Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Paying the piper...

Much writhing today. Beached whale status on my painful abdominal. Missed doses of erythromycin exact such a high price that you think I could manage to remember my medications all four times ... five, really, with the middle of the night thyroid med dose.

Amos was a real trooper, attentively waiting upon his miserable momma. So, before our night ended, we played "Where's Momma?" (puppy dog hide-and-seek).  At least one of us is contentedly sleeping now.

Sunday, March 29, 2015


The house smells so wonderful because I roasted more maple chili sunflower seeds.  My pumpkin seeds order will be in next week, but I have been rather happy with the tastiness of the more economical raw sunflower seeds after I roasted them.

I gave a snack bag of them to my neighbor to try.  She opened it up whilst we were chatting outside across the fence from each other and was wowed by the flavor.  The bag never made it inside her house.  Her effusive adulation of my seed roasting skills brightened my day.

I also mixed up more gorp, but that did not leave any pleasant aromas wafting through my home.

Today for lunch I had some of the asiago sourdough bread from that specialty grocery store and leftover steak.  Something that I did with the marinade leftover in the bowl was to cook it in a sauce pan.  It reduced a bit into this thicker glaze, which I dribbled onto my tacos and then saved in a small glass container.  So, I had cold steak strips dipped in a spoonful of the sauce.  Even though the steak was cooked a bit overly long, I still enjoyed the meal.  I am looking forward to trying to grill the second skirt steak again soon.  I thought that since the flank steak is supposed to be slightly more forgiving, I would try the second skirt steak before I try the flank steak so as to (hopefully) have a better outcome with the flank steak.  Then, when I am done with all the older steaks, I will buy fresh steak and (hopefully) have much success.

Today, I also "processed" the fresh chicken breasts I got.  By that I mean I slice off all the bits of skin and stuff that really ought not be found on boneless skinless breasts and divide the breasts into Ziplock bags according to the portions I need for recipes.  I have some 2-piece bags, 3-piece bags, and 4-piece bags.  Chicken sufficiency happiness abounds here on Kinnaird Avenue.

Amos is still a bit sulky from being transformed from a sheep back to a puppy dog last night.  He is just so adorable when you can see how small his legs and body are, even though the latter stretches to near miraculous lengths when need be.

Here he is wedged between my stomach and the TV table whilst I am sitting on the couch.  From this view, it hardly looks like I took off a good two inches of curls.  I do think I need to snip a bit more on the left side of his neck though, right?

I spent some time reading Michael Card's commentary on John, John: The Gospel of Wisdom. Reading it reminded me that I have not written much about the end of his commentary on Luke.

Luke is the first commentary in the series, but I remain convinced that the order in which I have been reading the commentaries is good, almost better, for me.  Mark is so sparse and yet so focused.  Matthew is so illuminating with the contrast of audience and the history of Judaism.  Luke, with its focus on prayer, has been timely and also an interesting balance with all the unique words and inclusions in his testimony.  Plus, Luke's shaping of others' eye witness accounts provides a chance to step back from the intimacy of Mark and Matthew and truly absorb both the Good News and the perfection of all three testimonies.  The commentary on John was the last one Michael Card wrote and I am curious how I will think and feel about John's Jesus, having met Mark's, Matthew's, and Luke's.

I did want to note just a few things from the final few chapters of Luke:

It is a misnomer, of sorts, to speak of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  I learned this because, for the first time, I saw that He was weeping as He entered.  Michael Card writes more about the destruction of the temple and the suffering that was to come to the people of Jerusalem in here than in the other two commentaries.  This one part speaks volumes:

Verse 20 [Luke 21:20] jumps ahead to A.D. 70, when Titus surrounded the city with three legions for an entire year.  The suffering inside the walls was unimaginable.  Some people even resorted to cannibalism.  These horrific images in Jesus' imagination are what caused him to weep when he entered Jerusalem.

When you see these things, he warns them, "Flee to the mountains."  Shortly after he laid siege to the city, Titus surrounded it with a low wall, marking the boundary, the line past which no one could go.  He built the same sort of low wall around Masada, the remains of which can still be seen today.

In book 5 of his War of the Jews, Josephus describes specifically the suffering of the women in the besieged city.  After it was all over, the Romans crucified those left alive until they literally ran out of wood for making crosses.  In verse 23 Jesus mentions pregnant women and nursing mothers, who provide some of the most ghastly images in Josephus' account.  The few who survived were dispersed.  Many were sold as slaves.  From the proceeds of the sacking of the city, Titus was able to construct the well-known Colosseum.  This Jesus refers to as the fulfillment of the "times of the Gentiles."

So, if you are thinking about man, yes, there were shouts of adulation. From man's perspective, it was a triumphal entry.  But, if you are thinking about Jesus, there were tears of sorrow, of suffering and loss.  From His perspective, there is no triumph in those things.

How hard it must have been, to be teaching day after day, in the very spot where such horrors would come to the children of Israel.  Jesus had the weight of what was—a temple where the courtyard set aside for Gentile prayer was turned into a market place—and the weight of what was to come—His death and the destruction of the temple.

Years ago, I saved for a long time to take Becky and myself to Italy.  We walked the grounds of the Colosseum, marveling at its massive structure and the thought of just how much marble used to be there.  I suppose that it is almost fitting that a structure built on the plundering of a city would later be plundered itself.  I wish I had read these commentaries before that trip. I wish I had understood more of Rome then.

Skipping back to Michael Card's commentary on Luke 20:18:

In verse 18 Jesus lists the only two possibilities of encountering this messianic Stone.  The first possibility is that a person can stumble over it and be broken—a metaphor of what happens to all Jesus' disciples.  Brokenness is foundational to becoming a follower.  The second possibility speaks of the judgment that will fall, like a stone, on those who refuse to accept Jesus' saving grace.  It is an image of complete, grinding destruction.

In a way, one of the themes of Luke could be brokenness, for he does include so many stories about the marginalized, the loathed, the outcast.  Jump back to Luke 19 and consider Michael Card's commentary about Zacchaeus ... which is not the little ditty about the wee little man in a tree children learn:

Let me state the obvious:  Zacchaeus is not misunderstood.  He is not the victim of circumstance.  He is a genuinely bad man.  He has chosen to work for the Romans, to bilk his own people.  So successful is he at this job that he has risen in the ranks to become a chief tax collector.  The people don't despise him because they are close-minded and judgmental; they despise him because he is a slimy, good-for-nothing thief.  And he knows he is.

In verse 8 Zacchaeus stands up before Jesus, presumably now at the meal in his home, and makes the announcement that, first, he will give half his possessions to the poor and, second, he will restore anything he has extorted from the taxpayers four times over.  The "four times" figure is the required restoration a thief was commanded to make in the Torah (Ex 22:1).  It is a vivid (and expensive!) confession of his thievery.

Compared to the story of the rich ruler from the preceding chapter, Zacchaeus is a happy contrast.  He is the poster child, the paradigm for the radically reversed value system Jesus has been teaching from the very beginning.  The fact that it is Zacchaeus who meets Jesus on this last stop before Jerusalem—Zacchaeus, the short, gleeful, reformed, tree-climbing con man—must be a thoroughly satisfying moment for the tired, footsore rabbi from Galilee.

So often, Luke provides more, even if the actual story or parable is shorter than other accounts.  In reading through the commentary, I have learned to appreciate the setting, the historical background, the cultural or sociopolitical context that are some of the riches of Luke's testimony.  And, subsequently, the riches of Michael Card's commentary on Luke.

I did like this ending note in chapter 21:

It seems as if, to make a point, Jesus feels the desire to fictionalize it.  Perhaps a parable reaches us more broadly and more deeply than mere didactic information.  He can list the signs, both concrete and apocalyptic, but they are too big for our minds to contain.  But the feeling of looking for a lost coin or waiting for a wayward child or anticipating the change in the trees when spring is here: those things we can understand with all of our hearts and minds.

Something about the Last Supper that I believe that I missed before is to ponder why it is that Jesus sent Peter and John to make the preparations for the meal instead of some of the women who traveled with Jesus.

