March 08, 2013

kill the beast...

... or: things I've (re-)learned about URIs this week

1.  If an enormous yellow cloud of pollen literally envelops you while you are simply minding your own business, drop everything and head for the nearest shower.

2.  While you're at it, rinse out those sinuses really, really well.

3.  If you have one of those afternoons where you lock your keys in the car, can't find an open restroom, and then drop your phone in the sink, all within an hour, consider locking yourself inside until the storm passes honey, 'cause it's comin'.

4.  Use every trick in the book.  Even if it might not help.  Rinse, spray, inhale, vaporize, decongest, and anti-inflame until you drop.  

5.  When you drop, go to bed, and stay there.

6.  When you wake up with one side of your sinuses completely blocked, and your face is grotesquely misshapen and one eye is nearly shut, don't panic.  Not yet, anyway.

7.   When your sinus cavities are filled with cement and nothing will move it, call the doctor, because all bets are off for home remedies, and you are doomed. 

8.  At some point, take your temperature because everyone you talk to will ask if you have a fever.

9.  When you go to see the doctor, be polite.  It's not her fault you're sick.  Try to sound intelligent (because you are) without being dismissive (because that doesn't help).  Be specific and descriptive of the things you've tried so she knows you know what you're talking about.  If she doesn't respect that and enter into an intelligent conversation with you, go talk to someone else.

10.  When the medical treatment is having no effect, and it's Friday, and you're actually getting worse, call the doctor.  Don't take no for an answer, and don't take "you need to come in again" for an answer, either.  Hold out, and they will eventually give you what you need.

11.  Keep lots of liquids in the house.  Herbal tea is a nice break.  Just keep drinking.

12.  It's fun to make fun of yourself when speaking to other singers, because your voice is at least an octave lower than usual.

13.  Laughing will always make you cough, so just be ready.

14.  It pays to spring for the softest kleenex possible, and get it by the case at Costco, because it is not in the least bit difficult to go through three full boxes in as many days.

15.  Even if you don't feel like cooking, get into that kitchen and make some Chinese penicillin.  It's nothing fancy, but you will be so glad you did.  Even if you'd rather stay curled up on the couch, all bundled up and cozy, get off your arse and make it. Now.

Hot and Sour Soup, KQ-style

4-6 cups (a fairly large pot) water
3 chicken bouillon cubes, or about 1 per cup-and-a-half of water
1-2 tsp white pepper
¼ cup white vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced (I use the Trader Joe's frozen garlic cubes)
1 tsp minced cilantro, to taste (TJ's has frozen cubes for this, too)
fresh sliced mushrooms, to taste
fresh sliced green onion, to taste
frozen dumplings (again, TJ's to the rescue!)
sesame oil
yeah, I'm out of fresh veg.  they turned while I wasn't looking.
Boil water.  Add bouillon and pepper.  Cook for a minute or two.  Add vinegar, garlic, cilantro and veggies.  Simmer for 5 minutes, adjust to taste (but remember that the broth should be REALLY spicy and vinegary, so don't go erring on the too-gentle side.)  Add the dumplings, bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes more.  Drizzle with oil, to taste.  Be well.

February 22, 2013

Christian Politics

I've been using an online Lenten devotion this season.  I have been pretty faithful to it, no small feat for me, and I am glad for that.  This week's theme is "Vulnerability", and today's scripture is Luke 4:5-8, about the time when Jesus was in the desert for 40 days before beginning his ministry:
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.  And the devil said to him, "To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please.  If you, then, worship me, it will all be yours."  Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and worship only him.'"
When I first remember hearing this passage, in adolescence probably, I thought that the devil had shown Jesus all of the kingdoms of the world of his time - what we think of as ancient times.  I did not yet think about or realize that God is not confined by time, and I probably was thinking of the story more of a history lesson than a spiritual one.  

Now I believe that this story is probably saying that Jesus was shown all kingdoms; past, present and future.  To me, this means that Jesus saw what it would be like to rule our world, too, every country, every government.  China.  Somalia.  Denmark.  Great Britain.  Afghanistan.  The United States.

[It's a paradox to me, because I do believe that God in Jesus (or by whatever name we understand God) is sovereign on Earth, Creator of all we know and all that we don't know.  On the other hand, Jesus rejected that sovereignty in this story - at least, as it was presented to him by the devil.  Perhaps this means that although God is ruler of all whether we acknowledge God or not, God lets us choose to acknowledge Jesus - or whatever name we understand - and does not insist on it.  Thank God!]

