Monday, April 30, 2007

Remember when, if you made an airline reservation and then couldn't make it for the trip, you could sell your plane tickets to someone else? And they could use them, without bringing out the whole swat team? It was no big deal. I miss those days.

Today I realized that the tickets I bought for a trip we're making a week from today were for 8:50 pm, rather than 8:50 am, as I'd intended to buy them for. I felt like an idiot! It doesn't work for us to travel later, as we already have to be late.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. First, this weekend is the biggest weekend for our church in, well, a hundred years! Really! We're celebrating our centennial at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Portland, Oregon. That's a lot of years, and it's a big deal! We have a full weekend ahead of us. The choir has been practicing extra hard since January. My dear husband has been going, going, going. And you know, when he's busy, I'm busy. It all starts on Friday evening, when both the Archbishop and the Metropolitan (two types of bishops) arrive, and we'll kick off the weekend with a Glendi (big Greek dance party) and the opening of the new cultural center. Saturday we have an ecumenical doxology service, then a youth ralley where both bishops will be with the kids at Camp Angelos, and then the big banquet, celebrating these 100 years and toasting to the next 100. On Sunday we'll have the big church service, with the two bishops and 9 other clergy members. The choir has been working on music for that Sunday--some that's old (as in the old Desby music that used to be used in all the churches) and some that's new (some pieces were commissioned just for our choir!). It's all very exciting! In the afternoon and evening there will be a couple of events that are not open the public but Paul and I will be attending.

And after this is all over, there is a clergy couples retreat in Monterey. I can't think of a time when we'll need it more, but I wish we didn't have to miss the beginning of it, as it starts on Sunday, and there's no way we could have made it then!

So, that's where the plane tickets came in. I wanted to leave as early as possible on Monday morning, but not so early that poor Paul would have to miss his beauty sleep after this big weekend. So I scheduled our flight for 8:50. I thought it was am, but it was pm. And it cost more to change it than it did to just buy one-way tickets on another carrier. So, I am $220 poorer and reminding myself to *look at the details, dummy!*

But next week at this time, we'll have celebrated our brains out and we'll be relaxing on the beach in California. Ah, life is good.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Weird Happenings

We've had several weird things happen in the last couple of days, yesterday being the weirdest day.

First, Hibi took a long walk. When she called me (yes, I've just bought her a cell phone--and though I never thought I would do that, I'm glad I did!) she was almost two miles from home. She told me that she was just walking, and a man came up to her and asked, "where are you going?" And she said "I'm just walking." He then handed her a twenty dollar bill and walked off! Bizarre. Of course, all my mama bells were going off when I heard this, and when we tried to call her a few minutes later and she didn't answer, Paul rushed over to pick her up. Of course she was fine (and $20 richer)--she just hadn't heard the cell phone ring because she was walking on a busy street. I have no idea what to make of what happened. I guess just someone being nice? Random acts of kindness? Seems to Paul and me that we'd rather someone had practiced acts of kindness in a slightly different way.

She'd been home for not very long, and I was in the basement, when Paul called down that he had heard gunshots. 7 or 8 of them, he said. He walked in the direction he'd heard them from, and some people on the corner had looked up when they heard the shots and two teenagers were running away. It took the police quite a while to get to the right place--even though Paul had called 911 and told them where it had happened, they still were all over the place. Finally they found the right place and they taped off the area. I haven't heard anything more about it...nothing in today's paper or online. This happened one block from our house.

The next weird happening is just ironic, since we recently watched Little Miss Sunshine. Paul and I watched it without kids first, because we'd heard from some sources that it's "definitely not for kids!" But it was definitely the kind of humor that we enjoy and I vote the ending scene as one of the best scenes in moviemaking history. It was painful and hilarious, totally inappropriate and totally apropos at the same time. So, I thought carefully about whether my kids would be comfortable watching it. It is littered with the f word, so if you're uncomfortable with that, don't watch! And the grandfather is your classic dirty old porn-ogling man, but loveable in his own way. And I thought, no violence, and no actual sex scenes (though you do see some of the porn the grandfather enjoys, it is quite mild). If you can handle all these caveats I highly recommend it!