...It is going to be a long night for Simon.  Every time he tires to do the right thing, Jesus will rebuke him for it.  He will pledge his loyalty, and Jesus will respond by telling him that he's going to deny him three times.  When he approaches Peter to wash his feet, out of respect for Jesus, Peter will try to refuse; yet then Jesus will tell him that unless he submits, they have nothing in common.  He alone will have the courage to draw his sword in the garden, and yet Jesus will rebuke him and tell him to put it away.

Once more, I particularly like a title for a Scripture passage Michael Card chooses for his commentary.  Luke 22:31-38 is "The Sifting of Simon."  The passage is interesting because I did not realized that Satan asked to sift the disciples (the first "you" of verse 31 is plural) the way he approached God about Job.  The second "you" of that passage is singular ... Jesus prayed for Simon Peter, for his repentance and the subsequent strengthening of his brother disciples.

Thinking of the commentary above and then the idea that Peter was being "sifted" adds layers and layers and layers of meaning and struggle to what befalls Peter in the coming hours.

We know the story.  Peter, the rock, will crack, denying that he even knows Jesus.  But in the end he will "turn around" and become one of the keystones in the building of the church.  Not because of his courage or his faith or intestinal fortitude, but simply because his best Friend has prayed for him.  Luke who shows us so much concern for the prayer life of Jesus, has taught us this: nothing happens without prayer.

Not because of his courage or his faith or intestinal fortitude, but simply because his best Friend has prayed for him.  Not because of his courage or his faith or intestinal fortitude, but simply because his best Friend has prayed for him.  Not because of his courage or his faith or intestinal fortitude, but simply because his best Friend has prayed for him.  Not because of his courage or his faith or intestinal fortitude, but simply because his best Friend has prayed for him.

What an incredible statement.

A bit later, Michael Card expands the lesson on sifting:  For those of use who are being "sifted" right now, the Bible speaks these two words of comfort:  First, God is sovereign over all our suffering.  Second, Jesus himself is praying for us, even as he prayed for Simon.

About Judas' betrayal, Michael Card includes a bit of personal background in his commentary:

When I was in college, I read a book that said that those of us who follow Jesus today still betray him with a kiss.  It was a disturbing thing to read, and I must confess that for a good while I hated the author for writing those words.  It seemed easier to hate him than hate myself, since what he said was true.  I know something now that I did not know then.  Even though each of us does betray him, time and time again, the point is not to try and fix us.  We are unfixable.  Judas will try to fix what he had done by returning the money.  But it won't be enough.  It will never be enough.  The point is to follow Peter's lead.  The main difference between Peter and Judas is that only Peter weeps in repentance.  That is what I know now that I did not know when I read the book.  While we cannot avoid the sin, we can live a life of repentance.

There is much more goodness, many more thoughtful gems in the rest of the commentary on Luke, but I think that I would like to leave off here:  We are unfixable.

Jesus never tried to fix anyone.  He pronounced the forgiveness of sins.  He healed people.  He even raised the dead.  But every one of those people who received His direct forgiveness went on to live a sinful life.  Jesus did not fix their brokenness because they lived—we live—in a broken world.  It and we are not fixable.

To me, therein lies the heart of so very many problems with so very many books and bible studies and sermons and blogs and movements and outreach programs of the Church:  either blatantly pronounced or subtly laced is this idea that we can be fixed.  Ways and means by which we can give back the silver we took for betraying Jesus.  We can't give it back.  And Jesus doesn't want us to try.  We are already forgiven.  We are forgiven and loved so very much that we were given the Holy Spirit to help us receive, over and over again, the gifts of Christ and to enable us to live in repentance.

I confess that I have, from the beginning, been afraid to read the Gospel of John.  Yes, it was logical to read Mark, Matthew, and Luke first, since they have more in common with each other than does John.  However, the truth is that some of the most scary-words-of-Jesus to me are in John's testimony.  Were it up to me, I have said, John would end at 1:5.  I remain afeard.  I do.  Even armed with the comfort and consolations of all three commentaries, with meeting Jesus through the perfect words of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, I remain afeard.

It is good, therefore, being enmeshed in the Gospel of John now, to remind myself of some of those gems of Luke.  And of the fact that I am unfixable.  I am unfixable and that is okay.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


I received another notice that my personal information had been stolen.  This is the forth time.  Target.  Lutheran Medical Network, The Home Depot, and now Blue Cross Blue Shield.  SIGH.

The two insurance data losses are greater, because they contain my social security number.  Honestly, I never liked having to give it.  The whole mess stinks.  Target is the only of the four who offered identity theft monitoring.  I am a bit resigned to whatever may come.  I, personally, did nothing risky or wrong for this to happen.  DOUBLE SIGH.

Today, I officially began my journey of learning to cook steak.  I stink at it.  I really, really, really fail at it.  I want to learn to grill flank and skirt steak and sauté sirloin (such as for beef and broccoli).  I've read dozens of recipes and watched dozens of videos.  So, I tried.

Yes, it was 34 degrees outside.
Yes, I had trouble lighting my grill that fell this winter.
Yes, I never got to the proper temperature.

In adjusting to lower temperature on the grill, I somehow managed to slightly overcook the steak.  Skirt steak CANNOT be overcooked.  The marinade was AWESOME, though, and so my steak tacos were fine.  I have plenty of leftover steak strips to snack on, though I don't think would be good for tacos since I use the best parts of the steak for the ones tonight.

I need to improve on grilling skirt steak, obviously, and on cutting it.  I wanted really thin slices, but perhaps for tacos what I had was okay. The flank steak might be better at cutting thin slices.  The meat I have is older, since I bought it and chickened out.  The way I see it, I really cannot complain if my first four steak trials fail since the meat is older.  However, the skirt steak had no freezer burn on it and was nicely pink when it thawed.

Despite my B- result on cooking steak, I did think of a most perfect place to put the thyroid medication so that I will remember to take it in the middle of the night when I am fetching fresh ice packs.

Tonight will be my last fire.  SADNESS.  I am hoping, however, it will give me the courage to wrestle my fluff ball—who now greatly resembles a sheep—to cut his hair.  Wish me luck!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Naming emotions...

I had wanted this month's (April's) grocery spending to be super low, like in February, but I clearly over compensated for my upsettedness today.  And, having been chicken deprived, I bought enough chicken for all of Indiana.  More bourbon, too.

Becky talked with me on the phone before my appointment, all the while working on clearing out stuff from her basement.  I'm proud of her.  Plus, I am grateful for the mercy of having the time between waking and arriving at the doctor's office filled with her industriousness rather than just how upset I am over losing my GP.  Since she was being all industrious, I did go ahead and use the BMV app to pay for my annual car registration that is due in just a few days.  Other than that, all I did was ready myself for my appointment.

One of things I am loathe to admit is that a few years ago, in a moment of dire upsettedness, I executed retail therapy by searching for and finding something GREEN to acquire.  I found the perfect bag to take to my appointments, a bag to hold my lab reports and formulary and anxiety squishy thing and kleenex and past records and a notebook.  I found this solid leather GREEN professional tote for a relatively mere pittance.  I bid on it, won it for $22, paid for it, unpacked it when it arrived, and promptly hung it up in the "bag" place.  This is the place where I hang my tapestry lunch tote, my tapestry shopping tote, my hospital go bag, and (now) my nice purse that I just use when I go to the symphony.

I hung it up and then promptly forgot that I had this really fantastic GREEN tote for medical appointments.  SIGH.

Today, I went to see if the tapestry shopping tote would be smaller than the African Kenyan bags that I have been taking with me.  Those rather awesome handmade jute bags have round bottoms and things can get lost in them.  Imagine my surprise when I saw the GREEN professional tote hanging below the tapesty shopping tote.  I had never actually looked at the back of the parlor door that has all those wonderful hooks when getting my nice purse for the symphony, just reached around it.  This morning, I actually looked.

GREEN bliss.

I was right, though, about it.  It really was/is the PERFECT tote/bag to carry what I need for my appointments in a light and thin profile.  Plus, since I keep my medications and discussion points on an app on my phone, I was able to slip the phone in that little pocket on the outside as a reminder to go over what refills I needed and the update notes.

