25 January 2008

Friday Five: Yay, It's Winter!!

Brrrr! Baby, it’s COLD outside! At least that is the case where I am this morning. We are in a January deep freeze. Have a cup of hot tea and tackle five easy seasonal questions.

1. What is the thermometer reading at your house this morning?

Was 7 degrees F when I awakened at 0730; now at 1615 it's 39 and falling, with a forecast of a balmy 18 degrees overnight. :)

2. Snow—love it or hate it?

Love it--so long as I don't have to drive in it. My pickup will take me many places; it's the other folks on the road, who didn't have the benefit of growing up in a heavy snow area as I did, that I fear.

3. What is winter like where you are?

Usually cold and rather harsh in terms of temps, wind, and all, because we're so open around here (on a glacial plain east of the Blue Ridge Mountains and west of the Atlantic Ocean). Things freeze hard fairly early on, then we have bleakness until a good snow covers everything in fluff. Another reason to love snow... :)

4. Do you like winter sports? Any good stories?

I like to watch football, does that count? Go Patriots!!! :) I have always wanted to ice skate but my ankles are too weak. Did you know it's now less than a month until the Red Sox pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Ft. Myer, FL??? :)

5. What is your favorite season, and why?

That's a tough call. I like Winter and feel an affinity for it, but I love Spring. Winter allows me to "be fallow" for a while; I tend to nest and plan toward the coming of March and the sap beginning to run again. Mostly I love Spring because of Easter.

Bonus: Share a favorite winter pick-me-up. A recipe, an activity, or whatever.

Thick lamb stew with barley, carrots, celery, some onion, and potatoes. Spoon it up and serve forth with fresh-baked bread slathered with butter and honey; consume in front of the fireplace. Yum!

18 January 2008

Friday Five: It's All About Books!

Well, pish posh! I think that some books ARE better than others! How about you?

1. What book have you read in the last six months that has really stayed with you? Why?

Susan Richards' Chosen By a Horse: How a Broken Horse Fixed a Broken Heart. It's about a rescue horse that ended up being the rescuer of the person who rescued the horse. A lot less complicated than it sounds--and yet a whole lot MORE complicated. It is a wonderful book. It caught my eye because of the horse on the cover; I bought the book because of this line in the cover blurb: "Then fate brought her into Susan's paddock, where she taught this brokenhearted woman how to embrace the joys of life despite the dangers of living." I've had my heart repeatedly broken over the last few months, so I truly needed this book. :)

2. What is one of your favorite childhood books?

Lady of Arlington, Harnett Kane's biographical novel of Mary Custis Lee, wife of Robert E. Lee. It is very well written, mostly accurate, and very sweet. An interesting look at history through the eyes of a woman who helped make it. General Lee is one of my heroes; after reading that book as a young'un, his wife became my hero too.

3. Do you have a favorite book of the Bible? Do tell!

Oh, Isaiah by a country mile... I adore the poetry and drama and hope, and OH the language....

4. What is one book you could read again and again?

Anything by Katherine Kurtz, and J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. (OK, I know that's a lot more than one--but I read a LOT.) I got the trilogy and The Hobbit for my tenth birthday (many years ago now... *grins*) and have read them about once a year every year since. Now ask me how I felt about the movies. G'wan, I double-dog-dare you. :)

5. Is there a book you would suggest for Lenten reading? What is it and why?

Phyllis Tickle's Eastertide: Prayers for Lent through Easter from The Divine Hours. It introduced me all over again to the concept of fixed-hour prayer, and it is so beautifully done that I highly recommend it. The introduction alone is worth the price of admission. She has a whole series of similar books for the whole Church Year.

And because we all love bonus questions, if you were going to publish a book what would it be? Who would you want to write the jacket cover blurb expounding on your talent?

Heh... loaded question, that--I've been writing since I was a kid. :) I have a number of historical fiction novels squirreled away, along with a lot of fantasy fiction. I'm currently working on a haunted romance (not my usual fare, admittedly, but this one won't let me go!) and a modern-day mythological thing that somewhat defies description. *grin* I would want my bishop to write the cover blurb--because she knows me better than I know myself. :)

11 January 2008

Friday Five: Las Mañanitas

Éstas son las mañanitas (These are the morning verses)
Que cantaba el Rey David, (That King David used to sing,)
A las muchachas bonitas (To the beautiful young ladies,)
Se las cantaba así. (He would sing them like this.)
(The Mexican birthday song, sometimes sung as a dawn serenade).

