Saturday, January 31, 2015

Let it snow...

Late last night, I thought to text my neighbor to see if she was going to the grocery store on the way home from her shift work.  She wasn't planning to, so I asked if she would fetch me some whole milk in exchange for the price of the milk and a square of rosemary butter.  Yes, I bribed her.

It does a body good.

In the middle of the night, I decided to fetch some more of my new pulled chicken and spiced refried black beans for a meal today.  I woke late in the afternoon and whipped up some guacamole with half the avocado I bought.  Then, I built some chalupas:  spiced refried black beans, guacamole, sour cream, pulled chicken, corn, fresh lime, and white cheddar cheese.

Yes, they were exceedingly tasty.

I was reveling, once more, in my culinary victory over pulled chicken, licking my fingers from the Hint of Lime chips I used to mop up the guacamole that did not fit on the chalupas, when my neighbor stopped by.  When you are literally still licking your fingers from a meal, it is impossible not to ask an unexpected visitor if she'd like some food, too.  I didn't want to speak the words, but they came out of my mouth anyway.  My neighbor did want something to eat.  SIGH.

The up shot of this, besides being forced to be all generous and share my tasty food that I had planned on having tomorrow (each jar makes four servings when putting the beans and the chicken on chalupas), was that my neighbor swooned when she tasted my pulled chicken.  She actually said that she preferred to the Spicy Dr Pepper Pulled Pork!  That's just nuts, but flattering to hear.  She also suggested that I rename the recipe to Spicy Pulled Chicken 2.0.

Her words of praise spurred me to offer dessert, too.  I don't know how that happened.  But I found myself giving her a plate with not one but two of the Creamy Lemon Crumb Squares I have left in my freezer.  Truly, I lost my head!

This is our forecast.  Whilst I was still sleeping this morning, Firewood Man came by and re-filled my firewood rack on the back porch.  I haven't had a fire tonight, but I was thinking of cleaning out the ashes and laying a fire for tomorrow. I thought I would also bring in a large pile of wood for the day.

I know it sounds weird, but I think that new medication is already working.  I mean, my inner ears are as itchy as ever, but I can breathe through my nose much better.  Last night, when I lay down to sleep, I did not get stuffy as the hours passed by. I didn't even use any Vicks.  I don't know what that means, but I wish that my ears would stop itching, too.  It is terribly distracting.

Before I went to sleep, I decided to go ahead and do the vacuuming upstairs.  Using a Dyson, you first have the desire to call out to the world to come look at the incredible about of gunk that your vacuum sucked out of your carpet.  Then, you suddenly realize that the staggering amount of gunk was in your carpet.  Shame clamps your mouth shut.

I vacuumed all the carpet and flooring twice and then I vacuumed all the baseboards.  I carried the vacuumed back downstairs and put it in the corner of the landing to the basement, fetched my icepacks, and took my huffing and puffing self off to bed.

Today?  Well, I got in copious amounts of napping.  And I made that tasty food.  And I shared.  Reluctantly, yes, but I shared.  That's about all I could accomplish, being exhausted from yesterday's journey out and about.

The snow is falling.
I wonder how much we will get....

Friday, January 30, 2015

This day...

I have been struggling all day, today, trying not to think about my father, about his last days, about our relationship.  Mary talked with me to my doctor's appointment and Becky snuck in a few minutes with me before her husband came home from work.  In between, I had two acts of mercy shown to me.  And, well, some killer shopping deals.

When the pharmacist got my new prescription and saw it was not on my formulary, she figured out what would work and then contacted the doctor's office about changing the prescription.  Astonishingly so, the office staff returned the call and, so, by the time I got to Target, Kaitlyn was able to hand over the medication!  I only went there to do a return and thought I would check by the pharmacy, but I was most certain that I would have to wait until Monday or Tuesday for things to be worked out.  Target's pharmacy staff are incredibly kind and merciful and helpful to me.

My GP believes that my cold transitioned into triggering some type of allergy in my sinus bits.  Her chief factors for this conclusion are that my ears are itching and peering into my nose and ears showed no signs of infection.   Because of what something like Claritin D does to my blood pressure (darn that dysautonomia), she wants me to take a nasal allergy medicine with a steroid in it.  She also ordered more blood work.

Kaitlyn, when handing over the rather miraculously processed prescription, told me that it is the type of medication that takes about two weeks to build up in your system and become effective.  Then, she grabbed a pen and wrote that on the outside of the bag for me.  Like I said, merciful.

In between the GP's office, I had the blood work done and went to the other pharmacy to get the free prescription (and drop off a refill).  I am now convinced that the reason Meijer offers free medication is that it is almost too tempting not to shop whilst you are there.  I went ahead and got some lettuce and another English cucumber.  And, well, I bought an $0.88 avocado and went to see about some Hint of Lime chips.  Becky had been talking about them recently.  They were on sale, $1.79 off each if you buy two bags.  I did.  And, okay, I found a GREEN hoodie that was on clearance.  It was in my cart, really, without my knowing how.  Do you think I could count the hoodie as my contraband grocery item??

So, then I was at Target, a bit giddy over the thought of GREEN hoodies and avocados and Hint of Lime chips, and started weeping when Kaitlyn spotted me and held up the prescription bag.  Really, it was a miracle.

I was going to walk out, but I thought about the fact that I have been walking in bad shoes and have needed some proper sneakers.  I wondered if I could find some miraculous bargain.  I did!  $7.98 clearance Champion running shoes.  Ugly, but cheap.  I also bought another pair of men's lounge pants (since one of my original pairs got a hole in the seat) on clearance.  And, finally, I went to take a gander at some sheets I spotted online.  I have wanted another set so that I could not be stressed about washing the spare set before time to change my sheets again.  That seems like of gluttonous, but I spotted some online that were a botanical print.

If that doesn't scream MYRTLE, I don't know what would!

The sheets were on sale!  Now, I confess that ALL the sheets I've ever owned have been gifts.  So, I have been avoiding buying these.  But seeing their awesomeness in person and spotting the sale spurred me into buying them.  I am thankful that I can now have fresh sheets more often but be less pressured about the laundry.

Already, I the three things that were needful (mostly) were on sale.  However, when I got to the register, this new employee told me about the Target Cartwheel app.  It has barcode coupons that you can get only on the app.  Well, one of the current coupons was that anything on clearance was an additional 20% off!  I saved $7.20 on my purchase, nearly the price of the shoes!

She showed me how to use the app, both by searching categories and by using the scanner to check items in my cart.  She waited while I set up my account and then did the tutoring. The woman behind me in line was also interested and far less technologically adept than even I am.  Through many attempts, we first got her onto the Target wireless signal and then created an account for her, since she didn't want to sign in with her Facebook account (who would???).  Then, the cashier gave her the same tutorial, scanning several items as she did, so I got to sit through the learning process twice.  Jordan.  A woman named Jordan was kind and merciful and helpful to two women tonight.

I almost feel like I had some sort of victory, finding all those needs and wants on sale or clearance.  In fact, only the lettuce and cucumber were regular price.  Everything else, including grapes and the avocado were on sale.

Of course, I forgot to get milk.  Hopefully, the snow forecasted for Sunday won't be all that bad.  You see, originally, I thought to do my month's grocery shopping today when I was out.  But whilst I was at the lab waiting to be called back for my blood work I thought that a GP visit, blood work, and two pharmacy trips was probably enough for me.  It is strange, being so far past the 27th and not having gotten groceries.  With the lettuce and cucumber and onions from Meijer, though, I can live out of the basement freezer meals for a while yet.  I really don't have to go until I am out of milk.  Napping tomorrow sounds good.  And then maybe some more napping on Sunday, followed by a return to house cleaning on Monday.

Amos was all distressed when I came home, having been missing me as much as I missed him and nothing to distract him.  He followed me all about whilst I put away groceries and heated up some dinner, holding Reindeer Baby in his mouth.  Now that he is convinced that I am actually really and truly going to stay with him, Amos is taking a nap to recover from the strain of his worries.  I just love how much he loves his babies.

I sure do love my canine baby.

I don't want to have allergies again.  I thought, having moved north, that part of my life was over.  I'd really like not ever to go back to the place where I was having 4 shots a week and allergy sneezing fits so long that they disrupted my ability to work.  Moving north, years ago, changed all that.  However, I would really like for this to be an answer and for medication to work and to have easy breathing and NO MORE ear itching in my life.

Now, it is quiet.  I have a fire going and a snoring puppy dog and thoughts.  Lots of thoughts about my father and his life and his death.  Thoughts that are hard and not ones I wish to face.  There were very, very, very many hard things about my father, but there were good things, such as the love for trees.  Also, he is the one who drilled into me about turning off the lights to save energy.

This afternoon, I was telling Becky that both my parents, but especially my father, taught me the value of tending to the things in your house before they become a problem.  In a sense, he was very keen on being a good steward of anything that you own. I cannot help but think how much he would have loved seeing this house and would have been pleased with the way I have cared for it and made it a better place for future generations.  Not much in my life pleased him.  This home most certainly would have.  To this day, I cannot apply a coat of CWF sealer without thinking of the long lectures he gave about taking care of wood that is exposed to the elements.

My father is the one who introduced me to science fiction movies, especially the truly great ones, such as The Abyss and Time Cop and Running Man and 2001 Space Odyssey and Blade Runner and Total Recall and Robocop.   So many more of the oldies we watched together, as well as some of the ones that were so bad that you eventually fell in love with them, such as The 5th Element.  I miss my DVD partner.  I miss the man who, late in life, would spend the weekend with me watching 10-12 movies and talking about them at every meal from Friday afternoon to Sunday evening.  Amos doesn't really have any movie opinions.

