An Unexpected Sequel to THANsgiving

Wwwednesday – Words

So apparently I couldn’t get Thansgiving out of my head, because on Saturday morning, I woke up from a dream of spelling errors. Also of community service, which I thought about a lot last week because we were doing house projects on vacation and I was wishing for my WorkCamp crew to help us out.

In the dream I, and at least one other person who’s a usual fixture in my life–like, either my Paul or someone I work with from Now Church, though I can’t remember which–had been working with a team of volunteers to accomplish some humanitarian task. At the end of it, the volunteers were so grateful to us for providing them this experience that they decided to thank us by hiring a skywriter to soar a public thank you into the sky.

“What do you want it to say?” asked the skywriter of our volunteers, as if he were decorating a cake, because surely that is how these things work.

“Awesome,” one of the volunteers decided decisively.

So up went the pilot in his little plane, and it was pretty cool to watch a word form in the sky in real life. Someone took a photo. Afterwards, though, when we looked at the photo, we noticed that something was missing.

Actually a WorkCamp photo. It seemed appropriate.

Actually a WorkCamp photo. It seemed appropriate.

“What?” said someone.

“If you read it out loud it sounds more like something else, kinda,” said someone else.

“You mean, like, ‘You’re an awesoe’?” asked a third person.

I woke up to a discussion of whether that were really what it sounded like, and if it were, was it a Freudian slip on the part of either the volunteer or the pilot? But, alas–because I woke up–I never found out.


I liked the movie God’s Not Dead…well, sort of (A Christian’s perspective)

The Tuesday Reblog
I haven’t reblogged anybody in quite some time, which is unfair because there are some really deserving bloggers/blogposts out there. Anyway, here, in my opinion, is one of them. It’s also not unrelated to that Theology Thursday post I wrote at the end of July, or to the one I hope to write this week. Nice one, Chris. Thanks for moving my thoughts along.

Chris Martin Writes

Let’s be honest. People tend to get a little crazy when it comes to Christian movies. Big example: Noah. People were up in arms because the story wasn’t accurate with the Biblical version. We rented it the other night, and I was highly disappointed. And not because it wasn’t in alignment with Scripture. The movie was horrible. I was expecting Gladiator meets Genesis, and we ended up with 2.5 hours of boredom. I almost dozed off a couple of times. The special effects were pretty cool in a couple parts, but overall, it was a sleep fest.

With Hollywood so completely saturated with filth, I have to admit it is refreshing when something labeled as “Christian” catapults onto the big screen. It’s rare these days that we can take our children to see something clean, void of the normal cursing and violence.

When God’s Not Dead arrived, I was very…

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The Jack and the Beanstalk Dream

Memory Monday

Today, because a friend of a friend posted this find on Facebook over the weekend:

(photo credit Chad Peterson)

(photo credit Chad Peterson)

I was going to tell you about how I once ended up going to a Hanson concert for free even though I’ve never been a Hanson fan (neither before nor since). But then I realised I couldn’t write about it in such a way as both to 1. make you laugh and 2. not insult the friend who provided the experience, if I told the story in such a way as to make you laugh. So instead I’m going to post another story I ran across this weekend, which I wrote in high school based on a recurring dream I used to have when I was 3 or 4–or 6 or 7. It recurred for a long time.

The Jack and the Beanstalk Dream

I didn’t remember climbing the beanstalk, but somehow I knew, by the sinister, orange-red glow filtering through the mousehole, that I was in the giant’s castle. I did not want to emerge from my hiding place, but a horrible feeling of curiosity seemed to be eating me from the inside out. I decided it couldn’t be much worse for a giant to eat me from the outside in, so I cautiously crept to the opening and peeked out.

Suddenly, the ground began to tremble, and so did I, partly because the floor was, and partly because the most enormous, most hideous creature I had ever seen had just stomped into the room. It was the giant! He was taller than our school principal, Mr Batson, and greasy, tousled black hair dangled in his face. Hi eyes seemed to bulge through the matted snarls, and saliva dribbled from his horrible red mouth. “Fo fee fum fi!” he roared.

