Archive for September, 2008

…as we would say in New York.  I’m not normally so casual about the electoral process, but every single evening for the past two weeks, I’ve been fielding telephone calls from both sides trying to solicit my vote, and it’s getting old.  I have a standard line for both of them:  I don’t like the foreign policy of either candidate, and I’m still trying to make up my mind, and that usually shuts them up.  I don’t think they’re prepared for an American who actually considers foreign policy to be any kind of issue.

This last call, however, was the best of all:  Some kind of opinion poll, except that I couldn’t make out what kind, because it sounded like the woman (?) was talking with a mouthful of marbles.  So, just as s/he was getting to the meat of the poll, I said, “I can’t understand a word you’re saying,” and hung up.  I really couldn’t.  S/he reminded me of “Mujibar,” a joke I sent out a couple of years ago about those characters you get who are supposed to provide tech support, only you can’t understand anything they say.

Meanwhile, my last post certainly generated some comment!  I can’t believe how many clotheslines are banned, especially in supposedly “enlightened” communities that shove environmentalism down everyone’s throats.  Do not misunderstand me:  I consider myself a rational environmentalist, and that’s one reason why solar drying is so important to me.  But I do think that if you’re going to get fanatic about it, to the point of being unpleasant about buying any lesser vehicle than a Prius or a bicycle, then you should carry the thing over into the less convenient aspects of life.  Like solar drying, or making your own laundry soap.

Fearless Leader posted a site over on OrthWomen a few months ago, that gave a recipe for making your own laundry soap, something like one bar of Fels Naptha, 1/2 cup of washing soda, and 1/2 cup of Borax.  The hubster has tended to wash his own clothes because he prefers to wash them in Fels Naptha; not that I would ordinarily object, except that he washes his clothes in the bathroom sink and leaves them there to soak overnight, and how do you brush your teeth then?!  So I’ve made up this mixture, which involves shaving the bar of soap into flakes, and let me tell you — it’s worth the effort.  2-3 tablespoons of this stuff in a front-load washer gets the clothes clean and fresh-smelling, and it is incredibly soft on your hands.  Last time I washed his tighty-whities, I forgot to add fabric softener, but I hung the clothes out in the fresh air, and guess what — you don’t need fabric softener, if you dry things in the fresh air after washing them with this soap mixture.  Think how much less oil we’d use if we weren’t all so fixated on detergent!  Visualize…

…a world without Al Gore!    ;D

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The WHAT Initiative?!?!

For some 30 years now, I’ve been mail-ordering from a little gem called the Vermont Country Store.  They sell things it’s hard to find anywhere else, like nightshirts and aprons and shirtwaist dresses and clotheslines.

The most recent issue of their catalogue began with a note from the store owner, Lyman Ortman (fifth-generation Vermonter) about something called the Clothesline Initiative.  He referred to it as “civil disobedience,” which I abhor but which seems to go over well with Vermonters, but apparently there are a number of communities where hanging your laundry on a clothesline, in God’s fresh air and sunshine, is actually illegal, and legislation is pending before a number of state legislatures to allow people to put up clotheslines if they please.

SAY WHAT?!?!  It’s a clothesline, for crying out loud, not a porn shop or a brothel.  But those who ban such pedestrian things as clotheslines appear to feel that it — are you ready for this? — “brings down the property values, and makes the neighborhood look like a slum.”  What’s even freakier is that these are the same loonies who will go off the deep end if I wear something made of 100% wool or (gasp) sheepskin or (horrors!) fur.  In other words, enviro-freaks, hugging trees left and further left and calling loggers “murderers” (which actually happened to my son one day, when he was engaged in removing a diseased tree, no less), but — Give Up My Dryer, for the sake of the environment??  Oh, the effrontery!  The scandal!!  The sheer — proletarianism of it all!!!

Get over it.  Ten years ago, a family of four could save $200 a year by abandoning its electric dryer, and I can only imagine what that would be in today’s dollars.  Even if you live in the Pacific Northwest (sorry, Mimi), where I understand it never stops raining, there is a solution.  I recently proved it to myself, when God somehow got the Atlantic Northeast mixed up with the Pacific Northwest and delivered the wettest summer in living memory to New England.  You get a drying rack, and you spread your clothes on it.  With a little judicious placement, the stuff dries perfectly well in 24 hours.  You have more than two people in your household?  Get two drying racks.  Wash clothes every day.  When you do this in the winter, by the way, you don’t need a humidifier — the drying clothes add just the right amount of humidity to the air.

Or, as I did when the kids were little and we were living in Massachusetts, have a back porch built onto your house and hang your clothes out there.  There was one two-week spell of rain when I washed and hung out clothes every day, and so help me Hannah, by evening they were bone dry, even though they’d been hanging out of doors all day.  I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Anyway, I just had to get this off my chest.  The notion of needing a law, for crying out loud, so you can hang your clothes out of doors is just too bizarre to be contemplated.  Don’t we have better things to do with our legal system?  Like legislate, I don’t know, castration for child molesters?!

