Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A bit of awesomeness...

Firewood Man went to tie in the lower handrail post into the stairs and the original stair tread split.  I laughed.  He sighed.  New steps, too.

He really should have planned for them, because, going up and down them carrying the wood the past there years, Tim always grips about walking on a trampoline since the steps jiggled so much.

Today was a truncated day and he will not be able to return until Monday.  "Surely by next Wednesday we will be done," Tim said.  I kept my mouth shut.

Mostly, because the sidewalk beside the porch and in front of the steps is cracked and broken and has missing pieces.  He's been wanting to replace it for a couple of years.  Only, to me, the thought of wet concrete is about as appealing as the phrase "jack up your roof a bit."  Besides, there are actually five other sections elsewhere that are also broken between all my sidewalks and if he's pouring concrete in one place, he's going to want to pour it in others.  If he stuck to just the four sections around the porch, how long can that possibly take??

Tim put in a temporary staircase before he left.  [Amos does not know how to use it.]  You can see that the new staircase does not go all the way to the sidewalk, but if you actually peer closely at the corner of the sidewalk, you will see that the first straight section off the corner is not original and is too narrow.  We filled in the gap with some of the bazillion old bricks that I have found around the yard, including even more beneath the porch.

I just counted.
That's five sections he would be fixing.

You can see that almost all the construction debris has been hauled away, with only a small stack of the best of the old boards (in case he can use them on the inside lattice framing for the bottom of the porch) resting beneath the porch.  That is to say, in case Firewood Man can save me money.

After he left, I tried out Firewood Man's other suggestion.

[Amos is still afraid of the steps.]

Firewood Man said that if I moved the grill and recycling bin to the other side of the porch [GASP], then the wood pile would be better protected (now that the lattice walls are gone), and I would have a lot of open space for a rocking chair or lounge chair or small table set.  Something.  Even with the firewood there, but more so in the warm months when the firewood rack would be in the garage.

[Is is odd that Firewood Man thinks about these things when he is not here and then shows up with new ideas??]

I admit that I am the consummate creature of habit. I have been eating the same meal at Mexican restaurants since I was knee high to a grasshopper (queso and chips and chicken fajitas, no rice or pico de gallo, but extra beans, cheese, and sour cream).  I am having a hard time with the grill on the door side of the porch because it has never been on the door side of the porch.  And the wood pile has  never been on the far side of the porch because it has always been on the door side of the porch.

What do you think of his idea?  Of the switch??

Tim left me his sawhorses and a neighbor I do not know but who saw me setting them up in the garage loaned me his set.  That means, before Monday, I will prime and paint at least one coat of the house "red" paint on the framing wood for the lattice section.  That way, I will only have to paint a second coat once it is installed.  Actually, I will paint two coats on one side and the edges and then one coat on the side that will need touching up anyway.  It was misting today, when Tim unloaded the  wood, so I set it up on the saw horses, but will not start painting until tomorrow.

Then, as I was typing this, I thought to look for free porch furniture.  As in, someone's trash is my treasure.  I got me a very solid and comfortable, but in dire need of paint (or stripping, which is too much work for me) rocking chair!!!

I jumped in the car (forgetting that I am wearing a hoodie and men's lounge pants) and raced over to be the first one to pick it up.  Then I nearly had two accidents on the way home, not because I was drag racing another person who wanted the chair, but because I was so giddy with excitement and anticipation of just how wonderful it will be to take my rest in this chair whilst Amos is dilly-dallying about the back yard under the guise of attempting his major business.

Guess who still has some heavy duty GREEN paint left in her can???  I'm going to run a sanding block over this, paint it with bonding primer because I can see at least 4 colors of paint on the chair (one is gold!!!), and then put on two coats of that most loveliest of colors.

Oh, my!  How ever will I calm down??

Today, I edited marketing copy for a real estate broker in California.  [I sure to savor the opportunity to practice the craftsmanship of writing.]  I handed Tim but one screw, because it was so cold outside he merely kept them in his pocket.  I remembered to get my blood work completed.  And I managed to find (but not yet fill out) the paperwork I need to complete before seeing the neurologist on Friday.  That's about it, though.  Not much of an accomplishment ... save for snagging a bit of awesomeness for my back porch.

Oh, yes, I did get picked for most honest Amazon review, so the manufacturer is sending me a bluetooth keyboard to use with the iPad mini I got last year.  Funny, I ultimately explained why one would not want to purchase the cover.  I will, of course, wait to receive the keyboard before actually believing I won something.

I'm off to read the introduction to Michael Card's commentary on the Gospel of Matthew.  It is long and dense, at first glance.  So, I may need to read it several times ... or keep reading it as the "beginning" each time I start a new chapter by reading through the previous chapter.  And then watch "The Good Wife" and "The Blacklist"  Finally ... maybe ... I can figure out a way to teach Amos that the new temporary back porch stairs are nothing to fear.

Me teaching Amos about conquering fear.
The blind leading the blind for true!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Taking shape...

Never has a fluffy white puppy dog beset by anxiety been happier about a change to a back porch.  A back porch that is really beginning to take its new shape.

Amos can now gaze out upon his domain without nearing the dreaded GREEN grass.  Here, he was attempting to venture out on his business.  But he spent most of the day sticking his nose between the railings as Firewood Man worked to put them up.

The poor porch floor is now horribly muddy as well as scratched, but the new view makes up for the extra work on my most beloved restoration project.  Amos is filthy again, even though he was washed recently, because he remained ensconced on the floor between testing of the railings.

"We'll be finished tomorrow early afternoon," declared Tim.  I just smiled.

Whilst there is only one small section of the porch railing to do, he still has to do the new hand rail for the steps.  Being that it is a gazillion cuts on an angle ... and he loathes  angle cuts ... I think that is all he will manage to get accomplished.  The framing for the lattice below the porch, the lattice below the porch, and the lattice below the airing porch are still need installing.

When Firewood Man went out to fetch even more wood and supplies (GROAN), I used his very, very, very handing mid-sized ladder to clean out the gutter on the back and side of the garage near the ever green tree.  I have been wanting to do that for three years now, but really do not like standing on my own ladder.  The work took, perhaps, 15 minutes.  Due to the tree, those sections of the gutter were completely full with dirt and debris and did not channel any water to the back corner downspout.  I was also able to nail back one of the supports that had come loose.

Easy homeownership tasks are all that I am really up to now.  So, I am savoring this responsible owner victory.  For the rest of the day, mostly what I did was hand over a screw whenever Firewood Man was ready for one, since putting together a baluster railing requires many, many, many screws.

Despite needing to hastily depart after receiving a phone call from a friend in need, Firewood Man cleaned up the yard (strewn with new wood and old again) and tucked out of sight things for which we had no real place since his pick-up bed was needed tonight.  I swept all the dust and dirt I could off the porch, but I did not wash it down the way I wanted, since tomorrow's dew will mostly likely bring more footprints ... and dried mud ... as Tim works on the lower framing and lattice.

Each time Amos has gone outside, this evening, he has paused on the porch, sticking a nose through some balusters and sighing most contentedly.  Me, too, expect for the nose part.  Since Tim left, we've both napped.  Surely we will do so again before slipping beneath the covers for the "night."  More napping and and more savoring of a most welcome change in view.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Darkness and bitterness...

Firewood Man spent some time with his family today, so we are not yet done.  Tomorrow, he says.  I think maybe next week.  But I am much, much, much more at ease because all the post supports have now been replaced.

See that post on the left??  Tim asked me to come watch its replacement.  Now, I was not at all interested in seeing the jack being used, but I knew he had something in mind.  Yep ... let's twit Myrtle further.  After the roof was jacked up the merest smidgeon, Firewood Man pushed on the post with a single finger.  It fell off.  That shimmed and glued post had not a single screw, nail, or bolt in it.  All that had held it in place was the 1x4 framing for the lattice.  GULP.

How do you like that support post??  There's not much left of it.  Firewood Man brought his brother-in-law by, and Ben about near had a heart attack looking over the bits and pieces that Tim has replaced.  He was horrified that I had been piling entire ranks of firewood upon the porch.

Such a blessing Tim's idea to replace the lattice (actually hand nailed lathe) instead of my attempting to scrape it and paint has been to me.  I shudder to think of what would have happened after a few more loads of firewood.

My goal for the morrow is the framing and lattice on the base of the porch and the airing porch.  I can wait on the handrail, but I very much dislike having full view of the very creepy space beneath the porch.  And I would like the "upstairs" finished off.

One good thing about today was that the homeowner across the alley one house over asked Tim to come look at this rather dilapidated tree house (really ... it's just got to be a duck blind ... a square building on four 10-feet high posts) that is at the corner of her property, right against the alley.  She wants him to take it down!!!!  Man, my view from the airing porch will be ever so much more pleasant with that ginormous eyesore.  My neighbor commented that she bet most of the homeowners around would have pitched in to have it removed.  I am happy Tim got more work and I am happy our alley (which is rather unattractive) will be losing its worst eyesore. 

