I did not take the time to watch President Bush's funeral today, but now that I've seen the bulletin, I almost wish I had.
I don't even like funerals. And unlike many of my friends, I've never longed to be invited to a Royal Wedding, even if I am (ahem!) related to the present Queen of England. I've never felt the need or desire to attend a service at our own Washington National Cathedral. Until now.
In truth, what I really wish is that I could have been part of that service, because as I always say, "I don't do congregation well." Put me in the choir, and I'm happy. I imagine President Bush's funeral was like the biggest service I've ever been a part of, the consecration of our current bishop, Greg Brewer—only a few orders of magnitude grander. Check out the bulletin (it's a pdf). I'm practically drooling.
Well, look what I just found. YouTube comes through again. Here's a recording of the whole service:
Now I only need to find a spare 3.5 hours to watch it.
We are excited to welcome our new rector, Father Trey Garland, to the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection. Already the experience has been educational: I now know the difference between a beretta (a gun) and a biretta (a hat). This is probably important. No doubt our Catholic, gun-collecting friend Bill knew it already, but it was new to me.
Seriously, Sunday was a great first day.
The Kindle edition of all three of C. S. Lewis's Space Trilogy books in a single volume is currently $1.99, a 91% price decrease. I don't know how long that will last, but it's unbeatable if you are at all interested.
It's official: our church has a new rector, Father Trey Garland. He's from Texas, so I assume he's up for a big job: taking over for a popular retiring priest without splitting the church. Our church in Massachusetts, which ended its 18-month-long search for a new rector just as we moved back to Central Florida, suffered just such a split. Some would say we took the coward's way out, figuring that quitting one's job, tearing up the family's roots, and moving 1300 miles is preferable to having one's church blow apart. They have a point.
Our current church is not an easy church to pastor, being both highly diverse and highly opinionated in our religious and political views. On the other hand, we do manage to love, respect, and care for each other while working together to get the job (whatever it is) done—a trick our country could learn.
Besides, I have high hopes for Father Garland: he plays the bagpipes. No joke. He went to college on a bagpipe scholarship.
We learned the identity of our new rector on Sunday, and—because I have a reputation as The One Who Looks Things Up—our choir director said he expected me to have a full report Monday morning. He was joking, but that's what I do. I look things up. Our children quickly learned that there was no need to consult the dictionary or an encyclopedia with a question: just ask Mom, and she won't be able to rest until she finds the answer. (I'd say, "look it up," and they'd say, "I don't want to know that badly," and eventually I would look it up myself, because I wanted to know that badly.) There are some people, of course, who find this behavior annoying. My sister-in-law has learned not to idly wonder how tall the Eiffel Tower is, for example, when we're in the middle of playing a game, because I will not rest until I've looked up the answer, even if it is my turn. To me, "idly wonder" is an oxymoron.
That said, I'm a bit peculiar in what I choose to wonder about.
Believe me, I take the situation of having a new rector very seriously. There are many issues that matter, issues that have split churches and driven long-time, faithful, hard-working pillars of the church away. When asked in a church survey what questions I would like to ask a candidate for the position of rector, my suggestions were along the lines of, Who is Jesus? How do you view the authority of the Bible? Of Church history and tradition? How do you promote grace, mercy, and compassion without compromising truth or condoning sin? What is your view of families with young children worshipping together in the service? Do you think we should reshape the worship service to be more attractive to young people? What is your philosophy of music as it relates to worship? What is your vision of the church's role as a member of the community? What is your vision of missions and outreach?
The answers to these questions I await with fear and trembling. But my actual research? Priorities, you know! Here's what I've learned:
I have it on the highest authority (the world-renowned piper who played for Heather and Jon's wedding) that the bagpiping program at our new rector's alma mater is highly respected, and we should encourage Father Garland to make piping a regular part of the service.
I'd settle for Christmas and Easter. And maybe the weekend of the Highland Games.
We're home after a month overseas, and it's raining.
Europe has been experiencing a drought so severe that our Viking River Cruise devovled into a Viking Bus Tour. Looking over the California-brown land of the Netherlands, Porter—who had lived there for four years in the 1960's—recalled that he had never, ever seen Holland as anything but a lush, green country. His only concern about the weather for our planned adventure there with Janet and her family was that it would be a soggy affair, because "it's always raining in Holland."
Except that it wasn't. We had five beautiful days of almost unprecedented sun, accompanied by almost unprecedented heat.
