Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Battlescar Glorifica

My Lenten reflection for today is on the glorification of the wounds we suffer in this life. I have heard a number of priests say that our scars in this life, both physical and emotional, will not be erased from our glorified bodies at the resurrection but will be glorified themselves and will add to our glory. An analogy (you knew it was coming): I have a rhodalite (low-grade garnet) I was given at a jewelry show, and I decided to have it polished and set in a ring. When it was polished, a flaw that had been hidden in it showed up as a vermilion streak in the middle of the dull purple stone. It looked like a sunset! The jeweler who polished it for me said the flaw made it much more beautiful, and I agree. In the same way, our scars and flaws will transform us from plain old low-grade rhodalites to unique and beautiful jewels.

People often wonder why the Apostles couldn't recognize Jesus after His resurrection until He spoke to them. I would think there is a simple explanation: His body was already glorified, and that certainly included the wounds He had received during His Passion. He was beaten and scourged and pierced by thorns, nails, and a lance. He probably had a glorified black eye or two and a glorified fat lip on top of everything else. If He was that badly beaten, He would have been hard enough to recognize even before glorification! We can't really criticize the Apostles, since we have never seen someone face-to-face in a glorified body, never mind one whose face had been beaten to a pulp before glorification. I for one cannot say if I'd know my own best friend or brother by sight in such a circumstance!

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Monday, March 30, 2009

I Let My Pens Speak for Me

True Adventure: Frosty Fern!

Sorry, no Lenten reflection today either. Instead, let me tell you about Frosty Fern, which is actually a club moss (selaginella krausianna) that I got just before Christmas, when my parents came to visit. We saw them at the grocery store, and my mom and I thought they were just adorable, so we bought one for each other for our birthdays. I have mine at work, but it has been quite an adventure! It was starting to get dried out in spots, so I looked it up online and found they need high humidity and do well in terrariums. So my officemate and I put a vase upside-down over the top of the pot, and at first it looked much, much happier, but then last week my officemate noticed that part of the plant was moldy! GROSS!!! So I cleaned all the mold off of it and found a huge vase I could put it in right side up, where it seems to be reasonably happy. Now it has higher humidity but some air circulation too so hopefully this will be the end of its adventures!

Saturday Anna Bananna II and I went to the health club and I had a medium latte before hitting the treadmill. The good news: I went three miles in only 35 minutes! The bad (?) news: my heart rate was SUPER fast, getting as high as 180 and staying well above 170 for the better part of a half hour. Is this dangerous? Afterwards I felt fine, but my face was bright magenta! Yikes!

Yesterday I talked Rich into going skiing in the tiny amount of snow we'd gotten the night before. We went to a park with a lot of hills, and I kept tumbling over. Rich had a camera with him, so he captured one of these ignoble falls on film. Part of the problem was that there was barely any snow left by then, so we spent half the time on grass and leaves, and part of the probem was that we left the trail. Then we discovered the church a block from his house was having a spaghetti dinner, so we had TWO plates of spaghetti and meatballs and TWO desserts. (They were small desserts.)


Finally I went home, thinking I'd spend a quiet evening nursing my bruises and washing the mud out of my clothes, and then my brother and sister-in-law called to say they were in town! So we hung out at a restaurant where the waitress recognized me from the bus by my purple velvet bucket hat (so I have TWO famous hats!!), and at one point my brother said to his wife, "I may be a blonde but I'm not THAT dumb!" For some reason I thought he said, "I may be a bong..." so we got a lot of mileage out of that one. Seems like a pleasant life, but I tell you, if I were an inanimate object I'd be a timbale - then I'd have men hitting on me all the time! However, Anna Bananna II has convinced me that being a professional timbale player would not be the best idea because apparently they can get kidney problems from all the muscle damage from hitting their hands so hard! She showed us all (meaning Rich, Kathbert, and me) an article about a drummer whose urine looked like cola! Yuck! Guess I'd rather have functioning kidneys than get to play with a salsa band. Maybe if I took up the trumpet...

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

T is Back Up Over!

T is back from Down Under, and she really enjoyed her trip. She fed kangaroos (the "deer of Australia") and saw lorikeets and koalas in the trees. The funniest part of the trip was when she and her cousin saw a street artist in Sydney, who called on her cousin to help him with his act. (Her cousin really stands out in a crowd; he's 6'7", or as he once told a woman who asked his height, 5'19" and she replied in surprise, "Wow, I could have sworn you were over six feet!") The artist asked T's cousin to put him in a strait jacket so he could escape from it, and he reminded him, "Now don't cock this up because it will be my ass on the line. Remember - your cock-up, my ass!" (You might have to say that out loud to get it.) T got really into cricket and "footie," which is something like American football and rugby combined, but she said you can't "root" for your favorite team because that's a naughty expression over there, so you have to "barrack" for them. Also, people ask how you're going instead of how you're doing.

