Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Guest Post: Tipper the Dog

I'm about to become a celebrity! Beatrice the Bold (and Beautiful) has deigned to interview me. You can also go over to her place to read her own interview, and to see just what a special puppy she is.

1. You said you are part dachshund. Which part?

The long and low part. I'm part beagle, too, and probably some other things. I used to have beautiful dachshund coloring, but the brown parts have mostly turned white. And like Gannet Girl, I have decided to accept the signs of aging with good humor.

2. The dog that interviewed me was named after Paul Newman. I'm named after a Princess. Are you named after Al Gore's wife ?

Nope; I am named after a restaurant on an island in Lake Erie. Chicago Son named me; he was 13 when I showed up and had just been on a class trip to the island. Everyone THINKS I am named for Al Gore's wife because they know the politics around here. But personally I find politics remarkably tedious. And I expect that I will hear a lot about them in the next 12 months. As long as the food shows up, I don't care whether it trickled down or trickled up.

3. Your mom is a great photographer. Does she ever take you along when she is shooting pictures in fun places?

She takes me on great walks, but you could mention to her that she doesn't take me as often as she should. And she won't take me and he camera at the same time. I think that she worries that she'll drop the camera into a lake or down a gulley or something when I lunge for a squirrel or rabbit or Canada goose.

4. Who takes care of you when your mom is at seminary? And what is seminary anyway?

I am afraid that Soccer Dad has to take care of me. It's much harder for him than it is for Gannet, because I am getting along in years and he doesn't appreciate cleaning up my mistakes. You probably know that Gannet doesn't have a sense of smell, so certain tasks are not as onerous to her as they are to other people. And Gannet is not overly concerned about matters of housekeeping, which is a good thing from a canine point of view.

Now the seminary thing: I have been wondering about that myself. All I know is that Gannet comes home full of excitement about things she is learning and full of complaints about Greek. She loves to talk about archeaology and spirituality and theories that hold history and Biblical studies together, but she DOES NOT LIKE GREEK. She keeps asking how the Greeks created such a magnificent civilization when apparently they could not communicate with one another. Between you and me, Beatrice, I think that Gannet does not like to acknowledge that she has limitations.

5. What is your favorite treat?

CHEESE, glorious CHEESE. But now, tragically, thanks to my almost-demise a few weeks ago, no one around here will give me any.

Thank you, Beatrice! for giving me the opportunity to share my dog's life with the world.

Now, if there are other dogs or other fellow creatures who would like the opportunity to express themselves, here are the rules, as laid out by Beatrice:

RevGalDogPals or CatPals (or humans, for that matter) (or any other blog-hungry pets), would you like to be interviewed by Tipper?

1. If you are interested in being interviewed, leave a comment here on my mom's blog saying, 'interview me.'

2. I will respond by posting five questions for you. I get to pick the questions.

3. You will update your blog with a post with your answers to the questions.

4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.

5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Thanks for reading, everyone! I'll try to find a picture this weekend to post for my adoring public.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Friday, October 26, 2007


Major ear infection.

Killer whale drugs.

Let's hope they get the job done.

Thanks to all who told me to go to urgent care and wait. The fact that I can barely hear and that the world frequently tilts when I stand up was also somewhat motivational, but I really did need a kick in the behind.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I'm So Stupid

I thought I would go to the doctor.

Anyone who knows me knows that a statement such as the above means that I have been pretty damn sick.

I'm home for a session (church council) meeting tonight and an interview tomorrow so I thought, this being Day 21 of The Crud, I would make an appointment to have the doctor take a look at my clearly-full-of-something ears. I explained to the woman making the appointment that it would be a 2.5 hour drive for me and that I might well be late. No-o-o- problem she said.

Well, I was late, half an hour late. I decided not to call because the last time I went to the doctor, I had to wait nearly an hour in a waiting room crammed with other delayed patients. I didn't think my thirty minutes would amount to much.

The doctor had left. ALL the primary care docs had left by 2:15 in the afternoon!

Another antibitoic would probably help but is also probably unnecessary. I thought about going to urgent care and waiting around an hour or two. The hell with it. I went to the drugstore and bought decongestants.

I have two friends whose elderly parents have in the past week been literally, literally and physically, beaten up in the name of medical care and faced (in one case) and is facing (in the other) horrific departures from this life instead of the peaceful transition that might have been theirs had no one medically trained been around when they stopped breathing.