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I guess I should have written a post before attempting to insert the photo, but anyway, my last post shows this project halfway done.  I’m very happy with it, though I’d be happier if I’d been able to do anything more this week.   However, Life doesn’t work that way — poor old Dad fell on Tuesday evening and broke his hip — in three places, yet — so we’ve been running back and forth between the hospital, in between holding down our various jobs (“we” being my sister and her husband, and my husband and me, joined today by the middle of my three brothers).

I have very controversial views on Life, specifically, how long it should be lived.  Now, being very firmly in the camp of there being a Creator of us all, I certainly believe that we should live our lives for as long as God intends us to, and in Dad’s case, he has achieved all of his 93 years “naturally,” that is, with no medical interventions, so I can’t say too much about his own longevity, except that at this point, it’s very clear that he himself feels he’s lived too long.  And certainly, with a broken hip and all the complications that that entails, I’m inclined to agree.

My specific problem is with those people who are being kept alive by a host of prescriptions.  It was always my impression that prescriptions were supposed to be temporary in nature, that they were intended to cure specific ailments, not to prolong life unnaturally.  You get people who would have been dead and buried 20 years ago except for all the scrips they’re taking, and “life” as they know it consists in one round of doctors’ appointments after another — that’s living?!  I guess for them it is, but it wouldn’t be for me, and I know it isn’t for Dad — and that’s what his life is about to become.

So, if you believe you lost your parents “before their time” — be grateful if they lived full and fulfilling lives, and went before “life” became mere existence for them.  I know two people in their 90s who are just existing — Dad and my father-in-law — and it’s nothing that any of us would want.

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As of September 7, 2008
As of September 7, 2008 – Halfway done!

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I’ve been reflecting, between yesterday and today, that one year ago I curled up for a nap in the Morris chair, and woke up four hours later freezing cold on a bright summery day with a high of 75F.  A trip to the emergency room resulted in my being admitted, and one year ago today, I was in the ICU, getting the news that I had “a staph infection.”  Also known as MRSA.  Just the latest in a series of incredibly stupid medical problems that could surely have been avoided if my surgeon had used dissolving stitches, instead of staples, to close the thing.  Unfortunately, you can’t put doctors out of business for being stupid, only for doing something illegal.

However, that’s not the point of this post.  The real problem was that it was September.  September is not a good month for my family.  We have had more deaths in September than in any other month of the year.  In fact, until 2005, November was a completely clean month on my Memorials calendar; but in September, nearly every day has something on it.  My mother and her sister used to joke that once they’d made it through September, they were safe for another year.  (Neither died in September, though.)

So here I am with A Staph Infection — no one is saying MRSA just yet, but I’ve heard about Staph Infections, and I’m thinking, Yeah, right — in the ICU, with my poor husband, who’s in total shock, trying to make jokes about the local sheep being very interested in this Icy Ewe, and a lot of nurses carrying on as if I had the plague or something.  And I’m thinking, It’s September.  Hmmm.  Then I get the news that I’m supposed to get a shot in my belly to keep my arteries from clogging up.  “No anesthetic necessary, it doesn’t go that deep.”  Uh-huh, and you’ve tried this, right?  I insist on the topical anesthetic, and eventually overhear one nurse saying to another, “I don’t know why we don’t do this for all our patients.”  Because the doctors at that hospital are boobs, that’s why.  (Incidentally, one day I got the shot before the topical had taken effect.  It hurts like hell.)

On Sunday, they moved me out of the ICU, or Icy Ewe if you will, and into an isolation room with a bed so high I can’t even get into it, and my doctor comes in and seriously wants me to walk around the halls.  I mean, I’m in an isolation room, and they want me to walk the halls?!?!?!  Is it any wonder this hospital has such a bad reputation.  But I do.  Anything to keep those compression leggings off my legs (these are supposed to prevent peripheral artery disease, but mostly, they just drive patients crazy).  By now, I’m kind of hoping I’ll die, just to be rid of the medical community, but like a good Do-Be, I get up and prowl the halls, intravenous tree in hand.  I walk all the way up to the elevators, turn the corridor, wander down, turn left into another corridor — and come face to face with The Death Room.

The Death Room is where my mother died in 2000.  She had gone in for a little blood work over Thanksgiving, and just never came out — they couldn’t get her white blood count up enough to discharge her, and that was it.  But it really freaked out the family when my aunt went into the same room and died there.  Hence the name.

That evening, my brother comes to visit me, bringing me cheesecake (with my husband watching like a hawk, who monitors every little morsel that passes my lips — the cheesecake went home with my brother), and after a few desultory remarks, he says, “And it’s September, too.”  “Yeah,” I reply, “but at least I’m not in The Death Room.”  I have the same conversation with my sister when she comes to visit the next day.  At some point during the two weeks I was in the hospital, I said something about The Death Room to one of the nurses, who reacted with horror:  “We don’t have any such room!”  “Think so?  Go check it out.  I bet whoever’s in there now is dying.”  That evening, just for the heck of it, I took a wander down that way to see for myself.  And there he was, some poor old soul, with his family surrounding him.  I bet he went out feet first, too.

