Friday, March 21, 2008

It is indeed Good Friday

Today is Good Friday, March 21.

Last night I went to the Maundy Thursday service at my home church, where I was baptized in 1972. It was a joint service of the four United Methodist churches in my town. My minister, from the "large downtown" church I now attend, did the homily. It made me weepy, knowing that he will be leaving the ministry in a couple of months.

We had a joint choir as well, in which I sang. It has been about 35 years since I last sang in that choir loft but it felt like home. The song was a medley of "Be Still My Soul" with "You Raise Me Up."

Tonight I returned for the Tenebrae service. I felt so much love in this old church -- so many people still there whom I knew in my late teen years. There was a young family sitting behind me with two toddlers who were noisy -- obviously a distraction for many of the old folks there. I was trying hard to ride it out and was doing pretty good. All of a sudden one of the little ones was crawling beneath me, pushing through my legs! Mom slipped up behind me and whispered "I am SO SORRY." I just turned and told her not to worry. Jesus himself wanted the little children to come to Him, so tonight of all nights was not the time to be sending them away. Sure, the service is always "very nice" when it is observed in the intended silence and solemnity. But life is messy and loud and unplanned, despite our planning. Later, at the end of the service, Dad came to me also to apologize. I took his arm, looked him in the eye, and told him it was OK. They belonged there too. I know many of the older people wish the nursery had been open, but you know, we all survived fine.

Last night, there was a man in the mixed choir that I immediately recognized. Balding, with a white goatee, but I still knew him and asked him to tell me his name to make certain. It was a man who is on a waiting list for a heart transplant. The last time I saw him, I was in high school and he was one of the kids in the children's choir that I taught. I taught him the song he sang as his first solo in church. When I heard about his heart condition after moving back to town, that song immediately flooded my soul and I have sung it often as a prayer of intervention for him.

Tonight we walked into church at the same time and he asked me what the name of that song was. I told him, and then sang it to him. (This is soooo totally unlike me to just start singing to someone I hadn't seen in 35 years. I can't remember ever doing it before.)

Here are the words:

He Held Out His Hand to Me

Like a child in the dark,
I was so afraid
Looking over the mess
in the life that I've made.
But the Lord saw my fear
and He heard my faint plea,
And He held out His hand to me.

Who am I that a King holds His hand out to me?
Who am I that He gave up His life for me?
But the Lord saw my fear
And He heard my faint plea,
And He held out His hand to me.

He started smiling and singing with me on the second line. We were both smiling, but had tears in our eyes. I knew he hadn't quite remembered me last night, since I am a few years older, but tonight -- tonight I know he knew me.

My car is still in the shop being repaired. I now expect it to be finished on Monday. There have been delays in getting a door that will work and then in getting the trim pieces. So I still have the new rental car. I miss my car. I will be glad to get it back.

May God bless each of you this Easter as we celebrate His resurrection!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I must have been gone too long

It seems I've lost my readers. That's OK. I'll just keep writing and you can catch up when you check back. Boy, will you be surprised when you get here and see how much reading you have waiting for you!

Sorry I was gone so long. But I like surprising you every now and then by just popping back into the blogosphere.

I played hooky for a few hours this afternoon. I had to get a haircut and could only get an appointment this afternoon. And while I was at the salon, I impulsively decided to get my ears repierced.

The first time I got my ears pierced, I was 29 years old and was spending the summer in New York City while I was on a fellowship at United Features. One day I was walking past a luggage shop and they had a sign in the window that said "Ear Piercing." So I walked in, stood in the middle of the store, and they pierced my ears. It was one of the boldest things I had done to that point in my life, if you don't count spending two months in New York City alone, with no place to stay. But it opened the door to a barrage of other adventures. Permed hair. Shopping. Spending the Fourth of July on Long Island, at the beach, with strangers. Getting burned to a crisp. Watching the fireworks from the East River that night. Lunching with New York Mayor Mario Cuomo and the 1984 U.S. Olympic Team at Tavern on the Green. Going to the release party of a new analgesic called "Advil." Writing about the 1984 presidential campaign. Serializing a book for Shari Lewis. Writing about acid rain. Writing trivia quizzes for the first "videotext" services, to introduce people to the idea of reading and shopping on computers, through this thing called "the internet." I didn't invent it, but I did provide some of the first content for it!

Anyway, that's what was happening the first time I got my ears pierced. Over time, I became lax about wearing earrings. Life wasn't nearly as exciting as it was in 1984 after I came back home to Oklahoma.

And things are even less exciting now that I'm living back in my hometown. So I needed to shake things up again. I wanted to be able to wear those earrings! And who knows, there may still be some interesting encounters and some choice work for me to do again.

