Archive for the ‘Faith’ Category

When the decision to help Biscuit die had been made, we had to talk specifics with the vet’s people. A very gentle, soft-spoken woman named Heather, presented the options to me over the phone. I asked for the prices of each option. I was somewhat in a fog of grief, so I had to ask her to repeat several things. The gist of it all was, Biscuit’s body could be returned to us for burial (no charge, except for the injection); he could be cremated individually and returned to us in a basic urn, or in a decorative urn of our choosing ($200 plus injection and urn cost); or he could be cremated along with all the other animals who had recently died, and nothing would be returned to us ($90 plus injection). After going over the prices, Heather added, “I know your bill is already huge, with the last week of day hospital, so I imagine you want to keep costs down…”

“Well, yes,” I answered, on autopilot, while mulling our options. We had once buried another dog in the yard of our old house. We had been told then that it was illegal to do so in our area, and this was a source of anxiety for a very young LG. I thought aloud that cremation would be better. I mentally dismissed, though apparently did not state, that I did not want Biscuit lumped in with all the other deceased pets.

So Heather continued trying to help me with arrangements. “OK, then, we’ll have $90 for the euthanasia; we’ll do the cremation; the mass is an additional $90…”

The mass? We would, I was certain, say a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing as we buried Biscuit’s ashes in the yard, but we had no intention of having a mass for him. $90? For a priest . . . mass cards . . . ? Just when I was mentally finalizing the funeral arrangements, Heather throws in this monkey wrench. I went through an elaborate inner process, trying to find a compartment for this new mass information. I finally decided that I needed to respond something like, “Thank you for thinking of that [clearly, Heather is Roman Catholic, and apparently assumed that we are as well; she is only trying to be sensitive and attentive to our spiritual needs], but we are Presbyterian [Biscuit has received communion (and by “received,” I mean stolen, and by “communion,” I mean bread) on at least two occasions], so we really won’t need a mass, we’ll take care of our own service.”

I opened my mouth to make this rather odd reply, but instead, out came, “Wait, what?”

Turns out, “the mass” meant “mass cremation,” as in, with all the other pets. That’s not what we wanted. Even though we were already dipping into all the $ we had, and some we didn’t, for his care, we wanted him cremated alone. I told Heather this, and that we’d take the basic container, nothing fancy, and we’d bring him home to bury him.

So that’s the story of how Biscuit was almost converted at the end of his life. We were greatly surprised that the “basic container” which I imagined as a plastic margarine tub, is actually a lovely wooden box with an intricate floral carving on the top. It is now on a bookshelf. I don’t know when or if we’ll bury it. Presbyterian.



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Sunday Post

cnd window

“You would do well to pursue your causes with vigor, while remembering that you are a servant of God, not a spokesman for God, and remembering that God might well choose to bless an opposing point of view for reasons that have not yet been revealed to you.” — Barbara Jordan

Romans 8:18-28

I love/hate this quote. It came to me serendipitously, attached as a signature on the bottom of an email forward. The kind of thing I would not normally even scroll low enough to see. The forward was actually “People of Wal-Mart,” and the quote was the signature of someone a few senders back, someone I don’t know at all. But I knew it was for me.

It came a few months ago when I found myself in the middle of a situation in which one of my students was being scapegoated by someone who had an axe to grind with our agency. The student was being sacrificed in what amounted to a pissing contest between the agency’s director and the college’s program director. I am a mama bear for my interns, for better or worse. I supported the intern in every way that I could. I wrote letters and went to meetings and I encouraged, and I prayed.

And it started to become clear to me that while I had no doubt we (the intern’s team) were on the side of right and good, we were not going to “win.” I just began to have that sense, even without any confirmation of it.

And the day I began to have that intuition, was the day I noticed that “coincidental” email signature, by someone I don’t know. Except at that point, I knew it was from Someone I do know. It was a note from God. And I said (btw, I wouldn’t recommend this as a response to a note from God), “Oh, shit. It’s not going to go our way, is it?”

