Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Is this what retirement is like?

Today: no kids, no husband around.  For the first time in my life, I watched Oprah while eating chocolate ice cream.  It was unsatisfying, and I found myself wanting to do laundry and vacuuming.  What is wrong with me?!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

This year's December dilemmas

When I sit down to write my Christmas cards, I have to write the Hanukkah cards first, because usually Hanukkah comes before Christmas.  What often happens is that the Hanukkah cards get sent on time, but I run out of steam before I finish all the Christmas cards.  The irony is that the only reason people send Hanukkah cards is because people send Christmas cards.

The bigger dilemma for me this year is this: should I dash out of town to see my very ill father?  So far I have decided it's best to stay here at home.  I'm hoping that Dad will be recover and be better able to visit with the kids by Christmas Day, when we are planning to go.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving turkey warning

This is what it says on the package of my Thanksgiving turkey:

A solution of what?
A solution to what?
Who writes these things?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Four things my kids know about famous people

Youngest Daughter:  “Clark Kent?  Didn’t Clark Kent write all those books under the name of Mark Twain?”
* * *
Dad:  “Did Ben Franklin invent the toilet?”
Oldest Daughter: “No, that was Leonardo diCaprio.”
* * *
Dad, explaining ancient comedians to the kids:  “George Burns played vaudeville.”
Son:  “Who’s Vaudeville?”
* * *
Piano teacher:  "Robert Schumann was born in 1810."
Youngest Daughter:  "Oh!  That's when my mommy was alive!"

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Four things my father taught me

Cut an onion with a straight-edged knife, not a serrated knife.

When doing math homework, if you have to erase, erase completely. 

Pay attention to what Biblical scholars say more than what theologians say.

God has 100 names and only the camel knows all of them.  That explains why the camel always holds his head high when traveling through the desert.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Carvin' Out Some Fun

My favorite part of Halloween is turning this

into its constituent parts, this

and this.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Manifesto from the Common Household 10-year-old

We kids are treated as though we are toddlers.  We have no privelages of grown-ups.  They don’t understand.  While kids need guidance, they have no rights.  When kids get rights, they have no guidance.  I believe that kids should have both rights and guidance in their kid life. Of course, the grown-ups try to de-rail this by telling us that we’re lucky for what we have.  But, again, they don’t understand. Kids picture their lifestyle as the only lifestyle that can be.  Oh, sure, they know there are other lifestyles, but the message never really gets through.  

Anyways, the real meaning of that is to stop us from having rights and guidance.  I say, don’t do this!  Don’t let the grown-ups have the biggest piece of the pie!  I say, do what your parents do!  Follow them!  Be equal to them!  No longer be meaningless to the world!  Only give in if we lose our fight!

But don’t follow all of your parent’s examples.  For instance, don’t drink.  Don’t drive.  Don’t smoke.  Don’t kiss anyone else who’s a kid until you’re in high school.  Besides that, do what your parents do!  Sure, the law says you’re not allowed to vote, but laws can be changed! Hear me!  See my logic!  Kids are not just toddlers to be protected without rights, then left alone with rights!  We can stand by our parents’ side, doing as they!  Or we can continue going on with your either right-free or guidance-free life, never going along with the changes of the world.  Your choice.

I believe I have made my point.  I will go now.  But hear what I say, and remember it, for soon there will be an empire of people, grown-ups and children joined together at its head!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Light Reading, no Greek puns, please

It was pleasant to read two fun books this week:  The Persian Pickle Club by Sandra Dallas, and Miss Julia Speaks her Mind By Ann B. Ross.  The first takes place in Kansas during the Great Depression, but it wasn’t depressing at all, just lots of fun and a little mystery.  The second book focuses on a recently-widowed woman, a Presbyterian, who gets stuck in quite a predicament.  For me it was a page-turner – intrigue and excitement, but in a Presbyterian way (decently and in good order).  The preacher men don’t come off looking too good, though. 

