Archive for January, 2009

I got this idea from Philippa, and have been wanting to do it for some time.  So!

From The Simple Woman’s Daybook:

FOR TODAY, January 26, 2009…

Outside my window…  It’s pitch black, not unreasonable for 4:45 am on a January morning.  (I couldn’t sleep.)  Over the past two weeks there was a lot of snow, and the resulting scenery looks like the proverbial picture postcard — or, as my husband put it, considering how difficult it is to move such a volume of snow, the Postcard from Hades.

I am thinking…  of all the things I have to do just to get the house in order before leaving for work.  Does that count as real thinking??

I am thankful for…  the phone call I had with my son last night.  He is a truly good person, and I am increasingly grateful for his presence in our lives.

From the learning rooms…  I have an opportunity to take a writing course that, while not a guarantee of publishing, will show me how to contact publishers and present my work.  It isn’t cheap — what in education is? — but I do have my husband’s agreement that I can spend the money on this course, so I think I will go ahead with it.

From the kitchen…  the kitchen, at this moment, is as dark as the rest of the house.  On tap for tonight — not sure, it depends on communications from my husband.  Either Shepherd’s Pie, or Brunswick Stew.

I am wearing…  WARM CLOTHES.  Specifically, a dark-brown ankle-length skirt, lighter-brown turtleneck sweater, and a taupe cowl-neck sweater over that.  Sub-zero temperatures are a royal pain.

I am creating…  a revision of the third novel in my series.

I am going…  to work, around 10:00 am, as I do every Monday, Thursday, and Friday.

I am reading…  about three books at once.  Seriously, there’s Watching the English, a book about the idiosyncrasies of English behavio(u)r; The Englisher, the second in Beverly Lewis’s Amish series, Annie’s People; and Bread and Water, Wine and Oil, a (thankfully) simple book about the importance of sacraments in Orthodox worship.

I am hoping…  that the noise I am hearing coming out of my stove isn’t a squirrel or a rat or something equally awful — but that’s one ghastly grinding noise, and I can’t think what’s causing it.  My husband heard the same noise over the weekend.  Thing is, the top of our stove is sealed, so we can’t lift the lid to see whatever there is to be seen.  Suggestions??

I am hearing…  See above note.

Around the house…  Best described by a plaque I once saw in a friend’s house, “This house is protected by killer dust balls.”

One of my favorite things…  Cross stitch.  See photo below.

A few plans for the rest of the week:  Conquering Mount Washmore (if I thought I could get away with it, I would seriously have engraved on my tombstone the thought from The Cloister Walk, “At last her laundry’s done”); keeping up with the house as best I can, especially since it’s That Time of Year again (when the priest comes to bless the house); hopefully, continued work on Maryland Mountain Express (photo below).

Here is a picture thought I am sharing…

cross stitch from Candamar Designs

cross stitch from Candamar Designs

This is a project I’ve been working on for my son for about three years now — Candamar put it out as an embellished cross stitch, but I decided I didn’t want to give my son a picture full of little holes (in embellished cross stitch, you only stitch certain parts of the painting, not the whole thing), so ran the photo through a cross-stitch program and am now working it as a full cross-stitch.  I am 20 rows shy of being 60% done.

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…do something.  I would feel more comfortable if I knew exactly where this little engine was taking us.

It has been something of a revelation to learn exactly how conservative Fr. Count is.  Normally you would say, “Yeah, priest, conservative, what else” (althouth most Roman Catholic priests I know are fanatically liberal), but this guy is not only not Roman Catholic, but from a former Communist country, Romania; as a brand-new citizen of the U. S., he has become very outspoken on the subject of our new president.

Neither of us is especially impressed with his choice of Treasury Secretary, for example.  I mean, somebody who “forgot” to pay his taxes for the past two years?!?!  I’d love to see what would happen if I “forgot” to pay my taxes (NOT!!  Remember, I worked in Federal law enforcement!).  Then there’s his choice for Secretary of State — and her qualifications are what, exactly???  That she got to go along for the ride in Air Force One???  So did Jackie Kennedy, and I don’t see that anybody ever nominated her for Secretary of State.  (And she’d have been better at it, too — anybody who can charm the socks off the French is a born diplomat.)

However, I find I have to make one grudging nod of acceptance in Obama’s direction.  Apparently, it’s considered newsworthy that this person rides from Philadelphia to Washington, D. C. in a train.  I’m not sure exactly what kind of nut case would actually fly from Philly to D. C., considering airport security, flight delays, and lost luggage — the train ends up taking half the time, and is a lot more relaxing — but it must be such a rarety for a public official to take a train that it’s considered a News Item.  Hey, when Chris lived in Philly we took the train from Boston to visit him all the time, and there were no news crews on hand for us.

