it until I had something that sounded, to my ears, like what I had heard that Sunday. People always tell me I have a beautiful voice, and I can come up with half a dozen excuses as to why it sounds better than it is; but this lady is the real reason it sounds better than it is.

3. Aunt Clara. No, she doesn't count as a relative, because she was an "aunt" in the same sense that Uncle Tony was an "uncle" -- a close friend of the family. She was middle-aged, with two grown sons, and very lonely, when she started a club for the neighborhood girls, where she taught us to embroider and crochet. These days I still embroider and crochet, as well as knitting, and every time I pick up a needle I think of her.

4. Aunt Catherine. Same kind of "aunt." She was Aunt Clara's tenant, and if Aunt Clara taught me skills that stayed with me a lifetime, Aunt Catherine, with her bovine placidity, provided me with the kind of mothering I so desperately needed: milk and cookies, and someone to talk to about nothing much. I don't know it for a fact, but I suspect that my childhood would have been far worse than it was, if these two ladies hadn't ridden herd on my mother from time to time.

5. Helga Schultz, my best friend in Germany. I wouldn't be able to speak German if she hadn't made friends with me. I drank more coffee at her house, and learned all the figures of speech you don't learn in class, including a little ditty about all the "apes in Aschaffenburg" (it rhymes better in German).

6. Peter Bochow, the man who taught German at the University of Maryland Rhein/Main campus. One day I went to the German consulate in Boston to inquire about German legal procedures, and got talking with an attache who said, after about an hour, "So, you too are living here. Where are you from?" You should have seen his eyes when I said, "New York" -- he thought I was a native German! That's due to the man I knew as Herr Bochow. I still speak it fluently, more than 30 years later.

7. Elizabeth Zimmermann, the knitting guru, author of Knitting Without Tears and a number of other books on the craft of knitting. Up until reading her books I was, like so many other women, enslaved to printed patterns. "EZ" freed us from all that, from knitting in back-and-forth rows, from having to sew up seams, and best of all, from knitting with acrylics, whose charm fades the first time you wash a hand-knitted garment in the machine and see what a felted mess it comes out. I owe my identity as a sheep (long story), and my predilection for wool, to EZ.

8. Fr. Andrei Papkov and his wife, Natasha. Fr. Andrei is the director of the Summer School for Liturgical Music in Jordanville, NY, and his wife is the cook/secretary/surrogate Mom of the place. That I kept coming back for four summers of gruelling study says more about the dedication, patience, and sense of humor of these two people, than about anything musical I might have going for me.

9. John Livio, accordion teacher. It's only as I've grown older that I've come to appreciate what a wretched way to earn a living it is to travel to people's homes and teach their little monsters a musical instrument. In our neighborhood, accordions were a popular instrument, and in my family, about as close as I would ever get to a piano, until I was grown. That I can read music at all is due entirely to Mr. Livio.

OK, OK, scraping the bottom of the barrel here.... I know I can find just one more.... Wait, wait....

10. Sr. Rose Gabriel, who taught floundering high-school graduates the basics of business practice. All of us who attended her school, the Kaupert Secretarial Institute, were graduates of various high schools with an exclusively academic track, but for one reason or another we hadn't gone on to college, and were completely unemployable without it. Sr. Rose Gabriel taught us typing, shorthand, and business English; how to write a business letter; how to file, and generally how to run an office like a well-oiled machine. And to my astonishment, I discovered something I was good at. I think it was the first time in my life I ever felt good at anything, which, considering I had a Regents' diploma in languages from the New York State Board of Regents, should tell you something about my self-image -- they don't hand out Regents' diplomas on the strength of how well you bat your eyelashes (if they did, I still wouldn't have gotten one).

A good exercise in contemplating gratitude, in this month of Thanksgiving. Now, whom can I tag?.... Well, considering I don't know who else reads this blog, that leaves Mimi and Catherine! Sorry, girls, you're It!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

I Can See Clearly with the Windows Washed

I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that can't go on [I think]:
'S gonna be a bright, bright, sunshiney day.

Today I finished washing my porch windows. There are ten of them, and frankly, if it had been up to me, I would never have enclosed the porch in the first place; but it was already enclosed when we bought the place, and the windows were heavy aluminum things that took me two days to wash, and I would always cut my fingers on them. So, shortly after we moved in, we had them replaced with vinyl windows that tilt in for cleaning, which is a very nice feature indeed.

Except that those suckers are heavy. I hadn't realized, when we signed the contract, just how heavy they are, and they haven't gotten any lighter as I've grown older. So it still takes me two days to wash all ten windows, but at least that's 2-3 hours of work in the morning, not the entire day, as it used to be with those dratted aluminum things.

Now...the other thing about this particular entry is that it has been (ahem) three years since I last washed those windows. To be fair, the porch faces west, which means that in the Summer, it's beastly hot out there, and I shut down for the Summer anyway; my Summer existence, best described as "aestating" (since how can you hibernate in the Summer?), consists of sitting in any available chair, drinking large quantities of water and moaning, "I wish it would cool off." Laundry is about all I'm capable of, in the Summer. (It's wet, and therefore cool.) So to wash windows on a west-facing porch at that time of year counts as Cruel and Unusual Punishment for me.

So the only times of the year those windows can possibly be washed are Spring and Autumn. And for the past three years, both Spring and Autumn have been unremittingly wet, the only odd sunny day falling, naturally, on a Sunday, which is not supposed to be spent washing windows. In theory, that's what the rest of the week is for, something I have reminded the Almighty of every Spring and Fall for the past three years.

This year, He rewarded my patience with the usual unconscionably wet Autumn; but this year, He has gifted us with an unusually warm November. I never look askance at gifts from the Almighty. So yesterday, I was out there with rags and Windex; a brush for cleaning off the screens and windowsills, and a bottle of all-purpose cleanser; a can of silicone spray because after three years, it was a given that those windows would stick (and they did); and a watering can, a small one with a long spout. First I brushed down the screens, and then I took them out; then I tilted in the window and washed it, sprayed the sides with the silicone, then washed the insides; then I raised the bottom window, sprayed the sills with the cleanser, and wiped them down; and lastly, I poured hot water from the watering can into the little pockets on the sides of the window that supposedly make it airtight, and that are THE most colossal pain to clean. That watering can was sheer genius, let me tell you.

While I was doing this, I had the curtains washing, and when they were done, I hung them back up -- still damp -- and let them air-dry on the porch. The smell is incredibly sweet, and the house gets humidified that way.

I did that ten times, once for each window, and I'm telling you, that was a full-body workout. The next time my doctor dares mention "heart attack" to me, I'm going to make her a proposition: "Listen, Toots, tell you what. You write this down and put in a Safe Place, and take it out when you're one year shy of sixty. And if you can climb up and down a step ladder fifty times, wash ten heavy windows, batten down the locks that seal them shut for the winter, and hang up wet curtains -- then you can bellyache to your patients about heart disease. But I don't wanna hear it."

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Uncle Tony: 1922? - 1997

Uncle Tony. I never think of the man, or speak about him, without a smile coming to my lips. Uncle Tony was a "Dutch uncle," not really a blood relative but such a close friend of the family that you referred to him as your uncle, and we had a lot of those when I was growing up. He went to school with my Uncle Buddy, so I'm pretty sure he was born in 1922 or 1923, and although he never married, I think he was half in love with my mother -- he certainly spent enough time at our house. Heaven alone knows why he didn't ask my mother to marry him, when she was available.

Every Saturday night he'd come for a visit, along with his friend, Bill Roach, who was from Ireland; and he and my parents would talk about everything under the sun, politics, religion, baseball -- football wasn't nearly as popular as baseball back then -- oddly enough, I don't recall anyone ever talking about the job. I'm not even sure what Uncle Tony did for a living, though I think it was something to do with the Parks Dept. of NYC. But what a character he was! I almost never saw him serious, I don't believe I ever saw him angry, unless his anger took the form of biting humor; and the most serious thing he ever said to me was, "Whatever you do, don't grow up like your Aunt Mary." Since I idolized Aunt Mary, I was shocked he would say such a thing; now, I understand all too well what he meant. (More about her on the anniversary of her death.)

When I began working, for reasons I will never understand, he began "dating" me. I never thought of our excursions as dates -- after all, he was 25 years my senior -- but I don't know what else to call them. Namely, he would take me to dinner and a Broadway show. I saw more Broadway shows than any young woman has a right to claim she saw: Cabaret, Auntie Mame, Butterflies Are Free, Barefoot in the Park -- gosh, I've forgotten more than I can remember. We went out about once every two months. He was always very careful of my safety, and I appreciated that, though probably not as much as I should have.... Thinking back, I have to say he was one of the best people I have ever known, one of the most ethical, one of the most moral. I can only think of maybe five other people I could say that about.

Unless you got him on the subject of politics, or the Catholic Church. Like most of us in our part of town, Uncle Tony had grown up a staunch Catholic, never missed Mass, and as his parents aged -- he lived all his life with them, till they died -- he'd take them to daily Mass before going to work. Vatican II was a catastrophe for him. There was nothing he liked about any of the changes, and he was very voluble on each one of them (and there were a lot of them). His friend Bill Roach finally joined a radical sect of Irish monks whose order stood in complete defiance of any kind of changes. I'm a little surprised Uncle Tony didn't go along with him.

And politics. We were all Democrats in our part of town, since "the Democratic Party was the Party of the working man," and as a secretary, I was about as white-collar as it got in our part of town. But what most of us distrusted about John V. Lindsay was not that he was a Republican, but that he had such liberal ideas -- expansion of welfare took place in his administration, police power was radically curtailed, and it seemed to all of us that the City began to deteriorate while he was mayor. And no one was more voluble on the subject of that deterioration than Uncle Tony. To be fair, he and all his generation could remember a time when you could ride the subway system at 3:00 in the morning and never fear being molested, and gradually it got so you couldn't set foot outside your door without risking your life or at least your wallet.