After Tim left, I spent time (after I took the photo) going outside and doing 5-minute clean-ups with 30-minutes rests between.  All the wood bits are gone from around the porch.  The garbage bin of bits is on the sidewalk, as are all the longer pieces to be carted away.  All of the new wood pieces and uncut boards are on the upper sidewalk, while the trash wood is on the lower sidewalk.  The porch is swept.  The recycling bin emptied.  The grill cleaned.  And all tools no longer needed are back in their place.  I left the stray bricks in the places they landed and did not crawl beneath the porch for the wood remaining there.  In the end, though it was too dark to photograph, I felt easier about the chaos out my back door.

And I took a nap.
Then, I finished Michael Card's commentary on Mark.

I continue to learn about the story of the Gospel, which has been both helpful to me as I have learned about the Good News of Jesus Christ as told by Mark and a salve to my scholarly self who is so oft neglected now that I am ill. And I continued to be greeted by the fellowship of fear.  I am not the only one for whom the enormity of Jesus the Son of Man, Jesus the Messiah brings fear.

There were a few standout for me with regard to scholarship, beginning with Pilate:

The most important piece of background in understanding Pilate's mindset is how he obtained his position—or, more to the point, through whom he obtained it.  His name was Aelius Sejanus.  Next to Tiberius himself, he was the most powerful man in Rome.  In A.D. 31 he was appointed consul, virtually a co-ruler with the emperor.  On October 18 of that same year, it was discovered that he had been plotting against Tiberius, planning a takeover.  Without hours he was executed.  Sejanus had been well-knob for his anti-Semitic policies, and upon his death Tiberius ordered, "Hostilities against the Jews will cease."  This is a vital piece to the puzzle for understanding Pilate.

Pilate is now standing before the most influential men in Jerusalem.  He loathes them and all they stand for.  He sees through their duplicity and jealousy.  Yet in order to keep his position, he must be seen as unbiased and fair, otherwise he will come under the scrutiny of Tiberisu, a scrutiny that has increased exponentially since the Sejanus affair.  Pilate would in fact be recalled to Rome in A.D. 36 to answer for the atrocities committed against the Samaritans.  While he was on his way to stand trial, Tiberius died and Pilate simply disappeared.

History ... contextual history ... is important.  I have learned about Mark's audience, the different factions among the religious leadership, and here.  In a way, you could say that Pilate's hands were tied.

Jesus came at this time, specifically.  He came to earth and lived precisely where He meant to live.  His ministry took place where He intended.  And He died where He intended.  I mean, if God is the Almighty,  the death of His Son was not going to be at the whim of man, right?

I think, before reading this, in thinking about Pilate I probably assigned him to the category of those whom God hardened hearts.  But that isn't the case.  He was walking such fine line politically and that fine line makes his push-back at the chief priests believable and almost sensible.  As does, after trying to right the wrong he knew was being committed by offering a choice as whom to be set free, Pilate's expediency with filling the duties of his job.  He had Jesus flogged and sent for crucifixion.

There were two moments that struck me as ... curious ... both because Pilate was "amazed/surprised." He was amazed at Jesus' silence and He was surprised at the quickness of Jesus' death, going so far to having it confirmed before granting Joseph the right to take Jesus' body for burial.

Both were unusual, I suppose.  I suppose that in his courts, folk usually tried their darnedest to avoid what was coming and that during crucifixions folk usually took longer to die.

Reading about the trial, it also occurred to me how very cowardly it was for the chief priests put off on Pilate what they were not willing to do themselves.  They could have arranged for Jesus' death.  A convenient accident.  An outright murder.  But they kept their hands clean by twisting their religious beef with Jesus to fit the letter of a civil law that could be presented as being broken and thus deserving of civil justice.

I did like the lesson about Jesus' flogging not being as shown in movies ... not being 39 lashes.  Again, that would have been the Jewish punishment, but Jesus was in Roman courts.  Thus, Jesus was not lashed with rods, but flogged with flagellum.  The first left stripes upon the body.  The second stripped away the flesh and could even expose the viscera.

A second bit of history, supposition thought it be, interested me:

Along the way the soldiers take advantage of a Roman law that allows them to "impress" anyone, forcing them to carry a burden for the stipulated distance of one mile (see Mt 5:41).  If our ears are sensitively tuned to Mark's Gospel, at this point we should be startled to hear the personal name of someone from the crowd.  Mark, normally reluctant to name names, introduces Simon of Cyrene into the narrative.  Simon was probably a member of the Cyrenean synagogue in Jerusalem, whose members will come into conflict with Stephen in Acts 6:9.  We are also given the names of his two sons, Rufus and Alexander.  Mark almost certainly mentions them because they were known to the first readers of his Gospel.  In Romans 16:13, in the midst of a long list of greetings, Paul refers to a man named Rufus.  If we are correct that Mark is writing his Gospel to the Christians in Rome, chances are good that the Rufas Paul greets is the same Rufus whose father carried the cross for Jesus.  It is a fascinating though uncertain connection.

Then there is the cry of Jesus:

Both Mark and Matthew tell us that Jesus died with a loud cry.  The Roman centurion, who would have been assigned the role of overseeing the crucifixion, had doubtless seen hundreds of men die on the cross, perhaps even thousands.  He had never seen anyone die like this, with a shout and not a whimper or a groan.

Do not miss this moment.  Along with Peter's confession in Mark 8:29, this is the other climax of Mark's Gospel.  Stop and take some time to engage with the text at the level of your imagination.  Imagine the centurion covered in the blood of three men, a hardened warrior of the Italian cohort far from his home.  "Son of God" is a tittle that belongs solely to the emperor he has sworn to serve.  Imagine the response of Mark's first Roman readers as they hear this glorious confession coming from the lips of a Roman soldier:  "Surely this man was the Son of God!" (Mk 15:39 NIV).

A part of me almost expected Jesus to die with a shout ... was He not taking victory over eternal death due mankind at that very moment??

Some other things I learned:

  • Although all the Gospels mention that the curtain is torn upon the death of Jesus, which curtain is not made clear.  The outer curtain would have been most visible, but the inner curtain (separating the holy of holies from all but the priests) would have made more sense as to the outcome of His death.  But, again, the certitude that I had been taught about the inner curtain is not actually textually supported.
  • Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the Sanhedrin, so it was rather courageous of him to claim Jesus' body, to do so openly and boldly.
  • The woman came to Jesus' tomb with spices to cover the oder of a decaying body.  In that they came expecting a dead Jesus, rather that a risen Jesus, as He taught them He would be.
  • It was the women, not any of Jesus' disciples, who were given the first words of the Gospel revealed to share:  "He has risen!"
  • Mark is the only Gospel in which the angel mentions Peter, the one who was certain he had forfeited his right to be a disciple.  And it was to Peter that the first resurrection appearance happened.  [My conclusion:  The first message to be conveyed, thus, was the message of forgiveness.  Even you who deny Jesus can be forgiven, will be forgiven.]

The last is ... a shocker:  The original text of Mark ends at 16:8,  "So they went out and started running from the tomb, because trembling and astonishment overwhelmed them.  And they said nothing to anyone, since they were afraid."

I read the commentary, the appendices, and all the notes.  Because Michael Card believes, as do others, that Mark ends with 16:8, his commentary ends with that verse.  In Appendix E, Michael Card lays out why it is scholars believe that verses 9-20 were added later by those who were disconcerted with Mark's abrupt ending.

For me, I was struck by how common it is that the appearance of God and His messengers causes fear in humans, even the faithful.  Fear is not abnormal, not even among the faithful.

We need to linger with the women in Mark 16:8.  Their experience, so close to the resurrection, is nothing like ours.  We tend to be joyful and confident.  They are trembling, overwhelmed.  They flee from the tomb.  It is the same verb Mark uses to describe the disciples fleeing in fear in Mark 14:50.  They revert back to what they know.  Had not Jesus again and again told them to keep quiet, to maintain the secret of who he was?

In leaving us with the women fleeing on their errand, we are left with the continuing message of Mark, to believe without seeing.  Jesus tells the father before he sees his healed daughter, "Don't be afraid, only believe." (Mark 5:36); Peter's confession of Christ came before the proof of the transfiguration (Mark 8:27-9:13); and the father cried out that he believed and asked for help believing before his son was healed (Mark 9:24).  An empty tomb in and of itself is not evidence, is not seeing.  Anyone could have stolen the body.

Believe without seeing.
Believe and spread the Good News.

It is interesting that even though the women are given the message to share, the message that Jesus is risen from the dead, the words are not spoken in the Gospel (in the original ending).

When at last, exhausted, they come to the cowering disciples, the women will be privileged to speak for the first time those words on which the faith of millions is founded:  "He is risen!"  Like Peter's confession, which Jesus said the church is founded on, the women's words were spoken before the final proof.  By not recording those words himself, Mark corners us, he leaves us out of breath, running beside the women, perhaps trying to keep up with them.  He hopes we too will be left trembling and astonished at having read his testimony of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The abrupt ending, which intends to leave us in the place of believing without seeing, reflects Mark's original witness and father in the faith, Simon Peter.  I close with his words, spoken to us today.  They are his invitation to continue to engage with our imaginations:

"You love Him, though you have not seen Him.  And though not seeing Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy."  (I Pet 1:8).

