Saturday, April 25, 2015

Church Ladies' Joy Ride

It started innocently enough – a carpool to tour the men’s shelter that our church supports.  We divvied up the eleven participants, with Jan, Sue, and Linda making the fateful choice to ride with me in my aging van.

We had our tour of the place, which is so much more than just a men’s shelter – food pantry, job center, financial counseling, spiritual help, medical appointments and more.  One last stop outside to see the container gardens they hoped to be planting soon, and then we were on our way back north.  Since I organized the tour, I stuck around to thank the director.  By the time we were getting in my car, everybody else had left the scene.

Outside the shelter, beautiful art work, worn
by the extreme winter.  Faith, hope, and love
will get us through a lot of things, including
some car rides.

Linda, Sue, and Jan got back into the van.  Jan went to close the sliding side door.  It slid just so far, and then stopped, half-way open.  Unholy words entered my head, but I thought if I just pushed it with my hip (strengthened in recent months by extra Jazzercise classes) that it would close.

Well, no.  I did everything I could think of – felt around for foreign objects, cursed, pushed the door, pulled the door.  It would open all the way, but refused to close all the way.  I even pushed the door button on my key fob, but that had no effect.  Non-church-lady words exited my mouth – also no effect.

Jan, who was sitting in that seat next to the partially open door, bravely volunteered to ride home with it like that.  Not knowing what else to do, I acquiesced, and got into the driver’s seat. 

We drove a few blocks, and then stopped at a red light.  Linda said, “Look, we’re right next to the police station.  I hope they don’t notice us.”  My anxiety rose a notch.

My three friends counseled me to not take the highway home, as we didn’t want Jan rolling out the open door at 65 mph.  “Take Federal Street!” they said.  “Turn left!”  So I did, heading up the hill.

Federal Street, like most streets in Pittsburgh, is curvy, narrow, and steep.  I tried to drive more slowly than usual.  If the road curved to the left, my passengers yelled, “Take it easy on those curves!” to remind me that centrifugal force could fling Jan out of the car.  Otherwise they kept up a cheerfulness I did not quite feel. They pointed out Northside landmarks, while I tried not to be nervous.

We headed up and around bends.  Then we heard it.  “Woop woop!”  Police siren.  My first thought was, “Who, me?” I figured the police thought I was driving too slowly and wanted to get past me.  So I started to drive up a side street to the right.  My friends all yelled, “Not that way!”  So I swerved back to the left, just like a drunk driver might do, and pulled to the curb on the main road. 

The police car pulled up next to me.   You should know that at that moment, the neighborhood we were in might have had someone driving around with the car door open, for the purpose of quickly delivering illicit substances to paying customers.  Perhaps that is what the police officer was expecting before he actually saw that we were, in fact, four renegade church ladies.

The conversation went something like this (tones of voice are:  Policeman, stern.  Me: quaking).

Police: Do you realize your door is open?
Me:  Yes, sir.
Police: You can’t drive around like that with the door open! 
Me:  No, sir.
Police:  That’s a severe violation. Do you have any children in the car?
Me: Oh, no sir!
[From the back seat someone muttered, “Do we look like kids?!”] 
Police: I should write you up and have the car towed.
Me:  The door got stuck.  I didn’t know what else to do. Sir.
Police: I’m going to let you go with a verbal warning, but you need to get that fixed right away.
Me:  Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.

The only time I have used the word “Sir” more often was when I was 22 years old and was stopped for speeding in Shrewsbury, PA, while I was driving a carpool of college friends back to college.  That was a very expensive carpool trip.

The police car drove off ahead of us.  I gathered my wits and gingerly pulled away from the curb.  There was little traffic, so we were actually right behind the cop car for several more blocks.  I was very nervous that the police officer would change his mind and cart me off to jail.

Sue said, “What did he mean, ‘Are there any children?’  Did he even look at us?!  Our combined age must be over 200 years!”

Soon, Linda remarked, “Okay, this is the city line here.  That officer has no jurisdiction beyond this point.”  This did not make me very relaxed. I exclaimed, “You know, my brother drives around all the time with the car door open, and the police never stopped him!”  I do not think this improved my friends’ opinion of my extended family’s driving and car maintenance habits.

Jan was still hanging on and remaining remarkably joyful.  Perhaps she felt lucky just to be alive.

Someone said, “Do you think you should avoid driving right past the police station in this township?”  Um, yes!  All three said, “Okay. Go that way!”  I pulled ahead to get through the intersection and found myself at the top of a precipitous hill, makred “10 MPH”.  “Slow down!” my passengers cried in unison.

The road you take to avoid the police station in this township was curvy, narrow, and cliff-like, just the thing for a person with acrophobia (me).  But all I could say was, “What does it mean that all of you know how to avoid the local police station?”