Anyway, Uncle Tony was one of the first to break with the Democratic mold, when he supported Bill Buckley for mayor, who ran on the Conservative ticket. Between that and Vatican II, it suddenly seemed as if anything was possible! He became very well read, and despite never having gone above high school -- in our neighborhood, completing high school was an achievement -- he could discuss any and all of the great philosophers and theologians, dissect the downfall of New York with a knowledge that could at least have matched Buckley's, and demolish the arguments of pundits with a wealth of a lifetime's experience.

As he grew older, though, he became a bit strange. He took to holing up in his apartment, especially after his father died, and reading more and more extreme right-wing publications. At one point, well after I was married, it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn't seen him in quite some time, so I asked my mother how he was doing -- and she didn't know. After his retirement, he simply became a recluse. Very occasionally he'd call my mother, but the only person he really saw from day to day was his cousin Joe.

And it was his cousin Joe who, having called for a few days without Uncle Tony's picking up the phone, found him dead in his apartment. It's a sad thing to say about anybody that it isn't known exactly when he died, but worse nowadays, when we know so much about everything, and everyone. Yet, that's what happened to Uncle Tony; all we can say is that he passed on sometime between October 28 and October 31. It seems such a sad end for someone who was so large a part of my life, and my brothers' and sister's, as well. I wonder what he would have made of my becoming Orthodox; I think this faith would have suited him very well, if he had been able to break out of his firm belief in the rightness of the rule of the Pope. I don't know if he could ever have managed that; but I think of him at this time every year, and today I'll be able to light a candle for him. It's the least I can do; my life would be so much poorer without his influence.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Tag! You're It!

PhilippaAlan tagged me (I know I should enter her bloglink, but I have no idea how to do that)! I've never been tagged before:

Five things I plan or hope to do before I die:
1. Speak Russian at least passably
2. Finish all my cross-stitch projects
3. Get through my stash of knitting wool
4. Learn the basics of painting and sketching, so I can design my own cross stitch
5. Figure out what I want to be when I grow up ;-)

Five things I can do:
1. Speak, read and write German fluently
2. Accounting/Bookkeeping
3. Cross stitch and knit
4. Secretarial stuff (which I love)
5. Chant the Church offices

Five things I cannot do:
1. Rollerblade, ski
2. Speak Spanish, nor do I want to
3. Find my way around Boston
4. Travel on high mountain roads
5. Really clean a house

Five things that attract me to the opposite sex:
1. Intelligence
2. Piety
3. Patience
4. Humor
5. Compassion

Five things I say most often:
1. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner
2. Oh for cryin' out loud....
3. If I had a nickel for every time I saw/did/thought [whatever], I'd be rich by now.
4. See that lady running down the street? That's me, racing to [buy new product/do latest thing -- neither of which I would dream of doing in this lifetime].
5. I wish [one kid or the other] would call.

Five Celebrity Crushes:
1. Sean Connery
2. Mel Gibson
3. Pierce Brosnan
4. George & Laura Bush (together -- I think they're so cute)
5. Hey, I'm lucky I could scrounge up four!!

Tag! You’re it!

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Things We Do for Love...

"Like walkin' in the rain and the snow, when there's nowhere to go,
And it's feelin' like a part of you is dyin',
And you're searchin' for the answer in her eyes.
You think you're gonna break up, then she says she wants to make up...
The things we do for love!"

I like to listen to Oldies in the car, "great music from the 60s and 70s," is how this particular station bills itself. I was pretty much out of rock 'n' roll by the 70s, so a lot of this stuff is new to me; but I like the way it addresses modern life, even if I don't agree with much of what it says.

For the past weekend, I've had this particular song rattling around in my head. It reminds me of so many things: "Walking in the rain and the snow" reminds me of how my son must have felt when his girlfriend broke up with him, with very little warning, it seems. I think he's recovering now, but at the time, I think he felt sandbagged. And then, of course, there's this past weekend, when the whole family is "walking in the rain and the snow when there's nowhere to go," muddling around in an emotional fog, trying to come to grips with something that should never have happened -- but it seems it happens to quite a few folks. I'm talking, of course, about the miscarriage. Knowing that there's a whole army of women out there who cherish the memory of someone they knew for all too short a time, doesn't help at all.

But "the things we do for love...." The hardest part of these past several months, going back to when Ruth and Chris broke up, has been not saying anything about it. Well, yeah, I did vent a bit here, thinking, in my naivete, that it was a "safe place," since neither of them (as far as I knew) knew about this blog -- still don't know how they found out about it, but I take no responsibility for the flap that ensued. They weren't *supposed* to know about it, and as far as I'm concerned, I did my best to keep my feelings from them.

But I'm finding that this isn't going away, any more than the loss of my prospective grandchild will go away. I find myself working at my embroidery and thinking about Ruth, and how much I looked forward to sharing this skill with her, since she professed herself interested in embroidery and knitting. I was really looking forward to sharing a lot of things with her, and now, that's out of the picture. But I still find myself thinking about it, and gradually I'm coming to realize: I lost something, too, when that relationship went south. I really liked this girl; there was a lot to like.

And now, with the loss of the baby, I'm being asked to put a lid on myself again, not to share in my daughter's grief, just because I've never had a miscarriage. That's not the point. The point is, this is my child who is suffering, and I wish she'd let me close enough just to cry with her. Then again, this being my daughter, she's not someone who shares grief easily; when she broke up with her last serious boyfriend before her husband, it was six months before I found out that he had dumped her. She has someone to share her grief with, the most appropriate person of all: her husband.

But I'd at least like to note that she isn't the only one grieving over the loss of her baby. Chris isn't the only one grieving over the loss of Ruth. Oh, drat the things we do for love!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

George: 1944-2000

This should actually have been posted yesterday, since he passed on October 7. But this has been a thoroughly stupid week, with all kinds of stupid, pointless running around, and yesterday was no exception.

George and my husband were in high school together, and somehow, improbably, became friends. George was from Brooklyn; Jim is from Queens. (Each borough regards the other as a foreign country.) George's background was Polish; Jim's is German and Irish. George majored in physics in college; Jim majored in English. George loved art; Jim loves music. George was a Francophile; Jim is a Germanophile. They used to razz each other mercilessly about George's predilection for Impressionist art (Jim called it "fuzzy"), and Jim's sartorial gaffes (I still remember George telling Jim that his orange socks were "so autumnal, they'll start falling down any second"). George was an anti-war hippie; Jim served in the Air Force.

Improbably, the two became friends in high school, and the friendship lasted -- with all its jagged edges and hard places -- until the incredible phone call came from George's wife that he had died. They were out shopping when he said, "I feel a little strange." Then asked her to take him to the hospital. Then died in the car seat next to her. Turned out he had had a massive heart attack. Yet, just four months previously, he had had a thorough physical and been pronounced in excellent health.

We had last seen him and his wife just a year previously, at our daughter's wedding. We hadn't really expected them to come, and were so pleased that they did; we hadn't seen them for five years previously, though we had kept in touch all that time. When they left to go back home, they promised us the next time wouldn't be so long, that they'd be up on a fall foliage tour the following year. On our daughter's first anniversary, we were attending George's wake.

When he died, he had just retired from New York University and was teaching at a small community college in Queens. At his wake, all his students came to pay their respects, and I heard so many comments about what a truly excellent and caring teacher he had been; and that was new to me too -- I had always known George only as a research scientist. On the way to the cemetery, his wife told us about the trip they had taken to Poland to see George's grandparents' village, and how George had taught himself Polish so he could communicate with his relatives. My stepfather is Polish, and let me tell you -- that is a tough language to learn. But George managed it.

Typical for a Francophile and a scientist of Polish background, his relationship with God was ambiguous: he was an "A&P" Catholic ("ashes and palms"), but his music collection ran to several settings of Masses and Liturgies, many of them Orthodox. He probably subscribed to the "Timekeeper" theory of God, the God Who set everything in motion and then sat back to watch it all spin itself out. I don't think he ever disbelieved in God; I've never met a successful Polish atheist. I sometimes wonder how he's making out now, but there's one conversation I would love to have heard:

George once said to Jim that the Italian baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi had written the same concerto 400 times (there are 400 works ascribed to Vivaldi, and they do all sound as if they were written to a fixed formula). I'd love to know what George said to Vivaldi when he actually met him. ;-)

Monday, October 03, 2005

Glory to God for all things!

Our daughter usually telephones us on Sunday nights. She's missed the last few weeks while her son goes through a "sleep adjustment," basically growing out of his afternoon nap, at the ripe old age of two. When I was a kid, it was a rare child who didn't need an afternoon nap even in kindergarten.

However, she had momentous news: Her home pregnancy test confirmed that she is expecting her second in June. For me, the strangest part of grandmotherhood is seeing my daughter -- the fruit of my own womb -- being fruitful in her turn. When she had her first, I cried all the way through her shower -- I just couldn't overcome that sense of a long, long, long history, stretching all the way back to Eve, with who knows how many of Eve's daughters in between, most of them by now nameless. The farthest back I can trace any kind of ancestry is my great-grandmother Catherine Dunphy, born in 1865. There were a lotta Dunphys before her, whose names I'll never know this side of eternity. And in 500 years -- who will even remember Christa, let alone me? It's not that I mind, it's just that it's so mind-boggling.

