The Episcopal Church doesn't give secular holidays prominence in the liturgy, hence we are never in danger of becoming, in the words of a friend lamenting practices in her own church, a place where "Mother's Day is a bigger deal than Easter."  Not that the day was entirely ignored:  women received flowers, and mothers, would-be mothers, and substitute mothers were all acknowledged during the announcements.  With sympathy for those for whom the holiday brings sorrow, I think we go too far in saying nothing of substance to anyone lest we should by any means offend some.  But I digress.  I think the most appropriate thing we did in church in honor of Mother's Day was to sing this anthem. :)



Ave Maria (Giulio Caccini/Patrick Liebergen, Alfred, 20142)



As usual, this isn't us, but we did have the lovely flute accompaniment.

On the other hand, there was no discernable connection between Mother's Day and the fact that we sang a hymn that I probably shouldn't mock—an Internet search reveals that some people really like it—but, really.  Yes, it was that hymn.  The "loud boiling test tubes hymn."  Otherwise known as "Earth and All Stars."

Earth and all stars, loud rushing planets,
sing to the Lord a new song!
O victory, loud shouting army,
sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him with a new song!

Hail, wind, and rain, loud blowing snowstorms,
sing to the Lord a new song!
Flowers and trees, loud rustling leaves,
sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him with a new song!

Trumpet and pipes, loud clashing cymbals,
sing to the Lord a new song!
Harp, lute, and lyre, loud humming cellos,
sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him with a new song!

Engines and steel, loud pounding hammers,
sing to the Lord a new song!
Limestone and beams, loud building workers,
sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him with a new song!

Classrooms and labs, loud boiling test tubes,
sing to the Lord a new song!
Athlete and band, loud cheering people,
sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him with a new song!

Knowledge and truth, loud sounding wisdom,
sing to the Lord a new song!
Daughter and son, loud praying members,
sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him with a new song!

Children of God, dying and rising,
sing to the Lord a new song!
Heaven and earth, hosts everlasting,
sing to the Lord a new song!
He has done marvelous things.
I, too, will praise him with a new song!

The Episcopal Hymnal (1982) omits the last verse, perhaps thinking that enough is enough, but I could have cried, "Enough!" a lot sooner.

What do I know?  But to me, the music isn't particularly musical and the poetry is even less poetical.  Most frustrating is the nonsense in the words.  "Loud rushing planets"?  What does that mean in the silent vacuum of space?  If you grant poetic license there, in a "music of the spheres" sense, what do I make of "loud boiling test tubes"?  Or "loud humming cellos"?  (Maybe for the latter the author was anticipating the 2CELLOS folks, but while they may be loud, I don't hear them humming.)  Is volume a reasonable attribute of wisdom?  Really?

I'll give the author credit for one thing, however:  the "athlete and band" line.  Has any other song ever put the band on equal footing with the sports team?

So for that, I'll happily publicize the hymn.  That, and in thanksgiving that we sing it very rarely.  I like that about our church:  we sing the greatest variety of music of any church we've yet been a part of.  That doesn't stop me, however, from wishing we had been out of town for this one instead of missing "Hail Thee, Festival Day." :(

Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, May 15, 2015 at 6:30 am | Edit
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She was a faithful reader of this blog, and even made several comments.  She wasn't always a part of my life, but one of my earliest memories is of her family moving into the house across the street from us in Scotia, New York.  She and my mother became good neighbors and even better friends.  Her daughter and I walked to school together, and played together every day until we moved apart—but we kept in touch and are close friends to this day.  Ruth welcomed me into their house at all times, even when her children had the mumps and I was trying to catch the disease myself.  (It didn't work.)

Although I kept up my friendship with her daughter, Ruth and I lost contact—that's what often happened with different generations in the pre-Internet days.  But thanks to e-mail, my blog, and Facebook, we reconnected in recent years, and what a blessing that was.  She even came to visit us at the Maggie P. one year!  Because my own mother died when I was in my early 20's, by the time I wanted to hear stories of my childhood, I couldn't ask her.  Ruth filled some of that gap for me, and I'll always be grateful for what she shared before the years took their toll and made communication difficult.  She's free now, and I certainly don't begrudge her the new life, but I miss her, and wish we'd reconnected sooner!