The other night I dreamed that T and I were going to a show on some holiday, like New Year's Eve or something, but my parents were visiting so we had to bring them. To make things even more Freudian, we ran into old Hoodoo Head, whom I have mentioned previously. We went to a nightclub where a rock band was playing, and their final number was a rousing number in Hawaiian with a raucous chorus of nonsense words (No way, ee-whoo) that we all sang along to. There was even a hula dancer! T and I were totally getting into the song, but my parents and Hoodoo Head were bemused by the whole thing, since they didn't know the song and wondered how we knew it so well. I woke up in a WONDERFUL mood and quickly recorded the song on my answering machine while it was still stuck in my head. It doesn't sound familiar, but Siddhartha the Turtle of Enlightenment will sing it for you, and you can tell me if you recognize it.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Annunciation (A Day Late)

Yesterday's Lenten reflection, which I didn't think to write until today, is on the Annunciation, when the archangel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would be bearing the Son of God. Think about what God was asking of her: she lived in a culture where an unmarried woman could be stoned for turning up pregnant, so her saying Yes to Gabriel's message wasn't a foregone conclusion at all but an incredibly brave act of agreeing to do God's will, no matter the cost. Mary was willing to risk her life because she believed it was more important to do what God asked of her than to play it safe. This is no exaggeration; even today in the Middle East, women are routinely killed for getting pregnant outside of marriage or even for being raped.

In the Gospel it says Joseph was a righteous man, which meant he could not take an impure woman as his wife, but he was also merciful so he planned to divorce Mary quietly. In a way, he was agreeing to take some of her perceived shame upon himself, since everyone would assume the child was his. We often think of Mary and Joseph as extraordinary people who didn't have second thoughts about doing what God asked of them, but they were humans like us and must have had their doubts and fears. We should remember that when we think of Mary's fiat, that she was risking more than a little embarrassment when she agreed to bear Jesus.

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Bella Bunny

Here is a picture of my coworker's new rabbit, Bella. She is a Holland Lop, just like my Charlie. Holland Lops are known for their small size and sweet dispositions. Just like her name, Bella is a little beauty!

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Render Unto Caesar

Not a real Lenten reflection today, just a continuation of my discussion of coins. When we were children, my brother saw money as something to spend on candy and toys. I, on the other hand, was always fascinated by it for its own aesthetical qualities. I collected dollar bills by their serial numbers and coins that struck my fancy. Below are some "coins" that pose an intresting question: if in the Gospel Jesus said to render coins unto Caesar because they bore his likeness, who would get these coins?

Proteus is pretty straightforward. The next one - the space shuttle? Then a coin collecting club, shamrocks, musical instruments, and angels. Perhaps this is heavenly currency? More likely the silly coin they send along with appeals for money from a Catholic charity...

Below are some actual coins (and some other fake ones) that have no value beyond their face value but I found interesting because of defects and damage they have acquired along the way.

From top left: quarter with smooshed rim, quarter that looks thousands of years old (dated 1940), old and new buffalo nickels, rainbow nickel, rainbow dime, glittery dime, glittery penny, blackened dime and some blackened pennies, folded dime, penny that says "39," penny with so much damage that "Liberty" now looks like "Liberyy," penny smooshed by train, fake Delaware quarter, thing that looks like a quarter with no printing on it, dime that is green on back, token from who knows where (probably a game arcade). Below are the backs of the same coins:

And here is yet another cute cake done by my coworker, the one for her older daughter's birthday this past weekend, as well as some heart cookies she made. (She also decorated the pots.) If being a doctor doesn't pan out, she could definitely get a job in cake decorating!

Side View

Front View

Heart Cookies

And finally, a patch to fight global climate change! Hardingfele put it on her blog and asked me to put it on mine. Since I believe very strongly in fighting global climate change, I was happy to do so. If you have a blog of your own, please feel free to do so as well.

Brighter Planet's 350 Challenge

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Monday, March 23, 2009

My Two Cents' Worth

Today I don't have any deep thoughts for a Lenten reflection. It was a beautiful weekend, and Hardingfele and I were going to run again (still training for the triathlon...) but our schedules didn't coincide, so I hiked with Rich, Kathbert, and Anna Banana II. Saturday the Mideastern band I play with had a gig, and so many people came that the restaurant sold out of just about everything!! They said they would like us to come back again... and again and again! They would have liked us to play once a month, but we thought that would be too often so we're thinking once a season. This gig was on the vernal equinox, so we could play again on the summer solstice, the autumnal equinox, and the winter solstice.

I talked Rich and Kathbert into accompanying me to the local coin show, hoping to find lots of mint errors. They had plenty of silver dollars, and one guy was selling really cool ancient Greek coins for about $400 apiece, but there weren't too many mint errors. One place had (for display purposes only, I assume, since there was no price on it) a dollar bill from the 1930s with the seals on the back switched somehow. I did end up buying a coin for 200 times its face value:

Penny that says "Liiberty" instead of "Liberty"

Penny Cake that says "Rich and Abe" instead of "Liberty"

I think the cake was probably worth more than $2! But I can no longer have it appraised, since it has long since been consumed. Kathbert says her grandfather left her a collection of old coins, so I told her to get them appraised. Who knows, maybe she will be the first independently wealthy person I know!