I really needed some fun reading to balance out my reading assignment: all about the Apostle Paul and his theology.  For me, it’s pretty difficult stuff to wade through.  It provides its own version of fun. In Philippians 3:2 there is a pun where Paul uses the word kakatome where normally the word peritome would be expected.  Not only is this pun in Greek, but it is a pun about circumcision.  ‘Nuff said.

At the library today I looked for another fun read, something without any Greek puns.  I found P.G. Wodehouse, but there were no Mma Ramotswe books (Alexander McCall Smith) which is really what I wanted to get.  I also got Mark Twain’s A Murder, A Mystery and A Marriage, but there’s no promise that it will be light-hearted.  Twain got to be rather bitter at times.

So does anybody have any light-hearted fun books to recommend?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Common Household Proverb

O Woman, look thou well on which of thy children are already in the house. Lo, the one who is not there is the one whom you should be picking up. Go then, and fetch that child.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Shofar Blast

During the Jewish High Holidays there are two sounds that give me chills. One is the sound of the shofar, the ram’s horn. On Rosh Hashanah it is blown 100 times, in a certain pattern. T’kiah! Truah! Sh’varim! After 10 days, at the end of Yom Kippur, the rabbi invites all the shofar blowers in the congregation to come forward for one final “T'kiah Gadol” - a great long blast. It is not a musical sound, but has a rawness that shakes the soul. Well, it shakes my soul.

The other sound is the tune of Kol Nidrei, a haunting melody probably 6 centuries old which is sung at the beginning of the Yom Kippur day of atonement and fasting. The words, though, are at odds with the music. The lyrics are in Aramaic. It is a rather legalistic passage, about being released from the vows you made with God and then broke during the year. Fortunately for me, I can’t understand Aramaic, so I am left with just the music, which is a good preparation for the service that follows: confessing to an alphabet of sins (yes, really), appealing to God (Avinu Malkeinu - Our Father Our King) to forgive us, pleading for a good year ahead.

Although the theology of Yom Kippur is not what I ascribe to, I find the Jewish High Holidays meaningful. The 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are supposed to be for apologizing for the wrongs we have committed against each other during the past year. You could argue that we are supposed to be saying those things all year long, but deadlines are great!

Fasting is a challenging spiritual discipline. At the very least, not eating for 25 hours helps one appreciate, just a little, what it is to be hungry, and how just one day without food can affect one’s emotions, reaction time, and general outlook. A fast gives one more time for pondering things of the spirit. I am amazed at how much of my time is freed up when I don’t need to prepare, serve, and clean up a meal.

So, Happy New Year! Next up, it’s Sukkot – the tent holiday!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

They also serve who only stand and wait

Today a man collapsed during the church service. It was during the sermon. There was a small commotion from the back of the sanctuary, a cry for a nurse. Someone said “Call 9-1-1.” By the time I turned my cell phone on someone else was already calling. A good thing – I probably wouldn’t have been able to keep my cool. As she was talking to 9-1-1, I realized that the church building is a long way from the street entrance, and that someone should go down to the street to direct the ambulance. As the minister was directing us to begin praying, I just left the sanctuary. I went out in the rain, down by the street, and waited. Just as well. I have no medical expertise to offer, I can pray on my own, and somehow I just wanted to be by myself. These are times when the prayer is just “Oh, God. Oh, God. Please heal, comfort, send peace.” After a few minutes a second person came out of the sanctuary to wait for the ambulance, too, but he waited further down at the other entrance.

When you are waiting for an ambulance to come revive someone who has collapsed, 10 minutes is a long time to wait. Finally the ambulance arrived, and was directed to the sanctuary by the other waiting person. I started back up the hill. As I ascended, I noticed a squirrel and a crow, just standing there, looking toward the sanctuary. It was as if they too wanted to know what was happening.

