Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Letters

Christmas letters have a bad reputation. Miss Manners does not like them, many readers of the old Ann Landers and Dear Abby advice columns of years past wrote in to say how much they despise them, and one year MSNBC even had their readers share their most notorious ones. One wonders from which dregs of humanity those folks who actually send those letters are recruited, since everyone professes not to like them. So it is with much trepidation I confess, I like Christmas letters.

I have liked Christmas letters since I first started receiving them 40 something years ago, and only started sending out my own six years years ago, so I don’t think I’m being self-serving when I say I like them. My Christmas letter started out as for my siblings only, one year when I was facing surgery shortly after Christmas and needed to spread the news. In the past two years I have added one other person to the list, my godmother, the only surviving member of my older generation of relatives.

The MSNBC feature described Christmas letters as “a litany of bombastic bragging disguised as holiday cheer.” To which I say, “Yeah, so?” If you write me to say you bought your husband a new Lexus for Christmas, it doesn’t take anything away from me unless you stole it out of my driveway. (Which you couldn’t have, since I don’t own one.) If you have a new job, a promotion, or the world’s cutest puppy, I will raise my glass in a toast and then drool over the puppy pictures. What exactly is wrong with getting other people’s good news?

It is precisely when I am feeling my lowest and most depressed that I seek out other people’s good news. I used to say that if I could be the good fairy at a child’s christening, I would give that child the gift of being able to rejoice in other people’s good fortune, because then she would always have something to be happy about.

So while we are on the subject of bombastic bragging disguised as holiday cheer, I will share a story about my son, although it didn’t happen at Christmas. He was in the computer club in his high school, and the club was chosen to participate in a contest in Cincinnati. Unfortunately, they couldn’t take everybody, and my son, a lowly freshman, was left behind. “They’re even going to get pocket money,” he grumped. “A concept with which you are totally unfamiliar”, I added dryly. He actually was chosen as an alternate, but since everyone else remained hale and hearty, he didn’t get to go.

His buddies won second place, however, as he came home to tell me excitedly when they got back to school. “They even got a trophy!” he added. “They kicked butt.”

I used to say that if I could be the good fairy at a child’s christening, I would give that child the gift of being able to rejoice in other people’s good fortune. Then one day, I realized that’s exactly what I had done.

How’s that for bombastic bragging?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Oh, Gee

In addition to my regular annual checkup with Dr. N, yesterday was my annual eye exam. This was no accident; when Dr. N schedules appointments for her patients, she looks for appointments they already have and schedules around those. This is handy for people who live far away or whose insurance only charges one copayment per day, but it always makes me nervous that I will miss an appointment. 

Dr. N saw me promptly, however and came bearing mostly good news. My blood work looked good and my total cholesterol had dropped even more.

So then it was on to my ophthalmologist, Dr. Hottie. No, I don’t call him that to his face, but he is a sight for sore eyes. First I had something called a visual field test, and had to push a button every time I saw a flickering light. Then the standard vision test, then I had my eyes dilated and got the standard glaucoma tests. Somewhere in there, a technician took pictures of my optic nerves.

By the time Dr. H came in to see me, I was checking my watch wondering when I’d get out of there and if I’d have enough time to go buy my husband’s Christmas present at Lowe’s. I wasn’t expecting to hear that I have glaucoma. My left optic nerve is showing signs of notching on the lower margin, and I have corresponding “shadowing” in the upper left visual field. (The eye is flipped with respect to the optic nerve, the lower nerve innervates the upper eye and vice versa.) Dr. H reassured me they had caught it early. He also explained I have low tension glaucoma, which wouldn’t have been diagnosable by a standard test of eye pressure. In low tension (or normal tension or normal pressure) glaucoma, eye pressure is normal but the optic nerve shows damage anyway. Treatment is the same: eye drops to lower eye pressure and if that doesn’t work, surgery to increase drainage of eye fluids. Ten percent of people with glaucoma can lose their vision even with treatment.

I cannot figure out if I am the healthiest sick person I know or the sickest healthy person I know. What I do know is that I have an interesting reaction to bad health news. Whatever anger, fear, or self-pity comes along later on, my initial reaction is always the same: shame. If something is wrong with me, I caused it. 

I don’t think I’m the only person who reacts that way, either, because we have the Adam and Eve story to suggest that this is a pretty widespread belief. If human beings feel soreness and pain, and eventually die, it must be because we did something wrong. We must have brought it on ourselves some way. Women must have done it, because we’re the ones who bleed mysteriously. Shame and pain, they’re almost sisters.

Today I’m feeling a little calmer. I have drops to put in my eye each night and I go back to Dr. H in a month to see how they’re working. Other than that, there isn’t anything I can do. This isn’t something that diet and exercise will fix. This isn’t something that requires major lifestyle changes.

Oh, gee. I wasn’t expecting this.

Monday, November 28, 2011

So Maybe It Was a Little Excessive

Sunday morning I went to the emergency room. It wasn’t anything life or death. I had sliced my finger the day before while making lunch. (My husband’s first question was, “Was it one of our new knives?” They aren’t really new; we had simply sent them back to the factory to be sharpened, but I was able to reassure him that yes, they are really, really sharp.) It took some time and many, many paper towels before I was able to get two bandaids on it. I decided if it was still bleeding in half an hour, I’d go to the urgent care clinic, but half an hour later the bandages were clean. I had an appointment for a checkup  on Monday (actually today), so I figured I’d be okay letting it wait. 

But as the day went on, any pressure on it made it bleed and hurt. Ochsner’s urgent care clinic hours were over by then. I finally found their website’s guide to when to seek emergency care, and realized I didn’t know when I’d last had a tetanus shot (one of the indicators to seek care under “Lacerations”) and hadn’t been able to bring myself to look at the cut so I had no idea how deep it was. That night I had a hard time sleeping with the pain and felt some nausea, not to mention throbbing, signs of possible infection. So at the crack of dawn, I told hubby I was going to the ER. He offered to drive me.

As it turned out, the cut wasn’t as bad as I feared. I had missed the six hour window for getting stitches, although Dr. B wasn’t sure I would have needed them anyway. There was no infection, but she prescribed an antibiotic just in case. They dabbed on some ointment and slapped on a regular bandaid, except it was 1” wide instead of 3/4”. They wrapped it looser than I had with my bandaids, eliminating most of the throbbing. I left with instructions for wound care, the rest of the ointment, and prescriptions for the antibiotics and some pain pills. I was only given those after I paid my $100 copay.