But I digress.  Grudging Nod of Acceptance.  Due to our son’s choice of occupation (railroading, in case you’d forgotten — how, I can’t imagine), my husband subscribes to all kinds of railroad publications.  One of the more recent issues of Trains magazine had an article about the chances for Amtrak funding under this administration, and it seems that they are considerably improved.  Another recent issue noted that Amtrak funding in the millions of dollars has already been approved for Fiscal ’09, with a sidebar note that the Congress approved billions in highway funding every year.  Now — help me out here.  It’s okay for Congress to subsidize roadwork (not to mention those ridiculously inefficient airlines), but Amtrak is supposed to be completely self-sufficient in terms of generating revenue??  Say what???

So I am happy about the possibility of increased train service and funding.  I have long believed that the two most efficient forms of transportation ever devised are train and bicycle.  An ad for CSX Freight (the old ConRail line) notes that train transportation gets something like 300 miles per gallon of fuel, though how they figure that, I’m not sure — perhaps calculating how many trucks it would take to move the same amount of freight.  Anyway, the Chattanooga Choo-Choo gets my vote every time, and if this administration actually does increase funding massively for mass transit in general, it will earn my undying gratitude.

For that, at least.

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This is, what, the fourth or fifth Sunday with measurable snow?!  Last week, I missed church, and Father told me on Monday that there were four people in attendance, besides himself and his wife — and two of those were chanters.  This weekend, he cancelled Liturgy altogether.  A good thing he did, because the projected snowfall for today is 8 inches.  Enough, already!!

That’s enough of that, too.  For about 30 years now, I have been trying to lose weight.  Like, who isn’t.  Thirty years ago, I weighed 150 lbs. and wanted to lose 25 of that.  Twenty years ago, I weighed 170 lbs, having put on another 20 after a mysterious foot ailment that kept me from walking, but for which doctors could find no reason (this was the beginning of my sterling opinion of the medical profession, BTW, not altered by more recent events).  By “foot aiilment,” I mean that when I would get out of bed in the morning, I literally had to hold on to furniture and walls so I could get to the bathroom, and after I’d been up for about half an hour, the pain subsided to a level that allowed me to walk unaided, but not altogether without pain.

Then I became Orthodox, and discovered the wonderful world of fasting.  Now, there’s a school of thought out there that says, “Calories in = calories 0ut” is the best way to maintain weight, and the best way to lose it is to take in fewer calories than you expend.  You’d think, then, that eliminating all meat and dairy from one’s diet for half the year (add it up, you Orthodox folks — it really is half the year) would result not only in spiritual enlightenment, but also in a trimmer figure, wouldn’t you?  So, would anyone care to guess how it was possible to gain another 100 lbs.?!?!

I think I have the answer.  Last year, I joined a forum called SparkPeople which enables one to track nutrition as well as exercise and weight.  Great.  I tracked my nutrition for a couple of weeks, found that what I was eating was actually under the recommended calorie count, and figured I was all set.  Not so — here I am, a year later, still vastly overweight.

During this past Christmas Fast, I decided to keep close track of just what was going on with my body when I eliminated the usual suspects (i.e., meat and dairy), and sure enough:  Within two weeks, I had gained five pounds and ballooned in my shape.  At that point, I told my priest I was going to need a different spiritual discipline because it was clear that fasting was hazardous to my health, and he, bless him, agreed.  (The first priest I’ve had to do so, probably because his wife is a doctor.)  So I stopped fasting, lost the five pounds, and whatever was causing my face and belly to swell up.  Great.

Then, at the beginning of the new year, I got back onto SparkPeople.  Figured, I had to try something, already.  I saw that I was still under the recommended calorie count — for someone my size, the minimum calories to be consumed is 1,510 — and said, “Maybe I need to pay attention to that.”  A couple of cups of yogurt and a slice or two of bread was enough to boost it into that 1500 range.

So far, I’ve lost three pounds.  Not a lot, when the goal is 130, but I’ve proved to myself that — eep — fasting was the problem.  Apparently, if you eat too little, your body thinks it’s starving and converts everything you do eat to fat so you will have enough of a reserve, or something else completely incomprehensible.  So, if you are Orthodox and fat, I suggest you try SparkPeople and see if you are actually getting enough to eat.  I am shocked by the results of my explorations.  Maybe you will be, too.

(Of course, this could all be a fluke…)    😉

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…and I’m not feeling very delightful, because the current total is seven inches of snow, it’s still coming down, and there is no possible way I can get to church.  I hate missing church.

What’s new in life…not much.  Dad has been moved back to the nursing home where he was after he broke his hip, but now he is under the care of Hospice.  My sister, with whom he has lived since my mother’s death, is very conflicted about this:  part of her says, Keep him alive as long as possible, and part of her says, For crying out loud, he’s 93, how long do you expect him to keep going?!  And at least Hospice will keep him comfortable until the end comes.  So far, the Hospice argument is winning, thankfully; we both feel that if we opted to keep him alive, he would suffer greatly, and after a year or two of much suffering,  the end result would be the same.

