Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas greetings

We're in the Christmas season! The Saintly household is having a pretty good one.

I went to the Christmas Eve service, then to a get-together at the house of Bible-study friends.

I served at the Christmas morning service, a smaller crowd. That service was celebrated in the little-old chapel, and I really enjoyed it, then had Christmas dinner with my friends Michelle and Ken.

Here are Betsy and Elvis, waiting for Santa to show. Betsy is wearing Christmas finery, because she is my Christmas dog - my Christmas gift nine years ago, from the Holy Spirit, who led me to the next county north, where I found Betsy at the SPCA. She was just a little border-Collie Australian-shepherd puppy, stuck in a pen with some big bruisers. I took her home, and she's been a blessing ever since.

Every Christmas, Betsy has more white on her muzzle. Her spirit is as loving as always. The Best Dog in the Whole Wide World is what I call her.

Elvis is now at least 10 years old. I gave him to my mother for her birthday, when Elvis was just a teeny thing - small enough to sit in the palm of your hand, but full of personality. I think that was in 1998, but it may have been a year earlier. So, he's 10, if not 11. I took Elvis in five years ago when my mother's Alzheimer's got bad.

Elvis is still spry, and he's as full of himself as he was as a little kitten — non-stop personality. We'll talk about the diet in the next post.

Betsy and Jack the Brat settle in for a nap. Betsy snuggles in a squeaky teddy bear under her arm. She got it for Christmas. Betsy loves squeaky toys.

Jack the Brat, the baby of the bunch, is now 4 1/2 years old. He came into my life just before the devasting triple hurricanes of 2004 struck Central Florida. He had been injured, and needed care. The vet asked me to foster him, and, as she planned, I couldn't turn loose of him.

So, those are the "children" of the household, each special in his or her own way, and bringing delight.

Except for the time when I have to clean up yak, or diarrhea, or kitty litter kicked all over the floor, or something shredded all over the living room. But those are minor trials.

Life is so much fuller with these companions.

Friday, December 05, 2008

St. Pat goes cruising, followed by weeks of overwork

The good news is, I got a cruise in before I got sick. That was before Thanksgiving. It was a nice cruise, a repeat of the itinerary from our 2006 church cruise, from Melbourne to Nassau and back.

We went on a different Royal Caribbean ship called Monarch of the Seas. The ship we cruised on in 2006 was retired from the fleet. Monarch was very similar, but a little newer. The coolest thing about it? Our captain was a woman, and fantastic - a real sharpie!

The very most fantastic thing about the cruise was we sailed around 5:15 on Nov. 14 — the day Space Shuttle Endeavour lifted off at 7:55 p.m. Captain Karen took us out and positioned the ship so we would have a great view of the liftoff from the decks.

It was gorgeous. It had already turned dark, and there was a fulll moon, the size of a dinner plate, hanging in the sky to my right, as I waited on deck. It cast ghostly white fingers atop the water.

Then, to my left, I could see a faint orange glow on the horizon, exactly where sea and sky appeared to meet. It grew larger and brighter. It was gorgeous, a huge ball of orange and red, lifting into the sky and arcing toward us.

It cast its own fiery fingers across the water, overpowering the pale and wan moon.

I held my breath, as I always do at booster separation. Then, the shuttle continued, like a bright white star moving across the heavens. Perfect.

We went straight from dinner to the deck, and I didn't have my camera with me. I decided that was better, even though I don't have photos to brag of - I spent the minutes experiencing it, instead of fiddling with the camera.

I did get a nice photo or two the next day, as we into Nassau Harbor, though.

When we got back, I was coming down with a bronchitis plus head-cold thing that's been going around. I've been sick for just about three weeks, but am mostly over it now, thank goodness. I couldn't take time off to recuperate - I was working 12 and 14 hour days. sigh.

I'm glad I got through the cruise BEFORE I got sick, though.

I had a good time. I give this cruise a B+. The only downer was the weather turned windy and a little chilly, and we didn't stop at the little private island on the way back - the weather was too foul. I didn't mind much - we just cruised around, instead.