When I got back inside the sanctuary the congregation was singing. “Great is thy faithfulness... All I have needed thy hand hath provided...” The man was being wheeled out on the gurney, waving to us. I was thankful to see that he had regained consciousness. Someone went with his wife to take her to the hospital. We resumed our worship service, although the minister declared that the sermon did not need to be preached that day, as we had already lived out our faith in those moments.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sending Autumn

Today is my father’s 81st birthday. Happy Birthday, Dad!

And it is autumn, my favorite season. I wish I could send some autumn down south to my friend Angie. Instead I’ll have to send autumn thoughts. Cheryl Wheeler wrote a beautiful song called “When Fall Comes to New England.” Here’s a snippet of the lyrics. If I knew how to embed songs in my blog I would. But I don’t. Maybe you can find it on i-tunes.

When fall comes to New England
The sun slants in so fine
And the air's so clear
You can almost hear the grapes grow on the vine.

The nights are sharp with starlight
And the days are cool and clean
And in the blue sky overhead
The northern geese fly south instead
And leaves are Irish Setter red
When fall comes to New England.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dinner conversation topics

It is September, and the thoughts of youth everywhere turn to... math? Here are some tidbits captured from our dinner conversation tonight.

Youngest Daughter says: Infinity is the third largest number. The second is googol and the first is googolplex.

Son says: How come there is an infinite number of numbers between 0 and 1, and there is also an infinite number of numbers between 2 and 50,000? That’s just not fair.

Youngest Daughter says: Here’s a probability question. If there is a 1/10 chance that you will find a $1 bill on the street, and a 1/50 chance that you will find a $5 bill on the street, what is the chance that you will find both a $1 and a $5 bill on the street?

Youngest Daughter says: How many carrots do I have to eat in order to get another serving of macaroni and cheese?

Oldest Daughter says: Can a cube have a volume of zero?

Youngest Daughter says: “Money is just a concept.”
To which Oldest Daughter says: “Australia is a concept. Australia is a better concept than money.”

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Looking for the Risen Jesus

I was waiting for a friend on the grounds of a local Catholic school and convent. I discovered a walkway with statues along one side. The statues were of Jesus carrying the cross, on his way to be crucified, probably a depiction of the Stations of the Cross. Jesus meets various people as he struggles along the path. The statues were all painted with some sort of sticky, glaringly white sturdy outdoor paint. I could see paint dripping down the concrete pedestals, as if the statues were bleeding white blood.

I walked along the path, following the statues. Though I know the story, it was interesting to see it from this wordless perspective. Further down the path, I saw them nailing Jesus to the cross. The cruelty of the crucifixion was only partially masked by the whiteness of the statues and the calm setting on the wooded path.

I looked for the last statue – the resurrected Jesus. You know the pose: Jesus in a toga with his hands outstretched so that we can see the holes, with a huge halo of light behind his head. I walked to the end of the path, but there was no statue of the Risen Jesus.

I have thought for a number of days about whether there is any lesson to be drawn from this. Why was there no Risen Jesus there? Scripture says, “He is not here; he has risen.” Jesus is in our hearts. Why do you look for the living among the (dead) statues?

Perhaps the message is that Jesus isn’t finished yet. He isn’t ready to be confined to a statuary. Keep looking for him. Out there in the real world.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Beware of Dead Fish

Common Household Hint:

Beware of dead fish; they still can fight back: Do not stab yourself on the dorsal-fin spines of a red snapper fish. If you stab said spine on, for instance, your finger, then your finger will swell and hurt like the dickens. Try to find out before, not after, you prepare the fish, that the spines contain a toxin.

I hope that I will be able to play the piano again someday (sob).

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Bands

We went to the football game last night, the first of the season. Tigers vs Lions. My son was playing in the marching band, Oldest Daughter took her date, Common Household Husband was working the concession stand, and Youngest Daughter didn’t want to go.