Three brothers are also part of this equation:  one sees things the same way we do, one is on the fence, and one is being a complete jerk.  It helps to understand that the “complete jerk” survived lymphoma, and has been cancer-free for ten years, so as far as he’s concerned, the “scorched-earth” approach is absolutely the way to go — which it is, if you’re 45 with three children.  I hope he gets his head screwed on straight before all this is over, but truthfull, he is the one, out of all five of us, who I would expect to cause the most trouble of this nature.  (My second option for Chief Troublemaker would be me…)

Railroad Man, aka my son, is bereft for the month of January:  While the rest of us rejoice, somewhat, to get our W-4s, or whatever they are, by the end of January, the nice people who prepare those suckers are out straight for the entire month.  This includes his girlfriend, who told him, while she was here, not to expect to see or hear from her during January.  At least she has a job.  I was shocked to read that the unemployment rate is the highest it’s been since 1945 — although I don’t know if that’s a flat number, or adjusted for the population of 2008.  If the latter — as I assume is the case — we are in BIG trouble.

Before you go bashing Bush, I would urge you to remember that administrations come and go, but the life of the Body Politic takes place on the same continuum as all of life does — that is, one administration rises or falls on the policies of the previous administration.  So, for example, if Clinton had not allowed Osama bin Laden out of his sights because he was too busy playing golf to give the order to eliminate Osama, 9/11 may well not have taken place, the economy would not have had to recover from all the data lost in that event, we would not be enmeshed in this particular war (let us not forget the Clinton incursion into Kosovo, undertaken with far less provocation), and who knows where the economy would be today.  Yes, I know that Kosovo was sponsored by the UN.  I’ve been around long enough to remember what the UN was originally supposed to be about, and to grow increasingly underwhelmed by its success.

Be that as it may — the current “recession” (let’s call it what is is, a depression!) is actually a long-overdue market correction that should have occurred during the Clinton administration.  Markets cannot grow and grow and expand infinitely; there always comes a point when a balance has to be struck, and this one is so big because the period of growth that preceded it was equally big.  “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” and all that.

Which doesn’t help the millions currently out of work, I know.  Pray that the toll isn’t too great, and the recovery not too prolonged.

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С новым годом

Or, Happy New Year.  Everybody else has been posting Happy New Year to their blogs, and I just wanted to do something different.  Or, I could simply have posted that the high today was 15 degrees, and the low, one above zero — with a wind chill to freeze your marrow.  I don’t think it gets any colder in Siberia.

We had a nice Christmas.  I think I mentioned awhile back that Chris has a new girlfriend, a real, live, actual girlfriend, who’s an investment counselor for a bank, and who consequently had to work both Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas, because That Time of Year is coming.  (Think April 15.)  This meant that she couldn’t go home for Christmas, “home” being in Arizona, so we had her to our house for dinner.  If any of you are familiar with the defunct  sci-fi show Firefly, she looks like a shorter version of Inara — just as feminine, but not in the same profession.  (Thank goodness.)  I’m not sure if this is going anywhere, but I have to say — I hope it does.  She’s very sweet and gentle, just the kind of girl for Chris.  And very literate.  Plus, she does cross stitch.  You see where this is going:  Someone to Leave My Stuff to.  She isn’t Orthodox, but neither is she committed to any particular religion, yet she says she’s “spiritual” — so there’s at least a chance she’d be OK with Chris being Orthodox, and go to church with him without too much fuss.

That was the good news.  The other is my stepfather, who, I think I mentioned, broke his hip back in September.  On December 23 he landed in the hospital with a pulmonary embolism, and he just isn’t getting any better.  His doctor told my sister today to start thinking in terms of hospice care for him.  Frankly, I’m glad someone brought it up.  I think hospice is one of this country’s most underused resources.  We’re all so focused on preserving life at any cost, that we tend to forget that it can’t last forever.  At Hospice, helping you to prepare for that is their job.  My sister is OK with it, my brothers are OK with it, I’m fine with it — my sister’s kids are taking it hard, though.

The hardest part for me is that Dad is such a good and truly humble person, and meanwhile, my father-in-law is still ticking along, two years after he broke his hip, making life as miserable as he possibly can for his only child.  At the hospital today, my dad’s nurse told my sister that the reality was that people who break a hip die within six months to a year.  And my sister (who knows my father-in-law) said her first thought was, “Not always!”  Yeah.  Only the good die young.  Or even relatively young.

So, if you’re up for it at this time of joy and celebration, I’d appreciate your putting in a prayer for Frank, my dad, the guy who actually never told God what to do:  “I just throw my prayers up in the air,” he once told my mother, “and let ’em come down where they’re needed.”  I can’t think of a better system.

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