Thursday, January 31, 2013

Richard Rohr on prayer as a state of communion

"I am increasingly convinced that some notion of a "prayer beyond words" is the deepest meaning of prayer, and why Paul tells us that we can pray "always" (1 Thessalonians 5:18 and Ephesians 5:20). Whatever we do, in conscious loving union with God and "what is," is prayer -- and the best prayer, for sure."
-- Richard Rohr

grumbling about whining

I've been spending time with my family in Michigan this month.  I drove my parents down to see one of my sisters and, while there, joined them all in watching a number of shows on remodeling homes and house hunting.  One of them was Love It or List It; I don't remember the other titles. 

I really enjoyed watching the remodeling.  The possibilities and the creativity they use in these spaces entrance me, and I always end up thinking, "Ooooh, I'd like to try that."  I love making things.  I remember trying to sign up for a class on cabinet-making once, but it didn't work out.  My sister got all the decorator genes, but I still enjoy watching what others can do in that area, especially when they make a dark room into something light and airy.  Some of it is truly beautiful.  And it's just fun to see the transformation take place.

But the house-hunting part of those shows, that's another story.  While I was watching couples - always couples - hunting for homes, I was appalled listening to their comments.  "Entitled" doesn't begin to cover it.   I'm not quite sure what a young couple in their early twenties is thinking when they're looking at a big, beautiful house and complaining that they don't like the colors of the paint inside.  Can of paint, anyone?  And that the bathroom is "so eighties" - too dated, just awful.  And those cabinets are dreadful, and the kitchen is tiny.  Except the kitchen isn't tiny, and the cabinets are ordinary wooden cabinets.  OK, so it's not their dream kitchen, and they'd rather have different tile. I can understand that.  That's why God made Home Depot.  And they can look at more homes if this one won't do.  But when the rooms are actually fairly spacious and the appliances all look to be in excellent condition, to criticize a house in such a way that you'd think there were tiles falling off, cracks in the ceiling, bulbs hanging from wires, rusting appliances and wood rot just strikes me as somewhat offensive, not to mention whiny. 

I know, I know, I live in Haiti.  I react more to these things now.  I've seen houses there smaller than some of these living rooms (mind you, I've also seen mansions in Haiti).  Reverse culture shock.  Even so, I've heard similar comments from others, so I know I'm not completely out of touch with American reality.

Then there are the house hunters who decide to go over their stated maximum budget by $20,000 or so.  "But it's the perfect home for us!"   Hope no one gets laid off... Does anyone remember the housing crisis? This kind of thing helped us all into this financial mess. 

It concerns me that we need everything to be big and beautiful right away.  No waiting. No working towards it slowly.  Nothing is good enough.  I deserve it all, and I deserve it now.  God forbid my counters be less than granite or my stove be ten years old.  I know what I want and I want it now.  It's rather like the adult version of my annual childhood Christmas request for a swimming pool and my sister's request for a horse.  Not a clue of what was reasonable.  I eventually got an inflatable wading pool and she got plastic horses.  That was reasonable.  Starting out in a home that isn't a McMansion is reasonable, too.  To say the least. 

I hope these couples will be happy in their new homes.  I really do.  And I can imagine what fun it will be for them to move into a new place and envision the new possibilities as they take shape.  I hope, too, that they appreciate what they have, whatever it is.  I hope we all do.  We've all received so much. Anyone who can read a blog post already has more than most in the world.  Do we know it?

Yes, I know this is part of what sells the shows.  Reaction. 

And I hate to hear myself sounding holier-than-thou.  Complaining about complaining is still complaining.


I wonder if we can learn to state what we hope for without disparaging what is. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day rain song in French

In honor of the downpour and generally nasty weather in the midwest, here is "The rain rain rain came down down down" in French from Winnie, l'Ourson dans le vent.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

from a friend: Saying a Lot When I Don't Know What to Say

A friend's blog post really struck me just now, so I'm sharing it.  

One Blog Now: Saying a Lot When I Don't Know What to Say

Part of the main point:

...Another poster points out that justice and mercy are not physical things, ie., they don't exist.

Except that they do. Like love, like God, they exist in the spaces in between us sorry mortals.

Are we called to be shame-ridden, hidden, guilt-stricken, empty?

Or are we called to something better?

"Love your neighbor as yourself." Mark 12:31, but it's all over the Bible really, including the Old Testament.

Which means--this is the tricky part--not only are we supposed to love all those "other" people--the ones who look different from us, or sound different, or believe different, love different, heaven forbid worship different--all those people who are Not Like Us--and yet we're supposed to love ourselves, too.

Actually, the post right before this one is quite good, too, in a completely different way.

My first published novel was supposed to have been a picture book, but it got out of hand. When I read the rough draft, after it had been accepted, I was appalled. I wrote to my editors, "You must have amazing faith in my powers of revision, because really, this sucks." They wrote back that most of their authors weren't quite so forthright.