Note to self: next time you slice an appendage, do it on a weekday.

Since I was apparently not dying, I was able to go ahead with my plans for the day, making cornbread for the Chili Cook-Off. I made chili for the Chili Cook-Off one year, and won third place, with my version of Chili Blanco. I replaced the chicken with pork tenderloin, slathered with cumin and slow cooked the day before. The recipe requires a lot of slicing and dicing however, not to mention the one-day head start, and I am feeling a little off that sort of thing right now.

So instead I decided to tackle a nice, simple recipe: Yeast Raised Corn Bread. The only cutting it required was snipping the 2/3 cup of chives. Most of the kneading is done by a stand mixer with a dough hook (which I just happen to have.) We also had a box of vinyl gloves which my husband uses when he’s staining wood projects, so I could protect my hand while not risking the lives of people with latex allergies.

The recipe calls for fresh chives and fresh or frozen corn. I had actually picked the recipe out two days before, and since John was going to the store anyway, had him buy frozen corn and chives (otherwise I had planned to use canned corn and freeze dried chives, which we had on hand).

The first snag I ran into was with the chives. By the time they were all snipped, what looked like 2/3 cup turned into more like 1/3. Then there was the corn. The only frozen corn my husband could find was corn in butter sauce. I wasn’t sure how the butter sauce would affect the recipe, so I decided to use the canned corn after all. Once drained, the 14 ounce can was closer to 1.5 cups instead of two, but I decided that was close enough.

The recipe is really easy, although time consuming as yeast recipes are. Almost all the work is done by the mixer. I ran into yet a third snag, however. I added the flour/salt mixture until the dough left the sides, but not the bottom, of the bowl, just as the recipe said. Then I turned the speed up to medium, just as the recipe said. At that point, the dough, which had been behaving perfectly, began sticking to the sides of the bowl again. All I can think of is that the higher speed caused the canned corn to begin secreting liquid. I added a little more flour. When it was time to turn the mix out on a board and knead it a few times, I covered the board about 1/8” thick with more flour. By time I kneaded it a few times, it was perfect: easy to form into a ball and put aside to rise. I use a trick I learned from the Farm Journal Book of Breads: put the bowl with the dough into a cold oven and put a pan of hot water on the lower rack. Dough rises perfectly every time.

When it came time to shape the dough into balls and put them into muffin tins, I ran into my final snag. I have old muffin/cupcake tins, dating back to the 1960’s and 70’s. I don’t know if the recipe’s inventor uses larger muffin tins or if the extra moisture/flour caused a problem, but there was just too much dough for 18 muffin cups, something I did not realize until I had cut the dough into 18 pieces. So I grabbed two cookie sheets, rolled the pieces into balls and placed them on the cookie sheets to bake.

They wound up flattening out a little and looking like hamburger buns, but they tasted great. There were enough chives to give a nice sprinkling of green, but not enough to give a true chive flavor, so they really needed the 2/3 cup, but the amount of corn seemed sufficient.  Most of the rolls disappeared at the chili supper, but I managed to snag two of them to bring home and we used them tonight to make pulled pork sandwiches with leftover pulled pork I found in the freezer. Toasting brought out the corn flavor even more.

If I make them again (which I probably will because hubby loves them), I’ll either make 24 rolls in the muffin tins or make 15 hamburger buns-sized rolls on the cookie sheet. Then I can freeze them and pull out as needed for pulled pork, beef, or chicken sandwiches. 

So maybe my trip to the ER was a little excessive. Maybe making a yeast version of cornbread which takes four hours instead of the Jiffy Mix version was a little excessive. It’s a great recipe, though. My recommendations would be to use the full amount of chives and use either fresh or frozen corn, not canned. Also, don’t slice your hand while chopping celery the day before, but you probably figured that one out already.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


I had much to be thankful for this year at Thanksgiving. First of all, I’m thankful that I am able to afford retirement. I’m thankful we were able to visit my son in London, and I’m thankful for my husband taking good care of me while I was laid up with a broken foot. I’m even thankful for the bad housing market that prevented our selling our house and moving to be near our son as we had planned, because he’s now sold his condo in the states and is working in London for at least a year.

Of course, I’m thankful for the big-hearted friend who invites us and around three or four dozen other friends and relatives to her Thanksgiving feast every year. 

But there was one thing that put a damper on my thankfulness this year. D’Artagnan, our new kitty, went missing. He followed Truffle out the door as usual at 6 AM Thanksgiving morning, but he did not start yowling to be let in fifteen minutes later. An hour later Truffle was in, but no D’Artagnan. As we left to go to my friend’s house, still no D’Artagnan. I figured he would be waiting impatiently outside our door when we got home, and didn’t worry about it.

Thanksgiving dinner was even more crowded than usual, but we did reconnect with old friends. The blessing this year was a blessing over the bread delivered in Hebrew and then translated into English (we’ve had Catholic and Baptist blessings in the past, so this was new). People spoke animatedly over the upcoming LSU-Arkansas game and we teased one friend over not having worn his Arkansas shirt.

When we got home, Truffle was waiting impatiently for us, but no D’Artagnan.

Friday morning I made posters and taped them out around the subdivision, and posted a “lost” notice on Craigslist. By Friday night when I went to bed, still no word. I heard John disable the alarm and open the front door at one point, but he had been checking the front door pretty frequently, as had I.

D'Artagnan's picture from the "Wanted" -er-"Lost" poster

This morning Truffle woke me up to let him out at 6AM, as usual. I disabled the alarm and went to the front door to let him out. A desk chair was parked under the door handle. As I turned to go ask hubby what was up with that, I saw a familiar black and white furry form by my feet.

“Where have you been?” I exclaimed. “He came in last night,” my husband explained. “I think he’s been in someone’s house, because he wasn’t hungry or thirsty.” He had put the desk chair by the door so I wouldn’t let the cat out again.

Did I mention I’m thankful for furry companions who wake me up at ungodly hours of the morning and keep me up all hours of the night and rip up my furniture and leave paw prints on the windshield of my car? Because I am.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Foreign Exchange: Part 4, The One That Got Away

After Anett, I wanted to try again for a student from South America, and we found Eric, from Chile. Our first few students had to be picked up from Houston, but Eric flew from Houston to Baton Rouge and we picked him up at the airport. He seemed quiet, but he had had a busy few days in Houston after his long trip, so we figured he was tired. 

