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Archive for August, 2007

Not in the way I used to mean it. Since Chris moved back to New Hampshire, it feels like he’s home again, even though he lives two hours away, so it doesn’t feel as deathly quiet around here as it used to (even though it actually is!).

No, what I’m referring to is that I’ve actually had a chance to catch up on all the fun things that I’ve let go over the past year, like needlework, and in doing so, I find I’m having too much time to think. (I have also been working on a new book, which limits my Thinking time — a good thing, as you will see.) And what I find I’m Thinking about, is This Time Last Year.

I came a little too close to the Grim Reaper for comfort, frankly. Now, while the thought of dying doesn’t bother me particularly, the thought of leaving behind the people I love just eats at me. Now I find that it’s difficult to forget; I hear music that I heard from that time, or think, “This time last year, I didn’t even have enough energy to pick up a needle,” and the whole horror washes over me again.

I’m assuming this is a form of PTSD? Anyone else have this kind of thing, where, when horrible anniversaries roll around, you relive them? How did you cope?

Obviously, this isn’t the first horrible thing that happened to me in life, but it took me 20 years to get over the last truly horrible thing, and I’d rather not take so long this time (for one thing, I may not have 20 years — comforting thought!). I’d say, “There’s always booze,” but have been informed that with a background that’s half Irish and half Russian, I should just surrender to my Inherent Alcoholism, and that’s all I need to stay away from that particular “consolation.” And I have never found therapy to be particularly helpful.

Any ideas?

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You Are a Green Crayon

Your world is colored in harmonious, peaceful, natural colors.
While some may associate green with money, you are one of the least materialistic people around.
Comfort is important to you. You like to feel as relaxed as possible – and you try to make others feel at ease.
You’re very happy with who you are, and it certainly shows!

Your color wheel opposite is red. Every time you feel grounded, a red person does their best to shake you.

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Update on New Kid

A couple of people left comments on my post concerning the “New Kid on the Block,” so I thought I’d respond this way.

Catherine — it just gets better and better. He’s just such a nice person. New priests often come with an Agenda. Fr. Dean saw himself as revitalizing an aging community, and he did — unfortunately, he also stepped on a lot of older toes to do that, and people got hurt. The last priest seemed to have as his agenda closer ties with the heterodox community, which wouldn’t have been a bad thing, if it hadn’t also involved little gems like “icons” of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic (from those Bridgebuilders crackpots), ecumenical services that included the local rabbi giving a sermon while standing in front of the icon of the Annunciation, and those little girls Going Where No Orthodox Little Girl Had Ever Gone Before — I’ve crabbed enough about that that I don’t feel the need to go into it again.

(By the way, in case anyone is actually buying “icons” from Bridgebuilders, I should note that I refer to them as “crackpots” because they so obviously subscribe to the theory that what makes an icon is the style of painting, and nothing more. You should have seen my priest’s face when I made mention of their “icon” of Harvey Milk, the San Francisco official who was gunned down because he was gay. This is the kind of thing they get up to.)

Fr. Costin, to give the New Kid his name — Fr. Costin also has an agenda. As he said to me, “People will forget about their petty grievances when they return to their spiritual focus.” If it’s possible to fall in love spiritually, I think I’ve just done that! 😀

Elizabeth — it wasn’t the old priest who told Fr. Costin that I would “turn against him,” but a member of the parish council who is best described as an Old Woman. The poor soul used to be a very responsible member of the community till he had a stroke; now he can’t practice in his former profession, and seems to spend his days lurking around the church and finding things to gossip about. This is why this particular bit of gossip doesn’t bother me for my own sake, but it does hurt in the sense that this nice young priest must be wondering when and how he’s going to get hit between the eyes. I won’t say “Never” — I’m sure that eventually, we’ll have some kind of difference of opinion — but I hope we can resolve it, as I did my differences with Fr. Dean. It’s when people won’t listen that eventually, I just stop trying.

I’d like to try to get a picture of these people so I can put it up on my blog. They are just such a cute family!

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…this is what you get up to.