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, May 5, 2015 at 9:21 am | Edit
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I rooted for two horses in this Kentucky Derby:  American Pharoah because that's the way I always misspell "pharaoh," and Frosted, because of his unusual color.  Of course I put no money on either of them, but it sure was fun watching them come in 1st and 4th!

Generally I'm a very good speller, but "pharaoh" is my downfall.  Not this time!  (As I understand it, the horse was named via some contest; the contest winner clearly has the same hangup with the word.)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 2, 2015 at 6:51 pm | Edit
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I appreciate that I can place books on hold at our library, knowing that they will be set aside for me as soon as they become available.  But I do wonder about the timing sometimes.  A while back, I had placed holds on Gretchen Rubin's Better than Before, and on Pioneer Girl, the annotated autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Several people were ahead of me on the waiting list for each of them, so I was not expecting to read them anytime soon, though with one I was much closer to the top than the other.  Wouldn't you know, both books suddenly became available at the same time—right before we left for several days out of town.  I had to check them out, or lose my place in line, even though neither was suitable for taking with me on the trip.

We returned a week before the books were due.  The normal lending period is three weeks, but for popular books it is reduced to two—with no possibility of renewal.  Thanks to some other tasks taking top priority after our return, it wasn't until the weekend that I got very far into Better than Before.  And Pioneer Girl?  It has 400 pages.  Wilder's actual text is in larger print, but the bulk of the book is Pamela Smith Hill's copious, detailed—yea, exhaustive—small-print footnotes.  I read it in under 24 hours.

That's not how to read a book.  It's like trying to quench your thirst while standing under a waterfall:  you get exhausted trying to keep your balance, and end up more drowned than hydrated.

Nonetheless, I did get quite a bit from both books, enough for each to merit its own, upcoming, review.  At first I was just going to include very brief comments on them in this post, but "very brief" and I don't keep company much.  There's a reason my Tweets are mostly hyperlinks back here.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, April 21, 2015 at 10:24 am | Edit
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For us, Easter started last night with an Easter Vigil service that was over two hours long, but wonderful.  Lighting of the New Fire, procession, candles, singing, and a large number of baptisms (adult and child), confirmations, and first communions.  The latter is why it was so long, but who would want fewer?  I love that our church has a means of doing infant baptism by immersion (parents' choice).  I also love that moment when the lights come on and we shout the first Alleluia of Easter—alleluias are banished from the service during Lent—with the whole congregation sounding bells and other happy noisemakers.  (There were a few unhappy noisemakers as well, as it was a long and late night for the above-mentioned children.)  I brought my tambourine, and Porter the ship's bell that Dad had given us so long ago.  The latter makes quite an impressive sound.

And this morning we got to celebrate again!  One of these years I expect we'll attend each and every service from Palm Sunday through Easter, one for each day of the week and two on Sunday, but not this time:  once again we skipped the sunrise service, as getting to church by 8:00 for the Easter brunch seemed early enough after our late night.  The youth choir sang at the sunrise service and had to be there at 6:15 to help with setup; the service is held down by the lake.  I know, it seems backwards:  we keep the little kids up late, and wake the teenagers early.  But it's a very special time, and sacrifice is part of the process.  The brunch was followed by an egg hunt for the children, but we skipped that, because (1) our grandchildren weren't here to enjoy it, and (2) the choir rehearsed during that time for the final service of the day at 10:00.

Of all the services, that one is the most traditional as modern-day Easter services go.  (The Easter Vigil is actually the oldest, dating back to the very early days of Christianity.)



Prelude and Introit:  A Mighty Fortress (Martin Luther, setting by Joel Raney, Hope Publishing)  Judging by YouTube, the handbell version is more popular, but if you click on the link (not the image) you'll hear something more like what we had, with our brass, flute, organ, piano, and choir.  My only complaint is that because it is primarily an instrumental work, the choir sings only one verse of the hymn, and the first verse of Luther's great hymn is not a good place to stop.  But that was okay, because I doubt the congregation actually discerned the words over the glory of the brass and organ.