There is ever so much history and scholarship and cross references that I did not mention, as I tried to capture what I read in Michael Card's commentary.

It is a bit strange, for me, having read the case for the Gospel ending at verse 8, that I do not have a problem with ceasing there.  Mark, the shortest testimony, the testimony of what is needful to know, the focus on Jesus' ministry and training, the bookend devices to highlight and underscore the salient points.  From the opening words until that strange pause on the Mount of Olives, you hear the testimony at a torrid pace, albeit an intimate and passionate one.  Then, the shift is away from Jesus' living to His death, a standing back at watching.  It boggles my mind how even at the very end, the women believe all is lost.  Even Jesus' disciples believe all is lost.  The women watch from a distance, but His disciples are scattered.  In a way, it is as if there is a severing of His followers that mirrors the severing Jesus Himself experiences on the cross.  And then they are joined to Him, just as Christians today are joined to Him, having been cut off because of the consequence of original sin and unbelief.

Perhaps severing is not an apt metaphor. But it is what came to my mind as I read the end of the Gospel.

Whilst there are 1,001 bits of the commentary that have caused me to savor the text of the the Gospel of Mark more deeply, that have caused a knowing I had not thought possible of the One who is the Living Word, there is one part that rang the siren call for me.  The part where Michael Card writes of the darkness that befell Golgotha.

I tend to imagine the three hours of darkness at Golgotha as having been the result of a terrific storm. At least that is how it is portrayed in the Jesus movies.  But read the text clearly.  There's no word of thunder or lightning in any of the Gospels, only of darkness.  I've come to imagine a more terrifying experience than thunder and lightning:  absolute stillness.  The three ominous hours of darkness accompanied by an ominous silence over Jerusalem.  The prophet Amos describes the darkness like this:

I will make the sun go down at noon;
I will darken the land in the daytime.
I will turn your feasts into mourning ....
I will make that grief
like mourning for an only son. (Amos 8:9-11)

Abraham experiences the terror of this darkness in Genesis 15:12.  Once the Lord has blown the noisy locusts away from Egypt, he sent the plague of darkness, "a darkness that can be felt" (Ex 10:21).  In the Old Testament this deep darkness was indicative of the presence of God (see Ex 14:20; 20:21),  When Jesus hangs on the cross, God is somehow separated from him (Hab 1:13).  His cry in Mark 15:34 confirms it.  The silent, deep darkness points to the possibility that God's presence is hovering; perhaps his back is turned.  Though we have heard God's voice twice in Mark's Gospel (Mk 1:9; 9:7), he is now silent.  It may have been the most severe part of Jesus' suffering.

Jesus calls out in his own native Aramaic the words of Psalm 22:1 as the three hours of suffering in the dark come to a close.  He is not delirious or confused.  God forsakes him when he becomes sin for us.  Hell is a price to pay for sin, and God hiding his face is hell.

I think about those first five verse of John that are so sweet, so magnificent.  That in Jesus there is no darkness and the darkness did not (does not) overcome Him.  I think about how Psalm 139 says that there is no where one can flee (I would specify both physically and mentally) where God will not find him and that there is no night in which God can make as bright as day.

But what Michael Card points out is that even thought Jesus is the Light of the world, He did, in fact, experience darkness and all its horrors.  For me, I thought, "There really is no temptation that Jesus fails to understand."

I read an article the other day about doubt being a sign of faith.  I sent it to Mary to see what she thought.  I have many thoughts about it.  One of the author's points was that, when Jesus cried out on the cross about God forsaking Him, He was, at that moment, in doubt.  The point being that doubt and faith coexist, even in the Son of God.

Perhaps I am wrong, but I do not see Jesus' cry as evidence of doubt.  I see it as statement of fact buried in a cry of anguish that came out as a question, but was not, in fact, an interrogative.  I mean, it would be absurd to think that Jesus is really asking the question "why" because Jesus is God, Jesus is the Living Word of God, and Jesus knew fully what it would mean and what would happen when He stepped into time and into humanity to save us from our sin, to keep the Law we are unable to keep.  Plus, I have learned that it is not uncommon, in the New Testament, for something to sound like an imperative, but is not (e.g., "be holy" is not a command to go out and make yourself holy or to act in a holy manner).

I think that it is easier to talk about doubt than it is to talk about darkness.
I think it is easier to admit to doubt than it is to admit to darkness.
But I think that darkness is at the heart of suffering, the suffering of both Jesus and man.

As a final note, something I took issue with is saying that Peter wept bitterly.  That is, I did until I spent some time exploring the definition of the word "bitter."  In doing so, I think we also should talk more clearly (in the church) about bitterness.  It is my belief that we classify bitter as either the unpleasant taste or anger and unhappiness caused by unfair treatment.  Peter had no foul taste in his mouth as he wept after betraying, denying Jesus.  Nor was he expressing his feelings about unfair treatment.  Nay.  There is  is a third definition of bitter:  causing painful emotions, felt or experienced in a strong and unpleasant way.  It is a definition we skip right over, a definition that evokes and calls for compassion, not reproach or recrimination.

I think...
I think that Peter's tears and Jesus' cry were both bitter.
I think that both were faithful.

And, as I understand the weeping of bitter tears most intimately, I might possibly have gained a smidgeon of hope.

Anyway, it was very helpful, along the commentary journey, when Michael Card pointed out what Luke or Matthew or John noted.  Having had Mark framed so very well, having encountered a Jesus whose focus was on the gifts He came to bring and ensuring that the ministry of bringing those gifts would continue past His departure from our world, I do wonder how Matthew, Luke, and John will be framed.  I wonder how Mark will be contrasted within their Gospels, as they were in his.

I will admit that I struggled with Michael's omission of the serial comma in his commentary.  At times, I thought I could read no further.  However, something that leapt off the page for me time and time again was his encouragement for the reader of his commentary to listen to the text, to the Word of God.  Listen to Mark's Gospel.  Listen to Jesus.

Faith comes through hearing.
Clearly Michael Card understands that.
Such is more important that his egregious comma usage error.


The first known use of bitter came from the 12th century.
I wonder the impetus.

Would that it were I lived in a world where language was made richer, more complex by the addition of new words. Pols. Vols. Photogs.  The new words of today break my literary heart.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Lots and lots and lots...

My fears of the back porch (and subsequently the airing porch) falling off the back of my house are rather less, now.  Poor Firewood Man exhausted himself getting all four 6x6 posts put in beneath the porch.  He also, being a bit more concerned about the condition of the fascia board and the two outer sides of the porch, went and fetched more 2x6s to sandwich the existing frame with sturdiness.  He removed the steps (more distress) and created what is essentially a second outer frame.  Then, he put a second 2x6 on the other side of the original framing beneath the deck.  He keeps telling me that it is not as if the porch was going to collapse, but seeing weaknesses makes him want to strength them.

I am rather disconcerted, seeing the porch bare of all its bottom siding (save for the frame).  But tomorrow, hopefully, that particular wide open view will be gone.  And I did not have to watch any of the "jacking up" it took to properly support the porch.  Plus, that broken spigot is now capped off at the house and gone, and the bent and rusted ancient hose holder is now gone.  The disappearance of long-endured eyesores is very much welcome in my book.

Tim also did one of the three porch roof supports before collapsing for the day.  He switched out the old center 4x4 to a new 4x6, to give it an added bit of umph.  I'm sure there is a logical reason to switch the center post first, but I also happen to think he did that one because the conduit (and switch) for the floodlight runs along the back of it and I have been fretting about that light run getting broken somehow.  Tomorrow, he's hoping to do the other two porch roof supports, all the railing, all the framing for the lattice on the sides of the base of my porch, and the lattice on both porch bases.

I think that is a rather ambitious scope of work.

My neighbor remembered that today is Financial Cliff Day and offered to go with me to Target.  We dropped off the too-large solar lights at a UPS pick-up spot, fetched the prescriptions from Target, used Panera gifts cards (we both had) for a sit-down lunch, went back to Target when I discovered I forgot to use the $100 gift card I had (fortunately the pharmacist was able to void the sale and re-charge it), then when to Wal-mart for groceries.

I had a smaller list.
I really did.
The cart was overflowing.

Some of my purchases were refilling of the larder, such as dark brown sugar, pepper, ketchup, Parmesan cheese (for basil burgers), etc.  I was completely out of bread, milk, butter, saltines, and Ginger ale.  [I decided to get two of both the latter, because the nausea has become a daily companion.]  I also had run through all of the onions, garlic, and potatoes I had on hand and needed another container of Gatorade mix (I buy them when the current one is about 3/4 empty) to boot.  The one item I am out of and could not find were tostada shells for chalupas!  Sadness.  Maybe on my next milk run I will find some.

After eating at Panera, I was ever so much perkier and I realized that I have not been good about getting enough sodium of late. When a cardiologist tells you to daily chow down on potato chips, you really ought to take the matter serious.  It is just that I keep forgetting to bulk up my sodium intake.  So, I moved chips from contraband status to necessity.