This is an adaptation of an Ellen Maurer-Stroh cross-stitch design of roses and lilies. I charted them out on top of a St. Olga cross, and the idea is to stitch this design onto at least two analoy covers: one for the main analogion in the church itself, and one for the analogion that stands in the narthex. There are four other analogia, and for them I will stitch a plain St. Olga cross, no flowers — I have to make some kind of progress. 😉

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Over the past six or so years, all my readers have been very patient with me as I’ve done my “wandering Jew” act through various jurisdictions and parishes — something I do truly deplore, but with my home parish having become something of a laboratory for the Orthodox/Catholic experiment, I didn’t feel I had much choice. The ROCOR parish where I would have preferred to settle folded when its priest took up a new post; we tried going to that parish for a couple of years, but the distance proved to be too much, and we finally settled on a parish some 40 miles away, where at least I knew I could trust the priest not to do anything too Innovationist. At the same time, every other week we would attend Liturgy at a very small Greek parish nearby, which only has Liturgies every other week. It worked out well enough, though I never really felt at home in the 40-miles-away parish.

Well – my original parish is finally freed from the “Latin Yoke” ;-> and we have a new priest! This one’s a corker: He’s from Romania. He has his Bachelor’s from Harvard, and his Ph.D. from CalTech in Theoretical Physics (!!!) – no idea where his Master’s is from – and says he never had any real exposure to Christianity until he and some friends bicycled from CalTech to a Romanian parish about an hour away. The priest there gave a very powerful sermon about confession, and this guy decided then and there that he had to make some radical changes in his life. “Radical” is the word — from Theoretical Physics to Metaphysics?! God love him!

Now, when Fr. Dean was in charge of this parish, I used to chant weekday Liturgies for him. When the “Latin” priest was in charge, I actually developed nodes on my vocal cords, so was unable to sing for three years, and by the time they cleared up, he had made other arrangements for a weekday chanter, so I was out of a job — just as well, since over those three years it became obvious that this was not someone you could work with. (He has a “don’t confuse me with facts” personality.) Since those “other arrangements” consisted of his oldest son, and that whole family is gone now, I thought, maybe this new priest would need a weekday chanter. So I introduced myself to him.

It turned out that my reputation had preceded me: The new priest had already talked to Fr. Dean! =:0 So we hit it off very well from the start, and I actually have had the chance to sing for him at Paraklesis, and on the Feast of the Transfiguration. He’s also interested in my needlework.

Now for the rabbit punch: After Paraklesis on Monday, he was blowing off a little steam because the actual chanter of the parish, the guy who sings on Sundays, was supposed to be there, and wasn’t. As Father said, it puts a tremendous strain on his own voice to have to sing everything, which he did because he’s just been teaching the Paraklesis melodies to me. I forget now how we got on the topic, but I said something about, “I don’t know what you’ve heard about me from the parish” – this is a parish that loves to gossip, and never puts a good light on anything when there’s a possible bad explanation – and he said, “They tell me that you will turn against me.”

With friends like these….

What bothers me about that is not that it’s untrue – I can see why these wahoos would come up with that kind of explanation – but that someone was so eager to get his knife into me that he would disturb the peace of mind of a new young priest to do it. Okay, maybe he was just trying to prepare the priest for that eventuality; it certainly happened with the last priest, though there were actual reasons for my “turning against” him, and when I explained these to the new priest, he understood that he hadn’t gotten the whole story. And I suspect, from comments passed over the past six years, that my not singing for the Latin priest was interpreted as leaving in a snit; as I said, why look for a real explanation when there’s a bad spin to put on it?

Be that as it may, I like this new young fellow very much. He’s enthusiastic without being pushy, he has a singing voice to die for, and frankly – I like that he’s from an Eastern Bloc country. This says to me that he has really struggled for his faith, that he’s not Orthodox “because Greeks are Orthodox,” but understands the necessity for spiritual growth – actually, he’s a lot like Fr. Dean. I can’t wait to see what his Bible studies are like. His sermons are already a hoot, since he brings a lot of science into them – as one of the Jordanville monks once said to me, it’s so interesting to see how priests bring their former lives into their sermons.

And meanwhile, I will also have to deal with the ill will of my former parish. But that I’m not too worried about, mostly because they seem to think their opinion actually should matter to me, and of course it doesn’t – as long as the “new kid on the block” and I are able to communicate well. So far, so good!

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Back in February, I posted about the newest “member” of our family, my new red Toyota Matrix. At the time, she was Molly. She has a new name, “Minnie.” (Which I don’t especially care for — makes me think of Minnie Mouse. I liked Mimi, but the hubster, loyal son of Das Vaterland that he is, says it’s “too French.” Sigh.)

Anyway, what occasioned the name change was meeting an actual person named Molly at the Summer School. Charity forbids my saying very much about this, umm, interesting person, except to note that she was a third-year student this year, and is the only person I have ever seen conduct a choir with a hula motion. Most of us conduct with the “opposable thumbs” approach, i.e., we move our arms in opposite directions from each other. Molly conducted by moving her arms in the same direction at once. She did get her certificate — I’m not sure if it was because she didn’t fall apart altogether during the final exam, or because they would do anything to make sure she didn’t come back.

