Friday, April 29, 2011

Easter Sunrise

Until this year, the last time I was awake on Easter before sunrise was when I attended a sunrise service on the top of the mountain at Stowe ski resort in Vermont.  The service was very short because the pastor was an avid skier and was raring to ski down the mountain.  I had to ski down too, and that meant falling down every 10 feet because it was the only way I knew to stop.

This year I experienced a much different Easter sunrise.  More bruising, in a way, than falling all the way down a mountain, but filled with love.

The Wednesday before Easter I packed the kids in the car and we went to visit my parents at The Old Folks Home.  My husband was not able to come with us.  My Mom had unexpected gall bladder surgery on Tuesday.  I was to take over the care of my father when my brothers left town on Thursday.  My father has Parkinson’s Disease and severe arthritis.  My mother is his usual caretaker. 

Sadly, my Dad is in pain most of the time, and doesn’t sleep well.  Despite difficulty walking, he still walks whenever he can.  On Thursday, though, he was almost too exhausted to walk back to his apartment from the dining hall.

On Friday I made an executive decision to use the wheelchair liberally, and Dad didn't refuse.  In the evening he was much more alert than the previous night; he played charades with the kids, including him marching around pretending to be Louis XVI King of France, which provoked the kids to raucous laughter. I missed the part where he chopped off his own head, because I had to go cook dinner. 

That night he got up at about midnight to look for Encylopedia Volume 12.   He said, "I want to know who the ancestors of Mary Queen of Scots were, and it's driving me crazy."  I gave him his pain pills and convinced him to go back to bed without Volume 12. 
Saturday the doctor cleared my Mom to return to the apartment, and she arrived just before lunch.  Shortly after lunch, my father told her that he had a terrible toothache.  Mom called their dentist, not expecting any result on a Saturday.  By a miracle, the dentist was able to come within the hour to the Old Folks Home to see him.  As I left my worried mother in the apartment to take my Dad to the on-campus dentist’s office, I tried to offer her a word of comfort.  I said, “Try not to worry.  Everything is in God’s hands.”  But Mom was fed up.  She snapped, “Is God going to fix his teeth?”  I said, “No, but God has provided a dentist on Saturday afternoon of a holiday weekend right here on campus.”  Of course, we'd rather my Dad didn't have the tooth pain, but I thought the dentist miracle was a pretty good one.

The diagnosis: tooth abscess.  Solution:  root canal, and in the meantime antibiotics.  The only thing he could do for the pain was to add one more dose of his current pain meds. 

It was a relief to me when we finally got to bed Saturday night.  

At about 4 a.m. there was a loud noise from the bathroom.  Mom, despite her recent surgery, got up and she barked at Dad, “Are you all right?!  What ARE you doing?”  I did not get up to investigate.  But I got an idea of what happened because at 5 a.m. I had to get up and go through their bedroom to use the bathroom.  As I went in, my Dad shouted, “Be careful!”  Mom shouted, “The toilet seat fell off!”  Fairly amusing, actually, but it seemed rather tragic at that moment.

I did not sleep after that.  So when dawn came on Easter morning, I was awake but exhausted.  I wasn’t thinking at all about Easter triumph and glory.

At 6 a.m.  Dad got up and came into the living room where I was on the pull-out couch bed.  I gave him his pain pills but I could tell something still wasn’t right, so I folded up the bed and had him sit on the couch.  He was cold so I covered him with my blanket and sweatshirt.  He looked miserable, but he fell asleep sitting there.  At about 7:30 I gave him the rest of his truckload of pills.  About then Mom got up, and he told her that he had a new pain, in his lower abdomen. 

Mom seemed panicky, and called the nurse.  She said that while we were waiting for the nurse we could have the Easter worship service that I had suggested two days ago. 

So my ailing parents, my Jewish children, and I had an Easter worship service.  My son got out his French horn, he played and we sang Thine is the Glory.   Oldest Daughter read the story of the Women at the Tomb. I read Psalm 114 (you mountains that skip like rams), thinking as I was reading how far my parents are from skipping.  I was about to say, “Let us pray,” knowing that I would not be able to get through a prayer without many tears.

Just then the nurse knocked at the door.  The nurse’s last name was Paine. For real. Despite her name she was very compassionate.  She examined my Dad, and said there was no cause for alarm, that his pain was probably from the antibiotic.  We never resumed our Easter service.  The kids and I started our 5-hour drive home shortly after the nurse left. 

Most Easter services have brass instruments. Most Easter services have people in the congregation who are unsure what they believe about the resurrection story.  Most Easter services have people in the pews who are in pain.  Our Easter service was no exception.  I don’t know if it was acceptable worship in God’s eyes, but it was exactly what we needed.  We did not have pageantry, sermon, or prayer, but we had Love with us in the room.  Alleluia.