Next up, the processional hymn Jesus Christ Is Risen Today, then (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, April 5, 2015 at 6:43 pm | Edit
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I've said it before, and it's still true:  how blessed we are to be at a church ten minutes away from home (seven in good traffic).  We've been in that situation before—in Rochester (NY) our church was only a block from home, and in Norwood (MA) it was a fine walk in good weather—but much of our time has been in churches that required significant driving time.  Being so close makes it easy, or as easy as can be with busy schedules, to attend the mid-week (Monday - Saturday) Holy Week services, which are always so powerful.

For a more complete description of the general layout, see last year's Holy Week post.  This year is much the same, albeit with some changes in the music.  Here are the major ones:

Maundy Thursday anthem:


When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (arr. Gilbert Martin, Theodore Presser Company, 312-40785)



Good Friday anthem:



When Jesus Wept (William Billings, arr. A. F. Schultz, St. James Music Press

This is not the Parker/Shaw arrangement some of you know, which remains my favorite.  However, this is also a good one, and I'm sorry I can't include a link here.  All of my Internet sources have failed me this time.

We won't be singing as a choir for the Easter Vigil service tonight, but we'll be there with bells on.  (Almost literally—mine may be a tambourine.  Bells and other joyful noise makers are for the Great Alleluia of Easter.)

Then we get to celebrate all over again tomorrow, with a lot more music and joyful alleluias.  But that will be for another post.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, April 4, 2015 at 7:00 pm | Edit
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My favorite part of April Fools' Day is that it is the anniversary of two of my favorite people.  Other than that, it's not something I usually celebrate.  Practical jokes and pranks have to be really good to impress me; adolescent humor has always struck me as stupid, cruel, and pointless—never funny.

Having learned the hard way about my attitude toward that kind of humor, my husband rarely attempts to pull an April Fools' joke on me.  But today he did, and even I thought it was funny.

There we were, sitting in our respective offices, calling out to each other various items of interest.

"Oh, no," he cried.  "Because of the USAirways/American Airlines merger, they've changed your flight from Philadelphia - Zurich to Miami - Heathrow - Zurich."

As I was spluttering, "Oh, no!  How can they do that?  That's terrible," he walked through my door, smiled, and said, "April Fool!"

As April Fool pranks go, it's not on the level of the 1957 BBC report below.  But it was perfect for me:

  • It was plausible:   Many changes have been happening due to the USAirways/American merger, and since he had made the reservation, it was logical that a change notification would have come to him.  We haven't yet had an international reservation without some change being made by the airline before the flight date.
    And the last time we flew American Airlines, we went through Heathrow.
  • It was guaranteed to generate a response of dismay from me:  I had been greatly looking forward to a flight to Switzerland with only one intermediate stop.  Plus, Miami and Heathrow are two of my least favorite airports.
  • It wasn't anything really bad:  Annoying, but not scary.
  • He didn't drag it out:  Relief came quickly.

It was great for both of us to start the day with a good laugh.  That's enough though.  I'm a little worried about choir rehearsal tonight....

Here's the promised BBC story:

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, April 1, 2015 at 9:58 am | Edit
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... and that's the best I can do without looking.  I should have ordered one of Joseph's shirts for myself.


Our strawberry-rhubarb pi(e) is in the oven.  It won't be out by 9:26, at least not in our time zone, but maybe I'll come back and post a picture later.

UPDATE:  And here it is.


In honor of the day I bought vanilla ice cream yesterday.  Porter may scold me, as ice cream is his particular temptation, but pie and vanilla ice cream go so well together, and a day like this won't come back for another hundred years.

Penzey's Spices is offering free apple pie spice in honor of the day, and later we'll take advantage of that.  Bill Penzey may sadden me with his efforts to alienate his customers through his political rants, but that doesn't change the fact that Penzey's is the best I've found when it comes to high-quality spices and interesting spice blends.

