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Aptly Named

At what time of day do you feel the most energetic and productive?

Oh, dear.  People are going to hate me for this.  My only excuse is, I was born at 6:30 in the morning, and have never gotten over the impression that 6:30 – or 5:30, or sometimes even 4:30 – is the right and proper time to get things done.

Which is to say, no matter how groggy I am when I get out of bed, by the time I have completed all the necessaria of daybreak, I am up and at ’em and rarin’ to go!  Just ask my poor, long-suffering husband.  He is by no means a night owl, but when he gets up, he stumbles out to the kitchen, puts on the kettle, and makes coffee basically on auto-pilot.  If I have wakened before him, and am full of whatever I found in my inbox or on Facebook, I will leap up to tell him and be met with “Shhhh” before I have uttered a word, by which I understand that he is not yet ready to face the day.

This can have its problems, however.  Back when we were a Normal couple – that is, before he was retired, when he had a place where he had to be by 8:00 a.m. – back then, he would be out the door by 6:30 or 7:00.  I would have been awake since 5:00 or so, and, fully breakfasted, would be ready to get into my own workday, putting on laundry and completing the basic housework chores before I set foot out the door.  Now that he is retired, I can’t get anything done before 9:00 a.m. – and by that time, my level of productive energy has already begun to decline.  By 11:00 a.m., it will be gone completely, and I will be good for nothing but needlework, reading, or fooling around on the computer.

I have schooled myself, over the years, to put some effort into producing a pretty darn good evening meal; but I am secretly greatly in sympathy with the way things are done in Europe (big surprise), where they eat their main meal in the middle of the day.  If I had my druthers, I’d get the meal prep done in the morning, eat around noon, and have the dishes out of my hair by 2:00 the latest.

So I have come to accept that I am wired differently from pretty much all of America.  As a young woman, before I was married, I was the world’s worst date – I’d be ready to go home by 10:00 p.m., and heaven help you if you found me still awake at 11:00.  Then I met a guy whose last name was Lark.  There actually are other reasons I married him.  But if I had thought about it, I would have seen the handwriting on the wall the moment I heard his name.

“What is your favorite way to recharge when you feel drained of energy?”

There’s a reason this blog is called “Muttonings,” and there’s a reason I post as “Mrs. Mutton.”  It has everything to do with sheep, to wit:  Somewhere around 1977, I suddenly got into knitting in a big way.  Up to then, I had divided my time fairly evenly between knitting and cross stitch, but in 1977, my daughter was two, and the thought of those little fingers and eyes around sharp, pointy objects was too horrific to entertain; so I turned to the less-sharp pointy objects known as knitting needles, and for many years afterwards, knitting was my sole handwork.  In fact, my son, born in 1979, has never known me to do anything else.

In 1982, I became acquainted with the knitting philosophy of Elizabeth Zimmermann.  The woman was an utter genius at combining art, math, and practicality, and her chosen medium was wool.  Not just generic yarn – wool, “from the simple, silly sheep,” as she put it in one of her books.  It was largely due to her influence that I gradually became a Wool Snob, and began accumulating wool yarn to such an extent that my family teased that I was becoming a sheep.  These days I have stuffed sheep, pictures of sheep, sheep calendars, books about sheep…well, as you can see, the thing has taken on a life of its own.

So I am “Mrs. Mutton” (actually, that is the name of one of my stuffed sheep, who began life as “Ms. Mutton” of the famous brokerage firm, E.F. Mutton, until my husband rescued her from a life of Ms.-ery), and the odd pronouncements I mutter to myself have become known, locally, as “muttonings.”  All of which I offer as background to my favorite way of recharging when I am drained of energy.  Which is only partially with knitting.

There actually is something very, very soothing and mindless about repetitive hand motion.  Mind you, there is nothing relaxing about learning to knit; like any other unknown activity, it’s very stressful to learn.  But the rewards of sticking with the effort are completely disproportionate to the effort involved in learning the craft; you can actually knit your way to lower blood pressure.  And while your hands are occupied, and your brain either goes blank or focuses on the intricacies of, say, Aran knitting, other, more convoluted knots are unraveled.  I daresay that many a mental-health issue could be successfully treated by teaching patients to knit.