Jack and the Beanstalk Giant - Project Gutenberg eText 17034.jpg. Illustration by Arthur Rackham, 1918, in English Fairy Tales by Flora Annie Steel

Jack and the Beanstalk Giant – Project Gutenberg eText 17034.jpg. Illustration by Arthur Rackham, 1918, in English Fairy Tales by Flora Annie Steel

Something was not quite right.

My 6-year-old perfectionist mind was uncertain whether to correct him or to stay hidden. Then the giant’s wife magically appeared in front of me, concealing the mousehole with her skirts. My problem was solved. “Fee fi fo fum!” I whispered. She repeated what I had said, and then she and the giant began to argue about the correct order of those blood-chilling syllables. Part of my brain said I could escape down the mousehole while they fought, but something else, I never knew what, said I couldn’t. It was against the rules.

Finally the giant bellowed, “I don’t care what it is! I smell someone’s blood, and I’m going to catch him!” So saying, he stormed out of the room.

Now he was gone, but I was still not feeling very brave when I crawled out of the mousehole and the giantess led me to the huge, grey kitchen. “Okay,” she said, “You’re Jack . . . ”

“No, I’m not!” I protested indignantly. “I’m Jennifer!

“I know,” she soothed. “But you have to be Jack anyway.”

“But I’m not Jack!” I persisted. “And besides, I’m a girl!”

“Yes, but you have to pretend to be Jack,” she argued obstinately. “Now quick! Hide in this pot!”

I knew if I kept disagreeing, the giant would eventually return and find me. But I also knew that you cook things in pots, the giant wanted to eat me, and if I hid in that pot, all he would have to do was light the stove. I was beginning to explain, when the ground started shaking again.

“I know I smell the blood of someone!” The giant came charging through the door and up to his wife. I hid behind her skirts again. The giant lifted the pot lid. “Hey!” he cried. “Where’d you hide him this time?”

I dashed out the door, but not before he saw me. “There you are!” he shouted with glee. He got off to a very slow start, and I was well on my way down the dark and gloomy halls before he got out of the kitchen. But I was terrified anyway, and I kept running. I heard the giant ranting and raving in other parts of the castle, and I couldn’t tell where he was. He could be at the end of any of the corridors, and I wouldn’t know it until I got there, but I kept running.

My legs felt like “Silly Putty,” and I was sure I would collapse, but then I rounded a corner and noticed a door opening on a brown bedroom.

Thanks to Robin Raskin for this retro image

Thanks to Robin Raskin for this retro image–as an aid to you whippersnappers who don’t understand the above reference…and probably still don’t.

I dashed inside and slid under the bed. This was the kind of hiding place I wanted. Any first grader knows the benefits of hiding undera  bed, as long as there are no alligators under there. There didn’t seem to be any under this one. But then, with a sudden feeling of panic, I remembered that the bad thing about this kind of hiding place was that everyone always seemed to look under beds first.

Just then, the giant entered the room. I wriggled against the wall and then stopped breathing. The edge of the bedspread rose, and an enormous face peered at me. It was the same giant, but he certainly had changed! He was dressed differently, and was also bald as an egg, and much fatter than he had been.

“Hi there!” he beamed. “You’re not Jack after all!”

“No,” I gulped, trembling.

“Why don’t you come on out? I’ve found you now.”

“What are you going to do to me?” I asked with a feeling of dread, sure already of the answer.

“Nothing at all, my dear,” he said. “But we–my wife and I–would like to invite you for lunch.

“No thank you,” I said, at the same time trying to devise a way to escape.

“Why not?”

I paused, took a deep breath, and said, “Because the bad guys in stories always say that and then the good guys go and the bad guys eat them for lunch.”

“I wouldn’t do that!” the giant laughed jovially. “My wife made us all some nice peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and you can eat with us, and then we’ll send you home.”

“But you’re bad!” I protested. “You tried to catch me and eat me!”

