Friday, December 28, 2007

An "Auld Lang Syne" Friday Five

Singing Owl says:

It is hard to believe, but 2007 is about to be history, and this is our last Friday Five of the year.

With that in mind, share five memorable moments of 2007. These can be happy or sad, profound or silly, good or bad but things that you will remember.

Bonus points for telling us of a "God sighting"-- a moment when the light came through the darkness, a word was spoken, a song sung, laughter rang out, a sermon spoke to you in a new way--whatever you choose, but a moment in 2007 when you sensed Emmanuel, God with us. Or more particularly, you.

1. I could fill this whole meme with memorable moments from our spring trip to Italy. I'll just list a few right here:
--Standing in an olive grove outside Sorrento as the young woman whose family has produced olive oil there for five generations told us about the olive harvest, then showed us her great-grandfather's millstone before contrasting that with their modern production facility.

--Wandering down a side street in Rome, gelato in hand, turning a corner--and there was the Pantheon.
--Walking into St. Peter's, turning right--and there was the Pieta. It is only slightly larger than lifesize, which makes it more powerful than it would be if it were larger.
--A three-course meal at a Tuscan winery, gazing out at the green hills and vineyards as the exquisite food and wine just kept coming.
--Standing on the Accademia bridge in Venice, looking down the Grand Canal toward the domes of Santa Maria della Salute.
I could go on....

2. Celebrating the Scientist's 50th birthday on April 16--our celebration overshadowed by the tragedy that took place at Virginia Tech that day.

3. Celebrating 25 years of marriage in July. Considering how blessed we are, not just in having each other, but in having all of the friends who came to celebrate with us.

4. This year I have enjoyed conducting psychological evaluations of potential candidates for the priesthood, by arrangement with our local Roman Catholic archdiocese. After we had discussed the results of his evaluation, an African seminarian prayed with and for me, asking God to place a "wall of fire" around me and my work.

5. Opening Christmas presents in my mother-in-law's hospital room. She has just had her third spinal surgery. Please pray that this fusion will help to relieve her pain. The Scientist and I have spent a lot of time on the phone since she was abruptly released on Wednesday with no aftercare plans in place--but that's another story. (The home health nurse did come today.)

I can't think of any earthshaking revelations or epiphanies that have been distinct from the daily events I recall. God has been present to me in all of these events, in quiet worship with my friends on Wednesday night and in corporate praise and worship on Sunday; in our everyday life together; in the fact that we can get up on an ordinary day and go to work--and that we have work to go to; in quiet assurance that God still has a plan for my life and is still working within me. I look forward to this New Year and hope that 2008 will be a blessing to all who read these words.

Monday, December 24, 2007

"Christmas calls a community back to its origins by remembering Jesus' own beginnings as a human child, a prophet of God's reign, a judgment on the world and its projects. What the parish celebrates during this season is not primarily a birthday, but the beginning of a decisive new phase in the tempestuous history of God's hunger for human companions. The social concerns of the season are thus rooted in Jesus' proclamation of God's reign: the renunciation of patterns that oppress others (holding, climbing, commanding) and the formation of a new human community that voluntarily embraces those renunciations. It is an adult Christ that the community encounters during the Advent and Christmas cycles of Sundays and feasts: a Risen Lord who invites sinful people to become church. Christmas does not ask us to pretend we were back in Bethlehem, kneeling before a crib; it asks us to recognize that the wood of the crib became the wood of the cross."

Nathan Mitchell
from Liturgy, vol 1. no. 2, 1980.

A blessed and happy Christmas to all!

Friday, December 21, 2007

It's almost Christmas, Friday Five!

From Revhrod:

1. What was one of your favorite childhood gifts that you gave?
I must have been ten or eleven years old when I found a small quail figurine I was sure my mother would love. I was right, and it graced our coffee table for many years.

2.What is one of your favorite Christmas recipes? Bonus points if you share the recipe with us.
Here's the recipe for my mother's fruitcake cookies, much loved in our family. Even people who claim not to like fruitcake seem to enjoy these. The Scientist and I first made them for what turned out to be my mother's last Christmas; all of the ingredients were in the house, but she was too ill to make the cookies. We have made them ever since, in her memory.

Drop Fruit Cakes
1 lb. fruitcake mix
1 c. raisins
14 oz. dates (Note: I can't find 14-oz. packages of dates here. I use two 6-oz. packages and add an extra 2 oz. raisins.)
1 1/2 lb. pecans, chopped
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter (1 stick)
4 eggs
3 c. flour
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda, dissolved in a little warm water
3 T. milk
Flour fruitcake mix, fruits and nuts with some of the flour. Make batter with the remaining ingredients and add to the floured fruit and nuts. (This requires a very large container--we have always used my mother's old Dutch oven--and the only way to mix this is with your hands, so have fun!) Drop from a spoon (or pinch off little pieces and roll into balls) onto greased cookie sheets. They don't spread as much as most cookies do. Bake at 250 degrees (yes, 250) for an hour; cool completely on racks before packing into tins. If desired, you may sprinkle them with 3 T. whiskey. (Since we don't like whiskey, ours are the teetotaling variety.) Makes 6 or 7 dozen, depending on how small they are.

3. What is a tradition that your family can't do without? (And by family, I mean family of origin, family of adulthood, or that bunch of cool people that just feel like family.)
The first one I thought of is actually rather recent. Two years ago, this delicious recipe for banana pancakes with caramel-banana syrup appeared in Bon Appetit. It became our standard Christmas morning breakfast! I'm hoping to start another tradition this year: tamales on Christmas Eve. That's very traditional in south Texas, and we love tamales but have never had them for Christmas Eve supper.

4. Pastors and other church folk often have very strange traditions dictated by the "work" of the holidays. What happens at your place?
We love the candlelight service on Christmas Eve. Since I am always singing and the Scientist is nearly always an usher for that service, we have to wrap up our Christmas Eve festivities at home in time to get to church early! The Scientist's family always opens all of their gifts on Christmas Eve (after 25 years I'm still not used to that, but oh well), and because of our schedule we have to eat dinner fairly early to have plenty of time for "Christmas tree".

5. If you could just ditch all the traditions and do something unexpected... what would it be?
I would love to have Christmas somewhere in Europe and enjoy the holiday traditions of whatever country we were visiting. Alternately, a secluded cabin with a fireplace, a well-stocked kitchen, and lots of books sounds good--especially if we could bring Amie with us!

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Up to my ears in Advent, PNC, preparing for choir concert (tomorrow night!), a party or two, the rest of Christmas planning/baking, attending to the spouse and the dog, sparring with insurance companies, testing kids, writing reports--the usual.

I've missed having time to just sit and maybe even think about a Friday Five for a few minutes. Ah well, the time will come again.

Thursday night we made time to attend the candlelight service at Big 'n' Rich Episcopal Church/School where our choir director's day job is directing the school's choral music program. Lots of candles, lots of poinsettias, many lovely carols, and the gorgeous Schubert Magnificat. We had to stand in the balcony, being jostled by restless small children who were waiting for their siblings to finish singing, but it was worth it.

Our own concert will include two fine contemporary pieces, Randol Alan Bass' Gloria and Conrad Susa's A Christmas Garland. As the Scientist says, they're "contemporary, but not unpleasantly so." These will bookend selections by the handbells and youth choir. I look forward to the Christmas concert all year.

Enjoy Advent 3. Catch you later.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Be careful what you pray for

I'm on the Pastor Nominating Committee.

Ten or twelve months from now, remind me that I really wanted to do this.

We humbly request your prayers.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Friday Five: Bah Humbug

Parishioners pushing for carols before you digested your turkey?
Organist refusing to play Advent hymns because he/she already has them planned for Lessons & Carols?
Find yourself reading Luke and thinking of a variety of ways to tell Linus where to stick it? (Lights please.)
Then this quick and easy Friday Five is for you! And for those of you with a more positive attitude, have no fear. I am sure more sacred and reverent Friday Fives will follow.

