Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Bye for a while

Off to the Middle East. We'll be back late on Dec. 1st - I'll check in then. I may be able to post from my in-laws', but I'm not sure about that. Have a blessed and delightful Thanksgiving, my friends. Keep me in your prayers, as I will you all.

Bounty and blessings!

Monday, November 21, 2005

One More Day

...until we leave for Qatar. My MIL and FIL are already headed out and will get there a day before us. PH has his sermon 95% done (isn't that our standard state of being?) and I have practiced my song enough so I shouldn't make a fool of myself. I'm trying to not pack my entire closet - originally I was going to try and do it with one roll-aboard bag, but PH says he wants to bring a pullman bag, so now I have the luxury of deciding on more stuff. I do have to leave room for the stuff we buy at the souk.

Does anyone else have an overwhelming urge to clean the house before leaving on a trip? I think part of it is wanting to come home to a clean house with fresh sheets and towels, but another darker part of it is leaving the place clean in case we don't come back.

Leave it to me to find the gray side of the cloud instead of the silver lining!

Counting the hours.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Another painting project

I painted Stonemason's bedroom today. After his wear and tear plus the pregnant couple who lived in the room for three months, it was looking rather grimy. I started with the windowsashes and sills. The Spooky cat decided to help by leaping up onto a freshly painted windowsill. She is no longer pure black, since she now has some lovely white markings on her paws and tail. I managed to grab her and wipe her paws with the wet rag before she left a trail of pawprints throughout the basement level, but she's still looking slightly embarrassed.

I was very proud of how efficiently I was painting when I got to the very last bit of wall, stepped off the stepstool...into the roller tray full of paint.

So much for thinking I'm smarter than my cat! I hope I can get through painting the trim tomorrow without anymore mishaps.

RevGal Friday Five- Kiddie Lit edition

1) Earliest book you remember (read to you or by you)
A Children's Garden of Verses. I still have this book down in my basement, in rather sad condition.

2) Picture Book you would like to climb into
Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are (particularly when the bedroom becomes the jungle), or from when my children were little the "Carl" series featuring a very loving Rottweiler. I adore the pictures and the kids enjoyed making up words for the stories.

3) Favorite series of books (then or now)
Harry Potter now, Nancy Drew then.

4) Character you would most like to meet
Kristin Lavransdattar (yes, I was a book nerd in my youth - heck, I'm still one).

5) Last childhood book you re-read (for yourself or to someone)
C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters (actually a teen book, but a real favorite).

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Sad ECUSA news...

Here's a press release from our diocese. It's greatly troubling; themissioner who was named here has been affiliated with the most conservative church in our diocese, as well as the Diocese of Pittsburgh, which is also conservative, as I understand it. It seems this fellow is pressing the issue of canonical authority. I have also heard that the diocese will continue its plant in this community, even with this group leaving. We've had several large conservative churches withhold their diocesan pledges, but no one left until now. I think I'll go pray for a while.

South Riding Missioner Resigns, Congregation Leaves Episcopal Church
November 15, 2005