I knew that so clearly that I wrote to the intern and told her. She wasn’t going to be vindicated. Not right then, anyway. And we must have faith that our momentary loss was in the service of a greater victory later on. Being a person of faith, and a person who, I think, has come to trust me, she accepted this. Indeed, she may have come to that realization on her own.

Sure enough, many weeks later, someone in a position of power intervened and my intern no longer was oppressed in the way that she had been. The matter is not over. But more people are looking more closely, and our best hope is that the whole matter will lead to an examination of some people and some practices that needed examining.

All that to say, it ain’t over ’til it’s over. That reminds of another quote, I may have used it here before. From Richard Foster in the book, “Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home”:
“God is out to do me good.” And I always add, although the good Mr. Foster did not say, “even when everything looks like shit.”

Keep the faith. Or get you some.

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Sunday Post

these boots are made for puddle stompin'

“No accurate thinker will judge another person by that which the other person’s enemies say about him.” — Napoleon Hill

Romans 14:10-13

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(How’s that for a Sunday Post?)

Due to WTF-medicine-related nausea, I did not attend services today. But Jif and LG did, as they often do without me.

First thing LG tells me when she gets home is that “Miss Ginger doesn’t like my new haircut.”

“What? How would you know that?”

“She told me. She said, ‘Did you get a haircut? I don’t really care for it. I liked it better before. But if you like it…I guess that’s what’s important.'” Thank the good Lord, my daughter has a sense of humor, and was telling this whole story in the context of laughing at the wacky and clueless Miss Ginger.

I ask LG what occasioned this unsolicited commentary, and she tells me that Miss Ginger told her this during the “passing of the peace”, when we are supposed to be sharing loving, encouraging greetings with one another.

On what shamar-moore planet is that a proper thing for a 50-something woman to say to a 13-year-old? ‘Bout to lose my religion…

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Working on this tonight, to be shared at my Mom’s funeral this weekend

Some of my earliest memories of Mom are her washing dishes at the sink at our house in Delaware. She would wash dishes and sing. I heard my mother sing songs that I didn’t hear anywhere else. If a radio was on in our house, my father had it tuned to Orioles baseball. The music came from Mom. Years later I heard someone named Loretta Lynn and some dead guy named Hank Williams, singing Mom’s songs. They had more talent, I suppose, but they had no more heart, soul or passion than my Mom. I learned to love music from my Mom’s singing at the kitchen sink.

I learned to love books and reading from my Mom. She read to me. And she taught me how important books are. She said that if she had not married and had babies so young, if she had made different choices, she would have wanted to be a librarian. She would have wanted to be surrounded by stacks and stacks of books, instead of stacks of dishes and laundry.

I learned to laugh at myself from my Mom. As a psychotherapist now, I have to say, the value of that ability cannot be overstated. The difference between survival and defeat is often the ability to laugh at oneself.

You couldn’t be around my mother for very long without two things happening. She would feed you something, whether you wanted it or not, and she would mention the Lord. If you were having some sort of trouble, she would advise you to pray.

My mother was not as well-educated as she would like to have been, but she said a lot of very wise things that her children will always remember. She taught us, “You treat the janitor and the governor just the same, with respect.” Tony reminded me that she said, “Don’t ever take from a person anything that you can’t give back.” She was talking about someone’s reputation. She told us we were no better than anyone else, and we were no worse. She told us not to bring out candy unless we had enough to go around. She taught us the things that all good mothers teach their children: you’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar; if you can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything. She taught me that mothers will cheerfully sacrifice in order for their children to have the best. In the 60s, when schools were integrating, she taught me to get along with people who looked different from me; we used the term “colored people” then; I remember her telling me, about a little black girl that I mentioned to her, “Don’t treat her the same as everyone else; you treat her better; maybe you can help make up for the ones who are mean to her today.” As a human being, she taught me tolerance. As her daughter, she taught me to love pretty clothes and too many shoes. She taught me not to buy shoes without buying a bag to match; you’ll regret it. And no matter how bad life looks, or how bad you feel, get your bath and fix your face and smile. I teased her that her motto was “It doesn’t matter how you feel as long as you look good.” And she surely did look good. When I was a little girl, I thought my mother was as pretty as any movie star. My father thought so, too. On my wedding day he told me, with no unkindness intended, that I was pretty, but not as pretty as Nell.