And for the true nerds out there (as opposed to those who have jumped on the Pi Day bandwagon merely as an excuse to celebrate and eat pie), here's a free lecture from another of our favorite companies, The Great Courses.

Happy Pi Day 2015 to everyone, nerd or otherwise!

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, March 14, 2015 at 9:26 am | Edit
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I don't know what caused our homeward flight to be delayed five hours.  It certainly wasn't the weather, which could hardly have been better for March in New Hampshire.  The Southwest Airlines agent said the delay was due to maintenance, but I suspect that any "maintenance" that so disrupts the flight schedule is more along the lines of "repair."

Whatever the cause, at about 2 p.m. we discovered that our 5:30 flight had been rescheduled for 10:30, with the estimated time of arrival in Orlando moved from a very reasonable 8:45 to a very unreasonable 1:45 a.m.  Unreasonable, that is, if your ride home from the airport has to get up early to go to work.  We looked into alternate flights, but none was direct, and their arrival times into Orlando weren't all that much better.  We chose to stay in a situation where if the flight were cancelled the onus was on Southwest to make other arrangements.  Porter reserved a rental car instead (there are return places for both Hertz and Avis near our home, which makes this a convenient option), and we settled down to enjoy a little more time with the grandkids.

Not all that much time, as it turned out, because in order to fit our new departure into the Daleys' busy schedule, we had to leave home sooner than strictly necessary.  There was a bit of a question just who would drive us there, as Jon had been called out on an ambulance run, but he made it back just in time.  The rest of the family stayed home, so there would be plenty of room in the car on the way home for a large load of pellets for the woodstove, but Heather insisted that Jeremiah come, even though he had to be awakened from his nap.  I'm sure it was a good decision to let him say goodbye to us at the airport, because at barely two I'm sure he was shocked enough this morning to find us gone.

At the Manchester airport, our flight was famous.  They kept one restaurant open well past the normal closing time, so we were able to eat a late dinner while passing the long hours of waiting.  The food wasn't great but it was more than we had expected, and we were grateful.  Pretty much, if we saw anyone there who wasn't an employee, he was on our flight.  Thus after dinner we were able to settle ourselves some way away from the gate (but within eyeshot), and know that we would not be left behind.  In fact, the Southwest agent came to us (and the others scattered around) to deliver our two $100 vouchers "for the inconvenience."  True, it was inconvenient, but for two adults with no travel deadline it could not be called onerous.  (I did keep imagining what it would have been like if we had been travelling with three children under four, as Janet and I had done in the summer.)  We settled into a set of comfortable seats with charging stations for two phone and two computers.  We were warm and safe; we knew our plane was now in the air and on its way to Manchester; we had work to do and books to read, in peace and relative quiet.  Some people might pay a lot for that privilege....

We took off just before 10 o'clock, and all went smoothly with the flight, our subsequent retrieval of luggage, the rental car, and the ride home (none of which should ever be taken for granted).  It's times like this when I'm reminded that one of the blessings that came from Porter's years on the road for IBM was a great familiarity with the whole car rental procedure.  Even so, this one took some getting used to:  it had no keys.  Well, it did, but we didn't find them until later, tucked away in a compartment.  The only instructions were "depress the brake and press the start button."  Figuring out how to turn off the radio was also a trick.  Eventually he knew enough about the car to drive it home, but our first computer was less complicated.

We arrived home somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 a.m.  Everything was fine except for the clocks, which all insisted it was an hour earlier.

Today Porter is digging his way through Central Florida's surest sign of spring:  mountains of fallen leaves, and the trees still shedding.  When he is no longer in danger of falling off the screened enclosure into the pool (best-case falling scenario), I will venture out again to replenish the neglected larder.

Our feelings for Southwest Airlines were not of the rosiest when we learned of the long flight delay, but I was impressed by their efforts to make it up to us:  not only did the vouchers sweeten the situation, but the cheerful good humor of all the staff was contagious.  It's still my favorite airline.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 11:34 am | Edit
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Glenn Doman used to say that what babies and small children want most of all is to grow up, right now.  (I've wasted too much time already trying to find the exact quotation, but that's the gist of it.)  He must have known Jeremiah.