But as I say, recharging my personal batteries is a two-pronged process.  Knitting – or counted cross-stitch – is one prong, having something to occupy my mind that is completely unrelated to whatever it is that’s sapping my energy.  The other prong is classical music.

I’m not talking about the Bombast, or the Searching-for-the-Lost-Chord kind of cacophony that has become associated with classical music.  That stuff has its place (I guess), once you’ve become accustomed to the very different tempo of classical music, so much slower and more thought-infused than what currently occupies most space on the airwaves.  But if you want to relax, or if you’re really new to classical music, you want Baroque – Vivaldi, say, or Handel.  Or Bach, who wrote the music that is the title of this post, Sheep May Safely Graze.  Bach’s music covers every range of emotions, from utterly sublime to rollicking fun to just plain funny (his Coffee Cantata begins with a father grumping, “Ain’t it a fact that our kids give us a hundred thousand different kinds of heartburn,” or the eighteenth-century Germanic equivalent thereof).  And Vivaldi is such easy listening that a friend of ours once joked that “Vivaldi wrote the same concerto 425 times,” there being 425 works listed in the “Ryom Listing,” the most commonly used catalogue of Vivaldi’s compositions.

Knitting to the Oldies.  Works every time.

“Which daily tasks take up the most of your energy?”

It’s a funny thing about getting older.  You never realize it when you are young, but when old people talk about “not having their get-up-and-go,” they’re actually talking about losing energy.  Now that I am in my sixties, I look back on the things I did when I was in my forties – full-time job, night classes, plus keeping house for a husband and two teenagers – and I shake my head:  How on earth did I do all that?!  Nowadays it takes me all morning to do chores that used to take an hour.  And the one that wipes me out the most is…making beds.

When I was young, I was taught to make my bed as soon as I got out of it, and I did this for years.  It was one less chore to clutter up my mind, and the bedroom always looks tidier and more serene with a bed that’s been made up.  Then I began married life in Germany, where you Just Don’t make your bed before airing it out thoroughly.  And I mean “thoroughly”:  People sleep beneath duvets, those puffy feather-filled comforters that are always covered in a big envelope, and first thing in the morning, the window is opened and the duvets and pillows are hung out for at least an hour.

(A funny aside here:  When my daughter was a child, I took her to Saturday school to learn German.  One of the mothers had just returned from a two-year sabbatical in Germany, and couldn’t stop talking about how grateful she was to be back in the States.  Since I was aching with homesickness – no, I’m not German, but the whole way of life had really clicked with me – I couldn’t imagine why she’d be grateful to be here.  Her answer:  “Those women and their featherbeds!  Every morning, at punkt seven o’clock, every window in Stuttgart would bang open, and out would come the featherbeds.  You could set your clock by the way those women hung out their featherbeds!”  Oh-kay.)

Well…it’s a habit that has stuck with me (one of many).  I won’t say I’m so fanatic as to get my bedding out the window by seven o’clock – for one thing, in the winter in New England the sun doesn’t rise until seven-thirty at the earliest, and I like it to be fully up before I put things out in the frost, or dew, depending on the season – but every morning by nine the latest, I drag the featherbeds off my husband’s and my bed and get them out for at least an hour, and usually, until the afternoon.  I used to yank them off and whisk them out the window.  These days, I drag them off and carry them through the hall and kitchen (we have a one-story house) and hang them off the back porch.  Then I put the pillows next to an open window so they can air, too.

By the time that’s done, I need to sit down and restock my energy.  I tell myself that this is because I’m so short, and lugging those featherbeds all through the house, holding them up so that they don’t drag on the floor (yes, I fold them in my arms – that’s how short I am), is bound to take the stuffing out of me.  But the truth is – I’m getting old.  And, as the saying goes, “My get-up-and-go has got up and gone.”

Let’s see if I can do any better at this than I have in the past two months.  To be fair, I did spend November writing a novel, as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, in case you’ve ever seen the reference and not known what that was about).  And December is, well, December.  Everybody’s busy in December.  Even Scrooge – gotta close out the books for the year, you know.

