Monday, December 31, 2007

Not Quite So Humbug ;-)

I couldn't stand the thought of the old year passing without a bit of reflection.

After the horrors of 2006, that year closed on a hopeful note, and this year began with confirmation of that hope: Our son's move back to his home state. We've seen him off and on throughout the year, but of course a good bit more of him since he's about 700 miles closer to home. His visits fell off during the summer, when he was working six days a week, but he was in for a week just before Christmas; he spent Christmas with us; and surprise, surprise, there's a possibility that he may spend tonight and tomorrow with us, as well. He called to say he was going to a party, but wasn't expecting it to last "more than a few hours" (presumably, it breaks up at midnight, then he still has an hour's drive to our place). I hope he makes it to our house, though, because tomorrow, we're supposed to get a foot of snow (a little under a meter, for European or Canadian readers).

The snow began, I believe, around December 10, and so far, we've had -- now, is it three or four storms of significant size? I don't remember a winter like this since I was a girl, sixteen years old and slogging three miles on foot to school because, well, it was a school day and in our house, you didn't stay home from school unless there was a death in the family (your own). Anyway, none of the buses were running, so I walked to school, and yes there were drifts of snow to overcome, got there around 9:45 (having left the house at 7:00), rang the doorbell with trepidation -- to discover from an astonished nun that school had been cancelled for the day, and I had to walk all the way back home. I think I made it around 1:00 or so. My mother demanded to know what I was doing home, and all I said was, "School was cancelled," and that was that.

Then there were the snows of 1967 and 1968. People who fume at Callous Business are probably unaware that even the evil minions of Wall Street and Madison Avenue actually sent employees home if a storm was threatening. One year we were dismissed at 1:00 p.m., and I made it home on the elevated train from lower Manhattan to my home in Queens; but again, no buses were running, and I had to walk the mile from the train station to my house. It was windy that day, and the very hardest part of that walk was the last two blocks, long blocks that probably came to a third of a mile and were all uphill. I remember standing next to a parked car and thinking, "I'm not going to make this," then pulling myself together and battling that fierce wind down the last block to home, then collapsing in tears on the back steps.

At least this snow hasn't been accompanied by such horrendous wind, nor have I been required to be out in it, other than to help shovel the driveway. But we've had an awful lot of snow, and dh and I aren't as young as we were 21 years ago, when we bought the place. Today, dh was even talking about moving to a retirement community, something both of us have resisted with all our might. It's like God's waiting room, for crying out loud.

So we've been quite busy, what with snow removal and enjoying our son and our washing machine breaking down and being unrepairable because That Part Is No Longer Manufactured, and having to spend money earmarked for Christmas presents on a new washer, instead. Thankfully, we had all of ds's presents bought already, so we just did without presents ourselves. At our age, who needs a lot, anyway. But a new washing machine is crucial. ;-)

On both Christmas Eve and this past Sunday, I got to direct our choir again. The choir director was visiting family in Florida, as we'd known, and had made arrangements with a teenaged boy to direct in her absence, as we'd known; as we hadn't known, the teenaged boy got cold feet and never showed up at all for Christmas Eve, and yesterday, I was in full swing when he did show up, saw me at the podium, and shook his head vehemently when I stood aside to let him take my place. I must admit that I enjoyed doing it again, but it would have been nice to have a little more advance notice.

And there is the ongoing and phenomenal blessing of our new priest. The newness is beginning to wear off, both for him and for the parish, but he is still unflaggingly enthusiastic, and I have yet to hear a negative word about him -- in our parish, that's something of a record for any priest. It seems he and his family are ski fanatics, having gone skiing in Vermont over the long Thanksgiving weekend and in New Hampshire for a week after Christmas; and in speaking with him today, I learned that he's planning to make another ski trip to the same New Hampshire mountain "just for one day, on Wednesday" (his usual day off). He and his family continue to live in Massachusetts, where they'd bought a house just last year; I should mention to him that if he bought a house up here, he'd pay less money all around, because not only is it cheaper to live up here than in Massachusetts, but he'd also get to save on resort fees, since he wouldn't have to stay overnight. On the other hand, maybe that's the charm.

Oh, yes, he's spiritually a great blessing, too. ;-) People were telling me yesterday about his not being too happy with the Christmas Pageant this year, because Baby Jesus was represented by a little girl baby: "Jesus was a boy Baby!" he kept insisting, but finally gave in reluctantly. They thought that was very funny. I think it just shows that he is being true to his priestly responsibility to keep to the true Tradition. (But yeah, I find the story amusing, too, and very sweet in his earnestness.)

Now, if only his Romanian accent didn't keep reminding me of Count Dracula...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Bah. Humbug. :-(

Permit me a bit of grumbling here. Just -- be here for me, OK?

I'm upset. A friend of mine knows someone who has apparently fallen on hard times, and is asking people to buy a holiday product from this person. So far so good. It's just -- I have the sense of a whole lot that has gone unsaid.

I mean, the situation that this person finds himself in, is not something that strikes out of the blue. Let's just say that it involves a legal action, one that is so difficult to execute that there has to be a phenomenal amount of evidence, accumulated over a long period of time, for that action to be executed. (An example: Someone locally was recently evicted from a property that was not only a neighborhood eyesore, but also a health hazard, not only to the resident but to neighborhood schoolchildren (the property was across the street from an elementary school). The length of time involved in the eviction? Seven years.)

The situation that my friend's friend finds himself in is similar. It sounds as if the person's financial straits are dire. But -- dire doesn't just hit, it builds over a period of months. In that time, wasn't it possible for this person to contact family members for help? I'm thinking of the many relatives who stayed with my late Aunt Mary over a period of about fifteen years. Nothing was said, none of us young folk knew that these people were homeless and would have been out on the street but for my aunt's generosity. They stayed for an average of three years with her, finding work, then finding homes of their own; in a couple of cases, we never heard from these people after they moved on. But my point is, they called on family for help, and that help was forthcoming.

So, why is this person soliciting help on the internet?! Does he not have family to whom he could turn? Is he so on the outs with family that they wouldn't touch him with a ten-foot pole? Why are you bothering complete strangers for help?

As I said, I have the sense of a whole lot that has gone unsaid. And without those blanks being filled in -- I feel used.

Thank you for the shoulder to cry on. We now return you to your regularly scheduled revelries.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Making Your Home a Haven, Day 3

Today's Challenge:

1) Refresh Your Spirit (5 minutes)

I actually got to sing Vespers last night, and Matins this morning. I hate when I sleep late, and have to miss my prayer rule -- the day never goes as well as when I get up a bit earlier and get this done.

The blog I cribbed this idea from (Crystal Paine's blog -- see down a couple of posts) was encouraging participants to list three things we're thankful for. In my case:

1. Being Orthodox
2. Having a good roof over my head. It's small, but we raised two kids in it, and it still does us well.
3. Having an absolutely sterling husband, who loves me and puts up with a mind-numbing job to provide said roof over our heads.

2) Take Time to Plan (5 minutes)

Ahem. I can either pray, or plan. ;-) That said, at least I have dinner planned: Spaghetti with shrimp sauce. This is cheating, though, since this is our usual Wednesday dinner.

However, I'll take the challenge and share my to-do list, such as it is:

1. Bredenbeck's Bakery in Philadelphia sent my son's Christmas cookies to our house. Every year since they were born, we've celebrated St. Nicholas Day with the kids by putting cookies in their shoes; the year Chris moved out to PA, I was wondering how to continue this tradition when I came across Bredenbeck's online, and they actually ship real German cookies. So Chris has not missed his cookies at all, until this year -- and he won't this year, either, if I have anything to say about it. I'll ship 'em overnight express. So that's my first item.

2. The "Maintenance Required" light has come on in my car, and won't shut off. I suspect it's because when I had the oil changed last week, the people who changed it forgot to turn off the blinking "Maintenance Required" light, and now it's on permanently; but I do have to check with the dealership about this.

3. I need to pay some bills. :-(

4. And I need to study for a Russian exam that takes place tomorrow. We don't have finals in these classes; we get one test that covers each chapter, and then go on to the next one. So this test will finish out Chapter 11. I'm not sure if there will be time to cover Chapter 12 completely before all our classes wind up, though.

3) Do Something! (15 minutes or so)

Quoting from Crystal's blog now:

Today we're going to focus on the laundry and laundry room. Your goal by the end of today is to have all of your laundry finished, folded, and put away.

Uh-huh. In my dreams, maybe. What I can do in this area is wash a load of towels and hang them out on the drying rack so that the house gets some moisture into the atmosphere. But folded and put away?? That waits for tomorrow, when the stuff is dry (and I get to hang out a new load of laundry!).

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

One More T'ing... Columbo used to say.

This past Sunday, our Hierarch, Metropolitan Methodios, came to visit our parish. (Which is its own story: He called our priest on Monday and said, "Oh, by the way, I have an opening in my calendar for this Sunday, and I'd like to come visit." Gulp.) Anyway, he came, he saw, whether or not he conquered the choir is still up for grabs ;-) -- but the point is, he preached the most wonderful sermon. I've never heard a sermon like this.