“My name’s Peter,” he explained. “So of course I’m not really bad.” I didn’t quite see the connexion, but I decided not to let on. “And that chasing you around the castle,” he continued, “well, that’s only a game. Come on, my wife’s got lunch ready.”

I figured my chances of getting destroyed were just as great under the bed as they were at a lunch table, so I got out and followed him. I managed to have a nice time with the giants after all. “Maybe they really aren’t so bad,” I thought to myself as I began to wake up. “But all the same, I’d better not tell them I’m sick of peanut butter . . . ”

I could go for one right now, though...

I could go for one right now, though…

The Cucumber Patch

Family Friday

It’s kind of too bad Friday doesn’t begin with a D. Or that Domestic doesn’t begin with an F. Because it seems that most of my Friday posts have to do with domesticity more than family, per se–plus I can talk about courgettes or zucchini, for example, without telling tales or offending anyone. But Domestic Friday doesn’t alliterate, and ever since I discovered what alliteration was, as an approximately four-year-old, I have had a need for things to alliterate. Particularly titles. (It might also be genetic–pastors are known to alliterate their main sermon points, and I have a lot of pastors in my family.)

Anyway. Today I mostly just wanted to update you on the state of the garden. Every year we have some crops that are dismal failures (usually because other animals enjoy them at less mature stages than we do, and so we don’t get to them before they have been gnawed into nonexistence–but sometimes because that crop and our soil just can’t seem to get along), and some crops that provide a delightful but fairly unmanageable overabundance. It’s kind of like a surprise party every summer, because, while there are one or two things we persist in trying every year which never really take off (onions, mostly), usually the failures and successes are different every year. This means we never know ahead of time what we’re going to end up buying at the supermarket after all (onions, mostly), and what we’re going to have to find creative ways to preserve and/or offload share. For example, last year, you may recall, we had a table-full of bell peppers (also known as capsicums). And carrots (pretty much universally known in English as carrots). This year we have one carrot, and the peppers have all but died . . . although our first attempt at cayennes appears successful.

After that first garlic disappointment, I went online (because why would you take the advice of a garlic farmer in front of you when you can get it off the internet?) and learned that it might be better to harvest in July rather than in June, so when all the travels and visits in July were over, I pulled the rest of the garlic out of the ground, and what do you know? We got some!

Garlic on pallet. We also have a pretty enormous pallet harvest this year, but that, as you may recall, is because of the turtles.

Garlic on pallet. We also have a pretty enormous pallet harvest this year, but that, as you may recall, is because of the turtles.

Actually, I think I picked it on the day we had our big 12-hour family cookout, which didn’t exactly lend itself to garlic braiding, so I did that about two weeks later.

Probably not THE most beautiful garlic braid you (or I) ever saw, but considering I had no idea what I was doing, it's not so bad.

Probably not THE most beautiful garlic braid you (or I) ever saw, but considering I had no idea what I was doing, it’s not so bad.

I thought it was going to take us forever to go through that much garlic, because we don’t usually, but I wasn’t counting on the cucumbers.

I also wasn’t counting, since I am new to preserving and this was the first year that cucumbers were our bumper crop, on the fact that pickles often require garlic. I was very proud that my first batch of dill pickles were made with cucumbers, garlic, and dill from our very own garden. Then I made a batch of bread and butter pickles. Then I made another half batch of dill. (That time we had to buy dill seed from the store, because although our homegrown dill did very well, there wasn’t a lot of it.) In total I made 32 jars of pickles.

We have also eaten many cucumber salads, fried cucumbers, tossed salad with cucumbers . . . I’m getting ready to experiment with cucumber parmesan, and I was kind of wishing for the opportunity to dump some Hollandaise sauce on the cucumbers so I could say we had a Benedict Cucumberbatch.

Gratuitous brooding Cumberbatch photo. You’re welcome.


But we have no Hollandaise sauce and I wasn’t really going to make any just for the purpose.