The bottom of the bag is hidden by the blanket, otherwise you would see that the phone can slip in the pocket fully and be protected, yet remain in view.  The 9x12 Avery Job Ticket Holders that were and remain a chief organizational tool for me fit neatly inside.  The 2015 formulary book does, too.  I use the job holders to separate specific paperwork, such as my lab reports, yet allow me to visually see what's what.  Hence, I was happy at the discovery.  I also felt stupid that this perfect GREEN tote has been gathering dust for eons.

The power of GREEN carried me my into the exam room before the tears started falling.  I was able to calm down at times and talk, but I was overwhelmed at the loss of a doctor who has allowed me to use off-label drugs and remain on medication that she does not see the need for me to take, but agrees that they help me, such as the acarbose.

I was right. I figured my doctor was leaving either because her husband got a transfer or because she wanted to be nearer to her family.  It is the latter.  Who can be against being nearer to family when family is loving and kind and missing you greatly?  Still, I cannot commute to Minnesota for medical care.

She listened.  She listened to me today very deliberately, and not even noted the length of the appointment.  She told me that she knew this would be hard for me.  She listened to my fears that I will not find a doctor who is flexible enough on medications and not inhibited by my complex medical history (malaria and TB in particular really freak out medical personnel).  She listened and then asked me about how I was doing mentally and I was more open and frank than I have ever been. It was ... good ... to hear her say how much she believes I have gotten better, even though I still struggle.  She listened and, very much to my surprised, agreed that it would be okay to nudge up the thyroid mediation a smidgeon to see if that helped with the hair loss and dry skin and bleeding and weight gain.  She listened and told me that she would talk with whomever I chose to try as a new doctor.

I wanted so badly to see her again before she leaves.  But every single minute between now and April 30th is full, including many of her lunches.  She has a few patients, like me, that she plans on staying late to help.

I sobbed my way out the door, into the elevator, across the parking lot, and into my car.  I sobbed and called Becky, who listened to me.  I think that, perhaps, I did the best job ever at speaking my emotions:  sad, grieving, hopeless, and afraid.  There was/is the tiniest part of my brain that is proud of being able to articulate that to Becky.

Even though my legs were wobbly and my face wet, I continued with my plan to pick up the prescriptions I needed at both pharmacies, fetch some groceries, and get Taco Bell on the way home, thanks to a new gift card.  I sat in the parking lot of Target for a while trying to compose myself. I wanted to not be all upset with the pharmacist who is so helpful with me.  She was rather compassionate about losing my doctor and promised to do all she could to communicate my prescription needs.

That was merciful.

At Walmart, I wept my way through the store and didn't care who saw me.  Part way through piling up the chicken in my cart, my sister called and distracted me with her disturbing news.  What do you do when you have ruptured discs in your neck and the neurosurgeon describes the danger of not having surgery and then the danger of having surgery?  At least my medical visit was not as distressing as hers.

I am fairly certain that I bought too much chicken.  I am somewhat chagrinned about it and somewhat comforted by having all that new chicken so that I can now cook up the chicken that is currently in in my freezer.  Chicken with Bourbon Mustard Sauce will be first up, then a new recipe.

The fancy grocery store is between my doctor's office and the pharmacies, so I stopped there to see if they carried rice wine.  They did.  Somehow, I also walked out the door with fancy cheese from Denmark, summer sausage, and not one but two loaves of Asiago sourdough bread.  I blame my post-last-GP-visit fugue state.

All in all, I spent $111 thus far.  I should only need milk, cucumber, lettuce, and broccoli or asparagus for the rest of the month.  Part of that $111 is comfort food that should last into next month as well.  You see, the most wickedest of groceries that I will sometimes purchase is a box of Red Barron's single serve deep dish pepperoni pizza.  I don't even like pepperoni pizza, but I sure do like those.  At $2.98 for a box of two, I do not find them to be un-economical at all.  I will not, however, at this time admit the number of boxes that made their way into my shopping cart.

We will not be discussing chicken or pizza in quantity at all.

My pharmacist suggested, when she gave me the new thyroid prescription, that I start taking it apart from all my other medications and on an empty stomach.  She said that since the thyroid can be so persnickety, given all that I am taking, it might be best to let the thyroid medication be in my stomach be the only thing.  I loved her idea, but wondered how I could manage that.  Really, the best time would be to take it when I am changing ice packs in the middle of the night.  But how would I know that I have taken it??  I decided I needed a separate medication box for that one.

Wow!  How cool is it that I did not donate this one that someone gave me because it is GREEN when thought that I would never have need for it since all my meds wouldn't fit in those tiny boxes?  I dislike having things on the kitchen counter, but I suppose I must.  For me to be successful at taking my medication, I need to keep it in sight.  I wonder if I could keep the thyroid medication in the freezer next to the icepacks?  

By the way, if you were wondering about that package that I thought might be chicken in the basement freezer, it was root vegetables for stock making.  Soon, I will need them.  Today, I carted down the broccoli and asparagus stems that I kept from my veggie "meals" over the past two weeks.

Amos is down for the count, having exhausted himself with worry the whole time I was gone.  He's currently sleeping on four of his babies.  Poor little pup.  I'll be down for the count, too, soon.  I am weary in mind and body and soul.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Flashover rate...

I read the most fascinating article the other day that has lingered long in my mind.  It is about how your "stuff" very literally can kill you.  Were it not a rather flagrant copyright violation, I would cut and paste the whole thing here.  Hopefully, you will read it for yourself.

It was written by a retired firefighter and starts off with the story of an apartment fire that turned into a six-alarm blaze that was harrowing and hazardous to both firefighters and the residents.

"The men from Station 313 responded by calling in better weapons and more troops: eventually, more than 300 firefighters and twenty-seven fire engines would get involved. The firefighters at the scene switched from the regular 1.5-inch to the 2.5-inch hoses, and started using a ground monitor. This is a device firemen use in extreme situations to create a single stream of water that can dump more than thirty bath-loads of water on a fire every minute. Struggling with the heat in that tunnel of hell, the first responders plugged their hoses into one side of the ground monitor, and started pumping a river of water out the other side onto the fire. At the same time, they sprayed water on themselves to keep their suits from melting, and their skin from burning."

Part of what the author teaches about fires is a phenonomon called flashover:

"Flashover is the moment when so much heat has built up in a confined space that everything in it spontaneously combusts. Flashover is something firefighters think about a lot. Get to a room before flashover, and you may still be able to rescue anyone inside. Arrive after flashover, and you will be removing charred bodies – but only later, because the first thing you’ll be doing is getting out of there. Even in full, heat-resistant firefighting kit, a fire that has flashed over will kill you in less than two seconds."

What contributed to the massive fire was that the fire origin apartment housed a hoarder.  At that point, your mind might just want to tune out the story and the ultimate point of the article.  "I am definitely not a horder," you protest.  But if you keep reading, you'll learn one of the most sobering statistics I have ever heard.  A real statistic.  A practical statistic.

"So, when flashover happens is vitally important. Thirty years ago, it tended to happen around twenty-eight or twenty-nine minutes after a fire had started. Now though – because of the increased amount of stuff in our homes, and because much of it contains plastic and synthetic materials – flashover comes much sooner. The moment from unfortunate spark to murderous explosion is now between three and four minutes."

I very much want my own flashover point to be far, far, far closer to 28 minutes than 3 minutes.  In 28 minutes, you have a great chance to get all of your family out of the home and to get help there in time to save something of the structure, if not all of it.  In 3 minutes, lives are lost.  Forget the home.  In 3 minutes, lives are lost.

In a way, I wonder if the emphasis on ensuring an abundance of coverage of smoke detectors in a home, at least in part, has to do with the fact that we love our stuff.  I wonder if, somewhere along the line, those in charge of fire protection decided that it was simply easier to convince folk to stick a smoke detector up on the wall than to convince them that less stuff is better for them, healthier and safer.