I wrote my second published novel from an outline, which taught me to never do that again. Plenty of writers do, successfully; I don't. I wrote my third published novel with only one scene, the climax, in my head--I knew that if, when I got there, the reader could understand the points-of-view of everyone in it, the book would be a success.

I wrote my fourth published novel on a dare, and my fifth because my husband said I had to.

I love having friends who are writers and who always have something interesting to say. 

By the way, you should read all her books, too.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

pile of puppies

Just thought I'd share the last thing I looked at before heading out the door to the Port-au-Prince airport.  Such a happy thing, and I wanted one last glimpse before leaving.  I'm sure they'll be a lot bigger when I get back.  They grow so fast!

a pile of puppies

We have a whole yard to nap in, but we'd rather be together.

frozen over - what now?

Well, apparently we all have a whole new world of possibilities waiting for us today.  Hell has, in fact, frozen over.  Hell, Michigan, anyway. Close enough.

Hell, Michigan, has frozen over.
photo from KCWI's Facebook page via Manresa Retreat Center's page

So of all the things you said would only happen if hell froze over - good things, hopes you dared not to have, that is - what would you choose to have as a new possibility?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Here's what I hate:

Forgetting my hat and gloves in single digit temps.

Trying to cut plexiglas and having it break in the wrong place.
People at Home Depot who tell you how easy it is to cut.

Having to pull out a seam and redo it.
Dumping a box of pins all over the floor.
Having people suddenly change how they're interacting with me when they find out I'm a sister living in Haiti.

Here's what I love:

Finishing a project.
Homemade cafe-au-lait-&-eggnog.
Calls from my sisters and other family members.
Beautiful evening light in the clouds with the bare branches of winter trees against them.

The sight of deer in the woods.
Squirrels chasing each other around the tree and through the snow.
Seeing the cardinals, woodpeckers, nuthatches, juncos and other birds around the feeder in the back yard.

Fires in the fireplace.

Time with my parents.
Being able to say happy birthday to my father in person for the first time in years.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mom's blueberry muffin tips

Working with Mom today to make something yummy.  Ah, muffins.  I love muffins. Haven't had muffins for a while, either. 

Mom knows good ways to modify basic recipes to made a decent muffin a really great muffin.

Blueberry muffins
1.  Take basic recipe (below; Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 1996). 
2.  Grate the rind of one lemon to stir into batter.
3.  Substitute 1/4 cup ground almonds (Trader Joe's!) for 1/4 cup of the flour.
4.  Substitute 3T Splenda for 3T of sugar. 

5. Instead of stirring in the blueberries, fill the muffin pan about 1/4 to 1/3 way with batter. Place blueberries in the center. If the berries don't touch the pan, it will be much easier to remove the muffins and to clean the pan afterward.

6.  Put in the rest of the muffin batter, not filling to the top. 
7.  Cinnamon sugar on the top of some of them.

8.  Extra muffin batter goes into the mini loaf pan.  Sliced almonds on top!



Saturday, January 19, 2013

over the ocean and through the air...

... to Mom and Dad's house we go.
'Cause I'm leaving on a jet plane...
from Port-au-Prince

 It was 30 degrees when I left Port-au-Prince, although it had been in the 20 degree range at night.  It was in the twenties when I arrived in Michigan, too.   Of course, there is the little twist of one being Celsius and the other Fahrenheit, but never mind. 

It's so good to see my parents.  I'm hoping to make myself thoroughly useful to them while here, although so far it's been limited to dishes, laundry, and the like.  I'm planning to do some chauffeuring and help Mom with some projects - and anything else that looks likely.  Such a gift to be able to do so.  Actually, it is a gift, literally - the ticket was a birthday present for Dad from my two sisters.  I'm so grateful for them all.  Grateful, too, to the Sisters, who let me go. 

Michigan squirrels on a cold day

Friday, January 18, 2013

astonished at the concert

I was looking through the drafts of posts I'd never finished just now and found this one.  I'd written a long post with a list of things that had astonished me at the concert I attended at the end of November.  And then the power went out before I saved most of it.  AAAARGH.  But I still have the first part, and I remember the thing that surprised me most, so here, in short form, is the nutshell version.

 * * * * * 

Orchestre Philharmonique Sainte Trinite, Port-au-Prince, November 2012
This afternoon we went to a concert put on by the Orchestre Philharmonique Sainte Trinite, which is connected with the Holy Trinity Music School at the cathedral in Port-au-Prince.   Sr. Anne Marie started the music school fifty years ago and, while we're no longer officially connected with it in any way, we still support them as we can.  And what a treat it is! 

This afternoon's concert is an annual one in honor of St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music, whose feast day was Thursday.

* * * * *
I loved the music.  The original post I wrote had quite a bit about it.  What astonished me most, however, was afterwards.