Can't get a five-minute look-see. Can't get an ethical and dignified approach to end-of-life care.

My city's economy is hugely dependent upon two major hospital systems. Go figure.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Gaining Wisdom and Retaining Vanity

I've lost quite a bit of weight over the past year and a half, more or less by accident. There's still plenty to go, but I'm down a full size and I would be down another one but for . . .

the twin skin.

I tried on some old skirts and pants this week and they fit beautifully in the hips and thighs but . . . I can barely button them.

It's a funny thing, the body. Mine has various physical scars -- a devastating accident, three surgeries, minor injuries which left permanent marks -- along with the temporary bruises that mark generally graceless movement through space, and the wrinkles and increasingly numerous strands of gray and white that reflect decades of warring wisdom and foolishness.

And then there is the twin skin. Even if I find myself dreamlike skinny once again, that excess belly skin will always be there as a reminder that for nine months and then some I carried two babies at once. One of the transformative experiences of my life: the one that not only made me into a mother, but the one that, over time, gave me back the voice and resiliency and strength that childhood losses had so battered.

But evidence of other experiences remains completely invisible, or so I think. Sometimes my friends tell me that that is not true, that the signs of inner change are there.

And I am thinking: I should be looking for those signs in others. I find that it's one of the big things I care about in this decade: how do people grow and change? It's why I can't get enough of those I know who are in their seventies and beyond.

When I was younger, I used to be troubled by my grandparents' wrinkles and sags, disturbed by the possibility that my own body might be altered in the same ways. Now I see those physical changes for what they are, and I know how much energy and wisdom and joy they conceal.

But I would still like to be able to zip up a skirt another size down!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

And What I Anticipate

Actually, I anticipate nothing. My life has taken so many previously unimaginable twists and turns over the past six years that I have abandoned the concept of predictability.

But this is one of the churches in which I preached last month. The community reminded me so much of the one in which I spent my childhood that I felt at home immediately.

I have spent most of my adult life in a suburban city of tremendous energy and diversity, a city in which graduate degrees and liberal politics abound. The American cities I like best are Chicago and Portland, and the small town I dream of is Silverton, Oregon.

But there are lots of ways to live and be in this world. As the husband who thought he was getting a lawyer wife and ended up with a seminary student said last summer, "Life is full of surprises."

Saturday, October 20, 2007

What I MIss

Last year, I used to go over to the university library to work on occasion. Sometimes I would run into one of the young rabbis from the school in which I taught; he, too, liked to work there.

And we would sit and talk across a table in a Jesuit library, the reformed Protestant woman and the Orthodox Jewish rabbi, under the watchful eye of the statue of St. Francis out in the courtyard.

That's what I miss.


Over the course of the next few days, I plan to at least skim through the entire list of blogs linked under my favorites, most of which I have entirely missed during my bout with the flu. I plan to write only comments for awhile; I've missed the give and take interactions of blogging, too.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Almost Back and Some Observations

I think I can justifiably claim to have had the flu - not a part of my body went unaffected, and now that I am FINALLY better I see with horror how I have been dragging around in a state of semi-conscious fog for the past two weeks. I am astonished to have come through midterms in good shape; I barely remember being alive. I guess that, as the Bard says, all's well that ends well. I give the hacking cough two more weeks, but that's it.

I was intrigued by the variety of responses to my last post. And so I have some of my own:

I don't particularly think that God tests us. I don't really have a theology about that. I would use language such as "God invites us" and "God cares for us." And I would certainly have to acknowledge that God invites us to some hard, hard places, and cares for us there. But testing? Maybe yes, maybe just a problem some of us (me included) have with that particular language. Or maybe not. At any rate, it's not a concept critical to the appeal of the kite sermon as far as I'm concerned.

Neither is the issue of other people. That was the least relevant part of the sermon to me; in fact, I'm not sure I even noticed it the first time. Most of my family and most of my closest friends have little or no connection to a public religious life, and I don't go around comparing our lives in terms of faith and material abundance.

As far as finding support and encouragement in disparate places -- well, yes. In many ways, seminary feels one-dimensional to me. I am finding wonderfully interesting and committed and passionate people here, and I am beginning to articulate anew my reason for being here, but I miss my diverse and pluralistic world at home. I miss it a lot. More on that later.

