Saturday, July 30, 2011

Zipadee doo dah and BLAM!!!

Today was one of my favorite kinds of days. I got up at a reasonably late hour (nowadays I can't sleep very late. Is it old age, or just the fact that my cat begins to mercilessly lick me at a certain time every morning?), had some breakfast, watched an old movie that thrilled me (it was inner child perfection!!) and then headed out to the garden.
As I sat next to my garden frame, weeding it and counting cucumbers, and listening to both Radio Lab AND the second crop of baby birds in our birdhouse, with the sun shining on me, I thought: my life is WONDERFUL. I am truly fortunate and grateful.
But I have to admit that the best second of my day was... well, let me set this up.
We live in an old house. The plumbing is not modern. Our sink backs up all the time, and we've tried all the green and not green ways to clear the drain. Baking soda and vinegar, boiling water, and all the different brands of drain de-clogger. Running the dishwasher leaves a couple of inches of gray water in the sink (both sides... ewww!) for a while. We are careful, have a mesh cover over the drain and lately we've even been pouring everything through a coffee filter! Old-house living is not for the impatient.
BUT TODAY! Today we bought CLR Power Plumber. IT IS AWESOME!!! I found it on Amazon and the reviews were great, so I bought it downtown, and gleefully invited Scott to join me. His job was to hold a towel over the other drain, and I filled the main side and stuck the CLRPP into my drain, and pushed...
BLAM!!!! It shoots some kind of (supposedly gentle) chemicals and compressed air into the drain, which we were not exactly ready for. But it was SO EXCITING! And yes, the drain cleared out immediately. We have 14 more applications in our can, and if you have a slow drain, we would be happy to come and clear it out for you. It was that fun.
I also made pesto (first time! In the blender! I used this recipe, but used toasted sunflower seeds instead of pine nuts. Could not find pine nuts anywhere!!) from the basil in my garden today, and we had it on haddock for dinner. And I got my laundry done, and cleaned the kitchen, and just loved this day. Ahhhhh Summer, and there's still a whole August to go!!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Help a Brotha Out

So here's what I've been thinking about lately.
We've decided that this year at our parish is going to be the year that we start really empowering people to volunteer, to step into ministry, to do service. The thing that is holding us all back, as a staff, is that we feel bad asking. We don't want to burden people, we don't want to ask too much, we don't want to impose. We know that people are more inclined to help if they're asked, we know that every person who is in ministry today is in ministry because they were invited, by someone, personally. That's statistically at 100%. Okay that's not true. Some people see a need and fill it, some people, I guess, read it in the bulletin and step right up. But mostly, people serve because they are asked.
And here's the thing. I think people want to help. My sister, once when her pet was having a health crisis, agonized about calling my friend, who is a vet. I had a feeling that Sandi wouldn't mind helping, but Nancy was so worried. I asked Nancy (who is a teacher), "if Sandi's son was having trouble reading, would you be mad if she called you for help?" Of course not. We all worry that people will be offended if we ask them to use their expertise to help us, without paying them for their time, but doesn't it feel great to use our gifts and talents to help people we care about? (Oh gosh, I hope Sandi and Nancy don't mind me using their names!)
Oh but wait, this is my real point. I keep thinking of this episode of RadioLab that I heard a long time ago, about heroes. The story is about an award for people who do heroic things (like, SERIOUSLY heroic things) to save the life of another person. The criteria were strict; the candidate had to put themselves at risk to save another person, for no good reason. But there was a problem... can you guess? NO! It wasn't that they couldn't find enough people who fill the criteria! (You should totally listen to the show.)
Thing is, I think we are givers, by nature. I think we want to help. I think that as a staff, we should be inviting people to do what they are naturally inclined to do. God gives us gifts, not to keep, but to give away. I want to be known as one of those people who helped others use their gifts.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I love Summer and I love vacation, but always by the end of it, I'm craving my regular life back. I am looking forward to having normal food at normal times, getting a normal amount of sleep, getting back to work to do all the stuff that I haven't done all summer, and not running out of money in the bank half way through the week because I'm doing so many fun and expensive things.
Today is a weird transition day between what has sort of felt like a vacation (that is, it's been a disruption of my work week, and it's been hot, and we're broke!) back to work- but we're going to a banquet with our pastor instead of going in to the parish. It makes me a little anxious not to touch base there, because I have been away so long (really, only 3 days since I last was there!) and don't feel prepared for tomorrow's GOF meeting (was there something I was supposed to do? I forget!!) and will be late tomorrow, prob'ly, so I won't even have a chance to go in before the meeting and get myself together.
Well I'll try to keep my mind in vacation mode, and enjoy the free food and (I assume) air conditioning at the banquet, and apologize profusely tomorrow for whatever it was I was supposed to have done. I'll blame it on the wicked course-load from last week. Yeah, that's what I'll do.
Truth is, when I'm away from my parish, I miss it. I miss the staff, the crazy Monday lunches, I miss my office, I hate to miss Mass there- so many faces that I don't get to see, so many funny things and poignant things and good people. I'll be glad to be back in the swing of things.
Tomorrow, normal life. Ha!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

