Archive for March, 2008

Last night I got a call from my sister, to the effect that her father (my stepfather) had been admitted to the local hospital.  Apparently he’d fallen at home and wasn’t able to get up.  Since he’s been admitted, they’ve run a battery of tests, all of which have come back normal.  I should note that Dad is 93 years old, on no medications, and has seen a doctor maybe five times in his life — and one of those times was for his Army physical.

Dh and I stopped up to visit him this afternoon.  He was looking confused, as in, What the heck am I doing here anyway? when a young nurse showed up to start “another” IV on him (not sure what was wrong with the  first IV).  She must have stuck him about four times, never did get the thing going, and meanwhile, he was in a lot of pain — kept wincing and saying, “Ow,” and she kept apologizing — and prodding him with her damned needle.

I guess what made it all the harder to watch is that I went through the same thing at that hospital, and in fact just had something similar happen to me this morning, when I went in for tests, and learned that I have “fragile veins.”  And this young thing said the same thing about Dad.  So here’s my point:  If you know someone has fragile veins, or you’re having a hard time finding one, why keep tormenting the person?!  Why not just find a flaming phebotomist, who knows how to find veins, and let her get the flippin’ thing in for you?!

One of my brothers was there, too, and commented that at least Dad didn’t look like Mom in her final illness — she’d been prodded and poked so many times, she looked like a drug addict.  There has to be an easier way, but no one seems to care enough to find it.   Criminey, if this were Gitmo, the press would be all over it, but because it’s just an old geezer, who gives a rat’s ass.

Oh, and the clincher:  Some social worker shows up and starts whispering that Dad belongs in a nursing home because he can’t be Unsupervised.  (Someone is with him 95% of the time.  He gets more supervision in his own house than he’d get in any nursing facility.)  Why do they think he’s senile?  It seems that when the doctor asked him who was President, he answered, “Why should I care?”  “Who won the World Series?”  “I haven’t followed baseball in 30 years.”  “What year is it?”  “Every day is pretty much the same.”

Yeah, maybe he was evading.  But maybe not — this is vintage Dad.  He’s always had that Brooklyn sense of humor, and frankly — I’m on his side.  No matter who’s President, they’re all looking to be jerks.  I haven’t followed baseball for 39 years, so who cares about the World Series.  (Besides, I absolutely loathe the Red Sox.)  And at 93 — well, every day really is pretty much the same.

I do not want to live to be 90.  And I most emphatically do not want the Medical Establishment running my life.

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This test has very special meaning for my family:  Our Chris used to love Winnie the Pooh when he was a little guy.  I will never forget taking him and his sister to an Episcopal church one afternoon; I had no idea why, particularly, but dh had read somewhere about a showing of Winnie the Pooh (the Disney version — can’t have everything).  Chris was absolutely enthralled, sat completely still for two hours, totally wrapped up in his favorite books come to life.  And so was I.  At the end, when Christopher Robin hints that he may be getting too old for Pooh, I actually cried —  I could see the future right then.  I just didn’t realize that having grown children could actually be sweet.

Anyway, this was cribbed from Mimi’s site:

“It’s a little Anxious,” he said to himself, “to be a Very Small Animal Entirely Surrounded by Water. Christopher Robin and Pooh could escape by Climbing Trees, and Kanga could escape by Jumping, and Rabbit could escape by Burrowing, and Owl could escape by Flying, and Eeyore could escape by — by Making a Loud Noise Until Rescued, and here am I, surrounded by water and I can’t do anything.”

You scored as Piglet!

ABOUT PIGLET: Piglet is a Very Small Animal, who used to live in his own house, a nice big tree. However, after Owl’s house was blown over by a storm, he “found” Piglet’s house, and Piglet didn’t want to tell him that the home was already lived in. So he went to live with Pooh.

WHAT THIS SAYS ABOUT YOU: You are a rather nervous person, and you tend to worry about The Worst happening. You don’t really feel capable of dealing with the things that life could throw at you, and so you tend to fret about it. You are one of those people who seems to think that worrying actually accomplishes something… and your friends can’t help but love you for it. Your humble manner and self-deprecating ways make your friends feel good about themselves. They want to help and protect you.

Your loving friends are always trying to encourage you to be more independent, and they are right. You need to develop a bit of self confidence and stand on your own two feet.

Go here to take it:


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Irish Lent

Ah, I finally thought of a “good one” to post. A day late and a dollar short, as usual, but oh well. I usually send this out the first week in Lent, but I seem to have put it somewhere inaccessible, so I will post it here.