Universe, I'm ready! Just let me get my earrings in!

(Oh yea! I also wrote a section in the 1985 World Almanac on the environment. A former coworker sniffed and said "just one?" I said "YEAH! ONE! How many did YOU write?")

Monday, March 17, 2008

It's Official!

Now I can tell you about the great new project I'm involved in! I've just spoken with the project's founder and finalized our agreement.

I'm the new chairman for the Oklahoma Chapter of ConKerr Cancer: A Case for Smiles. This is a project that provides cheerful pillowcases for children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.

Even before getting the last details in place, I have received a stack of pillowcases from women here who have already taken on the sewing with gusto! There is also a school int he Oklahoma Panhandle where each student is making a pillowcase for another child, and I'll be receiving those as well! This network is springing up almost without effort -- a sign that this is a good project that will do well.

There will be photos coming soon, and more information. Here is a link to the National ConKerr Cancer site: ConKerr Cancer. The site explains more about the project, how it came about, and how large it is growing across America.

Any Oklahoma sewists who would like to contact me about this state project may e-mail me at ConKerrCancerOK at (address split to prevent spambots from harvesting this address. I need to keep it spam-free, please!)

This is a project that takes little effort for the great benefit it provides -- a lot of bang for the buck, so to speak. Imagine being a child who has to go to the hospital frequently. It might be a small thing, but wouldn't it make you happy to receive a bright, colorful new pillowcase every time you had to go in? Some kids, unfortunately, get quite a collection. But isn't it a small investment for us to make to ease their discomfort just a bit?

Expect to hear more from me on this... I'm very excited about getting it going!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Very Cool Discovery

Man, I wish I could tell you how I stumbled across this great find. It was through a blog connected to another blog ... you know how that goes when you go snooping through peoples' links to find new sites.

ANYWAY, it's a great discovery for those of us who appreciate the history of the domestic arts. The University of California Libraries digitized The Chicago Evening American Cookbook for Microsoft. It is alternately titled "A Book of Practical Recipes for the Housewife."

The whole book is available, free, to anyone on the internet. I'm sure there are other such treasures so shared, but this is my first encounter with one that I cared about.

I am a collector of old cookbooks. I have more than 150 of them and precious little space for my collection. I need to thin the herd, but I cannot part with the REALLY old ones -- the one my grandmother got as a wedding present nearly 100 years ago, the World War II vintage books that include sections on cooking with rationing coupons, my great-aunt's World War I vintage ledger with her recipes written in pencil in her own hand.

This Chicago Evening American is such a cookbook, written with the assistance of 13,000 women. Here, from the acknowledgments:

The pages which follow were compiled
with a view to supplying dependable
Grateful acknowledgment is hereby
made to more than 13,000 housewives,
ready and willing to contribute their
favorite recipes and thereby help to
make this Cook Book possible.
-- Chicago Evening American

I'm trying to find some publication date, but have not yet succeeded. I know this has to be a later publication than some of my older books -- I'm guessing c. WWII perhaps, because it does have actual oven temperatures included in SOME of the recipes, rather than just references to "hot" or "moderate" oven. An online newsletter from the Culinary Historians of Chicago suggests the book was published in or before 1948. Perhaps. There are instructions for pasteurizing milk and the like, but still plenty of recipes that include raw eggs. Ah the good old days! And there are several butter substitutes included that no longer are available.

If you have an interest in the history of domestic arts, take a look at this online book and enjoy! Maybe it will help you remember what it felt like to visit Grandma's house, or the activity that went on in ladies' homes just before the bridge club arrived for cards and treats.

Here's the link:
Chicago Evening American Cookbook

Saturday, March 15, 2008

This and That

OK, it's been a while. I know you have all missed me terribly!
So here's a catch-up post. I'll try to do better at posting more often.

First, my car is still in the body shop. I called just before closing time yesterday (Friday) after taking it in on Monday. The guy had just gotten the driver's door. Apparently he checked out four salvage doors, none of which was acceptable, so he got me a new door. Let's all say "woot!"

This was supposed to be a six-day repair. When I took it in, he said he hoped he might get it to me by the end of the week. Obviously that did not happen. They'll install and paint it Monday. I'll just be patient until they let me know it's ready. I've got a Chevy Cobalt as a rental. It's a 2008 --it's OK, but I will be very happy to have my own 13-year-old car back. The Cobalt is bright red but doesn't have much in the way of accessories. I miss my car, with its power locks and windows. And it's MY car.

OK, so that's the car.