And now it begins again. This time they're hoping for a girl, and they like the name Sophia. No idea what they'll do if it's another boy, but at least I can count on his not being named Barsanuphius. ;-) In any event, I have begun saying a round on my prayer rope for "Baby Sophia," as well as for the whole rest of the family, while I try to get my head around this whole circle-of-life thing.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Uncle Stanley: 1918-1993

Oh, dear. What is there to say about an Uncle Stanley? It was the biggest shock of our lives when we learned that he had cancer, and something like three weeks later, he was gone. He was just one of those people who was larger than life, and who influenced everyone who came into contact with him -- for good or ill.

My first memory of him is not a happy one. I don't know if I was even four yet, but I recall sitting in the big kitchen of my step-grandmother, on my stepfather's lap, and in walked Uncle Stanley with his partner, both in the heavy blue-serge winter uniforms of the New York City Police Dept., and Uncle Stanley roared (he never spoke), "Hup, there he is, there's Frinky-Dink! Come on, Frank, you're under arrest, we're gonna lock you up!"

Now, Mom and Dad weren't even married a year, and I think I must still have been trying to cope with my own father's death. At any rate, I burst into tears, and I remember Grandma scolding him, "Stanley, don't, you scared her," and Dad saying, "He's just joking." Let me tell you, it wasn't funny to think I was going to lose someone else! I never cared for Uncle Stanley after that, and he cordially returned the favor -- he hated crybabies.

Extrovert that he was, he was the one who hosted all the family parties, and there were dozens a year: birthday parties (for his kids), weddings and showers and christenings and First Communions, all accompanied by yards of Grandma's homemade kielbasa and salads (macaroni, potato, cucumber, and beet) and kegs of beer on tap -- heaven alone knows how he acquired those, and I don't think I want to know -- he was probably the most corrupt cop on the Force. He knew everyone, and he knew who was "touchable" and who wasn't. He probably felt it was the only way he could feed and clothe his nine kids -- his wife wasn't going out to work! (Ironically, after he died, she did just that, and as far as I know, is still at it, at age 75.)

His kids adored him. Some of them were quiet, and some extroverted, just like him, but they all had his blue eyes and flashing smile, and his competitive spirit. Why he was so competitive, I'll never know; Dad, the oldest of his parents' five children, is the most mild-mannered guy I know, and his other two brothers are equally low-key. But Stanley and his sister, Millie -- both had to have the best of everything in life, nothing was too good for them or for their kids, and both would do whatever they had to, to get it.

Whatever the cause, when he died, his kids were devastated. And maybe that's his greatest legacy, that despite all his faults (and who among us has none?), his kids were enormously proud of him and of the job he had done raising them. Which is not a bad way to be remembered at all.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Uncle Jack: 1898(?)-1918

Still trying to figure out how to get my "picture" (I give you fair warning, it's a sheep!) on my settings page. The directions given by Blogspot aren't working. Phooey.

Anyway, it occurs to me that my blog would be a good place to post about various people in my life who have passed on, and why they seem memorable to me. Today is the anniversary of my Great-Great-Uncle Jack's death in the "Great War" (1914-1918), a.k.a. World War I.

Folks in Kentucky who are familiar with the Veterans Hospital in, I think, Lexington, may have heard of a great psychiatrist named Spafford Ackerly. Dr. Ackerly did a lot of research into what was called "shell shock," now "post-traumatic stress disorder," that was particularly prevalent in veterans whose combat experience left them mentally ill. I'm told he was known and loved for his great compassion for these veterans.

What isn't so well known is that Dr. Ackerly almost wasn't Dr. Ackerly -- he almost died in World War I. That he didn't -- well, that's Uncle Jack's contribution.

My mother's mother died when she was six, in 1932, as the result of complications of childbirth. The six children she left behind were raised by their grandmother, who had lost six children of her own in childbirth -- only two survived to adulthood, my grandmother (the one who died in 1932), and Uncle Jack. To us, growing up, my mother's Uncle Jack loomed larger than life, so even though we never knew him, every year around this time, my mother would take out Dr. Ackerly's letter to her grandmother and read it aloud to us kids; it made those boring history books of ours seem so much more real, hearing about the strange connection between a college graduate and a Brooklyn streetcar conductor.

In those days, when you went to war, you went with guys from your own neighborhood. Uncle Jack's regiment, therefore, was made up exclusively of young men from Brooklyn, mostly Irish Catholics. In those days, officers were drawn exclusively from West Point, so whether or not you had a college degree, if you weren't a career officer, you were enlisted. That's how Spafford Ackerly came to be serving alongside this streetcar conductor in the trenches of France.

Somehow, these two men got cut off from their unit -- I have a copy of Dr. Ackerly's letter somewhere, in which he details how that occurred -- and were hunkered down in a trench, taking a lot of enemy flak. Dr. Ackerly had gotten wounded, and stood no chance of wriggling back to safety; he was virtually a goner. According to that letter, Uncle Jack said to him, "'Ack, I can't take ya back, but I'll stick with ya till the end.' The end soon came, for as that big Irishman peered over the trench to scout for help, he took a bullet to the head. I sat cradling his head in my lap, calling his name over and over, when suddenly a leering Hun loomed over us in that trench. I fully expected to join Jack in the Promised Land, but for reasons I'll never know, that Hun just turned and walked away." At nightfall, members of that Brooklyn regiment found Dr. Ackerly and the body of my uncle, and carried them to safety. Dr. Ackerly wrote his letter to his parents, copy to my great-grandmother, from a hospital bed in France.

I guess his combat experience, and all he had witnessed, were the inspiration for his becoming a doctor and then a psychiatrist. But interestingly, he never forgot my uncle's family; every year, he sent my great-grandmother a Christmas card, and I believe corresponded regularly with her, and after her death in 1952, he continued to write to the oldest girl in the family, my Aunt Mary. That was a generation that didn't forget its debts.

Wars come, and wars go. We grew up believing in "just" wars; as an Orthodox Christian, I now understand that there is no such thing. War is always evil, but when it is fought to repress a greater evil and to defend those who can't defend themselves, it's a necessary evil. I can't imagine how my great-grandmother felt, losing her only son on a foreign battlefield, and I can't imagine how she felt losing her only surviving child, fourteen years later. But at least she knew her son's death wasn't for nothing. A great man made sure she always knew that.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Bear with me...

While I try to figure out how to add a picture to my profile....

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Yesterday, after Russian class, I realized I hadn't talked to my sister in about two weeks, which is something of a record for us -- ever since she got a new, and very part-time, job. So I called her and asked if she were available for lunch. She called back, said yes, we met at a local eatery, and talked for over 2 hours. My sister is 15 years younger than I am, so it's like two generations in the same family: my experiences and memories are so vastly different from her experiences and memories. Between us, we're a virtual encyclopedia of our family. (The three guys who arrived between my birth and hers don't seem to remember anything family-related. Must be a chick thing.)

I got home, got on my e-mail, just to see what had occurred in the world between my 7:00 a.m. departure and 3:00 p.m. -- and found a note from the Summer School of Liturgical Music: the wife of one of the graduates had been killed in a traffic accident, leaving behind two children. The kick in the head is, these people are all from Russia. Now this girl's family will never see her again, and presumably, she will have to be buried in foreign soil.

They live in the Boston area, a city with which I am fairly well acquainted; so I really should attend the funeral, if I can get down there. However, there's the rub: No one in his right mind drives in Boston. This is probably true for most big cities; for example, I've never driven in Manhattan, despite being a native New Yorker, and I never drove in Boston for all the five years we lived in close proximity to that city. Boston has the added "charm" of having streets that are so unpredictable, you can make four right turns and have absolutely no clue where you are -- all you know is, you are not where you started.

So driving to Boston is out of the question. No problem. There's train service between here and Boston, bus service as well. OK, now: How to get from either North Station (train service) or South Station (bus service) out to Roslindale, where the funeral will take place?

Do you think there's anything so simple as a map of the city's transportation system that actually acknowledges the existence of Roslindale?

That about sums up my whole experience with Boston: A city that should be a whole lot more convenient than it is, full of insane drivers (there's a reason that ads for auto insurance always add, "Not applicable in Massachusetts or New Jersey"), and impossible -- absolutely impossible -- to get from here to there using anything that makes any sense. Why is that?

Why are people in Boston so hot and bothered about where they're going that they drive like certified lunatics? When we moved there, 25 years ago, my husband was told that "red lights are strictly advisory," and the person who told him that -- a native Bostonian -- wasn't joking. It's the only place I know of where you can have a green light and a pedestrian Walk light, and still have to watch, in all directions at once, every step you take.

Why was somebody in such a big honking rush that he took a risk that cost a young mother her life?

Why do people find it necessary -- and this includes most of our ancestors -- to travel halfway around the globe in order to find a better life?

And the obvious question, that nobody has any business asking, but I know it's in all our minds: Why was it necessary to deprive a young wife and mother of her life?

Having gone through a similar experience, of having grown up without my natural father who died in a traffic accident, I can state with absolute certainty that this event will shape the entire lives of those two children, quite possibly for the better. They will never again take anything for granted that most people do. They will never again become so attached to anyone that the thought of losing them won't be uppermost in their minds. When they marry, they will cherish every day of life with their spouse, even when said spouse drives them up the wall. And sadly, they will also probably put up some kind of a wall between them and their father -- after all, the same thing could happen to him. Once it happens, anything at all is possible, right? Can't afford to get too attached.