My contraband item, then, was some chocolate.  I have not had chocolate in the house for a long while. I settled on Rolos, which are not the most economical of the options.  So, I decided to buy a large bag that was 9.7 cents less per ounce and divide it into mason jars.  My neighbor said if I made it last two months that would be impressive.  Maybe it should be three?? I was tickled that her autistic son has taken a shine to the concept of contraband shopping and has insisted that, when they shop, they, too, should save money by only having a single contraband item each.

In any case, I thought I would be way under budget again this month, planning only to make chicken chipotle chili (for which I have all the ingredients), unless I also run out of pulled pork (for which I, too, have all the ingredients).  But somehow the bill was my normal bill.  I have studied it and cannot find the excess.  Strange.  Maybe the savings catcher app will find me some good deals and give me money back.

My neighbor emptied 3/4 of the car for me and reminded me to make lemon cucumber water right away so it will be ready tonight.  I've been out of cucumbers for 5 days and have been drinking plain water.  ICK.  I did that, put away the groceries, divided the chocolate, fed Amos, uploaded my receipts, entered the medical expenses into my spreadsheet, and spent some time admiring the new airing porch post caps that we had fetched.

These are the post caps I chose.  They are all just slipped on at the moment, but Firewood Man will attach them tomorrow.

I went with them because these are the ones on the main staircase.  [Please ignore the dust.]  Everything in the house is square and rectangular, with little curves.  All the circular, oblong, and oval post cap toppers would just not look right.  The post caps I chose were the only ones with a flat top, if just a teeny tiny bit of a square top instead of the substantial one here.

Firewood Man will be happy to hear that Becky and Gary are of the opinion that the posts need not be shortened any further.  We had cut them 5 inches (or there abouts ... one is crooked at the moment), to allow for a balanced height once the cap option was finalized.  These slip over (and down) the top, which makes for a cleaner join.  Instead of having to ensure the cut is perfectly level, all you really need to do is plop on some construction glue and then press down using a level to balance out the cap.  Of course, I do desire that the crookedly cut post is trimmed down ever so slightly.

I am not sure if Amos admired the caps, but he does already enjoy hanging out on the airing porch.
In a peaceful place where his hyper vigilance over being outside is greatly minimized.
Far, far, far away from the dreaded GREEN grass.

Opening night at the symphony was simply spectacular.  I did forget just how much climbing I need to do to get to my seat, but I was welcomed so warmly by the wife of my seat mates that the cockles of my heart sang.  Several folk recognized me and welcomed me back, as well.

The roughest part of the evening was when I was chatting with the woman next to me.  She remembered my neurological deficits and asked how I was doing.  Since she is on the board, I shared with her some of my ideas I've been having about resource development and communications with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.  After a few moments, she stopped me and said she needed me to know something.  I thought, "Oh, Myrtle, you've talked too much again."  But it was worse.  Much worse.  It was about the most loveliest of men, upon first meeting me, offered to drive me to my car any night I had to drive myself there.  He said I could wait with his wife out front and they would take me wherever I found parking.  My seat mate's husband died rather unexpectedly just a few weeks back.  She wanted me to know, because she knew that I would be asking where he was.

I was flabbergasted.  I opened my mouth to protest, "He was so ..."

"He was a kind man, a good man," his wife finished.

"He was," I agreed, starting to weep.

His wife is so very kind, too.  She had had surgery on her foot last year and struggled with recovery.  That was the first thing I asked about and was pleased when she told me all was well again.  I quipped about how she and her beloved could go dancing once again.  She knew I would notice her husband's absence over the next few performances.  Sometimes, one or the other of them brought someone else, so I had not really thought about him not being there.  Maybe travel or work interfered or maybe just to share the joy of music.  No matter.  Both were kind to me and I was looking forward to sitting with them again.

Despite the sadness over her loss, sitting in my chair, being greeted and waved at and part of the folk in the balcony, I felt like I belonged.  I have never thought such a thing before.  Not even at church.  Not at school or work.  At the front of the classroom once I was the instructor, but only in that space ... never with the rest of the faculty.  Always a step behind, always not clued into the conversation.  I know nothing about classical music, really.  But I belonged tonight at the symphony.

I had forgotten that the philharmonic starts the year with the "Star Spangled Banner."  Oh, my!  How gustily the song was sung!!  So many patriots in the building.  [I'm half surprised a protest was not staged outside over the blatant adoration of flag and country.  They used the 1812 flag, to honor the 200th anniversary of Fort Wayne (or at least I think Fort Wayne is the one having an anniversary).

The mayor was there tonight, so a proclamation came next, honoring 70 years the philharmonic has contributed to the economical and individual well-being of the city.  And then the conductor, who is so engaging and so funny told folk not to turn off their phones.  He wanted people to do the social media "thing."  Everyone was chuckling because he needed a whole lot of prompting for naming different social media platforms and for telling everyone the hashtag to use.  I was laughing so hard, even though my heart was hurting over the loss of a kind and merciful man, because he kept asking what a hashtag was, almost distracted from his job, but then interrupting the explanation because it could wait.

Darn it, I left my phone at home!

The first half of the performance was exquisite, using a double string orchestra.  I didn't know such a thing was possible! Sir Michael Tippet's Concerto for Double Sting Orchestra was utterly fascinating to listen to how all the different sounds made from and the flow of the music interplayed between only one class of instruments.  I very much liked it, as did the audience.

The second half was Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1 in D Major.  Now, I really did not think I would enjoy Mahler, especially having read the performance notes.  Talk about modern music in orchestral works and I start to cringe.  But his work, to my ear, did not have the dissonance or clashing sounds described.  I mean, clearly he was playing around with interspersing folk music with traditional orchestral music, but I still had my moments of haunting notes so sweet it almost hurts to listen to them, especially this one section where the cellos and the violins were passing the music back and forth.  The piece ends with the entire French horn section standing as they bring the music to a triumphant end.  Folk around me were on their feet and shouting out accolades a nanosecond after last note ended.

Totally outside my world.

Coming home, whoever is driving me, will notice that I practically bounce off the windows of the car, talking a mile a minute about all the instruments used and what was played and what I noticed and what I still don't understand.  If driving myself, whoever is accompanying me via phone, experiences the same.  Going to the symphony is an absolute balm for my spirit and a magical, very much welcome escape from my quotidian existence.

I celebrated, once home and showered and done with the evening's star gazing on the airing porch, with something crafted from all those missing ingredients I restocked today.

Cinnamon Toast with not one, but two large glasses of ice cold whole milk.  [I'm the kind of gal who keeps a spice bottle filled with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar at all times ... just in case of need.]  Pioneer Woman has this rather brilliant way of making cinnamon toast:  she softens butter, mixes in ingredients, and then spreads in on the bread.  That way, you can add something not possible with the butter-then-sugar application, such as vanilla!!!  Some day, I want to try that.  Maybe with just a touch of nutmeg.  But, for tonight, I went with the tried and true method of creating soul-satisfying-sweetness.

So, this day was filled with lots and lots and lots.  Too much, really, for I am exhausted and my heart feels like it has been on an emotional roller coaster.  I think that, in the future, symphony days should have neither nerve-wracking construction in them or errand running.  They certainly should not have panic-attack-inducing purchase of medications.  Seriously, if I had not had a sodium fest in my Panera salad, I doubt I would have made it through the day.

My seat mate gave me a card with her contact information and told me to get in touch with her.  Before I send her the ideas that have been percolating in my head, I would like to send a condolence card.  If ... if that would not be too weird.

Mercy is important.
Those who show it ... share it ... deserve honor and thanks.

Thanks Mary and Becky and Caryl and Gail and Tim and Leslie and Eleanor ... and Lockwood, a merciful man who, it turns out, spent much time volunteering for SCAN, an organization battling child abuse.

May he rest in peace.
And may the Lord shower mercy upon Eleanor, his bride of 56 years.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The starry sky...

Those wild thoughts remain.  I am 99.99% certain that when work recommences on the back porch, it will result in a simple railing all around.

So this ... this will not exist ever again.

It is strange, having the days with a wide open porch has shown me just how discomfiting it was for me to be on the back porch.  I mean, I feel better ... my spirit does, at least ... whenever I open the door and look out upon my yard ... not upon a room that was like a prison.  No windows.  Ever darker as the paint became ever dingier.

Whilst stepping out on to the back porch without walls and without a railing has been a bit nerve-wracking for me (and Amos), I have savored the openness and the visual rest I see about me (i.e., no more peeling lattice).  Being on the porch is more peaceful in a way I cannot really describe.  It just fits me having it open.  No walls.  An unobstructed view of my yard.

A long while ago, my sister demolished a screen-in porch that was on the back of her house.  She did so primarily because it was worn and had cracks in the walls and the concrete floor (that was covered with that hideous indoor/outdoor carpet.  When she talked about doing it, I actually joined in with the rest of the family telling her that doing so would not add value to the house, that it would take away an "indoor" living space, since there were partial solid walls and windows and a door and a roof and such.  But she was adamant that she did not want a broken down screened in back porch.

I called her, yesterday evening, and asked her how she managed to persevere in the face of such overwhelming negativism about her decision.  She said it about her and what fit her, not the rest of the family.  Opinions are helpful in so far as they allow for the freedom of the one asking to not accept the advice.  I still think she has far more courage than do I.