Please tell us your least favorite/most annoying seasonal....
1) dessert/cookie/family food

Anything involving marshmallows and/or coconut. Ambrosia, ewww!

2) beverage (seasonal beer, eggnog w/ way too much egg and not enough nog, etc...)

Well, I've never heard of seasonal beer (What? Is it red or green? Peppermint flavored?), but that would be it. (I am very fond of eggnog, even the really sweet stuff in the carton, and especially the real eggnog that is lovingly made by a psychiatrist I know. It will knock you down if you don't watch out!)

3) tradition (church, family, other)

Caroling. I know that sounds strange, coming from someone who loves to sing. But think about it: you have to march around outside, where it's cold as kraut, and that's not good for your voice anyway--and your poor neighbors have to get up from whatever they were doing, to stand in their open doorway with fixed grins, letting the heat out, as they wait for you to finish. I say, enjoy the Christmas concert and other singing at church, sing at home and in the car if you want to, and be done with it.

4) decoration

There is a neighborhood near here that is known for its elaborate Christmas decorations (and I would hate to live where the Christmas Police monitored my decorating and reprimanded me for not attempting to win what we used to call the Houston Lighting and Power Award). Last year as we slowly drove through that neighborhood (yes, you have to, everyone does), observing the yards in which Mr. and Mrs. Claus, elves, reindeer, gingerbread people, dancing candy canes, and, oh yeah, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph all cavorted together, I snidely remarked, "We've seen everything tonight except for Santa Claus kneeling at the manger." Turned the corner--there it was.

5) gift (received or given)

Toiletries! If I need soap or talcum powder, I'll buy it myself! (And just what are you implying, anyway?)

BONUS: SONG/CD that makes you want to tell the elves where to stick it.

The song than which there is no other...all together now...FELIZ NAVIDAD...FELIZ NAVIDAD...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Candy Cane Monday (on a Tuesday)

Mary Beth and Kim both tagged me for this one, which comes to us from PG:
Name five of your favorite all time gifts, either given or gotten:

1. Christmas 1968: The largish box wrapped with the familiar paper from our local bookstore turned out to be a boxed set of The Lord of the Rings. I had tried to read The Hobbit a few years earlier, but didn't like it. I was too young, I think. Now, at 12, I was ready for Tolkien. I plunged into the trilogy and never looked back. I still have those beat-up old paperbacks, and have read them many times.

2. Christmas 1981: The Scientist and I had been dating seriously for a couple of months. Engagement already seemed imminent (and in fact, was). On this, our first Christmas together, he gave me a place setting of my (soon to be our) everyday dishes. It came from Marshall Field (RIP) in the Galleria, and the plastic candy cane that adorned the package still hangs on our tree every year.

3. Same year: He had told me that when he was a boy, he always wished he could live in a castle. So I gave him one: a nice sand castle with a light inside, and it still sits on a table upstairs.

4. I wear more silver than gold. A few years ago the Scientist gave me a very simple and elegant silver chain, suitable for everyday wear. I have other similar chains, but that one is special to me.

5. Last year, I knew the Scientist was going to get me something from Chilly Body of Flowing Water. I had folded down strategic pages in the catalog, at his request. When I opened the box, I pulled out a gorgeous tapestry jacket that goes with nearly everything in my closet, and I was thrilled. I had never seen it in the catalog, and certainly hadn't marked it--but it was perfect. Who knows what I had intended for him to see on that page? It didn't matter! He was so glad that I loved it!

Hmmm...I'll tag Mindy, Jan, Dogblogger, and Mompriest!

Friday, November 23, 2007

To the person who found this blog by googling, "how cold do red heelers stay in [sic] until they should come in the house": For goodness' sake, bring your poor dog inside!

Post Thanksgiving Day Friday Five

1. Did you go elsewhere for the day, or did you have visitors at your place instead? How was it?

We stayed at our house, accompanied by my mother-in-law, who lives down the street, and my sister-in-law, who drove in Thursday morning from the metropolis five hours north of us. The Scientist went and picked up our friend Betty Jo, who has lived alone since her good friend Millie died in May. The day was quiet and relaxing (well, I relaxed once everything was on the table) and we all enjoyed it.

2. Main course: If it was the turkey, the whole turkey, and nothing but the turkey, was it prepared in an unusual way? Or did you throw tradition to the winds and do something different?

The only thing that was unusual about our bird is that I got it through the co-op this year, so it was supposedly free-range, all-natural, etc. I was a bit nervous about cooking a turkey without one of those pop-up things that lets you know when it's done, but it turned out fine. We couldn't really tell a difference in flavor between this and a supermarket turkey, but we felt virtuous anyway. ;) We also had ham because my SIL is not a turkey fan.

3. Other than the meal, do you have any Thanksgiving customs that you observe every year?

Not really. We're not big football watchers--and in any event, THE GAME (UT vs. Texas A&M) is played the day after Thanksgiving. (Breaking news: the Aggies just gigged t.u., 38-30.) We usually just spend the day cooking, eating, cleaning up, and visiting. And we always use the good china, silver, and crystal, which I love to do.

4. The day after Thanksgiving is considered a major Christmas shopping day by most US retailers. Do you go out bargain hunting and shop ‘till you drop, or do you stay indoors with the blinds closed? Or something in between?

I never shop on the day after Thanksgiving! Early in the morning I lie in my warm bed with my eyes still closed, thinking about all of those poor souls shivering in the cold outside Best Buy or someplace, waiting for the doors to open so they can fight over the last Wii. Unh-uh.

This year we are engaging in a truly heartwarming exercise in family togetherness: rebuilding my MIL's fence. I spent most of today pulling nails out of rotten slats while my husband and SIL were re-digging post holes and setting new posts in concrete. We finally took a break for the traditional post-Thanksgiving leftovers feast around 3:00. We'll put up the new slats tomorrow. Sound like fun? Oh, and the Scientist and his sister are building a new gate too. I plan to supervise and offer sage advice.

5. Let the HOLIDAY SEASON commence! When will your Christmas decorations go up?

We usually manage to hold out until around Advent 2. But we both love Christmas, and look forward to bringing in the tree and getting the house decorated by mid-December at the latest.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Y'all, please read this. All of it.

The Lord bless and keep all of you who are called to be Ministers of Word and Sacrament (or whatever title your denomination gives you). I know you could not possibly do this work without the sustenance of the Holy Spirit. Every ordained minister who reads this today, you are in my prayers. I hope you get some rest tomorrow, and during Thanksgiving week.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

And so it goes

My Christmas present to myself arrived today. I received a big box from my favorite online clothing emporium--the one reminiscent of a chilly body of flowing water. I splurged and ordered a new dress suitable for the ballet, and a beautiful Christmas dress.

The romantic deep red velvet gown with sparkly buttons? Sack of potatoes.

But the strapless deep purple number with the matching wrap? Gorgeous.

Just thought I'd let you know. Carry on.

(P.S. This is how they get you into the bricks-and-mortar store: send a coupon good for 50% off any of the new styles of pants they've been flogging mercilessly in recent catalogues. Good only in the store, that is.)

Oh, and the landscapers will start digging our patio in the morning. I didn't know that was going to happen so fast. I took "before" pictures today.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


It means, an assortment of stuff. Here's mine.


Last Wednesday we spent the day attending funerals. The service in the morning was for a gentleman from our church, a retired and very distinguished professor. The service was traditional except for the granddaughter who sang "Let It Be" while the grandson accompanied her on the drums. I am sure granddad would have loved it, and would have been very proud of both of them. He was buried in a beautiful and historic old cemetery, not far from our home.