After all that, we still have (and I know this, because I counted them this morning) 30 cucumbers without a determined destiny. And two zucchinis. Which, by the way, are also known as courgettes.

On Hold

Theology Thursday

So here’s the truth, The Readership. Theology Thursday is my favourite blogday. The only problem is, these posts take so much more thought and so many more rewrites so that I can say just what I want to say, that it makes them kind of thin on the ground. I usually don’t get time to write anything until the evening of the Thursday in question, and by then all the things I’ve been mulling over all week are just making me feel tired and I don’t seem to have it in me to try to pull all those thoughts together and write them down so that at least one person outside my own head understands them.

I realise that for the majority of The Readership this comes as something of a relief, but for the, say, two of you who are also interested in these topics, I feel like I need to apologise. I really thought I was going to go on a theology rampage (a peaceful, peaceful rampage)

Like Hammy, from Over the Hedge (Labor Day is coming, y'all).

Like Hammy, from Over the Hedge (by Michael Fry) (Labor Day is coming, y’all).

after the discussion we had here the last time I posted on a Thursday (which I’m embarrassed to admit was in . . . July). I certainly keep thinking about it. But there are so many different directions I could take that discussion that it leaves me sitting in the middle of the path, kind of immobilised.

I’m wondering about writing a book. Like, not a novel this time. I’m not sure who . . . besides the two of you . . . would read a layperson’s musings on theology. And I’m not sure if I would write more of it if I weren’t blogging it, or if I am. Any advice, friends?

Wordy Whoops

Wwwednesday–Words. Or Work. Whatever.

Last Friday, because it was the day before vacation started and I was, as I said, getting ready for another Labor Day weekend at Youth Conference, I drove out to Camp with Oscar and poked around the closets in the Lodge to see which of the supplies we had that we need every year. We had most of them, but I have to remember to pick up a bag of tea lights.

Anyway, while I was there I decided that since our theme this year is going to be Prayer, I would make a poster on this giant roll of brown paper we have, highlighting different aspects of prayer. Prayer is, of course, far more fluid than a framework, but I think when you’re first exploring it, or teaching it, it’s helpful to have one, while acknowledging its limitations. There’s an acrostic I learned as a kid which roughly follows the trajectory of the prayer, variously known as the “Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father,” which Jesus used to teach His own disciples about prayer. The acrostic is as follows:





I decided to put these words in chalk on my long piece of brown paper.

I had gotten through “Adoration” and “Confession” and “Tha–” and then I remembered that in my efforts to step up my social media game for Now Church, as my job description now includes, I had downloaded an app on my new phone that takes high-speed or low-speed videos. I decided it might be cool to take a video of myself working on part of this poster, so I held the phone up in one hand and wrote with the other.

I had to do a double-take the first time I watched it, and then I spent about two hours laughing hysterically every time I thought of it.

It seems like an appropriate first YouTube submission for a word and spelling snob, to keep me humble. Oh wait. That probably still won’t happen.


Memory Monday

One of the things that first charmed me about living in Britain (as opposed to just reading about it), was the fact that you could, if you wanted, still get glass bottles of milk delivered to your doorstep.


I don’t know if you still can, but you could in the late 90’s. (credit: duncanshotton)

I never did purchase milk this way, but I loved the fact that I could have, and I enjoyed seeing the trolley standing in the street while the milkperson made his or her rounds. (I was only ever aware of milkmen, but surely there must have been some milkwomen around.)

Charming, no? Also, they are called "milk floats." Even more charming, methinks.

See what I mean? Charming. Also, they are called “milk floats.” Even more charming, methinks.

You could also buy milk in glass bottles in corner off licenses. Which is where . . .

Wait. First, I would just like to shout out to my college professor and degree advisor who I would occasionally run into in the corridors of Blanchard Hall carrying a gallon of milk into his office. “Milk,” I remarked bemusedly the first time this happened. For some reason he thought this was hysterical, in his dry, understated, not exactly laughing, way, so after that, every time I saw him with milk, we both would say, “Milk,” like a greeting.

Okay, so in London, though . . .