She thought the only thing to watch would be the football game. She was delighted to discover that a football game is more like a three-ring circus. First and foremost, there is the concession stand. Pizza! Soda! Candy! Then there are the cheerleaders, who spend a lot of time demonstrating their superior spelling skills: “L – E – T – S – G - O Let’s go, Tigers!” The cheerleaders did some impressive acrobatic stuff, like lifting each other high up in the air. There’s the marching band, 250 members strong, in full uniform, complete with poufy plume on the hats. They put on a good show, but it was impossible to tell which one was my flesh and blood. And, somewhere in there, there is a football game going on.

At half-time, the band played three songs while marching around. As a music listening experience, it left a lot to be desired. I was there to hear the band, but nobody else was, so the folks in the stands talked and milled around right through it. During the game there were times when our band played at the same time as the other band played at the same time as the cheerleaders cheered at the same time as the football players moved the ball. Good for the multi-tasking generation, but this Common Household Mom couldn’t tell where she should be looking.

The whole place was teeming with students dressed and painted in our school colors. I estimate that 75 percent of the teenagers were not watching the game, as other non-football dramas played out on the stadium grounds.

But the weather was pleasant, the moon was full, and our team won. Youngest daughter is now hooked, and will go back to another game with little complaining, if only to get a slice of pizza.

Friday, August 28, 2009

First Day of School

I got up at 5:30 AM to make special blueberry streusel muffins for the first day of school. I figured the scent of baking would be a pleasant way to inspire my two high-schoolers to truly wake up for the occasion. Common Household Son took the bait, but CH Daughter abstained.

The day had an inauspicious start for the riders of Bus #4. Their mother (me) insisted on going for a walk just at the same time as they left for the bus, and, remarkably, on exactly the same path they take to the bus stop! This seemed to be a petty annoyance to my daughter, but was irrelevant to my son. Perhaps he was placated by the muffin. More likely he just didn't notice I was there. Just when we arrived at the bus stop, I felt a great need to stop and rest, at least until the bus came.

A gaggle of teenage girls arrived. We waited, and waited. After 20 minutes, no bus. Sigh. I trudged back home, got the car, and picked up my kids at the bus stop. The gaggle of girls declined my offer of a ride to school. It was 7 a.m. when we left the bus stop.

Half an hour later, after making my deliveries at the two different schools, I was back home just in time to wake up Ms. Grouch for elementary school. But she was grateful for the muffin, and managed to get ready with time to spare. Thankfully, her bus came on time.

And now it is 9:50 AM and I miss them already. But man, am I tired.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bike Ride, in the Boy Scout Way

Yesterday I went on a bike ride with the Boy Scouts. My main fear, beforehand, was that these adolescent powerhouses would leave me in the dust and that I would be carried off to the hospital on a stretcher. That, and dogs – those were my main fears.

There were 8 scouts, 3 Dads, and me, Lone Mom-of-Scout. It was soooo good to get back on my bike again! My task was to ride at the back of the group, keeping my Mom-eyes pealed for injured Scouts, so that I could leap off my bike wih a flourish of my super-Mom cape, and attend to the injuries (by calling 9-1-1).

But as one parent astutely pointed out to me, I forgot to bring a first-aid kit. We didn’t have even a single band-aid with us. It just never occurred to me that it would be useful, since I was imagining things like broken legs, bloody spokes, and especially dog teeth embedded in human flesh. A first-aid kit is no good for things like that. Plus, all the Boy Scouts have been trained in administering first aid using random things that they find lying around in the woods, or by ripping their $40 scout shirts into tourniquets and cloth strips for binding wounds. It’s just the Boy Scout Way. (So is calling 9-1-1.)

We had no injuries. Not even a scratch. Given the impetuousness of many teenage boys, and the huge number of people in the park, I consider this to be a miracle from God. I had a most enjoyable ride, since I was riding with a younger scout who had a smaller bicycle and less robust muscles than the rest of the group. He did not complain, whine, or quit. He just kept going, at a pace that was easy for me.