As for her husband: As you get older, you start to consider what life without your spouse might be like. Or what life might be like for your spouse without you. To me, it's just a sensible precaution to make sure that Jim could get through daily life without me. But when you are young, in your 30s and 40s, getting things in order for your spouse to carry on without you is just not on the radar scope. Only for him, it's not only on the radar scope, it's scored a direct hit. He's just experienced his own personal 9/11: catastrophic, unimaginable, destruction beyond destruction of something that was supposed to last a lifetime. And the need to carry on as though it were only a blip, a temporary disruption in the continuum of his life. He still has to go to work every day. He still has to put bread on the table for his kids. And only a few people care that he now also has to do everything for them that his wife did.

So, the final Why: Why do people imagine for one nanosecond that they can possibly get through anything like this without the presence of God? For Vladimir, that won't happen. He's a committed Christian, someone who became a Christian despite having grown up in an atmosphere that daily denied the existence of God. This is someone who will most certainly ask all they Whys I did, and many more; but he won't have to ask the final Why.

Pray for these people. Pray for Vladimir, Anna, and Victor. Pray for the soul of Galina. And pray for those with whom you share your life, 'cause you really never do know when the last kiss you share will be the Last Kiss in this life.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

My Love-Hate Affair with Vacuums

Actually, there is no love-hate affair. It's all hate. I have yet to meet a vacuum cleaner that loves me, let alone that I could love.

My mother had an Electrolux for years. She loved the thing because she had purchased it from her brother, after his retirement from the Navy. (Shortly after he sold it to her, he re-enlisted.) Not being, as they say, au fait with cleaning generally, let alone the ins and outs of Advanced Vacuumetromy or whatever it's called, I paid no heed. I didn't even own a vacuum cleaner when we began our married life, seeing that we were living in a foreign country with foreign (i.e., direct) current.

Shortly after our arrival home, however, we set up house, and my mother talked me into getting a vacuum cleaner. It was a Sears canister model, and it was all right. It did the job. For about five years. One day it simply quit, and I believe was no longer repairable; at least, I think that's why d.h. took the thing apart and left it sitting in the hall closet, complete with all its working parts in a shoebox.

Since then we've owned two others, one another Sears canister and my current model, a Shark Euro-Pro. The Shark has the advantage -- the sole advantage, I might add -- of being somewhat quieter than any other vacuum cleaner I've ever owned. Changing the bags is a nuisance (and I refuse to go bagless. How on earth do people put up with the dust and other yuck that accumulates in a vacuum?! Do they go out and buy another one?!). There's no storage tray for all the little attachments, so you either have to stop every time you turn around to get the correct "tool," or forego the things altogether.

Really, what do you need a vacuum cleaner for?! What does it do that a dustmop, a broom, or a carpet sweeper can't do?! It's even easier to clean off your windowsills with a dust brush, that to haul out 50 lbs. of machinery bent on tripping you up every chance it gets.

And what's with the flipping? When did they stop making vacuums with four wheels? Now we're supposed to believe that three wheels are just as efficient for getting it from one room to the next, but boy, that thing flips onto its back faster than a dolphin that smells people food. The Shark is even worse: It has just two wheels. They're rather large, and the vacuum is really small, so you'd think they'd be adequate to the task, but no, all I have to do is turn around and my vacuum is flat on its back, spinning its wheels like a motorized cast sheep.

Most galling of all is that dh really loves the things. To him, a house without a vacuum cleaner is unthinkable. How else would you clean? he seems to think. I don't know why. It's not as if we had carpets. I dislike carpets intensely, chiefly because they need to be vacuumed, and because getting them cleaned once a year is outrageously expensive. I'd rather have a civilized little rug on a nice hardwood floor, something you can toss when you're good and sick of it.

And it's not as if you could wash the floor with it. Dust with it? Dust with it?! Who dusts with a vacuum cleaner?! That's like curing a headache with brain surgery. No, all it seems to be good for is lugging around from room to room, periodically setting it upright after it gets cast again, and getting up the grosser dust from nooks and crannies. Did I mention it doesn't even fit under furniture? I have to get out my dust mop for that.

Oh, wait, I know. It makes Noise. Sounds Productive. Rather like having a power mower that you still have to push, pull, lug and chug around the yard -- another 20th-century invention that makes no sense to me. What's the good of adding another 20 lbs. of weight to lug around, when you could do the job with less effort, and a lot more quietly, using a reel mower? Similarly, why subject yourself to all that dust, noise, and pollution, when you could simply push around ye olde dust mop (or Swiffer, if you want to be modern about it), flick a feather duster over the knick-knacks, and let the fresh air sweeten the house?

I've just finished my irregular effort with the vacuum cleaner. I get it out whenever dh looks to be building up a good head of steam, to the effect of, Here I am doing all this yard work, and you're just sitting around playing with the computer again. Now that he has heard Noise, he'll leave me in peace. The house is no cleaner than it was half an hour ago (in my opinion), but I guess there's no arguing with Noise. Oddly enough, that logic hasn't yet extended to purchasing a dishwasher. Now, there's a noisy appliance I could live with.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Biggest Miracle I Ever Heard of

Philippa posted a comment to my last blog about a woman at her church who'd had a lump on her thyroid, and after she prayed about it, it went away. The doctor couldn't explain it.

As I mentioned, during that fall at Jordanville I also cracked my wrist. Four days after "treatment" (they put it in a splint, but didn't put a cast on it), it was still throbbing, and no pain-killers were working on it. On the Thursday morning, the Kursk Root Icon was being brought to the school for the students to venerate, before it left the monastery for Australia. I had heard that this was a miracle-working icon, so as I venerated it, I touched my wrist to the icon, hoping that the Theotokos would take away the pain. As I lowered my wrist, I felt bones rearranging themselves, accompanied by a gentle radiant warmth; holding my breath, I went back to class, picked up my pen, and began to take notes. And I had not been able to write with that hand at all.

Later on in the day, I was telling one of the teachers about my experience, and she recalled a "whopper": It seems that a local Matushka and her two children were out running errands, and as they crested a hill, they found someone in their lane, hurtling towards them. Their car was totaled, and all three ended up in the hospital in comas. The little boy came out of his first; the mother was next; and a few days later, when she was able to process information, the doctors took her in to see her little girl, three years old. The child was in a deep coma, and the doctors explained that from the severe impact of the head-on, her brain had basically turned into water; they showed the x-rays to the mother, and advised her to have her child taken off life support.

The mother knew that the Kursk Root icon was visiting the monastery, so she called, asking for prayers. Next thing anyone knew, seven Orthodox monks, in full regalia, marched into the ICU, holding the icon; surrounded the child's bed; and proceeded to offer a Service of Supplication to the Kursk Root Icon.

At the time I heard this story, the little girl was seven years old, had just completed second grade with top grades, and was doing all the normal seven-year-old stunts that stop any mother's heart.

(By the way -- I love how they talk about icons generally: "The icon was visiting the monastery, the icon is travelling to Australia, Father So-and-So is accompanying the icon...." It took me awhile to grasp that the person portrayed in any given icon inspires a flesh-and-blood human being to pick it up and take it someplace, therefore, the icon itself initiates the action; but I still get a charge out of hearing it expressed so clearly. A Westerner would have a real problem with this concept!)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

W - E - I - R - D (but wonderful)

I don't quite know what to say about this, but I have to say something; so here goes.

Three years ago, while at the Summer School for Liturgical Music in Jordanville, NY, I took a bad fall down a flight of stairs. Incredibly, I didn't get that badly banged up; I got a chip fracture in my right wrist (the one I write with, naturally), and my knee, which took the brunt of the fall, actually didn't break, though it was terrifically swollen and painful for about a year. X-rays didn't show any damage, though, so no one has ever done anything about it.

People were kindness itself to me when I fell. The Summer School Director and his wife put in a lot of time running me to the hospital for checkups; the students fell all over themselves trying to make my life easier; blessings particularly on the guy who took me to the hospital the night I fell, and ended up missing dinner because of me. There was also a kindly babushka who belongs to the parish who gave me a bottle of oil from the tomb of St. John of San Francisco.

Except that over the past three years, walking has become increasingly difficult. There were some other side issues with my right foot, now thankfully resolved, but three years later, I still have three lumps in my knee, one in front and two on the side, and off and on, they really bother me. I still can't kneel at all, which is real interesting during Lent and confession, but even more interesting when trying to clean around the house.

Last week sometime, I managed to do something to this knee, twist it or something, in a way that made it extremely painful to get around. I limped through my household chores on Saturday, and managed to stand aright in church on Sunday by hanging on for dear life to the music stand in the choir loft; but when I woke up yesterday, and the pain was still with me, I didn't know what to do. Going to the doctor is not an option; I've been trying to get a doctor to look at this thing for three years, and no one wants to bother. (New Hampshire must be where they send all the bottom-of-the-barrel med-school graduates.) As I finished my prayers yesterday, having trouble standing and getting to my feet during those, too, I growled, "All right, enough is enough," and reaching for the little bottle of oil that the kindly babushka had given me three years ago, I dabbed a little on my index and middle fingers and smoothed it all over my knee.

And it hasn't given me any trouble since.

OK, why am I so surprised? I mean, what did I expect? Why did I rub this stuff on, if I didn't expect it to work? I guess...because things like this happen to other people, but not, as a rule, to me. I guess I still can't get over the fact that when something is hurting me, that actually matters to God, He actually cares enough to do something about it. With the exception of my husband, this never happens in my life. The point of my existence is to take care of other people, not to be taken care of; so even though I know He cares, in a general God-loves-everybody sort of way, it still takes me by surprise that He notices, that He reaches out a healing finger.... Yeah, that He kisses my boo-boo.