7 Quick Takes, Heat Wave Edition

You can click on the image to see where this whole thing started, and although it's clearly meant to be done on Fridays, it's an awful fun thing to blog with... thanks conversiondiary!

1) I finished my ecclesiology class yesterday, which turned out to be as great as everyone had told me it would be. My professor was amazing, and although it was physically trying to sit still and focus for 3 hours in the early morning for full-on lecture, I learned a LOT and this class will be one that changes my ministry.

2) Did I mention it's been wicked hot this week? 106 degrees yesterday, which is fairly unusual around here, although I feel like we do have a day or two of this every Summer. Yesterday was, I think, the peak, and walking outside felt like a slap in the face. We are fortunate to have TWO air conditioners in our apartment, one in the bedroom and the other in the living room, and as long as we don't use them both on high at the same time, we won't blow a fuse. Hey, that's just the kind of sacrifice that this kind of crisis calls for.
Really the worst part of it is that the thought of turning on an oven or standing over a stove or grill is just too much. We've been eating out a lot, which is no good for our budget or our waistlines.

3) We have had guests in the house most of the week, which is also unusual for us- we do not have a guest room so anyone willing to stay over here is relegated to a couch or air mattress, and must be willing to share said spaces with cats. We've never had a bad guest, despite the limitations of our place, and we love having company. I always wanted to have a place where people would come and visit and, I think I've mentioned this on the blog before, it gives me a weird thrill when we have something someone needs, or have plenty of food and drink to serve, and when people seem comfortable in my home, I feel real pride. Even better if they can stand some clutter here and there.

4) The Tour De France, my favorite part of July (outside of all the other great things to love bout July) is coming to a close. I've seen at least part of every day's race, and love it just as much as I have since I discovered it. I found it probably 7 years ago, back in the Lance Armstrong years, back when my work schedule started in the afternoon, a Summer when I just couldn't take Regis and Kelly anymore. I love that the Tour is ancient, has all sorts of unwritten ruled and traditions, and that the commentators are so catechetical. They teach about how the drafting and slip-streams work, and how the teams work together, and about things like "natural breaks" and feeding zones that the cyclists do. It's fascinating! The fact that they need each other to succeed is fascinating to me- in the last parts of the race, a cyclist will turn to another and urge him to take over the front position so he can "take a break" from pulling all the weight. One good example of what I mean is this: early in the Tour this year, a cyclist crashed and broke his pelvis when he flew into a deep ditch. His teammates stopped to carry him up the hill and to the ambulance. But the cool thing is, up ahead, the group of cyclers (the peleton!) heard about the crash, and stopped competing until the teammates caught up to the group. They just eased off and slowed down until they could get back in. Nice, no? I like the idea that the group of teams, all competing against each other, still take care of each other and rely on each other to succeed.

5) Our garden is still awesome, and I will post some pics today- we've gotten 5 or 6 cucumbers, not counting the one I left out there so the bug that had already started to eat it, could go ahead and finish. I have 13-15 little tomatoes, and a spaghetti squash! The carrots look awesome... and I've already pulled up a couple of onions, which were sweet and didn't even make me teary when I butchered them up. Woo gardening!!

6) Last night I went into Boston to take Scott and a friend in to the Red Sox game. We took the train in, and had a beer at the Bleacher Bar, which I highly recommend. It's built right in to Fenway, in the space of the old away team batting cage, and it has a big garage door that opens right out onto the field. You can watch batting practice and the game from there, but there are NO photographs allowed. This is more of a tragedy because over the bar, the men's room has a clear glass window over what I'm told are the urinals. From the bar you can look up and see people's sheepish or gleeful faces, and sometimes they wave... and sometimes they wave both hands. Impressive.

7) I'll have to come and finish later, I'm off to Mass... just you wait, it'll be great!
(time elapsed: two hours)
...I'm back, we went to a parish in our town that had no air conditioning and a nice enough but seriously long-winded visiting priest. I mean come on, when it's 97 degrees IN the church, you've got to have some MERCY for crying out loud.
Anyway, here's a picture of our friend Greg in that infamous men's room, waving his hat at us through the window. He's not tall. And you're not supposed to take pictures in there!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer School (and the award for using the word "stuff" too many times in a blog post goes to...)