Another thing that I missed in this story when I was young is the part where the devil says, "I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please."  Interesting, isn't it, that here we hear that the devil actually was given (presumably, by God) authority over every kingdom.  I just kind of skipped over that part every time I read this story.
So this is how my mind wandered to politics today when I read this passage - if Jesus was shown every "kingdom", including the US in that moment of temptation... if Jesus rejected all authority over our nation... if the devil has the glory and authority over every nation, including ours, and is free to give it away to anyone [he?] pleases... then I really don't understand how any Christian, fundamentalist or otherwise, can hope for Jesus to have authority over our nation.  Or any nation.  After all, our book - the Word of God as they/we know it - says that the devil has this authority and Jesus rejects it.

To me, this means that anyone who claims to be working for the dominion of Christ over anyone but themselves either doesn't understand scripture (admittedly, in the way I understand it) or is actually working for the devil.  Which is kind of how I view Christian conservatism in this country.

To me, any Christian person who, by their word or deed does anything to turn another away from Christ is not doing the Lord's work. ("If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea." Mark 9:42, full context here.) This includes exclusion of any group, campaigns against any legitimate freedom of expression or belief, and any personal offense towards another human while representing Jesus.  And every Christian, by definition, represents Jesus to the rest of the world.  I am certainly guilty of some of these sins, though not by intention. However, to actively pursue the exclusion of a group, or legitimate freedom or belief, to make that exclusion an essential tenet of your belief system, is the devil's work.

it's on Amazon...
Perhaps this is why conservative Christian dogma offends me so.  Their loud, offensive, hurtful, belligerent claims to be the exclusive keepers of Jesus are not just annoying.  It is that when they claim to represent Christ with that point of view, they are doing spiritual violence against all people, including themselves.  It is because when people hear their claims - especially since they are very, very loud - people believe that this view is what all Christians believe.

But here's hope: the politics of the conservative right wing is beginning to change, oh-so-slowly.  Some of their people are actually coming out for equal rights for LGBT people.  It's a start.  Why, just yesterday someone who was once a close friend contacted me and apologized for writing me off as a non-Christian because of my political beliefs and LGBT-positive stance.

I thank God for these changes, and pray for more, so that the spiritual violence ends.

And I remember, when all is said and done, that Love always wins.

All images found on Google; no copyright infringement intended.

February 17, 2013


The Bethany Quartet, at our 20th Anniversary (and only) Recital
I have done some singing in my life.  I have an okay voice.  It has never been strong - and lack of use and middle age has not helped that.  It has rarely been confident - aside from a brief, egotistic period in my high school days, I do not like to sing in public without at least three other people around me.  But I don't have to! 
The "Bay Belles" in the early-mid 80's
I know some extraordinary singers.  I have been blessed to meet, sing, and grow friendships with the owners of some remarkable voices.  Outside of family, I believe that I can trace every significant relationship and event in my life to singing.  I met the father of my children in choir.  I met each of my closest friends singing.  I came back to church in my 20's because of someone I met in choir.  I met my soul mate in choir.

It began in high school, this singing-makes-friends thing that has really been central to my life.  It was there that I was first exposed to the joy that is acapella singing.  It continued in early adulthood, as I joined an acapella group - we sang chamber music in Renaissance garb, and called ourselves "The Schleptet" - which formed out of the local community college. 

a reunion photo of some of the Schleptet (and our kids)
Four of the men in that group were in a barbershop quartet, so three of the women and I formed our own quartet. (This is where I first learned that long talks and sharing our lives together during rehearsal is just as important as singing!)  When the Schleptet sang together, it was sublime.  Rehearsal time was intimate, in somebody's living room, standing in a circle.  We'd quit goofing around and begin to sing, to each other really, watching the beat, eyeing each other for cues and cutoffs. 

Sometimes it was all I could do to just close my eyes and absorb the amazing, transcendent sound of 10 people, each singing a different harmony.  Talk about soaring.
The Bethany Quartet on a road trip in 2000
As those groups grew up and faded away, a new singing era began for me, at church.  We formed a women's quartet - inspiringly named "The Bethany Quartet", ha! - just over 25 years ago.  I also joined the choir, and have participated off and on over the last few decades.  More recently, my quartet and a men's quartet have joined forces.  The "Super Quartet" is the latest incarnation for me of the ability to make transcendent music with only the human voice.  Oh, my goodness, it is heaven to sing with those seven people.