In an afternoon meeting, Monday, Nov. 14 with Bishop Suffragan David Colin Jones, the Rev. Phil Ashey, missioner of South Riding Church since 2002, announced his resignation as missioner effective Nov. 13, 2005. In that meeting and in his letter of resignation Mr. Ashey also stated that the congregation of South Riding had voted on Sunday, Nov. 13 to leave the Episcopal Church and affiliate with the Diocese of Rwenzori of the Anglican Church of Uganda, placing themselves under the Canonical authority of the Rt. Rev. Benezeri Kisembo.
News of the congregation’s vote was posted to an American Anglican Council Web site at 8:25 p.m., Monday, Nov. 14. This is the first congregation in the Diocese of Virginia to leave the Episcopal Church.
In his letter of resignation, Mr. Ashey also said he was “giving notice that I have been received by the Diocese of Rwenzori.”
“I reject the assertion that Mr. Ashey is under any Episcopal authority other than that of the Bishop of Virginia or any canonical authority other than the Canons of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia,” said Bishop Jones.
In his meeting with the Bishop Suffragan Mr. Ashey returned the parish register, service book, a copy of the congregation’s 2004 audit and an inventory of all assets purchased from the operating funds of South Riding Church up to Saturday, Nov. 12, 2005 which he acknowledged belong to the Diocese of Virginia. As a forming congregation, South Riding Church has no canonical status and did not file parochial reports. Financial and membership information could not be readily confirmed.
“I am saddened that a member of the body has chosen to break with the body and feel that our community is diminished for it,” said Bishop of Virginia Peter James Lee. Lee added that church membership is an individual choice and said he appreciated Mr. Ashey’s forthright manner in returning congregational documents and property.
Bishop Lee also reaffirmed that Mr. Ashey remains under his canonical authority and rejected the assertion of property rights made by Bishop Kisembo in a Nov. 13 letter to Mr. Ashey purporting to accept his “letter of transfer.”
“The Bishop of Rwenzori has no authority in the Diocese of Virginia,” said Bishop Lee. “Only a diocesan bishop has the authority to transfer a cleric from the Diocese of Virginia. Mr. Ashey remains under my canonical authority until disciplinary action is taken if any.”
Since beginning as a church plant in 2000, over $350,000 in direct financial support has been given to South Riding Church by the Diocese of Virginia. In 2001, the Diocese purchased 8.4 acres on Poland Rd. in South Riding at a cost of $680,000 for the intended benefit of South Riding. That property is titled in the name of the Bishop of Virginia. Mr. Ashey was the third missioner assigned to the plant in 5 years.
Mr. Ashey was named missioner of South Riding in 2002 after serving for 3 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Prior to moving to that diocese, Mr. Ashey was an associate at Church of the Apostles, Fairfax from 1992-1999. From 1988-1992 he served churches in the Diocese of Los Angeles.
The press release posted to the American Anglican Council blog site at 8:25 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14, 2005, stated that the congregation will keep its name and continue to worship at Little River Elementary School in South Riding.
The Diocese of Virginia, organized in 1785, is a community of over 90,000 members worshipping in 195 congregations in 38 counties throughout one-third of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Weather Report

It is raining frogs and toads and we are expecting 50 mph gusts of wind this evening. It's gone from 75 degrees at noon to 60 now at 3:30 and will continue to head down from there. Finally, it feels like late fall. The rain should bring down most of the leaves that are left on the trees, I imagine. I'm glad the neighbor across the street had his two dead trees removed earlier this week - I would hate the thought of them landing in my bedroom (their most likely trajectory as I watched them getting more forlorn over the past year).

I decided to work from home this afternoon. I'm cooking dinner for the family with the stay-at-home dad who has inoperable stomach cancer. He's in between chemo cycles, so he actually feels like eating something. I'm glad to give his wife and kids a break by bringing over something (rules are nothing spicy and no dessert). Anyway, given the miserable weather, I'm bringing them a nice warming beef stew over noodles, plus a salad, plus green beans, plus a loaf of homemade bread. Such a small thing, but I really love this ministry (we call it "Meals That Heal"). When I was very sick last year, it was an adventure seeing who was going to bring the food and what it was going to be. I remember one meal that was delicious, but its crowning glory was a large, perfectly ripe pear. That pear was just about the most idyllic eating experience I ever had, and reminded me that I would get better and life would be good again. I hope I can bring a little of that pleasure to this family, which is going through so much.

The Spooky cat is on the desk, reminding me that she was locked out on the sunporch all morning. She is positioned under the halogen lamp, AKA the kitty tanning lamp. Her sister Mia is sitting on the oriental rug in the living room, looking perturbed, which is how she always looks.

We are so fortunate to have this warm home, and a roof that only leaks a little when it rains very hard, and food in the refrigerator. Thank you, Lord.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

ridiculous but lovely too

this is all in lower case because as i was sitting here with my left arm resting for a moment, the spooky cat came and put her lovely head on it, just her chin resting on my forearm. i haven't the heart to move her.

Yet One More Step...

...on the path of "The Process".