And then, finally, it rained. The grateful grass took notice and stood up, acquiring a green blush overnight. It also rained some during our subsequent visit to Switzerland.
It wasn't until tonight that I realized why it the experience was somewhat disorienting. It rained in Europe much as it rained in America's Northeast when I was young. That is to say, I relearned what umbrellas are good for, and more than half the time didn't bother with one anyway. I got a little wet; I soon got dry.
But tonight we are back in Florida, and it is RAINING. The water is pouring out of the sky so fast that the gutters overflow before the flood has a chance to reach the downspouts. Any minute now I expect to see the Maid of the Mist cruise through our back porch. Then again, maybe I missed it when a lightning strike, so close that the bottoms of my bare feet tingled, sent us scurrying back inside.
If in the Netherlands we didn't bother with umbrellas because they were hardly needed, in Florida we don't bother because after 30 seconds one is soaked to the skin anyway.
Now that's rain. One night of this and all the cruise ships would be back in business.
There are at least nine swallowtail caterpillars here. I need to find a butterfly that likes lemon balm (currently overgrowing the parsley).
Ours is a very safe neighborhood, so I rarely worry when Porter goes out for a run, as he does several times a week. If the time of day happens to be dusk or dawn, I can't resist warning him to watch out for bears, and of course there's always the risk of angering a dog that's running loose. But we've always considered those to be remote possibilities.
The attack, when it came, was totally unexpected.
Due to a mild injury, Porter chose to walk this afternoon, rather than to speed along at his usual running pace. Suddenly, he staggered under a powerful blow to the head. Totally out of the blue. Literally, out of the blue. Shocked but still upright, he looked up to see one of our local hawks with murder in his eye. In truth, Porter coudn't exactly see the bird's eyes, and in any case it was probably murder in her eye. Our best guess is that there was a nest nearby and the—not helicopter, but certainly hovering—parent saw this slow-moving, strange man as a threat. The man thought it best to be on his way quickly.
Porter wears a hat when he runs, to keep off the sun. I rarely wear hats, because they make me too hot. Today, Porter's choice was vindicated.
There's a Sushi Eatstation in one of our local shopping centers. I'm not generally a fan of strip mall food, and bad Asian food can be ... really bad. So I was initially suspicious of this design-your-own, food-fusion, fast-food restaurant. I mean, how weird is it to be able to make sushi with chicken, sweet potates, and bacon?
But today we decided to check it out. And am I glad we did.
We were too overwhelmed by the choices (check them out yourself) to design our own on this first visit, so we chose the Traditional Ninja combination, in a bowl, for $12. This was white rice, salmon, tuna, krab (the standard sushi fake crabmeat), cucumbers, avocado, scallions, masago, tempura flakes, seaweed salad, sesame seeds, nori seasoning, ponzu, and sriracha, to which our server added some ginger and wasabi.
The large bowl was plenty for the two of us, though it was so good I could easily have eaten it all myself.
Was it traditional? No. Was it an awesome sushi experience? No. Was it a delicious flavor and texture experience? Absolutely. Will I return to the Sushi Eatstation? I certainly hope so!
As some of you know, the barely-three-year-old grandson of a dear friend of ours is fighting for his life with a rare and virulent form of leukemia. Today he will begin Day Zero of his new life, after a bone marrow transplant from his sister and best friend, who is just five years old herself. For you Green Ember fans out there, by replacing his bone marrow cells with hers, she is quite literally living out "My place beside you, my blood for yours." Not all heroes carry swords.
To all the prayer warriors and well-wishers who read my blog: please remember Jennings and Caroline today. The procedure is risky and there will still be a long road ahead, but it's the best foundation current medical science has that gives hope for a cure.
Ember Rising, the latest in S. D. Smith's Green Ember series, is now available! I have just completed a delicious re-read of all the previous books—The Green Ember, The Black Star of Kingston, Ember Falls, and The Last Archer—and am almost halfway through my advance copy of Ember Rising. It was hard to wait patiently to read the new book, but worthwhile to get the old stories clear in my head again. (I am not like J. R. R. Tolkien, for whom there was only one "first reading" of a book. I read voraciously, and I read fast—but I forget quickly, too, and don't really remember a book until I've read it several times.)
TODAY, Februay 7, you can get the first two Green Ember books in Kindle format for FREE. Enjoy!