I learned how to love from my mother, and I hope to some day be as good at it as she was. Not likely, though. I believe she’s been awarded her gold medals by now. If my mother loved you, like she loved her husband, children, grandchildren, and others, then you were loved beyond all reason and good sense. I can’t help but think that’s very much how Jesus loved; like Mom.

My mother was the Queen of the Second Chance. No matter what her husband, children, nieces, nephews, in-laws, out-laws did, she never wrote them off. You always got another chance. No matter what kind of fuss you had with her, you could come back the next day and get something to eat, a place to sleep. Her door and her heart stayed open all the time. We could learn a lot from her example of forgiveness.

My mother wasn’t perfect, of course. She and I got on each other’s nerves the way only mothers and daughters can. I will also say that she loved her daughters-in-law the way she loved me, which includes getting on their last nerve sometimes. That’s OK. One thing that I think has always spoken well of Mom is that even her sons’ former wives love her and continued to ask about and keep in touch with her.

Sometimes Mom didn’t know when to quit. That’s a trait most of us have inherited from her – talking, working – you name it, we’ve probably done a little or a lot too much of something. I heard about a time Mom traveled North with two of her nieces, whom she loved very much, and she talked so much they stopped and bought her a book so she’d be quiet for a while. She didn’t get the hint. She stopped chatting and started reading out loud to them!

And Mom never quite caught on to the concept of political correctness. For example, if she saw someone whose nationality or ethnic background she wondered about, she would not think twice about asking them about it. She would say, sweet as could be, “Now, honey, just what ARE you?” I would cringe, but the person would give her their answer, also sweet as could be. I guess people could tell that as politically incorrect as she was, her spirit was never malicious.

Thank you for being here to honor my mother. I hope she is pleased with the things we’ve all had to say about her as we’ve remembered her here today. If we remember to talk to Jesus regularly, and be sweet to each other, and aren’t afraid to laugh, then we will keep her memory alive. And ladies, if we always have a bag to match our shoes.

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I’ve been asked to think about my mother’s eulogy. It occurs to me that she might be a “forgivaholic.” Which, if you’re going to be any flavor of “-aholic,” is probably not among the worst you could be. I don’t think God will say to anyone, “You forgave too many times! You gave too many second chances.” That would be a pot and kettle kind of situation. I think.

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Easter cupcakes

I wish for each of you a joyful Easter day, peace beyond all understanding in the midst of whatever is happening, and a way to get to a place that feels like home. Those are the blessings of Easter, it seems to me today.

I learned something about Easter celebrations this year, thanks to the internet. All my adult life, I’ve heard Roman Catholic friends and relatives talk about “doing the Stations of the Cross.” I figured it had something to do with remembering the crucifixion of Jesus, but I didn’t know what. The “stations” are not part of my Protestant tradition. But I was curious, and I had internet, so I went a-googlin’. First I found sites for adults that gave me information but didn’t entice me in the least. I learned that the “stations” are a devotional practice that begin in the 4th century in Jerusalem. Believers went to places that Jesus had gone during His last days and hours, and meditated upon His experience and its meaning. For a Christian, that is clearly a worthwhile thing to do, but the way in which it was presented — going to different locations in a church and reciting scripted verses and prayers — didn’t capture my imagination.

Then I went to a Stations of the Cross site for children, and I saw much more value in the practice. That’s the site I’d like to share with you this morning. What I liked most about it is that after describing each scene — Jesus being mocked, or Simon helping to carry the cross — the reader is encouraged to remember a time when you felt that way, and “show Jesus your heart.” Then Jesus will help you change your heart, will heal your heart. That seemed to me to be as good a description of following the Christian path as any I’ve ever seen: showing Jesus my heart, getting help to change my heart when it needs to change.

Happy Easter, friends.

He is risen!