Jeremiah has two parents and four older siblings, and sees no reason why he shouldn't be able to do everything they can.  "Do!" may be his favorite word, meaning "I will do it myself."  He has been two years old for all of two weeks, and is busy acquiring new skills at a somewhat alarming rate.

We are staying in the Apartment, which is over the garage and accessible from the kitchen via two doors and a small set of stairs.  Before we arrived, Jeremiah could open the door from the kitchen, but not the door to the apartment itself.  First thing every morning, we would hear him knocking to be let in.  Now he's proud to be able to open the door himself, so we know that when the door opens without an invitation, it's our favorite two-year-old.  He hasn't yet learned that there are reasons other than inability for knocking at a door.

We were in the kitchen, and Jeremiah was hungry.  I watched as he moved a chair over to the hutch and got himself a plate, then went to the cutlery drawer and picked up a fork.  He opened the refrigerator door, selected a container of leftover French fries, which he gave to me.  I put some on his plate.  Then he opened the door of the microwave, set his plate inside, put a cover on the plate, and closed the door.  He waited while I set the time, then pushed Start.  (He'd much rather push the other buttons himself, too, but that gets him into trouble.)  When the timer dinged, he opened the door, took out the plate, closed the door, took his plate to the table, and proceeded to enjoy his French fries.  When I later reported the series of events to Heather, her immediate response was, "Oh, no!  He's never been able to open the refrigerator before.  Now he'll start getting his own drinks."

Which was true.  Not that it's necessarily a bad thing, because he normally does a great job of pouring from a carton to his glass.  But sometimes cartons are full and heavy (especially gallon milk jugs) and sometimes they slip.  Not to worry (much):  he knows what to do.  He grabs a napkin or a towel and starts scrubbing away at the spill.  But he is (barely) two, and sometimes doesn't remember to set the carton upright before beginning the clean-up process.

Another day I watched while Jeremiah got himself a plate, opened the refrigerator, and took out a package of tomatoes.  Then he opened a drawer and took out a cutting board.  I intervened enough to ask him to wash the tomato first, which he did.  Next he returned to the drawer, extracted his sister's paring knife, and removed it from its sheath.  At that point I intervened again (against his will, but he acquiesced with good grace), insisting that I be allowed to guide his hands as he cut, which he did semi-competently.  Two years of age is when the kids here begin learning to cut up vegetables, and they become dependable and genuinely helpful well before they turn four.  Jeremiah will no doubt learn the fastest of all, because he is so observant and so desperate to grow up, but the arrival of his new brother has delayed his formal lessons, and semi-competent is not good enough when wielding knives.  The girls' kitchen knives have been temporarily moved to a less-accessible place.

A tot-lock guards the under-sink chemicals.  Again I watched as Jeremiah decided he needed something from that cupboard, took out the step stool, opened it up, climbed to the key's hiding place and took it out.  And then ... I was disappointed that I didn't get to find out if he could actually open the lock, because he became distracted by noticing (from his perch on the stool) that the sink was full of soapy water and dishes.  He put the key back where it belonged and proceeded to have a different kind of fun.

Oh, and yesterday he casually removed the cap from a childproof bottle, another first.

As his mother says, Jeremiah is a very competent handful.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 2:37 pm | Edit
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alt95 by 65 #38 (5 new restaurants, #2) and #48 (visit King Arthur Flour):  Two flies with one swat.  (This European expression is much more to my liking than our own, as outside of dinner I see little reason to kill birds.  I have no such compunctions about flies.)

Our visit to the King Arthur Flour store, bakery, and café was Part I of our pre-Nathaniel-birth adventuring.  (Part II, which contributed to #69, will be the subject of a later post.)  KAF's products are good, though not inexpensive, and I loved getting a chance to visit their home turf.  Even more, I loved that the employees were so friendly and generous, especially since their generosity came out of their own pockets:  KAF is 100% employee-owned.