PH had his meeting with my discernment committee on Sunday afternoon. Two hours on how well-suited he was to be a pastor's husband, how real he perceived my call to be, when I had started down this path. The downside of him being ordained and so well-respected in the congregation is that they look to him to validate my call (which doesn't seem right somehow - that's THEIR job). The upside is that he's loved and well-respected, so they believe him when he says that it's genuine. The chair of the committee is one of his cycling buddies, and offered him transactional immunity! So now they need to draft a report to the Vestry. I expect - given what feedback I've heard- that I will get through that stage pretty smoothly. Then on to the Commission on Ministry, and if that goes well, my interview with the Bishop.

Meanwhile, we're doing things to prepare the house for sale. I finished painting StrongOpinion's room from the very very dark forest green (a compromise over the black she originally wanted to paint it) to a lovely soft sage green with crisp white trim. Got some white curtains and I'll hang a few of her grandmother's paintings on the walls. It won't be "her", but it will make the house more saleable than in its original condition. Using muscles that I haven't flexed for a while caused me to have a few nasty aches and pains, but it looks so lovely now, it's worth the aches. I think I'll use it as my "escape room" while she's away! We have to move the chest of drawers back in. I had taken an old dresser several years ago and done decorative painting on it, marbling the top, painting flowers on the drawer fronts etc. She moved it downstairs when she decided to make the room more art-studentish. It should look pretty in the room. I'll try to post some pictures when it's all done.

Next project is to repaint the room that our pregnant couple lived in while they were here. Just basic white, but between them and StoneMason, it's gotten rather tired-looking. I need to do some touch-up work on the woodwork in our bedroom as well, and some floor polishing, but I think we're in pretty good shape. We do need to remove the ratty wallpaper from our bath and repaint it, but that's just a day's work. Hardly a Ben-Gay moment in that.

PH's colleague is moving back to the North Country next summer, so we may rent his townhouse, which is just 1.5 miles from the seminary. That would be pretty blissful. The seminary married housing is actually further away. I could even walk to school (pulling a rolling backpack behind me, like the geek that I am).

We're leaving next week for Qatar to visit my brother-in-law and sister-in-law for Thanksgiving. I am so excited! PH is preaching at the Anglican parish there, and I'm singing (for those who care about such things, I'm doing Morten Lauridsen's "O Magnum Mysterium"). I wouldn't mind picking up a rug or two, and PH has promised to buy me a tri-color Cartier-style rolling ring at the gold souk, where they are very reasonable. I told him it could be my combined anniversary and Christmas present. My wonderful sister-in-law has promised tea at the Ritz. My MIL and FIL are going, too, so it should be quite neat. SIL says she can get everything she needs for Thanksgiving dinner there (they'll go get a lamb for Sunday dinner, but turkey is apparently available in the markets) so I don't have to haul cans of Libby's pumpkin and ocean Spray cranberry sauce in my suitcase. What an adventure!

Enough rambling about unrelated stuff for today...

Friday, November 11, 2005


How do I feel about pies on the list? Varies:

1) Apple Pie
I make a Dutch apple pie that is my daughter's favorite. Easy to make, too.

2) Cherry Pie
Since PH's family is from Michigan, cherry pie is a big fave. I never understood it until i made one with real pie cherries(the sour kind). Now every year, in their very brief season, I buy as many quarts as I can in our famer's market, pit them and freeze them so we can have real cherry pie throughout the year. If only I had a big freezer!

3) Pumpkin Pie
This is a favorite of Litigator's (my 21 y.o. son). In the holiday season, I make many of them. He eats them for breakfast, dessert, snacks, whatever.

4) Chocolate Cream Pie
It's chocolate. What more can I say (except that I am weak in matters of chocolate)?

5) Pecan Pie
My PH's favorite. I could make one every day of the week and he'd eat it. He wouldn't gain an ounce, dangit. When I'm feeling very indulgent, I make him a chocolate pecan pie.

I'll finish up with a lemon meringue pie story from my childhood:

On Sunday afternoons, we would walk the two blocks to my Aunt Marie’s apartment for family dinner.

Aunt Marie was my father’s cousin, a woman in her fifties who bore a sad resemblance to Boris Yeltsin. She was witty and intelligent, a woman with a doctorate who worked at a women’s college in administration. She kept piles of the New Yorker magazine on a windowsill, and had a collection of coffee cups from around the world, though she herself never traveled. As the single daughter in her family, she bore the responsibility of care for her 96 year old mother, who was blind and bedridden, but still lucid and sweet.