Another mile and we were in more familiar territory.  I realized that getting to church really would feel like salvation.  I pulled up to the next red light, emotionally ready to turn onto our church’s street.  We were almost there!  The chorus:  “STOP!  Don’t turn right on red here!”

The light stayed red for an eternity, during which I expected another police car to appear.  Finally, the light changed.  I turned, and within a minute we were back in the church parking lot.  Sue got out, probably wishing she had gone to visit her husband in the hospital instead.  Linda said, “Carolyn, just try that door button on your dashboard.” 

I had not thought of the dashboard button until we were on the road, and then I was afraid to press it, lest it open the door all the way.  Now that we were safe in the church parking lot, I tried it.

The door closed.

The shouts of irony from all us church ladies could be heard a long way off, probably even as far as the township police station.

I believe that all three church ladies are still friends with me, but I will not be surprised if they prefer to ride with someone else for the next church field trip. 

I made an appointment to get the door fixed, vowing not to use the right-side door until I was parked at the car dealer for my appointment.  When I got there, I tried the door. It closed successfully about 20 times.  It was mocking me.

The dealer determined that the “rollers” on both doors were worn.  But they only had parts for the left door.  In a last bout of irony, I paid $250 to fix the door that wasn’t truly broken.  The right-side door remains unfixed.

Wait, more irony!  I am driving a carpool to our next church board meeting.  To the people in my car pool:  you have been warned.





Saturday, April 18, 2015

PInk Saturday: Reluctant Gardener Edition

Pink Saturday seems like a good excuse to show you photos of the flowers in my yard.

In spite of my poor gardening skills, these hyacinths have bloomed.  Thank you, Liquid Fence.

The Kwanzan cherry blossoms are from a few years ago. Last year this tree did not bloom at all.  I attributed that to the extremely cold 2013-14 winter.  Then this year we had an equally cold winter.  Still, I am hopeful.


Okay, these are more magenta than pink, but still...

Fuschia and purple hyacinths

Pink and white hyacinths



Bleeding hearts: will be pink

Kwanzan Cherry blooms from 2012

Here's hoping we see these blooms again this year!
It was very helpful to find this blog party of pink.  Tomorrow I am preaching from the pulpit (for the first time ever; possibly the last time) and need anything and everything to dispel nervousness.

To see the rest of Pink Saturday go to this link!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Bring Forth Seeds


Thus says the Lord: Lo, it is finally spring.  You shall stop saying to me already, “How long, O Lord, will winter last?” because you know that to every thing there is a season. Turn, Turn, Turn.

Let the earth put forth vegetation, and let the seed catalogues issue optimistic photos of their botanical wares to show what would grow under care of a more worthy gardener.  Be wary lest you fall into temptation and order too many seed packets for the land the Lord your God has given you to garden.

And when you open the seed packet, you shall use wisdom and discernment.  For My sake, do not rip the packet open; go get the scissors.  Refrain your nose from sneezing, so that you shall not drop the seeds, causing a large clump of forget-me-nots to grow all in one spot.


You shall not squander the seeds of the days of old.   If, whilst you are seeking your gardening implements in the great darkness that is the basement, you happen upon a packet of seeds from the days of your youth, do not spill them wantonly on the ground, without a purpose.  This is an abomination to me.  You shall search on the Webs Of Inter to find holy ordinances for bringing the seed back to life.  For behold, I will do a new thing and it shall spring forth; resurrection of seeds and other creatures is my specialty.

Here are the laws and ordinances for dealing with the wild beasts of the field: you shall gird your loins and get thee to K-mart and purchase a vessel full of Liquid Fence Deer and Rabbit Repellent. 

Then you shall put off thy shoes from off thy feet, and shall don the old shoes of gardening.  Also shall you don the gloves of gardening.  Only then shall you open the vessel of Liquid Fence, for the odor is displeasing; it stinketh to high heaven, and only the fool gets it on her regular shoes.   You shall spray every plant freely and wholeheartedly;  yea, you shall odorify the whole yard, even unto the edges of your property.  Thus shall you prevail over the beasts of the field.

And when this work is done, then you shall rejoice and be glad; your lips shall sing with joy.

                                                                                    - The Book of Jubilations 26:1-36






A Psalm for Springtime in Western PA

I will praise you, O Holy One, for Your creation. 

I rejoice in the crocus and the daffodil;
            I take delight in the hyacinth that You yourself have made.
I celebrate the Easter lily that the neighbors gave us;
Together we shall exult to look at the green, green grass.
Even the moles living in the east side of the yard will leap with joy.

The tulips shall bow their heads to You, O God, mother of all that is;
            The trees of the field shall clap their hands.
The mountains shall skip like rams
(but not so vigorously as to make the Boulevard of the Allies
 fall into the river);
the hills like young sheep.
The Three Rivers will sing together with joy;
            The streams shall overflow their banks with gladness.

You have turned my winter moping into dancing:
you have put off my winter coat, and clothed me with a t-shirt,
That my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
            O my God, I will praise you forever.