For one thing, he cited the text of this past Sunday's Gospel, the story of the blind man by the side of the road who asks Jesus for his sight. The Metropolitan said that the Church gives us this Gospel at this time of year because we are all in darkness, stumbling around like the blind man, and we should remember that the Light of Christ is coming to us.

But the other thing he said that really grabbed my attention was that the blind man cried out, and Christ -- God -- stopped walking and paid attention to him. And the Metropolitan said, When we pray, we stop God in His tracks, and He listens to us.

Think about that.

When we pray, we stop God in His tracks. And He listens to us.

Holy cow.

Making Your Home a Haven 2

Since I was out of the house at 9:30 today and didn't get home till 4:30, there wasn't too much I was able to do on this front. Today's effort was getting the breakfast dishes done before I left the house, and making the beds. This is more of a triumph than ordinary tidy housewives might think: There have been days when the dishes didn't get washed till half an hour before dh came through the door, and as for making beds...well...

I love the sight of a made-up bed, so I never thought twice about it until dh asked me not to make up his bed -- "It's easier to get into when it's left unmade."

This is the same person who comes from the family that never put anything away in the kitchen because, "We'll just have to get it out again." And I seriously wonder why my house always looks like a bomb hit it?!

So the bed stayed unmade, for a few years, actually. Once a week I'd change the sheets, but that was it.

Then we had the house blessed. Our new priest decided that a good way for him to meet the parish would be to bless everyone's houses over the summer, and since ours hadn't been done at Theophany (the weather was crappy), I invited him over to do that. And to have the house blessed -- you have to have tidy rooms.

And dh discovered that, wonder of wonders, it's kind of nice to sleep in a made-up bed.

So that is my contribution to making this home a haven for today. Actually, pretty much every day, since the house got blessed, but since I was out of the house all day, I decided this would have to count for half a brownie point. :-)

(The chief reason I was out for so long is that I went to confession. My spiritual father's parish is 40 miles away. 40 miles over roads that are not entirely clear of ice and snow is, um, interesting. But I really needed to go to confession. Now to put the results into practice -- I need to go sing Vespers.)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Making Your Home a Haven

OK, I have to confess that I don't know how many of my readers this will actually apply to, but the idea, which I got from Emma's blog, seems to be to come up with one or more things you can do every day to make your home a haven for yourself and your family, then post about it on your blog. The woman who first came up with the idea (Crystal Paine) cleaned her front entryway, made herself a cup of tea, and spent time with her Bible. Me...


I made a nice beef stew for my husband.

Hey, it's been snowing all day, and he's been alternately digging out the driveway and tele-working. So I just tossed some beef, carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes in the crockpot and let 'er rip. I must admit that the smell is driving me crazy! But I will be content with my crab cakes and rice.

I also worked on my cross stitch, which was very soothing and meditative, and made up (I hope) for all the ranting and raving I did when dh informed me that his father wants to come back to living with us. NO. Plain and simple. I finally told dh, "It's him or me," knowing that dh would know I was at least half joking (and half not!!!). There is simply no way we could maneuver a 95-year-old man, with his fragile bones, down a flight of steps to get to and from his various doctors' appointments. To say nothing of the fact that he won't tell us if something is bothering him -- he won't tell the people at the nursing home, either, but they know what to look for, and we don't -- and oh, yeah, I can just see me maneuvering him into and out of the shower. He certainly can't do it on his own.

So maybe my chief contribution to Making My Home a Haven was putting my foot down about Dear Old Dad. ;-)

Friday, November 30, 2007

Our Four (More or Less) Hours of Fame

Not sure if this is appearing on national news, and I guess I won't find out for another hour or so, but if you have seen -- yes, Rochester, NH, is where we live. I found out about this when attempting to run a couple of errands downtown -- pick up a finished cross stitch, and drop some sheets off at a local laundromat (we don't have a dryer, and it's below freezing outside).

All the local stations have been running this story, and the inaccuracies I've heard -- our fanciest restaurant described as a "bar," a 72-hour drinking bout on the part of the hostage-taker described as a 48-hour drinking bout, his "being Known to police" (as in, "Oh, yeah, this guy has a major criminal record") being the result of having grown up with half the cops on the force -- well, it's been an Education, in terms of just how accurate the media is. But you already knew that, right? ;-) I mean, look what they do to Orthodoxy....

I should add that no one seems to know quite why he picked on Hillary's campaign headquarters, but it seems perfectly clear to me that surely, he is of the opinion that the fewer Hillary supporters there are in the world, the better. Not that I would advocate this particular method of reducing their numbers, but I have been truly astonished by the number of brainless idiots -- I mean, Hillary supporters there are in these here parts. My secret hope is that this will convince the Democratic Party that this woman is way too controversial to be electable, and they will hand the nomination to someone with at least marginal brains. (Naming no names here...) But I'm not too convinced that that will actually occur.

Meanwhile, I sure hope I can get my sheets taken care of tomorrow. Sigh.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Commitment to Loveliness. Or Something Like It, Anyway.

First, thanks to all who commented on my last blog posting, for affirming what I believe to be the correct course of action. Philippa, you are right, I shouldn't read her blog, but at this stage, it's the only way I have of keeping up to date with my grandsons. :-(

Now, on to better stuff. I recently became acquainted with a blog called Charming the Birds from the Trees. The nicest thing about it is that it's another Orthodox lady -- can't know too many of those, there are so few of us! This young lady seems to be committed to a standard of gracious living that I thought was lost forever; good for her! Once a week, she posts a "Commitment to Loveliness," which she describes as:

a fun way to increase femininity and beauty in our lives each week without even trying! All you have to do is choose five things that you would like to work on or do during the week that will increase the loveliness in your life!

I'm all for that! We can't have enough beauty in life! So here are my five:

1. Listen to more good music. We've gotten into a rut lately of watching television, and although we don't watch too many of the network offerings, we do have a rather large library of tapes and DVDs. Time to put them on hold, for this week, at least.

2. Make a point of tidying up the house. With all that goes on around here, it's too easy to give the featherbeds a fluff and say, "I'll make the bed properly later." Or to stash the plethora of catalogues out of sight and say, "I'll get to that later." Not this week.

3. Make an appointment to get my hair and nails done. I started having my nails done a few months back, after literally years of neglect, and ya know? It feels pretty darn good to look civilized.

4. Sing Matins and Vespers regularly. With Jim home so much lately, it's been too easy just to read the prayers, or not to say them at all. But this time of year has some of the loveliest music in all Orthodoxy.

5. See if I can actually go a week without using slang. This will be a tough one. New Yorkers speak better slang than they do English.

Once you have chosen five simple things, post them on your blog and link to this post in your post, and then post the direct link to your Commitment to Loveliness post in the comments section. This looks like it could be fun!

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Some time ago, when I mentioned on the OrthWomen's list that I had a daughter, someone responded that she hadn't known I had a daughter. This post may explain why I don't generally talk about her.

This isn't the first time she's trashed her father and me on this blog (which she knows I read), and there was a period of about three years when she didn't want anything at all to do with us. During that period, she initially had my whole family convinced that the problem was me, and the way I was treating her, but over that period of time, people who got to see us together formed a totally different picture, and sadly, my daughter has no credibility in my family anymore. Obviously, with her friends, it's a different story.

My husband is in favor of telling her off, loudly and clearly, and breaking off relations altogether. I just don't know. Part of me wants to say, "OK, enough with the lies." But a larger part of me references the example of St. Nektarios, who lived under the cloud of slander for, what, 30? 40? years of his life? and died under it. Only after his death was he revealed as a saint, and only after his death was the slander exposed for what it was.

What's better -- to endure, and keep praying for her, hoping that she corrects herself? Or to call her on it?

Friday, November 23, 2007

No Chris :-(

Well, at least he made it home for Thanksgiving dinner, but had to return to work today. We had him a scant 24 hours.

But this time last year, he was home for five days, and then we had to put him on a train and ship him back to Philly for another month. It was so hard to see him get on the train, knowing he was going back to a half-life that he absolutely detested. We didn't even know that the job he has now was in the offing.

So at least he's able to be with us somewhat more often this year, which was my big Thanksgiving focus. Face it -- we got spoiled, being able to see him every weekend when he was working days. He's been on nights since September, and expects to continue on nights till January. After that, who knows?

The biggest downside to nights, besides lousing up his circadian rhythm, is that he can't get to church because he doesn't get in till sometime after midnight -- he works from 4:00 p.m. until anywhere between midnight and 4:00 a.m. -- then just crashes till about 10:00 or so. And the nearest church is 25 miles away. I hope he doesn't lose track altogether of his spiritual life; he's been such an inspiration to so many people in his faithful church attendance.

Just grumping aloud. I miss my son. I have to remind myself -- I missed him a whole lot more last year. ;-)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Up to No Good... usual. Yes, I've been Very, Very Quiet of late, and this picture is why.