After going to the cemetery, we had a couple of hours to go home and catch our breath before the next service. This was for an old friend, a former neighbor who moved a few miles away several years ago, after living next door to us for twelve years. M was a fine neighbor, and we regretted having lost touch with him and his family after the move. He was a big, warmhearted guy with an infectious sense of humor. He had been an aspiring filmmaker who made several short films that received favorable attention, then left that behind, got married and became a dad--a wonderful dad. His son (whose handprints are in the sidewalk in front of my house) is 21 now, and at the funeral he sang a touching song called "Kindred Spirits" that he had written for his dad. M was born the day after I was born, which makes his death even more strange to me.

Several Saturdays ago, his former wife (the friend with whom I used to stand outside and watch the trick-or-treaters on Halloween) suddenly appeared on our doorstep to inform us that he was dying of cancer, and wanted to see us. We went to see him the next day. He was very weak but alert, and we were glad to see one another again. He died peacefully at home a few days later. The service was filled with remembrances, tears and laughter, and the music that he loved. I don't know that I'll ever hear Cheap Trick or Badfinger at a funeral again, but, that was M--he went out in his own way! The procession was at least a half mile long as we made our way back to the same cemetery we had visited that morning. After stopping by the house for a while (bearing my sweet potato pie), we were ready to go home and rest.

We hadn't been home long before the trick-or-treaters began arriving. Though we were so tired, they provided a pleasant diversion after a sad and exhausting day. Princesses and Spiderman seemed to be most popular this year.


What else is going on...well, we had workmen around the house all week long, putting up new siding and trim. They should start painting tomorrow. Our next major project, over the next few months, will be to transform our desolate back yard into a place we won't be embarrassed for friends and neighbors to see. We plan to put in a flagstone patio and, in the spring, to do some major landscaping. I'll have to post before and after pictures.


My mother-in-law is recovering from back surgery which took the pressure off of several herniated disks, and she is slowly improving day by day. My sister-in-law came down for the surgery and came back for several days after her mom got out of rehab. We will probably have a quiet Thanksgiving, as my MIL is not up for lots of company right now.


I was slightly taken aback to find that the reading level for this blog was "elementary school". But you know what? A number of my favorite blogs have the same reading level. I have deeply held beliefs and strong theological opinions, as those who know me well can attest. But it appears I would rather write about dogs, food, and travel! I think it's because I'm often writing in the evening, when I'm tired, and usually I just feel like writing about mundane, everyday stuff--like this. I hope you enjoy that as much as I do.

And so to another week begins.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A happy surprise

Awhile back, I was Mary Beth's 2000th commenter! Yesterday I received my prize! Isn't he cute?

Thanks, Mary Beth! Christmas is coming!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Just wondering

Last night I dreamed that we had added onto our house, and I was overwhelmed with the fact that we now had three kitchens, three living rooms, and two dens. What is that about? What vast resources are available to the Scientist and me that we aren't fully using? What do we need to do with them?

If and when I figure that part out, then I'll grapple with the next part--why the house was attached to a children's hospital...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

It's a Pumpkin/Apple Friday Five

Singing Owl wants to know:

1. How did you celebrate this time of year when you were a child?
I went trick-or-treating around the neighborhood with my cousin or friends from the time I was old enough to understand why, until I was about twelve. After that we enjoyed handing out the candy. One year my friend Joy and I rigged an elaborate scary scene in my house--but I felt so bad when one little kid really got scared, that I turned the lights on to show him it was just pretend!

2. Do you and/or your family “celebrate” Halloween? Why or why not? And if you do, has it changed from what you used to do?
Not really. I get a couple of big bags of candy (something I don't like, so I won't be tempted to eat it myself) and hand it out. When it's gone, it's gone, and the porch light goes out. So far nobody has egged our house (knock on wood). Back when we had more young children on our street, my next door neighbor and I used to stand outside with a glass of wine and watch the parade! But now we know very few of the kids who come by, and it's not the same.

2. Candy apples: Do you prefer red cinnamon or caramel covered? Or something else?
I like caramel apples all right. But I really would rather have a baked apple stuffed with raisins, cinnamon, and brown sugar--or better yet, an apple dumpling!

3. Pumpkins: Do you make Jack O’ Lanterns? Any ideas of what else to do with them?
I haven't made a jack o' lantern in a couple of decades. The Scientist's family never made them when he was growing up, so after we were married the custom sort of fell by the wayside. On second thought, I think we did make one, the first Halloween we were in this house. As for what else to do with them, one year I cooked a pumpkin and made two fresh pumpkin pies, one for our Thanksgiving dinner and one for our church's bake sale. It was awful--so stringy. I was mortified to think that whoever had bought that nice-looking pie at the bake sale would have such a crummy Thanksgiving dessert! I've stuck with canned pumpkin ever since!

4. Do you decorate your home for fall or Halloween? If so, what do you do? Bonus points for pictures.
No, I never have. I wait and pull out the stops at Christmas!

5. Do you like pretending to be something different? Does a costume bring out an alternate personality?
Yes, costume parties are fun. It's a great challenge to try to stay in character all evening. When my friends and I were involved in our college Renaissance Festival, we would try to stay in character all weekend!

Bonus: Share your favorite recipe for an autumn food, particularly apple or pumpkin ones.
We fell in love with apple dumplings the first time we ate them at the Texas Renaissance Festival. The recipe I use is from my mom's 1951 Joy of Cooking.

Prepare enough dough for two pie crusts and chill it.
Pare and core four medium-sized apples. Fill the hollows with this mixture:
3/4 c. brown sugar
4 tablespoons soft butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon.
(I add a little handful of raisins.)
It won't all fit inside the apples, so just spread the rest around on top of them before you wrap them in the dough.

Roll out the dough in a thin sheet; cut it into four squares and completely enclose each apple. (If you brush the dough with egg white before wrapping the apple in it, it may help keep the juices from leaking through the crust. But it probably won't. It doesn't matter.) Use a little water to make it stick together on top. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake about 45 minutes or until they are tender when pierced with a cake tester or toothpick.
Serve with your favorite vanilla ice cream, or--our favorite--heavy cream!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Remembering my girl

Tomorrow will be the second anniversary of Zorra's death. I've been thinking about the little things I miss: how she would sing along with the train whistle; how her cold nose would touch mine if I fell asleep on the couch, startling me awake; the coziness of her lying under the dining table while we ate; the sound of her tail hitting the washer, boom boom boom, whenever we entered the house through the laundry room (hence the nickname Tympani Tail). She loved us, treats, catching Frisbees, and lying in the sun. She was terrified of fireworks, and suspicious of all other dogs, men in hats, and any other people she did not know.

I found Zorra, sick and starving, near the rural residential treatment center where I was working in 1997, and brought her home. As she settled down on an old blanket on my back porch, she gave a sigh of exhaustion and relief that broke my heart. She was about two years old, and had obviously had an unhappy life. She blossomed into a beautiful and often very sweet dog, but we never were able to conquer the demons that haunted her. Her fear and aggression could be triggered by any little thing, and we often did not know what. We took her to a behavioral veterinarian at Texas A & M, had her on Prozac for a while, did all kinds of elaborate behavioral protocols, and she improved but was still very unpredictable. We had to board her in order to have a party, or to have workmen at the house. The sound of the doorbell or the sight of a UPS truck parked on our street would make her berserk, hurling herself at the window or even pulling down the sheer curtains next to the door.

She bit both the Scientist and me on several occasions. We thought she would mellow out as she got older, but instead she grew more reactive. Shortly before she died we found out that she had a very bad hip. She could still run fast, never limped, and hid her pain from us, so I was stunned when I saw the X-ray. Surely that was why she had grown more irritable over time. Shortly after that, she turned on the Scientist as he tried to haul her away from attacking a neighbor's dog, and she bit his hands severely. On that day we finally were in agreement that we could not go on like that. The next day, our hearts aching, we had her euthanized. We held her and told her we loved her as she took her last breath.

