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Archive for December, 2009

It was just around this time last year — a couple of days ago, actually — that I became aware of a remarkable blog, Lemmondrops, the story of an ordinary young woman happily married to the man of her dreams (she said), and pregnant with her second child when a routine medical exam detected a carcinoma so big, and so complicated, that nothing could be done for it.  A number of things fried me about this woman’s case:  for starters, that her doctor said the thing had to have been growing for at least ten years, long before her marriage.  That means it was growing all throughout her first pregnancy, and nobody ever caught it?! My jaundiced view of modern medicine is founded on just such occurrences, but I find it particularly outrageous that this woman, with a two-year-old and a ten-month-old, died because of sloppy medicine.

Then there was the fact that she was Catholic.  Someone pointed out to me, when I was fretting about support, that Catholic priests had been very good to her grandmother in her last illness, and I don’t doubt that Emilie Lemmons herself received regular visits and lots of spiritual support; but what about after?  What about her husband, and her young sons?  I’ve never found the Catholic Church to be especially concerned about the survivors, and I was Catholic for thirty-one years before jumping ship.  They bother me to this day.  They bother me because of all the horrible times to lose somebody, none is worse than Christmas (though a wedding anniversary comes in a close second), and how did those little boys feel when they woke up and Mommy was no longer there?  The ten-month-old, in particular–how could he possibly understand why he suddenly felt so horribly abandoned?  And who’s been there to explain it to him, other than his grieving father and grandparents?

The last post on Lemmondrops reads, “Emilie passed away in her sleep last night,” and it was dated December 24, 2008.  I’m not sure if “last night” refers to the evening of the 23rd, or the very early morning of the 24th, but either way, in Orthodox reckoning, today is a good day to whisper a “Memory Eternal” for Emilie Lemmons, and to ask God to send His consolation to the family she left behind.  Go read her remarkable blog first.

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I heard this tale many years ago, and want to get it down somewhere before I forget it, yet again.

My husband and I used to enjoy attending the Scottish Highland Games in NH, before they got too commercialized, and one of the chief highlights — for us, anyway — was the minister, Dr. John Turner, who lives somewhere in the wilds of VA.  One year, he treated us to the classic Scottish blessing that begins, “From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggity beasties,” and ends, “Good Lord, deliver us” — there’s a good deal more in there, including a reference to “field mice and fairy mice” and the usual “brounies,” who I gather can wreak havoc if they don’t like your housekeeping.  If someone ever comes across the whole blessing, I’d appreciate it if you sent it to me.

But the object of this particular tale is from a sermon.  It seems there was a convocation between the Church of England and the Church of Scotland.  The whole conference went very smoothly while they discussed whatever clerics of these two churches discuss, but at the end, the head of the Church of England couldn’t resist slipping into his blessing:  “And finally, Lord, make us to be, not like porridge:  stuffy, dull, and unimaginative; but like cornflakes:  light, crisp, and ready to serve.”

Now porridge, or oatmeal, being the national food of Scotland, it may be imagined that the Scots didn’t take this too kindly.  But being used to put-downs from England, they didn’t make anything of it, until the head of the Church of Scotland got up to give his blessing, and ended it:  “And finally, Lord, make us to be, not like cornflakes:  noisy, superficial, and cold; but like porridge:  sturdy, warm, and comforting.”

On a snowy day like today — yes, since my last post, we have had two snowstorms, so I did jinx myself — I would like to offer my husband’s particular variation on Sturdy, Warm, and Comforting porridge (which I understand, from having read The Hills is Lonely, would make any Scot blench in horror):

1 cup almond milk (I have no idea what this tastes like with cow’s milk)

2 tbsp. raisins

a dash of cinnamon (I usually just tap the cinnamon container once)

1 packet of sweetener, or sugar to taste

Mix everything into a pot and bring to a boil, then add 1/2 cup oatmeal and cook according to package directions.  When the stuff is done, top it off with cream to taste; because we’re usually fasting at some point during the week, we’ve taken to using non-dairy creamer, and I like the Sugar-Free Hazelnut best.