Now, there's a story here. (Otherwise, why blog about it?) I bought this back in either 1989 or 1990 so I'd have some needlework to occupy myself with in the summer months -- in those days, I was BIG into knitting, and face it, wool just isn't what you want in your hands when it's 90 degrees in the shade with 100% humidity. So, traipsing around the Windsor Button Shop, a wonderful store which has sadly gone out of business -- they couldn't afford the rent at the local mall -- I spotted this and picked it up. Hey, it has sheep, right? What knitter doesn't have a love affair with sheep, if only in theory? So I bought it and started work on it right away.

By 1990 or 1991 -- I rather think I started it in 1989, so progress would have been by 1990 -- I had the words all in, and the line border. Then I set it aside -- time to get back to knitting -- and forgot all about it. In 2001, feeling horribly depressed over a number of things including Empty-Nest Syndrome, I rediscovered cross stitch, picked this back up, and filled in all the sheep and the background. Then I was stumped -- I knew that the floral border would require a good deal of finicky work -- so I set it aside again.

In the meantime, I discovered the wonderful world of internet groups, including a couple of cross-stitch groups, and these taught me hitherto-unknown techniques like the pinhead stitch for starting and ending needlework, the loop method of starting, and "parking" threads so that it's possible to work on really complicated projects with multiple colors of thread without losing one's mind. In October of this year, I had to attend a conference for tax collectors -- what needleworker in her right mind travels without a project?! (On the other hand, who said I was in my right mind....) This was my designated Travel Project (shows how much travel I do), so I flung it into the van and headed up for three incredibly boring days, about which I have already blogged.

But they were just the jump-start I needed to keep going on this project, and this past week, it suddenly dawned on me:

After, what, 18? 19? years -- I could finish this thing.

I got it done last night.

Now to frame it, and then -- on to the next thing, or rather, back to current projects, namely, the Golden Tikhvin Theotokos (see my last post for photo), which is my Lenten project, and a bit more work, as I can fit it in, on Maryland Mountain Express, which is somewhere in the distant archives of this blog. (I just looked -- January 2006)

All I can say is, thank heaven for "parking."

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Gold October

On Saturday evening, dh and I watched "The Hunt for Red October" on AMC -- we have it on video, but this was a letterbox version with captions underneath that made little esoteric notes about the movie.

I can't help wondering if this was a complete accident, or if somebody over at AMC was aware that November 7 was coming up, the anniversary of the 1917 revolution (which took place on October 25, according to the Old Calendar, thus the references to "October" when discussing this particular event).

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, November 7 has been a source of considerable tension in Russia. On that day, the dwindling Communist faithful gather to remember their lost glory -- it doesn't seem to have occurred to them that they are enjoying a right they certainly denied to their own opposition! -- and grumble and mutter about how the world is going to the dogs, or something like that.

Anyway, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, has replaced November 7 with November 4, the "Day of Russian Unity." The Day of Russian Unity commemorates the day the Russians drove the Poles out of Moscow in 1612, during the Time of Troubles in between Tsar Ivan IV ("the Terrible") and the rise of the Romanov dynasty. My friend Dimitra has blogged about this new holiday, and notes that it is also the feast of the Kazan icon of the Mother of God -- which played a significant role in the driving out of the Poles.

So I shall think of this new holiday as "Gold October," since I almost never think of the Theotokos without thinking of that line from Psalm -- 44, I think it is -- "At Thy right hand stood the Queen, arrayed in a vesture of inwoven gold." The icon above, of the "Golden Tikhvin Theotokos," is what's in my mind.

Dimitra, I should note, is currently living in Russia and teaching English. Can you imagine actually being able to live in an Orthodox country?!?!?!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


DH is in Boston today for a two-day conference, which means I get more computer access than usual. :D

Got online this morning, ostensibly to write to himself, and the first thing I did, as I always do, was check out my Bloglines subscription. I would never remember to read any blogs if it weren't for Bloglines. Anyway, the very first in my list is daughter Christa's blog (see right-hand column). This morning, she had a photo of "Hamlet," her older son, in his dragon costume -- absolutely adorable -- and a link to a story, which I clicked on for the heck of it, not realizing at first that she was the author.

If you ignore the Language at the beginning, this is incredible...

Of course I know that she is a professional writer, but this is Shirley Jackson stuff. WOW!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Livin' La Vida Loca

I'm not sure what Ricky Martin's definition of la vida loca is, but mine is probably pretty tame by comparison. Still, for me, it was definitely a Walk on the Wild Side -- to wit, a tax collectors' convention in North Conway, NH.

There were lots of workshops that were about half useful and half boring. The worst was the legal presentation on bankruptcy, by a lawyer who droned on and on and on -- at the end of an hour and a half, he was at the end of Page 2 of a 15-page presentation -- I left at that point, and was followed by so many women that I thought a break had been granted (when my own boss came up about 15 minutes later, I learned that there had been no break, they all just decided to follow my "sterling" example!). The second-worst was the one on employee relations, since it focused a great deal on how to discipline unsatisfactory employees, and most of us don't have employees, since we work for small towns and not big cities. Reality check here, folks.

So what was so wild about all this? The food.

I'm serious. The convention was held at a resort in North Conway, and while the accommodations were frankly crummy, the food was unreal. The sandwiches we had for lunch were made from slabs of meat. The dinners were lavish, even if you were "consigned" to eating salmon because it was Wednesday and that was the most "fast food" on the menu. (The filet mignon at the Thursday gala dinner was to die for. Probably literally.)

But the desserts were sinful. Put it this way: The desserts were served buffet style, and you could not only choose your own, but build your own. So if you wanted, for example, strawberry shortcake, you could start with half a biscuit, or two biscuits. You could have half a cup of strawberries, or half a bowl. We won't even go into the subject of whipped cream. There were cheesecake, chocolate "molten" cake (melted in the mouth), tiramisu, bread pudding, cobblers, and the aforementioned strawberry shortcake. All at once. And those are just the desserts I can remember.

Whatever wasn't finished, was simply thrown away. We probably had enough food, over the course of three days, to feed half of Africa for at least a week. I was, frankly, shocked at the volume of food available to maybe 100-150 people who were far from malnourished -- though I should note that we probably worked it off just by getting around this vast resort, which has one elevator that serves three floors of sixty rooms each. And to get to the elevator, you had to walk a quarter of a mile (I clocked it) if your room was at the far end of the corridor. We all did a lot of walking and stair-climbing.

Then there was the drinking. The less said about that, the better.

All of this was paid for by the municipalities that employ us. I don't know what the fees were (registration, room and board, whatever else). I don't want to know. I do know that unless I see a topic that I genuinely need to know something about -- I won't be going again.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Кровь Христой

Or, the Blood of Christ.

Priests must learn in seminary how to channel excess energy. Mine has decided that, since I offered to embroider Church paraments (analogion covers, Communion cloths, etc.), I must be a good person (a) to sew extra Communion cloths, and (b) to wash them. Why do people think that if you like embroidery, you must like sewing? I hate sewing. My mother used to give me all her mending and hemming to do, too, since she hated mending, and, well, since I loved embroidery, I must like sewing, too. Sigh.

So this past week, Father gave me a box of Communion cloths that need washing, and a sack of towels and a sheet that had been used in a Baptism. The sheet and towels, he explained, could go into the washing machine after the Chrism had been rinsed off them, but the Communion cloths would have to be washed by hand.

So I bought a large storage bin (for the sheet and towels), and on the first dry day all week -- today -- I carted the bin outside and poured three buckets of hot water into it, along with some environmental detergent -- since the water has to be dumped out into the ground, and in a place where no one will walk at that, I figured I'd better use environmental detergent. I left that to soak out on the "back" porch, and filled a much smaller basin with hot water, more environmental detergent, and the Communion cloths.

Let me tell you, six gallons of water weigh a lot. I couldn't lift that tub of water after I'd wrung out and removed the sheet and towels. I ended up emptying it the same way I'd filled it, pail by pail, and when the pail would no longer pick up much water, I was able to lift the bin and carry it out to a spot in the back yard that is so overgrown, no one will ever be able to walk on it. It has the added advantage of being a property line shared by a Catholic church. Look out, Catholics. ;->

Then I turned my attention to the Communion cloths, and I quickly discovered something: When you wash Communion cloths, the water turns...

...the color of blood.

The same color it would turn if you rinsed out clothes that had gotten blood on them.

Suddenly it hit me, as it never has before: That is the Blood of Christ that seeps into those cloths, and I was washing it out. What do you do with that knowledge?! The only thing possible, for me anyway, was to whisper the Jesus Prayer over and over, all the while tears pouring down my face. I heartily recommend this experience to anyone who has begun to get comfortable with his faith. It's a real smack upside the head.

(This water also has to go into the ground, where no one will walk on it. That patch of garden is awfully soggy, at the moment, between three straight days of rain and a lot of wash and rinse water.)

