Saturday, June 24, 2017

Christmas in June.

Today is the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Forerunner.  And how can anyone keep this day without thinking of Saint John's cousin, the Son who left glory to be born a man, who endured every temptation but without sinning, who died for us, and in his resurrection defeated death itself?  So, it is six months early,  but I am thinking about Christmas.


Christmas

How soon it starts,
The endless moan:
‘Just ten more weeks, 
How time has flown!
The shopping’s such
An awful bore;
Things cost so much – 
(And more, and more) –
I wonder if this colour suits her
- Let’s give the children a computer!’
Unchanging times remain, it’s true:
The card that means
‘I think of you’
Is there a hopeful little sock
Hung by the fire, beneath the clock:
Name stuck on a with a safety pin,
For Santa’s bounty to go in;
An apple and an orange too,
A coin pushed down into the toe,
And loving parcels set below
For Christmas morn?
The perfect way to celebrate
That long ago a child was born.

by Jay
Title: Christmas
Source: New Shetlander, 1985

Friday, June 16, 2017

Garden update

I went out to water this morning and was happy to see that the corn and sunflowers have sprouted.  Also, the water melon vine has flowers.  While I was watering the garden Kathleen planted another planter box with bell pepper seeds.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Vacation and Other Stuff.

Kathleen took me to Sanctuary, a resort on Monterey Bay for a few days.   No kids.  Just me.  Just her.  I don't think I've ever done a vacation like that.  (Kids have been my life for 30 years.) Fires on the beach.  Daiquiris on the patio while watching whales.  Hot tub and swimming pool.  Nothing to do.  We talked about going to the Steinbeck museum (because we are Californians) but decided against it because it was too much work.  It was marvelous.  I think traveling without kids has to become my new hobby.

The garden is still doing well.  I was worried it would die while I was away but it is doing fine.  The flowers we planted for butterflies and humming birds are the first seeds to sprout.

Oh!  It has been a long time since I've posted a Cocktail of the Day so I feel I should rectify that.  This dink is like a daiquiri but it is different.   It is called The Spanish Town Bummer and is named after a small city in Jamaica.

Fill a pilsner glass with ice.
Add two sugar cubes.
Squeeze the juice of half a lime into the glass.
Pour two ounces of Jamaican rum over the sugar cubes. (This drink doesn't work with lighter rums.)
Fill glass with water.
Stir.
Drink.

Friday, June 09, 2017

A Garden

Today Kathleen and my son Anselm Samuel and I put in a garden.  We have three planter boxes, each holds a yard of soil.  So, first we ordered the soil.  It was delivered by a dump truck.  We shoveled it into the boxes.

In the east box we planted sunflowers, lettuce, spinach, and sweet basil.  We left about half the box for pumpkins.

In the middle box we planted sweet corn, cucumbers, purple and green bell peppers, artichokes, and watermelon.

In the west box we planted three varieties of tomatoes and some carrots.

We have for more smaller boxes.  I think they'll each about 1/2 a yard.  Once we get the soil for them we'll plant a variety of squashes and pumpkins.

Update, June 15:  In one of the small boxes we planted summer squash.  Three boxes have flowers for humming birds and butterflies.  Some of these are already pushing through the soil.  We have one more small box left but haven't planted it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

What Moses Saw

On Memorial Day we watched Glory.  There is a scene in the film that shows a group of soldiers clapping, singing, and taking turns giving motivational mini-sermons.  

Basil Wenceslas said, "How come we don't do church like that?"  I was surprised by the question but I was able to answer it because the Bible answers it.  I told him we follow the pattern of worship that happens in Heaven, that everything we do is as close to the Heavenly original as we can make it.   I told him what St. Stephen said (reported in Acts 7:44), "Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen" and explained that everyone who saw Heaven and told us what it was like described something that looks like the the services of the Orthodox Church.