This is the part of the kite sermon I liked:

"The second and third attempts, while they bore a striking resemblance to a kite, never left the ground. However, with each attempt, I learned more and gained more patience. I found that by looking at, and studying other kites, I discovered my mistakes and corrected them.

After many more attempts and failures, I finally had a kite that left the ground. However, I discovered that after it was airborne, a strong wind would cause it to nosedive and it was back on the ground. By looking at other flying kites, I realized the need for weight and added a tail, short in a light wind, and long in a heavy, strong wind, I had finally gained my kite.

As an experiment one day, I added as much string to the kite as I could find. While the kite flew so high and far, that it was almost lost from my sight, I always knew it was there. The curve of the string told me it was up there, and the stronger and harder the wind blew, the harder the kite pulled on my hand and the higher it went.

Faith is much like that kite. We must work and study to gain a strong faith. There will be many failures and setbacks. We will get up, dust ourselves off and try again."

As I have written before, faith has been a long and twisting journey for me. It has seldom been an experience or locus of comfort. Karl Rahner apparently says somewhere that there are those of us with a summery faith and those of us with a wintery faith.

A wild and colorful kite in winter is a good metaphor in my life. That's all.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

But Then

I know I'm taking a break, but I have started to read blogs again, and I found something I wanted to share.

There are people who will tell you stories of starting seminary in which one of the confirmations of God's call seems to be the melting away of obstacles.

That particular experience has not been mine. (And, as I will admit to being somewhat relieved to have discovered in the past month, mine is as common as its opposite.)

My experience has involved two major and one minor financial setbacks (the minor one being so defined only in relation to the other two; I think most people would characterize that one alone as major enough, but it all depends on where you stand), and days and days of illness, first the dog's and now my own, which have combined to create chaos in the household and to make midterms infinitely more difficult than necessary.

The one thing which has remained clear and consistent has been the support and encouragment I have received, strong and encouraging and affirming (and astonishing to this previously God-resistant girl), across the spectrum from 77-year-old Jesuit to 20-year old a-religious daughter, with people of all ages and from all religious and not-religious affiliations and convictions in between. I tend to rely on those words as gifts straight from the Spirit on days like this when I am so utterly worn out.

And then, I found the following
here this morning:


by Fr. John Kahle

Now, before I am tarred and feathered for making this statement, please allow me to share some very personal thoughts and feelings with you.

Does this sound familiar? You attend church regularly . . . you participate in church affairs. . . you pay your pledge on time. . . you try to be constant and regular with prayers and fasting . . . you try your very best to live your life as God desires . . . but in spite of all your efforts, one thing after another seems to go wrong. A serious illness strikes you or a loved one; a death of a relative or close friend occurs; family problems and financial woes smite you one after another, and on. . . and on. . . and on.

Suddenly you find yourself questioning what do you really believe, what has happened to your faith and sometimes saying, “What are you doing to me God? Why are you heaping all these problems and setbacks on me? Whose side are you on?”

You know a family across the street, or in the next block, which has never seen the inside of a church. The man of the house is too busy playing golf on Sunday to go to church, or the entire family goes to the shore for the weekend. Whatever the reason, they have no time for God and yet, as far as you know, no real problems confront them, and you repeat, “God, whose side are you really on?” Does it sound familiar?

Take heart my friends, because we are not alone with our feelings. As we think about faith and strength from faith, we might remember some gospel lessons and passages of scripture which tell us that even the people who were closest to Christ, had moments when their faith failed them. I refer to the disciples, who lived with Christ for the some three plus years of his earthly ministry.

In St. Matthew, chapter 17, we read of a man, who comes to Christ to have mercy on his son who is a lunatic. He tells Christ that the disciples had tried curing the boy but they failed. Christ asks that the son be brought to him and he cures him. Then the disciples come to Jesus and ask why they could not cure the boy, and Jesus replies, “Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”

Chapter 14 of the book of St. Mark tells the sad story of Christ’s betrayal by Judas. But sadder still, it tells of the disciple Peter, one of Christ’s dearest, and the fact that Jesus told Peter he would deny him thrice. Peter said he would die with Christ first, rather than deny him, yet Peter did three times deny Christ that night.