When he got into his room he asked, “What’s that smell?” We didn’t notice anything unusual and Eric decided it was “just the smell of the house”. When Anders was with us, he had left some sweaty gym clothes on the carpet for a few days and we did notice a musty smell but we had cleaned the carpet. We took Eric out for dinner and he fell asleep soon afterward and slept for most of the next day. 

We found out later that when Eric woke up Sunday he had called our AFS rep and asked to be moved to another family. In fact, he really wanted to go back to Houston and be placed with another family there, because he did not want to be in Baton Rouge at all.

The next weekend,  we took Eric and another AFS student, also from South America and staying with a family halfway across town, to the water park and then to a Mexican restaurant. They conversed to each other mostly in Spanish. At this point we still did not know Eric was looking for a new family. 

Eric did tell us that he almost did not get his visa to come to the U.S. The immigration official in charge of his case kept saying no and Eric finally had to meet with him in person and insist. In light of later events, we wonder what the immigration official saw. We became certain that Eric had decided to ask for a new family even before he met us, so maybe he indicated something of the sort to the immigration officer.

We also learned from Eric he had been responsible for his younger brother’s care since his dad left the family and his mother had gone back to work, and that he missed his brother badly.

I tried to make Eric feel happy and at home. Friday afternoon, which I had off, I made him empanadas, a food he especially liked. I consulted him over the recipe and followed tips he gave me. It took all afternoon, and while he seemed appreciative, I could tell he still thought of us as strangers and not people who wanted to make him feel welcomed.

Shortly after school started, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. We had only a tropical storm, but school was closed for a week and I had most of the week off as well. I took Eric to the house of a co-worker who had two teenagers, a son and a daughter. He enjoyed himself there and the family liked him as well. The three teens cooked up a plan for my co-worker and her husband to become his new host family, but her husband did not feel comfortable having a strange young man in the house with his daughter. So that fell through.

When school started again, things got even worse. Katrina had sent a lot of refugees to Baton Rouge, and since no one knew when the schools would be up and running again in New Orleans, parents were advised to enroll their children in the school nearest to where they were. Eric’s high  school was flooded with new students, and the guidance staff was overwhelmed. They tried to make time for Eric, but it was difficult. Eric was frightened that another storm would hit us, and, it was becoming apparent, badly depressed. I arranged for a pediatrician acquaintance of mine, an immigrant from Colombia, to see Eric when he started to have stomach pains. Dr F attributed the pains to homesickness and tried to convince Eric he’d feel better if he gave it some time.

We were still trying to make Eric feel welcomed. We took Eric to a Latin American festival held by a local church. He didn’t like it that most of the food and entertainment was Central American. He did run into Dr. F at the festival and was touched and surprised that Dr. F stopped to have a conversation with him.

Eventually, Eric decided to go home. By this time, the school nurse had opined that he needed to be on anti-depressants. My view was that if he needed to be on anti-depressants, he needed to be home with people who loved him and could monitor him effectively. However, although Eric wanted to go home and we wanted him home, his mother did not agree. It took a few weeks for her to agree to his going home. I could understand her point of view. She had paid a lot of money for Eric to come to the US, and I suspected she wanted him to have some time free of home responsibilities.

In early October, we said good-bye to Eric. He wrote us a letter, which he read us, thanking us for hosting him and offering to show us around Santiago if we ever visited there.

I was perfectly willing to say good-bye to being a host parent forever, but John wanted to try again the next year. And thereby hangs another tale.

(Part Three of my experiences as a host mom is here. Part Five is here.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Renaissance Festival

When the Byrds recorded Renaissance Fair in 1967, the first Renaissance Fair in the United States, in California, was only four years old. By the time my son was in middle school in the 1980’s, there was a Texas Renaissance Festival in Houston, and most local schools went there on field trips. By 1999, Louisiana had its own Renaissance Festival*, held on ten acres of piney woods northeast of Hammond. As the website explains:

The village of Albright is approximately 10 charming acres of tranquility. Upon entering the majestic front gate, visitors will be greeted by the many residents of Albright, whether it be the Baron, the Mayor, the Inn Keeper or countless others.
There are delightful aromas and sounds filling the rustic streets of Albright. From bagpipes to the hammer dulcimer, from roasted pecans to garlic mushrooms, your senses are delighted at every turn! For fulfilling your thirst, there are many beverages from which to choose. The coffee shop offers tea and hot cocoa while the Painted Badger Pub and King Head's Tavern offer various spirits. A variety of soft drinks are found throughout the village. Piper's Pubs bring you many delicious flavors of root beer and cream ale.

Opening Procession

Opening the Gate

Lute Player

Fire Eater

This is the kind of menu you plan when you're stoned.

Or so I've been told, I wouldn't really know.


I went to the first festival with a friend to celebrate her birthday. While we were there, I bought her a pair of earrings of her choosing and bought myself a ginger beer in a ceramic bottle that was supposed to entitle me to free refills forever. The ginger beer tasted like ordinary root beer; I didn’t make it to the next year’s festival and soon I stopped seeing advertisements for it, so I assumed it was no longer being held. The ceramic bottle made it into a donate pile. 

A week or so ago, I saw a full page advertisement for the Louisiana Renaissance Festival on the back page of Red Shtick, a local humor magazine. (Well, some of us find it funny.) “I didn’t know they were still holding that,” I said to my husband, “Do you want to go?” He hemmed and hawed and finally allowed his arm to be twisted. So Saturday we went.

The festival was much as I remembered it, including the place that sold the root beer. If I had still had my ceramic bottle, I would have got a free drink. (I really need to stop watching Hoarders; so far this year it’s cost me $66.) There are more attractions - I don’t remember a wine tasting (sold out), whiskey tasting, or Tea with the Queen from our earlier visit. The attractions I wanted to see, the Joust and the Birds of Prey Exhibit were still there. There were also three jugglers/fire eaters, two of whom were going to participate in a contest on a stage covered with mousetraps right before closing. We left before then.

Many of the attendees were in costume, although not necessarily Renaissance costumes. One woman I saw wore a Star Trek costume. There was a shop (shoppe?) where you could buy or rent a costume if you wanted. The festival site advertises itself as a  wedding venue but there were none taking place the day we were there.