Anyway, the movie's main character is a little girl who is competing in a little girls' beauty pageant. And what's ironic is that Hibi received an invitation in the mail today to compete in a "young miss" beauty pageant! When I showed it to her, she was dumbfounded for a few seconds. And then she became a paper shredder who wants to shred the paper into as many pieces as she possibly can.

I sure have a good 13 year old.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

what the chickens are up to now

Close up of Thelma, Louise, and Fallujah's tail.
This is Nigella, nesting. The end product of nesting chickens is....

This! Beautiful, huh? They taste wonderful, too.
From left to right: Mama Bear, Punky, Thelma, Louise, and Fallujah. (I've nicknamed Fallujah LuLu. :-) They're feasting on leftover pizza and salad. (Sorry, no beer with that, ladies!)

I thought it was about time I got out and took a bunch of pictures of my chickens and inflicted--I mean shared them with you. So here you go! Next up (as far as pictures go): I've finally got my Project Mexico pictures on the computer, so hopefully in the next week or so I'll get a post on that up.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


I forgot to mention here (gee, I must be recovering from two very busy weeks!) that my grandmother turned 102 yesterday! I can hardly believe her longevity. A commenter on ArielleJuliana's blog said that she thinks we're more like our grandmothers than our mothers. I hope I have the aging old and graceful gene that my grandmother has!

John McCutcheon

Now that I have my tickets, I can tell you to go get yours. ;-) John McCutcheon is coming to town again! He's good for a wonderful, warm evening of great music and political humor. JM is a very down-to-earth guy and comes up with wonderfully creative lyrics, some that will leave you rolling in the aisle laughing and some that will bring tears to your eyes.

He'll be performing on April 22 at 7 pm.

He's at the Aladdin Theater this year. Last year he performed at the Hollywood Theatre, which I love....but they've got to do something about their sound system. I've noted before that it needs help. But during the second half of John's concert, suddenly there was a high-pitched loud squeal that left me wondering if there was something weird going on. Thank goodness it was *just* the sound system, but it did freak me...and him...out.

Anyway, go to the Aladdin Theater's website and buy tickets. Better yet, to avoid Ticketmaster's price-gouging, go to the theater in person and buy them. Ticketmaster's handling fee is $5, where if you pay by cash or check at the theater they only charge $1 each ticket. I never understood handling fees at the box office though....why wouldn't that be included? It's not something you can avoid.

Oh, yeah, and if you don't live in Portland, check his website for when he'll be in your area.

That weekend promises to be an interesting one, as we're also attending the first annual Life is Good unschooling conference. Looking forward to the whole thing!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Christ is Risen!

This is the greeting that we Orthodox Christians say over and over, sing a multitude of times, and celebrate, starting on Pascha (Easter) which was yesterday, the same day as the Western Easter this year, until we celebrate the Ascension of Christ in 40 days from Pascha.

I just read an amazingly accurate description of Holy Week and Pascha online, and then realized at the end of it that it was written by the wife of Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson. He married a Greek woman and became Orthodox himself and we even hear from the priest at his church that they do attend with some regularity.

We had a beautiful celebration yesterday and will continue to celebrate throughout the season. And today I had a nice lie-in....I'm exhausted! Mexico and then Holy Week really took it out of me.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Egg Sting!

Ha! I caught her red-winged! ;-)

I'd been kind of wondering about Punky the Golden Laced Polish Crested hen. It seemed that all the other hens (except for Fallujah...hmm...) have been laying eggs. But I hadn't seen any of Punky's. And she's just skittish enough that I thought she'd be a prime candidate for hiding her eggs. I've had experience with this....(I almost wrote "eggsperience" but thought that'd be too tacky) chickens when we lived in rural California had the run of the place and could roam as far as they wanted. I'd find eggs in pretty far-flung places, and I'm pretty sure there are some we never found. But here, we're in a residential area. They mostly stay in the backyard. I'd looked all over the back, and didn't ever find anything. There's not a whole lot of places she could hide them.

But I did notice that sometimes she'd disappear and then come back.