He had an extremely challenging childhood, learning many wrong lessons and having to care for drunken parents when young enough to still need parents to care for him.  I still struggle with all the things I heard at his funeral that I never knew about him.  And his death is such a terrible burden to me in so very many ways.

But I want to keep in mind this day that I have by and large been successful single female homeowner because of what I learned about homeownership from my father.  And I do want to call to mind the good things that we shared at the end of his life:  movie fests, Fuddrucker's, football, and the ability to look at a home not for what it is, but what it can become.  He was, as I noted last year, the only person who did not think that I was crazy for buying a home that was so rundown as my first home.  That a rundown home was the only one I could buy during the boom was not the issue.  He walked inside, took a look around, and saw great potential.

That really was my last mentally clear moment with him.  Alzehiemers was already moving in on his mind.

Besides an abiding love for Colorado both my parents taught me, my father's utter love for history is another good thing I learned from him.  Here, in Gettysburg, he was not always present.  A navigationally challenged woman and a memory challenged man really have no business trying to take a car tour of that place, but we did.

It is hard to put into words.  When we went to the Air and Space museum, my father would touch the side of the Mercury capsule in awe, thinking about what it represented and where it went.  That same awe would come at the touch of the fence and stones and remaining cannons that mark this Civil War battlefield.  Brother against brother.  A country torn apart.  So much grief and passion and determination.  History is important.  That's another lesson that I learned from my father.

My father's brother had no children.  My brother has no children.  The long line of this branch of family has come to an end.  It is difficult not to think about the history and the lessons—good and bad—that will end.  The one who was the infamous paymaster of the Confederate army who lost not one but two shipments of gold.  No one will continue to tell the stories.

My father told a lot of stories.  I wonder if he did so because his family was a fractured and distant as mine.  By that I mean his uncle fell out with his father and, thus, he grew up in an isolated world.  My aunts and uncles on both side of the family also were/are estranged and, thus, I grew up in an isolated world when it comes to family.  Maybe I liked listening to the stories, to the history, as much as he liked telling them because that was all we had.  And, maybe, being so disconnected made us both yearn to reach out to the greater history around us and savor it.

Or, maybe, I am just tired and thinking odd thoughts because life has been rough of late.

I am increasingly thankful that my father was loved by his second wife.  Loved and cared for and accepting of his ... quirks.  A woman who followed him to Colorado and was willing to take silly photos with him.

He was loved.  More and more and more I value that he was loved as an adult the way he was not as a child.

Darn this day....

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The extra mile...

I have sunk to a new low:  I went and got gas in my pajamas and Breath Right strip.  I did, however, stop to put my hair up in a scrunchie.

You see, I got an alert that gas had jumped from $1.97 to $2.29 and one station near me had not yet made the move.  I didn't  need a lot, but I wanted some sub-$2.00 gas.  Plus, I really have been nervous about my car.

It started up beautifully.
The gas price had not yet jumped.
I made it home sliding through only two stop-signs.

[Fort Wayne is not big on clearing snow from this neighborhood, even though it fell on Monday.  The alleys are the worst, but when Firewood Man comes to clear my sidewalks, he plows behind my garage and to the short end of the alley for me.  He also plows in front of my house, space which one or more of my neighbors promptly take.  I happen to think that is rude.]

Anyway, I wanted some of the cheap gas, in case it does not return.  And I wanted to be sure that my car was going to start when I go to my GP appointment on the morrow.  I rewarded myself with laying and lighting a fire and pouring a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios.  Gone are the days when I had the energy to make desserts.  SIGH.

Yesterday, I Swiffered and vacuumed the first floor. I also dusted, cleaned with Murphy's Oil Soap, and applied orange oil to all the wood on the first floor, including the window sills, save for the mullions in the French Doors.  And I cleaned the sink, mirror, and toilet in the half bath off the parlor.

Today, I've napped.  I've napped and done a rather poor job of forgetting that it was/is Becky's birthday.  She tried to hint strongly so that I could "remember" myself, but I was too dense to understand her.  Finally, she told me what she was hinting.  Really, she was trying to remind me that I like to sing the birthday song to folk on their birthdays.

Happy Birthday, Rebecca Anne Bettina Matilda Boyles Kulp!

Since I will be out for the GP appointment tomorrow (and most likely blood work) and to fetch some prescriptions and (perhaps) to get some groceries, I will not be doing any catch-up house cleaning.  Last night, I carried the vacuum to the second floor, but that is all I did.  To make up for my utter lack of house cleaning over the past few months, being all germified (really going back to that wretched cold I caught at the beginning of November), I need to clean the wood, clean the mirrors, and vacuum upstairs, clean all the windows in the house, mop the tile floors, and clean the main staircase.  I am happy to note that all the silver is still looking bright and shiny.  [That Hagerty Silversmith Spray Polish is a miraculous product.]  So, basically, I will be cleaning and napping for the next week or so.  Hopefully.

Saturday, Firewood Man plans to bring up another load of wood.  He's twitted me about not going through it as fast as I have, but I am trying to be a bit more judicious about my fires.  Well, really, I have been too tired to bring the wood inside, but I like to tell myself it is because I am being all economical.

I read another chapter of Luke and Michael Card's commentary, but I have been thinking about another bit of his commentary on Matthew (Matthew: The Gospel of Identity) that I find myself returning to quite a bit.

I think I noted before that the trial and lashing of Jesus was a Roman trial, not a Jewish one.  So, the tale of 39 lashes is actually not accurate.  In the Matthew commentary, Michael Card specifically talks about the Roman law of impressment, which allowed a soldier to ask anyone to carry his possessions (usually a heavy pack) for one Roman mile.

Now, in Roman crucifixions, which Jesus' was, the condemned was often made to carry the cross beam, as further humiliation and to further punish the "criminal."  Notice that I wrote "cross beam," not cross.  Usually, the cross beam was what was taken to the places of crucifixion, to be nailed to the permanent upright posts already there.

I wish I could know if the Greek actually means the entire cross, which would have been about 300 lbs, or the cross beam, which is a more manageable approximately 100 pounds.  Michael Card does not actually address that word, the way he teaches about so very many words, such as the type of baskets in each of the feedings of the large crowds.

What has been rumbling around my head is the fact that the Roman soldier impressed Simon.  I mean, the cross beam (or cross) was not actually the Roman soldier's burden, but rather the criminal's, in this case, Jesus'.  In my weird mind, that little bit information won't go away, has caused me to wonder if the soldier felt any sort of ... burden ... for what was taking place.

I mean, it is clear that the Roman leadership, Pontius Pilate, did not believe Jesus was guilty.  He did make an attempt to dissuade His accusers and then later to essentially commute the sentence of death.  Was the soldier who ordered the impressment of the cross beam (or cross) there at the trial?  Did he or any others agree with Pontius Pilate?  Could thinking, too, that Jesus was not truly guilty of His crime be why the soldier used a law about his own burdens to put the burden of Christ on another to be carried?

Nothing is written about this.  Nothing is really known.  But it is, to me, a bit strange that the soldier used that particular law since his possessions were not what was being carried.

Of course, in chewing on this for a bit, I Googled about Roman impressment and found all sorts of interesting information.  Now, it being the Internet, the academic in me takes it with a grain of salt.  However, did you know that "going the extra mile" comes from that Roman law?  And from the sermon on the Mount!

In Matthew 5:41, Jesus tells His listeners that if anyone forces them to go one mile with them (the Roman impressment), then go two miles.  Going the extra mile comes from not merely doing what the law required, but to do more.

In this motivational article about leadership, the author talks about becoming Second Mile Leaders, discussing the Roman law of impressment.  In it, he writes that because of the law of impressment, individuals started marking the miles from their homes, so that they could know exactly how far they were required to go, to know exactly when they would be able to set the burden down.

For me, going the extra mile meant putting in a greater effort.  I did not really understand that it means to do more than you are required to do.  The two might seem the same, but they are not.  And, I find it interesting that going the extra mile is tied to something that was done out of being forced, rather than being voluntary.  To put it another way, to go above the call of duty is not actually the same thing as to go the extra mile.  But I have heard those used interchangeably.

Was Simon so used to impressment that he did not give a thought to why he was carrying wood instead of the soldiers pack? Or did he wonder?

Simon was from Cyrene, Libya, which was a Greek colony that had a Jewish community amongst its inhabitants.  He could have been Jewish or Gentile.  No one knows for certain.  I think that is interesting, too.  I mean, in the commentaries, I am learning so much about different people in the Gospels, but little is really known about the man who carried the cross.  The testimony of the crucifixion is about Jesus, not Simon.  So, I think it is fitting to know not if he was Jewish or Gentile, if he was sympathetic to Jesus' plight or one of the crowd jeering Him.  After all, the crucifixion is about Jesus ... and ... Jesus died for all.

I know that is not the point of the motivational article, but I wonder just how many people have figuratively marked the "mile" from their homes to know just how far they must carry a burden if ever forced to do so.

Strange thoughts, I know.