The theme for this month’s National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo) is Energy, and I’m all worn out just thinking about it.  However, on the theory that a new year means a new start, I’m willing to take a new shot at this.  So, the first topic of the month:

From where do you draw your energy?”

It depends on the task at hand.  If I’m cleaning house, for example, I draw my energy from doing the worst task first.  I can certainly see the rationale behind leaving it for last – you could get so wiped out from doing the worst first that you’d have no energy left over for everything else – but for me, getting that out of my hair makes everything else seem like such a breeze that I get it all done.  Leaving the worst for last would sap my energy just thinking about it.

If it’s anything to do with desk work, or office work – organizing, paying bills, keeping track of finances – that in itself gives me an energy boost.  I can’t believe what a born Office Worker I am; most people I know hate, loathe, and despise office work, and will do anything to get out of it.  So why is it so difficult for me to find a volunteer job doing office work?  Any time I hear of volunteer opportunities, they’re looking for people to spend time with other people, a guaranteed energy drain for me.  (Can you spell “introvert”?)  Give me a pile of envelopes to stuff or to label, and I’m happy for the rest of the week.

However, it’s an unfortunate fact of life that we can’t spend our time doing everything that comes naturally to us.  Those puzzling and bizarre people called extroverts do, eventually, have to sit down and do some office work, unless they can find someone to pay the bills for them.  And those of us who thrive on solitude, peace, and quiet eventually do have to have something to do with our fellowman.  Or, as Linus (I think) once put it, “I love Mankind, it’s people I can’t stand!”

When there’s no other choice but to interact with flesh and blood – that’s when my religion is most helpful.  Orthodoxy not only encourages us to see others as icons of Christ, it actually shows us that that’s the case – during every service, the priest or deacon censes the people in front of him.  Since you only cense holy things or holy people, his doing so illustrates sharply that each of us standing before him is an image of God Himself.  Take that awareness out into the world, and people become…not so pesky.  More of an opportunity to serve Christ.

I’m aware, of course, that most religions see service to mankind as a necessary part of their practice.  But there’s a huge difference, for me anyway, between being exhorted to do so and being helped to do so. Having somebody tell me, “Go forth and serve the Lord” tells me that I’m supposed to expend most of my precious energy on somebody who will not only not appreciate the enormous effort I have to put into meeting his needs, but will gladly leach all the energy out of me altogether.  Being shown that I and all the others around me are icons of God illustrates to me why they are worth the effort and expenditure of my energy.

And that gives me all the energy I need to do it.

Well, so much for daily blogging.  It’s been wild around here, and I’m not even talking about Christmas activities – but it’s been wild in a good way.

I thought I’d combine two blog posts in one, by combining two themes from the NaBloPoMo prompts:  “If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?” which is tomorrow’s, and “Do you enjoy your current job (or your last job)?” (today’s prompt).

When I was working, I was most enjoyably employed as a secretary.  Being a secretary has a bad reputation nowadays, being seen as a scutwork job for the nearly brainless; in reality, it was the gateway to a wide variety of fields.  Working solely as a secretary, I worked in textiles, publishing, education, law – and law enforcement – and advertising, this last as a secretary in one of the top three advertising agencies on Madison Avenue.

My last job in this field was as a secretary for my parish church, and that was the most fun of all, because the office had been neglected for so long that it was in complete disarray, and I got to construct it from the ground up, creating the filing system, a tracking system for parishioners’ contributions, a parishioner database, the Rolodex for the parish, and a means of tracking parish vendors, as well as keeping track of work done to the physical plant – this way, it was easier for  the Parish Council to see when a contractor had last shown his face in the door, and to follow up on jobs in progress.  I actually was not finished setting up this last vendor system when I was replaced with someone younger and – I can only assume – more ethnically desirable, since I was not of the same ethnicity as the rest of the parish.  That still hurts, though not as much as it did at the time (see beginning posts from January 2010).

