Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Camp Nazareth and Preserving the Harvest...

We sent away half our children and we still have double the national average!  Our eldest three children are off at camp enjoying a break from chores and sibling herding.  We are feverishly attempting to get  Little House in order ahead of their return.  I love seeing these pictures of them while they are away.  I miss them bunches. 
Sts. Cyril and Methodius

M. getting acquainted with new friends

The boys are hiding from the camera.  

N. getting ready for a swim.

Where's Waldo?

D. and N. together at last.  N. is trying out a new camera face.

More Where's Waldo.

PS>  We love our new neighborhood.  Our neighbors are so lovely.  Our neighbor, Mr. Leo, has been sharing his harvest of enormous zucchini, cucumber, and summer squash.  I am in survivalist mode, right now, which basically means not much cooking.  Rather than see these gifts spoil, I have started putting up the harvest as it comes in.  
If you have been receiving generous harvest gifts from your neighbors or you have more zucchini than you planned on try this method of preserving: the freezer!

This is a two step method.

Step 1:  Wash, quarter, and slice your squash or zucchini into 1 inch slices.
Step 2:  Place on a cookie sheet in the freezer.

That's it.  Put the frozen chunks in a freezer bag at your convenience.  You can also freeze tomatoes whole.  When you run them under cold water later their skins just peel off.  No blanching necessary.

Still Unpacking

We're still unpacking.


Anyway, this is a monastery that has been recommended to me.  The entire video series can be found here: Life Transfigured.

From the website:

 LIFE TRANSFIGURED tells the story of the Orthodox Christian Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. It was founded by Mother Alexandra, a former Romanian princess, and was consecrated in 1968. This vide3o explores the history, daily life and commitment of these women as they pray, worship and extend hospitality and counsel to visitors seeking a relationship with God.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Little House on the Hill

the Little House on the Hill
Father Andrew Stephen Damick once suggested, in a post that I can no longer find, naming one's abode.  At the time, I lived in a large, cookie cutter house that I felt ambivalent about at best.  A string of unfortunate events, none of which were actually problems with the house or the neighborhood and could have happened anywhere (an extremely disappointing initial loan process that cost us a friend, an expensive leaky dishwasher that turned in months of remodeling, a failed attempt at stained concrete floor by an inept and unethical contractor, our first home owners' association, broken bones, our first asthma attack, to name a few) strongly affected my affection for the place.

The thought of naming that house was depressing.  There were at least 100 other houses that were just like it.  We had significantly changed the kitchen (after the dishwasher episode), added a bedroom, but all in all there were still 100 other houses with the very same floor plan, some with the same brick, most with the exact same elevation.   Don't get me wrong, there were many things I loved about that house, my kitchen was a dream come true, our master suite was a pure luxury of light and space, and lest I forget, my heirloom roses, grapes, and figs that I planted over the years, but I wasn't attached to it.  I think the emotional baggage of some of these events colored the way I felt about the place.  I did not want to claim it as my own.  My enlightened response to Fr. Andrew's post at the time was: what twaddle!  Either that or something even less erudite.

Now, freed from the tyranny of sentiment, I can see the wisdom of the suggestion.  This is especially true in a place where the houses are often 75 years or older.  Naming your home can be a way of claiming that which you did not design for yourself as your own.   We can christen our homes, blessing them and transforming the very earth of the place from a wild and ungodly place into a Spirit filled firmament.  As Orthodox Christians, we build icon corners and bless our homes, but we can go further.  Through consistent prayer and blessing we consecrate our home to God and set it apart from the world.  It becomes a Spirit-filled refuge. 

In this new home of ours, I want to pay particular attention to blessing this home formally and informally.  I will do this by making the sign of the cross and saying a small prayer as I rise in the morning, begin a chore, serve a meal, plant a garden, harvest its bounty, administer medicine, fold the laundry, lay down to rest.  My goal, during this season of unpacking and paring down, is to bless the places and spaces of my life so that it becomes me, so that I am habituated to praise God and ask for his assistance and blessing in all things.  Blessing the earth and gardens, the home, and its inhabitants with love of God and neighbor, so that through the Lord, Who Abides All Things, not only is this place transformed, but we are transfigured by His grace.

Towards that end, naming this home of ours is apropos.  Seeing as we have downsized significantly, losing about 1000 ft², this house is a cozy fit for us.  For now, it will be The Little House on the Hill.  For me, the naming of this place puts miles between me and the world even if it's right out my front door.  Its not that our Orthodox traditions fail to suffice or are in anyway incomplete, but that by naming, it becomes distinct, it becomes my own.