Psalm 51:10-12

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OK, that is what my husband just said, while I was trying to think of a name for this post. They’re baking potatoes, and they’re in the microwave wrapped in plastic. (Don’t judge me.) It’s a post about quotes, and that is a quote, and it’s not one you’ll read anywhere else.

I liked giving you quotes last Christmas, and went looking for some for this year. One long “credo” seemed just right for now — it has children of the world, faith, hope, and unity:


At Christmas time I believe the things that children do.

I believe with English children that holly placed in windows will protect our homes from evil.

I believe with Swiss children that the touch of edelweiss will charm a person with love.

I believe with Italian children that La Befana is not an ugly doll but a good fairy who will gladden the heart of all.

I believe with Greek children that coins concealed in freshly baked loaves of bread will bring good luck to anyone who finds them.

I believe with German children that the sight of a Christmas tree will lessen hostility among adults.

I believe with French children that lentils soaked and planted in a bowl will rekindle life in people who have lost hope.

I believe with Dutch children that the horse Sleipner will fly through the sky and fill the earth with joy.

I believe with Swedish children that Jultomte will come and deliver gifts to the poor as well as to the rich.

I believe with Finnish children that parties held on St.Stephen’s Day will erase sorrow.

I believe with Danish children that the music of a band playing from a church tower will strengthen humankind.

I believe with Bulgarian children that sparks from a Christmas log will create warmth in human souls.

I believe with American children that the sending of Christmas cards will build friendships.

I believe with all children that there will be peace on earth.
— Daniel Roselle

(If you can share other traditional beliefs of the season, please do, they’ll be most welcome.)

My favorite printed message on a Christmas card this year was on the card sent by my sister, Squirl, and I was tickled to see that the card was made by a fellow blogger, Tiffany, at www.electricboogaloo.net. The message:

“May your holiday season be filled with all of the things that bring you joy. You know, like reindeers or whatever.”

Tonight I am quietly celebrating with two good people and a bad dog, the birth of the One whom we believe is our Savior. I hope you are joyfully celebrating something, and that you know you are loved.

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Here we are again, friends. Welcome to the 4th Annual Blog Cookie Exchange! If you’re new, here are the basics for participating in the exchange:

Favorite holiday recipes
Special traditions
Favorite gift to give
What you wear when you don your gay apparel 🙂

But really, you can write or post pix of anything that tells us how you celebrate the holidays, or your favorite memories, or your wishiest wishes or scroogiest bitches.

Thanks to hand and arm trouble from WTF Disease, I’m afraid I’m not the hostess I once was, but you are most welcome to share all that I have managed to pull together.

Easy Reindeer Cookies

Susie’s Cookie Q and A
Q: Seriously, could these cookies BE any cuter?
A: No.

Nor could they be any easier. These days I am all about the rather impressive, but really, really easy. Like these reindeer cookies. Here’s how we roll:

Take a roll of store-bought cookie dough — sugar, peanut butter or ginger bread, and add 1/4 cup of flour (to make it roll out easier), and roll it out to about 1/4″ thickness.

Cut out the reindeer head shapes, using a bell-shaped cookie cutter. (An upside down heart-shape would work fine, too, don’t you think? OR, shape the long roll into a three-sided cylinder — kinda pyramiddy — and then cut it into 1/4″ slices.)

Use mini-pretzels for antlers.
Use M&Ms or chocolate chips for eyes.
Use M&Ms or Red Hots for a nose.

Bake at 350 for 12 minutes.


And I know I’ve shown you this before, but I don’t think I’ve told you how to prepare it:

The Fascinating Pinecone Cheeseball

pinecone cheeseball

1 (8-ounce) container garden vegetable cream cheese*
1 (8-ounce) container roasted garlic cream cheese**
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 scallions, finely chopped (use both white and green parts)
2 cups pecan halves, toasted
Fresh rosemary sprigs (or sprig of pine)

Stir together first 4 ingredients. Shape into an oval (pinecone shape); chill 2 hours.
Arrange pecan halves over cheese oval, pressing in lightly in overlapping rows, beginning at bottom and working upward. Arrange rosemary sprigs at top of pinecone. Serve with crackers.