So.  If I could have any job in the world?  It would be my old job, or something similar.  The problem is, I’m now of official retirement age, the point at which your shelf life in any field has basically expired, and you’re expected to go out to pasture and vegetate, until the point where the goal of your life becomes providing an income for the health-care industry.  No, thank you.

Since this line of work is now closed to me for good, I’ve made the adjustment – somewhat – to the idea that hey, I’ve worked hard all my life and earned my retirement, and I’m going to get what I can out of it.  An education in art, something I’ve always wanted to understand.  Expanding my knowledge of music, my chief recreation in life.  Most of all, I’m going to focus on the things that matter most:  spiritual warfare, reconciling the demands of this age, and of old age, with the requirements of eternal life; becoming, as best I can, more conformed to the life of Christ, without losing one iota of the snarkiness that is the hallmark of any good New Yorker.  I figure, if God put me in New York at the beginning of my life, He must have meant it to shape my personality.  Now I just need to develop it into a tool for introducing people to the novel notion that Christians aren’t necessarily pious wusses.

Hah!

Living La Vida Loba

Prompt:  “Do you feel most comfortable being a leader, a follower, or a collaborator?”

First, I would like to say that my absence has been due to National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo – “thirty days and nights of literary abandon,” in which one writes a 50,000-word novel during November.  Well, the 50,000 words are written.   The novel is not complete, and it’s virtually all dialogue and no action so will require major revision, but it’s written.

Now, as the English say, “to our muttons,” the prompt.

There’s no way I could be a leader.  I hate being out front and visible.  I was a choir director for almost three years, and while I loved the rehearsals, and I loved when things came together for the choir, I hated having to get people from Point A to Point B.  Those people simple did not want to learn new music, and would dig in their heels, well, like recalcitrant sheep.  And there were several who could not get it through their heads that rehearsals were a good thing; they’d show up and attempt to sing music they’d never sung before, throw everybody off, then say, “We know all this already.”  And there was no way to motivate them to change.

Nor do I especially care to Follow.  Following can get you into big trouble.  Or, as our mothers used to say when I was young, “If everybody jumps off the Brooklyn Bridge, are you going to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge?”  Everybody’s mother said it, and it was the standard (New York) response to the standard kid whine, “But everybody’s doing it!”

I like collaborative effort.  Not that I’ve ever experienced collaborative effort, but it sounds good in theory.  Everybody gets their ideas out on the table, and you sift and sort through them to see what works.  It takes longer, but in the end, you have something that works.  In theory.  Actually, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak are a perfect example of a collaborative effort that really worked.  So are Craig Benson and Robert Levine, who started out in a garage and built Cabletron, one of the computer giants of the 1990s (and a classic lesson in securities fraud:  Read all about it here).

But what I really like is the Lone Wolf approach.  Stick me in a room with a project, describe the parameters, and let me puzzle out what works.  My Lone  Wolf efforts are the ones that are always the most successful; I can work at my own pace, dope out the most efficient way to get the project done, spend the least amount of money doing it, and have fun in the process.

It’s certainly the way novels get written.

Perfect

This one’s from Plinky (I didn’t care for the NaBloPoMo prompt for today):  “Describe your perfect Sunday morning.”

Perfect?  That covers a lot of ground, but here goes:

I wake up early, no later than 6:00 a.m. and preferably around 5:00.  Say some prayers, start pulling my thoughts together for the day.  My husband gets up shortly after, and makes coffee.  Note to Orthodox friends:  I’m painfully aware that I shouldn’t be drinking coffee before receiving Communion, but I had such a struggle to get my husband to accept that I should be leaving the house without eating breakfast that several priests said I should just go ahead and have coffee with him.

We share a cup of coffee, then he makes his breakfast while I get ready for church.  Outside, it’s Autumn, and the weather is cool  and wet – not a downpour, but a steady shower.  (Remember, we’re talking Perfect.)  In a Perfect scenario, I actually get out of the house by 8:00 a.m.; realistically, it’s usually closer to 8:30, but I always try to get out by 8:00, and count my blessings if I’m out by 8:15.