When we got home from Mexico, our very observant neighbor who watched them for us said, "She's a fence-hopper! She likes to go over your back fence and hang out in the blackberry bushes!" Hmm...a clue. So, I started watching. I sure didn't want to hop the fence myself and wade through the prickly blackberries. That would hurt! But I just watched. Today when Punky went missing, I had the time and the inclination, so I just staked out the back fence. Just sat there, waiting. Waiting. Waiting. I heard birds singing and felt the nice warm sun. I saw a neighbor cat literally climb the chain-link fence and climb down again. Wow! And at just that moment, Punky hopped right through the little gap between the fence and our neighbor's garage.

So, I went and looked in that area, over the fence....and I'm not sure how I missed them before, because it was pretty close. I just had to stick my head over the fence and look to my right. And right there, by the wall, was a nest of white eggs.

I called for Zac and put my tall rubber boots on him. I put him over the fence and he gathered the eggs carefully. I put the eggs--18 of them!--into the nesting box. Then Zac caught Punky and we put her in there to show her that, hey Punky, *here* is where we lay eggs around here! I put a black X with a pen on each so I know which are the old eggs that have been out for who knows how long. I'll leave them there a couple of days and then compost them. Hopefully Punky'll get the idea!

Thank you for your help, Zachary! You're a good kid.

I'm glad we figured it out now, because hens will sometimes go broody when they get a big enough clutch of eggs. Then they want to sit on them. And I'm not sure I would have found her if she'd done that and I hadn't noticed until it was dark. And she could sit and sit and never hatch any of those infertile eggs.

Pascha Bread and Pascha Cheese

I've had lots of google hits from people looking for recipes for Pascha Bread and Pascha cheese, so I thought I'd repost them on my food blog. Just in case you're interested.

And here's a picture of last year's half-eaten loaf, along with one slice with cheese spread. Yum!

The Power of Music

During Holy Week, Paul pretty much just does services and visitations. He visits shut-ins and people in the hospital. Yesterday he went to visit a woman who is about our age, he said, but who is mentally disabled. She has the mind of about a one year old. The first time he visited her she just sat on the floor and didn't engage with him at all. He's not discouraged by this behaviour, and would have visited her again regardless, but he did have the great idea of bringing his guitar along this time. He said she was the same, not engaging at all, until he brought the guitar out. Then her eyes lit up and she came alive! She came over and participated in the music. She thumped on the top of the guitar, which sounds like a drum, so Paul thought next time he'd like to bring a drum (or several, because the nurses brought 3 other people over when he started playing!) so she could play with him.

I don't know what it is about music, but there is something magical about it. I think even people who are not musically talented feel the power of it. When something moves me deeply, very often it has been accompanied by music. It has a way of transmitting the message you want to convey in a deeply emotional way. I can't think of many religions that don't use music in their worship. It has the power to take us to a different place than our ordinary, daily lives.

It's just too bad we don't often share music in our everyday lives. Paul has never seemed to feel embarrassed to sing in public, just walking down the street, but I think he's an exception. Wouldn't it be great if we all felt comfortable singing to each other, just as we feel comfortable in talking to each other? Tears are another thing that's not very acceptable in public. I wonder if those two go together.

I decided to rest my own singing voice this morning in church, so I can hopefully have some left for the rest of the week. But it just about killed me not to even sing the "kyrie eleisons". Instead, I tried to focus on the beautiful music that was being made by the other chanters.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Holy Wednesday, Chickens, and Garden

As we're in the middle of Holy Week, we are very busy doing nothing but going to church. Church in the morning, church in the evening--each at least 1 1/2 hours, and tomorrow's service is between 3 and 3 1/2 hours long. But we're loving every moment--except for that moment when Zac wakes up and says "I don't want to go to church!" and then he gets over it. :-)

I've been doing my share of chanting for the services--the morning Presanctified services I've been in charge of, with a great group of women helping me. The evening services are bigger, of course, and I've been helping also with the chanting there. The women from the choir came last night and sang the Hymn of Kassiane. But you know what? All that chanting leaves my voice very tired. And again like last year, when I was singing the hymn of Kassiane this morning (we do it for the evening service and the morning service) I couldn't do it without my voice giving out. I was glad for Paul helping me out this year. I'm not sure I'd have gotten through it. It's a long hymn.