“I like this better than the State Fair or the Angola Prison Rodeo”, my husband said. Someone who does not know my husband might think he meant next year we’ll be going to the Renaissance Festival instead of the State Fair and the Prison Rodeo. Someone who has been married to my husband for almost 24 years knows it means we’ll be going to the Renaissance Festival in addition to the State Fair and the Prison Rodeo.

I looked for possible Christmas gifts at the vendors’ booths but didn’t see anything suitable for the people I buy for, at least not for a price I could afford. There were some lovely bits of handblown glass for mind blowing prices. The glass blower gave demonstrations on the hour and interspersed glass blowing lore with lifestyle advice and political views. No one argued with him, he was holding a wand full of hot glass. I liked him.

In addition to the joust, the birds of prey, the juggler/fire eaters, and the glass blower we saw two comedy acts and a bagpipe/belly dancer act. I’m not sure how historically accurate it all was but it was a pretty day to be out in the piney woods. The festival is going on for three more weekends, so if you happen to be in the vicinity of Hammond, Louisiana looking for something to do (and believe me, if you happen to be in the vicinity of Hammond, Louisiana you will be looking for something to do), go visit the festival.

*According to the Renaissance, Medieval and Pirate Faire Directory, 44 states currently have Renaissance, Medieval and/or Pirate Fairs, at least if I counted correctly.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Bank of Mom

When I was growing up, my parents had one income, five kids and no spare cash. It was just understood that once you hit eighteen, you were going to need an income of your own. My older brothers lived at home for a few months after they started working, and then they joined the military. I went off to college on the bountiful grants, scholarships, and really cheap loans available to members of the Baby Boom generation, the same whiny ass generation that is rapidly developing amnesia in its old age and thinks it made it on its own with no handouts. My younger brother did the same.

My son, however, was reared with a different set of expectations. I started saving before he was born to make sure he could go to college loan free. With only one of him and four wage-earner parents (he does have two step-siblings), he had a pretty cushy life. He did start earning his own way even before he left college, working twenty hours a week and full time summers at a computer job that paid well more than minimum wage to pay his living expenses while his parents paid tuition, fees and books. I was surprised he made it through college given how much he hated school and how much he could earn without a degree, but he persisted. He has been self-supporting ever since, for the most part, but every so often when he does get in a jam, he relies on the Bank of Mom.

From what I can gather, polling friends and relatives, he is not alone in this. They all make occasional-to-frequent small loans to offspring who don’t seem to have emergency funds. Mine seems to be at the head of the pack when it comes to paying back in a timely manner, too. So my fears of enabling a dependent lifestyle seem unfounded, especially since I’ve only loaned him money about four times in ten years and it’s all been paid back.

I can certainly understand why the Bank of Mom is an attractive alternative to other banking options. The Bank of Mom does not demand collateral. The Bank of Mom will even make you an interest free loan to pay back the high interest credit card bills you ran up wining and dining your college girlfriend who then dumped you for a medical student. The Bank of Mom is open at 2 in the morning when you are stuck in an airport in Paris because you forgot to tell your bank you’d be overseas for several months and they shut down your debit card over those funny looking charges. The Bank of Mom was actually open because she was awake with abdominal pains that had her wondering if she needed to go to the emergency room, but at least she wasn’t awakened from a sound sleep. After half an hour of dealing with the airline, the pain went away anyway, so apparently it was nothing serious. 

The Bank of Mom does have a pesky habit of posting, “Did you make it home okay?” on your Facebook wall when she hasn’t heard from you after paying for your airline ticket, but at least she doesn’t charge interest.

The Bank of Mom also doesn’t charge picky exchange fees when you and all your money are in London and you get a reminder of a bill you still owe back in the U.S. The Bank of Mom didn’t even demand a coherent explanation of what the bill was for.

 And when the Bank of Mom sends you birthday and Christmas cards, they are picked out especially for you and not part of a mass mail out of hundreds or thousands of similar cards. A dozen or so similar cards, tops.

So for those of you who still deal with the Bank of Mom, or its affiliate, the Bank of Dad, I make a plea. In exchange for the non-existent interest, the convenient hours, the outstanding customer service, and the speed with which a loan can be arranged, extend a little tolerance for the loan officer who posts “Did you make it home yet?” on your Facebook wall. Before you start complaining how that embarrassed you in front of your friends, ask yourself, where were those friends at 2 in the morning when you needed the loan?               

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I used to love to bake. I learned to bake bread when I was in graduate school, and home-baked bread was often the only bread I could afford. I tried all kinds of breads. I bought The Farm Journal Book of Homemade Bread, which I still have and which has all kinds of short-cut recipes, such as CoolRise French bread and brioche.

One of the cliches that puzzles me about baking is that baking recipes, unlike other recipes, must be followed precisely and don’t allow for innovation. It seems to me that if that were true, there would only be one recipe in the world for banana bread, or whole wheat bread, or ordinary white bread. I’ve even run across more than one recipe for croissants, which are all kinds of fussy to make. Somebody must have been playing around with these recipes.

So I am perfectly happy to mess with baking recipes. By swapping out cottage cheese, instant minced onion and dill seeds in Dilly Casserole Bread for Campbell’s Cheddar Cheese soup, chives and parsley, I made a batter cheese bread that got honorable mention in a local contest. 

My favorite bread recipe to mess with is Anadama Bread. My Farm Journal book gives the history of Anadama Bread as follows:

A Massachusetts fisherman, tired of the cornmeal mush his wife, Anna, spooned up for meals, added molasses and yeast to it and baked the first loaf of this bread while muttering “Anna-dam’er, Anna-dam’er” (or so the legend goes).

A batter bread with the addition of something thick and mushy allows for a lot of messing around with. The Book of Homemade Bread even offers one such variation, with oatmeal substituted for cornmeal. My own variation is made with a can of sweet potatoes, blended to a mush. It gives the taste of potato bread but is a lot faster and easier to cook.

I had promised to bake pumpkin bread for the UMW fall bake sale, and had actually been planning to use my trusty Anadama recipe with a can of pumpkin in place of the cornmeal, when I saw that Libby makes a pumpkin bread kit, with all the ingredients for two 9x5 loaves or three 8x4 loaves (or one 9x13 pan or cupcakes). Recalling that quick breads seem to sell faster than yeast breads anyway, I  opted for the easy path. The kit even came with a glaze to put on top. What could be easier?