Anyway, some bits from Luke chapter 5:

  • I didn't realize that we see Jesus heal Peter's mother-in-law before he is called to discipleship.
  • When Peter meets Jesus, his response is interesting.  First, he states that they have not caught anything all night, but "at Your word" he will do so.  Peter is obeying the Word of God.  But, when he is amazed by the sheer amount of fish that is caught, his response is to fall to his knees and tell Jesus to go away, because he is a sinful man.  Peter doesn't really want Jesus to leave him, but, wow, what a statement to make as your first response!
  • Luke uses nautical language, specific language, that points first to the voyages he took with Paul, but also give hint that, perhaps, he worked as a ship's doctor.  One example, "put out" the nets.
  • One of Luke's "onlys" is that he does not say they are at the sea of Galilee, but specifically at Lake Gennesaret.
  • Once again, the response of Jesus revealing Himself is fear; He has to tell these fishermen, those who will become His core team members, not to be afraid.  I have not really thought about that.  I mean, here you are an average Joe blow fisherman.  You're tired and discouraged after a night of fruitless work.  Then, this man comes along and tells you to go out again and do the same thing you've done all night.  You do and you end up with so much fish that even with the help of other boats, all the boats begin to sink with the weight of the catch.  Just like every other first encounter with God, the disciples response is fear.  And Jesus must give the typical angelic greeting:  "Do not be afraid."  How much greater, then, was it for these men, these first disciples, to leave everything behind and follow Jesus, when the one they are following frightened them.
  • Regarding the paralytic, Jesus points to the faith of his friends, not him.  I had not really noticed that before.  How powerful the faith of family and friends can be.  Strange, though, that there was no outcry for the destruction of the roof.  Just at the pronouncement of the forgiveness of sins.
  • Regarding the parable of the wineskins, Luke includes a final statement that is puzzling without background knowledge:  "And no one, after drinking old win, wants new, because he says, "The old is better" (verse 39).  Jesus is quoting an ancient proverb and thus is more of an ironic ending than a continuation of the parallel parables of patches of cloth and wineskins.  He is noting that people will hide behind the proverb, clinging to the belief that the old will always be better, and, thus, reject the new orthodoxy that His ministry brings.
  • I like, having learned the pattern in Michael Card's commentary, seeing and noting in the Scripture itself that the response to the great things Jesus does is to glorify God, glorify and praise His father.  That pattern is not one that has ever been at the forefront of my mind in reading the Gospels.  Yet it, as well as the work of the Spirit, teaches the Trinity, without specifically speaking of the Trinity.  

That last note really is the blessing of being in my third Gospel, my third commentary. I am beginning to rehearse the things I have learned by reading the Scriptures more closely, by savoring every word in each sentence.  I really hope that I don't forget that....

As for Levi (Matthew) himself, I wanted to quote the following, instead of summarize it:

Of the two types of tax collectors, Levi was the most hated.  he was known as a "tax farmer."  His position allowed him to be more dishonest and more arbitrary than the income or poll-tax gatherers.  In the Talmud he would have been included with robbers and murderers.  He might have been in Capernaum collecting the fish tax, which would have led him into daily conflict with someone like Simon Peter.  Both Luke and Mark tell us that, in response to Jesus' offer [to follow Him], Levi gives a party at his own house.  When Levi tells the story in chapter 9 of his Gospel, he leaves out the detail that the party was in his house.

When the ever-present crowd of Pharisees objects, Jesus responds with a saying from one of their own books, a commentary on Exodus (15:26) called the Mekilta.  The healthy do not need a doctor, but the sick do.  I find it fascinating that Jesus does not reject their distinction between the "righteous" and the "sinner."  It is only that, when given the choice, Jesus chooses the sinners!

There is so much to ponder in just those two paragraphs.  You learn more about Matthew than in his own Gospel (and its commentary).  And it is rather astounding to think that not only did the first disciples welcome this despot in their midst, but they immediately partied with him!

I know there was conflict amongst the disciples.  I mean, you have the whole "who will be first" argument.  But, here, reading this, it struck me that the struggle of learning to live with strangers as you are learning how to become ministers of the Gospel—how to bring the Good News to others—is absent from the testimonies (thus far ... since I haven't finished them all).  You have their struggles to believe and their doubt and their despair.  You even have their failures.  But you don't have the ensuing conflict that surely would come from having to eat, sleep, bathe, and live alongside someone so heinous as Levi.  I find that curious and yet reassuring. I suppose because that first paragraph above shows me how very messy the first Body of Christ was.

I wonder what Levi thought, sitting at his own table filled with the very folk who hated who he was and what he did, feasting and rejoicing and starting a new life together.

In the second paragraph is an example of—in my opinion—both the richness and the value of Michael Card's commentaries.  He gives the history.  He gives the politics.  He gives the meaning of words.  And, as he did here, he points out the very many times that Jesus is quoting or referring to a Jewish/rabbinic text that the lay reader would not recognize as being a quote or reference.

Jesus is the Word of God.  I find it fascinating that not only does He use the Word of God (quoting the Scriptures) as He teaches and responds to others, but also that he uses words and syntax structures and patterns of speech that either underscore what He is teaching or, effectively, increase its scandalousness.  If He were teaching today, He'd most definitely be handed a plethora of honorary doctorates in literacy studies!

This was made most clear in the commentary on Matthew, given that Matthew's Gospel is the most Jewish testimony.  In it there is a lot of information about ancient and contemporary texts the listeners would recognize, as well as teachers and their lessons.  One of the latter is Hillel. If I am remembering correctly, it was mostly like from Hillel's teachings that Jesus modeled the pattern: If ______, then how much more ________?

I have written that my friend Mary is quite skilled in Myrtle speak, when it comes to the sharing and the giving of the Gospel.  What the commentaries have shown me is that both Jesus and the authors of the Gospels were fully cognizant of their audiences and sought to use words that would reach them most effectively.  They purposely used words and phrases and syntax and patterns of speech that would connect the audience to the Word being spoken.  As with Mark, they also avoided that would would hinder the hearing of the Gospel.

Thus, I conclude, my yearning for and desiring Gospel that is delivered in Myrtle speak is not such a strange thing ... it not actually wrong at all.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The death of a tree....

What do you see here?

Apparently, you should see imminent danger.
I didn't.
I still don't.

If I had time to think, I would have seen Jean Craighead George's book My Side of the Mountain.  I didn't, though. I didn't have time to think.

The City of Fort Wayne tree trimmers were in our neighborhood this morning, which honestly surprised me.  The trees were trimmed just last year.  And, to be candid, I loathe the approach the City takes:  lop off any branch hanging over the street.  The trees are left lopsided and ugly.

Were I able to go back in time, I would have awoken before the canopy of this tree was removed and gone out to put my body at the base of it so that its wanton destruction was prevented.  Even if this "cut" does make the tree unsafe, I strongly believe that the City Arborist should be the one to determine the removal of a mature tree.  If the City does have a set of criteria for emergency removal, I firmly believe that this tree did not meet it.

When I saw the destruction of my neighbor's tree out my window, out I went in my pajamas and Breath Right strip, asking why the tree was being cut down.  The first of the two-man crew said he was new to the job and had no idea.  The second man pointed to the "cut" and said the tree was dangerous.

I told him that the tree was not marked for removal, had enjoyed a glorious spring, summer, and fall display this year, and gave no indications of ill-health.  He replied that he could cut down any tree he wanted to on an emergency basis.

There was no emergency here.  The tree was not leaning.  The tree had not displayed a single dead branch.  The canopy limbs strewn about the yard were green at the cuts and had the beginnings of buds, as do many trees around here.

I wept.
My neighbor is bereft.

For the twenty five years she has lived in the house, the tree has stood there.   When her late husband was deployed in Afghanistan, the neighborhood supported her by hanging yellow ribbons in that tree.  That tree is a part of her life and her family history.

While I understand that all trees on the park strip are the property of the City, I am stunned that the City would authorize tree trimmers to destroy mature trees without any sort of investigation into the health of the tree or notice to the homeowner when clearly there was no imminent threat of harm to person or property from the tree.

My neighbor is grieving the loss of one of the last connections she had to her husband, save for the home they bought together.  Had she known, my neighbor would have gone out and taken a final photo with her son in front of the tree.  And, had she known, my neighbor would have had the time to prepare herself for the utter emptiness of her front yard, the total change to her familiar landscape.

I did not weep or yell at the tree trimmer, but I was angry at the tree's destruction and at the trim job I subsequently witnessed both on the house on the corner and on that loveliest of maple trees that you could see from the airing porch.  A significant portion of its canopy is now gone.  For the life of me, I cannot understand why it needed to be removed, especially the large pieces from the center of the tree.

I have wept since then.  Two years ago this coming Friday, my father died.  So, I am admittedly sensitive to loss at the moment.  Also, yesterday, once again, I was felled by the act of the elimination of solid waste, fainting and remaining ill for hours because of the response to internal pressure on my vegus nerve.  The loss of my dignity at such times is still keenly felt.  And, my pastor who has been visiting me, unexpectedly accepted a call to another church.  Yes, loss is high on my mind.

However, to me, the instant decision to destroy the mature tree is just another sign of how very disposable our society has become.

Both my mother and my father have/had held a deep and abiding appreciation for trees and the gift they are to this world.  I grew up with that appreciation and hold it myself.  I take too many tree photos and still am wont to lie beneath a tree and marvel at the view above me.  My favorite, as was my father's, is the blue spruce.  A few years before I moved here, my father got two baby blue spruce trees for free from the National Arbor Society.  We laughed when he planted them at the base of his driveway, for you could barely see them.  I laughed and wept when I saw them when I went to his funeral.  Those almost painfully slow growing trees had matured enough to create a beautiful entrance guard to the driveway.  I wish I had had one last time to thank my father for planting them, for the respect for trees he instilled in me.