Now, my "back" porch is actually on the side of the house, and my house is on a very main street in town. I couldn't help wondering what the neighbors were making of this performance, the tub of water with the laundry ("Doesn't the poor soul have a machine?! What's wrong with the laundromat?!") followed by the trips back and forth into the house with large pails of water, not to mention the repeated trips out to the "back 40." My family and I can provide weeks of entertainment to the entire neighborhood just by having a dead tree removed and replaced by two new trees. I cringe to think what they'll be saying now.

But it was worth it.

My only problem: How am I going to do this kind of thing during the winter, here in the Far Frozen North?!

Maybe the One Whose Blood I was washing, will provide the answer to that one, too.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Wash Day

Elizabeth has left a post about hanging out her laundry with which I whole-heartedly concur. I left a comment there, but I'll post it here, too, in case there are other Crunchy Cons out there who think the sight and smell of hanging out the laundry to dry is worth the slight extra effort and time.

First, there's nothing like the smell of line-dried laundry. No fabric softener on earth can duplicate it. Then, there's a softness to all but the towels that also cannot be duplicated by any fabric softener. (And towels soften up amazingly if, as you take them off the line, you give them a couple of sharp slaps against your legs before folding them. Fluffs them out.) And the sight of clothes dancing on a clothesline in a freshening breeze practically screams HOME! You can almost smell the apple pie cooling in the kitchen. (For the record, I have never baked an apple pie in my life.)

OK, I can practically hear Mimi jumping up and down, shouting, "But what about RAIN?" (Mimi lives in the Pacific Northwest.) This was my chief comment to Elizabeth's post. I told her to consider the addition of a "utility porch" somewhere on her house. I had one in the back of a house we rented in Massachusetts for two years. It was just heavenly. It was just a back porch with clotheslines strung across the ceiling from side to side -- five of 'em, wrapped around hooks that had been screwed into the side supporting beams of the porch roof. Every morning, before leaving for work (I was working at the time), I would wash a load of laundry and hang it out to dry. And in the evening, I'd bring it in off the line, all fresh and soft. One year, it rained for an entire week in the spring, and I washed clothes every day. And every day, I'd bring them in, all fresh and soft -- and dry.

My current house does not have a utility porch, and we've lived in it for 21 years. I keep toying with the idea. But there's an awkward bulkhead (door to the cellar) that juts out from the middle of the back of the house, and I cannot design any way around it, short of a trap door -- and I really don't want to go there.

So, in the winter, I dry my "smalls" on racks in the kitchen, which moisturizes the air beautifully. And I take my sheets and towels to the laundromat and suffer with machine-dried laundry. Hanging out laundry in the fresh air is one of the few things I actually like about summer.

An aside here: Portsmouth Naval Ship Yard is not too far from our house. Submarines routinely come in for repair, and the crew are billeted with local families while the ship undergoes repair. One of my friends once hosted a young sailor from California for about six months. They all got along very well, and on his last night before reporting for sea duty, they took him out to a local lobster pound for dinner. As they sat around enjoying Maine "lobstah," the young fellow thanked them profusely for their hospitality, then added: "There's just one thing I've never understood. What is the significance of this local custom of hanging out clothes in the back yard?"


Saturday, September 22, 2007

My Blog is Worth...

My blog is worth $3,387.24.
How much is your blog worth?

Cribbed from s-p, whose blog, according to these yahoos, is worth nothing. I suspect that their monetary value is based on how often one blogs -- s-p, having a real life (unlike yours truly), rarely blogs.

In other news, the visit with Father Costin went very well. We got the place tidied up sufficiently to look like civilized folk; he went from room to room, blessing the house (I didn't open the door to the porch, which is still full of boxes that we are gradually throwing out, and I didn't let him down into the basement -- he just "threw some holy water down there," as Jim requested), and then we all sat down to lunch. As he was blessing the food, I happened to glance over towards the corner, where I have a small sideboard, and spotted...

...six cans of Campbell's Soup that Jim had put there and forgotten to put away.

So much for gracious living. ;-)

Update to this post: I forgot to note that Father also blessed the outside of the house, something no priest had ever done before (probably because at the time of the usual house blessing, there's about a foot of snow in the backyard). I wash a load of clothes every day, and on Thursday, I wash my "whites"; and since we don't have a dryer, being Crunchy Cons, my laundry hangs in the back yard. So there's Father, traipsing all around the house, including the back yard, and there's my laundry, keeping time to "When Thou wast baptized in the Jordan, O Lord." At least the underwear was decorously hidden behind the T-shirts.

We had a nice visit, and the food was good. And he left his Trebnik book here, so I guess that subconsciously, he wanted to come back. (But I brought it over to church the next day.)

I can't help wondering what the nuns next door made of this guy in a black robe sprinkling water all over the place, including on their hedges...

Sunday, September 16, 2007

General Nuisance

When my kids were little, they were big on Richard Scarry books. I can't recall which of the many it was, but one of them featured a minor character named General Nuisance (I seem to recall him saying, "Won't you please get up, Mr. Soldier?" at reveille. Yeah, right.)

Well, I have the feeling that General Nuisance is about to visit our house, only it isn't really General Nuisance who's coming -- it's mild-mannered little Father Costin, who's coming to bless our house on Thursday. Nothing drastic, this is just his way of introducing himself to his parishioners and getting to know them better, and I think it's very sweet of him to want to visit everybody outside of the normal visitation cycle at Epiphany.

Here's the rub: Jim and I don't do a lot of entertaining, so our really-very-small house gets cluttered easily. All it takes is one or two pieces of paper, and, "Oh, I'll take care of this later," and inside of 24 hours, the place looks like a bomb hit it. Now, I cannot clean around a mess -- things have to be tidy before I can see the grime -- so there's also quite a bit of, well, grime around.

And Father C. has a reputation for being immaculate.

And Jim learned his cleaning skills in the military, where they did white-glove inspections once a week, and used to strip the floors and re-wax them on a weekly basis.

You see where this is going?!

I am very sure that my mild-mannered little priest would be horrified to think that he was causing so much Uproar in my house, but on the other hand, this is what happens when you get so busy with taking care of an old man's affairs that you Let Things Go. The kitchen table is still cluttered with various kinds of paperwork, and I remember my in-laws' house looking very much like ours does now, full of paperwork that they didn't want to lose track of (these people have never heard of, hello, FILING PAPER?!?!?!), so I shouldn't be surprised that their son has adopted their crummy habits.

So we will get our house in sufficient order that a civilized person can enter it and not run screaming to the Board of Health that he's about to come down with MRSA as a result of having set foot in our house. And it will promptly get as cluttered and grotty as it was before we cleaned it.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

A Note from Our Son

Yes, that's himself over there, doing his Nathan Fillion imitation (for those of you familiar with the defunct Fox Channel TV show "Firefly"). He says that the one on his left is very left-wing, and the one on his right is into Wicca, and all the rest are married. But I love the look on his face, so this is my current favorite Chris photo.

That's not what I'm blogging about, however. This note from him just came into my inbox:

BLET-backed bill would create rail expansion in New Hampshire

CLEVELAND, August 1 — The governor of New Hampshire signed a BLET-backed measure on July 27 that will help create railroad jobs and revitalize freight and passenger rail service in the state.

Governor Lynch's signing of New Hampshire Senate Bill 75 at Nashua City Hall in Nashua, N.H., establishes the New Hampshire Rail Authority Board, which will make it easier for railroad companies to make inroads in New Hampshire while creating new job opportunities for BLET members.

Establishing viable railroads would help spur economic growth in the state, Governor Lynch said. Also, "It will help reduce congestion on our roads, improving public safety and reducing air pollution."

The measure establishes a New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority that will have responsibility for developing and providing commuter rail and related rail transportation services in New Hampshire. The measure should help state lawmakers achieve a major rail transportation goal, which is the establishment of a high speed rail corridor between Boston and Montreal, via New Hampshire and Vermont.

According to William Remington, Legislative Representative of BLET Division 191 in Lunenburg, Mass., rail service in New Hampshire — with the exception of two Amtrak trains the Downeaster and Vermonter — is currently limited to tourist trains and a few shortline railroads.

"It was time for a change and we pushed for it," said Remington, who is also 3rd Vice Chairman of the Massachusetts State Legislative Board.

The BLET, in conjunction with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, worked for months to secure passage of the measure through the New Hampshire legislature.

The Senate bill, SB-75 (New Hampshire Rail Authority Board), passed by a vote of 189-120 and was signed by Governor Lynch on July 27, 2007. It became effective the same day. The House bill, HB-311 (Committee to Review Liability Issues for Commuter Rail Operations), was passed by a vote of 17-0.

Also, as part of the bill, Governor Lynch will appoint three board members — with rail experience — to the Rail Transit Authority. Their job will be to seek funding and open corridors that would bring commuter rail into the state, while protecting the interest of existing communities.

Dan Lauzon, 1st Vice Chairman of the Massachusetts State Legislative Board, and Wayne Gagne, a member of BLET Division 57 (Boston), played key rolls in testifying and furthering the legislation. Brother Remington said that George Newman, Chairman of the Massachusetts State Legislative Board, and Mike Twombly, Springfield Terminal-Delaware & Hudson General Chairman, were also extremely supportive and continually lent assistance throughout the process.