For all her intelligence, she was – like most of the family – alcoholic, so the Sunday dinner often was a challenge. Alcoholism took a similar path for all the affected members of the family. Most were functional. They got up, went to work, came home, drank to a state of semi-consciousness, slept and rose the next day to repeat the cycle. On the weekends, there was a bit more drinking, but they still managed to get to Sunday church, at least by the 1 p.m. Mass, before starting the drinking for the day. My father, who worked in a soda bottling plant and was a Teamster shop steward, followed the same pattern. He’d often go to a local bar after that 1 p.m. Mass, for “breakfast.”

It being the weekend, Marie was usually in an altered state by the time we rode the elevator up to her apartment. Sometimes, dinner had been prepared for several hours and was either mummified or cold; other times, it was still in the oven, which may or may not have been turned on. Raw duck is not pleasant, especially when you’re eight.

Often, my father’s brother Ed and sister-in-law Helen came, with my cousins Peggy and Michele in tow. Michele was a year younger than I and always sweet, but Peggy, a bit older than me, could be cruel. Occasionally, my other uncle, Tom, a priest, came. He was a garrulous Scotch drinker, and the favorite pastime of the three brothers, after they had taken the edge off with a couple of shots of Johnny Walker, was to argue driving directions. The volume of the conversation increased as the amount of alcohol consumed added up. It was a small apartment, and hot. It was not conducive to meditations on the food, but given the quality of the cuisine, that was probably a good thing.

My mother, an angry woman on her best day, felt the need to bring something. She did not care for my father’s family; she saw the family’s group alcoholic tendency as a failure of will, and a club to which she did not want to belong. Nevertheless, she felt the need to impress, so she brought dessert.

I digress here to talk a bit about my mother’s cooking. She was Alsatian by ancestry, and thus felt comfortable with German and French cuisines, at least the basic grandmother food rather than haute cuisine. For the most part, she cooked by feel and taste rather than by recipes, and was generally successful. The one place where she felt insecure, and relied on the recipe books, was baking. Like other homemakers of the 1950’s, her other source of recipes for baking were the backs of cans and boxes. Cakes were Duncan Hines, though she made buttercream frosting from scratch.

A psychiatrist could do a case study on why my angry, insecure mother would elect to bring something that did not showcase her natural gifts as a cook when going to her husband’s family dinner. When cooking in her own house, she’d often skip making dessert and offer something from the local German bakery, Koelsch’s. She’d expend her energies on the main courses rather than dessert. No one minded.

Nevertheless, the bringing of dessert to Aunt Marie’s on Sunday became a ritual that we followed for a number of years, and one of the frequent choices was lemon meringue pie.

The process of the pie was simple. My mother and I would return from Sunday Mass by 10, she would make me a mushroom omelette to break the Communion fast, and she would set to making the pie.

The crust was made from a Jiffy box mix and baked. Then the filling would be made from My-T-Fine lemon pudding mix. There was a capsule in the box which was filled, most likely, with lemon oil, to add the requisite zing. The hot filling was poured into the crust, and my mother would use the egg whites not incorporated into the filling to make a meringue. She’d sculpt a veritable meringue monument on top of that filling, then dust it with a bit of sugar and put it into the oven to brown the tips of the meringue. Then, most important, the pie had to set for a few hours. It would then be put into the pie carrier for transport to Aunt Marie’s.

It was a reliable dessert, for which she’d gotten appreciative comments from the clan in the past, so it became a regular in the rotation.

And so the Sunday came during which the pie was forever transformed into something other than dessert: it became a symbol of the whole sad, troubled dinner and the family that populated it.

It was late autumn. The air was chilly, and I wore tights under my Sunday dress – we dressed for dinner - rather than short socks. I was, perhaps, nine. I was not looking forward to another boring Sunday afternoon at Aunt Marie’s, where I was often shunted into Grandmother’s bedroom to chat. I had a book in my coat pocket in case things really got bad, but it was hard to find a quiet corner, so I doubted I’d get to read. I pestered my mother to let me carry the lemon meringue pie – just general-purpose pestering, the thing that nine year old girls do so well. She relented. My father, testy at wearing a tie and jacket on Sunday afternoon even though he knew this was what he would do for every Sunday afternoon for the foreseeable future, was grumbling about how he’d prefer to stay home and take a nap.