We had perfect weather. This meant that it was also perfect weather for joggers, walkers, super-fast cyclists, skaters, one unicyclist, and (gasp) people with dogs. Lucky for us, the dogs all obeyed the law, and were on leashes. The guy who was riding the unicycle was also trying to walk two dogs, but wasn't having great success when we passed him.

Here comes my pet peeve. The joggers just couldn’t stand going single file, even on the part where the biking/jogging lane is right next to the main road. They just had to go two or three abreast. This meant that we cyclists had to pull out into the car lane in order to pass them. This is not trivial when some of the cyclists are 11 years old. Share the road, joggers!

This was our troop's first bike ride. I can’t wait until the next one. It will probably be next year at about this time of year.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Birthday Gift!

My dear Youngest Daughter, with guidance from Dad, made this board game for me as a birthday present!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summer crops

Our total strawberry crop this year. Better luck next year.

Oldest Daughter made these cute, delicious little blueberry pies! Yum! This photo was taken before they were cooked. The blueberries are store-bought, not home-grown. And it's definitely better that way.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Speaking of feet..

A Tip from the Professor

Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes...that way you are
a mile from them and have their shoes.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Uses for Large Square Paper

See, a local Italian restaurant uses large square pieces of paper for tablecloths, simply replacing the used paper with a clean sheet between customers. But take an origami enthusiast to this restaurant, and he will see other possibilities besides mere table covering. I mean, what would you do with 3-foot square paper?

Very Large Paper:

Simply fold into 27ths both ways, and fold, fold, fold:

Done. I feel closer to Paris already.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What I Learned This School Year

- High school teachers used to assign students to make posters. Now they assign the making of videos. For instance:


- Seeing one's child acting in a stage play is chillingly awesome.

- The only person with handwriting worse than my son’s is his English teacher.

- Dad can (and did) go the entire school year without meeting any of the teachers.

- Field Day is not fun for clumsy people.

- Latin is pronounced incorrectly when singing it in a church choir, versus learning in school.

- There exists an educational movie about eggs.

- For a school project, my son mailed a potato chip. Just one.

- The BFG by Roald Dahl is a whoppsy gloriumptious fun book.

- The Music Man is delightful every time.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Britons Behaving Badly

I finished a book on my list (! ! ). Pride and Prejudice is a delicious farcical look at early 19th century* English middle-class society. In addition to its lack of gore and bodily dismemberment, I appreciated some wonderful pointy-sharp sentences, beginning right at the beginning:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

The true genius of the author is that she created a sympathetic main character, Elizabeth, even though Elizabeth engages in the very same nasty prejudging behavior that she deplores in the rest of society.

And poor Darcy. The whole thing could have been solved at the beginning if Society had recognized Darcy for what he is: an introvert, forced to do extrovert stuff like Go to Balls and Maintain Conversation. In this respect our world is the same as in Austen’s time: built for extroverts, with a few introverts allowed in here and there.

And now I move on to a book historically related to Britons behaving badly during the British raj: The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power by Tariq Ali. I am expecting some bodily dismemberment.

*or is it late 18th century, when Austen wrote the first version of the book? Either way, it’s a long time ago, which my kids would call “the pioneer days” or “when Moses walked the earth.” Those are both the same era, according to said Kids. And it was in that era when I was last able to finish a book.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Cake Eating Contest

I made a two-layer 9x13 chocolate cake for DH’s birthday on Saturday.

That’s two 9x13 cakes piled on top of each other. It didn’t look too great because DH asked for white glaze, which I just couldn’t make look normal. It tasted good, though! We made predictions as to when it would be gone. Oldest Daughter predicted Tuesday at 6:20 AM. She leaves for school at 6:35 AM. She won, triumphantly.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Eight books I would like to read

8 Books I would like to read

1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
2. The Duel: Pakistan on the Flight Path of American Power by Tariq Ali
3. The Call of the Wild by Jack London (on reading list of Middle Child)
4. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
5. The Sword in the Stone by T. H. White (to read to Youngest Child)
6. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (on the reading list of Oldest Child)

These are the books I currently have borrowed from the library. I'm working on # 1. It's fantastic! Full of 18th Century English snarkiness. And that's only through chapter 4!