So I've been taking a summer class, Ecclesiology, with Fr. Michael Himes. It's fascinating, and he has a fascinating take on the subject. I overheard him tell someone today that he rewrites his lectures every time he teaches the course, so as not to bore anyone. But he has the kind of mind that's so full of stuff that I imagine it's a pretty consistent narrative, year to year. Today I was imagining his brain, just full, and how if he donated it to science at some point, they would be amazed at the theology and Church history and world history and music history (!) he has crammed in there. I know, you can't see that by looking at a dead brain- but this class involves getting up really early in the morning and so I can't be responsible for the kind of daydreaming I do before noon, on little sleep.
Anyway, it's a great class. He started at the beginning of the Church, and has pulled us along through history since then, and we're just getting to the point where he's wicked excited about what he's teaching (not that he hasn't been having fun teaching up till then. He loves this stuff! I love a teacher who loves what he's teaching) and that means Mohler, and Vatican II. We did Schleiermacher, whose reading was impossible, but the prof. made sense of it and even made it sound like fascinating stuff! He's making my head spin in a way that makes me look forward to writing my final, just so I can work out the questions. Good stuff.
This is my first and only Summer course at the school, and it's been an interesting experience- the Summer Institute is populated by people who come from far away and spend the summer studying and sightseeing and making friends. Half of my class seems to be from Australia. We don't get to comment much in this class, but I love listening to them chat with each other at break, and love how they say "MONING" to everyone that comes in the room before class. Being mildly introverted, I don't really mix with them, but do chat when chatted with, and I know some people from the academic-year programs. It's friendly enough, and I'm enjoying it. But sheesh I'm TIRED! I have made it on time every day so far (knock wood) but somehow I never remember to go to bed early to make up for the early rising. I'll get the hang of it by Friday, and then it'll be over. The worst part is that the dense reading and early rising make for nappy afternoons, and I've got a lot to do.
Soon I'll have lots of ecclesiological thoughts to share, but for now, it's back to the books.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Oh Broccoli!

Remember those old Alka-Seltzer (or was it Pepto Bismol) commercials that went "I like ________, but they don't like me!" Now that I'm older (as with so many things!) I get what they meant by that. I could fill in that blank with garlic or broccoli, and that is why this week is the best week to make oven-roasted broccoli, which is the recipe that I have been so crazy about over the last few weeks.

It's so delicious that it's worth the repercussions, as long as everyone in the house has some, and believe me, everyone in your house will want some. It's so good that I've been willing to heat the oven (and my kitchen, which is only a larger oven) to 425 degrees, even in this Summer heat.
So, do try this recipe, and enjoy. For the record, I've made it with bacon grease in place of the olive oil, for health purposes, and it's just as good. If not better. Oh yeah.

Sunday, July 03, 2011


I'm home from our annual camping trip and all settled in to my happy place (read: chair in front of the tv). I had a bunch of energy when I got home and should have unloaded the car completely, but it was rainy (or, looked like rain, or had rained recently) when I got home so I just took out the essentials (cooler, suitcase, food and toiletries) and left the rest in the car. I had some energy because I stopped on the way home for a nap- I woke up ridiculously early this morning and was wiped by 11:30, helped by a sugar crash after a donut from a local shop near our campground. Oh, God, it was good. Anyway, I stopped at a scenic vista and took a snooze about a quarter of the way home. I know, a chain-saw wielding murderer could have attacked me and no one would know where I was (it was a beautiful windy road along the Quabbin reservoir) but I thought it might be equally unsafe to drive asleep. It was beautiful there, anyway:

And you know if you're going to take a nap, it might as well be overlooking a gorgeous mountainside. I guess.
Instead of unloading or bringing the air conditioner up from the basement, which I also considered, I got dinner and sat down to watch today's leg of the Tour De France. I can't believe it's only 6:22, when's bedtime? I'm so excited to sleep in my bed tonight!! Maybe I'll take a shower before bed and do the cursory bug-bite official count, and revel in the feeling of cleanness and water pressure. Our town's fireworks are postponed, so it's only the illegal fireworks I'll be listening to tonight, just the cats and me, missing Scott while he's away at Catholic Heart Work Camp.
Happy Independence day everyone, here's to days off and homecomings and cats sleeping in suitcases on top of dirty laundry.