Saturday evening I baked the three 8x4 loaves in disposable pans. After cooling the breads according to directions, I put them back in the pans and glazed the tops. I wrapped them each in plastic wrap, not too tightly so as not to mess up the glaze. I thought about putting them in the refrigerator, but I had read somewhere that putting baked goods in the refrigerator dries them out faster, and it was a cool night. I thought about moving them across the room to the baking center, but I’d have to clear it off. So I left them on the counter near the window.

When I next looked at them Sunday morning, little black specks were moving across the glaze: sugar ants. I said a quick “Anadama!” or at least one syllable thereof and thought frantically for a moment of just scraping off the glaze before realizing the ants were all over the pans and the bread had to be tossed out. If I had made the yeast bread, this wouldn’t have happened. If I had just moved the bread across the room to the baking center, it wouldn’t have happened. I donated the amount the breads would have sold for to the bake sale and made a note to call the exterminator the next day.

I’m still going to try the Anadama pumpkin bread just for fun. I’m not going to leave it anywhere near the window.

An Atheist in a Foxhole

This week  St. Anonymous had a Veteran’s Day service. It was also the day for the fall UMW bake sale and I had promised to bake pumpkin bread, so I had to be there. (There is a sad story connected with the pumpkin bread, but that’s for another post.)

The Veteran’s Day service was very moving. Pictures of veterans and other memorabilia decorated the narthex and the altar, and interviews with vets and their families provided part of the sermon, which was based on the parable of the Good Samaritan. (Yeah, well, that’s Dr. J for you, but it fit.)

Since my dad was a World War II vet, I began thinking about him, and realized it’s been fourteen years, almost fifteen, since he died. It hasn’t seemed like that long. As I was lost in bittersweet recollections of my dad, Dr. J, as I think of our pastor, in speaking of a veteran she had known at another church said, “And he always used to tell me that there are no atheists in foxholes.” 

“Somebody ought to tell her about Pat Tillman”, I thought in passing, before another realization hit me. My dad had been an atheist in a foxhole.

I’m sure his dog tags listed his religion as Catholic, and my dad was never very forthcoming about his atheism, but he was always honest about it with us kids, or at least with me. He didn’t try to attack the religious beliefs I held as I was growing up, but he did talk about his own lack of belief. He even tried going to church with me for a while, but he just didn’t believe any of it. I’m not sure he would have called himself an atheist, but the word fit the beliefs he held when I was growing up.* 

So on our way out of church, I took a deep breath and said to Dr. J, “I think you need to know that my dad was an atheist in a foxhole.” I hope I didn’t say it in a mean way (I tend to sound harsh sometimes when I mean to be matter of fact), but Dr. J, sweetheart that she is, immediately got it. “I am so sorry,” she said. “I will never say that again.”

When I got home, I dug out the interview that an Associated Press reporter, Kenneth Dixon,  did with my dad in January of 1944, at a field hospital in Italy after the Battle of San Vittore.  Dad wasn’t wounded, but he had strained his Achilles tendons and could hardly walk. (I come by my bad feet honestly.) My brother Frank, his oldest child, had been born eight days before but he didn’t know it yet.

The reporter captured my dad perfectly. “The short, dark infantry lieutenant with the shock of curly hair and a three-day growth of beard was talking a blue streak.” (I used to say that my dad was the first man I ever saw wear an Afro.) Dad had gone to Italy in May of 1943 as a replacement officer after going through Officer Candidate School - a "ninety day wonder". 

“I joined this outfit when it was policing up the brass after the Tunisia campaign. Man, that’s tough. When you come in you’re a brand new shavetail. No battle experience, but the GI’s under you are all veterans . . . They’re thinking wothehell does this guy know about war and you can’t blame them. They’ve seen it and you haven’t . . . And then when you get a little outaline they start talking about Hill 609 and Kasserine Pass and . . . all you can do is sit back in the corner and shut up.” 
“But now there’s a lot of difference. I can talk with them. They know me and I know them and we’ve been across the Volturno together and up Mt. Pantano and into San Vittore and after this I can talk about those places. Jeez’ it’s great.”

After the war it didn’t seem so great. He did share some stories with us (the ones he could tell), but he could never reconcile himself to the idea he had killed people, even though he knew those same people would have killed him. Dad told us his senior officer wanted to put him in for a medal but he declined. 

Kenneth Dixon ends his story with this:

He got up to go out to the ambulance to be taken back to the station hospital. Hobbling through the door he said, “Anyone who doesn’t want to be in the infantry is crazy.”
“What about those who do want to be in the infantry?”asked a grinning corporal.
“They’re the craziest of all,” quipped the lieutenant from Brooklyn. 

*Later in life, in his late 60’s, dad became a Rosicrucian when he was introduced to that belief by a childhood friend with whom he had reconnected.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Jury Duty

My husband has jury duty this week. From all the moaning he’s doing, you would think he’s about to ship out to Afghanistan for an indefinite tour of duty. Keep in mind, hubby has never had jury duty before. I’ve had it twice, including the week my son was going off to freshman year of college in another state. So you can imagine how sympathetic I am.

As I may have mentioned before, hubby, like me, is retired. The times I had jury duty, I was employed and had to cancel clients. Since after the first day of jury duty you may or may not have to return and if you do return you may or may not have to stay all day, it was hard to know what to tell my employer about when to expect me and who to cancel. Employers, at least mine, also seem to have a funny attitude toward jury duty, one that can be summed up as “You mean you’re too stupid to know how to get out of this?” Of course, they don’t exactly put it that way.

Hubby, on the other hand, is down to waxing the furniture as a way to fill his time, so you think he’d be jumping for joy at the idea of having something to do, but he’s not. For one thing, they won’t let him bring coffee or snacks into the jury room, although there is a little cafeteria in the courthouse. He did bring a book.

In neither of my two stints at jury duty was I selected for a jury. The first time, I got as far as being interviewed as a potential juror in a tort case, but was rejected by the  plaintiff’s attorney. The second time, I had actually been called to jury duty a few weeks earlier, but my boss complained that week was bad for me to be out and asked if could get it moved to another time. The problem is, when you do that, you have to show up at the time they reschedule, which was, as I mentioned above, the week my son was leaving for college. Thanks, boss. Fortunately, my son had to leave on Thursday and all juries needed for the week were filled by people who were not me by Wednesday evening, so I got to go embarrass him on his first day on campus after all.