Mother Laura penned this birthday-inspired Friday Five (my answers below):

1. When is your birthday? Does anyone else (famous and/or in your own life) share it?

My birthday is October 1; I share it with Mrs. Robert E. Lee (Mary Custis), Julie Andrews, and President Carter. :) We be Libraz! (parenthetical note: my sister-in-law and best friend from HS, Amy, has General Lee's birthday. How cool is that??)

2. Do you prefer a big party or an intimate celebration for the chosen few?

Probably the latter; I have a hard time with the noise level at huge gatherings.

3. Describe your most memorable birthday(s)--good, bad, or both.

October 1, 1967: We partied quietly, like people around an open grave, because the Red Sox had won their game that afternoon--and our winning of the Pennant depended on the outcome of the Tigers game, which would not be concluded until that evening. I remember nothing birthday related, except that it was the day... until evening. I was sitting in the living room watching Walt Disney ("Fighting Prince of Donegal", not sure what episode...) and Daddy and Hutch were in the kitchen listening to the Tigers on the radio. I couldn't listen because, fanatic that I am, I hadn't been there for the first pitch--and superstition says one must NOT listen to or watch the game unless you're there from the start (unless your team is winning AND at bat when you tune in, then you MUST watch or listen because you'll jinx it if you walk away... LOL!). Suddenly two things happened exactly simultaneously: the scene on TV showed the Irish chieftains swearing to fight for Prince Hugh O'Donnell and all threw their cups into the fireplace while shouting for freedom--and Daddy and Hutch began screaming in the kitchen because the Tigers won. :) True story, I swear it. Now every Sox victory seems to bring that memory back. (Yeah, I know, religion and baseball YET again... *g*)

4. What is your favorite cake and ice cream? (Bonus points if you share the cake recipe). Or would you rather have a different treat altogether?

Green tea ice cream with raisins, and Simnel Cake (Yum marzipan...), a British tradition either for Easter or Mothering Sunday in Lent (depending on tradition),

Here's the recipe: 1 c. butter (room temperature), 1 c. sugar, 3 eggs, 1 c. dark raisins, 1 c. golden raisins, 1 c. currants, 1/2 c. chopped red candied cherries, 1/2 c. chopped mixed candied fruit, 2 (7 oz.) loaves of baking marzipan, 1 beaten egg yolk, 1 tbsp. milk for glaze. 3 tbsp. dark rum or sherry, 3 tbsp. orange juice, 2 c. sifted all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, 1 tsp. ground allspice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees; grease an 8-inch spring form pan. Line bottom and sides of pan with waxed paper and then grease the paper too. In a large bowl beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (at least 5 minutes). Beat in eggs one at a time; beat well after each addition. Stir in raisins, currents, cherries, mixed fruit, rum (or sherry) and orange juice until combined. Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and all spice over fruit mixture. Fold into the batter. Place 1 package of marzipan between 2 sheets of waxed paper, roll out to an 8-inch circle (this is NOT easy, the stuff tends to be hard...). Spoon half of the cake batter into your prepared pan, then place the marzipan circle over the batter. Spoon the remaining cake batter over marzipan and smoothe down the top. Bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 2 hours and 30 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly pressed. Remove from oven; cool completely in pan or a wire rack.

Increase the oven temperature to 425 degrees. Remove *cooled* cake from the pan and peel off the lining paper. Place the cake on a small baking sheet; roll out the remaining loaf of marzipan to an 8-inch circle. Brush the top of cake with an egg-yolk glaze; place the second marzipan circle on top of cake. For a decorative touch, flute the edge. Score marzipan in a decorative pattern (a lattice seems to be traditional) with blunt knife. Brush the top lightly with egg-yolk glaze.

Bake in preheated oven 10-12 minutes until marzipan is lightly browned. Remove cake from baking sheet; cool completely on wire rack. Serve with lots of green ice cream and go into carb/sugar overload paradise. :)

5. Surprise parties: love 'em or hate 'em?

Absolutely hate them. I'm not good with surprises of any sort. *grins*

Bonus: Describe your ideal birthday--the sky's the limit.

