Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Photos of Dad

Siblings on the beach

In this photo, we're at a picnic at the beach.  My Dad hated the beach, but if the family went, he usually went, too.  Here he is (on the left) in his usual beach clothing (button-down shirt and slacks), doing his usual beach activity:  reading the newspaper.  Isn't that what everybody does at the beach?  

The man to his immediate right is his younger brother, my uncle.  I would appreciate your prayers for him - he is having surgery next week.  In the last few years of my father's life, my uncle came to visit him frequently, even though it was a long way to travel.  A great example of a faithful brother.

In honor of my Dad's birthday today, here are a few more photos of Dad, doing things he loved.

Trying an interesting mode of transportation
We are riding on top of the car, through the desert in Pakistan.  That's me in the middle, my Dad on the right.  We got in big trouble for traveling this way - not a safety issue, but a cultural issue.  You'd think the safety issue would have been enough incentive for us not to do this.

Singing, in costume
"Oh, a pirate's life is a wonderful life!"  That's my son on the right, playing a diminutive Captain Hook.  He's a bit taller now.

He was a chess and scrabble fiend.

Cooking: squatting like a Pakistani while shelling cardamom pods
When my Mom went back to work, my Dad took up cooking. He learned how to make the cuisine of his childhood - Punjabi cooking.  He made chapattis (flat whole-wheat bread) from scratch, cooking them right on the burner's open flame, flipping them with his bare fingers.  They puffed right up like pillows!  He made the best dal (lentil stew).  Shah Jehani Biryani, Murgh Methi, Aloo Mattar, and more.  

Such a fascinating life he lived.  He always looked for chances to show us, his children, interesting things and places.  He was always learning.  I'm thankful to God for his life.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Occasional Mercies

Occasional Mercies
                By John Donne

God hath made no decree to distinguish the seasons of His mercies; 
In Paradise, the fruits were ripe the first minute,
And in heaven it is always autumn;
His mercies are ever in their maturity:
We ask our daily bread,
And God never says:
You should have come yesterday.
He never says,
You must ask again tomorrow:
But today, if you will hear His voice,
Today he will hear you.
He brought light out of darkness,
Not out of a lesser light:
He can bring thy summer out of winter,
Though thou have no spring;
Though in the ways of fortune or understanding or conscience
Thou have been benighted till now,
Wintered and frozen, clouded and eclipsed,
Damped and benumbed, smothered and stupefied till now:
Now God comes to thee,
Not as in the dawning of the day,
Not as in the bud of the spring,
But as the sun at noon,
As the sheaves in harvest.
All occasions invite His mercies,
And all times are His seasons.

From a Sermon preached upon Christmas Day, in the Evening, 1624

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Is Space Moving?

These conversations took place a week ago, and if I hadn’t gotten a #$%$# cold, I would have told you about it sooner.

Last Thursday I had been bursting with enthusiasm all afternoon about the fact that the spacecraft Voyager reached interstellar space.  When I picked up Youngest Daughter after marching band practice, I did my usual Motherly Inquisition in a new way.  I asked, “Tell me something exciting.” 

YD, confused: “What do you mean?” 

Me:  “Tell me something amazing that happened to you today. For instance, I heard today that the spacecraft Voyager reached interstellar space today!  Can you top that?”

YD:  “No, I can’t top that.”

Raving about interstellar space is an excellent way to stop the flow of information from child to parent.  But I couldn’t help it.  I’m far from being a physicist or an astronomer, but I find the thought of this man-made thing flinging itself through whatever soup of anti-matter / dark matter / stardust is out there beyond the solar system to be mind-boggling.  It’s been on this road trip for 36 years.  And to think that it was leaving the heliosphere on the same day that YD was celebrating her bat mitzvah, back in August 2012!  Talk about coming of age.

At dinner on Friday night I gushed, “Don’t you think that ‘interstellar space’ is an awe-inspiring concept?  I mean, it took from 1977 until now for Voyager to get there.”

My husband burst out laughing.  Thinking of his mother at her new assisted living apartment building, he said, “That’s like when my mother says, ‘The dining room is so far away from my room that I have to leave my room at 4 o’clock to get to dinner by 5 p.m.!”

(It is true that at the Old Folks’ Home, any Old Folks’ Home, it feels like it takes 36 years for anything to happen.)

YD:  “How fast is Voyager going?

Me: I think it’s going 35,000 miles per hour!

Husband:  Relative to what?

YD and I gave him a quizzical look.

Me:  … um... relative to the space around it?

YD:  Dad.  It’s not going relative to anything.

Husband, who is not a physicist or astronomer either:  “Yes, it is.  It’s like this:  One spacecraft is going 35,000 mph in this direction, while a second space craft is going 40,000 mph toward the first spacecraft. At what time….”

Recognizing the classic ‘Two Trains Heading Toward Each Other’ Math Word Problem from, like, 5th grade, I interrupted with the answer, “Ten o’clock!”

YD:  No, Daddy!  Voyager is not moving relative to anything!  It’s just moving!

Husband:  Ah!  You are assuming that space is not moving.  But what if it is?  (raising his eyebrows knowingly.)

* * * * * * *

Maybe a speed has to be relative to something.  Maybe space is moving.  When I went to school, space was made up of nothingness, and the universe was expanding.  But these days the universe is made up of dark matter. I haven’t noticed it expanding or contracting, because I’ve been busy picking people up after marching band.  If I'm constantly moving, how can I tell if space is moving?