That’s the down side of jury duty. In all likelihood, you are going to sit around in a big room with no coffee being excruciatingly bored while attorneys work out plea bargains. After the first day, you might get told to call the next day and see if you have to come back, or you might be dismissed early in the day or early in the week, but you can also be kept waiting around all day. The powers that be can’t tell you that the attorneys are trying to work out a plea bargain because if the attempt fails and a jury is called, that knowledge might prejudice the jury against the defendant.

On the other hand, you could be like my former co-worker who got selected as a juror in a murder case and be sequestered for two weeks. From what I am able to tell browsing the newspaper, there are no big cases coming up in court this week, so I think hubby is safe.

I know if I were ever charged with a crime, I’d want a jury that was serious and motivated to do a good job and not wishing they could be with their son at college or worried about being fired. Now that I’m retired, I could be that juror. 

I just don’t like the part about no coffee.

Once Again

Last week, feeling guilty about having missed church for a while, I stumbled in on Stewardship Sunday. We were supposed to have filled out pledge cards to put on the altar. I vaguely remember getting one at home, along with a letter asking us to pray about what God wants us to give.

Okay, maybe if I prayed about what God wanted me to give, I’d get different answers, but when I merely think about giving, what goes through my mind is:

“There are people in this community who are hungry. You should give money to the Food Bank.” 

“Winter is coming, and some people can’t pay for heat. You should give money to Power to Care (a charitable program run by the utility company to help people with their utility bills).”

“With winter coming, kids need coats. You should give money to Pat’s Coats for Kids.” Sometimes it’s fall and children need school supplies.

“Christmas is coming. Some parents can’t buy toys for their kids. You should buy some for Toys for Tots.”

So that’s where my money for charitable giving goes, along with a few other organizations (the non-profit agency I used to work for, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, a monthly amount to FINCA, occasional small amounts to MSF). I also do listen to the little voice that tells me that as long as I keep going to church I probably should give them some money to keep the lights on. It’s only fair.

I just have a hard time believing that any money I give to St. Anonymous is money given to God. All the pastors we’ve had have as much as said so, but if you can get your hands on a copy of the budget (and it’s a lot harder to do that than it used to be), you don’t see any amounts listed for Hope Ministries (the food pantry) or the prison ministry, or any other charitable giving. There are many opportunities to give to missions: you can bring food items for Hope Ministries, you can bring toys or gifts for the elderly at Christmas, you can buy salsa or baked goods to support the  children’s home, you can bake cookies for prisoners and buy “manna bags” for the homeless. But that money you pledge each month? Once the pastor, staff and the light bill are paid, the majority goes to the “music ministry” and “children’s ministry.” No, the “children’s ministry” is not an outreach program to supply coats or school supplies or dental care to those children who need it and can’t afford it; it’s Sunday School and youth groups. The music ministry is of course the choir, some members of which are paid. 

I have nothing against the music ministry or the children’s ministry and I love our new pastor, but to me all this seems upside-down. If I’m going to donate 10% of my retirement income anywhere (and that’s a big if), the bulk of it is going to go to the organizations that feed the hungry and clothe the naked and otherwise help people who are in need. Secular community organizations seem to do a good job of that, at least when they have the money. So that’s where my money is going to go.

And if Pastor J doesn’t like that, she can take it up with God, because if I remember correctly, it’s actually his idea.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Baby Steps

Years ago, I met a group of online friends through a Get Organized interest group on AOL. As AOL went through changes and the message board disappeared, we became an email support group and then Facebook friends. As we supported each other through project after project - decorating, de-cluttering, dieting and/or exercising, finding new careers and getting our children through their teens, our unfailing mantra was “baby steps”. There was no project so big or daunting that it could not be broken down into small steps and achieved a bit at a time. For us, baby steps were a useful tool to achieve worthy goals.

In the last few days, it has occurred to me that baby steps can be just as useful in taking you to places you don’t want to go. Like most of the rest of the country, I have been riveted (horrified, but riveted) by the sex abuse scandal at Penn State. (Warning: that link contains disturbing references to child sex abuse.) I have been particularly interested in the disagreements over whether Coach Joe Paterno did enough in 2002 by reporting what he heard from Mike McQueary to Athletic Director Tim Curley and VP for Finance and Business Gary Schultz. Why didn’t he call the police? Why didn’t he insist McQueary call the police?

I can see how it happened, though. By the time McQueary told Paterno, the immediate emergency was over. So even if Paterno’s first thought was, “Mike, you’ve got to call the police right now”, I can understand a little voice saying, “Maybe I should give Curley a heads-up first. What if he gets calls from the police or the press and has no idea what’s going on?”

And once the decision was made to tell Curley and Curley set up the meeting with McQueary and Schultz, I can understand Coach Paterno thinking it was all being taken care of, and letting it go. One little baby step leading to the next.

I can understand the chain of events, but the problem is, nothing got done and Jerry Sandusky was able to spend nine more years victimizing boys. When a logical seeming chain of events leads to a horrific outcome, something is wrong with the logical seeming chain of events. There were a lot of people who knew about bits and pieces of what Jerry Sandusky was doing for years, and yet nobody stopped him.

I can think of times in my own life when baby step by baby step, I talked myself out of good deeds I meant to do or into bad decisions. I can empathize with Coach Paterno. Most of the time when I hear people say, “I can see myself doing that” the unspoken end of that sentence is, “so it was okay to do”. I see it differently. I can see myself doing that, but that doesn’t make it right. It just means that you don’t want to use me as a moral exemplar. I’m not going to hold up liquor stores or kick the cat, but if I wander into a moral gray area, I might wander back out on the wrong path.

So, yes, I can see how it happened, but that doesn’t make it right. Nine more years of victims makes it very far from right. Sometimes we do the very human, understandable, wrong thing, and need to live with the consequences. Sometimes we get there by baby steps.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Foreign Exchange: Part 3, the Daughter We Never Had

So we had two successful experiences with foreign exchange students and were looking for number three. I really wanted to find a student from South America, but none of the student profiles seemed right. We looked into getting a young lady from Moldavia, but another family had already invited her. So we invited Anett.

Anett was a 17 year old HS junior from Hungary, with a wide smile and seriously fashionable looking glasses. Her English skills seemed good enough for our local high school, and she projected an outgoing personality and ability to make friends in a new setting.