Oh my... OK, you DID say sky's the limit. My ideal birthday would take place at one of the skyboxes at Fenway Park, DURING a playoff run with the Red Sox so seriously in the lead that nothing could stop them. The above-requested cake and ice cream are present in abundance, and jokes are freely made about green ice cream/Green Monster wall in the Pahk (local dialect, you know...). Dinner is shrimp cocktail followed by prime rib (rare for me with lots of whipped horseradish creme!), steamed lobster tails, baked potatoes with everything, and sugar snap peas in butter. If Johnny Pesky, Carl Yaztrzemski, Rico Petrocelli, Curt Shilling, and Jonathan Papelbon (and their spouses of course!) are in attendance, RevSharon is in heaven. :) All my friends are there of course, and we have live music by the Dropkick Murphys. The beer is Irish and German, the wine is Chateauneuf du Pape, I get lots of presents, and the Red Sox win, of course. :) Paps probably will have to leave early to secure the win as Closer, but that's OK. I love watching him pitch. :) Afterwards we all go across the street to the Cask 'n Flagon for more celebrating. We take any leftover cake and wine with us of course. *grins*

08 January 2008

So, Where WERE You??

I came across this beautiful portion of Psalm 139 today while reading:

"I will give thanks to You,
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well."

Had a bit of a surprising reaction to it: tears. OK, now, anyone who knows me even slightly knows that one of the powers I was given at birth was the ability to cry at the drop of a hat... but this usually happens for good reasons. :) I am easily moved, and wouldn't have it any other way. However.... In choir not long ago we did a piece that was Psalm 139 set to glorious music--the sort of music that sticks in your head. And thereby hangs a tale.

Several folks have noticed, and sent me notes offline concerning, the fact that I didn't post pretty much from the end of October until now. There's a bizarre reason for that. On Hallowe'en morning I toddled off to work (60 miles away; I live in the rural sticks, don'tcha know), with a cheesecake sitting in the front passenger-side foot well of my beloved little sedan. Not just ANY cheesecake, mind you: it was Frankenstein-green, and featured pistachios. It was glorious and (as was later discovered) tasted Pretty Darn Good (tm). It was for the Hallowe'en party at my office in the Infamous Tentmaker Job (tm), since we've established a tradition of shedding our seriousness a couple days a year and having parties. I was going to dress up as a Red Sox player (I know, mixing fun and religion again... *snork*...) and had my costume in the back seat, along with the paper plates, plastic cutlery, and divers decorations, since I was one of the Party Instigators.

Never made it.

Came awfully close to never making it anywhere, ever again, had my guardian spirits not been really, really watchful.

For reasons still unknown, I blacked out at the wheel on a back street near my former home. A number of things conspired to keep me alive and keep those I almost hit in the same shape: it was rush hour, yet there were no other cars nearby. It was near an elementary school, yet all the kids were safely in class by a few minute's timing. I had been going uphill about the time I blacked out, so I wasn't going fast when the car went off the road (only about 5 feet in, mind!), struck a tree and divested it of about a foot of bark, then car, me, and pieces of tree ended up on a retaining wall. I did not hit the woman who was about to leave her driveway, because something knocked a piece of paper off her front seat--and she braked to catch it. I did not hit her neighbor who was taking out his trash--because he paused at the astonishing sight of an unconscious woman in an auto that was slowly moving toward his neighbor lady's tree.

Somehow I had gone about half a mile from where I last remembered being, and come to rest in their yard. The two neighbors were kind, helpful, and compassionate. The police and the EMTs were thorough and considerate. And I found myself in hospital, with nothing worse than a lump on the side of my head. Go figure...

In the ER, the first thing they found turned out to be the dealie: I had everything else as normal as normal could be, except the electrolyte potassium was "oddly low" according to the nice man who took my blood and did the tests. They explained as to how this could cause muscles like the heart to temporarily take a rest, thus lowering blood to the brain and causing unconsciousness... but no one could tell me how the drop occurred. We all pretty much agreed that I have superb guardian angels....

So where does Psalm 139 come in? Well, my doctors ordered every test they could think of, including MRIs, 24-hour monitoring, and all that. They told me I had the brain of a 30-year-old (I'm 51) and didn't get the joke when I said very seriously, "Hmm, she'll probably be wanting it back sooner or later then, you think??" :) And they ordered an ultrasound of my heart.