It’s a ninety-minute drive to church.  Other people in my neighborhood can get there in an hour, but they take the highway and speed like demons.  I like to take a more direct route that involves back roads; it takes me longer, but I’m happy not to get to church in a frazzled state, having cursed out All Those Other Crazy Drivers, which is no way to go to church, anyway.

Nowadays it sounds so sanctimonious to say, “I go to church,” like you’re trying to convince people that you’re somehow better than those who sleep in or go for a jog or, I don’t know, get an early start on getting plastered.  “Better” has nothing to do with it.  Being pious has nothing to do with it.  Church is so many things to me:  a place where I can be my truest self, a place where I can meet like-minded people, a place where I can sing truly beautiful music – most of all, a place to encounter God.

My Perfect Sunday Morning would include my husband, but he refuses to drive in Massachusetts, even though, taking the route I take, we’re only in Massachusetts for about five miles of the drive, if that.  I will admit that it’s the scariest part of the drive, since it involves going around a traffic circle under a highway, and people in New England aren’t too good about traffic circles – they always try to grab the right of way from the people in the circle, who actually do have the right of way.  I find that using turn signals throws them long enough for me to exit safely; they aren’t too big on turn signals, either.

So when I visit my little Russian congregation, I go by myself.  The music is already Perfect, since the entire Liturgy is sung and I don’t have to worry about some of the Protestant hymns that just grate on my ears (and the hymns used in the American Catholic Church are even worse.  Beatles’ songs?!  Really?!).  We use arrangements either from the Octoechos, the Eight-Tone cycle of the Orthodox Church that’s akin to Gregorian chant, or we use compositions by classical composers like Bortniansky, Tchaikovsky, Kastalsky, Chesnokov (no Rachmaninoff, though I live in hope); there is a wonderful Lord’s Prayer by Stravinsky, of all people, and I’d love to sing that sometime.

After worship, there’s a social hour.  It always involves food, and some of the meals can be quite elaborate, and very Russian; but there are also American dishes, since mine is primarily a convert parish.  Most fun of all is getting to sit down and talk to people, though even if people are engaged in conversation that doesn’t include me, I can just sit and eat and listen in – the tables are long, refectory-style tables, not round tables that are used in some other parishes.

Finally, replete with good food, good conversation, and a sense of being refreshed and renewed to face the coming week, I get back into my car for the long drive home.  In an absolutely Perfect world, the rain would keep all the Sunday shoppers home, so that my commute would be relatively quiet and peaceful; but I find that shoppers are out, regardless of the weather.  The worst aspect of the commute is that there are only two routes to church:  one is along a five-mile “shoppers’ paradise,” with the attendant horrible traffic, and the other is along a stretch of highway, being surrounded by cars speeding at 80 mph or better (around 135-140 kph), all making lightning lane switches at that insane rate of speed – there is no third route, that I’m aware of.  But once I’m past that ten-mile stretch of stop and go, I’m back on my quiet country road, on my way home again.

PS:  My husband informs me that if my parish were located in New Hampshire or Maine, he would come with me.  So I don’t make this commute every week; every other week, I accompany him to a Greek parish.  This does not fit my Perfect-Sunday scenario, so I won’t go into it here.

Weekends being for free-writing in the NaBloPoMo world, I thought I’d take the opportunity to update folks on our latest home-improvement project.

Now that the kids are out of the house, we have been able to upgrade our property gradually over the past several years, adding porches front and back, updating the furnace, and most recently, putting on a new roof and upgrading the bathroom.  Thanks goodness for home-improvement loans.  All of these, I might add, were actually necessary upgrades; now that we are in our sixties, falls are much more of a concern, so the old back steps and front porch had to go (being made out of stone).  We have already seen significant savings in our heating bill from the new furnace – not an easy bill to trim in northern climates – and our roof would not have withstood another winter.

The bathroom was another matter, and not strictly speaking necessary.  What occasioned its remodel was the caulking around the tub, where it abuts the wall – the caulking was impossible to keep clean, and the hubster was constantly having to refresh it.  So when we contracted to have our roof repaired, he asked the contractor if he could do something about the caulking around the tub.  And the answer was…you should think about a new bathtub.