Number 7 would have to be the textbook for the Statistics course that I wish I could take but can't find at a convenient time and place.

Number 8 would have to be the book written by one of my children. Not yet written, but I'm waiting....

Friday, May 8, 2009


When the Executive Summary of your Investment Advisor's report quotes Bob Dylan's Shelter from the Storm, lo, then you shall know that the value of your investment has been left out in the hailstorm; Verily, I say unto you, it is practically worthless.

Times, they are a-changing, when investment bankers take a line from Bob Dylan.

Not a word was spoke between us,
There was little risk involved
Everything up to that point had been left unresolved.
Try imagining a place where it's always safe and warm.
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."

- Bob Dylan, Shelter From the Storm 1974

Monday, May 4, 2009

8 Things I wish I could do

1. Make Eric D completely healthy again (see my friend's blog
2. Read the next page of Pride and Prejudice
3. Finish organizing the photos
4. Make oatmeal raisin cookies
5. Learn to read Hebrew fluently
6. Ride my bike on a flat trail with no motorized traffic
7. Take piano lessons
8. Get a good night's sleep

Two photos, waiting to get organized:

It was hard to make this list, because I get to do so many wonderful things. I don't have time for wishing.

Now I am going to go work on #2 and #8, which are related.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Looking Forward

8 Things I am looking forward to
1. Finishing this list
2. A good night's sleep (oh, if only!)
3. Talking with the wonderful Common Household Husband
4. Talking with the wonderful Common Household Children
5. Oatmeal raisin cookies
6. Choir rehearsal
7. Working outdoors in the garden
8. The Music Man

Friday, May 1, 2009

I've been tagged

8 Things I Did Yesterday:

1. Got Common Household Daughter out of bed (not an easy task)
2. Aerobics class
3. Started to sort photos
4. practiced hymns for Sunday
5. Made meatballs for dinner (Desperation Dinner)
6. Took kids to piano lesson
7. Started to read Pride and Prejudice
8. Fell asleep on the first page

8 Things I am Looking Forward To:
1. Finishing this list tomorrow

8 Things I Wish I Could Do:

8 Books I Want to Read:

8 People I tag:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Dear Common Household Husband made Easter dinner. Not only that, but it was delicious!

Ginger-Honey chicken, baked on matzo stuffing, with carrots roasted on top. All in one pan! He's a genius.

Sabra Honey-Golden Chicken
1 4 pound chicken, cut into serving pcs salt to taste
1/2 lemon
1/3 c peanut oil
2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 c honey

Rub lemon on chicken pieces. Sprinkle with 1 tsp ginger and salt. Combine oil, honey, and remaining ginger. Brush chicken with honey mixture. Roast at 350 F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, basting occasionally.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hail to the Egg-Layers

This week we are taking advantage of the huge efforts of egg-laying chickens. As of yesterday (Thursday) I have used 1.5 dozen eggs to prepare: the egg for the Seder plate, a sponge cake, cookies, Passover rolls, lemon squares, and matzo ball mix. Plus one of our Seder guests is a vegetarian, so I’m adding 0.5 dozen hard boiled eggs to our table, since she can’t eat the fish or chicken soup.

My son is not a big fan of matzo or any Passover food, really. I asked him what he would eat for breakfast during Passover, and he said “eggs.” Scrambled, that is.

Today I went to the store to get more Passover staples: 2 dozen eggs and 3 pounds of onions.

We have not dyed any eggs for Easter eggs. The plastic, colored eggs with candy inside are starting to look more appealing, just for variety’s sake.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Passover Cream Cheese Brownies

One of our favorite Passover treats. Not too hard to make either - no need to whip egg whites!