Also playing a large role was Dennis Caza, a D.R.I.V.E. Field Representative from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and a member of Teamsters Local 633.

"It is a great experience working with Brother Caza and look forward in working with him and the Teamsters again," Brother Remington said.

Brother Gagne also serves as Chairman of the New Hampshire Commuter Rail Advisory Committee. Brother Remington is the founder and first president of the New Hampshire Railroad Revitalization Association. He is also Legislative Representative of the New Hampshire Commuter Rail Advisory Committee and committee member of the New Hampshire Operation Life Saver.


Now, I have no idea what BLET is, and as you may be able to deduce from all the "Brother"s in this post, it's from a union newsletter. However, this is great news for this household -- not only does it mean that Chris might eventually be able to find work even a bit closer to home (though compared to Philly, Enfield is heaven), but also -- we've been great fans of rail travel for a very long time. It worked for us as subway commuters in NYC, it worked for us whenever we wanted to go places in Germany, and it has worked for us ever since Amtrak's Downeaster inaugurated service from Portland, ME to Boston, MA in 2000. Every time we travelled to Philly to visit Chris, we took the train, and it's been a major annoyance not to be able to rely on mass transit to get places around NH.

I hope, I hope, I hope that is about to change.

Happy dancing in Rottenchester tonight!!

Saturday, September 08, 2007


As usual, I have been up to no good. This past Tuesday, the fall semester at the University started, and I am repeating third-year Russian, not because I failed it, but because I found this past summer that I was actually able to use it, and now I want to refine it. Also, as the Russians say, "Repetition is the mother of learning" (повторение мать учение).

Then, this past Thursday, my priest, his wife, two ladies from church, and I travelled to Boston to hear the Sretensky Monastery Choir. WHOA. The best way to describe it was that it was a completely Russian experience. I heard more Russian on Thursday night than I hear in a whole year of Russian classes. The music wasn't all sacred -- lots of folk songs -- and after each and every one, either somebody would whistle, or this lady a couple of seats away from us would yell out, "Bravo, BRA-vo!" And the encore...well...they had translations for everything else they sang, but not the encore, so my Russian came in particular use then. Otherwise I would never have understood this:

"Russia was always holy, because it was always an Orthodox nation. Russia is holy, because it is an Orthodox nation. Holy Russia will always be an Orthodox nation!" Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Billy Graham!!

Finally, on a much lighter note, there's this:

You Scored an A

You got 10/10 questions correct.

It's pretty obvious that you don't make basic grammatical errors.

If anything, you're annoyed when people make simple mistakes on their blogs.

As far as people with bad grammar go, you know they're only human.

And it's humanity and its current condition that truly disturb you sometimes.

Yep. That's me. The Grammar Nazi. Now you know why it matters so much to me that I get Russian grammar right.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

It's Too Quiet

Not in the way I used to mean it. Since Chris moved back to New Hampshire, it feels like he's home again, even though he lives two hours away, so it doesn't feel as deathly quiet around here as it used to (even though it actually is!).

No, what I'm referring to is that I've actually had a chance to catch up on all the fun things that I've let go over the past year, like needlework, and in doing so, I find I'm having too much time to think. (I have also been working on a new book, which limits my Thinking time -- a good thing, as you will see.) And what I find I'm Thinking about, is This Time Last Year.

I came a little too close to the Grim Reaper for comfort, frankly. Now, while the thought of dying doesn't bother me particularly, the thought of leaving behind the people I love just eats at me. Now I find that it's difficult to forget; I hear music that I heard from that time, or think, "This time last year, I didn't even have enough energy to pick up a needle," and the whole horror washes over me again.

I'm assuming this is a form of PTSD? Anyone else have this kind of thing, where, when horrible anniversaries roll around, you relive them? How did you cope?

Obviously, this isn't the first horrible thing that happened to me in life, but it took me 20 years to get over the last truly horrible thing, and I'd rather not take so long this time (for one thing, I may not have 20 years -- comforting thought!). I'd say, "There's always booze," but have been informed that with a background that's half Irish and half Russian, I should just surrender to my Inherent Alcoholism, and that's all I need to stay away from that particular "consolation." And I have never found therapy to be particularly helpful.

Any ideas?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

What Color Crayon Are You?

You Are a Green Crayon

Your world is colored in harmonious, peaceful, natural colors.
While some may associate green with money, you are one of the least materialistic people around.
Comfort is important to you. You like to feel as relaxed as possible - and you try to make others feel at ease.
You're very happy with who you are, and it certainly shows!

Your color wheel opposite is red. Every time you feel grounded, a red person does their best to shake you.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Update on New Kid

A couple of people left comments on my post concerning the "New Kid on the Block," so I thought I'd respond this way.

Catherine -- it just gets better and better. He's just such a nice person. New priests often come with an Agenda. Fr. Dean saw himself as revitalizing an aging community, and he did -- unfortunately, he also stepped on a lot of older toes to do that, and people got hurt. The last priest seemed to have as his agenda closer ties with the heterodox community, which wouldn't have been a bad thing, if it hadn't also involved little gems like "icons" of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic (from those Bridgebuilders crackpots), ecumenical services that included the local rabbi giving a sermon while standing in front of the icon of the Annunciation, and those little girls Going Where No Orthodox Little Girl Had Ever Gone Before -- I've crabbed enough about that that I don't feel the need to go into it again.

(By the way, in case anyone is actually buying "icons" from Bridgebuilders, I should note that I refer to them as "crackpots" because they so obviously subscribe to the theory that what makes an icon is the style of painting, and nothing more. You should have seen my priest's face when I made mention of their "icon" of Harvey Milk, the San Francisco official who was gunned down because he was gay. This is the kind of thing they get up to.)

Fr. Costin, to give the New Kid his name -- Fr. Costin also has an agenda. As he said to me, "People will forget about their petty grievances when they return to their spiritual focus." If it's possible to fall in love spiritually, I think I've just done that! :D

Elizabeth -- it wasn't the old priest who told Fr. Costin that I would "turn against him," but a member of the parish council who is best described as an Old Woman. The poor soul used to be a very responsible member of the community till he had a stroke; now he can't practice in his former profession, and seems to spend his days lurking around the church and finding things to gossip about. This is why this particular bit of gossip doesn't bother me for my own sake, but it does hurt in the sense that this nice young priest must be wondering when and how he's going to get hit between the eyes. I won't say "Never" -- I'm sure that eventually, we'll have some kind of difference of opinion -- but I hope we can resolve it, as I did my differences with Fr. Dean. It's when people won't listen that eventually, I just stop trying.

I'd like to try to get a picture of these people so I can put it up on my blog. They are just such a cute family!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

When You Have Too Much Time on Your Hands...

...this is what you get up to.

This is an adaptation of an Ellen Maurer-Stroh cross-stitch design of roses and lilies. I charted them out on top of a St. Olga cross, and the idea is to stitch this design onto at least two analoy covers: one for the main analogion in the church itself, and one for the analogion that stands in the narthex. There are four other analogia, and for them I will stitch a plain St. Olga cross, no flowers -- I have to make some kind of progress. ;-)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

New Kid on the Block

Over the past six or so years, all my readers have been very patient with me as I've done my "wandering Jew" act through various jurisdictions and parishes -- something I do truly deplore, but with my home parish having become something of a laboratory for the Orthodox/Catholic experiment, I didn't feel I had much choice. The ROCOR parish where I would have preferred to settle folded when its priest took up a new post; we tried going to that parish for a couple of years, but the distance proved to be too much, and we finally settled on a parish some 40 miles away, where at least I knew I could trust the priest not to do anything too Innovationist. At the same time, every other week we would attend Liturgy at a very small Greek parish nearby, which only has Liturgies every other week. It worked out well enough, though I never really felt at home in the 40-miles-away parish.

Well - my original parish is finally freed from the "Latin Yoke" ;-> and we have a new priest! This one's a corker: He's from Romania. He has his Bachelor's from Harvard, and his Ph.D. from CalTech in Theoretical Physics (!!!) - no idea where his Master's is from - and says he never had any real exposure to Christianity until he and some friends bicycled from CalTech to a Romanian parish about an hour away. The priest there gave a very powerful sermon about confession, and this guy decided then and there that he had to make some radical changes in his life. "Radical" is the word -- from Theoretical Physics to Metaphysics?! God love him!

Now, when Fr. Dean was in charge of this parish, I used to chant weekday Liturgies for him. When the "Latin" priest was in charge, I actually developed nodes on my vocal cords, so was unable to sing for three years, and by the time they cleared up, he had made other arrangements for a weekday chanter, so I was out of a job -- just as well, since over those three years it became obvious that this was not someone you could work with. (He has a "don't confuse me with facts" personality.) Since those "other arrangements" consisted of his oldest son, and that whole family is gone now, I thought, maybe this new priest would need a weekday chanter. So I introduced myself to him.