*If Garden Vegetable cream cheese is not available, may use plain cream cheese with ½ packet of Knorr vegetable soup mix.
**If Roasted Garlic cream cheese is not available, may use plain cream cheese mixed with 2-3 cloves of crushed, roasted garlic.


We were invited this year to join a long-standing tradition of some distant friends of ours.

“distant friends”= we really like them, and think we would like them even better if we got to know them more, and they seem to feel the same about us, but we don’t see them enough for that.

Their tradition is a Carol Party. You take a small house, fill it with friendly people, a few of whom have actual musical talent, the rest of whom like to hang around people with actual musical talent (I belong to the latter group), add a couple of guitars, a keyboard, an impressive variety of percussion instruments and a box of kazoos, plus some drinks and cookies and a bunch of photocopied Christmas song lyrics, and there you go. It really was fun. Until they got to “O Holy Night.”

That is (or was) my favorite carol. I know people make fun of it, but doggonit, I like it. Even — or especially — the “fall on your knees” part. When the orchestra swells, and the choir goes all forte — it’s thrilling. And it’s real. I mean, think about what they’re singing about. If you were THERE, back in the day, and you saw that amazing star, and then you saw and heard a bunch of angels (ANGELS!) up in the sky singing at you . . . are you gonna tell me that wouldn’t knock you right on your ass? OK, then. But they can’t really put “knock you on your ass” in a church song, now can they? So, yea, fall on your knees indeed.

Back to the party. When it came time for “O Holy Night,” the host says all the men have to get together. So it’s men in the dining room, and women in the adjacent living room, and we start to sing. But, as is the tradition at this party, the men put their arms around each other and do a can-can to this song. (Except Jif was new, and never having been part of an all-male line-dancing holiday revue, he thought they were trying to do the Munchkins’ Lollipop Guild dance from the Wizard of Oz, so his moves were a little. . . spastic.) And then, at the “fall on your knees” part, they all did. And it just continued to deteriorate from there. Not pretty. Nor festive.

So, I don’t know, I may need a new favorite Christmas song: this one would be a contender. I really love it.

My favorite gift to give this year is a toffee apple, from here. I had hoped to post photos, but we’re slow here, so they won’t be in our possession until this evening. Maybe I’ll slip a photo in later. One of my students gave me one of Lisa Anne’s toffee apples last year, and it was so amazing we went right out and bought a few to give as gifts. This year, we’re buying a few more. The thing is, I’m not a big apple person. And I really don’t like candied apples — waste of a perfectly good fruit and perfectly good candy, I would have said. But Lisa Anne converted me. Huge, tart apple covered in high quality caramel, toffee . . . YUM. And the large size, I unapologetically gave one to a family of seven, and they each had a dessert slice and some left over. The coating is so thick and rich, just a little goes a long way. So, yea, I think you’d like them.

This might be a good place to say thank you to everyone who reads here, comments here, and to those who write on your own blogs. Just a few years ago, I was a big internet cynic. I did not trust that enough people were real enough on the internet. And yes, since I have trusted cyberpeople, I’ve gotten scorched a time or two, but mostly I am thrilled and delighted by how much more of life I have learned, that I could not have learned, had I not met you all online. You make my life richer. You even help me like myself more. You make a horrid illness easier to laugh through. And now you make me cry a little. In a good way.

Merry Christmas, dear friends.

Now gimme some cookies!

If you have a blog, I hope you’ll invite us in for your holiday post (and if today isn’t good, put it up when you can, we’re easy like that). Leave a comment to let us know, and please, visit the people who leave comments. If you don’t have a blog, share your holidaying here in the comments.

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Before it’s all over, my final meandering, disjointed thoughts from my perch here on the island of misfit voters:

Vote. It’s easy for most to know for whom to vote. It’s still hard for some, I know. But pick one. Or write in. Just do it; you’ll feel better.