Anett turned out to be the daughter we never had. We enjoyed our years with Chan and Anders and still keep in touch with them, but with Anett we really bonded. Unlike Chan and Anders, who had a lot of complaints about American high school academics (with which I could sympathize), Anett seemed to accept things as they were. 

While I was helping Annett unpack and settle in, I saw a picture of her with a young man. She indicated that that was her boyfriend. “How old is he?” I asked. “Twenty-six.” She laughed at the expression on my face, and told me her parents were unhappy when she started dating him, but were okay with her dating him once they got to know him.

While we were talking privately later on, John said her parents probably sent her to the U.S. to put some distance between her and the boyfriend, figuring he’d give up and move on. If that was the plan, it didn’t work. They’re still together seven years later and talking about marriage once she graduates from college.

Of course, they talked every day via our computer, a mode of communication Anett used to keep in touch with her parents and friends back home as well. AFS recommends that students write home only once a week and call home only once a month in order to be able to bond with their host family. Anett bonded with us just fine, though, so I gave up worrying about how often she called home. She’s still the one who emails the most and whom we visited twice. Not only is she my Facebook friend, but her mother and brothers are as well.

All of our students inspired upgrades in our mode of living and Anett was no exception. One of her activities at home was going to the gym so we looked for a gym to join, and finally settled on the YMCA. We’re still members. I had a problem with classes there, though. Any time I found what started out as a low impact aerobics class, the teacher would quit or switch class times and be replaced by someone who had us running and doing jumping jacks. I finally settled for using the walking/running track and sometimes the weights, although I had weights and a power cage at home. Anett enjoyed the classes and the treadmill. 

Anett’s English was amusing. In Hungary, they apparently do pronouns differently from English because everybody was “he”. Even when she learned the word “she”, Anett would apply it to men as often as to women. It took months for her to get them sorted out and even then, she still made errors. She had what I considered a charming Hungarian accent, but like most people speaking a foreign language, she didn’t hear it. While we were shopping for her prom dress,  a saleswoman asked her where she was from. Later Anett asked me how the woman knew she was from somewhere else.

Actually, I thought even without opening her mouth, Anett looked European. Her style was more polished, her hair and glasses had a high fashion look, and she preferred her clothes to fit a little more snugly, although not in a way that looked trashy. I always joked that if you could get a quarter between Anett and the waistband of her jeans, she would complain they were too big.

Of course, a few months of American cuisine took care of that problem. Chan was the one who taught us that AFS stood for “another fat student”. Neither of them got anywhere near close to what you would call fat, but they both lost weight once they got home to their own countries. I could never understand that in Anett’s case, either, because Hungarians eat paté and cold cuts for breakfast, and think ice cream is a perfect snack at ten in the morning. Of course, they have walkable cities and probably just move more than we do. 

While Anett was with us, we took her to New York to spend Thanksgiving with my family and to Hawaii on a cruise. She also spent a week with John’s sister in Tennessee after school was out, in addition to going on a trip to Colorado with Young Life. School in Louisiana ends in late May, so our students have about a month after school ends before they have to go home. Chan used some of the time to go to Florida with friends. Anders hung around with us. 

The summer after she left, we went to Hungary to visit Anett and her family. We spent a week with the family in Eger and then a week at a hotel in Budapest with Anett and her family visiting us each day to take us places. Several of their friends joined in to entertain us: we had dinner at one of Eger’s best restaurants, a joint welcome dinner and birthday celebration for Annet’s father’s business partners wife. Unfortunately, the birthday girl only discovered that it was a shared celebration when she got there. We’re not her favorite people. Other friends and family variously held a dinner party for us at their wine cellar (or as Anett put it “wine celery”), had us as guests at their summer cottage, or fed us home made sausage for dinner. We also got to attend a wedding (not the reception, but we got goodies to take back to the hotel) and were serenaded by gypsies in a wine bar on the Street of Beautiful Women. A week later I was back at work being drooled on by three year olds and reciting, “I think of this as a temporary exile”.

It’s a good thing we had such a wonderful time with Anett, because the next two experiences were, well, educational.

(Part Two of my experiences as a host mom is here. Part Four is here.)

Monday, November 7, 2011

I Bought a Knife

Not a cooking knife, I had those. And I am not planning to go on a killing spree. I needed a pocket knife. I’ve needed a pocket knife for a few decades now, but it only occurred to me today that I needed one and could actually buy one.

What happened today is that I bought a new pair of clip-on sunglasses to replace my old ones, which broke. It had been cloudy most of the morning, so I was able to drive around without them, but the clouds broke as I was coming out of the store with my new sunglasses. “Oh, good,” I thought. “I have sunglasses to wear.”

They were in a plastic case that opened easily. None of that hard clear plastic stuff that takes a low grade explosive to remove, or barring that, a scalpel. Once I got them out of the case, however, I was stymied by something else - a tag connected to the bridge between the lenses with one of those plastic filaments. I could wear the sunglasses, if I was willing to give up being able to see. 

At that point it occurred to me that if I had a simple, ordinary pocket knife, I could have clipped that sucker off and gone on my merry way. Instead, I squinted my way home and used kitchen shears to free them.  

(It also occurs to me that when I make the simplest purchases, things like sunglasses that I need if I want to avoid cataracts, they are encased in so much non-biodegradable packaging, which took who knows how much fossil fuel to make both for raw materials and energy, that my carbon footprint on the average day rivals Bigfoot’s. I try to respect the earth, I really do, but I need a little cooperation from people who design packaging.)

I didn’t want one of those gung-ho Swiss Army Knives that comes with attachments to do everything from opening wine to storing your computer files. (Seriously, they now come with 16 gig USB flash drives.) I just wanted a blade, nail file, and scissors. 

I persuaded hubby to come with me to the Bass Pro Shop. I like to have hubby come with me on errands because that way we take his car and I don’t have to buy gas so often. His car uses less gas anyway, making it good for the environment. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I found one, the Wenger Esquire Swiss Army Knife, that had what I wanted plus a few extras I can live with: toothpick, tweezers and key ring. The problem is, the blade is only 1.75 inches long. I was hoping for something a little more bad ass, but the pocket knives that had blades the size I wanted did not have anything else but blades. I’m afraid if I tried to use them to remove tags from products, I’d remove a finger or two in the process.

Besides it was fairly cheap. That’s important, because I know what is going to happen. It’s going to live in my purse, and one day I’ll be about to hop on an airplane when the X-ray machine at airport security will find my knife, and I’ll wave good-bye to it as a TSA official confiscates it so that I don’t use it to hijack a plane.