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Friday, March 20, 2009

The Moral Atheist

For today's Lenten reflection, I want to talk about our motivation for obeying God. Believers are like children in their motivations. The earliest motivation a small child has for not disobeying is fear: "If I am bad, the Big People will hit me." A reasonable motivation, but hopefully the child develops beyond this stage. If not, he will think the only reason to obey is out of fear, so that if he has no fear of being caught, he will not obey. The believer stuck in this stage avoids evil because of his fear of Hell. An extreme example is Martin Luther, who was a brilliant theologian but somewhat stunted in his spiritual growth; despite the assurances of his superiors, he went to Confession for hours every day, thinking his sins were beyond forgiveness. Then he stumbled upon a deep spiritual insight: God's love is what transforms us to be able to love like He does, if we accept His love. (Unfortunately, there are some schools of thought that have twisted this into: "God loves me, and I accept His love, so that's it - I'm saved!" Which is like a child who believes he can be as naughty as he wants because his mother will still love him.) Accepting God's love is not as simple as saying, "I know I'M saved!" It means we understand that Jesus died for our sins, meaning we have to face our own sinfulness and learn to love others despite their sinfulness, two things that are impossible for us to do without God's help.

The second stage might be something like this: "If I give the Big People presents, they will love me." Not particularly evil, but certainly a bit of an ulterior motive, and one that is easily subject to manipulation: "If I give the Big People presents, they will love me more than the other Little People." Again, a stage the child hopefully passes through quickly! The believer in this stage does as many good works as possible thinking only of the Heavenly Tally Sheet, and in its ugliest manifestation, he looks smugly at the person who does not seem to be as "good" and assumes God loves him more. Think of the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the temple. Which one went away justified? Human parents may be manipulated into favoring one child over another, but God sees into our hearts, and He cannot be manipulated.

The final stage is this one: "I love the Big People so much! They give me food and clothes and they forgive me when I am naughty! I will draw a picture of them to show how much I love them." Then the parents post the drawing on the refrigerator, not because the colorful scribbles are a great work of art, but because of the intent behind them. In the same way that parents don't need silly pictures drawn by their offspring but count them among their greatest treasures, God does not need anything from us but He treasures our acts that are done for the purest of motives: love for Him.

I would argue that the truly moral atheist falls into this last category; like Luther, he has stumbled onto a deep insight via a circuitous route. Obviously the moral atheist is not in the earlier stages of obedience, since he doesn't fear Hell or desire Heaven. Today's Gospel relates how a scribe asked Jesus what the greatest commandment is, and Jesus replied that it is: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength," and then he added, "The second one is like unto it: Love your neighbor as yourself." If God is in our neighbors, and we treat them with agape love, the perfect love that asks nothing in return, then we are giving this same love to God. Although the moral atheist does not believe in God, he is already obeying the greatest commandment and loving others not because he fears punishment or hopes for reward but because he understands that they have inherent worth and deserve his love. The only insight he is missing is that they receive their inherent worth from God, in Whose image and likeness they are made, but I would argue that he is further along in his understanding than the believer stuck in the earlier stages.

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Super Cute Cakes

A coworker and I were talking about cakes, and she said she was making one for her daughter's birthday that sounded like the Black Magic recipe I always make for Rich's cake. We looked them both up online, and sure enough, it was the same! She has never made this recipe before and wanted to make sure you don't really taste the coffee. I assured her that it just tastes like the richest chocolate cake ever. She said she was going to make a fondant, and my officemate (who used to be a pastry chef) said that it's a real pain to make, and our coworker said she uses marshmallows in her fondant so it's not only easier to make, but tastier too. Here are pictures she gave me of a birthday cake she made for her other daughter and a cake she made for someone's baptism that looks like Noah's Ark.

Sam's Birthday Cake

Noah's Ark
(cupcake in very back decorated by her 3-year-old daughter)

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Happy St. Joseph's Day!

An obvious topic for today's Lenten reflection would be the obedience and faith of St. Joseph. Imagine you're Joe: your fiancee turns up with a bun in the oven that you KNOW isn't yours, and she swears she hasn't been messing around. But then you dream that she's right, the child is God Incarnate, so you go ahead and marry her. There are a couple of weird things going on the night the kid is born, like a big star resting right over the stable and shepards saying they heard angels singing, and sometime later a bunch of fancy dudes on camels come to your door with lots of schwag. THEN you dream that you have to take your wife and kid out of the country because the local honcho wants to knock the kid off. (Good thing those Eastern dudes brought you all that schwag to sell to finance a trip all the way to Egypt!) Wouldn't you be just a little weirded out? But St. Joseph stays calm through it all and does what he is told, no matter how out there it seems, and in the end the little nuclear family got to move to a nice place in Nazareth.