The criticism I have received is that I am losing privacy and losing an added layer of security on the back of the house.  I am not sure I agree about the latter, but the former isn't germane to me.  With Amos' inability to conquer his fear of the dreaded GREEN grass requiring close proximity to his puppy momma as he begins the process, I never had the option of standing inside the privacy walls in my skivvies and waiting on Amos during the night.  The way I see it, the walls really just make it easy to fill up your back porch with stuff.

I'm all about reducing the stuff in your life.

With the enormous burning bushes and the growing smoke bush and rose of sharon bushes I planted to serve as a visual barrier to the less-than-tended yard on one side of me, I do not need the lattice as a barrier there.  On the other side, I longed for it to be gone so I could watch over Amos when he ventured to the side gate.

Without the lattice walls, it is incredibly bright in the back yard.  Somehow, the walls were curbing the floodlight's effects.  And I have absolutely enjoyed how very, very, very easy it is for me, now, to fetch those middle-of-the-night icepacks.  The kitchen is brighter by day and safer by night.

To me, all I see are positives to the wild thoughts I've been having.  In fact, wicked thoughts of a rocking chair on the porch for me to rest comfortably once Amos has started his watering-everything-in-the-yard-before-major-business process.  I can get a cover for the grill, which probably should have had one anyway, and a small tarp for the woodpile, which will only be out there seasonally.  I have even thought about ditching the old, cracked recycling bin I kept so that I could accumulate recyclables in close proximity to the kitchen before lugging them out to the bin behind the garage and using a smaller, rectangle, mesh garbage bin (easy to clean and will allow for airflow across the recyclables).  I shouldn't be carrying the current bin when it is full, anyways, because of the weight.

Basically, I have become a bit giddy over the thought of keeping the openness and the view of my back porch ... as well as letting any passer-by see what a bloody fantastic wooden floor I have!  However, I admit that I am fearful of the blacklash I'm sure to receive over not just replacing things as they were.

I am afraid about that.
Very, very, very afraid.

Today, I gave a two-hour computer lesson, which included installing new software.  And I had the blessing of reading (to edit) a strong op-ed article.  I carried up another 5 days worth of meals from the basement freezer (noting that it is almost time to make more Chipotle Chicken Chili).  And I made some Lemon Basil Orzotto for another pasta option in the freezer.  Primarily, I eat one freezer meal per day, some vegetables, and another small dish.  The orzotto will fill the bill on evenings when I am still a bit gnawish. Plus, I had all the ingredients on hand.  Tomorrow cannot come soon enough with regard to new grocery purchases ... lots and lots and lots of dairy products and fresh fruits and vegetables.  Seriously, I still have enough meals in the freezer for October ... at least.  I do think I have been better about eating down what I have, though I have dearly missed cooking.

I did not read the next chapter of Mark.
Well, I did not read very many words past the opening of the next chapter of Mark.
Should I just move on to Matthew commentary???

I tried to be good about waiting, but the steamer lounger is dry enough to use.  So, tonight, I watched two episodes of "Fringe" whilst resting out on the airing porch beneath the starry sky.  Until I spent time lying on my back, I failed to notice that there is quite a view on clear nights.  Amos kept watch for a while before settling down for a nap.

Oh, my!  What a gift from my sister that steamer lounger is!!

I dug out another quilt from the chest at the end of my bed, so I was toasty, despite the cooler weather.  Firewood Man has dreams of putting an outlet up there, but it will have to be an external run with conduit.  Were there an outlet, I could plug in the electric blanket and hang out beneath the stars well into the 20s at least.  I could as long as I doubled my wood socks and am careful about my tendency-to-turn-blue feet.  Maybe my stint out there will be short lived, truncated until the Spring.  In any case, I savored the quiet, peaceful, isolated spot for my puppy dog and I to hang out beneath the stars.

On the morrow, I shall be fetching my first full month's worth of too-expensive erythromycin, along with all my other medications.  Financial anxiety and worry will surely fell me.  But I do have the opening performance of the symphony in the evening to distract me.  And ... hopefully ... by the time I leave for the symphony, the porch floor will have proper supports beneath it.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wild thoughts...

The only progress on the back porch has been mine.  And the little I did has made me rather ill.  SIGH.  Hopefully, Firewood Man will be well soon.  I am afraid I might have broken him ... or at least the sight of the lack of support beneath my porch.

I have been a tad bereft at the damage to the back porch floor, but with all the demolition, it really cannot be helped.  With that demolition, a strip of icky, neglected porch floor was exposed on all three sides.

[Yes, my grass is still a most lovely shade of GREEN.]

I have prepped those three (only one photo) strips of porch floor as best I can, both on top and on the edge.  But, like I said, I am feeling more poorly than I have felt in months and months and months.  That little bit of work has felled me.

I believe that Firewood Man is going to have to re-sand the porch floor for me.  I think I could seal it again myself, given that all I have to do is scoot along on my backside.  At least, I hope I can.  Firewood Man doesn't really like teeny tiny jobs.

One problem with no longer having a front (back) wall to my porch and, subsequently, no longer having a door is that I will no longer have an ugly metal threshold to hide the damaged wood.  Firewood Man is thinking of cutting (GULP) out (GULP) a section wide enough and deep enough (DOUBLE GULP) to match the steps and putting in a new board, perpendicular to the porch floorboards to mimic an inset threshold.

In my head, I know he is right.
In my heart, the wood-warming cockles are grieving.

Firewood Man is supposed to power wash the back steps so I can seal them, since I did not do so last year.  I am wondering if it might be better to sand them down a bit so that they are closer in color.  I believe that Tim is planning to replace the handrail so that it matches the new railing.  If so, that will most likely be pressure treated wood that, again, I'll not be able to seal/paint until next year.

My Interior Designer mother has decided that the airing porch should no longer be the brick red of the upper siding and house trim, but rather the airing porch floor should be that red and the railing all white.  The lower railing should also be white, to go with the vinyl lattice that will still be going back in on either end of the porch.

Only I'm having more wild thoughts.
What if I don't put up any lattice????
What if I just have a railing all the way around?????

I've had waves and waves and waves of nausea every day since I switched to the pill version of erythromycin, as well as significant pain in my entire mid-section.  Last night, although the writhing was relatively mild, I did not actually fall asleep until 8:30 AM.  So, I'm punch drunk, nauseous, weak, and overwhelmed.

Is that why I'm having back porch wild thoughts?????????

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Being human...

I did not sleep much, between the pain in my body from helping to clean up last night and the wild, disastrous thoughts my brain kept producing about the back porch.  Firewood Man was to be here at noon, so I set my alarm for then.  He had a much more difficult time with a job his mom's boss asked him to do, so he rolled around 2:00 PM.  That was okay with me because this arrived just after I dragged myself out of bed.

The funny thing is that I had also just received an email with a shipping delivery date of next Thursday!!

The cushion came, too.  Amos and I tried out the chair and very promptly fell asleep.  The back adjusts to different angles, but I've yet to figure that part out.  I was to busy enjoying how comfortable the chair is.

After our short nap in the steamer lounge chair, Amos and I lugged it and its boxes outside to seal it.  Well, I lugged and Amos kept wending his way around my feet as I walked.  To seal the chair, I started on the bottom side first and then flipped both pieces over.  With three coats on it, I believe the chair shall fair well outside.  I need to let the sealer dry for two days, so I will be experiencing forced will power as per not hanging out on the airing porch.

Firewood Man did all the wood shopping and then got his truck unloaded (there are some huge posts on my upper sidewalk at the moment).  Really, that was about all the work he could do after wrestling his first job this morning, but Tim set about digging the first of four holes for the porch supports just to feel as if he accomplished something.  He is hoping to get the posts all in on the morrow, if he works the entire day.  Since I am not interested in seeing my porch "jacked up a bit," I might just try to sleep through the entire thing and join Tim outside in the afternoon.

My neighbor told me that she just about fainted last night when she came home from late shift work and saw my bare back porch.  When she was leaving for work today, she stopped to admire the airing porch and the chair I was sealing, declaring that I was near responsible for an ER trip for a cardiac event.  I told her that I was in still in shock myself.  She wondered if I might start a trend in the neighborhood of restoring airing porches, because so many of the homes have the doors on the second floor, but almost all of airing porches have been re-roofed so as to render them unusable.

I admit that I wonder which company insured those houses because my first insurance company dropped me in the first month of coverage after laying sight upon a door with no railing in front of it and my current insurance company has been rather strident about my addressing that safety issue.

For me, just as I have enjoyed seeing other folk on their front porches enjoying the rain storms when I go out there, I would like to see my neighbors out on their airing porches enjoying the fireworks, as I have twice already (both times without the railing finished).

Consensus has been that if I am going to leave the front wall open of the back porch open and just have a railing there, then it should not be a lattice railing, but rather a baluster one, matching that of the airing porch.  I think that I like that idea.  However, two sets of support posts have to go in before any sort of permanent thoughts about the front wall are needed.

I will say that, without the front lattice wall, my back porch light really brought light to the kitchen and the back porch, instead of merely flooding two-thirds of the back yard.  I liked that.  When I came down for ice packs whilst it was still dark, I had an easier time navigating my way to the freezer.