A few minutes ago I came across this essay that goes into much more detail than my short answer to my son.  So, I'll print it out and give it to him tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Memorial Day

Memorial Day was over about an hour ago.  It was not a bad day.  I have had a horrible headache for the past 4 days but it subsided this afternoon.  At about 5 p.m. my two youngest sons came to my house where I live with Kathleen, and we cooked hamburgers and chicken outside over charcoal.  It was on the same little sportsman's grill I've owned for many years.  I bought it from the Williams-Sonoma catalogue in 1993 or 1994.  I've used it to cook for all of my children.  We watched the movie Glory. (It was Civil War widows and orphans who began the practice of decorating graves of fallen soldiers.) For our fallen soldiers, sailors, marines, coast guards, and airmen we prayed the Orthodox Prayer for the Departed and Memory Eternal.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Agape Vespers

     I do not know what it is like at other parishes, but at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church in Saratoga after Agape Vespers we all retire to the hall and eat and drink enough to make up for all the lenten fasting.  There was champagne and tri-tip (because we are Californians) and whisky and lamb and beer and ham and cider and sausages and wine and cheeses and vodka in ice blocks (Every year people ask me how to make this.  It's super easy.  Here are instructions.) and meat laden soups from Greece, Russia, and Egypt, and much more besides.
     This year a young woman I had never seen sat down at the table with me and my fiancee and my son , Anselm Samuel.  It took all of 30 seconds to figure out that she was emotionally troubled.  It was her first time at an Orthodox church.  Any one with any life experience could tell she had been used by many men.  She kept going on and on about how she never knew church could be like this.         The whole parish showed her love.  Lisa brought her a plate of food.  Sami gave her a shot of whiskey and a big fatherly hug.  Kathleen was her instant friend.  Anselm poured her a shot of vodka from the ice block.   I made sure she had some paskha and kulich.  Someone else brought her strawberries.  Everyone greeted her with "Christ is risen".  I taught her to say "He is risen indeed".
    She kept referring to her past and I said, "We don't need to know about that but if you need to confess the priest is right there."
    She said with amazement, "He'll here my confession?!  Will he give me Hail Mary's to say or something?"
    I said, "No. But he will do what you need."
    She said, "Really?  I can become orthodox right now? "
    I  said, "You need to talk to Fr. Basil."
   She asked, "What do I say?"
   I showed her how to ask for a priest's blessing and said, "then you just talk".
   She got up and walked across the parish hall to the priest, asked for his blessing, and the next thing you know, they are both walking into the church.
   A little while later she came back to the table where we had moved on to amaretto (thank you Katrina) and I noticed tears on her cheeks.  I asked her, "Did he hear your confession?"
   "Yes, and he didn't make me do anything.  No Hail Marys or anything.  He just put that cloth on me and prayed over me.  I can't belive it.  I'm such a bad girl and he forgave me."
   I said, "Not any more.  You are no longer a bad girl."  And she started crying again.
   So, if anyone criticizes the Orthodox for our exuberant feasting, let them be ashamed.  The feasting at the Lord's table rescues the fallen, finds the lost, ransoms the captive, breaks every fetter, and calls sinners to repentance.  Christ is Risen!  Indeed he is Risen!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Annunciation and other things

     Friday night was the vigil for Annunciation.  I took the boys with me.  (They are both taller than I am now.  Maybe I should stop calling them boys.)  There are 5 parts of that long service I absolutely love.
     The first is the Polyeleos, when we tell God how amazing he is.  The list of what He has done to save his people is truly awesome.
     Second is when the lights are extinguished and a lone reader with one candle chants the Six Psalms, prophecies of Jesus' thoughts when he was on the Cross. (Some say that just before Jesus returns an angel will appear in the sky chanting these Psalms in all the tongues of men, announcing by what judgement we shall be judged.)
     Third is the Gospel reading.  This is when the heart of the feast is revealed.  It is the epitome of the service.
     Fourth is when the priest or bishop stands at the west end of the building and invokes the prayers of dozens of the saints.  "...St Ambrose of Milan, the protomartyr and equal to the apostles St. Thekla, St. Katherine of Alexandria, St. Mary of Egypt, St. Peter the Aleut martyr of San Francisco, St. Vladimir equal to the Apostles, St. Mary of Paris, St. Raphael of Brooklyn, St. Patrick of Armagh the enlightener of Ireland, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ss Gregory, Clement, and Leo Popes of Rome, St. Panteleimon the unmercenary physician, St. John Chrysostom..."  As their names are called out their lives and deeds fill my mind and I am reminded of what kind of man I am supposed to be.
     The fifth is when, near the end of the service, we line up to venerate the icon of the feast (I am not able to prostrate anymore.  If I try it I lose my breath.), receive the blessing of oil on our heads, exchange the festal greeting with the priest, and then get some of that yummy bread dipped it wine.  (I really have no idea what this is about.  It's not communion but what is it?  I'll have to ask the priest sometime.)
    