The food?  I had a bite of Noah's sandwich, which was wonderful, but for myself had ordered a simple half-baguette.  If you're taste-testing a bakery, you don't want to clutter up the basics with other flavors.  My verdict?  They do sell great bread in America, even if you'd never know it from the grocery stores and most restaurants.  The café is also not inexpensive, so maybe it's a good thing we don't live close enough to eat there on a weekly basis.  The temptation would be great.

I also enjoyed browsing the store, though I surprised myself by not buying anything.  If I get another chance to visit the store, I'll be more prepared with a plan—and more suitcase room.  There's just too much to choose from, especially with five kids anxious to get to the next stop on our adventure.  In the meantime, there's always mail-order.  And learning to make my own good bread.


Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 23, 2015 at 2:23 pm | Edit
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(click image to enlarge)

Nathaniel Peter Daley
Born Monday, February 16, 2015, 5:10 a.m.
Weight: 8 pounds, 14 ounces
Length: 21 inches

Heather will eventually have the whole birth story on her blog, and I’ll link to it when she does.  But for now, here’s the story from my point of view:

A big storm was predicted for the weekend, so big that Heather and Jon’s church moved their services to Saturday.  Long-time New Hampshire residents thought that was rather wimpy of them, and that the news media was doing what they do best:  making mountains out of molehills.  Nonetheless, when Heather had some signs of early labor during the church service, we began keeping more of a “weather eye” out than usual.

By the early hours of Sunday morning, contractions were 15 minutes apart.  We wouldn’t normally leave for the birth center at that point, but a great deal of snow had fallen and was still falling at a great rate.  Jon dug out the car, then did it again after the snow plow came through, then once more after we were all ready to leave.

Porter, Jeremiah, and Faith stayed at home this time.  Jeremiah is in a stage where he’s very independent most times, but when he wants Mommy, he really wants only Mommy if Mommy is anywhere nearby.  He’s also very sensitive and easily upset when he thinks Mommy is hurt or unhappy, so the plan was to let him stay with Dad-o.  Faith then decided that she didn’t care about being at the birth; all she wanted was to hold the baby when he came home.  This turned out to be very convenient, as with the baby we would have exactly the maximum number of people who could fit in the car.

Jon is an excellent winter driver, and he needed to be.  The roads weren’t too bad at first, but after we left town the plows were clearly behind schedule.  We were very thankful for rumble strips on both the sides and middle of the road; otherwise we could very easily have been on the wrong side of the two-lane highway.  We made it to the birth center without incident; it had not been plowed, but we were able to follow in the tracks the midwife's car had made.

We settled in, anticipating a bit of a wait, but not a long one.

The baby had other ideas.

Contractions, which had been strong in the car, slowly petered out, and after many hours of waiting, everyone was ready to go back home.  The midwife told us that it is not uncommon for storms to provoke labor that then subsides.  So we bundled back into the car, and returned home on roads that were better than they had been.  Porter and our friend Don (who had come for a brief visit and some games, but got more than he'd bargained for) had shovelled the driveway so we could get back in.

The midwife was right:  the rest of the day was quite normal.  It wasn't until—of course—the wee hours of the morning that labor began again in earnest.  And the baby wasn't kidding this time.  Contractions came fast and furious in the car, and Jon made the 40-minute return trip to the birth center in record time.  He's driven the ambulance so many times on those roads that he knows exactly where he must go slowly and where he can gain time.  The roads and visibility were much better than the day before, which was a good thing, because a car birth would have been not only uncomfortable, but also downright dangerous in the sub-zero temperatures and high wind.  It was SO COLD.

Although we all anticipated a birth soon after arrival, once again the baby had his own plans.  But at 5:10 a.m., after a gentle water birth, he rose to the surface and announced his presence with a hearty voice.  Joy had been given the job of determining and announcing whether they had a new sister or a new brother:  "It's a boy!"