OK. One day, a man moves into a small Irish village, and that evening, he takes himself down to the pub and orders three beers. Not one after the other, but three all at once. The bartender sets them up, the man drinks them one after the other, and goes home.

The next evening, he’s at the pub again, and again he orders three beers, all at once, drinks them one after the other, and goes home. After two weeks of this, the bartender can’t stand the suspense, so he asks the man, “Why three beers all at once? Why not one after t’other?”

“Wellsir,” says the man, “it’s like this. I’m after havin’ two brothers, one in America, and one in Australia. Before we went our separate ways, we promised each other that every evening’, we’d go down to the pub and have ourselves t’ree beers, one for each of us. An’ that way, we could keep up our family contact, like.”

By the next morning, this tale was all over the village, and the man’s stock rose greatly, for the Irish revere nothing so much as family relationships.

Then one evening, the man went into the pub and ordered just two beers. The bartender served him with a heavy heart. The next morning, the village priest stopped The Man With Three Beers (as he had come to be known) and said, “I just want ya to know, sir, that all the village, and me first of all, are wantin’ to express our condolences on the passin’ of yer brother.”

“Beggin’ yer pardon, Father, but I’m not sure what ye’d be talkin’ about?”

“Well, only orderin’ two beers yesterday evenin’,” said the priest.

“Ah! Well now, Father, ye’ll be happy to know that me two brothers are hale and hearty. It’s just that I meself have decided to give up drinkin’ fer Lent.”

(sez the lady with the Irish mother, Irish aunt, and four Irish uncles — not to mention the ancestry back in County Wexford)

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As in, not a darn thing is happening, I’m just checking in.

The church job is going well so far — just consists of the Sunday bulletin and the monthly newsletter, so far. Once Lent is over, I expect things will pick up.

Not too much on my needlework. That’s the big downside to this job, not getting an awful lot of time for cross stitch. I did, however, find a new site:


It has a cross-stitch project I’ve been wanting for a long time: Almost Heaven, by Thomas Kinkade. The guy in the painting reminds me so much of my Chris. The site is in Romanian, though, so I sent a link to Fr. Costin and asked him to have his wife or his mother-in-law translate (on the theory that they would be more interested in this kind of thing).

I was supposed to see my spiritual father in Saco (Maine) for confession tomorrow, but more snow is forecast. I can’t really complain, because we’ve had such good spring weather for the past few days that most of the old snow is finally melting; but I really need to get to confession. Eventually I do hope to transfer to Fr. Costin, but I don’t get the sense that the timing is right, yet; on the other hand, I may be forced to, if it snows or pours every single time I plan for confession.

My father-in-law is still rattling around, recovering from a bout of pneumonia. That’s right, recovering. At his age. I’m really beginning to think the old coot will bury us both — he came uncomfortably close to it last May, when Jim had that blood clot in his lung.

And apropos of that, I seem to have developed what sounds, to a couple of nurses, like a hernia. Back after my surgery, I was sitting around recovering and one day I sneezed — and felt a searing pain in my lower right abdomen. Well, I couldn’t tell my doctor because she was on vacation — does anybody know of a doctor who plans a vacation a week after someone has undergone major surgery?! — and over the next couple of weeks, the pain died down, so I didn’t think about it anymore. Till I started back to the gym in November, and started getting pain at the site. Now it hurts pretty nearly every day, sometimes to the point where I have to take an aspirin, so I’m seeing my g.p. on Thursday to see about setting up an ultrasound to find out what’s going on. I’ll let you all know what develops.

And finally — I am in shock at learning of the death of Metropolitan Laurus, of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. I met him the year I broke my wrist at Jordanville — I was in line for a blessing at Compline, and when I showed up with my arm in a sling, he just touched it, but with such a sympathetic look on his face that I knew he must have learned of my accident. It meant a lot to me then. It means even more now. I understand that in Russia, they want to build a cathedral in his honor. I’m up for that!

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Since “making a joyful noise unto the Lord” is usually the excuse given for truly dreadful church music, I’ve changed it to “making a holy noise.”  If you’re going to “sing unto the Lord,” it had better be holy.  Beautiful is even better.  Cacophony is OUT.

This post is occasioned by Fearless Leader’s comments over on the “Yum” post.  She was telling me about the time she and her husband told a Greek choir director that he needed to get rid of his organ — heresy to Greek choir directors — and that the parish should get rid of the pews (ditto, to the parish at large), and I left my own comment, to the effect that I have regular go-arounds with various Greek priests on the subject of choral music.