My mother and step-father have spent significant money on the care of the trees in their various homes over the years of their marriage.  They model for their neighbors how to do so and will talk about how trees add both to the appeal and the health of the neighborhood.  In our family, you just don't go about chopping down trees willy-nilly.  You protect them.

The judicious clearing of trees on a property can be helpful.  I have no issue with such decision, especially if doing so is part of a plan of the development of the landscape.  I also have no problem with the removal of trees for safety reasons, such as an older tree grown too close to a home in a storm-riddled region.  And, of course, if a tree is truly dying, if it cannot be saved with treatment or supported in its weakness, then, of course, I would not take issue with its removal.

Last December, I stumbled across this article in which the Fort Wayne City Arborist is quoted.  He appears to have a lot more respect and concern for trees in the article than was displayed today.  The policy of allowing a tree-trimmer to destroy a stable tree without any consideration of its health or how doing so might affect the homeowner whose real estate taxes support the City is a bad policy.  Plain and simple.

What was done in haste today cannot be undone.  Yes, my neighbor can apply to the City tree replacement program for a planting next fall.  But that will not undo what happened, will not ease her grief, will not give back the opportunity to have a final photo of a tree that was more than just a tree to her.

She remains in shock.  It was a rude awakening for both of us today.  And, as I stated, it is a sad reminder of how easily everything is discarded these days ... from the unborn to struggling friends to the elderly.  We, as a nation, do not respect life much, nor do we value conservation, restoration, and repurposing.  Pockets of people do, but not our society. If nothing else, the thriving bottled water industry that is a plague upon our public grounds and our landfills gives testimony to that.  Nestle's bottled water commercials that have a mother saying that giving Pure Life water to a child is giving love literally churn my stomach.

The death of my neighbor's mature tree today is a painful reminder of how much I despair over that disposability.  And, to be honest, how disposable I feel.

You know, I bought my first dog with a warranty.  Strange.  Anyway, he was really ill his first year and when I finally discovered the cause of his problem, an hepatic shunt, I tried to execute the warranty of my pure bread Shiba Inu.  The warranty had been explained as to means to cover medical expenses in the first year.  However, in reality, executing the warranty would mean that the breeder would kill Kashi and give me another puppy.  Death was far more expedient than care.

I did not execute that warranty.  Instead, I chose to care for him, knowing that he would need to be on prescription dog food his entire life and I would have to be ever vigilant about his consumption of protein, since his liver couldn't process it.  I had fifteen years of puppy dog joy with Kashi.  He was most certainly worth extra care and extra expense in his food.

Am I nuts because I am so very sad that no one thought my neighbor's tree was worth extra care or even extra thought?

Today, I witnessed the death of a tree.
I feel it keenly.
I grieve with my neighbor who feels it more so.

I grieve, too, for our world, for the skewed and twisted view of all life that warps this world and its inhabitants ... that surely must grieve our Creator, too.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Begging for miracles...

I took a little nap on the couch.

I awoke to find Amos watching over me.

Yesterday, my goal was to water the plants in the solarium and the hanging baskets.  I added to that: clean the main bathroom.  Bending over and scrubbing the tub is never a good idea for me.  However, taking a shower last night was almost heavenly for the secure purchase my feet had on the clean surface of the tub.  Just doing those two tasks wearied me.

Today, my goal was napping.
I did.
Many times.

In case you were wondering, I had the Spicy Pulled Chicken Take Two in both tacos and on chalupas (the latter today).  I found the meat to be tasty both ways.  I am inordinately pleased that the pulled chicken turned out so well.  I did adjust the recipe a tad for next time.  I added 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to kick the heat up a bit. I thought that would be a bit better than simply increasing the chipotle chili pepper.  I cannot wait to make the recipe again, but I do still have eight servings to chow down upon.  Good times await me, eh?

Did I mention that I am weary? I am most definitely getting better, but I am oh so tired.  I suppose I have worked too much trying to catch up on the lapse in housekeeping over the past two months.

We had a measly amount of snow.  I still desired Firewood Man to clear all that blowing and drifting so that I could carry out the trash I had set on the porch.   He did.  So, I did.  Well, there you go, one task today:  emptying all the trash about the three floors of my home.

A few more notes on Michael Card's commentary on Luke:

~~~~ Chapter 3 begins with a specific historical setting mentioned in the first two verses:  emperor Tiberius Caesar, governor, Pontius Pilate, tetrarch Herod, and the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas.  These two verses are examples of one's I used to skip.  Yes, I typed "skip."  Yet the commentary is teaching me how perfect each Gospel, each testimony, is and so to value and appreciate even the bits you might be tempted to skip.

At the end of the historical setting, much of which I'm now reading for the third time (this being the third commentary), Michael Card concludes:

Although this collection of powerful men is meant to point to a date of A.D. 29, nonetheless each major person on Luke's list represents corruption, greed, and the irresponsible wielding of power.  The tone they set for the opening of Jesus' ministry is dark and foreboding.  Into a world dominated by fear, injustice and corrupt power steps the Prince of Piece and the Light of the World.

When Jesus arrives in the flesh in this world is important.  Understanding what was happening all around those to whom He ministered and those to whom His disciples did.  It is so very much more political than I ever knew, with despots in charge that would rival any tyrannical, murderous dictator we could pluck out of history or still find today.  The Herod family (to lump those folk together) were as bad as the Mexican cartels, with poisonings and imprisonment and murders.

Do you ever stop and just soak the when of Jesus in?  Do you ever stop to consider the upheaval in the Jewish community or the ineffable change that impacted every life when the Roman Empire was established?  This was a time when men declared themselves to be god in their power.  And when the people of God had taken the 10 Commandments of the Law and parsed it into 613 separate laws to follow, making the impossible even more so, leaving God in the dust of their scholarship and obedience.

People were hungry, both literally and figuratively.  They were afraid and uncertain.  And they longed for rescue.  How difficult it must have been to have that rescue come in the form of someone who would turn their world upside down and take even the comfort of their orthodoxy away from them.

~~~~ I learned something new about the profundity of John the Baptist's declaration that he was not worthy to untie Jesus' sandals:

Untying sandals was the task of the lowliest slave.  The rabbis had decreed that the overzealous followers of well-know teacher could perform any sort of humiliating task for their masters except one:  they could not untie the sandal thong.  That was seen as too degrading for anyone—anyone, that is, except John.  After all, he is only a voice, crying in the wilderness.

~~~~ Matthew's testimony to a Jewish audience, has the lineage of Jesus beginning from Abraham.  Luke, the testimony to the Gentiles, has the lineage of Jesus all the way back to Adam.

~~~~ Two specificities of Luke about Jesus' baptism:  1) Luke devotes 16 verses to John the Baptist and his followers, but only two for the baptism of Jesus and 2) only Luke tells us that Jesus was praying as the heavens opened and He heard the words He needed to hear with the ordeal ahead of him (His temptation).

~~~~ In Chapter 4, Jesus teaches in the synagogue of Nazareth.  Michael Card's commentary explains where in the service that could/did come about:

On the Sabbath Jesus enters the synagogue.  At the closing of the service comes what is referred to the haphtarah, a portion of the prophets that is read before dismissal.  Any young man from the community could do the reading and make a comment on the passage if he wished.  The attendant hands Jesus the scroll of Isaiah.  He unrolls it and begins to read.  As Isaiah's words had defined the ministry of John the Baptist (Luke 3:4-6), now they will perfectly describe what Jesus has come to do.

Now, I cannot pronounce that part of the service, that H word.  But I liked learning how it is that Jesus came to be teaching. I mean, He was not going around as a rabbi, did not claim that.  In fact, in the introduction to Luke Michael Card points out that Luke doesn't use the word "rabbi" in his testimony.  Jesus, here, took up a common opportunity and used it to His purpose.

~~~~ What I liked more, though, was the second bit of commentary Michael Card had on Jesus reading from Isaiah:

Even those who, because of their lack of education, are unaware of another one of Isaiah's prophecies—that he would be a man of sorrows acquainted with our deepest grief—even these recognize in him someone who tears are their tears as well.  He not only weeps for them; he weeps with them, becoming acquainted with the darkest depths, with their poverty and pain.  He does not explain away the pain, nor does he say that he has come with the answer or that he will fix everything.  Instead he bows his head and allows the tears to flow.  It is not about providing answers or fixing a problem; it is about entering fully and redemptively into their suffering, because Jesus knows that God uses suffering to save the world.  He has not come to fix death and sorrow but to ultimately bring about their demise.  He has not come to give answers; he has come to give himself.  His presence, his tears are the solution, the answer, and the truth.  And in the midst of that moment when we don't get what we want, we get what we need.