There is a solid section on how hoarders find themselves trapped in the mindset that feeds their disease.  Read it.  Read the article.  For I hoped that, by the end, you would be as open to the author's concluding admonition as was I:

"There is no material difference between you and a clinically diagnosed hoarder, you see. It is a difference of degree. ‘The features of hoarding are on a continuum,’ says Gail Steketee, author, with Randy Frost, of a book about hoarding called Stuff. ‘Hoarding is an extreme version, but in today’s society we all face the same difficult decisions all the time: do I buy this? Do I keep that? And we all save things for the same reasons: because it’s pretty, because it reminds us of something, because it’s useful. But some people go overboard on what they think is pretty or sentimental or useful – and they’re the ones with hoarding issues.’
Think about that continuum for a moment, because I think it explains why one in three households in the U.S. contains a collector, why one in ten Americans rents storage space, and why one in twenty is a hoarder."

I have downsized tremendously.  The resulting visual rest, ease of keeping my house in order, and memory aid for the things I have has been good for me.  But, after reading this article, I want to be as certain as possible that my own personal flashover time is long enough to save Amos and possibly my home were a fire ever to start.

For a while now, I've wanted to whittle down my large collection of children's books.  I mean, no one wants me to teach workshops or seminars anymore.  No one needs me to expound upon the wonders of children's and young adult literature.  Books are meant to be read.

I mentioned to Becky that I would like to find a way to donate them to children so that they could take the books home, to have their own books.  Her very fine brain came up with three agencies for me to contact:  foster care agencies, crisis pregnancy centers, and domestic shelters.  Wow!  Just like that she gave me the seeds of a plan.

So, yesterday, I first dawdled by getting ready for things I have to mail as soon as my next budget cycle arrives.  When I was packing the box for my sister and nephews, I threw in a few books for them.  That got me started.

This was what I managed to cull yesterday.

This is those books and more, the ones from today's culling.  My collection is still rather large, especially since I have all those bookshelves.  However, I am, at the moment, trying to keep only either seminal books or a representative of a type of book.  I know I still have too many counting and color books.  They are just so darned creative.  I am trying to comfort my feelings of culling failure by the knowledge that all the down-sizing I did before was a process that took, essentially, two years.  Down-sizing can be like pealing back the layers of an onion.

In the bags are clothes, shoes, and purses (I am finally letting go of my last three purses that are not in use ... I really just use two, casual and dress).  I would like to fill the second bag as a goal for working on my closets.  They are the last stronghold of "stuff" in my house.

I have little in the attic, but want to go through it all to ensure that nothing that is not needful is hiding up there.  As much as I have cleared out the basement, I still could do a bit more.  It is all organized and put away, but still there is stuff that could be donated, such as all the colored printer paper I have, if only I had someone interested in the office supplies that are worth too much to simply discard.  I've conservatively donated 75% of what I moved here with, but still there is much that remains.

However, as I noted, my closets are not streamlined.  In part they are serving as a dresser for me, for all my hoodies and lounge pants that I need to wear with my almost-always-painful abdomen.  However, I still have clothes that I could donate.  The problem is that my weight has crept up again (and my hair is falling out and I am bleeding and my skin is ashy ... not that the doctor will consider that my thyroid range could bear upping my medication again) and some of the clothes that I would have donated had I read this article a year ago could actually be ... fitting again.  SIGH.

I remain a closet failure.
I am an imperfect person.
Tomorrow is another day.

I will note that very little of my fantasy books are in that pile.  I have considered adding in the Harry Potter books.  I do not reread those all the time, the way I do so many of my other fantasy books.  And the Narnia books.  And the Eragon collection....

Most of my bookcases are legal ones, with glass doors that drop down and cover the shelves.  One is very deep, which housed the majority of my picturebooks.  Those I was rather stern in culling.  So, the top shelf is empty. I wondered if it would be weird to fill that top shelf with my grandmother's wedding quilt and my great-grandmother's wedding quilt.  I would like for them to be in view.

I moved all my Holocaust books up to the space that was emptied in the Informational Books bookcase, which freed up an entire shelf in my middle and young adult books bookcase.  I decided to, for now, put all the antique books that were stacked atop that bookcase on the first shelf and leave just the "trimmings" that were placed around the antique books, five generations of family treasures.  I am not sure if I will keep the antique books there, for they are less visible, but I will say that the visual rest factor of the parlor rose with the clearing/downsizing of stuff off the top of the bookshelf.

With all those books now on the first shelf, one can actually take in those family treasures I chose to keep.  Mine is the BEST birthday present EVER from Rebecca Anne Bettina Matilda Boyles Kulp.  Were I her, I would have kept the book for myself.  It is a handmade book of clippings from magazines and newspapers and such that dates back to at least 1910.  Most fascinating reading!!

I have yet to cull my multicultural books collection.  Nor have I gone through what's left of the Christian fiction I have.  Some is Christian Fiction fantasy, little known to most folk, that I thought I might pass on to someone I know.  Mostly, though, I stopped working because I am exhausted.

The work, however, helped keep my mind off of tomorrow.  I called on Monday to see if I could set up another appointment before my GP leaves even though I am seeing her tomorrow.  There were none available in the next five weeks.  I am still extremely despairing about finding a doctor and having access to prescriptions for the medications I am taking, especially those which are off-label use.


My sister's reward for the 2015 Great Inbox Clear Out arrived today.  She paid for a replacement lettuce spike that I had somehow lost to my Tupperware lettuce keeper.

My original was clear, but I am "making do" with the GREEN one I found, especially since it was the most economical of the many Tupperware lettuce spikes on there.  I've been without mine for years, but I cannot figure out how it got lost, unless it was in one of my many, many, many moves.

It was nice that she funded the restoration of my lettuce keeper.

Amos and I are now on the couch, resting.  One of us is snoring whilst the other of us is considering what other "stuff" that I might downsize.

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Friday's mail brought very unexpected, very devastating news. I have not slept much since. I am too weary at heart.  What I have been doing is cleaning out my sister's personal email.  She had the old AOL two inbox system, filled with over 20,000 emails.

20,000 plus emails.

I logged on and started wading in so that she could have visual rest in her inbox. I created folders and archived important emails. I created filters for the remaining newsletters to go to special viewing folders so as to not crowd up her inbox. I unsubscribed from marketing and news emails. I marked and deleted spam. And I deleted old, no longer relevant emails. I deleted--by checking the box to mark each bloody one--15,115 emails.


I don't know how much spam I deleted, but I left my sister with only 108 emails I thought relevant (ones from the start of the school year) to address. Before we hung up the phone, she had already whittled her inbox down to just 44 emails and had used the folders to archive a few emails herself.

My sister had gotten to a point where she could neither see new emails or find ones she needed because her divided inbox (new/old) was too full. Dealing with the problem seemed hopeless. To her, it was. She had no time to wade in and create order from chaos on such a massive scale.

I had been wanting to offer this particular help, because I have oft heard her lament over her inbox. Yesterday, felled as I was, I clung to the opportunity to numb myself in her ginormous problem, to stave off, albeit merely temporarily, the heartbreak of mine.  I am truly grateful for the opportunity to give my sister a new beginning, to give her back control of her personal communications.  Even in my blanketed anguished state, I savored to victory of clicking the button to empty her trash, to wipe out her burden.

To be honest, the first three emails my sister managed of the 108 I left were spam I had missed. A blow to the pride of my labor. I am not perfect. But I am willing to lie in a chair and wade through another person's nightmare to have a respite from my own life.

Was it God's mercy that the perfect moment to approach the email problem came as I sat in sackcloth and ashes??

My GP is leaving the practice. Finding a doctor to take on a Medicare patient with neurological disease, PTSD, a complicated medical history (including malaria and tuberculosis), and a prescription list of off-label use drugs, who is a survivor of sexual abuse that has left its own triggers is more impossible than clearing out an inbox of over 20,000 emails that require marking individually before each action upon the email is taken.

I am utterly, absolutely beaten and overwhelmed.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Yes! Yes! No! No! Both...

I was looking at the overnight stats on the eBlast and was curious about the click rates on the links I provided.  The four topics click rates were as follows:  taxes 33%; insurance 11%; living space 33%; and yards 22%.  I find it interesting that insurance was not much of interest to others and yet it is well-documented that many homeowners do not really understand their insurance policies.  Sadly, that understanding oft comes a day late and a dollar short ... after they needed a better or different policy.