Today you were supposed to wear red in honor of St. Joseph. Did you? (I'll wait while you check.) He is the patron saint of Italy, Poland, and I think maybe Germany too. On St. Joseph's Day, everyone is a little bit Italian! I said to Richard Bonomo that it was a shame this day didn't get the same press as St. Patrick's Day, wouldn't he love to have his ethnic background commercialized and trivialized like mine has been? and oddly enough he said No. But I have figured out the basic problem: the Italians need a simple, attractive emblem like the shamrock. Why shouldn't people with Italian surnames get catalogues full of Italocrap just like the catalogues I keep getting full of Celtocrap? How did they know I needed a toilet seat cover emblazoned with shamrocks and a green scarf that says "Irish Princess" and a plastic angel that plays "Tura Lura"? So I am asking you, my faithful readers, to suggest a simple, bold, and monochromatic emblem for the Italians to rival the shamrocks of the Irish. Maybe a meatball would be good...? It's a simple geometric shape and a bright red color!

St. Joseph is also the patron saint of workers because of his work as a carpenter, and the protector of virgins because of his role as Our Lady's protector. I'm not sure why people bury statues of him upside-down in the yard to sell their houses; they tell me it works, but it seems a little idol-worshipy to me, not to mention disrespectful. Then again, I suppose it's no worse than hanging a statue of St. Anthony upside-down until he finds you a husband. Why would St. Anthony find you a husband? I thought St. Anne (Our Lady's mother) was the patron saint of single woman. I always heard you were supposed to pray to her: "Dear St. Anne/Find me a man!" St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things. ("Tony, Tony, come around/Something's lost and must be found!") But maybe I should be praying to St. Anthony, because my man is clearly lost, since he hasn't found me yet!

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The One-Eyed Angel Song

Today's Lenten reflection is on beauty in the liturgy. There is an unfortunate movement to remove beauty from the liturgy because it is "extraneous" and we should focus on what is important: God. My reply to this school of thought is, "Would you want an ugly house? Then why would God?" After all, He gave us our senses of sight, hearing, and smell so it only makes sense that He doesn't mind us engaging them all in the liturgy. Think of a Greek Orthodox liturgy, which is an all-out assault on the senses with the riot of colors on the iconostasis, the polyphonic chanting, and the furls of incense. I'm just saying, if I were God I'd rather hang out there than at some bland, ugly suburban parish with bland, ugly music and only the scent of too much perfume on certain parishioners.

When I was a little girl splitting my time between the Episcopal church on Sundays and Catholic Mass on Wednesdays, I was torn between the beauty of the Episcopal service and something deeper going on at my bland suburban Catholic school's church. One thing does stand out: that in neither case did they water things down for us children. God is a mystery no adult can grasp, so why would we think we can make Him so small and simple that children can understand him? He made Himself small and simple as a child at Christmas, and that is as simple as it needs to get. Children love mystery as much as adults; when we steal it from them and make Jesus a nice guy who healed sick people, they just tune out. My experience from years of teaching catechism is that children love mysticism and deep concepts, even if they cannot fully understand them.

I remember a hymn we often sang after Communion at the Episcopal church, full of mysterious words like "vesture" and vanguard" and imagery of spiritual battles and seraphim in the thralls of worship. The tune was minor-key and haunting, but it was the words that really made the hymn; to my childish mind, they were the closest description of Heaven any human could find. I loved that song and would ask my mother if we were going to sing "The One-Eyed Angel Song" at church, but she had no idea what I was talking about. Of course, being a child, I was literal-minded to the point of ridiculousness, so when we sang a line in this song that went, "Cherubim with sleepless eye," I envisioned strange beings with a single eye they veiled from His Presence. I'm sure the poet who penned the words to "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence" was not imagining cycloptic angels, but after all, in the line before he had written about "six-winged seraphs," so he had already stood my image of angels as young women with two wings on its head. And for that I will be eternally grateful, because even if he led my childish imagination astray, at least he led it away from the cloying and mundane toward the strange and mysterious. He gave me a lifelong understanding that the things of Heaven are beyond our human power to envision. During the liturgy, when the angels of Heaven bow around the altar, we should feel some of that beauty and mystery, which is much easier to do when a schola is chanting than when someone is playing lounge music on the piano during the Eucharistic prayer.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day

My Lenten reflection today is on baptism, since I was baptised on this day some years ago. I was two and a half months old, and my poor grandmother, who was totally old school, was freaking out that I would die and go to Limbo before my parents finally got around to having me dunked. I don't remember the episode myself, but they tell me I wore a beautiful dress that my father and uncle were baptised in, as well as my grandmother and all her sisters. It was made from my great-grandmother's wedding dress. How lovely if I could one day have my own hypothetical children baptised in this gown, which could be made to look like a flower with the baby at the center. However, the last anyone has seen of this gown, it was with one of the many children of my father's cousin. She has more or less three hundred daughters with names that rhyme, like Eileen, Aileen, Colleen, Kathleen, etc., and so my dad assumes the gown did not survive all those baptisms. It matters not, a baptism is about more than an heirloom dress, and anyway if I have these hypothetical children someday, likely I would have my own wedding dress that I could make into a baptismal gown... or get someone to do it for me, since I have never met a sewing machine I could get along with.

