Sunday, March 31, 2013

On Church

For a lot of years, church didn't hold many answers for me.  Our family had big trouble: my mom's death, my father had Muscular Dystrophy, my brother was a wild child, I was a little nuts.  Then one day, I was helping a community group cook and clean up.  Women working and talking and laughing together.  Righteous women, the women who were the backbone of community, of good things being done for other people.  And I wanted to shuck the trouble and be part of something that was progressive, intelligent, compassionate, and some how helped people out.

So I went back to church, at a Methodist Church.  It worked for for me, because it took spirituality seriously, took community seriously, took learning seriously.  And there was no small amount of laughter.  People who have a lightness of spirit laugh.  

But I hid out behind the pillars in the sanctuary for a good two years.  Then my cousin got a walloping cancer diagnosis and that turned the whole family on it's ear.   I prayed like a mad woman, so did friends and family all over the United States.  

And then the unthinkable occurred.  To our utter shock,  she got better—a thing we did not think was possible.  Instead of a death sentence,  she got life. A life.  While she has significant challenges,  she also has a significant life.  She owes her life to medicine.  And to prayer.   Either one without the other. . .

So, I owe my church some props.  Here are some of the great good things that are happening there.

1.  There is real help and hope for the poor.  We feed them once a week, then again once a month on another night,  and we hand out 500 lunch bags a month.  We're part of a community-wide grid to help people who are having a really hard time.

2.  We get to participate in the arts: music, story-telling, visual arts, once in a great while, dance.  Music is wonder-filled anyway, but to use it brilliantly to praise, it becomes another thing.  I tease our music director that the music levitates us all a good six inches off the pews.  I'm only partly teasing.

3.  We're avid learners.  There is no question that is not taken seriously.  Kids are celebrated and protected.  We read.  We listen.  We pay attention. We take classes in serious subjects.

4.  We are a various congregation.  We are doctors and lawyers and community leaders.  We are people newly out of prison.  We are writers and artists and thinkers.  We welcome people from the gay community and provide a safe harbor for them.  We are parents, teachers, and community activists.  Some of us are homeless.

5.  We take our pathways to God and to Jesus seriously, with great tenderness and reverence.  And encourage people to come to Holy Things in their own way and their own time.

6.  And for people like me, whose pathways have been rocky and unpredictable, the church provides a kind stability, a gentle community, and people who've become family, who have embraced my family.  I am a little less nuts.

Happy Easter.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

If You Know What To Look For. . .

You know the drill.  Palm Sunday.  Every four-and-five year-old kid in church is decked out in tiny, white and green choir robes.  They are hoisting palm fronds, and waving them in every direction a kid can think of.

So the last kid to make it to the risers.  He is corralled right away by the choir director, because he was on his hands and knees  peering into the dark recesses underneath.  He is four, massively cute, longish hair, endlessly curious.

So, he winds up standing next to his teacher.  Good thing, because he acting like he's never seen this scenario before.  And they practiced not ten minutes ago.  He's looking at the ceiling, the stained glass window, the cross on the back wall, wondering what in the heck that's there for. . .

He realizes that all the four and five year olds are doing hand-motions and he oughta do a few as well.
He raises his hands — the other kids are doing waves.  He does the waves — the other kids are pretending to be grasses in the winds.  He points north —the other kids bow toward the south.

He's squats, trying to figure out why he has five fingers instead of six or eight, and then assures himself that he has five more on the other hand.  Now why would that be?

He hops up and down, three times,  just excited to be there.  Then turns around and faces the back wall. Ten minutes before it occurs to anybody else.  Then everybody turns around too and follows him off the stage.  He has no idea how he wound up in the leadership position.

Big, cheesy grin.  Big smacky kiss.  His mom is relieved it wasn't worse.

You can spot 'em at 60 paces—if you know what to look for.

An itty, bitty writer -- in the making.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hoppy Easter

Spring is the flowering of life; Easter is true Love, true Hope, true Light.

I so remember the Easters my mom  provided.  It was a day all day.  Up before dawn, my brother and I were shuttled off the Easter Sunrise Services on Lizard Butte, which over looks the Snake River.   People from churches all over the valley came for those old hymns, "Up from the grave he arose," sung to trumpets, as the sun crested over the butte, over the river.  Still gets me.

Home to homemade rolls, bacon, and  orange juice, Easter egg hunts on the lawn.  Chocolate bunnies.  Purple eggs,  Something sparkly in the morning sun.

Off to church at 10:00 A.M. for Sunday School where we learned all about resurrections.  It'd take me years to realize that resurrections happen all the time.  People get their lives back in powerful ways.  Addictions.  Cancer.  Grief and sorrow.   All of that can be moved along in the presence of Love, Hope, Light.

Back home for Easter Dinner with the grandparents, aunts and uncles,  all those cousins, with whom we were "encouraged" to share our chocolate bunnies.  That was about as successful as you might image.  My mom made a monstrous ham, scalloped potatoes, homemade rolls, a wonderful green salad, apples with wine  and walnuts—a nod to Passover—and always, always, strawberry shortcake with clouds of whipped cream.  One year, the ham-roaster didn't roast, and I learned variations on swear words I didn't know my mom knew:  Shit oh dear, Damn nabbit, Sonny bitch, for starters.

We got baby critters for Easter:  Little chickens, some fluffy little rabbits, kitties, maybe a puppy.  Anything that hopped in glee.  Of course, you need a farm to do justice to their care and feeding, and some of that care wound up my brother's responsibility, and mine.  Part of growing up.  Caring for the wee ones.