Each month, I look at the open rate of the eBlast at 1 day, 3 days, 7 days, and 1 month.  Sometimes, there is a jump over the course of the month, but generally 7 days will tell me what the final open rate was.  Last month was the best final open rate yet, at 35%.  The industry average is around 19% and we range between 24% and 28%.  So, even though we regularly beat the industry average, I would like to find ways to improve the open rate.  That is why, in part, I started working to find additional information to provide via hyperlinks when I write the accompanying text for the promotional material I'm given to send out.

This month's overnight open rate is 24%.  I do hope that it rises significantly, because I really did think I did a solid job of providing helpful information this month.

Anyway, the service we use has significantly changed the user interface and sometimes I feel a bit lost.  That leads to feeling panicked and other less-than-positive emotions that hinder my ability to be effective at one of the last legitimate tasks (albeit a very small one) I have left in my life.  However, I do like how the stats interface has changed.  It is rather visual now, with the click rate hovering over each link.  That's how I know folk were not much interested in lessons about insurance.

Next month's topic is going to be really, really, really hard.  SIGH.

Yesterday, Amos crawled into my lap for a nap when I was lying on the couch.  He then hopped back down to fetch a baby.   After tucking Reindeer Baby beneath his chin, Amos promptly feel asleep and soon started to snore.  I propped the phone up on the laptop sitting on the TV tray next to the couch so that all could enjoy my Fluff Ball's adorableness.

[Please ignore that I still have my Breathe Right strip on my nose.]

I try to explain to Amos that the couch isn't deep enough for both of us and a collection of his babies. He, however, has not really understood me.  At the moment, I'm sitting up, Amos and two babies are in my lap, and three more are next to me.  I am not sure which one of us Amos thinks needs baby-comforting ... him or me.

Tonight, Amos has been licking aways my tears.  

My sister caught the tail end of a documentary about frontotemporal dementia and told me the title.  This was my father's ... belated ... diagnosis.  I Googled it and found that the documentary can be found online:  Looks Like Laury, Sounds Like Laury.

Laura's daughter Tallie has a friend who, in my opinion, has some of the most helpful words in the film.  Her mother Connie becomes a close friend of Laury because of their daughters' friendship. The filming primarily takes place when Tallie and Gus are in 2nd Grade.  "Out of the mouths of babes" has truly never been more apt:

Tallie, she's my ... my really best friend and she thinks I'm her best friend, too. I'm Gus and I'm sort of like Tallie's best friend.  Sometimes we break up, but Tallie always gets us back together.  

When I first met Laury I didn't know what was wrong with her and I thought she just was quiet, she didn't know me and that's why she was doing that.  For she's different from many other mont, because you know she has that and so Tallie's different from many other friends because of that.  

Everybody keeps asking it to Tallie, like "What's up with your mom?"And I try to push it out of the way, the subject, so she wouldn't have to talk with about it. And that's all we can do, really, 'cause I can't help her mom.  I can't tell her... I m gonna ... like ... I can give her something to make her feel better or change her life.  The only thing I can say  "I'll try to be really nice to you. And I'll have lots of play dates together.  I'll even have sleepovers.  We'll talk together.  And I'll help you through math and stuff.  And that's all I can do, really."

Laury's primary symptom was Broca's Aphasia.  She could understand speech, but she was losing her ability to communicate herself.  Her first hint of a problem was at the age of 46; she began to forget her words, one by one.  She died when she was 52.  Having been an actress, Laury and her family welcomed the filming so that others might better understand frontotemporal dementia and how all dementia affects both the one afflicted and his/her family and friends.

I hope.  I hope you watch it.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Being value-added...

The last of the 2015 Great Melt has taken place, save for some lingering ice in my rock river.  So that also means the 2015 Great Winter Poop Pick-Up has been completed.  Amos was quite productive this winter.  He tuckered me out cleaning up after him.

However, Amos has add new value to his presence in my life, despite making messes in the back yard.  He has learned that when the microwave timer goes off, that means I will be getting up.  So, when it goes off, he leaps up and starts walking toward the kitchen.  The value-added part is that I have trouble hearing the microwave timer over the sound of talking, television, or music.  Amos' ears are better than mine.  When he leaps off the GREEN chair or the couch, then I know the timer must be going off.  Hence, I should be burning less food going forward!

Amos practiced his new skill several times this afternoon because I roasted both pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.  Since I stir them every ten minutes, that's four times of getting up for the timer.  The maple chili flavor is so very different on the sunflower seeds, but I do still like them.  I really, really, really like the idea of buying raw seeds to roast and flavor yourself.

I also did a rush job on crafting text for an eBlast.  I am proud of the result, because the topic from the imaged flyer was "Oops!" and was about damaging smart phones.  I wove the text from smart phones to real estate by talking about how the "oops" in our lives oft lead to lessons learned.  I mentioned a client (me) who moved to Fort Wayne and didn't know that you have to unhook your outdoor hoses in the winter.  My hose and faucet burst from the water remaining in the hose freezing and I had to replace both.  Oops.  Lesson learned.

Then I found some other examples of lessons you learn as a homeowner and included the following bullets in the eBlast:

I relished the victory of taking a difficult topic and pulling it back around to real estate and then included the branding agenda of being helpful in communications.

Amos and I were both value-added today.

Since it is all windy, though not very cold, and since I still have mountains of wood, I am having a fire tonight.  For a while, I roasted my feet before the fire.  Today is the first time in a long time where I did not wear wool socks.  So, even though I got to wear GREEN socks, I ended up with blue feet.  Fashion over health is not the best choice.

I'm all warm, now.  Weary, but warm.

Monday, March 16, 2015

A thought...

Amos and I hung out on the airing porch today.

Looking out into the neighborhood is not the best view ever, but it is ever so nice to be outside and still feel safe.  Amos agrees with me.

I had my Kindle with me, but mostly I watched the clouds drift by.

And then I watched the sunset.
And took many, many, many photos, from many, many, many angles.
Amos stayed on the steamer lounger, curled up beneath the quilt.

Whilst I was doing all that cloud watching, I caught sight of the ancient broom that I used to brush off the snow all winter.  The wooden handle is in horrid shape.  Hmmm....

The broom hanging from the hook on the wall of the back porch is also very old and horrid. I found three old and horrid conditioned brooms in the garage.  Ever since I repaired and opened up the back porch, I have wanted a new broom to hang on the hook by the back door.  A dozen times, at least, I have put one in my shopping cart only to take it back out.  A pretty broom for the beautified back porch is a want not a need.

My thought was this:  I could at least prime and then paint (GREEN, of course) the ancient wooden handle on the broom I keep up on the airing porch.  That way, I could have one pretty broom.  It would be nice to keep it downstairs,  but I wouldn't since I can't hang it up on the hook and having it just leaning against the wall would probably disturb my visual rest.

Now, on the Nutter Scale of 1-10, just how crazy is it to prime and paint an ancient, decrepit wooden handled broom that is probably as old as I am??

Also, how do I get a broom to stand up by itself so that I can prime and paint it????

Anyway, I had one other thing to note:  I am fairly sure Becky will be the only person to understand the magnitude of this statement, but I took my socks off whilst resting on the steamer lounger.  [I am an avowed firm believer of covered feet.] Remember the small toe I damaged?  Well, it took asking someone else to look at it because I just cannot see it to discover that I didn't just rip off the toenail, but I sheered off a portion of my toe.  That's probably why it bleed for so long and still hurts immensely even in socks and why it hurt so much when I was taping it to the toe next to it.

The air was so warm today, I took off my socks and my feet did not turn blue at all.  So, for a while, I had no pressure on the flattened sore of my small toe.  I do see the GP next week.  I suppose I should have her look at the wound.  I think it is healing, just taking a long time.

The thing I didn't mention before about breaking my other small toe so many times is that if I am not careful, my left small toe bends upwards as well as down.  It hurts to do that, but mostly it creeps me out so much I have a small anxiety attack whilst I try and shove the fact that it bends in the wrong direction back down to the recesses of my mind.

I am not really pleased that I sheered off a portion of my right small toe.  I'd like it to be round.  The way toes should be.  I am not much interested in a flat-top toe.