The lesson told us in St. Matthew, chapter 14, again involves the disciples, and Peter in particular. The twelve are on a ship while Jesus remained ashore. In the night, the ship is tossed about in a very severe storm and all those aboard are very frightened. Jesus begins walking to them on the water and they see him coming. Peter says, “Lord, if it be you, bid me come unto you on the water.” Jesus bids him to come. When Peter came down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Christ. The wind and waves made Peter afraid and he began to sink. Peter cries aloud, “Lord, save me.” Jesus stretched forth his hand and caught Peter, saying, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

The fourth lesson touches the book of St. John, chapter 20. Jesus is crucified and resurrected and has appeared to all the remaining disciples except Thomas. When the followers tell Thomas they have seen Jesus, he refuses to believe them. He states that unless he can see the print of the nails in Christ’s hands and put his finger into his side, he will not believe. Eight days later when Christ appears to them again, Thomas is there and has the satisfaction of doing the things needed to make him believe. Jesus said to Thomas, “Thomas, because you have seen me, you believe. Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

It is a frightening thing when one begins to question his beliefs and faith, but it need not be. Because by questioning and searching, we learn and experience new and stronger faith.

When I was a little boy, I wanted a kite very badly. To ask for a nickel to buy a kite would have been like asking for the world. I had a mind, two hands and the ability, so I decided to make my own kite. I knew what a kite should look like, but I lacked the experience and knowledge gained from building one. So I began.

When completed, my first attempt merely looked like a kite. Each time I ran to send it skyward, as I would look back it would be dragging along the ground becoming torn and shredded.

The second and third attempts, while they bore a striking resemblance to a kite, never left the ground. However, with each attempt, I learned more and gained more patience. I found that by looking at, and studying other kites, I discovered my mistakes and corrected them.

After many more attempts and failures, I finally had a kite that left the ground. However, I discovered that after it was airborne, a strong wind would cause it to nosedive and it was back on the ground. By looking at other flying kites, I realized the need for weight and added a tail, short in a light wind, and long in a heavy, strong wind, I had finally gained my kite.

As an experiment one day, I added as much string to the kite as I could find. While the kite flew so high and far, that it was almost lost from my sight, I always knew it was there. The curve of the string told me it was up there, and the stronger and harder the wind blew, the harder the kite pulled on my hand and the higher it went.

Faith is much like that kite. We must work and study to gain a strong faith. There will be many failures and setbacks. We will get up, dust ourselves off and try again. When we feel we have a good strong faith, developed through God’s word and teaching, the only way God will know if it truly “flies” and will support us, is to put it to the test.

Therefore, only by testing our faith will God know how good His work really is. He will show us our weaknesses and help us to improve if we question and learn from each experience.

So my dearest friends, and especially the children, go build a kite of Christian faith, and fly it.

Father John is pastor of the Lehigh Valley Mission of St. Paul in Emmaus, Pennsylvania.
Originally in Word Magazine
A Publication of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
September 1989

We have some wonderful kites in our storage closet, left over from annual family vacations in St. Augustine, where kite flying is a form of beach art.

So: kite it is for me.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Spiritual direction class tonight.

Greek midterm Friday.

Social obligation Saturday night.

Church history midterm Monday night.

Old Testament test Wednesday.

Greek "quiz" (ha ha) Friday.

I am calm and content, but I have a lot to do and I'm still kind of sick. So I'm not soaring over the sea; I'm submerging to a depth of utter stillness and quiet.

Back in 10 days or so.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Shout OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So I took some Amoxicillin, and went out to get OJ, and cleaned some of the bathroom, and worked on a couple of Greek verb endings, and whined considerably about my pathetic life, and


YOU GO, GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

FINISH: 4:04:40 Pace: 9:20

(I've been watching her times all morning. The internet is so cool.)

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Flu Blues

I've been really sick for a few days, mostly asleep, sometimes coming to the surface to work on Greek verbs through a pharmaceutical haze.

But hey: the antibiotics are kickin' in, the fever's down, and I've turned to that mainstay of all those well enough to open their eyes but too wiped out to move.

As a result, I am now up to date on Britney Spears and her lost custody battle.