Lots to savor and ponder here.  For one, it is good to note that Jesus did not come to provide all the answers or fix all problems.  For another, while I first took a bit of offense at the words "God uses suffering to save the world," upon further pondering it occurred to me that, in one sense, God uses suffering because that is all that man has left Him, from that very first choice in the garden of Eden.  And, third, the last sentence.  It makes me think of Matthew's testimony and the grandiose, victorious notions of what a Messiah is supposed to be the Jews held and yet the Messiah who came to them, though not what they wanted, was exactly what they needed.

~~~~ Finally, I have read and re-read and read again the ending of Michael Card's commentary on Chapter 4:

If you read between the lines—that is to say, if you interact with the text through your imagination—you begin to think that Jesus not not want to become known simply as another faith healer.  Several faith healers were traveling around at that time.  In the morning Jesus goes out into the wilderness, which we will discover in Luke 5:16 is his habit.  The crowds find him anyway, and he is confronted once more with their bottomless need.  From this point on in the ministry, they will be following him everywhere.  He will go into the wilderness for a break and turn around only to find five thousand of them, wanting more bread.  They will press in to the point of crushing him so that he will not even know who is touching him (Lk 8:42, 45).  In Luke 4:43 you can almost detect the tired tone in his voice.  Jesus says he needs to leave and go preach in the surrounding towns "because I was sent for this purpose (emphasis added.)

He has just read those words from Isaiah that define His ministry:  to preach good news to the poor.  But now the emphasis has shifted to healing and casting out demons.  The crowds are clamoring for provision, like the children in the wilderness who wanted bread and water.  But Jesus has come to do so much more.  He will continue to graciously heal and feed them by the thousands as an expression of his power and gracious lovingkindness.  From even this point so early in the ministry, however, you can sense a growing sense of loneliness as the crowds beg for miracles and refuse to listen to what he has come to say.

How odd to think that Jesus' found comfort and refuge in the wilderness.  That last line, though, makes you think about how very many times He either is admonishing folk to hear or asking why they cannot hear.  And then ... I begin to wonder:  Am I begging Jesus for miracles instead of listening to what He came to say?

I honestly doubt anyone would consider the things I long for to be miraculous, but, I fear that they actually are ... that I, too, am missing the point.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Take Two...

I cheated. I used the emergency cash in my purse to cover the cost of lettuce, milk, and cucumber, since someone offered to fetch groceries for me yesterday.  It might be all a big hullabaloo, but we are supposed to have snow on Sunday.  I did not want to drive on treacherous streets if the snow is still around on Tuesday.  I thought I would pay my emergency stash back out of my budget next month.  The lettuce was so poor that I had to pull off the first three leaves, even after soaking it in cold water to freshen it back up.  Beggars can't be choosy, though.  And I will, now, be able to have pulled pork tacos before Tuesday, should my heart so desire.

Since my realtor texted me about a grocery run, I went ahead and got up much earlier than normal to receive her.  To keep myself awake whilst waiting, I stripped the bedding and started the laundry, which I knew would force me to finally give Amos a bath.  He was a bit stinky from all that Hide-and-Seek.  And a bath was long overdue.

Late last night, having been embarrassed at how many dishes were piled in my sink when Firewood Man was here, I caught up on my dishes and ran the dishwasher.  Visual Rest in the kitchen has slipped since I've been ill.  SIGH.

Anyway, after starting the laundry, I emptied the dishwasher.  Then I filled the sink with cold water (thanks, Celia, for teaching me this!) to thaw out one of my two pork sirloin roasts.  I wanted to start another batch of pulled pork.  Once Leslie left and Amos was bathed, we konked out in the GREEN chair for over four hours.  We were both dead to the world.

When I awoke, I started the pulled pork, worked on the laundry, and set chicken and bottles of orange juice portions to thaw, because I also wanted to try pulled chicken again.  I made the bed and pulled off the duvet cover to fill out a fourth load of laundry.  I still had all of Amos' bath towels from last time and the ones from yesterday and all of my pajamas to wash ... again.

Mostly, I puttered all evening, moving from one task to the other and studiously avoiding the vacuum I set in the middle of the kitchen to remind me that I have not tended the floors since I fell ill December 20th.  Nor have I dusted.  Or mopped.  With my basement freezer all stocked up with Spicy Dr Pepper Pulled Pork again, the laundry all put away, fresh containers of cucumber water and Gatorade made, I turned my attention to the chicken.

The first time I tried pulled chicken, it just didn't turn out the way I wanted.  I ate it several different ways, the best being as a chalupa topping.  The second best was to simply eat it on a bun with some barbecue sauce.  It has flavor, but not stand-alone flavor, not enhancing-a-dish flavor.  I wanted chicken that could compete with the most lovely Spicy Dr Pepper Pulled Pork.

For my Spicy Pulled Chicken Take Two, I focused on blending spices that would work with orange juice.  I saw several Mexican dishes that used orange juice when I was recipe hunting last year.  I even used it in my first attempt at pulled chicken, but I also used beer.  This time, I wanted to have only orange juice as my wet ingredient.

If you look at the ingredient list, you'll note that I was trying to stick with Mexican spice combinations, even though I did not have any chilis that would have fit better.  I do have Chipotle Chili Pepper, so I used that.  Being impatient, I used onion powder and garlic powder just to see if the flavors worked, since I have neither of those fresh ingredients in my larder at the moment.  In my opinion, they did!

Once the chicken was cooked, I carefully transferred it to a bowl and set about reducing the sauce at a rapid boil.  By doing so, I got back a hint of the orange juice, the spices, and concentrated the heat a bit.  I think folk who like hot food might want to double the Chipotle Chili Pepper.  I might even at least add 50% more next time.  For this recipe is most definitely a keeper in my mind.

When I was transferring the sauce back to the chicken, I used a strainer. I figured that any chicken that had fallen off during the removal of the cooked chicken would have been wildly overcooked from the rapid boiling.  I gave Amos the  bits pictured here.  He loved them.

This was the end result, after tossing the shredded chicken and sauce thoroughly.  What I liked is that I did not end up with the runny sauce like I did during my  first stab at making pulled chicken.  In short, the chicken is moist and flavorful and can stand alone in taste, which was my goal.

I ended up with twelve servings; the double portion went straight into the refrigerator. I cannot wait to try tacos with this pulled chicken.  I also think it will make a fine addition to my chalupas.  And, perhaps, I could make burritos with it.  In any case, I will admit that in transferring the pulled chicken to the storage containers, I tasted it several times.  Could we call that quality checks??

I think the chicken is a bit smoky, a bit sweet, and a bit spicy.  I thought I would try it first as a taco and put some lime juice on top.  Of course, I have to make another batch (or two) of the Texas Flour Tortillas, because I am completely out of them.

Right now, I am still not vacuuming.  Instead, I am readying myself for a nap even though I have only been up long enough to eat and write.  And then I plan on cleaning out the ashes, so that I can lay another fire and roast myself whilst reading more of the commentary on Luke.

Making tortillas should take precedence over vacuuming, right??

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Darned math...

I had really hoped that all my tax number crunching that I was forced to do last year when I discovered that I had such a huge liability for withdrawing retirement funds to pay off the house so that I could better afford my medications would have been more successful.  I have almost the identical amount left in my tax savings account (remember I was greedy and paid quarterly estimates to earn interest), but that means I have nothing for the shortfall in Indiana.  The interesting bit (pun intended) is that, had I not made quarterly payments, I would be a tad short on the Federal.  By that I mean the interest I earned is almost exactly the overage of my original withdrawal for the 2013 and the 2014 tax liabilities.  In fact, by parking all the money I was moving around, by paying each bill at the last possible minute, and by charging everything possible to as to further delay payments (though never carrying a balance from month-to-month), my combined interest earned in 2014 is $258.98.  Sadly, that is taxed income and so really it is folded into the outstanding liability.

Nevertheless, compound interest is such a lovely thing.
Especially the higher rates you get with online banks.
It's like free money!

My fatal miscalculation is failing to understand that I would no longer be able to file an itemized return since I would not have a ginormous chuck of mortgage interest.  The tiniest bit for the first week in January was laughable.  The retirement withdrawal also skews everything, making it look like I was flush with funds instead of handing over every penny to the mortgage company and to the IRS.  Gosh, I had forgotten what an advantage it is to be able to send in an itemized return.  And I did not take into account the egregious perfidy Obamacare committed upon folk with medical expenses, raising the deduction threshold from 7.5% to 10% of your income.  I missed it by mere dollars.

Next year, all this tax worry will end.  But until the Indiana State Form is available (it is still not ready), I will not know just exactly how short I will be.  I am a very, very, very impatient tax filer.  You know, the kind of person who has all their information by the time of their last paycheck stub and has the program filled out as close as possible before the W-2 arrives.

At the moment, I want milk in the most dire of ways, since I have but 3/4 of a gallon left.  I am in milk-rationing mode.  This is especially true since I worry that on Tuesday, when my budget cycle renews, there will be more snow that I care to traverse on the roads and I would need to make my meager supply last even longer.  However, I had my lowest ever grocery bill this month and have beaten the most serve spending goal for the combined budget line item that is my credit card bill by a whopping (to me) $37.  I think of that $37 as help make up the state tax shortfall.  State and county actually.  I am a bit bitter about those county taxes, so I tend to ignore them.

If I knew the shortfall, I could start pouring through the entries in the checking register for 2015 and see where I could shave more pennies, to make up the shortfall by year's end.