Some crackpot over at the Greek seminary has brainwashed an entire generation of priests into seriously believing that choral music is Bad, Bad, Bad, and that the Only Authentic Form of Greek Music is unison, with an ison.   And that this is what they should be encouraging in their own parishes, because it Encourages the Congregation to Sing.  Uh-huh.  I’d love to get my hands on this particular crackpot.

Because — well — I’ve been told I have a beautiful voice.  Whether or not I do, is entirely a matter of  opinion, though I do know that I love to sing, and we’ll leave it to God, Who sees hearts, as to how beautiful the music actually is.   The thing is — a number of years ago now, I had nodes on my vocal cords, and the only way to get rid of them was to stop singing.  When my voice recovered, somewhat, I found that I could only sing in the really high ranges of the scale — singing near alto really bothered my voice.  Now, around this time, we started attending a church with a choir whose sopranos sang more in the tenor range (!) — and the whole choir sang in unison.  That priest had been influenced by this crackpot at the seminary.  That priest, who married my daughter and her husband, also knew that I could sing, and was not too happy that I wasn’t singing along.

Then, one Holy Thursday, Father had two men leading the singing (Greek choirs don’t show up for daytime events, apparently).  And neither of them knew the special music.  And I, having been a choir director, did.  So I started singing it, and was promptly invited to “come over to the kliros and help them out.”  Afterwards, one of the men said, “We gotta get you into the choir.”  I told him why I couldn’t sing in the choir.  Next thing I knew, I was encouraged to Come and Sing in the Choir Anyway.  To make a ridiculously long story shorter, the only way I could handle singing in that choir was to sing the alto part an octave higher!  But it worked for me, and as a result, that choir started singing — duh — chorally.

Now that I’m back in the parish where I started, there’s a woman who keeps showing up for chant class who truly sounds as if she can’t carry a tune in a bucket.  But she keeps showing up.  Finally I had her sing by herself, and guess what — she has a fine voice.  It’s just that, well, she’s a tenor.  Now that she knows that, she sings an octave lower than the rest of us, and she does just fine.

So DON’T tell me that unison singing is the way to go, because I will hammer you over the head with my wide experiences of people who “can’t carry a tune in a bucket” (including my own son, whose bass is a true Russian octavist, but who can’t sing rock ‘n’ roll to save his life), but who, if they could only sing chorally, could produce a truly holy — and joyful — noise unto the Lord.

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When I first started my internet life, back around October of 2000, I had just been “fired” from a volunteer position.  How do you fire a volunteer?  You tell her to stop showing up.  You don’t give her any of the work she used to do.  And you make it very, very clear that you want her to disappear.

So I did, and spiralled into a first-class depression.  I have never, in all my life, been fired, and to be cut out of a volunteer position was — it wasn’t even humiliating.  After all, humiliation can be a good teacher.  It was like being hit by an 18-wheeler.  What happened?  Ohhh — call it a personality conflict, though I strongly suspect that the person doing the firing had another person in mind for the job altogether, especially since, not two months after I was “fired,” this other person showed up in my old spot, sweet and smug (and not nearly as good a proofreader as I am.  C’mon, I had to say it).

So I have lived the last seven years of my life online, and built up a base of friendships I only wish I had in person.  I would love to sit and chat with every one of you, which highlights the biggest drawback of the internet:  We can’t see each other.  But apart from that, being “fired” was, in retrospect, a good experience — I would never have met any of you otherwise.

Why am I bringing this up now?

Because I just got my old job back.

New priest — yep, I was the parish secretary — new relationship, and over the past seven years, I’ve had a chance to learn more about how Orthodox parish life works.  I’ve learned, primarily, that there is no such thing as a unilateral decision, that every single thing you think might be a good option has to be flown by somebody — the priest or the Parish Council at the very least, and if you can work a few yiayias or babushki into it, that’s even better.

What this means for my internet life — well, I don’t expect it to change all that much.  For one thing, seven years ago, I was putting a very great deal of time into the job because it had to be created from scratch.  There was no database of parishioners,  there was no mailing list, there was (believe it or not) no adequate filing system — bills were piled into folders labelled by month, if you can believe that — the priest didn’t even have a Rolodex.  I created all that, and it doesn’t need to be re-created.

So I expect that this time around, my job will entail much less:  the Sunday bulletin, the monthly newsletter, and a little filing here and there.  I will still have time for the things that matter, my home and family and friends, and my cross stitch.