How can I explain what a complex mixture of love and brokenness this precious dog was? We had so many good times with her, and we have such wonderful memories of how she grinned, how she ran, how she would cuddle with us (when she wanted to!), how her beautiful coat shone in the sun. About eighty-five per cent of the time she was a dear, playful, loving friend. But the other fifteen per cent was finally too much for all of us.

I know that if she had died out in that field before I found her, she would never have known what it meant to be loved and to have a real home, and I know that she did know that despite her fears. For that, and the good times, I am grateful.

Rest in peace, my sweet brown-eyed girl. I will always love you.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

On the subject of Eucharistic theology (no surprise here):

Eucharistic theology
created with
You scored as Calvin

You are John Calvin. You seek to be faithful to Scripture, and to harmonize difficult sayings. You believe that in the Lord's Supper those who have faith are united to Christ, who is present spiritually, yet in a real way.













Friday, October 19, 2007

The Friday Five: Homage to the Top Chef!

RevHRod says:

This Fall my family has been energetically watching Top Chef on the Bravo channel. My teenage daughter watches with the dream of some day being a chef. My husband watches because he loves reality shows and I mean, really loves them. Plus the whole competition thing really works for him. Me, I love cooking and good food. Every so often I get an idea from this group of talented young chefs who are competing for big money and honors galore.

The winner for this season was Hung. Not the fan favorite, but he won fair and square. In his bio, he says if he were a food "I would be spicy chili - it takes a while to get used to, but once you eat it you always come back for more!" With that in mind, here is this week’s Friday Five.

If you were a food, what would you be?

I want to say cherry pie or a Fudgesicle, but I hope I have more substance than either of those. Maybe an onion, because I have lots of layers (so it takes a while to get to know me) and a few people find me indigestible--but some consider me an essential ingredient. But I hope I don't make anyone cry. Yeah, that's too silly, I'll stop now.

What is one of the most memorable meals you ever had? And where?
For spring break during my sophomore year in college, a small group of us (gals and guys, all "just friends") drove from Memphis to Orlando and camped out at Fort Wilderness in Walt Disney World. In those ancient pre-Epcot days, WDW had two hotels, the Contemporary Resort and another I've forgotten. One night we all cleaned up (as well as we could, in the campground) and went to the Contemporary Resort to eat at the fancy-schmancy Gulf Coast Room. We were 19 or 20 years old, with little experience of "fine dining" ; the staff treated us like grownups, and we had a marvelous evening. I don't remember what I ate, but I do remember how sophisticated we felt. And I remember the tuxedoed waiter bringing butter to the table, because each pat of butter was precisely stamped with--you guessed it--mouse ears.

What is your favorite comfort food from childhood?
My dad made the best soft scrambled eggs, hamburger steak, and chocolate milk shakes in the universe. I have mastered the eggs and the milkshake, but have never quite gotten the hamburger steak right. But any of the above is an ideal comfort food.

When going to a church potluck, what one recipe from your kitchen is sure to be a hit?
My cheddar spinach quiche is very easy to make, and disappears quickly, as does my spinach lasagna.

What’s the strangest thing you ever willingly ate?
I think that would be a toss-up between the baby octopus leg and the chocolate-covered grasshopper. Once was enough for those.

Bonus question: What’s your favorite drink to order when looking forward to a great meal?
This is specific to one particular restaurant, a cool and casual place that serves Italian food exactly like what we ate in Italy. Their signature cocktail is a blood orange prosecco; imagine a mimosa made with prosecco (Italian sparkling wine) instead of the usual champagne, and blood orange juice instead of regular orange juice. Very festive, and delicious!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Guest Blogger: Amie

Hi, everybody! I'm kind of sleepy, but I wanted to tell you about my strange day. This morning mama took me to the vet--that was bad enough, but then they put me on a table and I took a nap! When I woke up, two more teeth were gone! I don't have that many to spare, so I hope I get to keep the ones I have left.

I was so glad to see mama this afternoon. I was really thirsty and hungry when I got home. This evening I've had scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, and pumpkin! Yum!

Mama told my doctor that she thought I would probably feel so much better with those bad teeth gone, it might give me another year I wouldn't have had. He told her that she had already given me several years that I otherwise wouldn't have had. I don't know what a year is, but I am happy for every day I have with mama and daddy. I think they feel the same way about me.

Going back to sleep now....

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A mystical evening

On Monday night we had a rare opportunity to hear Loreena McKennitt in concert. She is a marvelous singer and she hardly ever tours, so we've been looking forward to the concert for a long time. If you are not familiar with her, I would describe her music as Celtic/world music. Much of her work is inspired by the migration of Celtic peoples throughout the world. The musicians who perform with her are of such a caliber that I thought during the concert, "This reminds me of why I love music." Her guitarist would alternate between his guitar, a lute he kept slung across his back, and an oud that he would reach around a stand to play--without missing a beat. She has an amazing (and gorgeous) cellist, and an electric violinist who left us speechless. She has three percussionists in addition to her drummer, and another gentleman who plays a lyra--it looks like a dulcimer but he bows it like a little cello. And last but not least--the hurdy gurdy man! Her music is very melodic, but the drone of the hurdy gurdy gives it a mysterious, Eastern feeling.

After the concert, we hung out by the stage door like the goobers that we are, and got her autograph. She was most patient and gracious with the thirty-five or so who were waiting to meet her. We got home after midnight, but the short night was more than worth it.

This is "Caravanserai" from her recent PBS special Nights from the Alhambra. I think you'll appreciate her voice and warm stage presence, as well as her wonderful musicians.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Friday Five: Thankfulness List

I always say the same things on these lists, so let's think of some more stuff besides:
1. the inhabitants of my household, both human and canine (I love y'all)
OK! Like Mindy, I am certainly thankful for
2. clean panties, but I'm almost out of them, so I am also thankful for
3. a washer and dryer that I don't have to drive somewhere to use, and don't have to put quarters into;
4. clean water piped into the house, so I can wash;
5. the gas and electricity that power the washer, dryer,and everything else in the house, including
6. central air conditioning!
OK, so that's can see that my mind is on chores this evening...I'm going to stretch this even a little more, because I am especially thankful for
7. people who take the time to leave a comment! ;)

And I am so thankful tomorrow is Saturday!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Fab Four Meme

I've been tagged by Mary Beth! This one is all about fours:

Four jobs I've held:
clinical psychologist
school psychologist
day care center worker
drug store clerk

Four films I could watch over and over:
The Return of the King
Sense and Sensibility
A Hard Day's Night
Young Frankenstein

Four TV shows I watch:
American Masters
American Experience
the news
reruns of The Simpsons

Four places I've lived:
Memphis, TN
San Antonio, TX
Houston, TX
Pasadena, CA

Four favorite foods:
cheese enchiladas with refried beans
tortilla chips and queso
saag paneer
cherry pie

Four websites I visit every day:

Four favorite colors:
Wedgewood blue

Four places I would love to be right now:
Kauai's north shore
Big Bend/Marathon/Alpine, TX
Orcas Island, WA

Four names I love but would/could not use for my children:
Ariane (This is the Scientist's pick. The Ariane rocket carries the French space shuttle...)
Alexander Shaw (These are family names, and this is what I would have wanted to name a son. But our last name starts with S, and I wouldn't do that to my child!)

I'll tag PG, the Typist, SpookyRach, and Singing Owl!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007

"It's Alive-Parts I and II"

I would dearly love to hang out with Mindy, but for her sake I'm glad she wasn't with me today. I went to a continuing ed workshop at a large hotel. Except for the meeting room we were using, the entire hotel was taken over by--I kid you not--the Texas Clown Association. Clowns were everywhere. Balloon flowers were all over the place. The title above was the actual title of one of their workshops. Conventioneers could choose seminars from the Balloon Track or the Face Painting Track. Among the speakers were Tom E. Boy, Mr. Puppet, and Ickle Pickle. Those of us attending "Developmental Disorders Related to Abuse" felt like we were floating on a small grim sea of reality in the midst of, well, Clown World.