In happier news, Firewood Man came by last evening and replaced my dead-as-a-doornail car battery and the brake light that was out.  He made plans for another wood load in a week or so and sat down with me to calculate the cost for him to do the mulching.  Happily, it will be much cheaper than getting the bags from Lowe's.  I hit him upside the head with a pillow and asked why he didn't mulch this year.  He said he tried to explain the savings I would have, but that I didn't understand.  This year, he better understands about my not understanding and so used different words.  Thus, the budget line for mulch will be less ... more to add to the state tax shortfall.

While he was here, I showed Tim how I taught Amos a new word, a new game really.  Amos blogged about it.  Basically, I had the most brilliant idea of teaching Amos how to play Hide-And-Seek, creatively disguised as "Where's Momma?"  Playing hide and seek with Amos means he does all this racing around and I just lallygag about.  Lallygag and laugh until my sides hurt.  Even Tim laughed.  Then he twitted me about still not treating Amos like a dog.

I'm a flawed dog owner.
Sue me.

When I had the hood up on my Highlander, Tim tugged and pulled on my belts and hoses.  He thinks they still have good life in them.  I told my Highlander that I would be most grateful if it could put off that expense until I build up my car savings account more, say the second half of 2016.  It was good to be able to transfer the money from that account and write the check for Tim, but it was also a tad ... disappointing ... to see that the bill was a bit more than half what I'd saved.  Yes, that is churlish of me.  I should be grateful that the money was available.  A near pain-free unexpected car repair is almost miraculous, eh?

I was telling Tim that this is, essentially, only my third vehicle.  I had a fourth, but only for the tiniest while.  You see, shortly after I bought my first car, I got in the way of a man who had robbed a liquor store.  I was going through the GREEN light when he was intent on making his escape by running a red light.  I loved that car, a Toyota Corolla in their old champagne color that was this opalescent creamy bronze that glowed in the sunlight.  I have bought, insured, and maintained all my vehicles all by myself.

What I term as my first vehicle was an ugly white Corolla, that I had to get as quickly as possible since I was working after school and on weekends to pay for my first car.  The second was a grievous disappointment because Toyota discontinued the black emerald GREEN color the year I was able to afford my first new car.  I never really bonded with either of those Corollas.  My Highlander?  Well, it is the most beautiful of GREEN, again the opalescent that Toyota sometimes uses instead of a flat color.

Being always a tad parsimonious, I've driven my three vehicles 11 years, 10 years, and 11 years respectively.  In all that time, I believe, the only real repair I had to make was an ignition switch.  All my other vehicle expenses have been regular maintenance and the things that age (oil, filters, batteries, tires, and brakes—only twice have I replaced the latter).  Telling Tim that made me realize how blessed I have been with such low cost of vehicle ownership.

Shame on me for grousing over the check I forked over.
Silly Myrtle.

I will say that a young boy who was in my car last year scoffed at the fact that I do not have heated seats.  Yes, well, I am still oh so thankful for automatic windows.  My third vehicle was the first one I splurged on such luxury!  My one true covetous vehicle luxury I never got was one of those compasses that told you what direction you were driving.  Even before Dysautonomia, I was severely directionally challenged.

Realizing that I should have anticipated the need for a battery, I am worried there is another no-brainer vehicle maintenance expense that I am missing.  After all, the key to successful budgeting is understanding the funds you will need.

Such gaping holes there are in that once fine mind of mine.  SIGH.

Whilst I fear I may be jinxing it, I will say that I am distinctly better, though still germy.  I am coughing only at night (no longer after talking or doing other things too long).  My throat is itchy, not sore.  My ears are infinitesimally better, though the right remains worse than the left and they still seem as if I am listening to the world through cotton.  Having a hair less pain and itching in them is most welcome.  I am sniffing and dripping less.  I also have been working on chewing only on the left side of my mouth so that where my jaw hurts on the right might get better. Today, awaking, I thought that I could definitely pronounce that I have turned the proverbial corner.

About my ears, my first thought upon waking today was that someone reading this prayed for my ails after reading my wails about them.  That God had heard how very weary I was of them on top of everything else and gave me a measure of relief.

I still wonder, is it possible to have a cold in your ears? I mean, clearly I did not have an ear infection and I am almost certainly sure that I did not have a sinus infection.  You know those old cartoons where a character would run a bandana in one ear and out the other? I sort of wish that were truly possible and I could stick the sprayer in the sink on one side to flush out whatever germs are hanging out in there.

A final note: Would you not agree that it is both irresponsible and inconsiderate to both fail to give advanced notice and then to conduct non-emergency repairs to power poles on a day that it is a mere 28 degrees outside, leaving a large swath of a neighborhood with many elderly residents without heat (no power) for several hours?

Shame on Indiana Michigan Power.

Amos did his best to keep me warm in my ice-box of a house, but he is a rather little thing that simply cannot generate enough body heat to share.  I sure do adore my sheepgoatcatRatBastard fluff ball of a puppy dog.

He does need a bath.
Any takers?

Friday, January 23, 2015

A bit of Luke...

One interesting bit still in Chapter One of Luke is Michael Card's commentary about the exchange between Gabriel and Mary:

Mary responds with a legitimate question, not a faithless one.  Not "How can I be sure?" but  "How can this be?"  She is a virgin.  It is a reasonable question.  And Gabriel is glad to give her a gentle and reasonable answer.  Using the most discrete language, he describes how the Holy Spirit will "come upon" her and the Most High will "overshadow" her.  He uses the same word used in the Greek Old Testament to describe the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters upon creation.  [emphasis mine]

I love words.  And I think that this is a totally cool word to learn about in the commentary.  I mean, you have the bridge theme here, with the ultimate connection between the Old Testament and the New, the shared moment of creation, especially if you consider that the life created in Mary is created in water.

As I wrote before, Michael Card points out in his discussion of hesed that there are five words that can be translated as mercy and that Luke is the one who uses all five.  Words matter.  Specificity matters.  And words connect us in ways that we might not understand, but they do nonetheless.

In the opening of Chapter Two, Michael Card unpacks all that is contained in the simple sentence:  "In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered" (Luke 2:1).  I'm not going to type up all the history, especially since it took me forever to follow the ties since Caesar Augustus was Gaius Octavius.  Two names, but the same person.  And Michael Card did not merely say that Gaius was the great nephew of Julius Caesar, but that his mother was the niece of Julius Caesar.  And in explaining, you have mention of Octavian, who is Octavius, but who became Caesar Augustus.

[I sure do wish we could stick with just one name when it comes to following folk in history.]

Just that sentence—I learned after plowing through the history—connotes a time of great upheaval and uncertainty.  But one little tidbit out of the history is that, with the establishment of the Roman Empire, Julius Caesar (Caesar Augustus' great uncle) was declared a god.  So, having adopted Gaius and bestowed upon him his great political and financial inheritance, Gaisus, now Caesar Augustus became a "son of god" and was the eventual founder of the "Roman Peace" (Pax Romana), ridding the sea lanes of pirates and establishing law and order throughout the empire.

What an interesting parallel to Jesus, the true Son of God, give that he was paranoid about lightening, a despicable tyrant, and as fanatically blood thirsty as Hitler or Mussolini.  All that an ever so much more in that single sentence because the first recipients of Luke knew immediately and intimately what such a statement meant.

Something else that caught my eye in Chapter Two:

You have the shepherds all excited and the angels singing, you have ebullient rejoicing on all sides, copious amounts of effusive adulation.  Yet there is Mary, quiet, "treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them" (Luke 2:19).  Do you think she suspected, then, that the great and grand and mighty Messiah-the-King all were expecting was not going to be the Messiah who her son was going to be?

One of the questions Michael Card asks, then, is thinking of the eyewitness that provided that bit of insight.  Surely it was Mary, don't you think?

So, then, just a short while later, you have the contemplative Mary, with her newborn son, and Simeon tells her that her child "is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed—and a sword will pierce your own soul— that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Luke 2:34-35).  What a prophecy to have spoken!

But before you can get to such shocking words, you hear Simeon sing the Nunc Dimittis.  Now, I confessed to my friend Mary that I have never really understood the enthusiasm for singing the Magnificat in the liturgy (especially since I always lose my place).  What I did not say to her, though, was that, for me, the wonder and awe and enthusiasm lies in the Nunc Dimittis.  How strange it is to me that before learning Lutheran liturgy, I did not understand, really, the breadth and depth of Luke 2:29-32. Now, if I could only hear one piece of the liturgy, as much as I adore the Agnus Dei, it would be the Nunc Dimittis, Divine Service Setting Three.

[Oh, how I miss it.]

Of all the commentary on Chapter Two, I think I would like to preserve here the bit about Simeon, with a bit of background:

Verses 21-24 might seem confusing if you don't take the time to untangle them.  We are looking at two separate occasions and three rituals.  Jesus' circumcism happens first, eight days after his birth.  At this time he would be named.  This is a parallel to the story of the naming of John in chapter 1.  Both babies had been named before they were born.

The second observance begins in verse 22.  Here we are looking at two separate rituals.  First comes the purification of Mary, which took place forty days after the birth of a son and would have taken place eighty days after the birth of a daughter.  The offering of the two pigeons was reserved for the poor (Lev 12:1-8).  The second ritual is the dedication of the firstborn (Ex 13:2-14).  Within the scope of six verses, the observance of the "law" is mentioned four times.  This is a picture of Mary and Joseph's exacting observance of the law.  Of the nine times the word "law" occurs in Luke's writing, five of them are contained in this passage.  It is a picture of a world that would, very soon, begin to pass away.