Beats cornflakes cold.    😉

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Flaky White Stuff

No, you’re not seeing spots before your eyes.  WordPress announced that it had added a new wrinkle to Appearances — you can make it snow on your blog, if you seriously want snow.  After the last two years of getting dumped on in October, and spending the next six months combatting Flaky White Stuff, you’d think I’d have acquired some sense, but I think my “Winterometer” got readjusted — here it is December 4, and outside of a few fat flakes that fell in Maine on October 18 (or thereabouts), we haven’t seen a flake or a flurry.   So I’ve added some to my site.

As to what possessed us to leave our cozy little place for the wilds of Maine — I see that I haven’t written a word about it, so here goes.  From 2004 to 2007, my husband and I attended church at a parish about 40 miles away from us, in Maine.  Greek Orthodox, which I wasn’t too crazy about, but this priest had married my daughter and her husband and we knew him to be a very conservative priest who fully understands spiritual warfare and how to go about it.  He is a great confessor.  So we started going there.

I think it was during Great Lent of 2007 that he had a priestmonk come and visit from Colorado, a Father Christodoulos, a wonderfully warm and funny man who also has a firm grasp on the spiritual life and how to live it.  I enjoyed that mini-retreat enormously, so when we got notification that Fr. Christodoulos was returning to Maine, I asked my husband if we could go to visit.  The plan was to have dinner out, attend Vespers, and go to confession with Fr. “Chris” (for the sake of getting done with this post sometime today, I’ve shortened his name).

It didn’t work out quite that way; we had dinner out, got to Vespers, joined people for their meal (I hadn’t known the parish was providing a meal), and then Fr. Chris gave a talk, which I also hadn’t known he was going to do.  By the time he got around to confessions, it was 9:00 pm, and we still had an hour’s drive back home, in the dark and cold — and there was already a long line to talk to this priest.  So we just shrugged, said, “Nice try,” and headed home.

The next day was cloudy and cold.  We went to Liturgy at our local parish, and around 3:00 I was sitting around at home waiting for it to be time to start supper when the hubster comes up and says, “What’s the schedule for today at St. Demetrios?”

“They’re having a meal at around 5:00, and then Fr. Chris is hearing confessions again.”

“Would you like to go?”

Is breathing in and out a good idea?  But instead I said, “I can’t ask that of you.  We already made that drive last night, and it’s going to be another cold, dark drive.  And I have chicken for supper.”

“Are they having supper there?”

“Well, yeah….”

“I think it would be good for you to go.  It would be spiritually healthy.  C’mon, get your coat.”

SAY WHAT?!?!?!

And off we went to Saco again.  We enjoyed the meal greatly (for one thing, there was a lot more food, since people weren’t fasting for Communion), Fr. Chris gave another talk, and then he and the priest of the parish decided to hold “Apodypnou” — Compline, to us non-Greek-speakers — which the priest of the parish would conduct while Fr. Chris heard confessions.  There was another ugly rush to the church, and I said something to the parish priest’s wife about not having been able to talk to him the previous evening — and bless her, she asked everybody to let us go first, since we did have a long drive ahead of us.

When I was done, Fr. Chris said, “What about Jim?”  He was so surprised to learn that the hubster isn’t Orthodox, but said, “Well, tell him to come over here and I’ll bless him anyway.”  Jim was floored.  I guess he isn’t used to positive attention from priests (maybe that’s where Catholics used to get the idea that they should stay under God’s radar scope??).  So Fr. Chris blessed him, and we left the church — would have loved to stay for Compline, but it was inching towards 8:00 pm, and we still had that hour-long drive ahead of us —

And that was when we discovered that we would be driving through snow.  Always dicey, but the first snowfall of the season, people still aren’t used to driving in snow, and they take crazy chances.  But Fr. Chris’s blessings saw us through the storm, which mostly covered the fields — the road was still too warm to retain a coating of snow — and we got home in one piece.

And that was the last we saw of snow, from that day to this.  Now — I hope I haven’t just jinxed the weather, so that we get dumped on every single day between now and Pascha.

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