It turned out that my reputation had preceded me: The new priest had already talked to Fr. Dean! =:0 So we hit it off very well from the start, and I actually have had the chance to sing for him at Paraklesis, and on the Feast of the Transfiguration. He's also interested in my needlework.

Now for the rabbit punch: After Paraklesis on Monday, he was blowing off a little steam because the actual chanter of the parish, the guy who sings on Sundays, was supposed to be there, and wasn't. As Father said, it puts a tremendous strain on his own voice to have to sing everything, which he did because he's just been teaching the Paraklesis melodies to me. I forget now how we got on the topic, but I said something about, "I don't know what you've heard about me from the parish" - this is a parish that loves to gossip, and never puts a good light on anything when there's a possible bad explanation - and he said, "They tell me that you will turn against me."

With friends like these....

What bothers me about that is not that it's untrue - I can see why these wahoos would come up with that kind of explanation - but that someone was so eager to get his knife into me that he would disturb the peace of mind of a new young priest to do it. Okay, maybe he was just trying to prepare the priest for that eventuality; it certainly happened with the last priest, though there were actual reasons for my "turning against" him, and when I explained these to the new priest, he understood that he hadn't gotten the whole story. And I suspect, from comments passed over the past six years, that my not singing for the Latin priest was interpreted as leaving in a snit; as I said, why look for a real explanation when there's a bad spin to put on it?

Be that as it may, I like this new young fellow very much. He's enthusiastic without being pushy, he has a singing voice to die for, and frankly - I like that he's from an Eastern Bloc country. This says to me that he has really struggled for his faith, that he's not Orthodox "because Greeks are Orthodox," but understands the necessity for spiritual growth - actually, he's a lot like Fr. Dean. I can't wait to see what his Bible studies are like. His sermons are already a hoot, since he brings a lot of science into them - as one of the Jordanville monks once said to me, it's so interesting to see how priests bring their former lives into their sermons.

And meanwhile, I will also have to deal with the ill will of my former parish. But that I'm not too worried about, mostly because they seem to think their opinion actually should matter to me, and of course it doesn't - as long as the "new kid on the block" and I are able to communicate well. So far, so good!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

New Name

Back in February, I posted about the newest "member" of our family, my new red Toyota Matrix. At the time, she was Molly. She has a new name, "Minnie." (Which I don't especially care for -- makes me think of Minnie Mouse. I liked Mimi, but the hubster, loyal son of Das Vaterland that he is, says it's "too French." Sigh.)

Anyway, what occasioned the name change was meeting an actual person named Molly at the Summer School. Charity forbids my saying very much about this, umm, interesting person, except to note that she was a third-year student this year, and is the only person I have ever seen conduct a choir with a hula motion. Most of us conduct with the "opposable thumbs" approach, i.e., we move our arms in opposite directions from each other. Molly conducted by moving her arms in the same direction at once. She did get her certificate -- I'm not sure if it was because she didn't fall apart altogether during the final exam, or because they would do anything to make sure she didn't come back.

She had other idiosyncrasies. Let's just leave it at that. But I knew that if I ever referred to "Molly" again, it wouldn't be my little red car I'd be thinking of. Hence, the name change.

And, just before we left for Jordanville, we got another Toyota Matrix. This one's pure white, and its name is "Snoopy." It started out life as "E. B." (the hubster being an admirer of E. B. White), but "Snoopy" fits it much better. Its purchase was occasioned by a broken tie rod, followed by the discovery that all the other tie rods on the car were also in shaky condition, and fixing one of these puppies, in this neck of the woods, costs upwards of $400. Plus, the car was a 1994 Escort -- hard to find parts for it, at this point. Plus, the floor was rusting out altogether, and in NH, your car doesn't pass the state inspection if the floor is rusted. (Doesn't matter if the headlights are out of balance, or even if the tie rods are about to fall apart -- as I learned one September, after a state inspection the previous month -- but that floor had better be good and solid. Go figure.)

Fortunately, we paid cash for the first car, so we only have one car payment to handle. But the hubster was considering retirement, before this latest discovery. Now - well, who knows?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

He can't have been really 20, but...

...he looked it, the young man standing in church four Sundays ago, up there in Jordanville. Very Russian-looking, short blond hair, slight build, looking very solemn and serious -- with three children clustered around him, two little girls about 7 or 8, and a little boy about 3. In the more conservative ROCOR churches, men stand on the right-hand side of the church, and women stand on the left, and usually, the children stand with the women, so this young man was all the more noticeable with his three little children clustered around him, each little girl holding a hand, and the little boy smack up against his front. And they just stood there, from about the Gospel onwards.

Now, because Jordanville is a hierarchical seat, services there take a long time. A Sunday Liturgy can take three hours. People wander in and out throughout; you get to a point where you need a "seventh-inning stretch," as my Church Slavonic instructor once put it, so you drift outside and sit for awhile, get some fresh air, then wander back in and find a place to stand. Not this family. They just stayed put the whole time, and let me tell you, those kids didn't move an inch. Yet there was no question of the affection between father and children; he let them do pretty much anything they liked with his hands, and when one of the little girls let go, his son (looked just like him!) promptly picked up the hand and put it on top of his head.

Then, just before Communion, the dad leaned down and whispered to one of the girls, who nodded, and then he took off, leaving the three children behind. I saw them craning their necks to watch him go, and wondered what that was all about. A few minutes he reappeared--with an infant in his arms. And shepherded the three other children up for Communion, along with the infant.

This guy has four children.

I saw him for all the Sundays I was in Jordanville. The second Sunday, the kids stayed with him, and I was interested to see his method of "discipline": When the little boy put his hands into his pockets, the dad just reached down and gently removed the hands, then put them at the boy's side. And they stayed there. The third Sunday, I saw the same children, but this time with a sweet-looking young woman who actually let them sit down on one of the stools placed around the cathedral. It was amusing to note that they were actually a little wigglier with her around! At Communion time, dad reappeared--apparently, this time he had "infant duty"--and after Communion, those kids just moved to his side and stayed there, although mom was still in church.

When church let out, those kids reverted to being kids--not that they were remotely whiney, but just racing around all over the place, blowing off steam--and the parents just stood there talking, with the dad swinging the infant back and forth in its car seat, chatting easily with his wife and smiling. He certainly didn't come across as some kind of disciplinarian fanatic, but somehow, he had gotten across to his kids how to behave in church, and they did.

I couldn't help contrasting their behavior with the American kids I know, who are so rambunctious and make their presence such an ordeal for everyone around them--not necessarily at Liturgy, more like in the public sphere (like grocery stores), but even at church, kids raised by American parents are much more disruptive than these kids were. What is it about Russian parents and children? I mean, these weren't the only kids in church, but the only thing that made them noticeable was their father, who really did look about 20 years old. The other kids in church were just as well-behaved. As my husband said (he was there for the third Sunday, and I pointed out the family), they knew that church was a special place, and that they were supposed to have "church manners."

I wish I knew how Russians do it. And I wish they'd share the secret with today's parents.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Back to Our Sheep!

Yes, I know I've been back for two weeks. The first week, Jim was still working from home, so the computer was virtually unavailable. The second week, while he was gone on a business trip -- believe it or not, I was still catching up from my trip to Jordanville!

And what a trip it was. It did rain quite a bit -- actually, just about every day -- but even so, the highs each day were in the 60s, which is my kind of weather (the kids from California, though, were freezing!). I did actually complete my goal, which was the first course in Church Slavonic -- whether or not I passed, is still up for grabs, since the grades appear not to have been submitted, but for the first time ever, I answered every single question on the test, so I'm hopeful. I met, of course, a number of young people who were utterly charming, as well as one lady a bit closer to me in age, who was helping out in the kitchen (bless her) and who is well known in ROCOR circles as a producer of Church music. (I don't want to use her name without her permission.)

And it was so nice to catch up with all the instructors out there, especially the Choral Methods instructor, Nikolai Alexeyevich Myshkin. Last time I was in Jordanville, he gave me his address and said I could write to him; but I held off doing that until I could do so in Russian. Well, I finally did write to him, all in Russian, at the beginning of June, thinking it would take a week or two to get there -- he told me he got my letter two hours before he was due to leave for the States! It took a whole month to get there! I sat in on a couple of his classes, which I had already taken and passed, just for the purpose of seeing how much I could pick up in Russian (he only teaches in that language, and people in the class provide the translation). I understood about half, and I find, since coming back home, that I'm much more willing to take a chance in writing in the Russian language.


I had a number of experiences out there that I'd like to blog about, but don't want this to become too long, so I will just post this last bit, and then hope to post more during the week: On the Saturday when we were taking our final tests in the various subjects, I was having breakfast, cramming for Church Slavonic, when in walked that instructor. He sat down to have his own breakfast, and naturally, since he wasn't taking any tests, he proceeded to hold a conversation with one of the other non-students present. I listened in for a bit, then opened up my Slavonic notes and said, "Well, back to the salt mines." And this particular instructor added, "Or, as the Russians say, 'Back to our sheep.'"