In this context Simeon steps forward.  It is a miracle in itself that they have met at this precise moment within the crowded, massive thirty-five-acre temple complex.  He too is a representative of the old world, the Old Testament world in which faith was expressed primarily by waithing for God to make good on his promises.  Simeon represents an important line in the world of faith.  Before Simeon, faith meant waiting.  After him, faith will mean following.  At this moment, the old world is meeting and embracing the new.

Luke describes Simeon in old-world terms.  He is "righteous and devout," waiting for "Israel's consolation."  But the Holy Spirit is also there, as he has been with the unborn John, Elizabeth, Zechariah and Mary.  The elderly man has received a promise:  he will not die until he has seen the Messiah.  Now, under the guidance of that same Spirit, he makes his way into the temple court at precisely the same moment that the child's parents arrive.

Taking the baby in his arms, Simeon sings a song. It is the last song he will sing.  It is the last song we will hear in Luke's Gospel.  It is a song that welcomes his death as a release and a dismissal.  But is also a song that welcomes the Light of revelation to the Gentiles, for whom Luke and Paul also cared so much.  What is rapidly becoming the norm in Luke happens next:  Mary and Joseph are amazed!

Simeon pronounces a berakah, or blessing, on the three of them.  Next he utters a prophecy, most of which he would rather have bitten his tongue than spoken.  The baby will cause many to rise and fall.  He will face opposition.  And then:  Mary's heart will be pierced by a sword.  This is an ominous prophecy of the pain she will endure watching her Son die on the cross—all of this Simeon whispers, so that the thoughts of many hearts would be revealed.

[The wordsmith nerd in me savored the double entendre in this sentence:  At this moment, the old world is meeting and embracing the new.]

I thought a lot about all the commentary on Mark talking about the massive temple complex, about the extraordinary statement Jesus made when he told the disciples that no two stones would remain atop each other.  I do not think, in all that description, the actual size was mentioned.  Thirty-five acres!

I thought about all the Jewishness of Matthew and, already, all the Gentile-ness in Luke.  Blended together paints such a poignant portrait of a savior come for all, a triune God who caused to pen the right words for the right audience so that the Gospel could be received by all.  The perfection of the Gospels.

But mostly I thought about Simeon's song, the waiting and the relief.  And how, in the liturgy, if sung, it is sung after believers, too, have seen Jesus, seen and taken in His very body and blood at the altar.  The double entendre remains.  The waiting for the promise and receiving, once more, the promise.  At the altar, the old world meets the new and the exacting Law is is ever fulfilled.  Sin is covered, washed away.  Forgiveness is bestowed.  Once again, the Messiah comes.

Such awe and wonder lies in the Nunc Dimittis.  The radical reversal.  The shedding of old orthodoxy.  Sung after sinners have received the consolation of the Gospel for the fear sin sows within.  Sung, to me, almost as a defiant reminder to the old Adam, seated once more in the pew, might already begin to doubt the hesed show just moments before at the rail.

In a strange way, could you not say that Simeon, and those who join him in song hereafter, are saying:  "Get behind me, Satan.  You've lost.  The Promise was fulfilled and is fulfilled and remains ever fulfilled." 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Doornail dead...

Around 11:00 ish this morning, I abruptly awoke assailed by overwhelming nausea.  I crawled to the bathroom, weak and dizzy and, yes, grumpy, and downed some Zofran.  Then, I lay on the floor and writhed until the nausea subsided enough to at least get back in bed.

My bathroom floor is dusty.  I cannot see it or the sink.  I think not being able to see dirt on white surfaces unless my noses is inches from the surface means something.  I don't know what, but something.  Like the color white is broken in my brain or something.

Back in bed, I checked my email and received rather distressing news.
I have been weeping ever since.

Although Mary suggested I just ... huddle ... with Amos today, I thought that I really ought to get a jump tonight, in case getting a jump is not all I need.  I mean, I wanted more data on the car problem so that I could know if I was going to need more help than Tim could give.  It turns out that "roadside" assistance includes your garage, so I got a free jump tonight from Liberty Mutual.

My battery was dead.  Doornail dead.  So dead that even after charging it for 15 minutes whilst we talked, when the service man tried to stop and restart the engine, there was only enough juice for the beeping alarm that indicates the key is in the ignition and the car door is open.  No blinking light for the car alarm.  No clock.  No door locks or window movement.  And certainly no engine start.  So, technically, I received two jumps tonight.

He told me about all the bits of the car that drain the battery: car alarm, computer, radio, clock.  Whilst he was talking, I remembered that, when I went to fetch prescriptions last week, my clock was wrong.  It was at 1:00, which, it turns out, is the default setting once it loses and receives power again.  So, actually, I did have a warning about the battery, but my cheese-hole brain couldn't grasp onto it.

The service man told me about something called a battery tender.  That is this device you plug into your garage and into a connection that sits on your battery and keeps it at 12 volts.  Given that I have yet to hit 74,000 miles on my 2004 vehicle (translate that I am just not driving anymore), even with a new battery, he thought having one might be a good idea.  Perhaps not right away, but after a year or so.  He suggested that I at least start the car once a week.  And he also noticed that one of my back lights (there are four) is out.

I know I drove my Highlander last Friday for prescriptions, but, before that, I am not sure when I last drove.  It could have been the last prescription run on December 31st.  In any case, the service man said that to be as utterly dead as the battery was and so difficult to charge, I must have left something on last Friday.  That worries me, because I am usually so very careful about shutting down my car.  After all, I might very well be the last person on earth who still sets her parking brake (something that seems to annoy folk who drive me around in my vehicle).  I am wondering if, perhaps, I need to make a sign for the inside of the garage door that tells me to turn off everything in the car and lock the doors (which won't lock if I've left a door ajar).

The need for another sign distresses me.  SIGH.

Just to see how quickly the battery will return to its doornail state, I went ahead and drove around for 30 minutes to get it all juiced up.  Actually, Amos and I went ahead and drove around, because he's been wiping the tears from my face most of the day and I didn't want to be away from him.  The service man doubts I will be able to start the car on the morrow, but even if I can, I will need a new battery fairly soon anyway.

The thing to know about buying batteries, which I did not know until the service man schooled me, is that when you pick one out, you need to look at the date sticker on the battery.  For example, if you buy one that has 01/14 on it right now, it will already be a minimum of one year old, for no one is really sure if the sticker is applied when it is shipped by the manufacturer or received by the store or when, exactly, in the manufacturing process the sticker is applied.  The point is that the date is not an exact representation of age, but approximate.  So, choosing a battery off the shelf with the latest date sticker is key.  Or, alternatively, to ask the installer to show you the battery options before one is popped into your car so you know you have a relatively newish sticker date.

I bought a new battery the day before I moved here, December 22, 2010.  My battery sticker date is 10/10, which means that it was manufactured in 2010, but does not mean that it was done so in October.  In any case, my 5-year battery is, by sticker date, at 9 months shy of its expiration, if not closer.  Couple that with little driving and ... voilĂ  ... it should be no surprise to me that I need a battery.  I used to know these things, have these things on a vehicle maintenance schedule that I kept without even writing it down.


However, even through my tears, I am able to admit that my $25 a month car savings account that I established last year, which has now earned $0.88 in interest and is at $250.88 balance, means that I can purchase a battery and a brake light without stressing over the finances.  Just the need and the work to get it in.  I will say, being an old fart and all, I am astounded that batteries are so bloody expensive now.  I remember buying them in the $40 range.  I know that last one I bought was $79.99.  The best matches I've found online, not including that "core" fee and installation, are $109.99.  GULP.  I asked Tim if he'd pick one up and put it in because 1) I am lazy and overwhelmed and don't want to go weep at GoodYear and 2) if I have to pay an installation fee, I'd rather pay Tim.

When I was lying on the bathroom floor this morning, even before that distressing email, I had this distinct thought:  I've had enough of this.  I haven't really thought that before.  Usually, I am only trying to survive from one moment to the next.  But, seriously, I have had enough of overwhelming, crippling, violent nausea.

I'm pretty sure, even though I didn't use the monitor, that the culprit was my blood pressure, having been lying down so much.  Making the transition from horizontal to vertical is becoming harder.  Lately, I've been trying to have a mini-salt-fest around midnight, along with Gatorade, to help with my blood pressure.  But I didn't last night.  I had my beloved Honey Nut Cheerios because I am also sick of being sick.

I would like an ear-ectomy.  I mean, I would still like to be able to hear, but I am tired of having painful, itchy, stuffy ears that are not enough to really complain about but bother me night and day.  And I am tired of sniffing and dripping, even though it is not very often or very much.  I was all ready to make the grand announcement that my sore throat had ended, but it is feeling sore again.  At least, when I blow my nose from sniffing, it is no long bleeding.  And I am coughing much less.  However, my right ear hurts more and my right jawbone joint thingy hurts like the tendonitis in my elbows.  Hence, another reason for eating lots of oatmeal and Honey Nut Cheerios.

Why is it that the milk from Honey Nut Cheerios has to be so very tasty?

So, I have a plan:  Tim will purchase a battery and bulb and bring them to my house.  Tim will replace the battery and bulb. I will write him a check.  I will transfer money from savings before he gets home to cash the check.  And my car will be perfectly fine afterwards, not needing anything for the rest of 2015 but an oil change in May and tire rotation (free) in December.

The plan for me?  I'm afraid that I will keep on weeping.  And wishing I had lettuce so that I could drown my sorrows in pulled pork tacos.  The five days until my new budget cycle already feels like five months.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