This morning I could have attended a Clown Worship Service. The mind boggles.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Guest Blogger: Amie

Cub has posted some questions for me! Now, if I can just get up to the keyboard...

1. You are the same breed as The Boy. Can you give me any insight into what goes on in his mind?
...Huh? Oh--sorry. Well, it's just that so much is going on--ow! My ear itches--that sometimes it's hard to--Doorbell!!--I mean, when you try to focus--Look at that cat!
I'm sorry, what was the question?

2. How did you get your name, and do you have a middle name, too, or any nicknames?
Mama named me for an old song she loves, by Pure Prairie League. She sings it to me sometimes. She says that "Amie" means "friend" too, and that fits, because we are best friends forever! I don't have a middle name, but I have some pretty silly nicknames, especially Amie-Boo and Amie-Bamie. Daddy calls me Little Biscuit. Mama used to call me Little Pistol, but she says I've mellowed out a lot and it doesn't suit me any more.

3. You look very happy in your picture! What is it that your thumb-havers do that makes you the happiest?
Well, as you can see in that picture, Mama makes me happy when she plays with me and tells me what a good girl I am! And Daddy makes me very, very happy when he asks, "Do you want to go for a WALK??" I used to run around hee-hawing in my Little Pistol days; I don't do that any more, but I still prance and dance, and jump up and kiss him! Nothing is better than a walk!

4. Same question I asked Cletus: What is one secret of a blissful life that you'd like to share with your thumb-havers? Get out and walk!! Walk more, and it will improve your outlook on life! Or, just go roll in the yard! Like this:

5. Toys that make squeaky noises: yes or no? Explain your answer.
No, I've never been interested in squeaky toys. I don't chew much, but I like hard toys like Galileo bones, when I do chew.

RevGalDogPals or CatPals (or humans, for that matter), would you like to be interviewed by a cattle dog? Here are the rules:
1. If you are interested in being interviewed, leave a comment here on my mom's blog saying, 'interview me.'
2. I will respond by posting five questions for you. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with a post with your answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.
Thanks for reading my post! Maybe I'll do this again sometime!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Cat blogging

Yes, I'm a dog person, but today I have some kitty news! One or two folks may recall that last winter our office cat, Grisabella, presented us with five kittens. The kittens grew up, were socialized, and adopted. Grisi was spayed. We thought we were out of the kitty business until one morning last week when one of my co-workers heard a peep from the weeds near the patio...and found a tiny black and white kitten with the longest whiskers we'd ever seen. We think it's a boy. He can't be more than four or five weeks old, and he apparently was out there all by himself.

This is a happy, friendly little guy, but he appears to have some partial paralysis of his back legs and tail. But he gets around all right, takes care of kitty business without difficulty, and doesn't appear to be in pain. My co-worker D., who fostered Grisi's kittens, has taken him home for now. Does anyone have any experience with special needs kitties? This one will be a good companion for an all-adult household. I wish I could take him home, but unfortunately neither the Queen nor the Scientist would be amused....

Friday, September 07, 2007

An "overcoming" Friday Five

Faithful Sally took the time to give us this thoughtful Friday Five, even as her son Chris is in hospital today for another cardiac procedure. Let's keep Chris and Sally and their family in our prayers--and thank you, Sally, for this Friday Five.

1.Have you experienced God's faithfulness at a difficult time? Tell as much or as little as you like...

We went through roughly six or seven years of infertility treatment, and during and shortly after that time I had two miscarriages, in 1991 and 1998. Those of you who have walked this path know the frustrations and the misery, as well as the indignities and humiliations we suffered at the hands of the medical profession. I do feel that God sustained us through all of this, and allowed us to grow closer through this trial, rather than (as often happens) farther apart. But our not having kids is definitely on my list of "why" questions for Jesus.

2. Have you experienced a dark night of the soul, if so what brought you through?

I started to say glibly, "see above", but upon reflection I don't think that's accurate. Through times of grief, loneliness, and depression, for some reason I have never felt that God was gone. Even when I yelled and raged at God, I have always felt like Someone was hearing me rage--even if that Someone was not responding in a way I could hear just then. Friends certainly have helped--have been my lifeline at particular times. And time itself has helped on occasion, too.

3. Share a Bible verse, song, poem that has brought you comfort?

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11

4. Is "why suffering" a valid question?

Certainly, although I don't know whether we ever get any answers in this life. Actually I think we should assume that suffering is an integral part of our existence on earth, instead of being shocked when it touches us. This is a fallen world, filled with fallen creatures who often choose to do destructive and terrible things to one another. And the earth has its own vicissitudes--hurricanes, tornadoes, floods--that cause great suffering and over which we usually have little control. Perhaps "what do we need to be doing about it" is a more useful question than "why".

5. And on a lighter note- you have reached the end of a dark and difficult time- how are you going to celebrate?

Quietly. In such a time of recovery, I would want to go away to some beautiful place, to be alone with my husband, to just eat and drink things that would nourish body and soul, and walk, and talk a little, and think about where we'd been, and mostly sleep.

Bonus- anything you wish to add....

My answer to #4 seems a bit glib to me, and I certainly don't mean it that way. We have a responsibility to prevent suffering whenever we can, and to aid and comfort those who are suffering. Our righteous anger at evil, and our efforts on behalf of those who are suffering, are necessary. I don't believe we can completely eradicate suffering on the earth, because we cannot completely eradicate evil at this time. But we have to pray and work to make a difference, however we can.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

An interview by SpookyRach

1. What is your favorite type of art? Do you have a favorite artist?

I love art glass, fiber arts, and painting. We have a few small glass pieces, including one of Josh Simpson's very cool planets. My favorite fiber artist is Penny Sisto, whose quilts are stunning, like nothing else I've ever seen. A few years ago I was wandering through a Santa Fe gallery, and from two rooms away I saw Morganna. She pulled me all the way across that gallery. I could not stop staring at her face. My favorite painter is Texas artist Kermit Oliver. His paintings are representational, yet filled with myth and symbolism. His still life paintings and studies from nature are deceptively simple at first glance; they are loaded with Oliver's own vocabulary of crucifixion, resurrection, death, transformation. Although none of my favorites seems to be online, you can see some of his work here.

2. What's the worst book you ever had to read? Why did you dislike it?

Algebra II. Need I say more? Seriously, I don't remember ever truly loathing a book I was assigned to read. If I didn't like it, I probably just didn't finish it, got through the assignment somehow, and forgot about it.

3. What is the wierdest thing that ever happened to you?

I have been pondering this for two days. I must not have had much wierdness in my life, because I can't come up with any ghost stories, eerie encounters with strangers, or anything other than the standard "deja vu" experiences (you do know that's a sort of neurological burp or glitch?) that everyone reports.

4. What is your biggest fear and how do you conquer it?

I am very much afraid of being sued (it happens to psychologists and therapists all the time, with or without reason) or called into court to testify for or about a client. I know that seems strange to people who go to court all the time, but if I am ever in court there will be someone there whose job is to make me look like a liar, a fool, or both. I try to dot all my I's and cross all my T's (if it isn't documented on paper, it didn't happen) and I avoid certain high-risk areas of practice such as custody evaluations. I would love to get out of private practice altogether, and have some hopes of doing that by late 2008. The problem is that nobody else in this part of town seems to want to do the type of work that is my speciality, so because I have a niche, it will be hard to completely close my practice.

5. If Mindy and I were stoppin' the towncar at your place, what would you cook us for supper?

Anything you want!! What a day that would be. I have a great "company" meal involving chicken simmered with green grapes, orange zest, honey, and white wine. Also a wonderful spinach lasagna that I adapted from the old Moosewood Cookbook. Or how about my beef/broccoli/red onion stir-fry with yogurt sauce? (WAY better than that sounds) Or maybe, if the weather was nice and we were lazy, beer can chicken on the grill. I would defer to the Scientist if your preference was for fried chicken, CFS, or some really awesome beef enchiladas. When are y'all coming????