Tonight is the Holy Unction service, or the annointing with Holy Oil, or healing service. All the hymns focus on the healing ministry of Christ and the church. At the end we are each annointed with Holy Oil. We pray for the healing of soul and body. Now, we don't try to define how that healing comes, or what specifically it will look like. We come, with the understanding that each of us are wounded people and we need the healing of the church and the community. We need more opportunities to come together for healing, like the Forgiveness Vespers I wrote about at the beginning of Lent.

When we were first thinking about becoming Orthodox, only a few weeks after our first service in the Orthodox church, we came to the Holy Wednesday healing service. I was personally looking very much forward to it for a specific reason: I was in a deep depression that I was in counseling for. I really felt the need for the healing powers of the church, for those prayers, for the people around me to buoy me up and bring me closer to God. When we got to the church, we found that Holy Unction is a sacrament and as such, it is reserved for Orthodox Christians. Since we had not converted yet, we were not allowed to be annointed. We left early because I was so upset about this. There was a power there, something to that oil, that touch, that community. I can understand why it is only for Orthodox Christians, but it was something that I desired at that moment. When we became Orthodox, our priest performed an annointing just for me. And I think of that every Holy Wednesday.
On to a report on our chickens! While we were in Mexico, we asked a neighbor to take care of the chickens. When we returned, she told us that they laid about 20 eggs while we were gone! That was more eggs than we'd gotten from them the whole time we've had them. And we've been getting two or three a day after that! We are finding out why eggs are such an integral part of Easter (and I believe they are also, maybe not as much, part of the Passover meal). Chickens, as I did not know before I had hens of my own, lay eggs seasonally. In the winter months when there's not much light they slow or stop laying altogether. At this time of year, they begin to pick up with the laying. Thus, if you have eggs this time of year, you add them to your celebration!
One good Holy Week thing to do, I think, is to weed. Thank goodness for that, we've got lots of....well, not exactly weeds, and we actually inadvertently planted them. Remember when we converted our lawn to garden bed? One of the layers was straw. Or hay. I'm not sure which. But it was the one that has seeds in it. So, we now have zillions of oat plants coming up. Since we don't really care to have a bumper crop of oats (a small amount would be fine, but I really wanted other things too...) we are finding ourselves pulling up little oat grasses. Talk about reaping what you sow. I did some of that today, and also noticed all the plants that are coming up! I need to get out the chart I did for what's planted where, so I can identify all of them, but I think I've got chard and beets, radishes for sure, and basil. Also artichokes and mint and a bit of lettuce. Someone, I can't remember who or even if it was someone who would know, told me that artichokes grow here, but they produce woody flowers that aren't edible. So, they're beautiful but you can't eat them. Which explained why there was an artichoke plant that we'd pass all the time that grew beautiful artichokes, but the owner of them never harvested them, and they went to seed. But I'm not inclined to believe that I can't grow edible artichokes without a try, so I did plant them. Anyone have any more info on that?

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Mexico and Holy Week

Hi,, I have not dropped off the edge of the world, thank goodness! I just wanted to check in and let you all know that we are *back* from Project Mexico! I meant to post that we were going, but just as I was about to, *someone* said that he needed to use the computer for his book. More on that later!

Project Mexico is an organization that's been building houses for poor families in the Tijuana area since 1988. We got to know Greg and Margaret Yova, the founders, when we were first becoming Orthodox. When they'd been doing the house building for awhile, they realized another need was urgent--housing for orphaned boys in particular, because girls often had other avenues, but the boys often got put out on the streets when they entered their teen years. They now have some 23 or so boys who live there at the orphanage full-time and have become a family.

The orphanage is where we stayed last week, in group housing that is just like the houses that are built for poor families. We had no electricity and though we did have flush toilets, we couldn't flush toilet paper down. One day we had 40 mile per hour winds, which made our work quite difficult. "We" is a group of high schoolers and chaperones from our church who went specifically to do building projects during Spring Break in Mexico.

The work we did: most of the days we stayed on the orphanage and did two projects there. One was building a staircase on a hill that's between the buildings and their recreation area. We were lucky to have someone on our team who does construction and he masterminded the whole thing. I hear it came out beautiful (the kids and I had to leave early because we were driving and wanted to get home for Palm Sunday). The other project was to weed out and plant a hillside that keeps up their soccer field. They are fighting erosion and want iceplant to cover the hillsides. Some had been planted, and some of that had died, and needed a general weeding and second round of planting, which I enjoyed doing.