     My contract with the school district was not renewed.  I was expecting that.  I am not a credentialed Special Education teacher and the district is under scrutiny  from the state for Special Education irregularities.  They really need someone who knows better than me how to teach these kids.  I'm great for lectures and essays, but when a student has auditory and visual processing problems I don't know how to reach him.  But I am not worried.  The school year is over May 25 but I chose the 12 month pay schedule so I'll still have an income through the end of July.  Also, I'll teach summer school.  After that?  Return to being a substitute until I have completed the requirements for the Social Science teaching credential. (It looks like that will be in December.)
        

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Ski week and a diagnosis

The boys and I went up to Strawberry last Tuesday morning.  We stayed two nights.  It was amazing good time even though I was very sick.  On the  way to Strawberry we stopped at Sonora (THere was some flooding) for lunch.  We ate at a place called the Diamondback Grill.  The food was very high quality but the portions were enormous.  Their smallest hamburger was 1/2 pound of beef.  After lunch we made it as far as Twain Harte before the CHP required chains.  Anselm Samuel did a great job putting them on.  From then on we made very slow progress.  Roads were covered with ice and snow.  We arrived at the Strawberry Inn about 5 pm.  We had dinner, played several games of pool in the bar, and then went to our room.   The boys discovered the old teevee show, Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  They were laughing out loud though several episodes.

The next morning after breakfast (the view from the dining room over looked the frozen Stanislaus River.  It was gorgeous.) I sent Basil out to scrape the windows on the van.  I was distressed when he came back and told me he broke the key off in the van's door.  Thankfully, it was the wrong key so I could still drive the van.  The problem:  The van only has one key hole in one door and it was jammed with part of a broken key.    So, we played pool in the bar and waited two hours for a locksmith to come open the van for us.  It cost $100.  

After that we drove to where the gate is closed to Sonora Pass and looked out over hundreds of miles of snow covered wilderness.  The boys played in the snow there for a while but I wanted to head over to Pine Crest so we left after about 1/2.  On the road to Pine Crest I saw another road with a sign indicating a USFS station and thought I'd pull in there to get a map of the forest for the boys.  I saw that the snow was a little deeper on this road but I had chains on so I thought it would be no problem.  I was totally wrong.  We got stuck.  The boys were great.  they chopped limbs off of trees to use for traction.  They poured water over the engine so it would melt the snow under the van.  They dug and dug and dug.  And after 40 minutes we were free and on the way to Pine Crest.  But then I saw another road and another sign. The sign said Leland Snow Play.  So we drove over that way (it had some thin ice on it but very little snow) for a couple of miles and found a super fun inner tube slopes.  I bought lift tickets and goggles for the boys and watched them zooming down the slopes the rest of the afternoon.  When the sun was low we left and drove back to the inn.  (I want to mention that there were hardly any cars on the roads; just snow plows or Forest Service pick-up trucks once in a while.  It was very peaceful to drive through the forest with snow falling and no other cars.)  I was too sick to eat supper but the boys ate in the inn's dining room while I had a gin and tonic at the bar.  (I had two drinks the whole trip.  It was uncomfortable but I didn't want my sons to see me drinking a lot.)  After they ate we played some more pool then went to bed.  We were tired.

The next morning we packed up, checked out and drove to Pine Crest.  My dad used to take me fishing there 40 years ago so it is kind of nostalgic for me.  It was almost totally deserted.  I talked to the guy who owns the general store, and he said winter is the off season, that fewer than 400 guests were there, but in the summer 10,000 isn't unusual.  I was surprised by that.  After stoping at the general store we drove to the lake.  It was good to see it full of water and snow.  Last winter it was totally dry.  After 5 years of extreme drought this has been a good wet winter for California.  After Pine Crest we drove home, with a brief stop in Jamestown.

Oh, the diagnosis.  It seems I have stage 2 COPD.  Doctors have been wrong about me before.  Let's hope they are wrong this time, too.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Evening Prayers, Alcoholism, and Ski Week

"Alcohol Kills"
I've had breathing problems for a while now.  I've been to see the doctor about them a few times but they aren't able to cure me.  In fact, every time I see the doctor I am given a different diagnosis.  Most recently (since December) I have been coughing and lose my breath if I have to walk more than 30 yards.  I mention all that for this reason.  Last night my son Anselm Samuel (who used to be known as The Little Boy on this blog) had to say the evening prayers because my voice is gone from coughing so much.  Yes, teaching is difficult in this condition.