What would He not do if I weren't afraid to ask Him, because dammit, I still Don't Want to "Bother" God.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

We Now Return You to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

Shamelessly cribbed from Philippa's blog (I tried to insert a link, but it didn't come up):

First best friend: Karen Morrissey in Middle Village when I was 6.
First car: 1967 VW Beetle.
First screen name: What's a screen name? I could tell you my first scream name....
First pets: I know it was a dog, and I know I was around 8, but for the life of me I can't remember its name. It didn't last too long.
First piercing: never. Ewwww.

Last cigarette: Never smoked.
Last car ride: Yesterday, to Weight Watchers.
Last kiss: Last night, before bed.
Last good cry: In my book, there is no such thing as a good cry. I hate crying.
Last library book: P. D. James's latest, but I can’t remember the title.
Last movie seen: The American President, on video.
Last beverage drank: Cup of peach tea.
Last food consumed: Chicken thighs, with rice and California-style veggie mix.
Last crush: The Old Pussycat!
Last phone call: Can't remember!
Last time showered: Last night.
Last shoes worn: New Balance walkers.
Last cd played: Rarely play CDs -- who needs 'em when you live in an area with *three* classical-music stations?!
Last item bought: Gardener's soap from a new shop.
Last annoyance: People who don't use their heads for more than hatracks. I'm not the brightest crayon in the box, so if I can see a thing, why can't anyone else?! The really galling part is when they say, "Ohhhh, I never thought of that!"
Last shirt worn: Rose-pink polo shirt.
Last website visited: Blogspot
Last IM: Never did learn how to do this.
Last word you said: "G'night, Sweetheart. Sleep tight."
Last song you sang: Closing prayer at Vespers.
What color socks are you wearing? Right now? Bedroom slippers!
What's under your bed? "This house is protected by killer dustballs."
What time did you wake up today? 3:45 a.m. Don't ask.

Where do you want to go? Short-term: Church. Long-term: Someplace quiet. You wouldn't believe how noisy Gonic, NH has become.
Where are you going to live? Right here, for as long as possible!
How many kids do you want? Six. But the two I had are just fine. :D
What kind of car(s): I'd love it if I could buy another Escort -- can't beat 40 mpg. Failing that, I'd love a Mini Cooper, but they're expensive as sin.

Current mood: Hey, I've been up since 5:00 a.m. Let me wake up first!
Current music: None
Current taste: None.
Current hair: Needs to be brushed, but at long last, my bad-hair days are pretty much over. Menopause is good for something, anyway.
Current clothes: Nightgown, bathrobe, bedroom slippers.
Current color of toenails: Natural, dahhhling!

1. Nervous Habits: I pick the sides of my thumbs.
3. Can you roll your tongue?: No, and why would I want to?!
4. Can you raise one eyebrow at a time?: Just the right one.
5 Can you blow spit bubble?: Yes. It always impresses babies. ;-)
6. Can you cross your eyes?: UGH!
7. Tattoos?: No, absolutely not. I can’t stand them!
8. Piercings and where: See #6.
9. Do you make your bed daily? I air it out first -- throw back the covers and let the fresh air kill all the dust mites. Then I shake it out and smoothe it (it's a duvet), but when I shake it out depends on my schedule.

10. Which shoe goes on first?: Left.
11. Speaking of shoes, have you ever thrown one at anyone?: No. If I were ever tempted to throw anything at anyone, it wouldn't be a shoe.
12. On the average, how much money do you carry in your wallet?: That's classified. But it's under $100.
13. What jewelry do you wear 24/7?: Wedding ring, engagement ring, gold cross, and watch.
14. Favorite piece of clothing?: At this point, anything that fits. But I would love to find a nice riding skirt in a deep tan (deep, rich brown my second favorite).

15. Do you twirl your spaghetti or cut it? Twirl. I never heard of cutting spaghetti!
16. Have you ever eaten Spam? You mean you eat Spam? ;-)
17. Favorite ice cream flavor? Sadly, I can’t eat ice cream. But when I could: coffee chip.
18. How many cereals in your cabinet? Three: oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, and Great Grains. I also have a couple of Ezekial cereals, but I find I can't eat them -- they have, shall we say, an unfortunate effect on my digestive system.
19. What's your favorite beverage? Iced coffee in the summer, peach tea any time of year.
20. What's your favorite restaurant? A local breakfast/lunch place called Benedict's. They have the best-prepared, most reasonably priced food, and their kitchen is spotless.
21. Do you cook? Not only do I cook, I cook international. That's why I hate summer; who wants to eat hot food in the summer?!

22. How often do you brush your teeth? Once or twice a day.
23. Hair drying method? I wash it at night and sleep on it wet. In the morning, it comes out with just the right amount of fluff.
24. Have you ever colored/highlighted your hair? A long time ago, I used to get my hair highlighted red (I love red hair). But it doesn't take on greying hair, and if there's one thing I can't stand, it's women with wrinkles and bright red or blonde hair; so I'm not getting it done anymore.

25. Do you swear? On rare occasion.
26. Do you ever spit? One of my least favorite habits (in others - don't do it myself). I can't say enough about how it grosses me out.

27. Animal? That's easy - sheep!
28. Food? Anything German. Brings back happy memories.
29. Month? September. No, wait, October. No, wait, I love 'em both.
30. Day? Sunday. Monday's a close second. I love the feeling of a new work week.
31. Favorite Cartoon Character? I have favorite cartoons, but no one character.
32. Shoe Brand? At this point, anything I can walk in. I have terribly crippled feet.
33. Subject in school? History or English. I hated school generally.
34. Color? Brown.
35. Sport? Bicycling.
36. TV show? NCIS. I used to love JAG, too, but the last two seasons were phenomenally stupid.

41. The CD player? We have two: one in a boom box, and one in one of those Crosley record players that looks like a 1930s radio.
42. Person you talk most on the phone? The kiddos.
43. Pictures up? I have a few pictures of English cottages in the living room. What I would really love is to frame some of my Thomas Kinkade calendar art.
44. Do you regularly look at yourself in store windows and mirrors? <>
45. What color is your bedroom? Blue-flower wallpaper. But I think we're going to re-do the room pretty soon, and I will probably look for something green, to go with the rest of the house.
46. Do you use an alarm clock? Not usually. Morning people have built-in alarm clocks, I find.
47. Window seat or aisle? Doesn't matter, usually, though on a train I do like to look out the window.

48. What's your sleeping position? Right side.
49. Even in hot weather do you use a blanket? I need at least a sheet. But no, I'm not really comfortable without some kind of weight on me.
50. Do you snore? There is a canard to that effect....
51. Do you sleepwalk? No.
52. Do you talk in your sleep? Gosh, I hope not! But how would you know?
53. Do you sleep with stuffed animals? No, but we have a whole menagerie of stuffed animals that take the place of the kids.
54. How about with the light on? I can't think of a better recipe for interrupted sleep that some light glaring in my face.
55. Do you fall asleep with the TV or radio on? No.
56. Do you sleep with the door shut? Depends. In the summer, when the fan is on - yes. (It pulls in the air more efficiently from the window if the door is closed.) In the winter, when the heat is on, and we like to sleep with the window open - definitely. The rest of the year, no.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Party of Evil or the Party of Stupidity: Some Choice

As all my nearest and dearest and most of my cronies know, I usually spend two weeks every summer at the Summer School for Liturgical Music in upstate NY -- two weeks of hobnobbing with other folks who love to sing and love Orthodoxy, it doesn't get any better than that. A couple of summers ago, I was chatting with one of the professors about politics, and he opined that one's only real choices were the "Party of Evil" or the "Party of Stupidity."

Now, since this person is from Boston, I was pretty sure which political party he considered "evil" (Boston being one of the most solidly Democratic cities in the nation), but I was curious to find out why he thought the Democrats were stupid. So I asked, "Which is the Party of Evil?" He looked at me as if to say, "You're kidding, right?" and answered, "The Democrats, of course." And while I was still picking my jaw up from the floor, he added, "What's more evil than killing your own children?"

Good point.

I raise it because, reading other people's blogs, I am struck with the venom directed at the Bushes. Regardless of one's opinion as to how this latest fiasco was mismanaged (and having seen FEMA in action on many other occasions, I'm not convinced this was any different or worse), there's such a personal quality to people's vituperation. Really, it's been that way ever since the election of 2000, when people were convinced Bush "stole" the White House. (Yes, Gore won the popular vote, but not the electoral vote. That has happened before, most recently in 1960, when the other Most Hated Republican -- Richard Nixon -- refused to request a recount.)

So I got to thinking. And it seems to me that for the absolute foulness of public discourse to cease, the only solution is for the nation to keep electing Democrats, since at least Republicans are funny when taking potshots at the opposition.

In that case, which is worse? To live with four years of Republican mismanagement, a lot of malcontents spewing venom and hatred at everything that the President undertakes, and rousing the rabble until we become a camp of armed militia on either side of the political spectrum? Or to live with the Party of Evil in power, supporting the demolition of the family and the wholesale murder of the unborn and definitions of marriage that are most charitably described as "creative," selling the country down the road of perdition until a takeover by Anti-Christ is inevitable -- but the rabble are Fat, Dumb and Happy, and intelligent discourse becomes not even a memory?

I don't know. Well, I do know -- for myself. I will continue to vote according to my conscience, and also according to the way I have voted most of my life: deciding early on which candidate I'm against, and not looking too closely at what's left. Unfortunately, I think that's how most people vote nowadays.

Oh, and I'll spend Election Days as I spent this past Election Day, singing alternately, "Save, O Lord, Thy people," and "To thee, the Champion Leader." That way, whichever wins, I'll know it was the will of God, and I'll be content.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Out of the Closet

No, not that closet. I've just decided I'm tired of closing myself up so I don't tick people off.