                                                           The Book of Jubilations 27:1-9

Behold: the Easter lily the neighbors gave us.




Sunday, April 5, 2015

Festive Learning

After four solid days of festive meals, we are feeling joyful and lethargic all at the same time.  Last Thursday was Maundy, with a “light supper” and communion at church.  “Light supper” means a hearty chicken soup with really thick noodles, and breads from around the world.  Since that was my last chance to eat bread for a while, I really loaded up.  Yeast bread with butter is as good as candy, especially when you know you have to switch to unleavened for the next seven days.

Friday during the day I attempted to fast in recognition of Good Friday, since I could not go to Tenebrae that evening.  I learned that it is not advisable to prepare tax returns while fasting.  One should not be rendering unto Caesar while fasting unto God.  I was actually doing Older Daughter’s tax return, and ran into snafus that frustrated me enough that I decided to end my fast around two o’clock.

Seder plate
Friday evening for the first time in forever we went to someone else’s house for the first night Seder.   It was lovely, and we learned about some different traditions.  I had never heard of Miriam’s Cup, which is a ritual to honor women.

Saturday evening we went to the second-night seder at our synagogue.   It was lovely, and I learned even more.  I learned that “Chad Gadya” is a very violent song with animals slaughtering each other, and fire, and the Angel of Death.  I figured it is a children’s song, but a friend just mentioned that it is a political commentary.  I will need to investigate and learn more!
 
CHM avec Easter bonnet and hyacinth, which I
will NOT put outside where the attack
rabbits can get at it.
Today in the morning we praised God for the Resurrection Miracle.  I wore my Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it.  Then home for more cooking.   Jesus was a good Jewish boy so I think he would approve of yet another celebration with food.  No Passover ham this time, but roast beast.

Easter Dinner menu

Pot roast with carrots and celery
Oven-broasted Brussels sprouts
Roasted beets
Potato kugel
Apple-raisin matzo kugel
Passover bagels
Passover Lemon Squares

I asked Youngest Daughter to help me with the cooking, but she would not cook the Brussels sprouts or the beets.  I learned that I should NOT put Brussels sprouts in the oven and then go read my book.  I like to cook the loose Brussels sprout leaves separately because they make a delicious snack, but I forgot that they only take a few minutes to cook.  After a few chapters of reading my book* in the bedroom, I detected a certain smell coming from downstairs.  The leaves were completely charred.  The Brussels sprouts themselves were okay, if a bit black. 





YD made Passover bagels and Passover lemon squares all by herself (she was hungry, I guess). AND she did the dishes.  We had a wonderful quiet low-key meal, just the three of us. 

YD, experiencing celebration exhaustion.  And this
was only on Friday!


Whew.

Did you celebrate anything in the past few days?


*Barbara Pym!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Men and their Thoughts

Some of the thoughts of the Common Household Men, about manly things, such as vehicles, hormones, and other men.

In January, the Common Household Husband and Son tried to fix the basement steps, with much loud hammering.  Then they gave up.  As they were coming up from the basement, I heard my son say, “Maybe there’s a post-Christmas sale on forklifts.”

Me, alarmed:  “We need a forklift now?!”

Son:  “We have always needed a forklift.  We just haven’t gotten one yet.”

Husband: “I can’t believe we’ve gone this long without a forklift.”

* * * * * * * * *

Me:  I wish we could get a smaller car.

Husband: But if we had a smaller car, when we go to buy our treadmill, how will we get it home?

Me:  Our treadmill, if we ever buy one, will be delivered by a strapping young man.

Husband: Yeah, I bet you would like that.

Me:  He would put it together for us.

Husband: What’s the point of getting a treadmill if you don’t get it with a strapping young man?

* * * * * * * * *

Husband is reading the newspaper.  He says “Here’s the explanation right here.”  He reads from the newspaper:   “‘...the mother’s placenta early in pregnancy responds to phthalate exposure by disrupting human chorionic gonadotropin levels.’”

Me:    “The explanation for what?”

Husband:   “Men.”

* * * * * * * * *

Me: Did you know that my father once wrote a letter to J. Edgar Hoover?!

Son: Who was J. Edgar Hoover?

Husband: I think he made vacuum cleaners.

Son: Was he a president?

Husband: He was the president right before Harrison Ford was president.

* * * * * * * * *

Husband: I’m reading about testosterone and epilepsy.

Me: Testosterone causes epilepsy?!

Husband:  Sure.  Doesn’t everything?

* * * * * * * * *


Just to fill you in on some of the issues mentioned above:  we have not yet bought a forklift or a treadmill.  Sadly, we rather urgently have to buy a new (used) car, and all we know is that it will not be a Hummer or a Smartcar.  J. Edgar Hoover never answered my father’s letter.  And I have no explanation for men.

Oh, and the annual tax returns are done.  Now for the quarterly taxes and the FAFSA.  Sigh.