I've had to accept the fat that in the three years since my divorce I have become an alcoholic.  It got really bad when I was living in my truck and drinking to unconsciousness every night.  I tried to quit cold turkey a while ago but it was very painful.  Cramps and shaking started on the second day and  I had to have a drink.  What I've been trying to do since then is drink a little less each week.  I am down to 4 hard liquor drinks or a bottle of wine each day.  It is not easy.  I told my doctor about it on my last visit and I wish I hadn't.  I want this cough cured and all she wants to talk about is rehab.

Today is Saturday.  On Tuesday my boys and I are going to Strawberry for two nights.  It is the week called Ski Week, when all the schools in San jose close.  We are planning on sledding, snow shoe
Strawberry Lodge
hiking through the forest, and ice skating.  The reports are 10 feet of snow on the ground and more snow is forecasted to fall the whole time we'll be there.   We've been up there before.  I think two winters ago was the last time, but it was a drought year and snow was scarce.  This year is different.  It has been one of the wettest winters in California history.  Today I am going to teach the boys how to "chain up" for driving in snow.


Monday, January 30, 2017

for my grandchildren

Several times since I have known her, Athanasia has gotten rid of my books or the boys' books.  Thankfully, she called me Friday (today is early Monday morning) and told me that if I wanted to keep any books I should come get them.  Saturday morning I saved all the Christmas books I read to my sons each year.  I kept Aesop's Fables, the children's versions of the Iliad and the Odyssey, the Boxcar Car Children books, and the Sugar Creek Gang books, and many others.  I was especially happy to find the two astronomy books I used when I was homeschooling Anselm for kindergarten. She asked, "Why are you keeping them?"  I said, "For our grandchildren."

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Catching up

It has been a busy and difficult month.   I became very sick right after Christmas.  I was in bed for the last four days before the start of the spring semester and missed three days during the first week of the semester.  I lost me hearing and have been referred to a surgeon but I haven't gone.  I really do not want surgery on my head.  So, I've been waiting, and guess what?  The hearing has come back in my right ear!!!  I'm still stone deaf in the left but one ear is better than no ears.  So, I am thankful.

I got tired of picking up my kids for church on Sunday mornings and them looking like bums.  I pay their mother 1/3 of my income for child support but she doesn't buy them clothes.  So, I took Anselm Samuel to Men's Wearhouse when they were having a sale on suits and got him a slate blue suite, an extra pair of trousers in gray, three dress shirts, and then we went to Macy's where he got his first pair of Florsheim shoes.  He chose blue cap-toed Oxfords.  I want him to take care of these shoes (he is so hard on shoes!) so I made him chip in $50 of his own money (earned from working for Kathleen) to help pay for them.  The funny thing about the suit; when he wears it he combs his hair.

I would have bought Basil Wenceslas a suit, too, but he is only eleven and still growing fast.  Kathleen had an excellent idea, though.  She took him to Savers and found two sports coats for him.  One in brown herringbone, the other in blue gabardine.  I was surprised at how happy he was.

I had my formal evaluation at work.  I got a perfect evaluation, except that my principal said I try to pack too much information into one lesson.  I'm okay with doing less.

I've finished one third of my M.Ed. program.  It is difficult because, unlike, other classes I've taken, I'm expected to drink the leftist Kool-Aid.  So far, I've been able to stay under the radar.  But, man it is hard to read and regurgitate the work of Soviet psychiatrists in the papers I write.  I have no hope the the California public schools.

Kathleen had her first Orthodox house blessing last week.  Archpriest Basil is such a good pastor.  All the neighborhood kids followed him from room to room as he splashed holy water on everything and he and I sang the troparion of Theophany.

Sadly, both of my sons decided to drop out of Boy Scouts.  It makes sense for Basil, he has health problems that keep him from camping, but Anselm, well, I just don't know.  It makes me sad.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the very good thing that happened.  Back in 1970s Time-Life Books published a series of books called The Old West.  I used to see the teevee advertisements for them and just ache because I wanted them so powerfully.  Well, guess what!  I found the whole series for sale for twenty-five dollars and bought it.  I've already finished one volume and have started on the second!