I was showered and snoozing by 5:30 this afternoon, so exhausted am I.  There I went and broke my promise to myself about not continuing to do things that are beyond me, especially since I pay the piper for days (or weeks) on end.  But if you could have seen the pile of broken bits of lattice all over the place, you might not be so quick to chime in on that admonishment.  Still, the end result is overwhelming pain and deep exhaustion after spending days recovering from last Wednesday, when all I really did is a few too many trips up and down the stairs.

Before he left tonight, I asked Firewood Man to go down to the basement and admire my now-functioning, GREEN utility room door.  Being Firewood Man, Tim threw himself at that tiny section of wall between door and stairwell, whilst I shouted at him.  He laughed.  "I'm just checking it out!"  I think he's a bit pleased my wall doesn't wiggle anymore, even if he did drag his feet on this tiny project for over do years.

For the record, Tim threw himself at the balcony railing, too.  All four sections!  His way of "checking things out" can be a strain on the heart.  Me?  I merely sat in each of the two front corners and leaned back with my whole weight to see if they would hold.  Solid.  No movement.  Even upon wildness hitting them.

[Can you tell I'm itching to be up there??]

After remarking about how well I have transformed this home for the next generation, someone actually suggested that I sell and start over on another house.  Uhm.  No.  For one, I am ever so much weaker than the first year when I was here and did copious amounts of labor about the place.  But, more importantly, why would I want to sell my dream home??  Now, if folk wanted to ask my advice about taking a lovely old home and bringing it into the modern world whilst retaining its original charm on a shoe string budget, I'd be happy to give advice.

[Becky will tell you that I am never short on advice.]

Along the theme of having daring thoughts about leaving my back porch wall wide open, I dipped my toes in the waters of Mark chapter 14.  My friend Mary gave me permission to skip the Last Supper and the crucifixion if I wanted and start my next commentary.  I admit that I was rather relieved to receive that, to know that she wouldn't see my doing so as some failure or terminal weakness.

Michael Card points out that the chapter begins with another bookend device; this one was the scheming and plotting against Jesus with a center of the story of the woman who anointed Jesus.  Besides thinking that really it should be called the "sandwich" device, I was distracted by something I did not know, did not remember being taught.

I think the easiest way to put it is that my known version of the story ends with Jesus telling his disciples that the woman has done a great service for Him and that whilst the poor will always be around, He will not.  But that is not the full text.  Jesus says that she has anointed His body "in advance for burial."  Here Jesus is speaking of His death as if it were imminent ... so soon that He is in need of anointing.  Yet there is no mention, in Mark, of the disciples protesting His claim.  The story is merely followed by Judas going to the chief priests to offer his services in the arrest of Jesus.

From the commentary on this section itself, I learned just how expensive that jar of perfume was.  But the jar itself was also expensive.  That is was broken, never to be used again, is part of the significance of what the woman did.

I did find one part of Michael Card's commentary thought provoking, one of his informed imaginings:

I imagine Jesus turning to the woman as he speaks to the disciples, saying, "She has anointed My body in advance for burial!" (Mk 14:8).  I can see her breath being taken away at Jesus' words  She has done more than she realized.  Next, Jesus does something unique.  This  story and its parallel in Matthew 26 contain the only reference to him doing anything remotely like it; he memorializes her gift: "Wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told in memory of her" (Mk 14:9).  The extravagant gift of an unnamed woman who acted out more perhaps than she knew—she is being integrated into the story of the gospel!  Her story has become part of his.

What came to mind was:  "What about Nicodemus or Zacchaeus?  I know a song about Zacchaeus.  Are they not also a part of Jesus' story?"   I think, though, that Michael Card's point is that Jesus proclaims this woman will be, as opposed to all the folk mentioned throughout the Gospels, as the story of Jesus is recorded.

Well, crap.  That doesn't make sense.  It does in my head.  Anyway ... I did not know about the mentioned of burial and I did not know that this was the only time Jesus declared someone's actions be memorialized.  But on to the interesting bit.

In contrast to the remarkable charity of the woman, Mark points a picture of Judas leaving and going to the chief priests.  The final phase of the dark bookend pictures Judas actively looking for an opportunity to hand Jesus over.

For most of my life, I've assumed it was the washing of the disciples' feet in John 13 that drove Jesus over the edge and into his betrayal of Jesus.  The more I look at the story of the generous woman, and the more I listen to Jesus' words memorializing hr actions, the more I realize the Twelve never did anything up to that point deserving such commendation.  And I think it might have been this anointing that drove Judas—jealous, deceitful Judas—to do what he finally did.

That would make sense to me, given how often self-centeredness factors into the disciples responses. After three years of sacrificing for Jesus, battling crowds and needy people all the time, this nameless woman is given the glory the disciples desired.  That could easily be a tipping point, a trigger for betrayal.

One of the things I have struggled to follow is Michael Card's commentary on possible locations.  I do not believe this is because he is doing a poor job of it, but because I cannot keep straight in my head who is who.  At least not any more.  I mean, sometimes I find myself thinking John the Baptist is the John of the Gospel of John.  Then I think, "Myrtle, John the Baptist is dead.  He cannot be that John."   Seriously, it is like the elevator buttons.  You would think knowing which one to push would be easy for me, but often I am left riding elevators up and down, clueless as to which button I need to put in order to get where I need to go.

Michael Card posited that it was very likely Mary and Lazarus' house where the donkey was found because of the specific directions and the use of the phrase "the lord requires" and the lack of protest.  Here, with the Passover meal preparations, again Jesus gives very specific instructions, which are met unquestioned.  Adding to the fact that Peter is left out of the story—Michael Card posits that the lack of Peter at times is evidence that Mark's telling the story as related to him by his good friend Peter—and that it is not likely Jesus had intimate relationships with very many wealthy households, the house with the upper room could have been Peter's, which was were Mark stayed, too.  Peter, the generous one who opened his home to his widowed mother-in-law, is opening his home once more.

It is not that it matters so much that is it or is not Peter's home, but the interest lies in the detail.  Go here and....  Searching through the fragmented braincells of mine, I think that is something God does several times in the Old Testament.  The details matter, the specificity, even if we may not know the why of them until we cross over.  Jesus spoke; His words became true.

I did like this note:

Once again we receive the detail that the Twelve are "reclining" with jesus.  This is a formal meal. Mark's account is characteristically brief.  He does not tell us all he knows, but all we need to know.  Jesus sets a somber tone for the evening by predicting that one of them will betray him.  For the rest of the meal—indeed, the rest of the night—the Twelve remain unsettled by Jesus' prediction.  In the garden they will be "exhausted from their grief" (Lk 22:45).

I did not expect Michael Card to address the Lord's Supper as a Sacrament.  So, I was not disappointed or surprised when he did not.  I did appreciate that he stated that Jesus said the bread is His body, but I ignored where he said Jesus said the wind represented His blood.  That should have read is, not represented.  Instead, I followed the focus of Michael Card words in considering the particulars of this abbreviated telling of the Last Supper, especially the bit where he notes that at the Last Supper, which was concluded with the singing of psalms, "is the only time in the course of Jesus' life when we read of Jesus singing."

My beloved Psalter is in the story of the Last Supper!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I wonder which ones were sung/prayed/shared....

It is odd to me, reading through this commentary, just how many details have been left out of the re-telling of the Bible I received over the years.  It made me think of the egregious error of moving from actually reading the Scriptures aloud in the service to merely summarizing them to teaching concepts one believes are in the Scriptures.  So, how great is the Lutheran liturgy that is filled with the Living Word and has time carved out for reading aloud three portions of the Living Word, as well.

Of course, now knowing that Jesus sang psalms the very last time He shared Himself with His disciples before His death, my belief that services ought to include the reading of an entire psalm each week is renewed.  Too many Christians are missing the wondrous solace and joy that is the Psalter, that is reading words that show so clearly how intimately they are known by their Creator.  And, for lack of a better way to put it, are missing one of the greatest "devotionals" ever written!


What occupies three chapters in John's Gospel (Jn 15-17) Mark covers in only five verses.  Before the meal Jesus said one of them would betray him.  Now as they move among the shadows [Mk 14: 27-31], he tells the Twelve that all of them will fall away, quoting Zechariah 13:7 to substantiate his prophecy.  In the next breath Jesus speaks of his resurrection and of their meeting again in Galilee (see Mt 28:16; Acts 1:11).  But Peter has stopped listening after the first statement about them falling away.  He does not seem to have heard about Jesus rising or meeting them in Galilee.  After the resurrection, the angel will make a special point to remind Peter of the Galilee appointment (see Mt 16:7).

This will be the most difficult day of Peter's life.  Repeatedly he will make what he believes to be the proper assumptions:  that Jesus should not wash his feet, that he will not fall away, that he will willingly die for Jesus.  Each time Jesus will rebuke and correct him.  When he is ready to fight with his sword he will turn and see Jesus surrender.  His world will fall to pieces.  But Jesus has a better world waiting.  Peter's last hope will die.  But a better hope will be born.