Passover Cream Cheese Brownies
* 1/4 cup butter (or unsalted margarine)
* 1/3 cup soft cream cheese (NOT the whipped kind)
* 1 cup sugar
* 2 beaten eggs
* 1/2 cup matzah cake flour
* ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
* 2 Tbsp. potato starch
* ¼ cup chocolate chips (not melted) (or you could use 1 cup finely chopped nuts)

Cream butter, cream cheese. Add sugar and eggs; mix well. Stir in cake flour, potato starch, cooled chocolate, chocolate chips or chopped nuts (reserving some nuts for the top). Spread batter in buttered 9x9 inch pan. Sprinkle reserved nuts over top, if desired. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Cut into squares while warm.

These are best stored in refrigerator. They are rather fudge-like. Remember that they are a dairy food.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Reflections of a Presbyterian on her son's bar mitzvah

The day was wonderful. There’s an indescribable feeling to having friends and family gather for an important family event. Each person’s presence is inestimably important.

I think that it’s good to have events like these because they can be (if we let them) a glimpse of what heaven might be like. Or is it a wonderful day just because I find I can’t believe people are willing to give up an entire Saturday morning to witness a worship service half in a language they don’t understand?

The difference between the bar mitzvah worship service and a Presbyterian confirmation are, of course, many. Judaism says, “We do, and [therefore] we believe.” Christianity says, “We believe, and so, we do.”

Start with the fact that there is actually no worship service or ceremony required to “become bar mitzvah” (or bat mitzvah). The bar mitzvah service is really the first time that the person is called for an aliyah to the Torah. No declaration of belief is required. However, long years of study in Hebrew, in learning the system of chanting the prayers, the Torah portion, the Haftarah are required.

Contrast that with the confirmation class at my church. There is a class that meets once a week for about half the year. There is (thankfully) no foreign language to be learned! The participants in the class learn theology, write their own statement of faith, and get to know each other. The culmination is their answering questions about their faith in front of the congregation. Answering the questions, that is, making a public declaration of faith, is required.

So for the bar mitzvah child, the learning and action come first, with belief to follow. For the Presbyterian kids, defining one’s beliefs comes first, with more learning and action to follow.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Two unexpected things

On my drive home from taking my parents back, I was listening the the radio and I heard two unexpected things.

I was listening to the Diane Rehm show. They paused to say, "The national broadcast of the Diane Rehm Show is brought to you by..."
and I was sure they were going to say "your brother". But they didn't. Instead, they said, "The German Embassy." ?! The German Embassy brings national broadcasts to people? It underwrites NPR?!

I changed the channel after a while, and got some guy talking in French. His pronunciation was good, and slow enough that I could understand most of the words. I listened for a while, and then realized that I couldn't tell where his sentences began or ended. I thought, this guy is speaking perfect French but doesn't have the right inflection. How odd. Then They announced (in French) that the show was "Radio Taiwan Internationale." They proceeded to give a web address, pronouncing "w" really slowly. It takes twice as long to say a web address in French because you have to say "w" "dooobla-vay" instead of "dubya" and "point" instead of "dot".

Friday, March 20, 2009

Almost Ready

The kippahs are bought, the worship booklet is printed, and he has learned his Torah portion.

The furniture is arranged, the food is ordered, and the house is clean (well, as clean as it will ever be.)

The driving directions have been sent, the gift bags for the out-of-town guests have been delivered, and the guests have begun to arrive.

Almost ready for a Common Household Bar Mitzvah!

I just have to write my little speech. It has to be a speech that is brief, won't make me cry, thanks the people in the congregation for being there, and lets my son know how much I love him. An impossible speech to write.

Monday, March 9, 2009


It’s hard to concentrate today.

Good things:
- Mom’s surgery went well, according to Dad
- music, performed by the kids
- my friend’s son is no longer on a ventilator
- lots of family are coming to visit soon!