This is from a local news service:

Note: In a distributed breaking news alert, we cited an Associated Press report that said engineers working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were shot by New Orleans police officers. The Associated Press later retracted that report, saying the engineers came under fire and that the police shot the gunmen.

I have said it a couple of times, and I will say it again: What's up with that? You complain about nobody coming to help you, and when they show up to help, you shoot at them? Gimme a break.

Uncovering people who died hiding in houses or who got caught in floods is going to be "as ugly a scene as you can imagine," said Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff.

Wait a minute. There was a mandatory evacuation order put into effect on Sunday. What part of "mandatory" did people not understand? Yeah, yeah, I've heard about the Poor Unfortunates Who Didn't Have Transportation. Nobody talks about the fact that buses were sent for these folks, who turned down the offer of help.

Despite complaints about the government's sluggish response to death and misery in the Gulf Coast region, Chertoff said it's too soon to start blaming people for perceived mistakes in how hurricane relief has been handled.... On Monday, the president will visit the region for a second time. His administration has been taking considerable heat for what's seen as a sluggish response to the disaster.

This is the one that really gets me, the notion that somehow, this is all Bush's fault. As if he were personally responsible for the hurricane. As if it were his personal responsibility to see to it that the city had a workable evacuation plan in place before this thing hit. Excuse me, isn't that the Mayor's job?! So is it Bush's fault that the people of New Orleans elected an incompetent boob who can't lead his way out of a paper bag?! Did Rudy Giulani blame the government for 9/11? (And incidentally, he could have, with considerable justification, since the Clinton Administration had spent 8 years sitting on its backside while Osama pulled his machinery together.)

The stress and strain from Hurricane Katrina aren't just taking an emotional toll on civilians. Police are also feeling the effects. The deputy police chief in New Orleans said two of his officers have committed suicide....published reports indicate as many as 200 officers have failed to report for duty, including some resignations. Riley said some officers may be missing work because they've been trapped at home and been unable to reach their command centers.

But nobody's helping, oh, no. When two cops commit suicide in the space of a week, does it occur to anyone that maybe the city is asking more of its police force than any human being should be required to give? No, heck, that's what we pay them for! Hint: There isn't enough money in the world to pay cops for their regular job, let alone this kind of crisis.

Then there's this:

Nearly a week after the hurricane blasted its coastal region, Mississippi continues to suffer, often in silence. It felt the full force of the storm but the destruction and misery in Mississippi have been overshadowed by media coverage of the catastrophic aftermath in New Orleans, said University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato.

A classic case, I guess, of the squeaky wheel (New Orleans) getting the most grease. If I can find a site that's collecting money for the victims of Mississippi, that's where I'll donate. I'm not going to help the Mayor of New Orleans get away with pinning his incompetence on somebody else.

There are a few slivers of light in the storm-ravaged region.

A $62 million National Emergency Grant was announced Saturday by Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, to fund about 10,000 temporary jobs for Hurricane Katrina clean-up and recovery in Louisiana.

Chao said the temporary jobs will mean paychecks for thousands of dislocated workers and will help to clean up, rebuild and repair their communities. Federal officials said all 64 Louisiana parishes will take part in providing work sites for displaced individuals until evacuation orders are lifted.

We were just talking about this last night. This is what needs to take place, people working on their own communities to get them back up and running. Why are people in the rest of the country being asked to house and feed refugees, when they should be housed and fed near the site of their own homes, so they can roll up their sleeves and get to work on the reconstruction?

Then there's this:

Help comes from unusual places in times of tragedy.

Afghanistan, with a government propped up by other countries, is pledging $100 dollars for U.S. victims of Hurricane Katrina. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said the pledge came in a letter from Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Afghanistan relies heavily on financial aid from the U.S., and Ambassador Ronald Neumann said Afghanistan's compassion and generosity bears testimony to the strength of the ties between the two countries.

The European Union and NATO said the U.S. asked for emergency assistance. Both said they're ready to help.

More than 60 countries have pledged assistance of some sort for the recovery effort. Among them:

A half-billion dollars is coming from Kuwait, the country a U.S.-led coalition liberated from Iraqi occupation in 1991. Another $100 million is coming from Qatar.
The 22-member Arab League is calling on Arab nations to provide hurricane relief.
Austria, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Luxembourg, Finland, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Spain and The Netherlands have pledged assistance.

China has offered $5 million and pledged logistical and other assistance. South Korea is sending $30 million. North Korea, which views the U.S. as its main enemy, has sent a message of sympathy through the Red Cross.

Not mentioned, sadly, is the fact that Russia was the first to offer aid. But what gets me is Afghanistan. Did somebody say our presence there was a waste??

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Ten Things I Love About September

10. As knitting guru Elizabeth Zimmermann once put it, "September is the logical beginning of the year." Which says something nice about Orthodoxy.

9. The tourists head home.

8. When I bring my laundry in from the back yard in the evening, the house casts a long enough shadow that I'm not standing in that glaring summer sun.

7. In September, there is no glaring sun.

6. It's dark earlier, so I have to put the lights on in the house, and it's all lit up when dh comes home from work. I like lit-up houses. Can you tell that Thomas Kinkade is my favorite artist?

5. I get my life back, because I get my brain back. No more wishing the sun would go away so I could think.

4. Good sleeping weather!

3. Only two birthdays, all month. In a family as large as mine, that's worth remarking.

2. No more cold suppers. I get to cook again.

1. That wonderful autumn glow, when everything turns to gold, especially in the early morning and the early evening. I read once that it has to do with the angle of the sun and particulates in the air, and the sun reflects off the particulates (composed mostly of stuff that plants shed) and creates that golden glow. Trust a scientist to explain something magical.

The only thing I dislike about September is that it's hurricane season. On the other hand, here in the northeast, most of our hurricanes seem to occur in August. And since everyone else is commenting on the disaster in New Orleans, I might as well, too, if only to say....

What's with shooting at rescue personnel?!?!?!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Although I'm not sure it will show up publicly, I have just deleted 8 comments from my last post -- all spam. Can't help wishing these people would get a life. Now we all have to deal with Word Verification, meaning, if you want to post a comment, you have to type in a squirrelly-looking word that says you are a real live human being, not a half-life whose only purpose is to sell penis enlargement to women, or something equally dim-witted.

That said, I feel I must comment on something rather unpleasant that has occurred on the OrthWomen's list. I'm referring, of course, to the current flap over feminism. I won't go into the history of the flap, since I think you are all on OrthWomen anyway, but what was interesting to me was the reaction not only on the list, but among the moderators. This topic caused passions, misunderstandings, recriminations, sleeplessness -- and one moderator resigned from that position, though still a member of the list. (Me.) To me, that says everything that needs to be said on the subject of feminism. It always was a hot button, it remains a hot button, as far as I can see it's entire raison d'etre is to push buttons -- this is not any kind of appropriate topic for Orthodox discussion.

And I am still mightily annoyed with the original OrthWomen's member who felt compelled to push this agenda onto the list. Go feel Empowered someplace else, willya?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

This Explains Everything....

A word of explanation: My husband works for the federal government. Although he is not the author of this piece, it would be fair to say that it resonates with us.

A NEW DISCOVERY: A Breakthrough In Government

A major research institution has recently announced the discovery of the heaviest element yet known to science. The new element has been named "Governmentium".

Governmentium has one neutron, 12 assistant neutrons, 75 deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312 particles. These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lepton like particles called peons.

Since Governmentium has no electrons, it is inert. However, it can be detected because it will always impede every action with which it comes into contact. A minute amount of Governmentium causes a reaction to take four days to complete, when it would normally take less than a second.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 4 years. It does not decay, but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium's Mass will actually increase over time since each reorganization will cause morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as "Critical Morass."

When catalyzed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium -- an element which radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many "peons" but twice as many morons.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


The rock 'n' roll raucousness now is stilled;
with Vivaldi the halls of the house are filled.
Where gerbils and hamsters once reigned supreme,
there's time to think, and plan, and dream:
The kids are gone.

Two-a.m. feedings have long since fled,
and two-a.m. entrances nothing to dread.
From close of day to dawn's rose-red,
We sleep the sleep of the grateful dead:
The kids are gone.

The bathroom is free, our showers are short,
we no longer hasten from sport to sport,
the mountains of laundry are molehills at last,
and supper in shifts is a thing of the past:
The kids are gone.

There's time for our hobbies, we read at our leisure,
we walk and we talk to each other for pleasure.
But once in awhile, a brief, sorrowful sigh,
or a tear quickly wiped from a treasonous eye,
reveals our awareness: Our life's task is done.
The kids are gone.

© 2005 by Meg Lark

Every once in so often, it just hits you. Yesterday was one of those days, for no evident reason.

Nothing too much is new. Scrambling like mad to get ready for my third year of Russian. It would help if Life didn't keep getting in the way, but it does, and probably a good thing, given the sentiments expressed above.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock....

After it began to rain yesterday, and my husband could no longer work in his garden, he came in and was rattling around the kitchen. Suddenly he stopped and looked at me with a peculiar expression on his face, and said, "It's been a year since Chris moved out."

Yep. A little over a year, actually. When the move took place, I was at the choir school in Jordanville, so when I walked in the door at last, and brought my suitcase into our bedroom, I was confronted, at the other end of the hall, with the sight of Chris's bare bookshelves. It was like a small knife slicing right into the solar plexus. Now a year has gone by, and we have seen him twice in that year. He has grown enormously in self-confidence, knowing that he can, after all, make it on his own in life; he has a job he loves, and has mastered the art of finding his way around a strange community and making it home. He seems to have found his own place in the world, and that's a beautiful thing to see.