If you join this with the quoted section above, you see very, very, very human disciples.  You see them distressed and distracted with grief.  And you see Peter distressed and distracted to the point of failing to hear the good news.  These bits—and the Scriptures which they cover—stood out to me.

It is as if they are a ginormous "IT'S OKAY."  I mean, it is not a good thing to miss hearing the gospel, Jesus' victory over the cross, but it is okay to be human, to grieve, to be distressed and distracted.  These things happen.  They will happen again.  Soon, actually, because they are on their way to the garden of Gethsemane.

I found it interesting that only Peter was mentioned in Jesus' rebuke, as if the sting of failing his Lord remained with Peter as he was helping Mark record the gospel of Jesus.  The other two disciples who also fell asleep, who also failed at keeping watch, were not singled out.  Just Peter.

I note, here, a bit of a shift from Jesus being the centrality of the story, His mission and His ministry, to those who will remain behind to continue that ministry.  If I were the one imagining, I would imagine that is, in part, because Peter knows his sin and his fallibility.  Even the Twelve were sinful and fallible, not only with each other and others in the church, but with Jesus Christ Himself.  After all, the end of verse 31 isn't with Peter saying he would never deny Jesus, but with all of the disciples saying they would never deny Jesus.

It is hard for me to note everything, not that I ever set out to write my way through this commentary.  But I did start trying to capture things I wanted to remember.  Much of what I have failed to capture are the passionate Jesus Mark presents.  The human Jesus.  The feeling Jesus.

"He took Peter, James, and John with Him and He began to be deeply distressed and horrified.  Then He said to them, "My soul is swallowed up in sorrow—to the point of death.  Remain here and stay awake." (Mark 14:33-34)

Well, if that's not an emotional Jesus, what is?  

[Holy cow!  Jesus was distressed and horrified and swallowed up with sorrow.  Who does that sound like??]

I know the point of the garden story is that Jesus struggled with what was to come and yet chose God's will over His own.  Only ... only I think the emphasis on God's will has driven out the sweetness of the garden story.  Jesus Christ, Son of God, basically tells His friends that His sorrow is killing him.  Jesus Christ, Son of God, says that He is horrified.

For me, the pressure of the suffering saint is proclaiming God's will over one's own, as did Jesus, without acknowledging that does not happen in a rosy environment.  It happens in a place of agony, a place where no one in his right might would want to be.  It happens in a place where friends fail and disappoint you.  It happens in a place of loneliness.  It happens in a place that feels unendurable, insurmountable, unendurable.

Going still farther into the darkness, Jesus collapses on the ground, pleading that the hour might pass from him.  He enters the garden in effect telling the Father, "If you can get me out of this,  I want out!"  I have heard it said that this was the one moment when Jesus fought against the Father's will, but I take his humanity more to heart.  Throughout his life, Jesus struggled, as you and I struggle, with conforming his will to the Father's.  Clearly this moment of all the others was the most intense, the most costly.

I very much dislike icons and paintings of Jesus.  I very much dislike just about every lifelike model of Jesus I have ever seen on a crucifix.  I dislike the flowing locks of lighter brown hair, the manicured, short beard, the pale skin, the almost patrician beauty.  Jesus' skin was not white.  Jesus was not a caucasian.  If you want a lifelike Jesus, make him a middle eastern man, darker in skin tone, perhaps olive tone.  And if you want him to have a beard, make it a bit wild and bushy.  Since the Psalter tells us that Jesus was not remarkable in appearance, please stop making Him so handsome with a noble brow.

And if you want to talk about the suffering saint, point to the One who suffered for us.  Talk about being horrified and swallowed up in sorrow.  Talk about him being upset that the people He asked to help him endure His suffering failed Him, even after He asked them a second time for help.  Talk about how, in the face of such suffering, His closest companions had no words to say to Him.

Michael Card points out that, again, the importance of Mark showing Jesus speaking in His native tongue.

From out of the shadows we hear Jesus' voice, speaking his own native tongue as only Mark provides for us.  It is the voice of a desperate child saying "Abba."  It is the infant's intimate name of the father, Ab, in Aramaic.  At no place in the ancient literature is God referred to by that intimate name.  As far as we know, Jesus is the first person to ever reach out to the Father as "Abba."

So amend that suffering saint further, reduced to whimpering like a child, crying out for help.

Thinking about Peter and his disastrous night, while in Mark the person is unnamed, we know it is Peter who cut off the guard's ear.  Michael Card points out that Peter was mostly likely trying to behead the guard, not clip his small lobe.  He couldn't even do a good job of protecting Jesus with his sword, much less his prayers.

With humanity so much on the mind, I think about Peter's denials.  Again, the story I knew was truncated.  Peter denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed twice.  Yes, Peter did that.  But Peter was already struggling with grief and guilt and a mob comes and takes away his lord.  He is frightened.  Frightened for his life.  And, when reflecting upon his rather non-suffering-saint-like actions, Peter weeps.  It wasn't that he merely denied knowing Jesus, he began to swear, to make a oath upon that lie.  Were I Peter, I would rather forget what I had done than remember.  But the irony of this world is that we do not always get to choose what we forget, what we remember.

I am not sure I have ever noticed (or been taught) that Peter had sought the comfort of a fire, after his disastrous day and seeing Jesus arrested.  I would imagine that, given all that had happened, he was very cold at heart.  Not hard hearted, but cold hearted.  Numb with grief.  Numb with disbelief.  Numb with self-disgust.  Then fear raised its might against Peter and he failed Jesus again and again and again.  Who would not weep??

In private confession, once, a less-than-compassion pastor told me that God didn't want my tears, he wanted my repentance.  That stung.  I was accused even of weeping "crocodile tears."  But being human means being a sinner and being a sinner means being hurt.  Hurt by others. Hurt by ourselves.  It is normal and natural and very, very, very understandable to weep.  Jesus wept.  Peter wept.  Suffering as a human hurts and being a hurting human can (and often does) mean a being a tearful human.

The Christian Book of Concord has huge swaths of writing devoted to Jesus being fully human and fully God.  I do not think we appreciate enough or mediate enough what that means.  Maybe another way to say it is that, in reading Michael Card's commentary, the glorification of Gethsemane was replaced with reality ... and to extrapolate a bit, I think I would say that it was replaced with the theology of the cross.

I think the theology of the cross need be raw and honest, need include the God Man weeping like an infant, overset with sorrow and frenetic in His anguish, begging to be spared ... the God Man disappointed by and frustrated at His friends ... the God Man lonely and horrified.  And yet is still obedient.

And I think the theology of the cross in a believer's life need be raw and honest, need be an inevitable focus on self and self-preservation, on remorse and self-recriminization.   The believer whose grief blocks his ears at times, whose fear overcomes his faith at times.  And yet is still forgiven precisely because the very human God, who struggled, too, with His humanity, was obedient for all who are not.

Even those who battle fear, fear so massive as to cause them to go so far as to swear an oath of rejection, an oath against knowing Jesus Christ.

Monday, September 22, 2014


If Tim had not talked to me about replacing the lattice instead of scraping for eons and repainting, I never would have known.  If he had not ripped out all of the lattice and exposed the porch support columns, I never would have known that some IDIOT thought it perfectly acceptable to shim the bottom of one of columns and then fill the bare spot with foam glue.  If he had not ripped out the lattice around the base of the porch, I never would have known that somehow, rather terrifyingly, TWO of the three support columns are missing.  One was replaced with a single 2x6 rather poorly attached to just about nothing structurally sound.  The other is simply gone.

I am absolutely and completely thankful that Tim had the idea about replacing the lattice.  I am absolutely and completely thankful that God sent me a man who is willing to make my home a better place for pennies on the dollar.  I am also absolutely and completely overwhelmed at the magnitude of the two problems we found.

Jack it up.

That is simply not a phrase I ever wanted to hear.  But the porch floor will be jacked up and FOUR support columns will be added.  And then the porch ceiling will be jacked up so that the existing support columns can be replaced.  Some 2x4s will be added to the existing support columns at the house to tie together the outer support columns via vertical 2x4s.  Tim believes stronger is better. and more-than-necessary is his M.O. when it comes to most things he does.

See those itty bitty pieces of wood???  Yes, that is a result of lattice installed by hand, most likely before commercially produced sheets were available.  That made the demolition work more lengthy and more strenuous.

When Firewood Man discovered the problem beneath the porch, I just about died.  Well, fainted for the second time today.  But I am not really a swooner. I am a puker.  Although I tried mightily to contain my upsettedness, I was clearly in distress.  Tim, sweet man, picked up all the bits of lattice and helped me sweep clean the porch and sidewalks before he left.  He understands that mess—chaos—distresses me.

He also told me about a million times that the problem has clearly existed for years and so my porch is not going to suddenly fall off the house.  Good thing that I do not currently have a rank of wood sitting on there.  SIGH.

Then, I bewailed my upsettedness to others and asked them to tell me about a million times that my porch is not going to suddenly fall off the house.

It is probably a tad churlish of me to resent the cost of temporary support posts that are needed during the jacking up of porches and roofs.  I mean, you cannot just take out a column and put a new one up.  You have to put in a temporary one, remove the bad one, install the new one, remove the support post, and then repeat the process over and over again.