We are still unpacking, making room, learning about basements and attic bedrooms and life without air conditioning.  I am still looking for the silverware.  In other news, my ankle feels so much better.  I can almost forget that it was broken.  What a tremendous blessing that has been.  I can whole heartily recommend Dr. John Early of Dallas, TX as a competent and able surgeon, as far as ankles are concerned.    Thank you for all your prayers, everyone one of you.


Monday, July 18, 2011

We Moved!

On Saturday, July 9, 2010 we loaded up a truck and left our home in North Fort Worth and headed North.  Mr. Flavius took a week off work, we loaded his car onto the auto transport trailer and away we went.

Our 1300+ mile journey was mostly (thanks be to God) uneventful.  The children were exceptionally well behaved, impressing patrons of Cracker Barrels (aka Crackle Bare-row, according to our A. and E.) across 7 states.  The further north we traveled the more the compliments came, which is reassuring that our theory of Totality of Politeness may actually be working.

We arrived in the late afternoon on Wednesday.  The house awaiting our arrival, electric candles in the windows, and a key in the mailbox.

Our movers did a dubious job at best and we are deep in boxes and packing wrap and the sundries of moving.

The children alternate helping with riotous play outside.  We have no air conditioning, so it is often more pleasant out of doors than in.  We inherited a large sand pile left behind when the previous owners removed their above ground pool.  It has provided more enjoyment and entertainment than I thought possible.

The children have been able to really go out and play.  This is the kind of parenting I fantasized about.  It's great.

One surprise about our new life:  I am way greener than I ever thought I'd be.  Stalwart anti-environmentalist that I am, it is pretty surprising to find myself hanging a clothesline, enjoying the lack of air conditioning, reducing, reusing, and recycling.  I may need to start littering just to balance it out (just kidding).

If I were Ann Voskamp, this post would be full of off-kilter, sunlight through the trees, light hanging laundry, basement windows pictures.  Of course, you might not have any idea what I was trying to say either if I were.  Please accept this humble offering, sans photos and beautiful phrasing.

Friday, July 8, 2011

M.D. Harmon: Ironies can be sadly amusing – or unspeakably tragic

Several recent articles on a modern trend abroad carry lessons for us here at home.

Among the things journalists are taught to avoid -- including obscenities, libelous statements and claims known to be untrue (unless you're quoting a politician, of course) -- there's one figure of speech that we aren't often warned about, but we learn by hard experience never to use.
It's irony.
The dictionary's first definition of irony is "a humorous or subtly sarcastic expression whose real meaning is the opposite of the usual sense of the words used." (As in using "smart move" for a foolish act.)
Journalists learn quickly that most readers expect straightforward language and will take whatever you write in its literal sense, with any ironic subtext gliding past unnoticed.
If they discern the double meaning, they may be amused -- or they may think you tried to fool them and get mad at you. The downside outweighs the upside, so writers avoid irony.
Still, as a literary device, it can produce a wry grin. Thus, Garrison Keillor's spurious radio ads for "The Professional Organization of English Majors" (I'm a member, by the way) have English majors using their skills at work -- which their jobs never require.
In one, Keillor played an English major impressing a female moviegoer with his insights on films -- while working as an usher. The irony -- unstated, so as not to spoil the effect -- is that all the jobs the ads portray are minimum-wage. Want a better job? Next time, major in something useful.
The problem is, many things that are ironic are not fully humorous, but sadly so. Even Keillor's irony takes its bite from the fact that many newly minted English majors do find the job market a challenge.
But irony can go far beyond sadness to actual tragedy -- indeed, to events and trends so momentous in their impacts that even the word "tragic" cannot express the full meaning of what has happened.
Thus, the definition of irony I have in mind isn't the literary one. It's No. 3 in my Webster's, "a combination of circumstances or a result that is the opposite of what might be expected or considered appropriate."
Here's the warning. I started this column on a lighter tone, because I have learned some things I found so disturbing that I couldn't approach them directly. From this point on, the ironic theme that will be discussed is a very dark one, and if that bothers you, well, you can turn a few pages and find the comics. I won't blame you.
Unfortunately, I can't avert my eyes from this, and neither, I think, could any morally responsible adult. In the past couple of days, I have read a number of articles on abortion that I found unutterably tragic and I intend to describe them in the space that remains.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Step In the Right Direction

Ohio House approves abortion ban after heartbeat

COLUMBUS | Tue Jun 28, 2011 7:56pm EDT
(Reuters) - The Ohio House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable, which can be as early as six weeks.
The House voted 54 to 43 for the ban, along party lines, with most Republicans voting in favor.
If enacted, the law would be a challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling which upheld a woman's right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb, usually at 22-24 weeks.
Read the rest here.