Basically, my feet are only ever bare in the shower.  Now, with Raynaud's, I often have two socks and those neoprene slippers on to keep them warm.  There I was, lying on the steamer lounger, counting up all the hurts in my body, and I wondered if I could lessen one hurt for a while if I removed my sock.  I felt wicked and daring as I removed it.  But it sure felt better without anything touching my toe.  Because I am a daughter of a woman who firmly believes in all things matching I removed the other sock.

Notice, though, in the picture above, my feet were artfully left out of the frame.  I don't think the world is ready for my bare feet.    

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A bit of music...

You know what I said about piano music, tonight I heard piano music that I actually like.  The sort of piano music that is. I mean, I liked what I heard, but I think it is a type that I like, not so much that specific piece.  If you watch episode 92 of Grey's Anatomy, you'll hear what I mean in the scenes where Christina and Owen look at each other or walk next to each other.

Oh, wait.  Let's Google.

The first scene...

This second piece I like best ... the parts where the notes are just hanging, almost flitting about like a butterfly, lightly landing on a branch and ever so slowly opening and closing its wings.  In some of the chamber music, I get to hear things like this that I most prefer.  So, in a nutshell, I don't totally loathe the piano.  It certainly has its uses.

And just to be ... weird ... I shall post another theatrical bit of music I like:

I like all the music in The Shipping News.  I also happen to think that it is a fantastic movie that touches on such deep wounds.  So, do I like the music because I like the story??

I do not like the story of Empire of the Sun, but I rank it amongst my top three soundtracks.  This is strange, too, because it has lots of choral elements and I do not really care for choral elements. And it has frenetic pieces. I do not care for frenetic pieces.

When I was at the chamber performance last Wednesday, I looked at what the next full symphony performance would be.  I was surprised to see that it will be performed without an intermission.  They are playing Verdi's Requiem.  When I saw it includes a choral performance, I thought I might offer up the ticket to someone.  But I did peak at the lyrics and discovered that it is some sort of liturgy.

Someone died and Verdi did not go to the funeral.  He thought it was not enough.  So, he wrote the piece.  I was surprised to see one section entitled "Agnus Dei."  Then I saw "Kyrie."  Next I spotted "Sanctus."  I do not get what the piece is ... for the liner notes said that Verdi wrote operas.  Anyway, there will be a soprano, mezzo-soprano, a tenor, and a baritone ... if I am remembering those titles correctly ... and a choral group.

The liner notes have the original text (a foreign language) and the English translation. I noticed in the Agnus Dei, the pronoun translation is different, it is what you would expect:  "who" for Lamb of God.  I wrote a while ago about how it took me so long to understand why, in the Lutheran Service Book, the pronoun is "that."  The antecedent is the Lamb of God, lamb as in sacrificial animal that Christ was for us.

I wondered all over again if it should be "that" or "who."  Grammar distracts me.  Grammar engages me.  Grammar is a most wonderful thing to me.  Except.  Except in times like this, when I cannot decide if the person pronoun should be used.  Or, for example, trying to figure out how to conjugate "smite."  As in, I worry that God will smite me for irreverence, amongst other things.  Will I be smitten... or will I be smited...  I get all hung up on how to phrase that word in various tenses.

But back to "that" or "who."  If Jesus is a metaphorical lamb, then I think it should be "who."  But if Jesus is a literal lamb, literal because He was sacrificed, then it should be "that."

I was distracted when I saw the titles of the movements (??) of Verdi's piece. But I still wonder ... Should I go to the symphony next Saturday when it is not something for which I usually care?  Do I spend the energy it takes to get ready and go out?  Do I endure the great discomfort that sitting throughout the entire performance without an intermission to move about and ease the pain building up in my body?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Porches and a puppy dog...

Lots of writhing and nausea today. But I napped on the airing porch, watched the rain fall with Amos on the front porch, and rocked in my GREEN chair on the back porch whilst waiting for Amos to face his renewed fear of the dreaded grass. I am blessed with such riches.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A bit of Luke...

I spent much of the day re-reading Michael Card's commentaries on Mark, Matthew, and Luke.  The further I read into Luke makes me want to re-read Mark and Matthew.  Plus, well, I keep getting hung up on Luke Chapter 15 and the commentary on the Parable of the Father with the Lost Son(s).  If I were to be glib, I would say that those pages/paragraphs alone are worth the price of the entire commentary.

I am tempted to type it all out here, but I read it often enough and have the passaged bookmarked.  It is easier to find it in the Kindle app than on the less-than-efficient search engine that is on my blog.  I read and ponder, with much time passing without notice.

Michael Card's commentaries are certainly teaching me to be a better reader of the Gospels.  In a way, as I read each passage before the commentary that follows, I can, in small part, anticipate what I might encounter.  Certainly the reading and re-reading of Mark and Matthew help.  But with Luke there is this sense of camaraderie, this being one of the ones standing on the outside looking in and listening and yearning for more.  I mean, Luke is collecting eye-witness testimonies in his Gospel.  He, as with Mark and Matthew, have a keen sense of audience and have personal influences that color and inform his craftsmanship.  His is the Word of God and it is perfect.

Mark is perfect.
Matthew is perfect.
Luke is perfect.

Holding those thoughts in my head as I read leaves me standing more outside this Gospel than the other two.  I certainly have learned to celebrate the perfection of the Word of God, especially in the differences amongst the three testimonies read thus far.  But, as I said, this one seems less ... intimate ... and yet just as informative.

Take the opening commentary on Luke 16: 1-13:

Chapter 16 opens with Jesus telling this parable to his disciples.  We will discover in verse 14 that the Pharisees are listening in and "scoffing"—literally turning up their noses at him.  With the opening of this chapter, the focus of Jesus' teaching shifts toward the new value system of the kingdom:  what is valuable and what is not.  We have come to expect, given that radical reversal is part and parcel of the kingdom, that everything will be turned upside down.  And that is precisely what we find.  Money, which the world regards as the ultimate measure of value, is put in its proper place as merely a tool to be used to facilitate relationships with people, who are now to be highly valued.

I am repeatedly struck by that last sentence.  If the facilitation of relationships with people is the standard, can you imagine a revision of The Forbes 400 or the Forbes list of the 500 wealthiest people in the world?  It's mind-boggling.

Lately, I have been struggling with someone who puts a price, who weighs the cost, of getting professional help for a child.  If the money is going toward facilitating both the relationship with the child and future healthier relationships the child might have, how can any price be too high?  I honestly do not understand how it is that parents will try to stand in the shoes of professionals when it comes to the physical, mental, and social welfare of their children, but would not even think of doing so with the professionals in their lives, such as an attorney or electrician or mechanic.  If your car is "ill," you take it to a mechanic. To be more willing to spend money on car repair than the welfare of a child just doesn't make sense with me.  And, frankly, I struggle with hearing about the cost.

I know the cost of medical care.  I know the tangible and intangible costs of the choices I am making with regard to that care.  But I would never, ever try to cut corners with the care of a child, never try to work things out myself when it comes to the care of a child.

I just don't understand it.  I don't understand how there can be money for vacations, for example, but not money for therapy.  So, reading that one sentence, I suppose, is different for me than for others.

But, in another way, that sentence is a lesson that can be transferred across many of Jesus' teachings and parables:  people are what matters.  Take, for instance, Jesus being called upon the carpet for his disciples gathering food on the Sabbath.  Jesus response is that people matter more than a set of laws.  And when Jesus is accused of breaking the law by healing on the Sabbath, Jesus response to the accusations point to the fact that the well-being of those being healed is most important.  Or consider when the disciples wanted to send all the hungry people away.  Jesus care was for the people, wanting them to be fed and sustained for their journeys home.  People matter.

People mattering is, after all, why Jesus came to die.

I think that reading Michael's Card's commentary on Luke is helping me to better understand some—just some—of Jesus' teaching itself.  I mean, Mark is All Jesus All the Time.  And Mark's Jesus has a plan and a purpose and is racing toward that goal.  Matthew's Jesus is more the "word" of God than either Mark and Luke.  By that, Matthew's emphasis on all the bits of Scripture Jesus fulfills leaves no doubt that "Jesus" is what God has to say to His creation.  In that, I wonder if Matthew was the inspiration, in part, for Michael Card's song "The Final Word."