We had a rehearsal just the other night.  Unfortunately, one of us is having voice troubles.  We sat around a table and discussed what to do.  The conversation was laden with love, respect, and humor.  We came away deciding that we would not sing together for a while, to allow that one voice to heal.  This was a sad conclusion to reach, but we know that we will sing together again.  We left the building, stepping out into a balmy, pre-Spring evening. I stopped to listen as we each called out quietly to the others our good nights, reminders of the next time we would meet, that sort of thing.  It all seemed so dear, it made me tear up a bit.

I love these people so much, I said to God.  Thank you.


NPR has a series called "Tiny Desk Concerts".  When I clicked on this one from the Minnesota group Cantus, it captured perfectly for me the essence of the intimacy that singing together brings.  This is not something you will see in a concert hall.  Watch how they look at each other, how they curl around each other, their body language when they are singing, and when they are not.  This is bliss.

November 03, 2012

One at a time...

This has begun making the rounds on Facebook. It seems to me that it was going around last November, too, so I'm not sure this is current, but a cursory investigation indicates that this is truly Nordstrom's annual policy.  

 It's getting a lot of play (and is very popular.)  Here's my 2¢.

About 15 years ago, I was working near Union Square in San Francisco. (Nightmare job - but that's another story!) It was my birthday - October 3.  It was about 85ยบ outside, a beautiful Indian Summer day.  I was amazed and appalled when, looking up at the huge Macy's facing the square, every single window was decorated with a Christmas wreath.  October third. 
Fast forward to about 5 years ago, same location in mid-October: no Xmas decor!  Why?
I think it's because they have found a way to cash in on Halloween.  It is a BIG money-maker for retailers now.  Not just candy and costumes - orange and purple lights! glittered pumpkins! enormous inflatable lawn decorations! life-sized zombies! bodies hanging from trees! (Yes, really, and right at the end of my block.  Very disturbing.)  Retailers have monetized Halloween.  Weird, but at least by having a profitable holiday between Labor Day and Christmas, we have been saved from sights like the above windows before it's time to put away the sleeveless shirts.  Now all that red and green stuff comes out on November 1, along side the 30% off (really, Target? not 50%?) Snickers and M&M's.

This new trend thrills me, actually.  I don't buy into elaborate Halloween decor - at most, I'll buy a couple of those cute little pumpkins.  If they're active in October, I am usually more invested in what is happening with the Giants.

So here's my idea on how to further push retailers' cashing in on Christmas back to Advent:  Let's monetize Thanksgiving!  Just think of it: Giant inflatable turkeys, cornucopias and pilgrims. Elaborate light shows in amber and orange. Strands of oversized faux colorful leaves streaming from car antennae.  Politically correct t-shirts commemorating Native Americans' oppression.  Books about gratitude written by Justin Beiber and the New Jersey housewives.

I won't buy into that, either.  (Well, okay, maybe a t-shirt.)  But if it catches on, maybe more retailers will follow Nordstrom's lead and save the joy of Christmastime for December.  Wouldn't it be nice to walk into a store decked out in Christmas decorations and think, "wow, how wonderful!" instead of "oh crap! already?!"

**None of the above images are mine.  Any copyright infringement is unintentional.  Please contact me if these images are yours, and I will remove them.

November 02, 2012

Welcome back

It's been a year since I've done this.  This is not an apology.

Occasionally (and especially recently, probably why I'm here now) I get a yearning to blog, some spark of an idea... Often as not, I've told myself that it's either too personal, or that what I really should ("should" - a dangerous word) be doing is writing in my own private journal.  I haven't made a regular practice of that in over a decade, probably, unless you count knocking out a dozen or so pages every winter when I go on retreat.

The year included Dad's steep decline in health and his death.  Simultaneously, a deep and shattering heartbreak over the death of a dear friendship.  I took on a half-dozen projects at church, all of which were pretty much abandoned while I tended to the first two matters.  I thought I found a new job - and then discovered I hadn't.  This broke my Spirit more than my heart, I think. 

Recently, I've picked up some of the pieces.  I've been able to work on most of the church projects, hopefully without disappointing too many people.  This one is the biggest, and in some ways it is also the loneliest.  

For now, I'll not change any of the formatting/colors, etc.  Of course I love to do that, but it is not the reason I'm back, and this looks fine to me for now.

Anyway, I'm back.  We'll see how it goes.