I had company last night. My best friends from the OKC area (rural Jones) came up for a wedding at the Marland Mansion. Cliff was in the band for the reception (the wedding was for the daughter of a fellow band member). While they were setting up, Anne and I were able to go to dinner. Service was INCREDIBLY SLOW. Good thing she just got a salad and I just got a quesadilla. No telling how late she would have been to the wedding if we'd ordered something that took any time at all to cook!

They had discussed spending the night with me so I made my bedroom guest-ready. The rest of the house was decidedly NOT company ready. I still struggle with this house. Anyway, after the wedding, they came by and had decided to go ahead and drive home because her mother was coming to visit this morning and they thought it would be easier on all of them if she awoke them when she arrived, rather than them rushing to get back this morning to meet her. We had time for a good visit before they hit the road, but I worried about how tired they were. I'm glad they were traveling together so they could make sure they stayed awake on the way home.

And of course, that meant I got to enjoy the company-ready bedroom myself! I guess it was a fair trade for not having their company for longer. Now that spring is here I hope to see more of them, either here or there. I've missed them and all my other Oklahoma City friends a LOT.

I wound up working today for a few hours. Working six days a week IS NOT FUN. I hate not having much of a life. GROWL. I took a long nap when I got home to help my lousy attitude. It only helped some.

Someone on one of my message boards raised an interesting question which I pondered for several hours today. The question is: Do you think that modern life is faster, more stressful, and expensive than it used to be in your life?

The immediate response is "Duh. Yeah!" But as I am wont to do, I took off on a tangent with this, turning over a lot of thoughts. I even took off and went to the cemetery to "visit" my mother and brother. I also stopped by to "see" my friend J.T.'s mom, nearby. While looking for her, I literally stumbled upon my next door neighbor from my childhood, who, coincidentally, is next to J.T.'s grandparents. (Weird, huh?) Anyway, a lot of thoughts came to me while I visited with her.

I'd say that I now understand that I have immense choice in how I live my life. Although I feel more like a "big city" woman than this "small town" girl now, I understand that here I can have the best blend of things -- for now. It does not have to be forever. When I am ready, I can choose changes.

But here I have the technological advantages of being connected to the world, combined with relative peace (at least outside of work. I can't control the office.) I have the ability to live a simpler life using fewer of the earth's resources. I can continue to make my contributions to the Greater Good in valuable ways. My circle of influence is not defined by the city limits.

What I worry about here is not so much the worship of abundance, but the decay that comes with reduced incomes, drug use and loss of hope in a community. Yes, the desire to "have everything" does still exist here, but drug use, domestic violence and child abuse are the big factors I see at play. Those are the things I would change if I had an hour with the Magic Wand.

In my time this afternoon with Mrs. Reinking at her grave, I knew that some things remain the same in value -- time spent with family and neighbors, the importance of a sense of home and a high-quality domestic life. It became ever clearer to me that a lot of those values were instilled in me by her -- cooking, sewing, quilting, baking, hosting friends. Those are not throw-away values as some might think.

I'll continue to do more pondering. But one of the practical things I have to deal with now is a mess in the garage. While I was doing laundry last night waiting for company, a huge bottle of the high-efficiency laundry detergent fell off the washer. The lid came out and I now have a lovely blue lake on the floor of my garage. I can't get to the washer OR the dryer without cleaning this up first. I guess I'm going to have to take my tea towels out there to mop it up, then use them in my next several loads of laundry so it doesn't all go to waste entirely. GROWL.

Hey, one good thing this afternoon: I went to Blockbuster and got a card so I can rent movies. I still don't have television, but at least maybe I can watch SOMETHING for entertainment!

In other news: I am sadly disappointed and angry about events at my church. The staff-parish relations committee has asked that a new minister be appointed at my church at the end of this church year, which will be June 1. This is a record in my experience in the United Methodist Church, since he and I arrived at this church at the same time, in June, just nine months ago. I have admired him and found him to be an exceptional minister who was tossed into a difficult assignment. He walked into a church that was in the midst of a massive rebuilding project, which contributed to declining attendance and finances. These were issues that were not of his making.

I have walked out of several gatherings over the past several months when church members started gossiping about "setting that man straight" on this or that imagined slight. One of the hot buttons that I found totally ridiculous was a raging complaint about changes in the church bulletin. Lord, help us.

There is a good chance that I will find it necessary to move my membership to another congregation, but I plan to stay as long as the current pastor is still here.

More next time on a new project I'm taking on. It's a good one... so come back soon!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Congratulations, E.R.!

Congratulations to blogging buddy E.R., on his first-place award in a professional awards contest. He and the other winners celebrated in fine style at a newly restored hotel in the downtown metro area last night. Way to go!