But what a day for my mom.  All of that cooking, all of that prep.  These days we do Easter in easier fashion,  Still do the Easter baskets, but dinner might be out, a thing that didn't occur to my mom.  Still do the homemade rolls, but there are some short-cuts.  Here is a delicious one:

Citrus Cream Cheese Rolls - from Cooking Light with adaptations

1 package of frozen roll dough - I used Rhodes Texas style — and only put 12 in a  
11x14 inch pan.  Spray the pan and let the rolls thaw and raise 3 - 4 hours the night before. They rise enough to fill the pan.

Add:   1/2 cup dried blueberries and/or dried apricots, 1/2 cup pecans.  Sprinkle over the rolls.

Beat together:   1/4 cup melted butter,  1/2 cup sugar,  6 ounces of softened cream cheese, 2 tablespoons orange juice,  1 egg.    Pour over the rolls, cover with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator over night.  

The next morning, pull out of the refrigerator and let warm to room temperature 30 - 45 minutes before you bake them.  Preheat oven to  350 degrees.   Just before you slide them into the oven, you can brush the tops with melted butter or an egg wash (egg whites beaten with a little water)  and sprinkle with the zest of one orange and/or lemon.

Bake for 20 minutes.  cover with a tent of foil, and bake five minutes more.  Pull them out of the oven.  
Let them cool a few minutes.   Blend 1 cup of powered sugar with 2-4 tables spoons of orange juice and/or lemon juice.  Glaze the rolls.  

May all the Love, Hope, and Light  you need be yours.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013


I was adopted into a church family when I was 63, now I'm 66.  Julie and Tim, Cheryl and Larry, a guy named Rick, and me.  You'd think that people who loved each other would share hijinx of some sort or another.  But other than some very rigorous teasing, we're pretty careful and fall on the side of churchiness.  You'd think we'd be preachy about ethical sorts of things, but we're not.  It's just that in our younger years we wore ourselves out on the dark side.   Peace. simplicity, and safety are not over-rated.

Know what I mean?

Well, we're going through Richter-scale change and we're not taking to it lightly.  Rick is headed home in a couple of weeks.  

Six and a half years ago,  Rick left a well-paying, highly technical job in a state an hour's flight from here.  It might have left him,  I'm not sure of that history.   Talk about a lesson in economics. Well, Rick scoured the Western half of the United States for a job and found one here.  Something about a well-loved wife, two daughters just starting out, a lovely home, and Gladys, the grandmom.  Yet to come, husbands for his beautiful daughters, and some babies. 

The loneliness almost overwhelmed him, but it's not in his nature to whine or to live in regret.  But there were 24-hour days to  fill up.  So he did.  He became a triathlete and competed in races across the West.  At 55 he didn't expect to win very many, but he was fully committed to finishing.  The first race nearly killed him.  His last race was filled with laughter, mild competition,  and great finishes—that means he  was still standing at the end. It made Tim so nervous he drank up Rick's two beers, meant for the finish.  Had to find some more.   

Rick made life-long friends here.  The people at the YMCA.  He was there 3 times a day.  The girls at the front desk hung up an enlarged photo of one of the photo-finishes from his races.   Medal and all.  His buddies that he shared 80-mile bike rides throughout our rural landscape and great cups of coffee.  His friends from work, his department, met some daunting challenges in state government.  His next door neighbor, a long, tall guy, and little Mordecai, the most talkative kid on the planet.

And us.  We've gotten together once a week for four of those six years.  Church.  Breakfasts out.  Saturday nights.  Big T races.  Telling our stories.  Adopting people who could use a friend.  Or six.  

Larry is not talking.  Tim admits to a  few wild  tears.  Cheryl and Julie are pretty steady,  but I'm howling at track races.  Choir sings a great anthem?  I'm a mess. 

I'll be making cookies for the trip home,  ones that are fairly healthy because he's careful about what he eats.  We love his wife too and understand full-well her sacrifice.  He'll have to figure out how his now-full athletic life fits into his family life.

Still and all, our bud is headed north.  Traveling mercies.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Wild Hairs

So I have non-compliant,  incorrigible hairs, now in their gray stages.  It's a little curly, wholly unmanageable by any of usual methods.  I dyed my hair for years in my twenties and thirties, but by the time I hit my fifties, it became apparent that I could have dyed hair if I wanted, but it was gonna be fried, dyed hair.   It no longer took to the processes of alteration.

Last week, I admitted to a friend that I'd cut my own hair for fifteen or twenty years.  She was aghast.  "How do you do that?" she sputtered.  "If it sticks out, I just whack it off,"  I explained.  

It's fairly short these days, thinner by some measure.  I have a cowlick right in front, if if my front and center hairs are too long, then I have a bald spot.  Short hairs cure that.  Still, it's curly enough if I don't mess with it too much.

I have an old faithful shampoo I can get at the grocery store.  I changed brands last month, thinking I could save a few pennies.  The new shampoo took all the curl out and plastered my hairs to my head.  It looked like I was wearing a dead animal.  Weeks later  the shine came back, the curls came back, and my hairs looked like they had some life again.  

Last night, on a break in a class, another woman and I were washing our hands after a potty stop.  She  stood up to dry her hands and glanced at my hairs.  That stopped her cold.  "Ack," she said.  And left.