In “thinking” about a new tub (for all of five seconds), the hubster decided what the heck, just have the whole bathroom remodeled.  It’s only 6 x 8 feet (very roughly, 5.5 meters x 7 meters) – the house was built in the 1950s, when large and luxurious bathrooms were the province of Hollywood stars.  So we knew it was a project we could afford.  The real problem was that everything was going to have to come out and be replaced, and we only have the one bathroom.

The contractor was phenomenal.  He cut the bathtub out – I still don’t know how he cut porcelain into thirds – and the new tub was installed the same day, which was the first day of the project.  The new “surround” – a special wall that resists moisture – went in at the same time, and I could see why he had recommended replacing the tub:  There’s a “lip” that curves up around the edge of the tub, and the surround slots into that lip, eliminating the need for caulking altogether.  Twenty-first-century bathing.

Every evening before he left for the day, he would reinstall the toilet so that we had something we could use.  The bathroom sink, well, that was another matter; it sat in our kitchen for the entire three weeks of the remodel, and we had to brush our teeth at the kitchen sink morning and night, which gets real interesting when the kitchen sink comes up to your chest (as mine does on me).  For shaving, my husband had a small hand mirror that he would prop up against the kitchen window.  The last time we lived this way was when we lived in a third-floor cold-water flat as newlyweds in Germany, and even then, he had a mirror in the bathroom for shaving.  (I used to pour hot water from the kettle into the sink so that he had hot water for shaving.)

The walls came out, too, in a complete gutting of the bathroom.  Fortunately, the weather stayed warm so that we didn’t need insulated walls – we’d have frozen, otherwise – and the electrician hooked up one light bulb so that we weren’t showering in the pitch dark.  Using the bathroom in the early morning, however, was another story; who wants to turn on a light bulb at 5:00 a.m.?!  And that’s where flexibility saved the day.

When he was finished showering in the evening, my husband would drape his towel over two nails that had been hammered into the frame around the window, and that served as our “curtain” so we had a modicum of privacy in the evening.  Before we went to bed, we’d remove the towel, which left the light of a street lamp shining onto the white surround, and provided us with just enough “light” that we could see what we were doing before sunrise.  Really, I don’t know how people managed before electricity – how did you see what you were doing when it came time to light the fire in the morning?!  I mean, even a nighttime candle would have burned down overnight, no?

We did a lot of laughing over these three weeks – we laugh a lot anyway at the vagaries of life, but when everything is topsy-turvy, it really helps to keep your sense of humor.  We did a lot of reminiscing, too, about our newlywed experiences, and my husband recalled the winter morning when he was shaving in that cold-water bathroom and looked up to see…snowflakes drifting down through the closed window in the roof.  (It was a rooftop flat.)  Compared with that, our current state of affairs was almost luxury.

But I won’t pretend I wasn’t ecstatic when the bathroom sink was finally hooked back up and I didn’t have to stand on tiptoes to brush my teeth.

Yes, I missed another day – the hubster was online all blessed day yesterday.  Retirement does have its drawbacks.  That said, today’s prompt is:

“Do you tend to cover up your failings or admit your mistakes?”

Frankly, at this point I’m too old not to have caught on to the idea that everybody makes mistakes – some of them whoppers – and it’s easier if you just own up to them and get on with repairing them.  That doesn’t mean that I like admitting to mistakes, or that I’m proud of them; too many years of getting reamed out for minor, and honest, mistakes in Catholic school keep getting in the way.  I mean, yeah, if you forget one of the Persons of the Holy Trinity on a test, that’s definitely in the Serious-Error-Bordering-on-Heresy category.  But if you’re in second grade, and have barely learned to print, let alone writing in cursive – I think the Holy Spirit would find it in His heart to forgive, which is more than the Dominican nuns would do.

No, this actually did not happen to me.  Being in a perpetual state of terror made it impossible to forget any such thing.  But there were many other occurrences, most of them so minor that I have forgotten them, that have left their cumulative effect on me, and as a result, it takes real courage to admit, “Yeah, I messed up here.”