Not so good things:
- my friend’s son needs to have the motivation to eat and gain strength, so that he can heal completely
- I have to clean up the entire house
- I have no idea what we will have for dinner tonight. Any suggestions?

I’m realizing that there are a lot more good things than the items I’ve listed here. God is good.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hard to Write

It's been hard to write about anything. Mom's been sick, and my dear friend's son is very ill. See her blog at

I went out of town to see my parents while my Mom was ill, and helped my Dad out a bit. While I was gone the family decided to bake a cake. When Common Household Mom is not around for baking expotitions, things happen a little differently.

Since the Common Household Family wanted to make a LOT of cake, they made 1.5 times the usual recipe, and they used 3 round cake pans. When the cakes came out of the oven, they were tilted. We had our stove repaired a while back, and it must have gotten off kilter then. Youngest Daughter saw the lopsided cakes, and commented, "Our kitchen must be tilted!" Dad said, "No, it's just that the oven is tilted." Daughter disagreed, and decided the problem was even bigger. "OUR WHOLE HOUSE IS TILTED, DAD!"

And lately it has seemed that the whole world is lopsided, tilted, off-balance. Off-balance with dreadful illness, pain, and difficulty for loved ones. Tilted toward a lot of prayer and concern.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Ice Storm

Two days ago we had an ice storm. I was glad that I didn't have to drive in it, which is perhaps why I found it to be beautiful.

The back steps.

Our street

Monday, January 26, 2009

Which wolf will we feed?

Words from the inaugural prayer service:

There is a story attributed to Cherokee wisdom:

One evening a grandfather was teaching his young grandson about the internal battle that each person faces.
"There are two wolves struggling inside each of us," the old man said. "One wolf is vengefulness, anger, resentment, self-pity, fear... The other wolf is compassion, faithfulness, hope, truth, love..."

The grandson sat, thinking, then asked: "Which wolf wins, Grandfather?"

His grandfather replied, "The one you feed."

There are crises banging on the door right now, pawing at us, trying to draw us off our ethical center - crises that tempt us to feed the wolf of vengefulness and fear.

We need you, Mr. President, to hold your ground. We need you, leaders of this nation, to stay centered on the values that have guided us in the past; values that empowered to move us through the perils of earlier times and can guide us now into a future of renewed promise.

We need you to feed the good wolf within you, to listen to the better angels of your nature, and by your example encourage us to do the same.

Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins
Sermon: Harmonies of Liberty
Isaiah 58:6-12, Mt 22:6-40
National Prayer Service; January 21, 2009

Links to the entire sermon:
In text:

For audio or video, try here:


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Six things

I've been tagged. So here goes:

6 things that happened today:

1. Obama was inaugurated.
2. I cried for joy.
3. I finished the song sheet for the Women's Retreat.
4. I made tofu with stir fried vegetables and pasta for dinner.
5. I did some paying work, despite the fact that it was hard to concentrate.
6. I dropped my suit off at the dry cleaners.

As you can see, no hoopla here. You have to go to Washington DC for hoopla today.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Coldest Day requires hot soup

This morning at 7:00 AM the thermometer reads -7 degrees F. My dear son is headed outside for the day, to the Klondike Derby, where the Boy Scouts practice winter skills like ice rescue. I believe they do this on a tarp spread over solid ground. I hope they practice skills such as keeping hands warm when it’s -7.

My job is to provide soup. I much prefer this to ice rescue practice.

Yesterday was even colder, with a high of -4F. It probably will turn out to be the coldest day of the winter here. I’m sure it’s colder in places like Minnesota and Canada, but -4 is cold enough for me. The kids decided it was finally time to go sledding.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ahead of Santa

Judging from what I read in the newspaper, President-elect Obama has now received more wish lists than Santa Claus himself. Is it like this every time there is a new president? Or just when a new president is likely to be doling out billions of dollars to new projects?