You and me we use so very many clumsy words.
The noise of what we often say is not worth being heard.
When the Father’s Wisdom wanted to communicate His love,
He spoke it in one final perfect Word.

He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son.
His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one.
Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine.
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine.

And so the Father’s fondest thought took on flesh and bone.
He spoke the living luminous Word, at once His will was done.
And so the transformation that in man had been unheard
Took place in God the Father as He spoke that final Word.

He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son.
His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one.
Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine.
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine.

And so the Light became alive
And manna became Man.
Eternity stepped into time
So we could understand.

He spoke the Incarnation and then so was born the Son.
His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one.
Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine.
And so was born the baby who would die to make it mine.

I suppose I digressed a bit.  But it is hard to put into words the thoughts that are in my head reading Luke. I really, really, really wish I had someone with whom I could talk about Luke.  And Mark.  And Matthew.  And how Luke has me going back and reading through Mark and Matthew anew.  SIGH.

Anyway, before the commentary, I would have thought Chapter 16 was a mishmash of text.  I mean, how could a desperate manager, a proverbial line in the sand, and the eternal lives of the rich man and Lazarus be connected?  And yet I can now see the patterns of radical reversal in all three.  Michael Card's commentary demonstrates how knowing the fuller text of Matthew 5 on the Law makes Luke 16 seem less harsh.

What is harsh is the end of Chapter 16.  I almost feel like it is a condemnation that is particularly painfully apt now ... in this time.  How blunt was Abraham speaking to the rich man!  If the words of Moses and the prophets are not enough to inspire repentance, the miraculous appearance of someone raised from the dead will meet with the same stubborn disbelief.

Much disbelief is coming even from the Christian church.  God's word is doubted and outreach is prioritized over the unadulterated, unvarnished Gospel.  I find the talk of outreach and building relationships nauseating, more so now having lived in the Gospels for a while, than even after drowning myself in the Christian Book of Concord.  It is a bit ironic, I think, because Jesus did come back from the dead and stubborn disbelief in this world still remains.

I will say that I have a personal experience clouding my reading of the first part of Luke 17.  For a long while, as I think I've noted before, I was on a prayer list and the prayer for me was to have "an increase of faith." At the time, it was unsettling to me.  It just seemed like a miss on a prayer focus.  If you read Luke 17, that very topic comes up.  The disciples ask for an increase in faith and Jesus tells them that they don't need it.  The measure (or quantity) of faith is not important.  Faith itself is what is important.

I smiled ... deeply ... when I first saw Michael Card's heading for Luke 17: 11-19:  The Perfect Prayer.  I knew what that prayer would be before reading the Scripture passage.  I knew because I have learned—probably more than I think—from reading and re-reading the Gospels.  What is the perfect prayer?  The Kyrie!

In Luke 17:11-19, we are reminded of the journey once again, but finally we are given an actual location:  the border between Galilee and Samaria, an area we've seen Jesus pass through more than once.  As the crowd enters a village, they encounter ten lepers.  The diseased men keep their distance to avoid rendering Jesus and his disciples "unclean" (Lev 13:46; Num 5:2).  People in that era would have assumed that the ten contracted their skin disease as a result of personal sin.  These men would have naturally seen themselves as unworthy.  Nevertheless, there they stand, crying out for Jesus' help, whether they deserve it or not.

Their cry is really a prayer.  It is the perfect prayer:  "Master, have mercy ..." It is a cry from men who, although they have a right to expect nothing, are asking for everything.  This makes it a cry for hesed.

It will be another of Jesus' unmiraculous miracles.  Notice that there are no words of healing, no pronouncements that the ten are forgiven or clean—only Jesus' command that they go and show themselves to the priest.  The only reason for someone with a skin disease to submit to examination by a priest would be to determine whether they had been healed or not.  In this case, they discover on their way that they have been completely healed.

Out of the ten only one returns, shouting his praises to God.  he comes back and falls at the feet of Jesus, giving thanks for what he has done.  Luke wants us to know that the sole person who comes back is a Samaritan. The implication is that the other nine are Jewish.  The one person who should not have gotten it, did.  The other nine who should have, didn't.

Something not particularly noted here, but is elsewhere, is the pattern that when someone is healed by Jesus, that person gives praise to God.  I wouldn't have noticed that before reading the commentaries.  And yet it is important.  Praising God for His good gifts.

I think that Michael Card's commentary on Luke 18:1-8 is the most succinct explanation of qal vahomer, what I would term the If ...Then pattern, but a very specific one.

Jesus' conclusion in Luke 18:7 is based on a rabbinic rule of interpretation known as qal vahomer, or "easy and hard."  It is an argument from minor to major based on the "how much more" principle.  Hillel, the rabbi Jesus most frequently favored, first formulated it.  Hillel called it his first rule.  If the unjust judge gave justice to the persistent widow, then how much more will God, that great Judge, give justice to those who persistently seek him?  The parable closes with a note of challenge as Jesus wonders out loud if, when he returns, he will find this sort of persistent faith on the earth.  As long as we live in a fallen world, the need for persistence in order to receive justice is not going to go away.

Once pointed out, qal vahomer becomes seemingly ubiquitous ... consider the birds of the field....  But, then again, all the patterns and themes I am learning are seemingly ubiquitous.  That, really, is part of the perfection of the Gospels.  Mark's, Matthew's, and Luke's testimonies are fundamentally different from each other and yet they are, at heart, the same because they are all testimonies of Jesus.  To put it another way, the radical reversal of Jesus' Good News in Luke and Mark is His new orthodoxy in Matthew.  Words shaped for specific audiences of varying lengths and tones are still the same perfect word.

Something else I have learned to greatly appreciate is the added detail/setting that Luke often provides with parables.  Interesting and helpful, too, are his specific additions that clarify people, conditions, outcomes.  And, of course, I am grateful to see and take in just how much of Luke is about the weak and wounded who are most definitely welcomed and tended to by Jesus.

I would also like to say that Michael Card has taught me ever so much about the Pharisees and Scribes and Sadducees, both correcting misconceptions and breaking through preconceptions.  I mean, not all Judaism was alike then.  It was fractured into fractious factions.  It is important to understand that the law had become those 600+ laws that burdened consciousness and distorted the message of God.  But it is equally important to understand that the focus on studying and parsing the word is what helped Judaism survive the cataclysmic destruction of both the temple and a religious life based on sacrifices. And then there is the blunt reality that we are all far more Pharisaic than we would like to admit.

Consider this partial bit from the commentary on Luke 18:9-17:

Two men are going to the temple for prayer.  The first is, in fact, a Pharisee; the other is one of the tax collectors who are so despised by the people.  This tax collector despises himself as well.

The Pharisee stands proud and erect, praying about himself.  He thanks God that he is not like the tax collector with whom he entered the temple.  He provides a short list of his meticulous observances, assuming God will be as impressed with him as he is with himself.  He does not really seem to need God at all.  Even his coming to the temple feels a bit perfunctory.

Before we move on, let's stop and realize that as different as he might seem from you and me, the odds are the Pharisee is the person most of us should probably identify with in this parable.  We can probably camouflage our self-righteousness better, but every day we look around and thank God that we are not like some of the people we meet.  And we all make our little lists, hoping to impress.

The tax collector keeps well back.  His self-loathing can been seen in his body-language.  His eyes are lowered, and he repeatedly pounds his chest.  His prayer is for mercy, but the Greek word Luke uses reflects a desire for atonement.  Darrel Bock, in his marvelous commentary, translates it "mercy through atoning forgiveness."  He seems to intuit that a sacrifice is demanded for his sin and that he cannot hope to offer it himself.  It is a cry for hesed.  Jesus says that he goes home justified.

All those folk who like to live their lives by the WWJD creed really ought to switch to WWTCD.  Or WWLD.  Or WWCWD.  We cannot model our lives after Jesus because we are not the Son of God, but we can follow the example of the tax collector and the leper, of the Canaanite woman ... and of all those who spoke the perfect prayer.

One final note, another heading to pique your interest:  One Broken Link.  That's for a passage in Luke 18.  Can you figure out which one and why?