I was saved from answering my husband’s question, because it was time to leave for the Yom Kippur ‘Kol Nidre’ service, where we contemplated our sins, a task which, while difficult and painful, is somehow less mind-blowing than contemplating our insignificance in the cosmos.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Love at First Sight

When I came down to breakfast this morning, I was surprised to find this intriguing personage in my kitchen.  I was immediately filled with joy.  All my troubles seemed to fade. 
Spaghetti Squash Man!

I first discovered spaghetti squash about a year ago, after hearing about it at Weight Watchers.  It sounded impossible – a squash that becomes like strands of spaghetti when cooked?  And is zero points?!  I decided to bring one into my home and try it. 

And now I find I like it better than pasta from a box.  Spaghetti squash has a little bit of a crunch to it, and a subtly interesting flavor.  The rest of the family don’t like it much, but that’s okay – it just means more spaghetti squash for me.  Spaghetti squash also has seeds that can be roasted (just like pumpkin seeds). Oh, Spaghetti Squash Man, I love you. 

The only pasta substitute that might have more personality (or at least more names) in the Common Household is quinoa.  Now that I have met Spaghetti Squash Man, quinoa seems a little less interesting, because my husband can’t draw faces on quinoa.

Recipe for Spaghetti Squash Man

Buy spaghetti squash.  You can store him on the counter for several weeks, if you don’t get around to cooking him right away.  Leave at least overnight so that your spouse has a chance to draw amusing face on squash. 

In the morning, express delight at the new person in your kitchen.  Just seeing Spaghetti Squash Man can chase away your worries about the day, such as the leaking bathroom sink.

When it’s time to prepare dinner, try to ignore Squash Man’s facial features.  Using large knife, stab Squash Man, cutting in half lengthwise while appreciating his sacrifice.  Dig out the seeds and save for roasting.

Place squash halves cut-side down (I was going to say ‘face-down’ but that has a different meaning if there is a face drawn on the squash skin) on a microwave-safe plate.  Microwave for 5 to 7 minutes, until Squash Man half is fairly soft when poked with a fork.

Holding Squash Man half tenderly in oven mitt, scrape insides with a fork, which makes it turn into spaghetti-like strands.  Serve as is, or under marinara sauce, or with butter and salt.

Roasted Squash Man Seeds

A spaghetti squash won’t have a lot of seeds, so you might not feel like going to the trouble, but I love ‘em.

Remove seeds from squash pulp. Place in strainer and rinse. Pat dry with a paper towel.  Spray baking pan with cooking spray. Spread seeds out in single layer. Sprinkle lightly with salt, if desired.  Place in 325-degree oven, stirring often to ensure even browning until a pleasant aroma is apparent, about 15 to 25 minutes. Watch carefully so you don’t overcook them.  Remove and transfer to a fresh pan or plate to cool.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Heard at Bible study

In this post I bring you snippets which I have heard at church and/or Bible study over the past few months. 

- “Bless your lil ol’ pea-pickin’ heart!”

- “Charles Spurgeon – is that a kind of fish?”

- “Clear the swamp when you’re up to your ass in alligators.”

-  “Seven daughters?!  And they didn’t invite Moses over for dinner?”

- “In Exodus 2:19 we’re not in Kansas any more!”

- “Corinth – it’s right near Ikea.”  [Corinth was in the region called “Achaea.”]

- “Throughout the Bible we see these regular old schmoes getting a mission.”

- “What would you do if your rhododendron started talking to you?”

Things our parents said to threaten discipline:
Don’t make me come up there!
Do I have to stop the car?
You don’t want me to come back there.
            - the Book of Mothers and Fathers

- Eat the foods from the Bible and you will live 900 years.

* * * * * *

That’s all I got today – I don’t seem to have the energy to write a real post.  Life is going strong, and everything is good here, except Youngest Daughter has a cold and the bathroom sink is leaking, and I have to be two places at once tomorrow.  But we have four walls and a floor, soft beds, food, and recently discovered Doctor Who episodes.  We are watching the Christopher Eccleston version.  As I understand it, there are 11 different Doctor Whos.  (Who’s?  Whose? Whoes?) Doctor Who must have eaten foods from the Bible, 'cause he's been around a long time.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Yikes! L'Shanah Tova!

Rosh Hashanah snuck up behind me and bit me on the heel.  Two days ago, I suddenly realized that there would be a New Year coming mighty soon.  Yesterday I panicked about the most important thing regarding this Jewish holiday:  what to serve for dinner.

I took into account the following: My husband said he doesn’t have time for a fancy dinner this evening because he has to get to the synagogue early.  My mother-in-law is not here.  Two of the kids are off at college.  We don’t have enough people in the household to eat a brisket.  I didn’t have enough warning to invite people over. 

Therefore, for the first time in Jewish history, we are having leftovers for Erev Rosh Hashanah dinner.  That gives me one extra sin to ponder as the Day of Atonement approaches.

I did remember to dash to the liquor store and get some Manischewitz Concord Grape Wine, because what’s a Jewish holiday without Manischewitz?  I conveniently forgot to stock up on gefilte fish. At the farmer’s market this afternoon, I realized I should get a round bread – Youngest Daughter picked out a round garlic bread.  So it’s not a raisin challah – show me in the Bible where it says Moses had a raisin challah on Rosh Hashanah.  We have apples and honey – I’m pretty sure both of those are mentioned in the Bible.

Maybe I will invite Einstein to dinner.  He won’t mind leftovers.

Happy 5774, everyone!