I had this Moldovan friend who was in a difficult living situation at least twice in the time that I knew her, and the first time, she stayed with me for a week. She arrived with a glass bottle of milk. “Can I put this on the counter and let it get sour?” she asked me.

There was room on the counter, and, I mean, it was her own bottle of milk, so I said she could, although I couldn’t imagine what the appeal was. After a week, when the milk was thick and full of curdled lumps, she drank it with enjoyment, naturally sharing some with me. I’ll try any food product once (I think. Don’t quote me on that). It was not delicious. But I didn’t die, or even get sick from it, so that was a plus.

I tell you this simply in order to answer the illustrious Bas‘ comment-question on my post about hot seltzer:

While you’re at it, would you be open to try some other things I’m hesitant about? Like what’s the point where milk actually turns bad? And if we smell the milk, what are we smelling for?

See? I already have tried it, Bas-and-everybody-else. I mean, I don’t have scientific data, but my own empirical evidence indicates that milk turning bad, and milk being bad for you, might not be the same thing. As to the first: probably about three days. As to the second: I don’t know, but you’re still good for a week at least. And as for the smelling . . . it turns out I’m probably smelling for something along the lines of what my Moldovan friend stored on my counter.


Family Ties

Family Friday

In case you were wondering why, even though I’m not taking courses at this time of year, the posts at this blog have been sporadic, I’m about to tell you. One of the reasons, anyway. Summer, as the Faith Formation and Outreach Director of Now Church (formerly known as the Christian Education Director), is always busy. I am having a little trouble remember, however, a busier summer than this one. It’s been one of the happier ones I can remember, but nonetheless I’ve been going almost flat out since 6 July, so I’m really looking forward to my week of at-home vacation next week.

Starting on 6 July, one other Now Church adult and I took a group of 7 teens to join a whole bunch of other adults and teens at a WorkCamp in Vermont. The youth groups were all shuffled together and then divided up again into crews, and sent out every day for a week to various homes where they did everything from roofing to landscaping to painting. I’ve painted before, and been part of a crew like this before, but I’ve never led a paint crew before. It was challenging, but fun, and the concentrated time with the kids in my crew reminded me why I’ve been working with kids since I was only 16 myself. At one point during the week I said to the girls in my own youth group something about not having my own kids, and they looked offended and said, “But we’re your kids!” And I smiled and decided I liked that idea. (Also that they would say so, because let’s face it, I’ve felt like they were my kids before now.)

It’s a good thing I decided I liked that, because that week ended and one day later I was on a plane with four of the same kids, plus one more, and two other adults from Now Church, on our way to this year’s ICCC conference. We went to Omaha, which is a very hip city, by the way. If I had to move Midwest, I’d consider it.

How could you not want to live in a place with these things?

How could you not want to live in a place with these things?

We got back home a week after that at around 4 o’clock one morning, and that same morning, an influx of Layte and Grosser extended family began showing up in the area.

Drawing by TWCN 2014

This is TWCN (The World’s Cutest Niece–who is soon going to be old enough to need a new epithet) and me, actually from our trip to see THEM in May. I’m a fan of the matching dresses.


We had a wonderful two weeks with various combinations of family members, including a big old party right here at the Cottage, where about 30 people from both sides of the family attended. Plus there were day trips with one of our young adult nieces in particular. I love me some day trips. Besides, our niece is an excellent travel companion.

Block Island (photo credit Jocelyn Layte)

Block Island (photo credit Jocelyn Layte)

Then everybody went home and we had VBS (Vacation Bible School) at Now Church. And this week I’ve been getting things ready for our annual Youth Conference out at Camp in Boondocks, New England.

Last Saturday there was one more “family” event, which I didn’t even know about until the last minute. The Living History Museum where I worked for nine months shortly after leaving London had its first ever “alumni” reunion. Given my brief tenure, it was kind of amazing I knew anyone there at all, but I did, and the Museum is such a soothing place to wander around when you need to get your Introvert on, that it was worth the trip.