However, just because the kids go out on their own and you're no longer "responsible" for them, doesn't mean you stop wondering if they're OK, if they're warm enough in the winter or close to heat stroke in the summer, if they're getting enough to eat, if their finances are OK, if their friends are "good enough" for them (as if there were such a thing as friends who deserved your Wonderful Kid)... The list goes on and on. I have a dreadful suspicion that I will be fretting into eternity about great-great-great grandchildren -- or maybe I should just leave that to their great-great grandparents???

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Body by...????

More years ago than most of you have been alive, there was an ad for (I believe) General Motors cars, featuring a sleek, gorgeous machine, along with a sleek, gorgeous blonde, and the caption, "Body by Fisher." Which body, was left to the imagination of the viewer (and the ad was clearly designed to capture the attention of people with very little imagination).

For the past three or so weeks, I have been working out at a local gym. Relax, never in anyone's wildest dreams will I ever have anything remotely resembling a Body by Fisher, or anything else earthly. I'm of two minds about it: I deplore, absolutely deplore, the Cult of the Body that exists in modern America. I see some of these people working out, and the exercises they are doing.... One involves kneeling on the floor between two weight posts, grabbing a handle from each, and pulling on them while bowing down to the ground. Would any one of these people consent to doing any such thing in a church? Obviously, I don't know; but they are happy to do it at the gym. And the question for me is, do I want to do such a thing at the gym? Well, no, it's not a serious question, because there is only one place I would do any such thing. But it bothers me that such a clear act of worship should be possible anyplace but at church. Or maybe what bothers me is, it's such a parody of worship.

So why am I there in the first place? Because I need to get this old bod moving somehow. I need, desperately, to strengthen leg muscles that have lost all tone since I fell down that flight of stairs three years ago, and on top of that, began experiencing such pains in my right foot that I was barely able to hobble around. (The two are unrelated, though there was a possibility at one point that a bone might have been broken in the fall, and had been overlooked in the face of more obvious injuries.) The pain in the foot, it turns out, was from -- are you ready for this? -- a badly fitting pair of athletic shoes! Good brand, very well known, and in fact the shoes I have now are the same brand -- but it was just the way this one pair of shoes was designed, so that the lace tightened right on a nerve that disabled the whole foot. No, I didn't get this diagnosis from my doctor. What, Dr. Dementa giving serious consideration to the ills of a fat person?! I went to a shoe store that specializes in hard-to-fit feet.

Anyway -- there is a point to this, I think -- it does seem to me that the body I have, "Body by God," should be maintained in sufficient shape to allow me to handle the tasks proper to this point in my life. I should be able to wash windows, for instance, without feeling as if pushing up the window is the equivalent of an upper-body workout. I should be able to change the beds, including flipping the mattresses, without feeling as if that was a full-body workout. At some point, though at this point it's a distant hope, I would love to be able to kneel down so I could scrub the tub. (When I fell, my knee was one of the injuries the ER people were most concerned about. Three years later, it still bothers me.)

At least, I'm hoping there's a difference between caring for the body and worshipping the body.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Failure is one of the courses in the menu of life....

"Failure is one of the courses in the menu of life. And I've never been a gal to pass up any of the courses." --Rosalind Russell, actress

No particular reason for posting this. I have just always liked and admired Rosalind Russell, who usually played roles that featured gutsy, classy "dames," as they were called in the '40s and '50s -- "Mame!" was one of her roles. In addition to being a very well-known actress, it was less well known that she was a faithful Catholic who never missed attending Mass -- how many modern actors and actresses can say the same?! So when I came across this quote, I just had to post it, for who among us has not known failure?

Keeping quiet and laying low these past several weeks. It's been hotter than hot (I nearly had heart failure when I read on my son's blog that he now understands why there was a near 100% mortality rate among firemen on the Trans Siberian Express), and, as I posted last year, I never do well in the heat. My heart can only bleed for those who are pregnant and imminent. The absolute worst month for having a baby, in my opinion, is September -- October is a close second -- but July and August are equally cursed. I had my son in June, and that was bad enough.

April, on the other hand, is a *delightful* month, and so, I would assume is May. (I don't have any experience with May.)

Cross stitching like mad on a gift for my sister, a piece done in "redwork" (all shades of red, actually shades of dusty pink) with five hearts in the center and a very elaborate border, and the words, under the hearts: "Love Grows in Our Home." Anyone who knows my sister, knows how true that is. (Besides, her carpet is the same shade of old rose as the floss that came with the kit.)

My next project, after the Dormition fast -- during fast periods, I try to work on the Golden Tikhvin Theotokos I posted some months ago -- will be a gift for my son. Christmas or birthday, depends on how fast I get it done. (Hint: Your walls are too bare, Chris.)

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Sea Change

My, it's been awhile since I posted. Obviously, we got back from Pennsylvania OK, though I never want to make that trip by car again -- 9 1/2 hours of pushing to get there and back, focussed on the road and the other nuts on it, to say nothing of some very high places that had my heart in my mouth. Next time, I take the train.

On one hand, I wish our son lived closer. At times like this, it's very comforting to feel as if someone cares about you, as in, you come home and there's a hot meal on the table and clean clothes in your drawer. But we do see a big difference in him -- he looks as if he is finding his own place in the world, with a job he loves and an area of the country totally unassociated with The Parents. This is what used to happen to young men when there was a military draft. They'd leave home still boys, and come home men, mostly with a sense of purpose and an awareness that they had something valuable to contribute to the world at large. I'm beginning to see that in Chris. And it's very nice to see.

Meanwhile -- just keep praying, I guess, that the really Right One comes along. I know she's out there somewhere. I just hope we all recognize her when she does show up (it took my in-laws nearly 25 years to appreciate the fact that my presence in their son's life was a good thing....) =:0

Monday, June 20, 2005

Old and Distrustful

Does anyone remember the scene in the second or third Star Trek movie -- I forget which -- when Dr. McCoy asks Jim Kirk how he's feeling, Kirk answers, with a sense of wonder: "Young. I feel young."

I feel old. More than that, I find, to my bemusement, that I am old. I am an old lady. I'm not sure how this happened, but this afternoon, I was bringing in a load of laundry from my clothesline, struggling up the back steps, all three of them, and wrestling with the laundry basket to get the back door open, and I realized what I probably looked like to the commuter traffic that was, at the time, streaming past my front door. If they even looked at all, that's what they saw: a fat old lady wrestling with laundry. Sheesh.

And I hate leaving home, these days. Tomorrow we're off to visit our son for his birthday, and I mean, come on, it's not clear the other side of the world. We're driving 400 or 500 miles to Pennsylvania, probably down through Massachusetts and Connecticut, into New York State, and across the Hudson River, maybe touching a bit on New Jersey before hitting Pennsylvania. And all I can think is two things: (1) Massachusetts has the worst drivers in the entire U.S. It's a fact, it's been proven by some insurance institute or other. And (2), HOW HIGH IS THAT D*** BRIDGE OVER THE HUDSON GOING TO BE?!?!?!?!?! I am terrified of heights, always have been. Give me childbirth any day. Yet I know he can't come home -- it's the busy season for the railroad that employs him -- and this is his first birthday away from home. And -- well, I promised I wouldn't say anything more about That Other Thing. (See back a few posts.)

Okay, so where's all that Trust In God I'm always telling my kids they should have? Why can't I just say, "OK, Lord, this trip is in Your hands, I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the scenery"?

Because I have 60 years' worth of Other People's Catastrophes rattling around in my brain. The time that a chunk of I-95 came crashing down, and all those cars hurtled into space. The 1989 San Francisco earthquake. TWA Flight 800, a whole lot of schoolchildren on their way to France for their senior trip having no idea that 11 minutes later, they'd be in pieces, floating in the Atlantic Ocean. A cloudless September day, a secretary sitting at her desk with her morning coffee, booting up her computer and looking up to see what that godawful noise was, only to find a jet-engine propeller boring down on her. 9/11.

Things happen.

Ironically, it's not even that I mind the end of life, since I know it won't be an end, but a beginning (I just hope it's a good beginning...). I just don't want to die in terror. I want my last few minutes on earth to be "painless, blameless, without shame or suffering," and I want my last thoughts to be, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me," not, "I can't believe this is happening" -- assuming I'm even capable of thought. What do you think about when you find yourself hurtling into nothingness??

It's so old, not wanting to travel and see new places. Old people like to sit at home. Young people like to Go.

Pray for us on this trip.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

What Happens When You Meet...?

As I think I have posted before, I have been steadily transcribing the Matins and Vespers prayers of the Church into my computer, formatting them into a Franklin Compact planner size so that I can take them with me either when I travel, or on my way to class, or just out for a morning walk. It started when I first learned of praying the Hours, when I was 12; something about having a fixed time for praise and supplication has just always fascinated me, and when I came across a Horologion for laymen (now, unfortunately, out of print), I scarfed on it. That was something like 12 years ago. Then I attended the Summer School of Liturgical Music in Jordanville, NY (being at the time a choir director), and learned that there were a whole lot of other prayers that I wasn't praying, and without them, I couldn't learn the music I needed to in order to graduate from the course.

That finished me, and over the past year, I have been transcribing first the Octoechos, then the Triodion, and lately the Pentecostarion. I do have permission from my spiritual father, though he asked, "Did another priest tell you to do this, or is this something you dreamed up on your own?" Once I explained the circumstances to him, he blessed me to keep praying these prayers, and I must say that my understanding of the Church has taken off since reading the various Canons. For example, who knew that the entire week of the Fourth Tone has Canons to the Theotokos asking for her protection specifically from Moslems?? Could have used that around 9/11!