Following the concert, many people gathered around the front near the stage, chatting with musicians and old friends and acquaintances.  I had gone over to greet the bishop and was turning to walk away when I heard him say, "Good evening, Mr. President."  I looked to see who it was; it was definitely not President Martelly.  The man who had walked up to the bishop was no one I recognized, an older man obviously in poor health.  I wondered of what he might be the president and forgot all about it until one of the sisters let me in on it: the man was former president Duvalier. 

I was within a foot of Baby Doc. 


Hearing that was like stepping into the pages of a history book.  It may be all too recent history for some, but he was gone before I even knew where Haiti was. I know he was a teenager when he came to power, but it still seems so long ago to me that it's hard to imagine his still being around, no matter what I know.  And just sitting there quietly at a concert with everyone else. I'm sure there must have been guards present, but I didn't notice them. What will it be next? Aristide at the supermarket? 

new year, new arachnid

 Have I mentioned that I don't do spiders? I think I may have. Several times, perhaps.

Well, here is something I met in the bathroom a couple of weeks ago. Be proud of me: I didn't even squeak. I did manage to get past it and run to my room for the bug spray. It waved its little front claws at me (claws? pincer? I thought... what the heck kind of a spider is this?!) But then even once it had gone to the great insect haven in the sky, I didn't want to get near enough to it to re-enter the bathroom. But that is why God made brooms, and I gingerly moved his or her remains outside from as far away as possible. Ugh.

Then I got brave and took a closer look. Even belly up, he looked even nasty, even more nasty than I had thought. What the... ? So of course I had to take a picture.

not what I wanted to meet in the bathroom...and it was right side up then, too.

And then, despite the fact that even photos make me shudder slightly, I tried to identify it on the internet.  No luck.  Until I happened upon this site: .  No, I didn't find it directly there, but having a certain anxiety about potential family members of this critter who might even now be lying in wait for me along with a touch of resulting chutzpah, I emailed the arachnologist who runs this site with the photo. 
She was kind enough to identify it for me.

It's not a spider.  It's a tail-less whip scorpion.  

A what?  In my bathroom?

Oh yes, a sister said.  It's humid in there. 

Fortunately, unlike real scorpions, this one is not poisonous.  The aforementioned scientist assured me that "They are not a threat to humans but can deliver a bad bite if provoked."

Remind me not to provoke anything.  At least before I have my spray can in hand.  And am wearing shoes. 

Maybe I'll go back to the idea of combat boots.

I did go look up more about it.  I rather like its scientific name: amblypigid.  It seems so much friendlier.

It occurred to me, too, that if I were to study the biodiversity of Caribbean spiders as this particular woman does, I might eventually find the beauty in them and other arachnids.  However, other than an appreciation of Charlotte's Web, so far my best effort is the appreciation of dewdrops on a spiderweb outside - without the spider. 

I did also find out in the process of looking all this up that I am not alone in thinking this critter is scary-looking.  In fact, I have encountered a species featured in Harry Potter (where it is said to kill with one bite).  Consolation of a sort?

Mad-Eye Moody with tailless whip scorpion

I think I'll skip Mad-Eye's class.

Friday, January 11, 2013

mini rant

OK, it's a day before the third anniversary of the earthquake, and I am already getting mad.  I should remind myself not to read anything, especially not comments by know-it-all Americans.  (Says an American with an opinion, of course.)

Do people not realize that we haven't entirely finished rebuilding the World Trade Center? It's been over a decade. What about Katrina?  And people are wondering why Haiti isn't all together.  Aaaaaargh!

It's not that it's all good here.  It's not that I have a rosy view of NGO's or the government.  Either government, for that matter.  But, people, get real!  You can't tear down concrete and iron with your bare hands, and not everyone can afford to hire huge machinery. 

And there IS rebuilding.  There IS progress.   A year ago, the Champs de Mars was wall-to-wall tents. Now it's a park again.  The ruins of the palace were still there; now there is a field, making it rather hard to figure out where I am downtown.   Schools are going up.  Homes are going up. 

Yes, there are plenty of people operating with their own agendas.  Yes, I see rubble every time I go out.  Yes, there is an incredible amount left to do, and the way things are being done can be frustrating at time. But please, let's be realistic here.  This is not the end of the story.  We haven't finished yet.  The real miracle is that people continue to work together. Let's pray that this spirit continues to grow. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

the first day

This is the first day we have to tell someone we love them. The first day to hold a baby in our lap, take a walk through the park, find a lost pair of glasses, call an old friend to see how they are doing. This is the first day to begin again the great work of justice that gives our lives meaning. The first day to sit quietly in prayer, offering thanks for all that has been and for all that will be. The first day to tell a joke. The first day to watch the wind bend the trees, the moon come up over snow, the lights come on like hope. This is our first day. The day we discover again how precious every day can be.

-- The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, January 1, 2013