After the introverting, there was a group photo, but that was where I ran into most of my Museum family, so that was all right.

photo by . . . some OSV employee, whose name I do not know, even though everybody else seemed to.

photo by . . . some OSV employee, whose name I do not know, even though everybody else seemed to.

If someone had wished me a “family little summer,” the couldn’t possibly have imagined just how “family” it would be.

Love you, Youth family, Layte family, Grosser family, Now Church family, and Museum family. Oh, and you! The Readership family, too.


How to Do Something I Heartily Recommend NOT Doing

Wwwednesday: WTHeck?

In 20 simple steps:

  1. Park your car in the sun on a hot summer day.
  2. Make sure the windows are rolled up tight.
  3. Leave an unopened 12 oz. can of seltzer in a cupholder.

    It’s a good seltzer. You should try it. Just not this way. (photo credit: Mike Literman, I guess, who doesn’t agree that it’s good.)

  4. Go to work for 7 hours.
  5. Get back in your car and drive home with the air conditioning on for 15 minutes.
  6. Drop your dog off at home.
  7. Drive back to work for a meeting.
  8. Open the can of seltzer, reasoning that you don’t mind warm beverages that are meant to be cold, and that surely 15 minutes of air conditioning should be enough to make the seltzer drinkable.
  9. Take a sip.
  10. Open your eyes in amazement at the unique sensation of hot fizz.sun-in-blue-sky
  11. Note that the heat makes the added natural flavours “pop.”
  12. Decide to write a blogpost recommending trying this experiment at least once, for the totally legal yet entirely unique sensory experience.
  13. Take some more sips.
  14. Note that it doesn’t taste so good anymore.
  15. Keep drinking it because you don’t like to waste anything, especially water.
  16. Note that actually, it’s starting to taste and feel like drinking fizzy metal.
  17. Wonder if it’s possible for the aluminum to leach into the seltzer under pressure at high temperatures.
  18. Revise blogpost in head.
  19. Leave the half-finished can in the car.
  20. Go to your meeting.

There. Now you know what that experience is like so you don’t have to try it. You’re welcome.


Seize the Day

Memory Monday

I’m pretty sure I don’t have anything profound to say about the death of Robin Williams that won’t end up sounding needlessly platitudinous. But I feel, as I suspect many do, that I miss him. It’s amazing to have such vivid memories of someone you’ve never met, you know? My chief memories of Robin Williams come via Dead Poets Society.


I had this poster and the big cardboard standup display from the video rental store for quite some time.

The summer the movie came out, I was working at an 8-week day camp in Rhode Island where I spent the next five summers. It was the first summer I really had any autonomy in my social life, and some of my fellow camp counselors and I went to see the film. It is probably not entirely appropriate, given the content of the movie, to describe it as having blown my mind, but it did, and opened a kind of a door in my head so that my mind could be subsequently blown a few more times by works of literature I read during the ensuing school year (works like The Brothers Karamazov, The Great Gatsby, and Til We Have Faces).

That school year, my final year at my Small Christian High School, began with a Convocation service, at which one of my classmates and I each had been asked to give a short speech. I talked about carpe diem and what I thought it could mean for a bunch of Christian high school students to seize the day. I wasn’t very imaginative in my suggestions, but I suspect that, as is often the case with me, the thoughts and feelings that movie had triggered were still percolating, and I was only just learning to think more deeply and broadly about such things, thanks in part to Robin Williams, and also to my real English teacher that year who furthered that stage of the process. I concluded my Convocation speech by saying,

It’s never too early to seize the day, though someday it may be too late. Christian musician, Randy Stonehill, has a song that says, I’m gonna celebrate this heartbeat/ ‘Cause it may just be my last./ Every day is a gift from the Lord on high/ And they all go by so fast. So let’s seize all the days for God that we can, while we can.

I’m sorry that Mr Williams didn’t think he could bear to seize another day. But I guess maybe we could celebrate his heartbeats for him, for a little while. So . . . favourite Robin Williams movie/show and why.