I have more thoughts about Luke 19, 20, and 21 and the commentary thereof.  But it is late and already I have waxed loquaciously about the commentary I am reading tonight.  Amos is wearing of the laptop taking his rightful place on my person.  And, to be honest, with all the reading and re-reading I've done today, I would like to sit and ponder a bit more, holding my snoring fluff ball.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The unexpected...

I was quite surprised, at 5:30 PM, to see both my phone and computer tell me that I had the symphony chamber series tonight.  Somehow, in programming in that particular performance date, I forgot to put in my usual double reminder: 1) the day before and 2) two hours before the performance.

For a split second, I thought about not moving from the GREEN chair.  I am, after all, still exhausted.  But I was less exhausted than I was for the last symphony performance, so I got up out of the chair.  However, given that I didn't even know that I was going out, I needed to take a hasty shower.  Hasty means I actually got up out of the GREEN chair for the shower 45 minutes later and had little time to actually get ready.  That meant that I arrived with still dripping hair.

The chamber series is clearly the blue-haired club series, which is a shame.  It is an incredible, almost awe-inspiring thing to experience these small performances.  I was thinking about how I was the only young person there tonight, but then I stopped and realized that I am not young.

For the first half of the concert, I kept thinking about a woman I met back when I was on Facebook, Cheryl.  The reason for this was that her son is a pianist.  Well, the whole family is dripping with music, but her son is studying the piano in college.  That's a serious pianist.  And the piece being played was Schubert's Piano Trio in E-flat major, Op. 100.  It is the first time the piano has been a part of the chamber music series that I have attended.

Okay, well, uhm, I am not a fan of the piano.  Not in orchestral music.  But, then again, I was absolutely not a fan of the tuba and during the last symphony performance, I found myself greatly missing the tuba.  I did, however, enjoy the chamber piece because the piano was most definitely just one of the instruments, as opposed to being the soloist instrument.  During the performance, I wondered what Cheryl's son would have thought and how he would have played the piece.

I was the only one who stood up at the very start of the applause. I thought the piece, 45-minutes long, was magnificently played.  When the players came back for a second applause thingy, then everyone else stood up.  For once in my life, I was not embarrassed by being the only one doing something.  I wanted the players to know that I thought they did a bloody fantastic job and deserved a standing ovation from the start.  I was too chicken, however, to shout "Bravo!" like folk do at the symphony performances.

The second piece was Grieg's String Quartet in G-minor, Op. 27.  Yes, well, I was an absolute fan of Grieg's throughout the first movement, for I was clutching my chest and struggling to breathe or think.  I was enthralled and swept away by the wild crashing waves of music that were deafening.  Then ... then came the other three movements.  The piece is based on folk music and from time to time there were little ditties in there that I thought should be excised out because they stood in dissonance to the rest of the music.  But what do I know about music?

The elevator man was not in attendance afterwards, so I drove it for my set of disabled folk avoiding the two flights of stairs.  It is an ancient contraption that will cut you in half without remorse.  By that I mean, it has no sensors and very fast doors, for an elevator that takes its sweet time moving between floors.  I was already in the elevator, when I saw someone about to be impaled.  I quickly pushed the "door open button."  At that point, this one woman said, "So, will you be our driver?"  I said, "Sure!"  Then a man said, "Wasn't that great?"  And the woman replied, "A woman being the driver?  Absolutely great!"  I burst out in one of my rather loud, rather embarrassing guffaws and practically wet my pants.  The man clearly didn't understand the I-am-Woman-Hear-Me-Roar moment.

I will note that, on the ride down, everyone agreed that the first piece was more pleasing to them than the second.  I joined in that agreement, but then I noted my love and adoration for the first movement of the second piece and awkward silence descended as we finished our descent.  Like I said, what do I know about music?

Today, Becky called and so I was more productive than planned.  I had been studiously applying myself to the job of resting, but since she is so productive, I got up and went outside to do another round of clearing up Amos' deposits from where the snow bank had retreated.  I also cleaned my dishes from the night before and from my main meal, which was _________?

Yes, Mary, I had Spicy Dr Pepper Pulled Pork tacos today.  The Gold Standard of freezer meals.

Anyway, I rested between the spate of productivity and the alarm reminder of the chamber performance.  I also rested after taking a shower and putting on real clothes.  Then, I went out and rested in a room filled with music.  BLISS.

I had a bit of a shift, so my midnight is now around 10:00 PM, which just passed a few minutes ago.  Time for some milk, some Amos snuggling beneath the electric blanket he adores ever so much, a bit of reading while I am still downstairs (awake), and then up to bed.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Nothing much...

I'm bushwacked, but ...

Look how full the freezer is again!  [Don't look at the frost I need to clean off of the top shelf.]

At the bottom ... is that some chicken over on the right?  Oooooooo!  If so, I wouldn't have to be so torn as which chicken dish to make.  Not that I am going to get up and check right now ... any getting up that I do next will involve taking me off to bed.

I'm glad, though, despite the lingering pain in my legs from standing so much to cook, that the cooking is done and I have balance amongst my freezer meals again.

All I did today was to empty the dishwasher and to tackle Amos' deposits left behind as the snowbank in the back yard succumbs to the Great Melt of 2015 (twice delayed).  Just those two things left me huffing and puffing and wishing for someone else to be doing those things.

I was too tired to concentrate, so I did not really watch television or read or any such thing.  I too tired to do much of anything, but recover from my cooking and spend some times whispering sweet nothings in Amos' hears as he rather happily draped his person atop me all the day long.  I am so thankful for my mostly accommodating fluff ball.

Are you wondering what I pulled out for my main meal on the morrow?  I'll give you one guess.

Monday, March 09, 2015

My long day...

I am bleary-eyed from culinary endeavors, just waiting on my puppy dog to decide to gird his loins enough to face the grass or no-longer-crusty-snow to tend to his business.  Oh, my!  Do I ever want to crawl into bed.

I was mincing the roasted bell peppers for my Black Bean Soup with Roasted Bell Peppers when I noticed a shape emerging.  Silly Myrtle finished the shape and snapped a photo.

I am very excited to noted that I adjusted the recipe for my black beans. I mean, I had created an awesome recipe to begin with, but now it is EVEN BETTER!  I added coriander, dark brown sugar, and a bit of butter.  Everything is better with a bit of butter, right?

I licked the pan.

For a while, I was pondering the idea of not cooking the Beef Stew with Beer until the morrow.  Only I had not frozen the non-economical-but-beautiful slab of beef when I got home from the store yesterday.  So, I plowed on with my cooking.

A foreshowing of the tastiness to come!  [Okay, I admit that I am still proud that I learned to properly braise beef.]

I let Amos lick the spatula and ladle once all the servings were in the mason jars.

I cooked all bloody, blooming day.  From 9:23 AM until 6:11 PM.  I didn't try to kill myself by cooking both dishes at the same time.  I cooked slowly and methodically and washed up as I went along.  Slow and steady wins the race.  However, slow and steady is still exhausted at the end of that race.

On the morrow, I plan to do nothing but just breathe.  Maybe a fire.  Maybe.  Despite the terrible pushing through today, I am glad that there is now a balance of tastiness in the basement freezer that I had substantially emptied out.

I still had to fight a ginormous urge to hop in the car and buy some chicken.  Six chicken breasts is not a sufficient number in my kitchen freezer. Not at all!  Now, I have to decide between tasty chicken dishes instead of just making them all.  I should make something new, but that Chicken with Bourbon Mustard Sauce has been calling out to me, even invading my dreams!

I cluck.

Speaking of clucking...

Firewood Man is a new daddy!  He's raising baby chicks!!  Since all things are about me, that means I can have fresh eggs when I want them.  Such a Renaissance Man!  Of course, I nervously asked him if he'd still have time to both help me paint and to mulch with his new responsibilities.  Selfish I am.

My sister found this calendar in a Dollar Store.  I am not a calendar-on-a-refrigerator kind of girl, but I thought that having a calendar staring back at me all the time might help with not knowing exactly when I was ... what day it was.  I thought that this was a most special calendar, a perfect calendar for my home.  A Myrtle calendar, if you will.  I finally got around to flipping it to March and realized anew just how perfect it is!  A most splendous bargain.

If only Amos would finish........