But I am still bemused.   Losing this job seven years ago hurt, incredibly.  I still don’t really know the why of it.  Back then, it was a much-needed — make that desperately-needed — filler for the huge hole left in my life when our daughter got married.  She is such a live wire that losing her was like losing four kids at once, and I really needed the “noise” that the job provided.  And now…

Now, I find myself hoping that it won’t prove to be an interference in my life.

But I still want it.

Am I making any sense at all?!

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Oh, One More T’ing…

…as Columbo used to say.  I forgot that I wanted to post a photo of my Stitch Bows, so you could see that I have the symbol for each color on the Stitch Bow — that way, I don’t have to refer constantly to the color key, which really floss-organization.jpe would drive me crazy.

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Well!  I guess this meets with pretty universal approval!  Thanks for the feedback, ladies!

Let’s see… Elizabeth, Father Costin is — well, I’m sitting here shaking my head, with a big smile on my face, because he just telephoned me and said he felt well enough to come in to work today, and could I meet with him at 11:00 or so to start work on the parish newsletter.  His optimism just fries my pessimistic little Russian brain.  (I have actually read of a Russian who said that you should go through life expecting bad things to happen, because then you are constantly pleasantly surprised when they don’t.  My philosophy exactly, but it doesn’t meet with much sympathy among optimists!)   Anyway, I suspect that your awful case of chicken pox was compounded by having given birth six weeks earlier — you’re still recovering from that, and then your body hands you a double whammy.  Reminds me of the year my daughter got her period — the second time she had it (that is, the second time in her life), she also had pneumonia, and she said, “Mom, am I always gonna feel this awful?”  I felt so bad for her!

Suzanne, I do have some of the symbols memorized, but not all, not by a long shot.  As you work with the colors and symbols, you begin to memorize what stands for what, just by dint of working with it so much.  I do often refer to the chart, though, just to make sure that I haven’t lost my place, which would be a catastrophe, and involve so much ripping out (known as “frogging,” as in, “rip-it, rip-it”) that I would probably give up on the project, and I don’t want to do that — it’s destined to become a framed picture that I will give to my son, who, as far as I know, has no art work on his walls.  The words up top read, “New Hope and Ivyland Railroad,” the name of the first railroad he worked for, in Pennsylvania.

It will be interesting to see what happens, however, when I get this project done and move on to another project — will my brain still process those symbols as the colors in Maryland Mountain Express, or will I be able to transition to different colors??

And don’t get me started on the weather.  I drove to UNH this morning for my Russian class, and there was absolutely no place to park.   All the parking meters were so surrounded by snow that you couldn’t get to them — well, I couldn’t, but then, I’m not very tall — and I don’t have a parking permit because I wasn’t able to register for classes in advance — I audit my classes, which means I have to get instructor approval on the first day of term.  I would seriously consider just giving up Russian if it weren’t for my priest’s father-in-law, who speaks Romanian (his native language), Greek (his mother was Greek), and Russian (he attended university in Russia) — but not English.  So we converse in very elementary Russian, but at least we can converse!

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Oh, I like this so much better.  I log on, and the first thing I see is that beautiful wallpaper up top.

Yesterday’s snowstorm dropped another ten inches on what was already there, and no end in sight.  Well, we’re supposed to get rain on Tuesday, but then another snowstorm on Friday.  And I was really hoping to attend a concert on Friday — the Rachmaninoff Festival Choir of Bowdoin College in Maine is singing the St. John Chrysostom Liturgy by the Great One Himself at St. Demetrios Church in Saco, ME.  St. Demetrios is the parish I attended while my own parish, Annunciation in Dover, NH, was suffering under the “Latin Captivity”    😉    and I would very much like to attend this event to support them.

Fr. Costin, BTW, was not in church today — he found a retired priest to substitute for him, so he was able to stay home and get some rest and recuperation.  His wife and daughters were in church, and Preotessa said he still gets tired very easily.  No kidding.  Adult chicken pox is nothing to mess with.

And, a final note — today was something like the fourth time I walked into the choir expecting to sing, and ended up conducting.  Only today, the choir conductor was there — she was just subbing for the organist, and felt she couldn’t conduct and play at the same time.  (Hint:  so get rid of the organ…)  Anyway, it went all right, considering that there were three sopranos, two altos, and one bass.  Does anyone have any ideas on how to drum up support for an aging choir?!?!

One final note:  I’m not sure how image uploading works in WordPress, so I’m experimenting, but if I did this right, I think this will publish a picture of chart symbols for the train I’m working on (which is my current wallpaper, in case you hadn’t guessed!)   Crossing fingers…Chart symbols

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