P.S.  Another miracle – the handy man fixed their toilet seat on Easter morning.
P.P.S.  My Dad had the root canal this Tuesday, and is recovering.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

To my Oldest Child

My firstborn turned 18 today.  Her birth was a wondrous event, and she was a wondrous child and is now a wonderful adult.  Because I’m still tired from the events of the past few weeks, I’ll just leave this brief tribute.

Oldest Daughter’s Earliest Days

Your first full sentence was “Read this book!” and you haven’t been without a book in your hand or close by ever since.

You are all about story.  At age 2, you said to me, “Mommy, say ‘Please tell me the story of the fishy.’  And I did say that, and you told me a LONG story.  You would often ask me, “Tell me a story without any words in a book.”  So I invented stories about your imaginary cousin Pakkaresh.  Your Dad told you long exotic stories weaving in characters from books.  As soon as you learned to write, you were writing stories.  And you have already written several books.

You have always loved music.  Your lyrics to Handel’s chorus “For Unto Us a Child is Born’ from Messiah were:
            And as name sholl be folded
            Wonderfool, countseler,
            Almight Pot, dee Everlasting Father, de Prince of Peace.
And you determined that this was sung by dolphins (sopranos), llamas (altos), cows (tenors) and elephants (basses).   And now you write your own poetry and compose your own music.

To my wonderful daughter: Happy Birthday!  I love you.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Back to Normal

There are a lot of thoughts swirling around in my mind, but at the moment I’m lacking the time and energy to write them down.  So I’ll just say that I drove over the same roadkilled opossum five times today, and only the fifth time did I consider whether that possum could contribute to our dinner. 

I put more than 40 miles on the car today, all within a five-mile radius of our house.

It seems that following an anxiety-producing spring break and unusual Easter celebration, life is back to normal for the Common Household Mom.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Two Donkeys

For the past two nights the Common Household has reenacted the Exodus from Egypt.  I’m sure the Israelites were more exhausted from the actual events than I am from the reenactment, but dang, I’m tired.

We have also entered Holy Week.   On Sunday our scripture reading was the Palm Sunday story from Matthew Chapter 21.  I noticed something that had slipped past my attention the other 573 times I have heard this scripture.  Jesus instructs his disciples to bring not one but two donkeys.  Good heavens, why two beasts?  Isn’t it awkward to ride two donkeys?  Was one of them for the luggage?  The other gospels only have one donkey. Why does Matthew need two?

Sometimes in reading scripture I get so interested in little tidbits like this that I miss the bigger message.  Our pastor gave a fine sermon, including the main question this passage poses: Who is Jesus?  Is he a king?  If so, what kind of king? Our pastor also pointed out that the word ‘Hosanna’ at that time did not necessarily have a religious tinge to it. 

But he did not address the issue of two donkeys.  So I was very happy to find an interesting interpretation of this on She Rev’s blog.  The answer is about half-way down, but if you have time to read the whole post, She Rev makes some excellent bigger points as well. 

And having baked unleavened food all day, mourned the effects of 10 plagues, exited Egypt by God’s almighty hand and outstretched arm, walked through the sea on dry land, and served 5 different desserts to please everyone’s palate, I am going to bed.   Happy Passover!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Peeps Lab

Our aspiring scientist is excited to be entering this Peeps Diorama in the contest at school.  It is "Dr. Peeps' Lab".  She says that the one wall is colored blue so that the patient (in this case the green bunny Peep) can relax before undergoing surgery.  Blue is a relaxing color.

The middle Peep is using a microscope to look at cells.  The artist is particularly excited about cells, and will tell you all about them, if you give her half a chance.

The artist says that the third Peep is "working with chemicals, of course!  How could he NOT be working with chemicals, since he has all those containers?!"

Artistically it may not win the top prize, but for a display of Peeps career goals, I think it is outstanding.  Not that I'm biased in any way.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What the Israelites actually took when they was leaving Egypt

Exodus 12:35-36
35 The Israelites did as Moses instructed and asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for clothing. 36 The LORD had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the Egyptians.

What the scripture doesn’t tell us is that the Israelites also asked the Egyptians for food processors, electric mixers, dishwashers, and all their egg-laying chickens.  Without this Egyptian plunder the Israelite ladies would not be able to prepare their Seder meal in the years to come.

The chickens are especially crucial.  I already have about 25 Passover bagels and one Passover chocolate-apple torte in the freezer.  That’s about 18 eggs right there. 

Passover Tools:

Wine bottle for cooling sponge cake

Electric mixer for whipping egg whites

Food processor for grating just about every ingredient

The manual version, when the food processor is not available

Please excuse the post title.  I'm reading the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Age-old Vegetable, New Recipe

The world is made of two kinds of people, those who love beets, and those who don’t.  In the Common Household, there are three of us who love beets.  We are not picky – we will eat canned beets whole or sliced, fresh beets boiled or roasted.  But up until now, I have only eaten fresh beets cooked by someone else, usually my brother.