Perhaps that is not much of a reflection on baptism, but it is a mystery I could never begin to explain. I used to tell my catechism students that their souls were like beautiful white dresses or suits that had a stain on them which is washed away by baptism (I told them it was an apple juice stain, which made them laugh), and then they should keep this dress or suit clean for when they meet God face to face. But if you get a stain on it, that's OK - you go to the laundromat called "Confession."

Today our band had a lunchtime gig at a neighborhood center where they provide discounted lunches for seniors. The guests enjoyed our jigs and reels, although we did have to play "When Irish Eyes are Smiling," which I utterly detest. At least they didn't ask for "Tura Lura"! One man asked if we could play "Coconut Grove," which we didn't know, and which does not sound one bit Irish, but hey, at least it wasn't "Tura Lura." He told us his in-laws used to have a record of it, but the only song I could find by that name was done by the Lovin' Spoonful in the 60s, when this man would have been approaching middle age, and his in-laws would not have been young, so I can't imagine they were listening to the Lovin' Spoonful. I did find a song called "The Coconut Song," the one about putting the lime in the coconut, but that didn't seem right either. If anyone can solve this Lenten mystery, please let me know.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

The Second Sight

In light of the approaching festivities tomorrow, my Lenten reflection is going to be on "the Second Sight." Not that this is a particularly Lenten topic, but it sort of relates to St. Patrick in that the Second Sight is supposedly a Celtic ability, and St. Patrick is Catholic, so there you go - it has connections to Lent.

The festivities actually started this weekend, and yesterday I colored my hair with the copper food coloring I'd used for the penny cake and then went with Hardingfele, A-Joz, and Anna Banana II to the local St. Patrick's Day parade to watch people with Irish surnames dress in green and parade around - and to collect beads, one of my very favorite activities of all time. (Richard Bonomo and Kathbert chose to go hiking out of town with one of the B-Boys, and we couldn't get a hold of A-Fooze because her cell phone was once again out of service.) St. Patrick's Day is kind of like a mini Mardi Gras in the middle of Lent; in fact, one year when it fell on a Friday, the bishop gave us a dispensation so we could eat corned beef if we so desired. Being short, I am at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to bead-catching, but Hardingfele caught me a strand of magenta, trapezoidal beads. Way cool.

Once when I was talking to my godfather about some weird experiences I've had with predicting the future, seeing what people are doing who are far away, etc., he said without any surprise, "That's the Second Sight. All Celtic people have the Second Sight." I don't know if this is true, but he agreed with me that in general Second Sight is just something you have, like a sense of smell: it can come in handy to warn you now and then, but usually it's just there. Most often I have it in dreams that predict all sorts of things: the good, the bad, and the excessively mundane. For example, last week while Rich was out of town sorting out Mr. Why's affairs, I had a weird dream that some woman had collected all my clothes, and the only outfit I could find was too small but I was forced to wear it to a solemn event. I thought it was some weird Freudian thing, but then Rich returned and told us how Mr. Why's mother had collected all of Mr. Why's clothes to give to charity, and she accidentally included Rich's suit in this sweep. He found it in the bag but didn't realize until putting it on that it was actually Mr. Why's suit that looked just like his, only much smaller. He had to wear it to the memorial service for Mr. Why but had to leave it open because he couldn't get it buttoned. This was the same day that I later had my dream.

Sometimes I have hunches too, which I almost always trust. (And when I don't, I'm always sorry!) People sometimes tell me, "You must have good karma!" because they think I'm so lucky, not at winning the lottery but just little things like being able to instantly find people in an enormous crowd. (Once I spotted Rich in a huge crowd, which I later found out was a million strong, so now I always tell him he literally is one in a million!) Maybe I do have good karma since I believe in the Bug Relocation Program rather than squishing them, but mostly it seems to be this strange quality of Second Sight.

Once in a great while I also have visions, which are like a dream while I'm awake. It's like they are being projected onto the real sights in front of me. Here are two I had that I found really useful, so perhaps you will too:

In one vision, I was collecting apples in a bushel basket and then tossing them into a large barrel. I realized the apples were my good works, and I was proud of how many there were, but then I saw that the barrel was the mouth of a hideous monster, which was my pride. It made me realize that if I do good works out of pride, instead of out of love for God, I am just throwing them away.