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In 1944, my grandparents moved across the continent from Pullman, Washington to Rochester, New York, where my grandfather worked until he retired in 1969. This film, made in 1963, gives glimpses of their Rochester. The Rochester they watched as it developed.
We visited them at least once a year when I was young, but I remember little of the city from then. Most of my memories are from my own time in Rochester, from 1970 through 1983. That's close enough to 1963 for this video to have sparked many memories, from the Midtown Plaza Clock of the Nations to Letchworth State Park to the Spring House restaurant, where we had our wedding rehearsal dinner. Not to mention the University of Rochester, the Lilac Festival in Highland Park, and the old familiar industries and landmarks.
By the time our daughter returned to attend the Eastman School of Music at the end of the century, Rochester was a different city, with much of the industry gone or on the way out. A telling quote from Wikipedia about the Eastman Kodak Company, once virtually synonymous with Rochester, is this: Although Kodak developed a digital camera in 1975, the first of its kind, the product was dropped for fear it would threaten Kodak's photographic film business. They had forgotten, perhaps, the film's admonition that if a company (or a city) does not change, change will come in ways unexpected and unpleasant.
Rochester is still a lovely city, and I sure miss "the splendor of a Western New York apple," though I don't think anyone's bragging about the traffic situation anymore. Our children, and perhaps even my siblings, are too young to remember when life was like this, but I hope they'll still enjoy this bit of history, which is part of the world of my childhood. I only wish I could talk with my grandparents about the Rochester they knew.
Since mid-November, my reading has been rather light, there being nothing intellectually challenging about my last 13 books. (Well, Boys of Blur could be—I need to re-read Beowulf—but it was enjoyable enough without going into all that.) I had planned to continue that trend for a while, not from any particular desire for easy reading, but because I want to re-read all the existing Green Ember books before the new one is released.
His current all-time favorite book series is Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time. With that kind of recommendation, I thought it would be good to check it out. Recently our libray sent notice that my hold for the first book in the series, The Eye of the World, had come through, so today I ventured out to pick it up.
The librarian didn't quite need a hand truck to bring it from the back room.
The book is 670 pages long.
I hope I like it, because 670 pages will be a long slog if I don't. But I'm more than half hoping that I don't like it too much, because there are 13 more books in the series, plus a prequel and a companion book.
Long gone (though only five years past) is the time when I could sample his taste in reading by whipping through half a dozen Animorphs books in a few days.
I need new jeans. This is a perennial situation; I've been looking for new jeans for years, waiting for comfort to come back in style. I mean, we're talking jeans here. Not high fashion. Jeans are supposed to be comfortable.
When will the skinny jeans fad end?
For some inexplicable reason I thought I'd try my luck again today. Tell me, what kind of an oxymoron is "plus size skinny jeans"? Just plain moronic, I'd say.
Listen, folks. I wouldn't want to look as if my jeans were painted on even if I had the best of figures. But in what bizarre nightmare did you dream that a plus size woman might want to feel every ounce of flab she owns from the waist down—and display it all for the world to see? Even the models in the ads look ugly, stuffed into skin-tight pants.
One more, little hint you might want to take seriously: Adding big rips in the knees does not make the jeans any more attractive, no matter what the size. On plus sizes it looks beyond stupid.
Bring on the next book! Bring on the next Kickstarter appeal. I'll be there. #RabbitsWithSwords
The time has come. Ember Rising is finally in the home stretch. The book is written, artwork done, cover chosen ... there's just that little matter of publication. Once again they are funding this through Kickstarter, which I see as a great way to support a good author and play a small part in getting these wonderful books out of his head and into the world.
I'm now officially an S. D. Smith fan. I don't support projects for the sake of the rewards, any more than I donate blood for the t-shirts and gift cards. But they're still nice to have, and this time I chose a level with rewards that duplicate things I already have—such as Kindle versions of the books—because it also gets me physical copies of all the books published so far. I had some, from previous campaigns, but gave them away, because why take up bookshelf space when you have the Kindle versions? Unless, of course, you have decided that you really like the books, and you're a true bibliophile, and still love the feel of a real book in your hands. And want to be able to lend the books to friends, or attract the eye of a visiting grandchild. That sort of thing. You can read a Kindle book, but you can love a physical book, and some books deserve to be loved. Hence my extensive collection of George MacDonald, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Arthur Ransome, Miss Read....