Would you like to be interviewed? Let me know in your comment, and I'll come up with some questions for you!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Friday Five: Seasons Change...

It's Labor Day weekend here in the United States, also known as Summer's Last Hurrah. So let's say goodbye to summer and hello to the autumn. (People in other climes, feel free to adapt as needed.)

1. Share a highlight from this summer. (If you please, don't just say "our vacation to the Canadian Rockies." Give us a little detail or image. Help us live vicariously through you!)

Well, we had our big boffo vacation to Italy in the spring, so we stayed close to home during the summer. The summer's highlight was our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, marked by a quiet dinner at home that night, and an open house the following weekend, when 85 of our nearest and dearest gathered to celebrate. The company, food, prosecco, and warm wishes could not have been better.

2. Are you glad to see this summer end? Why or why not?

I'm always glad for cooler weather to arrive (which it won't, for another six weeks or so), but otherwise I'm neither glad nor sorry. For people without kids, September is just another month.

3. Name one or two things you're looking forward to this fall.

I love the cooler weather, when it finally comes. October and November are comfortable and it's a pleasure to be outside then (except for the ragweed!).

4. Do you have any special preparations or activities to mark the transition from one season to another? (Cleaning of house, putting away summer clothes, one last trip to the beach)

We don't have a sharp demarcation of seasons here, so transitions are very subtle. I don't do anything special to mark the change of seasons.

5. I'll know that fall is really here when_we sit down to Thanksgiving dinner!

I like thinking back to ten or twelve years ago, when there were many young children in our neighborhood. My next door neighbor and I enjoyed standing outside with a glass of wine on Halloween evening, enjoying the cooler temperature and the parade of trick-or-treaters. That neighbor has long since moved away, and the kids are all grown and gone. But in those days, that's how I knew fall was really here.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

If you love dogs...

...or any other animals, for that matter, you will probably appreciate Jonah Goldberg's column today regarding the Michael Vick controversy.

"Torturing a dog or a cat for sport is not disgusting because animals have rights, it is repugnant because human beings have obligations. If animals look to us as gods, and we in turn torture them for our amusement, have we not willingly made ourselves into devils?"

Keeping on

I am sure many of you have read the recent articles about a collection of Mother Teresa's letters that is being included in a new book about her (despite the fact that she had requested they be burned). They are poignant in their description of her loneliness and her feelings of being separated from God--feelings that seemed to begin plaguing her around the time she began her work with the Missionaries of Charity. Despite her sense of spiritual emptiness she remained faithful to the work to which she felt called, and the God who had called her.

Some of the more anguished letters are addressed to God, but some were sent to friends. I wonder if or how any of her correspondents tried to help her. Obviously these were people she trusted. How sad to think of her in this deep depression for decades, so alone although surrounded by people, and still soldiering on. As she said, "the smile is a mask". She had experienced God's love for her in earlier years, and kept going when she had only the memory of that experience.

I'm reminded of Job's assertion, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." I don't know whether just to feel sad that someone who worked so hard in God's service had so little refreshment and comfort in that service on earth, or also to be comforted, in a strange way, that she shared the dark night of the soul experienced by so many of God's children. Both, perhaps. If the publication of these letters accomplishes anything positive, perhaps it will be to reassure many people that doubt and, yes, depression are a part of the human condition, not a sign of sin or faithlessness.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Hot, hot, hot

Ohhh, we are roasting here. I guess most of the country is, though. The air conditioner was almost nonfunctional in my end of the building today. I took my laptop and tried to work in a conference room up front where it was marginally cooler. By four o'clock nearly everyone else had already left, and I decided I was finished, too. So I went to work out--and it was hot in there, too!
It was good to get home to a cool house, a cold shower, and a happy dog. I am so glad I can keep this old dog comfortable.

And speaking of Amie, I took her for a checkup the other day and found that she now has a heart murmur. The vet told me two years ago that her heart was slightly enlarged, so I guess this means her heart disease is inexorably progressing. He says that if she starts coughing at night we will start her on Lasix. But isn't there anything I can do to help keep her from getting to that point? We already watch her sodium intake, and look for any changes in her habits. She seems to sleep a little more than she used to, but she is just as thrilled to go for a walk as she has ever been.

How I hate to consider that my sweet girl will be gone someday. I think many of you already know how a person can love an animal this much.

I think she loves me too.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday 5 Stress busting edition

Sally says:

I am off to spend a few days at the beach chilling out after a hectic few weeks and before I head off for Summer School... So with that in mind this weeks questions are looking at how you deal with the stress monster!!!???
1. First, and before we start busting stress, what causes you the most stress, is it big things or the small stuff ?

The small stuff has a way of adding up and turning into big stuff, so I guess the answer is both.

2. Exercise or chocolate for stress busting ( or maybe something else) ?

My best self says, exercise. After I work out, not only do I feel better physically, and more relaxed, my mood is brighter because I know I've done something positive for myself. The little devil on my shoulder says, go pig out, then surf the Net aimlessly...but in the long run I feel more stressed after doing that.

3.What is your favourite music to chill out to?

All the early-'70's singer/songwriters I loved in high school and college. Also, old John Michael Talbot albums like Come to the Quiet and The Lord's Supper.

4. Where do you go to chill?

My very own couch, with a magazine or a good book.

5. Extrovert or introvert, do you relax at a party, or do you prefer a solitary walk?
I'll take the walk, every time.

Bonus- share your favourite stress busting tip!

Hug the dog. Hug the husband. Sing. Do all of these things at the same time. (they both seem to like being sung to)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

OK, enough navel gazing.

This is the sort of personality test I'm up for tonight.

You Are a Jam Cookie

On the outside, you project a straight-laced, innocent vibe.

But on the inside, you're complex, exotic, and full of flavor.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The black dog

Recently I've been noticing how many RevGals and Pals have written eloquently of their battles with depression. What makes this such a common challenge in this group? It can't be just that women are more prone to clinical depression (although we are), because some of the people I'm thinking of are men.

Does it have to do with our personality types? There are lots of intuitive feeling introverts around here, but surely not all INFPs or INFJs are depressed. Is it a result of our ongoing battle to keep from being consumed by others' needs, and to acknowledge our own? I don't have any data on whether people who are attracted to the helping professions suffer from depression at a higher rate than others, but it wouldn't surprise me. For RevGals, is it related to the still-ongoing struggle to follow your vocation when some people are telling you that you're wrong and that your call is not valid?

Winston Churchill, who struggled mightily with depression, referred to it as "the black dog". I have felt its teeth, too.

By the grace of God, I've been in a fairly healthy place for several years now. There are still occasional days when I can see the black dog's shadow, or hear it sniffing at the bottom of the door, seeking its prey. But I am grateful that now I can sense it nearby before it is actually upon me, and that those days are few and far between. I am learning to ask myself what is oppressing me and what I need to do, or seek, or ask for, to relieve the oppression. I am thankful for the power of prayer, love, Wellbutrin, and the human experience I've gained through years spent on both sides of the couch.