But that courage is necessary, if only because the rest of the world, not having been terrorized by Dominican nuns (or any other kind of nun), actually does understand that nobody’s perfect, that mistakes are made, and that “that’s why there are erasers on the ends of pencils,” as the saying goes.  (Interestingly, we were forbidden to write in pencil after second grade, nor could we use ballpoint pens – fountain pens only, and if you did make a mistake, you crossed it out with one line.  More than one mistake, and you rewrote the whole paper.)

I’ve made a couple of real whoppers, but probably the worst was the letter I wrote to the Bishop of our Diocese on the strength of a rumor, asking him not to appoint a certain priest to our parish to replace the one that had left.  Normally I would never do such a thing, but having heard that this priest had definitely been selected, I wanted to know more about him; so I logged onto the website of the parish he was serving, and there found an icon of a decidedly non-Orthodox saint, and a quote from her, as well.  I mean, really.  We have plenty of our own saints to choose from.

So I wrote to the Bishop about this matter, along the way mentioning the parish I was from and to which this priest was supposed to be appointed.  Several years later, having endured much puzzling contumely from various and sundry, I learned that not the Bishop, but his Chancellor, had read my letter, gone to the website of my home parish, and not finding any such icon or quote there (because it wasn’t there), telephoned the departing priest and asked him if I was some kind of nut case.  This poor soul came to the conclusion that I had lied about him in order to get him into trouble with the Bishop, and it wasn’t until his best friend in the parish enlightened me that I found out about the whole mess.

Now, how do you fix that kind of mistake?  You don’t.  It’s out there, and nothing I could possibly say or do will correct the false impression left by an overworked Chancellor who transposed parishes – or maybe he was barely literate in English, for all I know – and caused grief, mayhem, and aggravation all around.

But as a result, I have learned not to write to Bishops.

On the Boards

Do you enjoy acting?”

Acting is not something I have ever had the opportunity to try.  That said, yes, I do think I would enjoy it.  I’m just thinking about how much fun it would be to become a whole other person for a period of time, rather like going on vacation, where no one knows you.

Obviously, there are limitations.  I mean, at five feet zero inches (approximately 150 cm), I’m never going to be able to play a giant.  And if you have a high-pitched voice, you’ll never succeed as a basso profundo.  But to be able to change your wardrobe, your mannerisms, your hair style, maybe even your voice, if you can manage that – higher? lower? foreign accent?  – that could actually be a great deal of fun.

You could even infuse something of yourself into the role (or not – Eliza Doolittle with a Brooklyn accent?!  Fuh-geddaboudit!).  But if, for example, you were a knitter (like me), you could make your knitting a part of your persona, and that would help to make your character more convincing.  Well – okay – maybe not if the role was Sally Bowles in Cabaret, or the tough, street-smart cop Melanie Griffith was supposed to be in A Stranger Among Us (great movie, great premise, ruined by Griffith’s sleep-walking through her role).  But I can’t think of too many other roles where it couldn’t work.

However – I could only do this if I could “play” with my lines.  I mean, I know you’re supposed to memorize lines.  And I’ve seen the hilarious out-takes of shows where the actors flub their lines, and a serious scene is ruined by someone tripping over his own tongue, something like Waffly Wedded Wife (or not – this particular instance, while a prime example of tripping over one’s own tongue, made this wedding memorable for thousands more people than actually attended the event).

Anyway, my point is that to be able to act successfully, I would need to be able to “massage” my lines, that is, not spit them back word for word.  The actor Jimmy Steward did something like this with his first role, in which he played a butler with exactly two lines:  “Mrs. Smythe-Jones will see you now,” and “Mrs. Smythe-Jones is going to be awfully mad,” or something along those lines.  He played the role every single night, in addition to two matinees per week, and he said he got through it by altering his tone of voice and the way he said the words for every single performance.  That kind of artistry caught the attention of a Broadway producer, and the rest is history.

If I could do that – play with my role, have fun with my role, infuse something of myself into my role, and still actually become another person altogether for a period of time – yes, I think I’d love acting.