But until that happens, I’m prepared for anything on the go. Broken nails, tags on my sunglasses, splinters, sesame seeds caught in my teeth. What more can a girl want?

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Agony of Da Feet

Even though my broken metatarsal has healed, my feet still have the problems that have been plaguing me for years: arthritis, scars from the joint replacement on my right foot, stiffness in my plantar fascia, and arches that flatten easily and need support. My spending three months wholly or largely off my feet has weakened the muscles that support all this mess, and it’s still hard for me to gauge how much I can do before I start causing pain.

I’m talking about normal activities of daily living here, not aerobic walking and certainly not jogging. I have been walking for exercise a couple of times with a friend, but not yet at a pace that would get my heart rate up. The kind of activity that seems to stress out my feet is having to walk to get somewhere, especially over terrain that is at all uneven. Unfortunately, the results don’t usually show up until a day or two later.

For instance, when we were in Branson, we walked down a long hill to get to what was described to us as an upscale shopping area. I was picturing Rodeo Drive East, but actually it was just the stores I shop in at home. I’m not certain Kirkland’s and The Gap count as upscale, but there was one shop selling high priced hand bags. (I didn’t go in.) At any rate, the hill itself was steeper than I’m used to, living in an area that’s flatter than Kansas, but it was two city blocks, not the side of a ravine, and even climbing back up was easy when I paced myself. I felt happy that I could finally do normal activities again.

Two days later, when I was back at home, my right foot started to hurt. I felt the pain in the arch itself, but if I rubbed along the metatarsal, that triggered a dull pain, and my foot felt the “buzzy” feeling I recognized as inflammation. I was convinced I had broken that foot. 

My more sensible nature made a deal with me. If the foot was still hurting by the following week, I’d make a doctor appointment. One day before the deadline, the foot stopped hurting, and has been fine, with only a few random twinges, ever since.

Last Sunday, hubby and I went to a local fair. The fair, a fundraiser for the Jaycee’s, takes place on a large open plot on the edge of town. The walk from the parking lot was quite a hike in itself, and the walk to the junior rodeo being held in conjunction with the fair was down a slight but bumpy incline with irregular footing, and of course, we walked the entire fairground before taking a seat in the music tent. Still, my feet felt merely tired, not sore, when I got home. So I went ahead with plans to go walking with a friend at the mall the next day, and the day after that I went grocery shopping.

Wednesday my left foot felt sore. The pain was located just below my ankle, but again, the metatarsal seemed like the trigger point and even a small amount of walking around the house caused pain that took a long time after I sat down again to go away. I was sure I had re-fractured the foot.

Again I made a deal with myself: keep off the foot and see how it feels Monday. Today it is back to normal. 

I tell myself it’s normal to feel uneasy after the bad experience I had. Twice now I’ve walked around on broken bones for over a month before getting help. I don’t want to make that mistake again. Another break in the same spot is likely to mean surgery, and considering my experience scarring up after my toe joint replacement, I’d prefer to avoid that. At the same time, the more I stay off my feet, the weaker my muscles will get and that will leave my bones less protected, not more. So I’m like Goldilocks in orthopedic shoes, relying on trial and error to find the amount of movement that is “just right”.

Let's hope the bears don't get me.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

All Saint's Day

All Saint’s Day is November first, and in its older named of All Hallows or Hallowmas, gave us the name Halloween, from “Hallow Evening”. When I was growing up, you could still see the spelling “Hallowe’en”, although usually in older literature. Now it seems to have completely disappeared, which is okay with me. I could never remember exactly where that apostrophe went. All Saint’s Day, according to Wikipediais 

“a solemnity celebrated on 1 November by parts of Western Christianity, and on the first Sunday after Pentecost in Eastern Christianity, in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. In the Western calendar it is the day after Halloween and the day before All Souls' Day.
In Western Christian theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. It is a national holiday in many historically Catholic countries. In the Catholic Church and many Anglican churches, the next day specifically commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached heaven. Christians who celebrate All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day do so in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual bond between those in purgatory (the 'Church Suffering'), those in heaven (the 'church triumphant'), and the living (the 'church militant'). Other Christian traditions define, remember and respond to the saints in different ways; for example, in the Methodist Church*, saints refer to all Christians and therefore, on All Saint's Day, the Church Universal, as well as the deceased members of a local congregation are honoured and remembered.”

I used to think All Saint’s Day was another name for All Soul’s Day, but I see they are two separate days. All Saint’s Day celebrates the first string and All Soul’s Day, the bench warmers.

Every All Saint’s Day my late mother-in-law would go to the cemetery where her family was buried to put flowers on the graves. This is the custom in New Orleans, as well as (so Wiki tells me) “Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Chile, France, Hungary, Italy, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, [and] Spain”. The New Orleans custom could have come from the French or Spanish or both. 

New Orleans being a semi-tropical city and my mother-in-law having had quite the green thumb, she was always able to find enough in her garden to make a good show. Unless it had been unseasonably cold, there would be late roses, mums, and possibly a few remaining zinnias and cockscombs, which MIL always called “rooster combs” to my great (and secret) delight, plus a few other flowers I never knew the names of.

MIL was always giving me cuttings from her garden. I still have a white rosebush, gladiolas, and something red that looks like a lily but isn’t that started life in her garden. I wouldn’t have a garden at all if it hadn’t been for her, but I have nowhere near her green thumb. It’s all survival of the fittest out in my yard. 

Once MIL moved to a retirement home in Baton Rouge, my husband would drive her to New Orleans on whatever Saturday was closest, after purchasing flowers from the grocery. Skipping Christmas or (even worse) Mardi Gras would not have been as major a departure from What Is Right as neglecting the duty to the dead.

So on Tuesday I reminded John that if he didn’t want his mother’s ghost to rise up and haunt us for the next year, we had better get ourselves to New Orleans sometime soon with some flowers. “Oh, I forgot about that”, he said. This morning he decided it would be a good day to go. This morning it’s raining.

None of the fittest having survived out back, we are having to take purchased flowers, but that’s okay. The important thing is to be there and remember. 

And not to get haunted.

*Not so much at St. Anonymous. We had one preacher who remembered All Saint’s Day, but he left abruptly for reasons that were not officially talked about, but everyone knew.