I asked a couple of the native Russians there if they had ever heard that expression, and they told me that yes, it comes from a movie that was made a number of years ago, about two peasants who go to court over a charge of sheep-stealing. The movie was supposed to be a complete mock on the Soviet government, with the two peasants railing at each other about every conceivable aspect of their lives, and periodically the judge would bang his gavel and yell, "Back to our sheep!" The Russians use this expression nowadays to mean, "Let's get back to business."

And so, those of you who read this blog -- "Back to our sheep!" Let's get back to blogging!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

And Speaking of Singing... I was a couple of posts ago, I'm off on Friday for two weeks of singing Russian Orthodox Church music.

There's a monastery in upstate New York, not too far from the Baseball Museum in Cooperstown, which hosts the Summer School of Liturgical Music for two weeks every summer. If you go through all the courses, over a three-year period, you are certified as a choir director and/or Reader in the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. I completed this course in 2003, went back in 2004 to help out in the kitchen (and sing, of course), missed it in 2005 for my grandson's second birthday -- I'll never do that again -- and last year, well, we know about that.

So I need this course this year. I plan to take a couple of refresher courses in Choral Conducting Methods and Church Music History, and, never having passed Church Slavonic, I really want to take that course for a (ahem) fourth time. Well, come on, most folks who take it at least have to read the stuff in church on Sundays. Until a few years ago, I never even knew it existed.

Now, I do attend a Greek church. So why am I taking courses in Russian Orthodox choral singing? Well, apart from the chance to sing four hours a day, with music composed by the likes of Rachmaninov, when I began the course I was in fact a choir director. Shortly after completing the first third of the course, my choir and I had a falling out, and I have not conducted since then, but the course material itself is so compelling that I just had to go back and finish it out, and I did.

However, there is now an ulterior motive: We have a new priest. I have met him, like him very much, and spoken with him at length about the parish, the choir, and the fact that although there are a number of Russians in the area, they don't seem to feel awfully comfortable at our church. They show up for Pascha, then crawl back into the woodwork until the next year. He would like to change that.

My husband points out that any such effort is likely to put a number of Greek noses far out of joint, and he's probably right about that. Some folks in the parish are still in a snit that they've had to put up with a non-Greek priest for the past six years, and the new priest is also not Greek, but Romanian. Still, seven years ago they didn't even want to have English in the parish, and now they use it all the time, so I hope that there's hope. If you focus on the Church as a spiritual hospital, this isn't usually a problem, but if you focus on it as an ethnic club, that's where the sparks fly. Will keep you all posted how this goes.

Meanwhile, I shall shortly be off for my spiritual "fix" for the year. I need it.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Tagged by Emily

See links to other blogs at right. I wasn't specifically tagged, but she said, "anyone reading this post," so Good Little Do-Bee that I am, I thought I'd play along.

Rules: After posting these rules, each player proceeds to list 8 relatively random facts/habits about himself/herself. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, leaving them a comment on their blogs to let them know.

1. Although I love to sing, I'm not all that wild about opera. Go figure.

2. Speaking of singing, my late aunt told me once that I could sing before I could talk. Whoa.

3. I have never been able to sit around in my jammies for very long, and prefer to get dressed the second I get up.

4. I loved being a secretary. If I'm not sitting at a typewriter or keyboard, I don't feel as if I'm working.

5. I would have loved to have at least half a dozen children, but got a late start. Sigh.

6. I am a shocking housekeeper, despite really loving a clean and tidy home. It's tempting to say that it's hard to be clean and tidy when living with a packrat, but I seem to have developed tendencies along those lines myself.

7. If my chores aren't done by 9:00 a.m., they won't get done at all.

8. Despite my terror of flying, I actually do hope to make it to Russia one day.

Tagging: anyone who reads this blog, since I appear to have just six readers, per Bloglines.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

You Must See This

Over on the right are links to my favorite blogs ("Other Sheep of This Fold"). Click on Nancy's (Treasured Heart) to see something that -- well, it took my breath away. You do have to let it run for a couple of seconds before you realize what it's about, and turn up the sound -- it's well worth it.

Update: Paul Potts won the competition! Elizabeth, God bless her, has posted all three of his performances on her blog, and when I clicked on over to You-Tube, there was also a clip of the announcement that he was the winner. Just thrilled for this guy, and so very, very pleased that culture is not dead, after all.

Dictionary definition of "Margaret"

How could I resist?

Margaret --


A real life muppet

'How will you be defined in the dictionary?' at

Friday, June 08, 2007

Red Alert

Ever since last August -- I think we all know what happened then -- I have had a really difficult time keeping to my prayer rule. At that time, I'm sure it was just sheer physical exhaustion, as my body recovered from a major assault on it, and then from a life-threatening illness (turns out that MRSA kills a lot of people). Also, dh was home a great deal, and over the years, he's made it plain that he thinks prayer is for "holy rollers."

Well -- his tune has gradually changed, and since he's been home this past month, recuperating from his own stay in the hospital -- I think I blogged about that -- he doesn't seem to mind my praying so much. This week, when I reminded him that I was fasting (he wanted to fix me eggs for breakfast), he just said, "Oh! Okay!" This is a major change for him.

So there isn't too much excuse for the fact that I managed a bare minimum, sometimes, of prayer rule throughout Lent and the Paschal season. I'm just starting to get into it a bit more regularly now. It's embarrassing; I'll have to bring it up in confession; but until today, I haven't been able to figure out what the problem is.

Today I got it. Now I just have to remember it, which is why I'm blogging about it.

When Jim's home, I'm on nonstop Red Alert, a military term for, "Be ready to leap into action at a moment's notice." Yep, that's me.

What happened this morning was that as I was debating whether or not to get into my prayer rule, at 8:30 a.m. (it takes about an hour to do the whole thing), Jim suddenly shouted, "Do you consider this redundant?" and proceeded to quote a sentence that, well, actually was redundant. He does this all the time, bouncing grammar rules off me; he's actually very savvy with the English language himself, but if he isn't sure about a point, it's me he comes to. And while it's flattering, it's also very interfering.

"Would you put a semicolon here?"

"Is a colon followed by one space or two?" (It's two. Semicolons are one space.)

"How does this sound to your ear?" (Reads the rough draft of a report he's doing for work.)

"How many days did I work from home last month?"


When he goes into Boston to work, this is not a problem, only when he works from home. Sometimes I feel like saying, "There is life in Rochester when you aren't here, I don't live in a state of suspended animation until you get home, so please stop acting as if I had nothing better to do all day than dance attendance on you." In the heat of the summer, it gets real interesting; he leaves off working around 3:00 (having worked since 6:00 a.m., so all you taxpayers are still getting your money's worth!), and then I'm supposed to Drop Everything at a moment's notice so we can drive up to his favorite swimming hole, where he swims for a couple of hours while I work on embroidery and stew about dinner, which I will still have to prepare when we get back home. Why do I have to go along? It's More Fun with me along.

Do any of you married women have a similar situation, or is this yet another manifestation of the Generation Gap?!?!

And you single gals: Think about this, when you get to hankering after being married. You don't have a life. You're on nonstop Red Alert.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

White Flower

With thanks to Philippa:

You Are a White Flower

A white flower tends to represent purity, simple beauty, and modesty.
At times, you are dignified like a magnolia.
And at other times, you represent great ecstasy, like a white orchid.
And more than you wish, you're a little boastful, like a white hydrangea.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

HO-LY COWWWWWWWWW... Phil Rizzuto used to say when Mickey Mantle would knock one clear over the bleachers.

This morning I finally got to watch "Ostrov," or "The Island," in English, a Russian film with English subtitles that I have been reading about since last December. I did buy it as far back as February -- didn't know that there were two different formats for watching this baby. The European format is PAL, and it's supposed to be superior to NTSC, which is the American format -- so why aren't we using NTSC (referred to, by a priest of my acquaintance, as "Never The Same Color")? Go figure.

Anyway, I am still reeling. Everyone said, "You gotta see this film, it's a must-see," and I concur. Absolutely. The only caveat I would add is that it really helps to be Orthodox; otherwise, the protagonist just looks like a nut. But if you're Orthodox, you understand up front that he's a Fool-for-Christ, and that his wacko behavior is what makes possible the many miracles that take place in the movie.

It's also a good reality check for those of us who aspire to the monastic state. In the beginning of the film, during WWII, he's humping coal on a barge, and 30 years later, at the monastery, he's still humping coal, keeping the monastery's fires stoked. This is not an easy thing to do in a Soviet-era monastery; the Soviets made sure that living conditions were, well, unliveable, and there many scenes that show just how difficult this monk's life is, even by monastic standards.

What I came away with: All of us really are called to this radical way of life. Not to giving up our homes and families, or those things that go along with having homes and families, but those little luxuries we allow ourselves (like that ice cream I had when I got home from shopping because "I needed to make room in the freezer". Really. Honest to Pete).