After a short rest and recovery period, we once again headed for home, where Porter, Faith, and Jeremiah waited to welcome the new baby.  True to her word, Faith has held him at every possible moment, probably more than anyone other than Heather.  It took a record 48 hours to name him (Noah held the previous record), but with or without name he's been patiently stepping through the newborn routine of eat-sleep-eliminate, repeat.  Mom, baby, and the whole family are doing well, and everyone loves the newest little Daley.

Welcome to our world, and to your very loving family, Nathaniel!

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 18, 2015 at 2:46 pm | Edit
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#37 Share at least 20 meals with others:  We met my brother for dinner at ...

#38 Try at least 5 new restaurants:  ... the Nile Ethiopian Restaurant, after having enjoyed ...

#24 Attend 15 live performances: ... this year's Horns & Pipes concert.  And came home to ...

#49 Keep up a 10 posts/month blogging schedule for 20 months ... write about it!

A great day, but exhausting for an introvert, so at the moment it's about 50/50 whether I'll get some much-needed work done, or just go to bed and hope for an early start in the morning.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, February 8, 2015 at 9:13 pm | Edit
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It takes a rich, greedy capitalist to grind the poor into the dust, right?  Certainly over the years many have done a very good job of that.  Our recent viewing of the documentary, Queen Victoria's Empire, drove home the disastrous consequences of both imperialism in Africa and the Industrial Revolution back home in Britain.

However, the same video also revealed the devastation that can be wrought by someone with good intentions, even against his will (e.g. David Livingstone), and especially when combined with the above-mentioned greed (e.g. Cecil Rhodes).

Which brings me to the point.  I cannot count the hours and hours of struggle Porter has put into getting us health insurance in these post-retirement times.  Without a doubt, I am personally grateful for the choices the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) offers us, as much as I philosophically fear its negative consequences.  Some of those negative consequences are personal, too: e.g. the colonoscopies that had been covered by our insurance in the past no longer qualify for coverage because of new rules instituted by the ACA.  And we can't afford to get sick until after the end of January, because the "helpful" phone contact assigned us the wrong Primary Care Provider, and the fix won't go into effect till February 1.  However, I admit to no longer hoping for repeal of the ACA, because the damage has been done.  Too many people, including us, are now dependent on it.  I doubt we can put the genie back in the bottle.

While I freely acknowledge that the passage of the ACA had at its heart noble ideals and good intentions, I'm not convinced it's really helping the poor, or at least not as much as it's helping people who get rich off the needs of the poor.  Porter, being retired, has the time to put into navigating the complex and exceedingly frustrating waters.  He also has a degree in economics and a mind well-suited to financial calculations.  Which convinces me that the truly impoverished will (1) throw up their hands and settle for a much less than optimal health care plan, or (2) fall prey to those who would profit from doing the paperwork for them, while charging inordinate fees and still coming up with a less than optimal plan.

Nonetheless, the purpose of this post is neither to start a political discussion nor to depress you.  It's to honor my husband, for whom Sunday's Animal Crackers comic could have been created:


No doubt about it:  I married the right man.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, January 19, 2015 at 7:56 am | Edit
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Leon?  Who or what is Leon?

Leon was my boss a few eons ago, back at the University of Rochester Medical Center.  He was a good boss, but one thing about him frustrated me.  Day after day I'd work steadily, creating algorithms and developing computer programs for our laboratory.  To all appearances, this did not impress him; it was simply what he was paying me to do.  What made him light up with pleasure and praise, however, was when I'd take the extra time to create a computer display related to my work.  Although I learned to produce these displays periodically, mostly to please him, it drove me crazy that I was being recognized for the "flash," and not for the bulk of the work, the more important work, that was behind it.  However much he might have trusted me to do good work (he chose to hire me, after all), he also needed the occasional, tangible reminder that I was worthy of his trust.  As it turned out, so did I.

Fast forward to every homemaker's frustration, every mother's least favorite question:  What do you do all day? We know how long and how hard we work, and how critically important our labors are.  All too often, however, the people we meet at parties, our friends in paid employment, and even those closest to us seem sincerely puzzled as to why our jobs take up so much time.  That is frustrating to no end, but in fact it's true of most professions.  No one from the outside can truly appreciate what it takes to do another's job, particularly since the hallmark of the best in a profession is the ability to make the work look easy.