In another one, a group of people were bemoaning the fact that they had already interviewed twenty-six of the twenty-eight applicants for a daycare teacher position and none of them had been quite what they were looking for. The next applicant, a slim woman in her late 20's or early 30's with long dark hair, arrived and began talking to the people, ignoring the group of children playing off to the side. At first the people were puzzled and annoyed, since the other applicants had made a beeline for the children to show how good they were with them. Then they realized this woman had seen a very shy child hiding among the adults, and she was coaxing him to come over and join the other children. Then the people realized that she was the idea candidate, because the others had made a big deal over the obvious children but this one didn't overlook any child, even if doing so made her appear foolish to the very people who were looking to hire her. This made me realize that sometimes when God seems to be working at cross purposes to what I want, He is actually doing something far better than what I originally desired.

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Friday, March 13, 2009


Must be the second Friday the Thirteenth in a row because I am posting twice in one day! But I just found some cool photos while trying to find pictures of Mr. Why the Camera-Shy for Richard Bonomo, and so I just had to post some of them.

Here are some shots of the pig cake T and I made for Rich's Luau-themed birthday party. Since we couldn't bury an actual pig in the backyard in the middle of February around here, we had to settle for chicken with pineapple and poi for dinner and then a pig cake for dessert. (This cake is the same type as the penny cake I made for Rich's birthday last month, a recipe called Black Magic which is chocolate with just a touch of coffee. SO good!!) The piggie was so cute that Rich had trouble cutting it, but it was delicious.

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Fish on Friday

It's Friday, it's Lent - time for fish! And so I am posting a picture of Arphaxad and Amminadab for your Friday fish pleasure. (Please do not fry A&A; they are very small and would only make an h'ors doeuvres, not a full meal. Also, I am very fond of them, even if they do beg every time I eat broccoli or carrots.) Arphaxad is the white-and-orange fish looking at itself and Amminadab is the orange fish looking at Arphaxad. Usually they are out swimming around, but they must be as camera-shy as I am, because they are hiding under their plant. A&A are my work pets. (Thanks to my coworker "Palm Tree Fan" for taking this lovely photo!)

I do not have a Lenten reflection today, other than to reflect on why we don't eat meat other than fish on Lenten Fridays. I have no idea, but maybe it has something to do with Noah's Ark. In the Bible, man was only given the plants to eat in the beginning, but after saving the animals from the flood, he was given the right to eat them. Perhaps Friday is a day to reflect on our Fall from grace and to go back to the time after Adam but before Noah, when we could only eat plants. Fish would be exempt because clearly Noah did not need to save them in the Ark! OK, I'm sure that's not why, the meat thing has to do with penance but I'm not sure about the fish exception. I do know that in the 16th century the Vatican said the capybara, an enormous rodent that resembles a spaniel-sized guinea pig, could be eaten on Fridays in Lent because it spends so much time in the water that it qualifies as a fish.

Here is another Mr. Why story: many years ago I received a letter in the mail stating that I could purchase a book tracing the O'Hat family tree, including the O'Hats' harrowing journey over from Europe. When I told Rich about it, he said he had received the same letter, only about the Bonomo family and their harrowing journey over from Europe. Darned if just a day or two later Mr. Why didn't show up with the same letter himself, saying he could buy a book about the Why family's harrowing journey over from Europe! We were stunned, since Mr. Why's family name is clearly an ethnically Chinese one, but he just waved the envelope around triumphantly and chortled, "I TOLD you I'm Transylvanian!!"

Rest in peace and pepper, Mr. Why. You were definitely one of a kind.

Famous Hat

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lenten Dharma

My Lenten reflection today is on our dharma. Once Richard Bonomo, Kathbert, and I were blatting over a cup of Barry's Black Irish tea when we wondered what, exactly, is "dharma"? So we looked it up and here is what we found:

Dharma is the vehicle you use to reach enlightenment, so for Buddhists it would be the Eightfold Path. This explains the formerly mysterious (to us) designation of "Greater Vehicle" and "Lesser Vehicle" Buddhism. Dharma is a metaphorical boat to take us to enlightenment, and in the Lesser Way, you build your own boat and find your own way across the ocean. Zen Buddhism is an example of this Lesser Way. In Greater Way Buddhism (for example, Tibetan Buddhism), the dharma is a large ship being sailed by a knowledgeable crew (the sanga, i.e., the lamas) with a lot of people on it together. This idea appealed way more to me, since I like the idea of company and don't trust myself to build a seaworthy craft or find my way to the opposite shore. I'd rather have experts doing it!

Then again, I am Catholic, which is the "Greater Way" in Christianity. The dharma is the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, etc., all the rules given to us by which to live. In many branches of Protestantism there is a belief (sola scriptura) that one can read the Bible and figure out how to follow its rules. A metaphor for this would be someone who reads a book on sailing and figures out how to build his own boat. Me, I'm not so handy. I don't trust myself with that hammer! I would rather have the sanga (the Magisterium) sail a really large ship across the ocean while I am on board hanging out with the other passengers. After all, if it were up to me to interpret Scripture, I could probably come up with some mighty interesting interpretations! I feel it is best for me to leave all sailing - and Scriptural interpretation - to the experts. Plus I enjoy company and would get very lonely on that little boat in the middle of the ocean.