Can we share with one another some of the things that help us climb out of this pit?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday 5--Floods and Droughts

1. Have you experienced living through an extreme weather event- what was it and how did you cope?
In August 1983 the Scientist and I hunkered down in our little apartment as Hurricane Alicia passed over Galveston and Houston. I will always remember listening to a radio report from Galveston until--suddenly--all transmission from the island was gone. The wind grew louder and louder until our living room windows began to bow in and out as we retreated to our bedroom closet. The pitch darkness outside was occasionally illuminated as transformers blew, their explosions briefly exposing an apple-green sky. We ventured out of the closet as the wind subsided--only to retreat again as the windows on the back side of the apartment started bowing in and out. The winds finally stopped around daybreak, and we looked around outside at fallen trees and fences. A neighbor's Smoky Joe barbecue grill, which we had feared would become a missile, sat unmoved amid the debris. We were only without power for a few hours, but it was several days before potable water was restored.
2. How important is it that we wake up to issues such as global warming?
Very important. It seems that as our technology increases, so do the ways in which we can damage or destroy the earth.
3. The Christian message needs to include stewardship of the earth's resources agree/ disagree?
Completely agree. God has made us responsible for taking care of the earth, and that includes responsibility for separating what is known about global warming from what is unproven, and doing whatever we can to help reverse it.
And because it is summer- on a brighter note....
4. What is your favourite season and why?
I love both spring and fall--times of change. Summer is about five months long here, so I especially look forward to the morning when I walk outside and feel a little coolness in the air for the first time in months.
5. Describe your perfect vacation weather....
Sunny skies, slight breeze, 75 degrees.

Saturday, July 21, 2007


We will have one hundred people in this house this afternoon. Not all at the same time, fortunately. But still.

What was I thinking??

It will be fine. The house is clean. The flowers are beautiful. The cake is beautiful. My friend Kathy the caterer is beautiful, as is her food.

I wish y'all were here to drink prosecco with us. It's going to be a good day.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Two silver hearts
They're lifelong friends they've always been
They've so much to look back upon
Their love begins
Where other lovers often end
They've so much to be thankful for
I know I know I know I heard him say
These years they've been so good to her
I know I know I do believe this time
She's been loving him
It's been a long long time.
It had no name when I first walked with you
We had so much to look forward to
Then I changed your name
I watched your hair turn brown to gray
I've so much to be thankful for
I know I know I know I heard her say
These years they've been so good to him
I know I know I do believe she knows
This time for sure
He's been loving her
It's been a long long time, time
She's been loving him a long long time.
Two silver hearts
They're lifelong friends
They've always been...
"Silver Heart" by Texas singer/songwriter Shake Russell

P.S. This is what the Scientist sent to my office today.
Yes, 24 red roses, and number 25 is, of course, the Yellow Rose of Texas.

He's good.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

A beautiful correction

Yesterday I wrote that Lady Bird's favorite flower, the bluebonnet, was mine too. Well, it is my favorite, but today I read an article in the Houston Chronicle that said her very favorite flower was the gallardia, which we usually call firewheel or Indian blanket. They provide a splendid red and yellow display along the roadside. They bloom later in the season than bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush; I haven't been out in the country lately, but if I were I bet I could probably find some along the side of the road near Hallettsville and Shiner right now. So here are some pictures of a true Texas beauty for you to enjoy.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Friday Five: Wotcher, Harry! ...or not

(I don't even know what that means. It sounds like something Hagrid would say. That's how much I know. Although I am sympathetic to the phenomenon, I'm not nearly well-versed enough in Potteriana to attempt the first question set. So, although I hate thinking of myself as a Muggle, here goes:)

Option 2: Please Mommy, Anything But Those Blankety-Blank Books!

And we do mean anything:

1. Former U.S. First Lady "Lady Bird" Johnson died this week. In honor of her love of the land and the environment, share your favorite flower or wildflower.

Lady Bird's beloved bluebonnets are my favorites too. For those who have only admired them in photos, or from the highway, you may not know that when you are actually in the midst of a stunning field of bluebonnets, you can detect a faint lavender-like fragrance that is as lovely as the flowers themselves.

Although in central and south Texas they tend to peak in early April, if we have a good spring next year there should be plenty to see by late March. I'm just sayin'.

2. A man flew almost 200 miles in a lawn chair, held aloft by helium balloons. Share something zany you'd like to try someday.

Let's see...chuck everything (except the Scientist, of course) and run away to Italy forever? Italy, where I don't speak the language (buon giorno, grazie, and dove il Bancomat, per favore? don't count) and have no way to make a living? Is that zany enough? Maybe I'd better focus on goals that aren't so zany, like playing the piano, closing my practice, and managing our nest egg so that someday we can visit Italy, and other places too, whenever we like.

3. Do you have an iPhone? If not, would you want one?

No, and no. The cell phone I have now can do everything except take out the garbage, but all I want it to do is take messages and let me make phone calls.

4. Speaking of which, Blendtec Blenders put an iPhone in one of their super-duper blenders as part of their "Will It Blend?" series. What would YOU like to see ground up, whizzed up or otherwise pulverized in a blender?

I'm sorry...the only image this question brings up for me is, "Mmmm...that's great bass!"

5. According to News of the Weird, a jury in Weld County, Colo., declined to hold Kathleen Ensz accountable for leaving a flier containing her dog's droppings on the doorstep of U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, apparently agreeing with Ensz that she was merely exercising free speech. What do you think? Is doggy doo-doo protected by the First Amendment?

No. The operative term here is speech. Big girls and boys use their words. If Ensz is displeased with Musgrave's record, she has a perfect right to picket, make a speech of her own, write a letter to Musgrave or to the editor, and to support Musgrave's opponent in the next election. The English language offers numerous options for expressing one's opinion. And my opinion is, what looked like free speech to Ensz and that jury just looks tacky to me.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

And now a few words from Subliminal Woman

Like the rest of the RGBPs, I was excited warm about the board meeting in Atlanta this week and prayed that our stalwart leaders sunny would be refreshed in their fellowship and sense God's leading texas for the big event in 2008. I loved seeing the picture dallas that QG posted, and waited with bated breath austin for a report on the deliberations houston. The end of March, with Holy Week behind us san antonio, should present many people with a good opportunity fajitas to get away queso for a few days. I'm especially pleased that there will be a balance shiner bock between just kicking back enchiladas with the RGBPs, and involvement in spiritual formation/ministry-related activities margaritas for which we could earn some CEUs. The location bluebonnets won't be nearly so important lone star as the opportunity to be together, wherever it may be texas.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

My first milestone!

Hey! Blogger says that post about Tessie was my 100th post!
Not bad for someone who wasn't sure she wanted to blog!

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Here are some photos of our guest, Tessa Rose, the hedgehog. She sleeps during the day, and begins to stir around 10:00 P.M.

As you can see, she has a sweet little face. But those spines are sharp!
If you pick her up--no matter how gently--once the jumping and hissing subsides, she tries to curl up into a ball. As the Scientist says, her suspicion is understandable, since in her world, other creatures fall into two categories: those she can eat, and those that might eat her. We wondered how Amie would react to having her around, but Amie has shown no interest in her at all.
I think the real reason she doesn't like the Scientist is that he keeps calling her Spiny Norman.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday Five: Hasty Edition

Hasty suits me just fine on this busy day.

What are you:

1. Wearing
My fat pants, alas, and my favorite t-shirt with the palm tree on it (sale at Nordstrom, some years ago).
2. Reading
As usual, I have several things going at once. I finally finished Empress of the Last Days, by Jane Stevenson, which asks the question, what if we were able to find a direct descendant of the Stuart line, the rightful queen of England and Scotland--and what if she were a woman of color, an ecology professor in Barbados? It wasn't as good as the earlier books in the series, The Winter Queen and The Shadow King, but once I got into it, it kept me going. Others on the nightstand and coffee table include Dearest Friend by Lynne Withey (a biography of Abigail Adams), The Italians by Luigi Barzini, and the last of the three novellas in A Plague of Dreamers, by Steve Stern (with whom I share an alma mater). I recently finished his novel, The Angel of Forgetfulness, which I enjoyed. He writes about the American Jewish experience in a mystical, "magical realism" style.
3. Eating
Fewer carbs, more protein. Since we have an abundance of fresh basil, and a nice big slicing tomato, this morning I got some fresh mozzarella to make a big insalata caprese. Just layer alternate slices of tomato and mozzarella, sprinkle liberally with fresh basil, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil (and a splash of balsamic vinegar, if you like). We ate this all over Italy, not just on Capri. It's fun when you have cherry tomatoes and the little mozzarella balls that are the same size.
4. Doing
I love Fridays when I'm not working. Today's agenda just includes household-related shopping and other errands, laundry, etc. etc. I'll also stop by the office to do a little paperwork, and visit a friend who's been in the hospital for about two weeks. Please pray that he can go home soon.
5. Pondering
Nothing very heavy. I am thinking about how to revitalize my private practice, which hasn't quite recovered from that long break I just took. But somehow, it always seems to pick up again after a lull like this.