I'm not really sure who Britney Spears is or who that man is who did get custody but, given the coverage she got on ET tonight, she must be about to sign us all up for world peace.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

An Oldie and Then Some

I wrote the following two years ago today, during an October in which I attended four funerals and was thus repeatedly pulled back into my own life. This October it's been Lisa's death in Funky Winkerbean that's done the job.

Two years ago was also the October in which I began my real aquaintance with Ignatian spirituality, which would lead to me to the quote from Karl Rahner, Jesuit and great Catholic theoloian, I am adding tonight. I think it explans what's been going on in Funky Winkerbean.


But You Don't Know

It must have been an evening just like this, warm and hazy, the sun lingering on the horizon.

Our two families lived on a hillside out in the country, separated by a small woods and a short gravel road, and my grandmother told me that she had come over to our house, for desert I think. I don't know if my grandfather was with her. At any rate, the adults talked for awhile in the kitchen.

"The baby's already down," my mother said. "Would you like to go in and take a peek?"

"Oh, no," said my grandmother. "I don't want to disturb him. I'll see you tomorrow."

If I had only known, she would say later. If I had only known. Meaning, If I had only known that I would never see either one of them again.

And then, when she told that story, she would always say that as she walked home she could hear my mother singing through the kitchen window as she did the dishes.


[The chalice of the Holy Spirit] is drunk only by those who have slowly learned in little ways to taste the fullness in emptiness, the ascent in the fall, life in death, the finding in renunciation.

(Karl Rahner, S.J.)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Break Time

Thanks to Law and Gospel for the tag! I haven't done one of these in a long time, and this one makes for a good break tonight.

4 jobs I've held ~
waitress at a summer resort
lawyer for a railroad
domestic relations lawyer
high school humanities teacher

4 films I could watch over and over~
To Kill a Mockingbird

4 tv shows I watch ~
Six Feet Under reruns
I watched Prime Suspect 1-6 this past summer and am eagerly awaiting Episode 7 on DVD
OK, three, more or less; pretty good (this is starting to feel like a test).

4 places I've lived ~
Small Town (actually, outside of same) Ohio
Vero Beach, Florida
western Massachusetts
Providence RI

4 favorite foods ~
mashed potatoes

4 websites I visit everyday ~
Sigh. Not anymore.

4 favorite colors ~
Crayola Blue Green

4 places I would love to be right now ~
St. Augustine, Florida
the Cinque Terre
the mountains of westen NC

4 names I love but did not use for my children ~

I am so far behind on blogs that I don't know who's already played and who hasn't. Lisa? Cynthia? QG? Mark?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Lisa Again (Funky Winkerbean)

When Lisa dies, it will be with the memory of the colors of fall emblazoned across her mind and heart.

After my mother and youngest brother were killed in the car accident, my surviving younger brother and I spent two weeks in the hospital before I was released -- good to go with a cast from ankle to thigh and a dramatic surgical scar down my middle -- and he was moved to a major medical center for the work that would restore his shattered elbow.

Hospital care was very, very different in 1960 from what it is today. Nurses in starched white dresses. No playrooms or child life specialists. I guess our child life specialist was Melinda, the young and beautiful morning shift nurse who tried so hard to create a sense of cheer in our room. (It definitely wasn't Mrs. Starr, the rigidly upright night nurse whom I was afraid to ask for a glass of water.) Visitors were limited to immediate family. I remember that one evening my aunt and uncle brought our cousins to visit; they all waved up at us from the hospital lawn, and we waved back from the window.

And I remember touring down the hall one afternoon in my wheelchair to look out the long corner window at the yellow leaves. I remember that as clearly as if it were yesterday, and so I'm glad Les lied to Lisa about the leaves today.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Lisa's Last Week

Yesterday, in a nod to the criticism some of his readers have directed his way, the creator of the Funky Winkerbean comic strip acknowledged, through his characters, that Lisa's cancer story has not been funny. Last summer, a number of readers begged for a miracle for Lisa, but Tom Batiuk had long ago made the decision that hers would be the other kind of cancer story. The kind that calls for courage of a different order.

, even the blackest humor has entirely disappeared.

I know that a lot of people are disturbed by the turn the comic has taken. They DO want humor over their morning coffeee, before they have to take on the challenges of their own lives.

But I think this storyline is a real gift. Lisa and Les are so fragile, and so brave -- so filled with grace.