All dressed up...

Tonight was the second of the four chamber performances by members of the symphony.  Even though I am STILL SICK and really didn't want to go anywhere, I didn't want to miss the performance.  An hour before it was time to leave, I dragged myself off the couch and on upstairs, my fluff ball following forlornly.  He always knows when I am going to leave (abandon him).

The chamber performances are a more casual dress than the regular symphony, but I took care of my appearance.  I washed my face, used moisturizer, and applied powder, blush, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, lip liner, and lipstick.  I went whole hog and even splashed on some perfume.  I put on a skirt and one of my more feminine blouses. And instead of just slapping on my gold ear drops and my cross, I decided to wear the necklace I received when I graduated with my Ph.D.  It was the only gift I received (from a professor), although I did do a whole lot of gifting to myself as a way of compensating for my disappointment over the rather non-event that accomplishment was to my family.

The necklace has three silver rings one it, one inscribed with the word "fantasy."  My dissertation title was:  The Liberating Effects of Strong Female Protagonists in Modern High Fantasy.  It was a ground-breaking study in several ways and was impressive in certain circles ... even though I never did finish the contract for the book on it.  That necklace is a favorite possession of mine, but it is also the epitome of bittersweet.  For reasons that probably only make sense to me, I haven't worn it in a long, long, long time, thinking I was no longer deserving of all it represents.  However, I very purposely and a bit joyously looped it around my neck.

I console Amos for a long while, grab my Kindle, and head out to the car.  I open the door, without thought and start the car.  Only I didn't.  The car didn't start.  It is completely and utterly and absolutely dead.  With my very poor memory, I couldn't remember if the door lock actually opened, or if I actually left it unlocked Friday when I fetched prescriptions.  I cannot fathom doing the latter, but with electric locks, it is most likely I did.

Nothing worked.
Silence on all fronts.

I am rather fervently hoping that my battery inexplicably got drained and, when Firewood Man comes on Friday, I can get a jump from him.  I do have Roadside Assistance, but I am not sure how that works when the assistance needed is not on the road but in the garage.  I might call on the morrow or I might wait.  For if it is a jump that is needed, then I can get that from Tim.  And then I can check the car several times to ensure that it was just a fluke.  The battery is not that old and I've had no indications of a problem.

If it is something more, I will have to keep from throwing myself off a bridge (for car repairs are NOT in my budget at the moment) and figure out what to do before my GP appointment on the 30th.

Anyway, I wailed like a baby for missing the symphony after putting on purfume and then stomped back inside.  Even Amos' rather enthusiastic greeting, one given as if I had left him for months on end, did not assuage my disappointment.  I stomped upstairs (huffing and puffing because I really still am germy) and shed my clothes all over the floor.  I stomped into the bathroom and took a shower, where I scrubbed away all traces of my aborted evening out.  The only benefit of my fit was that the water, although rather painfully, changed my already blue feet back to a somewhat normal color.  Dressing up to go out means taking off the ever present wool socks and thus exposing my feet to all that cold air.

A few episodes of "Waking the Dead" later, I thought I would read some of Michael Card's commentary on the Gospel of Luke.  I actually did not get past re-reading the first chapter, but I did spend some time thinking not only about the introduction, but also the blessing of starting a third testimony about Jesus.

The introduction is three parts: 1) an introduction to the commentary series, since this was the first one, although I am reading it third; 2) an introduction to Luke the person; and 3) and introduction to the themes of Luke.  Michael Card has entitled this commentary as Luke: The Gospel of Amazement.  A very irreverent part of me wondered if he meant Luke: Shock and Awe.  But I can be a bit flippant at times.  He didn't.  He meant amazement, wonder, awe, incredulity.  One of the "onlys" of Luke is that he is the only Gospel writer who uses all five Greek words that can be translated amazed.

As for part three of the introduction, the major themes, Michael Card presents them as: the Gospel of Amazement; When Those Who Should Don't; Parables at Work (not employment but meaning giving a richer setting and more whys and wherefores of the parables); An Unimaginably Paradoxical Prototype; Hesed in Luke; the Long Journey to Jerusalem; and Luke as a Bridge.

To be honest, I have found the introductions in each of the commentaries fascinating and satiating.  But this one, being the first I guess, has a clear writing about Hesed.

The thing is, I've read this introduction five times now, with the repetition I do each time I read in the commentaries.  By that I mean, I have read the first section five times, the second four times, and the third three times.  Today, I was to read through the second chapter of the Gospel, but I stopped after finishing the first again.  Stopped and thought.

Here is the intro bit on Hesed:

I have had a lifelong love affair with words, especially untranslatable ones.  Of all the biblical words I have encountered, no single one is more fascinating than the Hebrew word hesed. It is the word God uses to define himself again and again in the Old Testament (for example, Ex. 20:6; 34:6-7; Num 14:18-19; Deut 5:10).  The best translation I have found for this untranslatable word takes an entire sentence: "When the person from whom I have a right to expect nothing gives me everything."  Without requiring an entire book, that phrase pretty well captures the meaning of hesed in the Old Testament. When the concept of hesed appears in the New Testament, it is usually translated "grace" or "mercy." [emphasis mine]

Despite Luke's non-Jewish background and the fact that he writes in Greek and not Hebrew, we find the notion of hesed reflected in the text over and over.  We do not simply see mercy or grace portrayed in a one-dimensional way.  Rather, the fully formed Hebrew notion of hesed is what we inevitably find.

Mary's Magnificat is full of hesed.  In Luke 1:50, "His mercy is from generation to generation" is an echo of Exodus 20:6.  In Luke 1:54 we are told again that he is "mindful of his mercy." Then, four verses later in Luke 1:58, we read that mercy has been shown to Elizabeth, the mother of John.  It becomes the theme of Zechariah's song a few verses later (Lk 1: 72, 78).  When Jesus makes the impossible demand on his disciples to love their enemies, they are reminded that God loves his enemies, that "He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil" (Lk 6:35).  Sound familiar? When the person from whom I have the right to expect nothing gives me everything.  In Luke 10, the Samaritan shows compassion.  Though the wounded man on the ground has no right to expect anthing from a no-good Samaritan, behold, he received over-the-top mercy:  first aid, a donkey ride to a hotel, room and board, and the promise that the Samaritan will be back to check on him.  And when Jesus forces the legal expert who called for the story in the first place to decide who his neighbor is after all, he is forced to mumble, "The one who showed mercy" (Lk 10:37).

Time and time again in Luke's Gospel, we will hear that perfect prayer coming from the poor and the leper, "Have mercy!"  Once again the people who are asking know they do not deserve what they are asking for.  Nonetheless, they ask because of the defining characteristic of Jesus:  hesed, or undeserved mercy.  Ultimately, upon the cross Jesus will forever define hesed.

 I mentioned that, after two commentaries, I finally understood orthodoxy and the parable of the wineskin.  In a way, that parable speaks to the folly of making Jesus the new Moses, the giver of new laws for faithful living.  That one example of the fullness of hesed—a many-layered and complex example—the example of the Good Samaritan provided (after several readings) a glimpse of mercy.  Before he left, I asked my pastor what it means to say, "Lord, have mercy." or to pray the Kyrie.  He was leaving, so I said that I could wait for the answer.  It is not that I actually found the answer here, but that I glimpsed what an answer could be.

It is interesting, reading Luke Chapter One, the look at how the author constructs a parallel presentation of the two announcements and the two miraculous conceptions.  That theme of "those who should don't" is present when you consider that Zechariah, of priestly descent married to a woman of priestly decent, standing in the in the holy of holies, should have been the one to believe Gabriel and yet he didn't.  And there you have Mary, who had every reason, being a virgin, to doubt, and yet she didn't.

I do not remember (not that that says much) noting that Gabriel made both announcements or knew that he was the angel who spoke to Daniel (Daniel 9:23).  Neither did I note that both Zechariah and Mary sang songs of praise. The first chapter of Luke is altogether different from that of Mark and Matthew.  Knowing that Luke was pulling together a testimony from eye-witnesses for the Gentiles, it makes you almost salivate to encounter the "onlys" of Luke.

One that Michael Card includes is that there are over 700 words in Luke's Gospel that are not found anywhere else in New Testament.  I guess that you could say that Luke, too, is a lover of words.

Being one myself, I wonder if Luke's Jesus can supplant my adoration of Mark's.  Or, perhaps, Luke's Jesus will be the bridge that I need between the Jesus of Mark and that of Matthew.

Hesed.  When the person from whom I have a right to expect nothing gives me everything.  

Before tonight, I hadn't really thought about how God defines Himself in the Old Testament is no different than how He defines Himself in the New Testament, even if we think it looks different.  It is impossible to grasp just how our triune God shows Hesed, but it is good to remember that we receive mercy not just from the Father, nor only from the Son, but also from the Holy Spirit.  To ponder how each gives mercy.  

God, the great I AM.  
Jesus, the great I AM.  
The Holy Spirit, the great I AM.  

Is not the Holy Spirit, when working the Word and Sacraments within us, when giving and sustaining faith, when daily and richly forgiving us, when sanctifying us, showing hesed?

I don't know how to say it, but I think I have a better handle on orthodoxy (and thus all mentions of it in the New Testament) and a more ... intriguing ... understanding of what it actually means to say our triune God.  Not, of course, saying that I have any real clue of what the trinity actually means and is.  That bit of understanding, I believe, simply doesn't come on this side of the veil.

Emily's magical GREEN socks, GREEN undergarments, GREEN pajamas, a GREEN sweater, and a GREEN scrunchie holding back my sopping wet hair.  Twice, tonight, I was all dressed up.  The first time, with no where to go.  The second?  Well, I truly did miss the awe that I encounter at the symphony, but I am savoring the awe of the Word of God.