I've discovered over time that Leon was not alone in his need for tangible measures of the value of our work.  Maybe there's no purpose in sharing the details with people we meet at parties, but bosses, co-workers, spouses, fellow-strugglers, and even (no, especially) we ourselves need occasional reassurance that we are making progress.  We are all Leon.

Why, then, do some of us find it so difficult to provide measurable documentation of our work?  I've come up with a few suggestions, based on my own experience and on what I've learned from others.

  • It takes time away from more important work.  Who needs to add yet another camel-straw to the crushing burden of work undone versus sand slipping through the hourglass? As I learned in the computer biz, however, documentation is essential, however much it feels like a waste of precious time.  Without documentation, others can't step in when we have to step back.  What's more, putting what we do into words brings clarity to our own vision.  If we don't know something well enough to explain it, we don't know it well enough.
  • We don't like to make our work public until it's in final form.  This is perfectionism, and Don Aslett would not approve.  In fact, he insists that telling others about our work while it's still in progress is a good way to get help.  It's also a good way to get kibitzers and critics, however.
  • Our goals have long paths and far horizons.  How do you quantify a happy child?  A valued relationship? Growth and development?  How can we help people appreciate our work without making their eyes glaze over?  A journalist can point on a regular basis to articles published, a doctor to patients cured, and a trash collector to clean streets, but in many professions success, when it comes, is preceded by thousands of failed experiments, research lines that didn't pan out, apparently fruitless counseling sessions, and draft pages ripped from typewriters, crumpled and tossed away.  It's all part of the process, but not conducive to marking milestones and erecting ebenezers ("hither by Thy help I'm come").  The employed can at least point to a paycheck, but unpaid work lacks even that.
  • We're not "announcers" by nature.  Some people like to chat about all the details of their lives, no matter how intimate or trivial.  These are good people to have around, as they take the greater share of the conversation burden.  But some of us don't see the point of such loquaciousness, or are simply uncomfortable with the idea.  This is another good reason for developing a documentation strategy:  we take control over what and how we share.
  • We want to be trusted with our own work.  We are not employees, and don't like the feeling that we are being supervised.  As it turns out, however, this is not as significant a factor as I had once thought.  We're not employees?  Well, the self-employed have the hardest taskmaster of all, one who knows best all our weaknesses, struggles and failures.  That boss needs the comfort of tangible markers more than anyone.

In light of these meditations, I've developed The Leon Project.  Call it a New Year's resolution if you wish.  I have hundreds of ongoing projects in various stages of completion, including not-yet-started and not-in-this-lifetime (genealogy is never finished!).  This year I'm making an effort to document where I am, what I'm doing, and where I want to go, with hopes of developing a better road map, complete with milestones to which I can look back and say, "thus far have I come."

A large part of this effort will involve partnering with my sister-in-law in her "101 Things in 1001 Days" project.  I have approximately two and a half years until my 65th birthday, which falls a bit short of 1001 days, so I'm calling my version, "95 by 65."  (That will become a link when I publish its own post.)  She started her project last year, but has graciously adjusted her schedule so that we both will finish on my 65th birthday.  We are hoping that by doing our projects together we can encourage each other to keep going and reach our goals—which range from the trivial to the highly ambitious.

I've created two new post categories, The Leon Project and 95 by 65, in expectation of keeping some of the anticipated documentation here.  I look forward to the adventure with both enthusiasm and trepidation.


Aside:  This is not the first Leon Project post I have written.  A few days ago the first one was nearly ready to post, but somehow overnight the bulk of the long essay disappeared.  (Note to self:  never assume that something you thought you saved actually succeeded in that process.)  It took a while before I got to the point of being able to rewrite, and of course the two are quite different.  Which is better we'll never know.  This one, at least, has made it to the finish line.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, January 12, 2015 at 5:22 pm | Edit
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