P.S. We have a little house guest this week, Tessie the hedgehog. We like her more than she likes us. If I can persuade her to stop jumping and hissing at me long enough to have her picture taken, I'll post it over the weekend.

(Later: Inquiring minds want to know how we wound up with a hedgehog! Tessie is staying with us while her human family is in Hawaii. Her mama is the college-aged daughter of my friend Cindy.)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Fourth of July service

After another Fourth-of-July-weekend service including "America the Beautiful" and "God Bless America", I am pondering the same issue I ponder every July: How, in corporate worship, can we express gratitude to God for the advantages and blessings we enjoy in the United States, and ask for God's blessing and guidance for our country and its leaders, without all the bombastic, non reflective flag waving?

I always dread the Fourth of July service because, at least where I live, it's hard to avoid the impression that not only is there no separation of church and state, but in addition, "state" is essentially synonymous with "the Republican party." I squirm when the Boy Scouts, much less a military honor guard, "troop the colors" into the church. (That didn't happen in the church we attend now, but it's de rigeur in some. The Scientist and I share a particularly appalling memory of watching ARMED GUARDS escort the flag up the aisle in one of our previous churches.)

Does a nation's flag really belong in a Christian church, anyway? If so, why?

Is it just me? Is it just that I live in one of the reddest counties of this (mostly red) state? Is my inner Mennonite coming out? I would really like some ideas about other ways of observing the Fourth of July in the church.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Benign neglect

My mother was a gifted gardener, but because of my assorted obligations and distractions I have become an indifferent one, at best. There are a few plants in the yard that take care of themselves and triumph over my neglect, every season. These are some of Aunt Icy's day lilies.

The Scientist's Great-Aunt Icy was an East Texas farmer who worked alongside her farmer husband for decades, both in Texas and, for about twenty years, in the more challenging climate of South Dakota. She lived to be ninety-four, an independent woman who mowed her yard with a riding mower, well into her eighties. To her delight, my sister-in-law took her for a motorcycle ride on her ninetieth birthday. She was a priceless source of family history and genealogy, and we are thankful for the tape recording we made with her one afternoon as we wandered through several country cemeteries and learned the stories of the kinfolk who were buried there. After she died, my sister-in-law salvaged these day lilies from her yard before the house was sold. As day lilies will when they are left to their own devices, they have multiplied from five plants to about fifteen. I keep saying that "some day" I will dig them up and separate the clumps, but "some day" hasn't come. And yet, every summer, these vivid red blooms surprise me.

I know there's a moral or metaphor in here somewhere about how things that are pretty good now, could be even better if I expended just a little more effort. I know that I am easily distracted, that I dawdle around and let things more important than day lilies slide along on autopilot at times--especially my friendships. Yet somehow, when we do make contact, my friends and I always seem to pick up where we left off, for which I am thankful. Grace abounds, and may I never take that for granted.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Wish you were here!

(Cue the "Hallelujah Chorus")

It has arrived.

Friday Five: Hot Town, Summer in the City

1. Favorite summer food(s) and beverage(s):
I love the wonderful summer fruits: berries, cherries, peaches, nectarines, cantelope. I could live on fruit and yogurt this time of year. Of course I usually make at least one blueberry pie--I think I'll do that this afternoon!
It stays pretty warm here most of the year, so there isn't really a beverage I only associate with summer. I probably make iced tea about 350 days out of the year.

2. Song that "says" summer to you. (Need not be about summer explicitly.)
One beautiful morning in the late '70's when I was in my master's program, I was on my way to school when Eddie Money's "Baby Hold On", which was climbing the charts, came on the radio. It was such a happy, upbeat song, I rolled down the window and let it blast. That moment, and the memory of it, have always felt like the essence of summer to me.

3. A childhood summer memory.
I used to love to put on my swimsuit and play in the sprinkler. Remember the Wham-O Water Wiggle, gyrating wildly at the end of the hose?

4. An adult summer memory.
In our summer climate, intense storms can pop up quickly with little advance notice; they rumble through, then the sun comes out again. We spent our tenth anniversary at a Galveston bed and breakfast, in a nice second-floor room with a view of the Gulf. One day we stood on our balcony and watched a powerful thunderstorm roll in over the water. I still remember the dark clouds making the water appear gray, the sound of the thunder and the way the breeze grew cooler for a while.

5. Describe a wonderful summer day you'd like to have in the near future.
I'd love to go back to Galveston soon (or better yet, South Padre Island, but that's too far to drive) and have a long weekend in a little beach house, so we could take the dog with us. I imagine just the right breeze coming off the water, and us with nothing to do but listen to the waves, read, walk, look for shells, and eat seafood.

Optional: Does your place of worship do anything differently in the summer? (Fewer services, casual dress, etc.)
This summer we aren't having Sunday school. I have to admit, it's been nice to sleep in and read the paper before heading off to church. Some Sundays the choir has the day off, which gives us even a few more minutes to dawdle in the morning.

5 Things I Dig About Jesus

PG tagged me for this one!
Only five? OK...

1. He is our example of selfless love. And I don't mean "doormat".
2. When he was physically with us, he was able to set limits and go off by himself to recharge when he needed to. (So was Jesus an introvert? I think that's been discussed elsewhere.)
3. He always did what pleased the Father, but wasn't afraid of not conforming to anyone else's expectations: not those who expected him to be a militant political leader, not those who expected him to be a "good" Jew and have nothing to do with Samaritans, Gentiles, or women (much less Samaritan or Gentile women), not even his own family and friends who wished he would stop making outrageous claims and embarrassing them in public.
4. He freely chose to go to the cross for us. He is our example of courage, as well as love.
5. He is the only one who always listens to me--and always knows what I'm talking about!

Looks like a lot of people are being tagged for this one, so I won't double-tag. I look forward to your lists.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

In Tonight's News:

Twenty-Year-Old Washing Machine Pronounced Dead, Despite Heroic Efforts; Replacement to Be Named Monday

Habitat Work Day Interrupted by Noisy Afternoon Storm; Dog Retreats to Closet

Anniversary Party Invitations Remain Unaddressed As Woman Mops Flooded Laundry Room and Assembles Moussaka

Tonight's Movie: The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941), Starring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda

(Thank you, Songbird, I only steal from the best.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

La Serenissima

I thought I would show you some pictures of Venice. This is our first view of the Grand Canal, as we were approaching the city from the mainland.

Homes on the Grand Canal have been flooded so many times, it appears that many residents have abandoned the first floor and just live upstairs. Note the Moorish design of many of the windows; this Eastern influence in the architecture is seen all over Venice.
St. Mark's. No picture can do it justice. See the bronze horses above the entrance?
This is the view of St. Mark's Square one has when standing next to those horses. The little dots are pigeons, and yuck, they are everywhere. Many tourists buy bags of bird feed to attract them, and the pigeons swarm all over them. This beautiful church is Santa Maria della Salute, as viewed from the Accademia bridge, near our hotel. I hope to see it without the scaffolding some day.
Probably only tourists take long gondola rides, but local people will often use the gondolas to get across the canal quickly. Yes, Venetian passengers often stand.
The area where we stayed, Dorsoduro, is mostly residential and not frequented by tourists, although there are several well-known museums there. Wandering through Dorsoduro, we often passed lovely quiet spots like this.
The Rialto bridge by day...
...and by night! See the prow of our gondola at right?