Now mind... I've seen ultrasound before. Watched my son wave at me from within my womb, watched friends' soon-to-be kids do likewise. And yes, I cried at the very sight of it, for it is indeed an astonishing thing. But somehow, laying there in that awful hospital gown, watching my very own heart beat on TV, seeing how wonderfully regular and strong it was... the music came into my head: "I am fearfully and wonderfully made... my soul knoweth that full well...." And to the dismay of the young man doing the test, I started to cry. Tears of thanksgiving... tears of grateful joy, tears of delayed reaction to everything that had happened. Took a while to explain, but then he told me quite seriously: "Happens fairly often, I just wanted to be sure you weren't squicked or something." *grins* Kids these days...

That and some basic fallout from same contributed to my absence from the blogosphere. My beloved little sedan is gone, alas, for it cost more than it was worth to fix it up; I am now the proud owner of a green pickup truck and 72 months of vehicle payments. But I was reminded in my reading today that it had been a rather close run--and the grateful tears came rushing back. I'm glad to be here!

And I'm glad you're all here too. Prayers forthcoming for all the concerns expressed in various places; may God walk with you always!

07 January 2008

How Did It Get to Be 2008 Already???

Wow, where did that year go?? I feel as if it should still be June of 2007 or something, not January of 2008. The holidays hastened past before I could even get a handle on them, and now here we are in the long oddity that is the pre-Lent downtime. Wooo....

I guess the question we usually ask one another is this: did you make resolutions? Wellll.... here's the deal. Remember back a couple of entries ago I was talking about intentional living? Well... I like the comments from several fellow Revs that intentions are better than resolutions. :) So here are my intentions for 2008:

1) I absolutely WILL do more things for myself. Is that selfish? My poor little Libra gut wants to say so, but then I start thinking: when they run the "welcome to the flight" spiel on airlines, what do they say? If you're traveling with someone who needs assistance, put on your own oxygen mask first, THEN help them with theirs. Why? Because if you can't breathe, you can't help anyone. It isn't selfish, it's survival. In order to be there for the people you serve, love, live with, need, whatever--you have to survive. You must care for yourself. Sometimes thinking of yourself first is the best way to be there for others.

2) What will I do for myself? Ah... I have a little list. OK, it's a bloody great BIG list. :) Things I've put off for years. Things I've ignored. Clothing I want to make for myself... foods I want to try... riding time and general horse fun time that I never seem to have enough of because there are so many other things going on that "MUST be done..." Oh yes, a LONG list.

3) I will intentionally release fear. Whenever I feel it nibbling at my edges I will bless it and breathe through it. I will NOT fight it, because it is a part of me. I will instead very intentionally honour it, then let it go. Fear is a nervous sibling of excitement: it helps us define situations. Before I take the big leaps of life, I feel fear: it helps me remember that I am alive, that I have senses and sensations. And after I take the leap, the adrenaline flows through and helps me say WOW! where before I was saying OMIGOSH.... So fear will not be banished, it will be released.

4) I will intentionally believe that I deserve good things in my life. OH how my generation has battled this, men and women alike. We were raised to serve, brought up to question and volunteer and DO... but it was always in terms of doing for others, serving others, saving something for someone else. Then right around the same time, major cultural change happened--and the pendulum went toward hedonism for a good long while. Now that I am in my 50s I will find the balance: I will continue to serve because I love doing so and am called, but I will intentionally enjoy it more--and enjoy the good things that come my way as well.

5) I will intentionally look for good. I have spent far too many years on guard against bad things; now I will actively search out good ones. Be they brief, like enjoying the last rays of sun before the glory of sunset, or lengthy like the chance to sit and enjoy your lunch or dinner, I will seek them out and enjoy.

So there they are: my intentions, for better or worse. :)

I actually took a vacation this holiday season. A day or so after Christmas I drove up to Massachusetts to spend time with a very dear friend. We hung out, watched anime, talked; we hung out with horses, we hung out with family, we laughed a lot, and even cried a little. It was a surreal experience because I haven't taken a real vacation in AGES. I didn't check my work e-mail for the Tentmaker Job even once while I was gone, though I wasn't cold turkey enough to leave the laptop home. *grins* It wasn't quite intentional overall; I intentionally took the vacation, but left it all up to circumstance to see what we would end up doing. We had a wonderful time and I came home refreshed. I could get used to this. :)

So happy new year everyone, whatever your resolutions or intentions! May 2008 intentionally be a good one for you and yours!