So that is the difference between Protestantism and Catholicism: the dharma in one is a small sailboat, and the other one is a cruise ship with lots of fun festivities (Mardi Gras!) and plenty of bread and wine for everyone! And Jesus has already paid for us all to go on this cruise!

Famous Hat

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

When Inspiration Strikes

Just when I thought I had nothing to blog about today, inspiration struck in the form of the picture below, sent to me in a Power Point presentation by a coworker. I have no idea where this is, but I found it fascinating for two reasons:

1. In the background are two of my favorite large plants, a palm tree and a saguaro cactus. I am wondering where this is, that they would have both kinds of plants in the same place. Vegas, maybe?

2. The obvious reason.

Don't have any nightmares tonight about cute, cuddly plushies shooting you with submachine guns! That would be even worse than my dream last night, where I sold my beloved Erin Caitlyn O'Honda for $7K and was paid in thousand-dollar bills. THEN I forgot my purse in someone's car on the way to a gig, so I didn't have a pick for my mando, but a guitar player lent me one... and then I remembered that I lost seven thousand-dollar bills! Argh! OK, maybe that is just about as bad as teddy bears with guns.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Do Bad Things Happen in Threes?

Yesterday we buried Mr. Why with medium fanfare and much black pepper, since he was known to use the stuff for various pranks: blowing it in a roommate's face, putting it in chocolate frosting while Rich wasn't looking, filling my purple hat with it, etc. Then we had a funeral "bruncheon" (it was a bit early to call it a luncheon) and told stories about Crazy Mr. Why. His mother and brother really enjoyed the stories, so I typed up my stories and gave them to the family for posterity. Here is a true example for your reading pleasure.

The setting: a five-star Spanish restaurant where the head chef actually comes out and makes the paella in front of you. A group of us are celebrating my birthday, including T, Ethel, and Mr. Why, as well as other people I have never mentioned in this blog. Mr. Why has purchased me a glass of wine so delicious it tastes like melted rubies, and we are enjoying our paella and laughing when Mr. Why makes an announcement:

Mr. Why: My toenails keep falling out.
Ethel: What do you do with them?
Mr. Why: I use them to play the guitar.
Me: Aren't they too small for that?
Mr. Why: I staple the pieces together.
Me: I'll bet they never let you back into Singapore!
Mr. Why: My government is paying your government $5 million to keep me in the country. That's why you have a budget surplus. (n.b. this was in 1998, when we did have a surplus, if you can believe it now.)

It was like a reunion, albeit a sad one, with people we hadn't seen in a decade descending upon Richard Bonomo's domicile. We all agreed we had to stay in contact... and all get together again BEFORE the next one of us dies!

Now I have heard before that bad things happen in threes, but I had never really believed it... until I found out yesterday that my former neighbor had died in some kind of freak accident, leaving a young widow and a newly-purchased house. (Perhaps it is fortunate that he hated children, because he didn't leave any little ones.) He was young himself, and somewhat impetuous, and I didn't know him well but was really more friends with his wife. The sole conversation I remember having with him is about how he spent a fortune to buy an exotic animal that should never be a pet in the first place and then killed it when it attacked him. He said this without any hint of remorse, and I'm not quite sure why he even told me, because (as you have probably already guessed) cruelty to animals doesn't go over too well with me. This is exactly why people should not own exotic (and often endangered) animals as pets, because they don't mix well with people. Leave them in the jungle where they belong!

While I did not particularly care for this individual, I am sad to hear of his unexpected passing (we don't know the details but are wondering if it could be a Darwin award-type situation, knowing the person involved), and I certainly hope bad luck does not befall yet another of my acquaintances! I half-expected one of my little creatures to be dead when I got home, but they were all alive and well as of this morning when I left for work, although Sylvia the Hedgehog is currently in Hibernation Mode. They are just all feeling ignored because I have been gone so much with funeral planning and attending.

Famous Hat

Friday, March 6, 2009

OPPW (Other People's Plant Worlds)

I have no Friday Lenten reflection today. As the word implies, the source must come from somewhere else (after all, the moon reflects the light of the sun; it does not produce its own) and I have not been struck with inspiration. Rather than bore you with my own pitiful thoughts, I will just show you a picture of a coworker's Plant World. I thought it was so beautiful, with the amaryllis and orchids blooming. If you have a lovely picture of your own Plant World, send it to me and I will happily post it.

The tall plant just behind the amaryllis is an epiphyllum, or orchid cactus. Hers has not bloomed yet, but she got the cutting from a friend whose plant had many gorgeous blooms. Here is a picture of it; she said it blooms at night, for only one night, sometime in August.