Some things in this election that have made me go, “hmmm”:

Amazed at how people really don’t want to hear anything that contradicts what they already believe. I guess I’ve known of this phenomenon, but I’ve never seen it so clearly at work before this past year. I’ve pictured it as people happily waiting in line for a popular amusement park ride, then getting on, getting strapped in, and refusing to listen to cautions — it might not have been inspected! You paid way too much for that ride! Whatever. Lots of “lalalala, I can’t hear you,” as the ride speeds off, with laughing, oblivious riders. I have an extra something inside that most people I’ve talked with this year don’t seem to have. I want to hear points of view that differ from my own. See, I can be mistaken sometimes. I have no illusion that people who think differently than I are evil or stupid. I appreciate new information. I feel nearly alone in that perspective. Not that I wouldn’t still go on the ride. I’d just like to know what the ones who chose not to stand in the line know.

During the primaries, I had my candidate all picked out. In fact, I picked him in 2004, and I predicted that he’d be elected this year. And I was thrilled. Then I lost the thrill. BUT, I am still tickled by how thrilled and excited most of my friends are. It’s GOOD to be passionate about something this important. Frankly, I envy you that passion. I hope I get it again someday.

If the candidate about whom you’re passionate is elected, I whole-heartedly congratulate you — and him — and I hope that he is humble in victory, and that his opponent is gracious in defeat. And that both the humility and the grace last through the next four years. Can you imagine? That’s how our country might rise to a position of honor again.

I hope the hatred of the president that has been in fashion these past few years goes out of fashion to stay. Thinking back over my nearly fifty years, sometimes I’ve voted for the winner, sometimes not. And I have never had one second of hating the president. This is another thing I’ve had a hard time getting my mind around. I was pissed at Nixon in the wake of Watergate (too young to vote then), and disgusted with Clinton in the “it depends on what your definition of is is” days, but I didn’t hate them. I thought they made poor choices, that were not in their best interest, nor that of the nation. But in my job, on any given day, I might make a poor choice. I understand how that can happen. I saw, and still see, what they brought to the job that was of value. Great value. It’s a really tough job. Some have argued that only seriously character-flawed individuals would seek it. I think there’s some truth to that. Both the excellence and the cracks will likely become apparent in the new president. And I think he’ll do fine.

And I wonder what the people (many, many people) who’ve spent so much emotional energy hating George Bush will do with all that energy?! Seriously, if it were now converted into something more productive than hatred, than verbal vitriol, imagine the good that could be accomplished. I hope we get to see that.

I don’t share the high stress level that many people are talking about today. I’m excited for the exercise of freedom, for the historic occasion, for the new beginning. But not stressed. MainlineMom twittered today that her faith is not in politicians. I think that’s why I’m not stressed, too. It’s the “peace that passes understanding,” that scripture talks about. And that has often been so elusive to me. But I think that is what I have, now. It’s not a bad place to be. Read more about this Christian perspective, if you’re so inclined: Philippians 4:4-7. (And the two verses following that, 8 and 9, might be my very favorites and the ones I tell myself most often.)

Another thing that struck me about this election was how many people wrote about feeling differently toward their friends, colleagues, neighbors once they realized those people didn’t share their political views. Again, my mind doesn’t go that way. I’ve never had any expectation of my friends sharing my political views. Many of my family don’t share my views, nor I theirs. My friendship with you is about how you treat me and how I treat you; how I talk about you when you’re not around, and how you talk about me. The fact that I rejoice when something wonderful happens to you, and cry or cuss when something awful happens, and you do the same for me and mine. And we could do that our whole lives without ever discussing politics for one moment. Probably about half the country will vote differently from me today; I’m still glad you’re here, thankful for what you bring. Just one more curiosity I noted during this election season.

As NessaLee posted on Twitter this morning, the new President will be up to his eyeballs in trouble from day one. This really is the time to come together as Americans, if ever there has been a time. I pledge my support to the winner. “Support” meaning I’ll look for the good, and that’s what I’ll focus on; I’ll look for what I can personally do to make things better; I won’t expend energy on hatred and ridicule, I’ll actively seek ways to put the energy to better use. And I’ll pray that the President and his advisors have wisdom, courage and serenity.

Congratulations and every blessing to you (and us), Mr. President-elect, whomever you are.

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