I must say, suddenly, the thought of not being able to stain the airing porch until next spring (when the pressure treated wood is dried out) no longer seems so distressing.  Would that it were that was my only trial for the porch overhaul project.

Such large ... massive even ... IFs today.  If Tim had not removed the lattice.  If I had continued piling up a rank of wood several times each winter on the weakest part of the porch floor.  If.

I shudder at the thought.
I also shudder at the words "jack it up."
I wish I were the kind of person, at the moment, who can go out and get plastered.
I could use a bit of oblivion about now.

Despite all of this, I am having rather radical thoughts about the back porch.  Standing on it all free of lattice, I suddenly realized how totally wonderful it would be to be able to look out the kitchen window and see my back yard.  So, I am almost decided on leaving the side walls full lattice, but building only a lattice railing on the long back wall, with an opening for the steps.  No full wall.  No extra door to close and bar with a sliding bolt.  Just a wide open view of my yard.

How crazy would that be???

To end on a less upsetted note, my sister is buying me a steamer lounge chair for the airing porch.  That way, I will be able to languish up there in comfort.  The one I chose is acacia wood that I can seal (I just adore all things wood).  To my mind, it cannot arrive soon enough.  But I am not so sure I wish to be lounging beneath the stars until I know my undercarriage is more secure.  Even though there is no wood on the deck.  And even though there has been two people and pounds and pounds and pounds of equipment and extra lumber up on the airing porch for six days now.  It's quite bare.  Just the porch and three pieces of wood to weather along with the porch so I will have more accurate stain samples when choosing a color.

Amos is all for venturing out into the promised land.  He's been barred this entire time.  However, I think I shall wait.  Given my weak will power, it would be good if my sister's airing porch warming gift does not arrive for a while.  Say ... not until after all is repaired and restored on the porch below.

A brief respite this day ... I received two Lowe's coupons in the mail.  Firewood Man is a Menard's man, but the vinyl lattice and quarter round we need is at Lowe's.  That means all this work will cost me $60 less! 

Focus on the positive, Myrtle, not the disastrous....

Sunday, September 21, 2014


So, last Wednesday, other than watching Firewood Man work (and putting in a few screws to say that I did), I might possibly have gone up and down the stairs more than I usually do in a week or two ... or three.  I am still tired.

So is Amos.

[Doesn't it seem like he has magical stretching abilities?]

Nibbling on saltines.
Sipping ginger ale.
Counting the minutes until the next dose of Zofran.


I read two of Michelle's Living with Bob blog entries that were, in large part, words of mine.  This one is about grieving the loss of who you were before dysautonomia began ravaging your life.  I get that.  I've tried to write about it.  She did a better job, especially how difficult her last year of work is and the burden of the loss of professional identity.

Timely, I thought.  Someone put my contact information up at the school run by my church as a reading tutor without telling me.  I don't know who.  I think, maybe, I don't even care.  I am trying to learn not to care about things anymore.

I know the information was posted because I got an email from a stranger who asked me to tutor her children.  I honestly thought it was some sort of joke or scam or just error until I figured out why.  I offered help the way I have with editing and marketing collateral work ... in an advisory position.  At least I did after thinking if I am up to risking another social failure.

If I could be of help, though....

Anyway, I thought it ironic timing because I have been considering getting rid of the professional texts that I have.  I keep thinking ... I'll never use them again nor will I be in a position to help someone with them.  I thought if I just got rid of the final bits of my academic life, I could set aside all the loss I have long felt over my Ph.D. ... never really achieving anything after that.  Meaningless to anyone but me.  And even to me ... now.

My plan is to meet with the parents and give them advice on how they could support word recognition, automaticity, and fluency at home.  Doing that should help with reading comprehension. I asked to meet at their home and be introduced to the young boys only as someone from church.  I planned to bring a few of my favorite books, to see if I could get them to share a few of theirs, to read to them, and to try and get them to read to me.  I thought if I could get a sense of their needs, I could let their parents know if they should have a formal assessment and pursue professional tutoring or to try supportive exercises at home and see how the second grade unfolds.

My literacy expert self would like to do that.  The rest of me wants only to remain at home, to not risk more awkwardness, more judgment, more social failure.  Besides, I really don't want to risk ending up lying on their floor waiting for blood pressure or heart rate/rhythm wonkiness to pass.  Which self will prevail?

Thus, reading that blog entry, fresh grief about losing who I was filling my being, I wept in gratitude to read about someone who struggles with the loss of who she used to be.

This one is about how Dysautonomia Awareness month is fast approaching.  I did not know that and I think that I am jealous, having read in the comments, that someone was in an office with posters about dysautonomia.  POSTERS!  The day I was diagnosed, I didn't even get a booklet.  Just a name and the words, "I'm sorry."

What struck me most is how, during disease awareness campaigns, folk want to hear the good stories, the success stories.  But dysautonomia is not about happen endings.  It just isn't.  There is no treatment for the condition (just chasing down things that help with symptoms) and there is no cure.  There is no help out there for a malfunctioning autonomic nervous system.  Period.

One of the things I learned reading this is that, in Austraila, economical access to Zofran (ondesetron) is severely limited, as in only for patients receiving chemotherapy for cancer—not even those receiving chemotherapy for something else.  The price comparison, as near as I can figure out, is like the astronomical price I am now paying for the erythromycin.  My Zofran?  $6.19 for a two-week supply if taken daily, which I do not.  So, for example, I've taken $0.22 cents worth of nausea medication today and $14.97 of digesting food (gastroparesis) medication today.  She also points out that no all medications are available in all countries.  For example, two widely used gastroparesis medications are not available in the US at all.

I particularly thought this bit was salient:

The misdiagnosis of a variety of mental health conditions is rife. Anxiety, Depression, Somatoform disorder, Conversion disorder are all reported prior to accurate diagnosis of a form of Dysautonomia. Trust is lost in the medical system. And patients experience stigma and shame which further impedes on their medical treatment. This feeds into the idea that Dysautonomia is related to mood and attitude rather than a dysfunctional autonomic nervous system. Once those labels are in your medical record they are incredibly difficult to remove.

Stress.  You get that a lot.  And I totally understand the entire failings of being diagnosed with Anxiety.  It is not my condition, but a symptom of my disease, and thus really should be treated differently.  That might be hard to understand, but the digestive issues are a like example.  The same drugs for a malfunction of the digestive system, such as those for irritable bowl disorder, do not help for digestive problems from dysautonomia.  The digestive system, the organs are not the problem.  They do not need the medication/treatment.  The nerves do.  And, frankly, there is nothing to help the  nerves.  So, for example, the erythromycin's side effect of making my stomach contract helps off-set the fact that the nerves are failing to take care of that job.

I was telling someone about this article, an ex-nurse, and she told me how often she saw folk who had some sort of mental health diagnosis be ignored or have poor treatment because of the most permeant label of being "a head case."  She mentioned this one night when a woman, who had previously been in the psych unit, came in with a severe illness.  She was catheterized.  She complained that it hurt and was not helping, but all the nurses ignored her.  When the woman who was telling me the story came on duty, she discovered that the reason the catheter hurt was that it was not placed properly, something which anyone would have realized had they even bothered to look at the still empty bag nearly eight hours later.  Thanks be to God the patient had a medical personnel come on staff who thought medical care was important even if someone was truly "a head case"— which the patient was not.

It's the same with being a sexual abuse survivor.  Only your records will say victim.  Once the victim, most folk treat you as always the victim.  Anything you try to talk about physically is interpreted mentally.  I mean, seriously, I bled for four years whilst seeing four specialists to whom I was only the victim, the anxious and upset victim.  I see a fifth specialist here and am helped in a single office visit.  She and her staff are most accommodating of the mental struggles I have being examined and treated, but they count that as nothing.  They care about my physical well-being.  I am no victim to them.  Each and every time I am there, even if still weeping, I thank them all and tell them what a wonder it is to be treated at that office.


Anyway, if I could force my friends and family to regularly read Living with Bob (and read the old posts and the comments), I might be viewed and treated as less of a ... burden ... nutter ... leper.  But maybe not.  Chronic illness is not for the faint of heart or for the fair-weathered friend. 

You know, I was once diagnosed, after 15 minutes with no physical exam, as having fibromyalgia.  I might add, without even having gone to that particular specialist for pain (the hallmark of that disease).  I laughed my way to the car.  It was one of the most absurd moments of my life.  It was also one of the loneliest.

Michelle notes that most dysautonomia patients are helped by others with dysautonomia.  There are whole sections of the medical community, whole countries even, where dysautonomia is unknown.  

To try and distract myself from the waves and waves and waves of nausea tonight, I spent some time reading older posts from Michelle's blog.  And I found this older one (2011), which I can actually embed below since it is a video post.  It is about grief, coping, and compassion, with little bits of daily life with dysautonomia sprinkled throughout ... like fainting just trying to get to the loo.  SIGH.

Funny, I supposed I should expect from someone whose pre-dysauonomia self was a psychologist to say those magical words, but I was still surprised:  "It's okay."  Better still.  "You're normal."

It's okay.
Hearing those words are such mercy.