On Thursday we went out into a colonia, a small town which had lots of varying degrees of poverty evident. Last summer a house had been built by Project Mexico for Javier, Thelma, Monica and Vanessa, and they've moved in, but the house needed stucco outside to weatherproof it. So, that's what we spent the day doing. I don't think I'd ever done stuccoing and I enjoyed it. Also, Hibi and I had found some bilingual storybooks before we left and brought them along. She and I went in and read one of them to the children, and left the books with them as a gift. Late in the day, when only a few workers were needed (including the most skilled among us) I noticed that below us on the hillside there were children who'd evidently just gotten home from school and were coming outside, looking at us, and giggling. I called "Hola!" to them and they replied. We started calling to each other, and eventually they worked up the courage to come up the hill and meet us all. We got out the crafts that the Project Mexico people bring along for just this opportunity and colored with them and played with frisbees and bubbles. I've taken three terms of Spanish classes since last summer, in addition to my two years in high school, and I felt great to be able to converse with the children at least a little.

Thursday was a beautiful warm day, the first one that week, and it was such a perfect day! I felt good that it had turned out so perfect and sad that Hibi and Zac and I were leaving that evening. We wanted to get across the border, since we didn't know how long it might take, so we could keep on schedule for our driving back to Portland. But we left on a good note and are so grateful for the week.

We did a lot of thinking about the subject of "how much does one person need?" I discovered in this week that I really don't need a whole lot. If I have enough to eat, enough sleep, and am warm enough, it is enough. Even the one day when they ran out of coffee we were all fine with the strong tea they offered instead. Hey, a consistently hot shower would have also been welcome, but I did live without it. I hope I can remember the fact that I don't need all this stuff I have around me.

We got back last night, even in spite of having *two* flat tires yesterday, just in time for Holy Week. If you are not Orthodox, and have never been to Holy Week services, I'd encourage you to try it out this week. Holy Week services are way over-the-top in the Orthodox church, but are so beautiful and meaningful. I'd especially recommend the Thursday evening service, but beware that it lasts 3 to 3 1/2 hours. The Friday night service is also sadly sweet, as we sing the lamentations for our saviour who has died, but we know he will rise from the dead even as we sing the mournful hymns. Saturday morning is joyful, as it is actually an Easter service--it used to be the first of the Pascha services (Pascha is the word we use instead of Easter in the Orthodox church) and bay leaves are thrown all over the church! Of course, the crowning moment of the whole church year is Pascha itself, celebrated at a midnight service that usually runs from about 11 pm to anywhere between 1:30 and 4 am, depending on how much of the service your church does. :-) Possibly a more accessible service for those not accustomed to staying up all night is the Agape Vespers on Sunday, in which the gospel is read in as many different languages as we can find people to read it in. All of these are very special services which hold much meaning to me and my family.

A blessed Holy Week to all Christians! Also, a good Passover to my Jewish friends. :-)

Oh, yes, I almost forgot! Paul and his book. Paul has been doing translation work for some three years now. He's translating four of St. Basil's homilies, and has a publisher for the work (St. Vladimir's Press). His deadline was October of 2005.....and obviously he missed it, but now, he is finally done! The homilies focus on poverty and wealth and social justice. He's finished his part and is waiting now for a preface and then he'll send it to the publishers. Woohoo!

And I leave you, at the end of this already long post, with a story. This morning as I watched Zac serve as an altar boy, holding a palm, I was reminded of when he was four years old and we went to church on Palm Sunday. I always brought things to occupy him when he was that age. I usually brought crayons, and usually shied away from markers, because of the quick damage they can cause. But Paul had packed the bag that morning, and he'd put in markers. As I was standing in church, Zac was behind me on the pew. Suddenly I heard a gasp from the people behind me. I looked around at Zac, and he was covering every inch of his hand and continuing up his arm with green marker! "Zachary, what are you doing?" I asked him. He replied in the most joyful voice, "I'm a palm!"