Today I have entered the rubrics for the Matins of the final Saturday of the Souls. There is no form of death that is not covered in these rubrics. It's sobering to read prayers for people who have "been rent asunder by beasts, who have been devoured by fish, or who were buried in earthquakes or pits or under cliffs" -- among many other forms of perishing. And all of them committed into the compassionate hands of the Lover of mankind.

It brings a thought to mind, though. We all have people in our lives whom we just can't stand, who just rub us the wrong way. There are multitudes of people who have seemingly gone out of their way to wrong us. And there are people who have inadvertently wronged us, people who live to stir up trouble, and idiots with whom we share the road. And they all cross our paths at one point or another.

Now, someday, all these people will also die and face God. And what then? I mean, supposing you were already dead, and by God's mercy you found yourself in paradise, and along comes this schmuck who tried to steal your job, or who made your work or school life miserable. And he's standing there before God, being judged, and his life is the usual mess of good stuff and bad stuff that all of us have. You get to see him as he really is, wretched and trembling and possibly terrified at finding himself not in his body anymore. And -- what? Would you really stand there and say, "I hope I don't have to live with this guy in eternity, too"? Because what would be the alternative? Could you really hope *anybody* would spend eternity in hell???

I don't think I could, and I've known some doozies in my lifetime. Thing is, there are people walking around out there who, when they say they've known some doozies in their lifetime -- I'm at the top of their list. Yet I know I hope not to spend eternity in hell, so what makes me better than my own doozies? Which means...either I go to hell, or I'm gonna have to spend eternity with these characters. Including all those wretched teachers who made my son's life so miserable when he was just a kid. You have no idea what forgiveness costs until you have to extend it to somebody who hurt your kid, especially when they should have known better.

Could I really wish them in hell, for eternity??....

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Back There Where the Past Was

Visiting my priest yesterday, and since my daughter lives not too far away, I thought I'd pop over and see what she was up to. What she was up to was lying on the sofa, the victim of a tummy bug. She wasn't writhing in agony, and she was able to hold a civilized conversation -- well, as civilized as it can get with an almost-two-year-old showing off all his toys and his Ain't-I-Cute flirty grin, which is very charming, but distracting when all I want to do is swoop her up in my arms and tuck her into bed with tea and toast and lots of mothering. Slight problem: Even when she was a little kid, she always hated that kind of fuss, and now that she's an adult and would probably welcome it -- I'm not quite sure how to go about offering it. And then there's the Grandma Thing: How do I fuss over The Baby without making my own "baby" feel as if her only use in life is producing entertainment for The Grandparents?! I like my kids, not just their offspring!

Once I was back home, a tree service showed up to do some yard work I'd contracted for -- nothing radical, just clearing out some saplings that are growing inconveniently close to the house, and fertilizing a couple of ornamental trees we bought two years ago. (I'm sure I could do this, if I knew what I was doing. With my track record, though, I'd feed them something that would be sure to kill them off.) Got chatting with the cutter, and discovered that (a) he had gone to the same college as my son, and (b) he knew my son, not from the college, but from the place where they both worked. We had a lovely chat about forestry in general and my trees in particular, and my son incidentally; then, when he had gone, I e-mailed my son to tell him this guy had said Hi.

And lurking in the background -- hope I'm not boring anyone with this same old tale -- is an awful awarenesss of two people with whom I once shared daily life, two very special people who just aren't Daily anymore. It's a weird feeling, to visit these adults in their own homes, in the environment they have created for themselves, and some of it is very familiar and some of it is so different, I wonder whose looking glass I stepped through. (Case in point: When we visited our son in November, I walked into his house and found it full of Mission-style furniture. I would never, in a million years, have chosen Mission for him while he was living at home; but the second I saw it, I said, "Yes, this IS Chris." It suits him exactly. Our daughter, on the other hand, has so much furniture from home that walking into her house isn't all that different a feel at all.) It's so strange to see these two competent, capable adults carrying on with the business of life -- and still remember when they really needed a parent to direct that business for them. I'm very proud of them. I wish I could see a whole lot more of both of them.

However, one of the great benefits of having adult children is being able to relate to them on an entirely new and much more equal level. Yesterday my daughter was telling me about a singer named Tom Waite (or it might be Waites, can't remember -- he's generally so far off my radar scope, he's in another dimension), who was described as "Cookie Monster with a fifth of Wild Turkey." And then she put on a Tom Waite CD. I howled -- the imagery was so bang-on accurate! I'll never look at Cookie Monster the same way again! Thanks, Christa.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

One Last Time, till next year:

Tone 8: It is the day of Resurrection;/ let us be radiant for the festival,/ and let us embrace one another with joy./ Let us say, O brethren, even to those that hate us:/ Let us forgive all things on the Resurrection:/ and thus, let us cry:

Christos anesti ek nekron,/ thanato thanaton patisas,/ ke tis en tis mnimasi, zoin harisamenos!

Christ is risen from the dead,/ trampling down death by death,/ and on those in the tombs bestowing life!

Christos voskrese iz smertvikh,/ smertiu smert poprav,/ i sushnim vo grobekh zhivot darovav!

Friday, June 03, 2005


I purposely kept this off the other blog, which I know these two read, just so I wouldn't exacerbate the situation. It's been a long, long time since I had to deal with this kind of...well, I guess I'd better not say it. No point making things worse.

I will say this, though. Those of you who are mothers know this: There is no worse pain than watching your kids hurt. You would do anything on earth to stop that pain, and when you can't, you need to talk about it. This is a girl whom we welcomed into our home, were prepared to accept into our family, loved not just because our son did but because she is genuinely loveable -- and to read the kind of response I just have, takes my breath away.

I notice no one is saying anything about dissing me....

Sunday, May 29, 2005

I could *strangle* this girl....

The inevitable has happened: My son and his girlfriend have broken up. I found out by reading his blog (he knows I subscribe), and the whole thing was about what a jerk he is.

So I called him. I'm worried about him; he's out there in PA all by himself, now that Tootsie has broken off their relationship, and I was hoping to find out what had happened.

Are you ready for this?

When they were sharing a home (not "living together," since there was never anything sexual about their relationship), she complained that he "wasn't doing enough around the house." These were the days when he was working 70 hours a week as a bus driver, so fatigued that one day he actually ran a red light; then, when he got his railroad job, he was commuting 90 minutes to work and 90 minutes back home. Not to mention all the snow-shovelling he did this past winter, which I know about because she wrote about it on *her* blog.

Now that he has his own place, she's upset because he Doesn't Communicate with her. So she writes him an e-mail to break off their relationship. This is communication?!?!

This is the same girl who got upset with me because I posted to the list that she had never had any men in her life, as far as living with one went.

This is the same girl who, get this, didn't want us to come and visit our son for his birthday because she was still so upset with me over the "awful things" I had posted to the OrthWomen's list.

This is the same girl who goes to bed at six in the morning, and gets up at two in the afternoon. No job, she Just Doesn't Sleep Well at Night.

And my son is walking around feeling like a jerk?!?!

It's taking all my self-control not to e-mail her and LET HER HAVE IT!!!!!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Cancel New Address

I just realized -- I have no means of notifying anyone who reads this that I changed my address. So CANCEL THAT NOTICE about the new address: It remains www.nepsis.blogspot.com.

I hope this is comprehensible. Clear as mud, probably.

Nicholas & Alexandra & Jim & Meg

Description of May 17th:

Wedding: $300 or so, including the gown, the rings, and the food for the reception (it was 1969, my dad was on strike, so we held the reception at the house).

Honeymoon: $200 or so (we stayed at the weekend home of my husband's cousin).

Three years in Germany: free (he was in the service).

First home: $250/mo. rent, plus, let's see, I think $750 for the furniture (bedroom suite, sofa, and kitchen table and chairs. Everything else we cadged from the homes we had grown up in).

Kids: Don't even go there. One moved out at 24, the other at 25, so figure 29 years' worth of exponentially increasing expenses. My only regret: not having more kids.

36 years together: priceless.

And now, as the Buddhists say: After ecstasy, the laundry. Not that I mind doing laundry. Just coming down off the high of the past three days of having that Special Someone all to myself. Why read Anna Karenina, the story of adultery and its fruits, when I can read about one of the greatest love affairs of all time?

Currently Reading: Nicholas and Alexandra

Monday, May 16, 2005

New Blog Address

To my intrepid readers who have been accessing my site as www.nepsis.blogspot.com: I have just changed my address to www.muttonings.blogspot.com. Makes it easier for me to find my blog. ;-)

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Reflections on Motherhood

1. I always knew my kids would grow up and move out. I just wish they had moved out closer.

2. Looking around this house, I can see that it was time for them to move out when they did. Actually, it was time for them to move out before they did. You really do outgrow a house.

3. I wonder if everything important in life assumes an air of unreality when it's over. I'm having a hard time believing I ever actually lived in Germany. I'm having a hard time believing we ever shared this house with two other people.

4. I guess that, although it was time for them to move out, I would have liked to know them better as adults before they did.

5. Rooms that seemed so big when you were small, become so small once you're big.

6. Overall, I can't think of anything I'd change in my motherhood techniques, such as they were. They weren't perfect, but they did produce two spectacular people.

7. I do wish we had played more board games as a family.

8. Once they're gone, they're gone. Even when you do see them, they have become such different people that you wonder if this is the same person you shared a life with.

9. If I had known these things when I was younger, I wonder if I would have been nicer to my mother.

10. On the other hand, I wonder if my mother would have been nicer to me, if she had realized these things when she was younger.

Happy Mother's Day.