Here we are, two years later, yet another surgery under my belt, literally, done by a doctor who thankfully knows his business, and I am back in full form, wondering if I should find out about becoming a Hockey Grandmom — my pitbull instincts having been honed by this experience — and all I can think is:

It’s September.

But I was never in The Death Room.

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I have been awake since midnight, and up since 2:30.  It’s now 4:12 am.  I am convinced that the blogosphere was invented by little old ladies with insomnia, and it got hijacked by everyone else.    😉

Jordanville.  It was strange this year.  I do think that the sense of strangeness stemmed from the loss of Metropolitan Laurus, of blessed memory, earlier this year.  People seem so lost without him around, and really, he was part of the integral history of the monastery.  He came there as a very young monk, and lived there for fifty years.  I feel sorriest for Father Florus, who I believe was tonsured with him on the same day — he must be feeling bereft of his “spiritual twin.”  But everyone else there seemed rudderless, too.

The Summer School had its fewest number of students since it began, what, 17 years ago?  I think it’s 17 years.  There were only thirteen first-year students — in contrast, my first year at Jordanville (2000), there were forty.  Four second-year students, and three third-year students (one year, there was only one third-year student, so that’s not entirely unprecedented, but still).  This was also the very first year that saw more male students than female students, and the first year that we had a plethora of tenors — so much so that there turned out to be just two sopranos, and that wasn’t enough to sustain a four-part mixed choir.  So they reshuffled everything, and created a “male” choir, with two tenor parts, a baritone, and a bass part.  The altos took the first tenor part, the tenors the second tenor, and the basses divided up into bari and bass.  The third-year students had to hurry up and find new pieces that they could conduct for the final exam; since they had had all year to research and prepare their original pieces, this was really hard on them, but they did it, and all were graduated (and probably should have received extra recognition!).  I was one of the two sopranos, and since losing my voice altogether seven years ago, I really don’t have a low voice left; so I ended up not singing at all.

Then there were the Candidates.  Not those candidates.  Apparently there’s a correspondence course, or something like it, for men who want to become priests; I forget what it’s called, but these guys are called priest-candidates, and I think it was Metropolitan Laurus who said that they had to attend one session of the Summer School in order to be considered for ordination.  At that one session, they cram in all three years of Typicon (the order of church services) and all three years of Church Slavonic, all taught by the same instructor, who teaches at warp speed.  All of these guys were highly offended that they had to (gasp) sing, in addition to their More Exalted Pastoral Studies, and actually managed to worm their way out of the singing (which I personally think was a mistake — a priest who can’t sing is a genuine liability to a parish).  After which, two of them spent the rest of their time pissing and moaning about having to learn Church Slavonic, like the entire universe should just get its head out of its, well you know, and learn English.  One of the guys, who had been a Protestant pastor in a previous life, spent the first week proselytizing to the Ignorant Russian Orthodox about their own faith (!!!), and the other spent the second week wondering why he had ever left Catholicism for Orthodoxy.  I really hope that the ordination of these two goes on indefinite hold.  The third guy was from the Ukraine, and of the three, he was the only one I thought had any real chance at being an actual priest.

The highlight of the trip, for me, was running into a monk I haven’t seen for three years — two years when I wasn’t at the School, and last year he was in Greece — and when I went to say Hello to him, I began, “I don’t know if you remember me” (he only sees me once a year), and he replied, “Of course I remember you, where’ve you been?”  Since this particular monk is Archimandrite George Schaeffer, soon to be Bishop Whatever Name They Give Him, I was simply delighted.  If you don’t know Father George — he is one of the most peaceful characters I have ever met, almost a wellspring of peace.  Great sense of humor, convert from Catholicism, and I understand, from one of the other monks, that in his younger years he had quite a temper, so he obviously knows something about spiritual warfare.  He will be a huge gain to the episcopacy, and a huge loss to those of us who have come to rely on his spiritual counsel.  I hope you will pray for him, and for the other Bishop candidate, Fr. John Shaw, as well as the newly elevated Bishop John Berzins, whom I met as a monk a few years ago, and who has a wicked sense of humor!  All of these men are being asked to shoulder an awful responsibility; it’s the first time I realized what a terrible responsibility a Bishopric is, mostly because I personally know two of the men being elevated, and I know how seriously they will take their duties.

All in all, it was a strange visit.  There were other strange occurrences that I won’t go into, but this was the first year I was actually glad to be on my way home, and maybe that was because this is the first year that I wasn’t either dealing with some kind of Situation at my home parish, or feeling like a Wandering Jew with no real parish home.  But I was glad to be back.

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