I was fascinated by this because I have a mysterious cutting that has grown into a funny-looking plant, sort of like a Christmas cactus that needs to have its hair combed, and I realized it is the same thing. Mine has yet to bloom, but I will keep you posted. My coworker says they must be three years old to bloom, and the plant will be about that age in August. (T says that plant looks like a weed - wait till she sees it bloom!)

Oddly, all my "Christmas" cacti are blooming right now. They have been doing so since November. They must love my Plant World setup! I have heard they love cool temperatures, and I have them right near the window, which is the coldest part of the house...

Famous Hat

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dust to Dust

Today I am going to continue my Lenten reflection on death to note our surreal trip to the funeral home. This is my first experience with the commercial side of death, and it was an eye-opener, to say the least. I suppose my notions of death were always fuzzy, romantic ones (if death can be said to be romantic) of dying at 105 surrounded by my loving grandchildren and then being buried beneath a rosebush in my garden, or some such crap. Of course, since I do not even yet have children, nor indeed a husband, this fantasy of mine was always open to amendment. My biggest fear has always been either dying surrounded by a bunch of strangers or, worse yet, all alone and having someone discover my body months later. However, after today I realized the worst side of death is the same as the worst side of life: paperwork.

Kathbert and I accompanied Richard Bonomo, who is executor of Mr. Why's estate, mostly because we really wanted to see the body for closure. (After all, if anyone would fake his own death, it would be Mr. Why!) We quickly ascertained that the body was most unfortunately that of Mr. Why, and then we sat down with the guy from the funeral parlor, or maybe the used car showroom, since he was talking about options and specials and "taking care of you." My favorite conversation went something like this:

Undertaker guy: It says here he was born in Hong Kong. Was that before or after the Chinese took it over?

Rich: Before.

Undertaker guy: So was he Chinese?

Me: I guess he would have been born a British citizen.

Undertaker guy: No, what ethnicity was he?

Why didn't he ask that in the first place? I mean, what has the government got to do with ethnicity? Mr. Why was ethnically Chinese before the takeover and he was ethnically Chinese after the takeover.

Me: He always insisted he was Transylvanian.

Anyway, we managed to get out of there without ordering prayer cards or the memorial angel bear (I can just see what Mr. Why would have to say about that!), and his ashes will be sent to the cemetery, although I was fascinated to learn they could be mailed anywhere. When I said, "Mailed! Really?" the undertaker gave a long-winded explanation about why one cannot bring human ashes on an airplane.

"Oh," I said. "I was just thinking that it was good Mr. Why didn't know we could mail him. He probably would have requested that we mail him to the Pope!"

Famous Hat

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ashes to Ashes

For today's Lenten reflection, I am going to ponder Death and particularly the unnatural way we treat it in this culture. Very recently I read an article by a man who had just buried his father and father-in-law in vastly different ways, his father in the traditional over-the-top funeral with a hugely expensive casket and monument after being embalmed, while his father-in-law requested a simple burial. They made his casket and buried him in the backyard (after checking the ordinances, of course), and the author felt it was much more satisfying. I would think this is true. There's nothing worse than the way we get rid of dead people so quickly, handing them over to someone who makes them look completely unnatural so that we don't have to think about the fact that someday the same thing will happen to us.

Just this week an old friend died under tragic circumstances, and we have yet to see him so it doesn't quite seem real yet. (It doesn't help that this particulary individual was a master prankster so that it seems perfectly plausible that he could have faked the whole thing.) Seeing a person in death offers so much closure; just a century ago death was accepted as a sad but natural part of life, when people generally died at home. Now it is so foreign to most of us that it seems utterly terrifying. Lent is a time to reflect on our own mortality, not with fear of the unknown but with concern for the states of our souls and hope for the life to come.

People are also oddly disrespectful about death these days. There was a short online blurb about my friend who died, and people had written some bizarre comments speculating about the nature of his death. It is as if, by mocking Death, we think we can keep it at bay. Now I have a very dark sense of humor by nature and enjoy universal jokes about death (like the scene from Monty Python's The Meaning of Life that satirizes the final scene from The Seventh Seal), but I cannot understand making fun of an individual dying, especially at a young age under tragic circumstances. (Granted, they didn't know the full scope of those circumstances, but some of the speculations were kind of rude, I thought.) I almost wonder if this is a reaction of fear: hey, if someone my age could just... die, could I? So they make up scenarios to mock the deceased and comfort themselves that they would never fall victim to such an untimely death.

If Hardingfele dies an untimely death of Hantavirus from playing with swimming mice, then my office mate and I are going to take up her cause for canonization as the patron saint of mus musculus, the house mouse.

Famous Hat

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Prayer: Talking and LISTENING to God

Since I've already reflected on fasting and almsgiving, today I am going to reflect on prayer. Here is what I have to say:

Famous Hat