I will have to watch this movie a lot more often to internalize it, but on first seeing -- it was, to me, a call to monasticism while living in the world. Oh, two other things I got from it: one, you don't choose the monastery, God places you in it (this monk would never have become a monk if he hadn't been dragged there by monks who were trying to save his life). And two, from a scene where the monk is reading Psalm 1, "Blessed is the man": "He shall bring forth his fruit in its season." In its season: How many of us try to rush this season? I sure do. I want fruit now. I keep forgetting that the same God Who created that peach tree out in my back yard, created me, and it's entirely possible that I'm no readier to bear fruit than that peach tree is, right this very second. I'll have to wait till September to slurp up its tiny, perfect peaches. And whatever season it is when I'm ready to bear fruit: that's not for me to know.

Get this movie, if at all possible.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


They found him. Turns out that when they (my sister and her husband) were on their way to my house, they passed an ambulance that was taking him to the hospital.

He had driven to Wal-Mart to get some plants (which was in his game plan). Now, my sister checked the parking lot at Wal-Mart, but never thought to check across the street -- he had turned into the Unicel parking lot and decided to take a nap. Folks there noticed that he wasn't getting out of his truck, so tapped on the window and asked if he was all right, and he explained that he was feeling sleepy and wanted to get off the road. (I wish everybody were that smart.) So they let him be, and just kept checking on him periodically.

Around 4:00 p.m., they found him unresponsive, so called an ambulance. The paramedics found that his body temperature was 106 degrees -- that's not a typo -- so transported him to the hospital. After they got him back down to normal, they released him.

While he was there, they ran an EKG and an EEG, and found him to be in fantastically good health. Now, here's the kicker: While the rest of us are Eating Healthy and trying to exercise and not having too much success watching our weight, Dad eats a diet of meat and potatoes -- his lips haven't tasted a vegetable probably since his mother weaned him, he's been to the doctor four times in his life (and one of those was his Army physical), and having been raised by Polish peasants, he thinks nothing of eating food that's been in the fridge for a couple of weeks. And he has the constitution of a 30-year-old. His exercise has always consisted of home improvements and, since they moved to NH, raking leaves. Period.

We were freaking out because if he had become disoriented, who knew where he'd end up: New York? Canada?? As I said to my sister, "If he missed the turnpike exit for Milton [where they live], he could be halfway to Canada by now and have no idea where he is."

So, to answer the obvious question of why is he driving at his age: We have been trying to get the keys away from him for the past six or seven years. One day, the police called my sister (he lives with her): They had found him driving down the middle of the road, over the double yellow line. When the cop pulled him over, doubtless thinking, "Boy, I've got a live one," Dad explained that he was driving there to avoid the potholes in the road. Okay. The cop said, "But what about oncoming traffic?" And Dad said, "Well, there isn't any. When it comes, I'll get over." Annie said, "Please take the keys away." And the cop said, "We can't. We can only do that if he hasn't passed his driving test."

In NH, you have to take a road test every time you renew your license, if you're over 75. Dad's last road test was last year. Among other things, it involves driving on a very heavily-travelled 55-mph highway. And he isn't all that confused, normally, though over the past few months, it's getting obvious. Well -- I'm hoping this scare will give my sister the courage she needs to take the keys. He will make her life miserable if she does, though.

Thanks, all, for the prayers. I'm still waiting for someone to tell me how living into your 90s is supposed to be a good thing.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Dad's Missing

My sister just stopped by our house to let me know that my 92-year-old stepfather has been missing since noon today. She last saw him at the cemetery where my mother is buried, and said that he seemed disoriented; she put him into his truck, made him drink some water he had there, and told him to go straight home. He never got there, she and her daughter have been to all his usual haunts, and there's no sign of him.

Now, he makes this trip to the cemetery at least twice a week, so he shouldn't have become disoriented that easily; plus, his bank is on the same street, and he goes there once a week, so this is not unfamiliar territory. But he has been getting vague of late, and of course, now she's kicking herself for not having foreseen that he couldn't drive ten miles from Point A, where he goes 2-3 times a week, to Point B, where he lives.

OK, somebody want to go into this with me one more time, why old age is supposed to be such a freaking blessing?!?!?!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Thrice Blessed

I had intended to post this a couple of days ago, but life kept getting in the way. ;-)

On Thursday, dh and I celebrated 38 years of marriage. We began the day by attending Divine Liturgy for the Ascension, and after Liturgy, I asked my priest if I could sing a Te Deum to give thanks for the reunion of Moscow and ROCOR. Interestingly, my very Greek priest didn't know what a Te Deum was -- and I didn't know what it would be called in Greek, or even if it exists in Greek -- but once he understood what I wanted to do, he was all for it. I know this nifty Te Deum that I had to learn for my courses at Jordanville, so was able to sing the whole thing through in Slavonic.

After that, we went out to breakfast, and then spent the rest of the day just knocking around Maine -- went to Kennebunk and Cape Porpoise, and then drove back along the coast to a place called Cap'n Simeon's Galley for lunch. Great seafood (even if it was a non-fasting day... Sigh). It's nice to be able to visit old favorite haunts now and again, and this has been on our list of favorites for 21 years now, which is as long as we've lived in New Hampshire.

As someone pointed out, the Ascension and wedding anniversaries occur annually. But rarely do they occur on the same date. And added to that the joy of the reconciliation between the two Churches of Russia -- yeah, thrice blessed says it all.

BTW, I notice that today is the birthday of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II. I have often read that he knew he was born on the feast of the Prophet Job, and expected to have a difficult reign, filled with tribulation. Incidentally, Nicholas and Alexandra, by Robert K. Massie, is quite enlightening on the subject of the Tsar-Martyr. What I like best about this book is that it was written by someone with absolutely no agenda; his only reason for researching the Romanovs was that his son had hemophilia, and in searching for famous hemophiliacs, he came across the Tsarevich Alexei. Then he began to research the Romanovs. Up to reading about them, the only thing he knew about them was all the Communist propaganda ("Commierot") about how awful they were, but his book shows that Nicholas truly tried his best to govern. Sure, he made mistakes. That's the best of Orthodox saints: they do make mistakes. What's rewarded is their efforts, not their successes. Боже, царья храни!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Apron Pic

Mimi had a great post about yesterday's having been Wear an Apron Day. With my usual Keeping on Top of Current Trends skill, I am a day late with this, but here is my apron pic. Note that, despite all the fussing I did over there about a real apron's having a bottom ruffle, mine doesn't. Sigh. What it does have is a gathered waist and a bib. If I were a lot thinner, the bib might actually cover something, but as it is, beggars can't be choosers, and at least this one has a bib and a pocket, the other essential for an apron.

I remember when these were standard wear, and no woman in any kind of mind, right or otherwise, would have been caught dead in her kitchen without her apron. On the other hand... Yesterday I was at a local cafe, where I go when I need to write (too many distractions at home), and I purchased a cuppa joe for the usual $1.00++. Some guy said to me, "Gee, remember when coffee was fifty cents?" And I had to laugh, as I came back at him, "I remember when coffee was ten cents." And I do.

I'm not kidding when I say I'm old.

Monday, May 14, 2007

OK, Why am I here??

No, this is nothing radically existential -- I just forgot what it was I wanted to blog about. The joys of aging.

Well, at least I have reconnected with an old blog friend. Bloglines, which is supposed to help me keep track of all my favorite blogs, has a nasty habit of dropping people on me, so I don't know whose blog is missing until one day I say, "Hey, I haven't heard from So-and-So in awhile," and discover that their blog is gone from Bloglines, and I can't remember their blog address. This happened with Paradosis, Catherine, Alanna, Philippa, and Emily. I was especially annoyed to lose this last because this girl belongs to my former parish, and only became Orthodox a year ago, and I'm very fond of her godmother.

Fortunately, she left a comment on my last post, and I was able to track her down that way. So now I'm back in touch with my young friend, and with several of my older friends, too ("older" in the sense of how long we've been friends, not in the sense of age -- as far as I know, I've got 'em all licked).

Well, so! I see that my former parish is getting a new priest. Mostly, I'm sorry to hear that; while this priest was a bit too "Catholic" for me personally (those girls on the solea, and in the Great Entrance, have always fried my excessively orthodox brain!), I know many people were horrified to lose him, and his going has been very divisive for this parish. On the other hand, there's always the hope that the next priest will be a bit more Orthodox in his practice, though I don't know: his rumored successor has a quote from St. Theresa of Lisieux on his current parish's website. Yep, another ex-Catholic, and if this quote is anything to go by, not ex enough.

Yes, this is my problem. I had fifteen years of the old Catholic Church, which was a lot like the Orthodox Church, and fifteen years of the new Catholic Church, which is a lot like any Protestant church, and this year it will be thirty years since I last worshipped as a Catholic. And I'm still hypersensitive to it. I guess it's freaking me out to realize that there's a whole generation of middle-aged people who have never known the beauty of the old Catholic Church, and seriously think that the claptrap that's around nowadays is Catholicism -- and the most recent priests at my former parish are among this group. OK, 'nuff, before I seriously tick off all my friends. Pray for me, that I get over this sometime before I die.