She had other idiosyncrasies. Let’s just leave it at that. But I knew that if I ever referred to “Molly” again, it wouldn’t be my little red car I’d be thinking of. Hence, the name change.

And, just before we left for Jordanville, we got another Toyota Matrix. This one’s pure white, and its name is “Snoopy.” It started out life as “E. B.” (the hubster being an admirer of E. B. White), but “Snoopy” fits it much better. Its purchase was occasioned by a broken tie rod, followed by the discovery that all the other tie rods on the car were also in shaky condition, and fixing one of these puppies, in this neck of the woods, costs upwards of $400. Plus, the car was a 1994 Escort — hard to find parts for it, at this point. Plus, the floor was rusting out altogether, and in NH, your car doesn’t pass the state inspection if the floor is rusted. (Doesn’t matter if the headlights are out of balance, or even if the tie rods are about to fall apart — as I learned one September, after a state inspection the previous month — but that floor had better be good and solid. Go figure.)

Fortunately, we paid cash for the first car, so we only have one car payment to handle. But the hubster was considering retirement, before this latest discovery. Now – well, who knows?

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…he looked it, the young man standing in church four Sundays ago, up there in Jordanville. Very Russian-looking, short blond hair, slight build, looking very solemn and serious — with three children clustered around him, two little girls about 7 or 8, and a little boy about 3. In the more conservative ROCOR churches, men stand on the right-hand side of the church, and women stand on the left, and usually, the children stand with the women, so this young man was all the more noticeable with his three little children clustered around him, each little girl holding a hand, and the little boy smack up against his front. And they just stood there, from about the Gospel onwards.

Now, because Jordanville is a hierarchical seat, services there take a long time. A Sunday Liturgy can take three hours. People wander in and out throughout; you get to a point where you need a “seventh-inning stretch,” as my Church Slavonic instructor once put it, so you drift outside and sit for awhile, get some fresh air, then wander back in and find a place to stand. Not this family. They just stayed put the whole time, and let me tell you, those kids didn’t move an inch. Yet there was no question of the affection between father and children; he let them do pretty much anything they liked with his hands, and when one of the little girls let go, his son (looked just like him!) promptly picked up the hand and put it on top of his head.

Then, just before Communion, the dad leaned down and whispered to one of the girls, who nodded, and then he took off, leaving the three children behind. I saw them craning their necks to watch him go, and wondered what that was all about. A few minutes he reappeared–with an infant in his arms. And shepherded the three other children up for Communion, along with the infant.

This guy has four children.

I saw him for all the Sundays I was in Jordanville. The second Sunday, the kids stayed with him, and I was interested to see his method of “discipline”: When the little boy put his hands into his pockets, the dad just reached down and gently removed the hands, then put them at the boy’s side. And they stayed there. The third Sunday, I saw the same children, but this time with a sweet-looking young woman who actually let them sit down on one of the stools placed around the cathedral. It was amusing to note that they were actually a little wigglier with her around! At Communion time, dad reappeared–apparently, this time he had “infant duty”–and after Communion, those kids just moved to his side and stayed there, although mom was still in church.

When church let out, those kids reverted to being kids–not that they were remotely whiney, but just racing around all over the place, blowing off steam–and the parents just stood there talking, with the dad swinging the infant back and forth in its car seat, chatting easily with his wife and smiling. He certainly didn’t come across as some kind of disciplinarian fanatic, but somehow, he had gotten across to his kids how to behave in church, and they did.

I couldn’t help contrasting their behavior with the American kids I know, who are so rambunctious and make their presence such an ordeal for everyone around them–not necessarily at Liturgy, more like in the public sphere (like grocery stores), but even at church, kids raised by American parents are much more disruptive than these kids were. What is it about Russian parents and children? I mean, these weren’t the only kids in church, but the only thing that made them noticeable was their father, who really did look about 20 years old. The other kids in church were just as well-behaved. As my husband said (he was there for the third Sunday, and I pointed out the family), they knew that church was a special place, and that they were supposed to have “church manners.”

I wish I knew how Russians do it. And I wish they’d share the secret with today’s parents.

Update, 2010:  I found out last year that this man teaches Church History to the seminarians.  His wife was the Summer School’s cook last year.  Their names are Sergei and Nadezhda.

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