A recipe in a Rachael Ray magazine, which I saw while trying to stay awake at the orthodontist’s office, inspired me to buy three large fresh beets.  These beets came with a voluminous amount of greens attached.  I had no idea what to do with them, or the time to figure it out, so I chopped them off and threw them away, imagining I heard the distant cry of environmentalists, “But you can make stewed beet greens!  Very nutritious!”

When it came time to cook these fresh beets, I looked at them more closely.  Fresh beets do not win any beauty contests.  They are hairy and suspicious looking, the color of freshly spilt blood.  Despite being fresh, they look ancient, as if they date from prehistoric times.

Raw fresh beets

The recipe I had jotted down had no instructions on whether to use them raw or cooked.  I found another recipe, for roasted beets, so I wrapped each one lovingly in foil, and stuck them in the hot oven for an hour.

Roasted, bleeding beets

The recipe did not lie when it said that after the beets are cooked you can peel the skin right off, under running water.  Pretty cool!  I might make roasted beets again soon just to experience this culinary feat. 

Then it was time to grate the beets.  It wasn’t too bad shredding steaming-hot beets, but it would have been easier if they had time to cool.  I must say, shredding beets gives the impression that a dread orthodontial accident has occurred to several preteen victims right there in the kitchen.  I decided to respect the beets’ potential to stain, and put on my RED apron.

I added a little grated orange zest, one orange’s worth of fresh squeezed juice, olive oil, and a little salt.  I crumbled some feta on top, but my fellow-beet lovers did not.  The beet lovers of the household were in favor of this recipe, but it was pretty much on the taste of the fresh beets alone that it won approval.  If I were going to make this again, I would add something with some zing – maybe a touch of garam masala or cayenne pepper.  Or lemon?  This recipe also needs a more interesting name, but that will have to wait until after Passover and Easter.

How about you – do you love beets or hate them?
Were you ever inspired by anything at the orthodontist’s office?

Common Household Shredded Beets

Serves 2 large or 4 small lovers of beets

3 to 4 fresh red beets
1 fresh orange
½ to 1 Tablespoon olive oil
¼ to ½ tsp salt
crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400°.  Put on red apron.  Mercilessly chop off beet greens about 1 inch above beet, and discard the greens.  Chop off the nasty-looking tail on the beets.  Wrap the truncated beets in foil and roast until fork-tender, about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the beets.  Let cool slightly. Using your fingers, peel the beets under running water.

Grate the beets on a zester or the small side of a box grater.   I got about 2 cups of grated beets.  

Grate some of the orange zest (the very outside of the orange peel) until you are tired (I used about ½ tsp).  Juice the orange (I got about 1/3 cup of juice). Add both to the beets.  

Add olive oil and salt (to your taste).  Mix. Put in serving bowl.  Sprinkle crumbled feta cheese on top, if desired.

A bowl of beets, a cup of wine, and thou

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Theological Classroom Contemplation

At last Monday’s class, we ostensibly looked at the conflict between the scientific theory of evolution and the Biblical account of creation.  But the real meat of the discussion was about tragedy.  (Usually when I am in a discussion with meat in it, it involves deciding what to have for dinner.  Not this time.)

The seminary professor did not fling around theologians’ names, and I could follow what he was saying better than last time.  That doesn’t mean that it was easy to listen to.  Even though no one in the class was visibly suffering at that moment, we all had in our minds personal tragedies, plus recent tragedies in the news. The discussion raised more questions than it answered.  Here’s just a sampling:

Last week (the class I missed), they talked about the discovery that the earth is not at the center of the universe.  The physicist asked, “How many of you found your faith threatened by that?”  No one – we have abandoned the Biblical-Hebrew notion of space. 

We find it more difficult to abandon the notion of “Adam and Eve in paradise.”  The theory of evolution does not allow for the existence of a “golden age” (paradise) when there was no tragedy, no sorrow, no evil. 

In the face of tragedy, we (humans) are helpless, and the best we can do is be brave.  Is God present in adversity?  How do we understand tragedy?

Our theologian posited that, encountering someone suffering a tragedy, Christians can only answer, “We don’t know why you are suffering, but we can endure with you because we experience tragedy too.”  He also concluded that God is with us in the tragedy.  We cannot understand evil, but can only endure.  God endures with us.

Nearly all theologians argue that there is a reason for evil, but we don’t know what the reason is.  But is it possible that there is no reason for evil?  We live with the conflict between views that God is good versus the existence of evil.  The very notion that we could explain evil is part of the problem. 

A classmate found a way to end the session on a positive note.  He said,  “I think we have a greater goal than to contemplate the origin of evil, and that is to contemplate “whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing...”  (Phil 4:8).   

So I leave you to do just that, and encourage you to leave a note here as to what you are contemplating.  Or just leave me an idea of what to make for dinner.