As we got to the apartment building, I had to take a step up to the entry. Whether the tights were too tight, or my patent-leather shoes too slippery, or my father coughed from his perpetually burning Pall Malls, I tripped.

Hands forward, pie box sailing through the air, knees scraped on the hard cement.
I began to cry. Whether it was from the scrapes that had torn through my tights, or my fears of my mother’s anger about the condition of the pie, I don’t know. She dusted me off, picked up the pie box (which had landed right-side up), wiped my drippy nose with a Kleenex, and pulled me through the door. As we waited for the elevator my father said, “How’s the pie?”

She peered in, and said, “It’s fine.”

“You mean she dropped it, and it didn’t break all apart?” He always referred to me as “she” unless he was angry. Then he’d use my full name.

“It’s fine.”

And then my father said the words that, in today’s world, would have been grounds for divorce, or murder: “It must be made of concrete or something.”

The temperature in the hallway dropped markedly, and it was even chillier in the elevator as well. I could read my mother’s face. She had made the effort to make a pie for these drunken ingrates and now the chief drunken ingrate had insulted her pie.

We went into Aunt Marie’s warm, smoky living room, and my father, never good at social situations even with his own family, compounded his problem: “Guess what we brought you for dessert? It’s concrete pie.”

By this time, the aunts had spotted my torn tights and bloody knees and asked what had happened. My mother, with barely moving lips, said, “Mary was carrying the pie and tripped and dropped it.”

“Oh, don’t worry about it,” the aunts said. ”We can just have some ice cream for dessert.”

“No, no,” my father now, “it’s fine. The damn pie is fine. Ann must have made it from concrete. The damn pie didn’t move. The kid’s all scratched up, but the damn pie is fine.”

“Well, good, then,” the aunts, ”we’ll have concrete pie!”

They must have thought themselves witty, but I knew there would be no living with my mother for the rest of the week. Dessert time came, the pie was served up, there were many remarks on how tasty the concrete pie was. My mother didn’t have any.

“If it’s made of concrete, I’d better not have any. Too heavy. ” Mother believed they all thought she was fat. Perhaps she thought that obesity trumped alcoholism in the pantheon of sins, and their judgment was upon her.

I wondered, as the dinner drew to an end and we started to walk home, whether my mother would say anything to my father about the concrete pie. I wondered if he would ask her why she seemed so angry. This, though, was a long-established way of life for them. No words need be spoken. They had defined themselves and followed those definitions once again.

There it all was: the little yellow capsule with the lemon oil, the bitter zing hiding under the sugary meringue fluff, the concrete that scraped and caused us to bleed.

My mother brought the concrete pie – for it was called that ever after – to dinner at Aunt Marie’s house for several years after, even after Grandmother died, and Aunt Marie became mentally unbalanced after a mugging. She finally passed away in that hot little apartment. My father died in an accident shortly after that. My mother lived for almost thirty years more.

She never made lemon meringue pie again.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Carrie Newcomer Concert

Reverend Mother (and R) and I (and my pal L) went to the Carrie Newcomer concert last night. Twas wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! Such a funny, warm, thoughtful artist. We were mumbling and humming along (does that mean we were humbling?) with the songs from prior CDs, and loving the new material. To ReverendMother's delight, the final song was "The Yes of Yes."

I heartily recommend her to those of you who are not yet her fans.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Home Again

The travel demons seemed to be conspiring against me as I was coming home from Monterey yesterday. My flight out of Monterey ended up being two hours late leaving there, causing me to miss my connection in SFO, causing me to have to sit in that airport for five hours waiting for the next flight to Your Nation's Capital.

The good news (or bad, depending how you look at it) is that there are some very nice fast food places (including one devoted entirely to desserts) in the food court there.

I've got a large quantity of laundry to do, so I'll blog a little more meaningfully later on...

It's good to be home, even if the electical circuits on my side of the bed are all dead, so no radio, reading lamp, or TV right now. That only feels a little bit bad right now.