Now, I'm looking forward to Christmas, and another day or two off.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Living the life political

It's election season, and I've been in the thick of it -- interviewing local, state and congressional politicians running in this area. I'm more involved in writing political stories than ever, and I'm getting the nasty side, the innuendos and smear campaigns up close.

Maybe it just seems worse this year than ever, but I think it is worse. I'll be glad when elections are over.

I've even had an angry politician take a swipe at me. Maybe that means I've arrived.

Tonight, I'm going to see Sen. Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton live in person, over in the Orlando area. Oh boy.

I've had some good times, despite all the work. I went to a wine festival Friday night for my birthday, then went to see the movie "W" Sunday. I've been going out with friends after work a lot the past week or so, which is good, because I had been a little isolated with my work schedule, but it still seems like I'm hardly ever home.

I quit my part-time job, after getting a pay raise to do more editing chores at the newspaper. That means I'm working longer hours at the paper. I may have to get another part-time job the first of the year, but I'm enjoying the breather from running back and forth.

Peace out for now. I'll write you about the Obama experience!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Weather, paint and holidays

I keep pledging to post more often, then go another two weeks with no posts. Soon, I will reform! I will quit working so many hours and take more time to walk the dog, keep my house decently clean (good enough for the Health Department, anyway) and blog.

The weather has taken a toll on my time, personally and professionally - I've been Weather Central at the newspaper, updating the Web site blow-by-blow on the storms, along with my other duties.

Then, on Labor Day, I started painting. The walls have been touched up here and there since I moved in nine years ago, but now I'm doing real painting.

So, I started on my living/dining/kitchen area Sunday and continued Monday. Then I went back to work with late nights covering city meetings, and haven't finished yet! But, I will this weekend. After that big area with cathedral ceilings, the rest of the house will be easy. I'll do just one room a weekend and have the house ready for the holidays.

A few weeks ago, I had the old, ratty rugs pulled out and ceramic tile put in. With the rooms painted, a new sofa and the house cleaned up, I'll be ready for the holidays.

And I'm ready have nice holidays. They haven't been great the past years, between family deaths, illnesses and other problems. I'm ready.

And I've been feeling the Holy Spirit's presence.

More to come on that.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Adios, Fay

Fay is mostly gone, now. We're still getting squally showers off and on, and probably will through the night, but nothing bad. Thank God.

Here's a weird little thing: Little earthworms have been crawling up the outside walls of my house the past couple of days, looking fore safety. They drown when the earth is saturated with water.

I took a picture of this little guy who made it all the way up a window, seeking higher ground:

I emptied and washed out my rain barrel the first of the week, in preparation for Fay. It's been overflowing all week. I got this neat shot in this morning's rain:

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Waiting on fickle Tropical Storm Fay

I'm sitting here listening to the rain fall. It's rather nice, actually — the steady drip of rain falling from the roof, mixed with softer and heavier rainfalls.

It's been raining here for a few days now. I count myself fortunate, because my house sits fairly high and dry, and because I haven't had 30 inches of rain like they've had in southern Brevard County. Maybe 6-8 inches, instead. I haven't had the high winds, either. Just a few gusts.

According to the weather forecasts, I should have been getting 30-45 mph winds this evening. That forecast, like most of them, has been wrong. I'm not ruling them out for the night, though.

Fay has been a cypher all along, defying the standard conventions and what is expected of tropical weather.

For one thing, what tropical storm comes on land, then gets stronger? That's just what Fay's done. I've been covering her all week.

It wasn't until she came onto the Florida Peninsula she developed into a tighter cyclonic system, and even developed a rudimentary eyewall, both signs of a hurricane.

It was thought Fay might turn into a hurricane before she made landfall in South Florida. She didn't. She was expected to weaken after she made landfall. She strengthened.

Even after cutting across the state, Fay was still packing 60 mph winds, sometimes edging up to 65 mph.

She got to the Space Coast and sat. And sat.

She finally moseyed up the Atlantic a few miles to Daytona Beach. And sat, and sat.

She finally started moving inland this afternoon -- at 2 mph.

Fay, what's your hurry?

Fickle Fay, move away and don't come back another day -- this NOAA shot was taken this afternoon, not long before Fay finally started making her dramatic 2 mph turn inland, around the Volusia/Flagler county line in East Central Florida.

Fay gave herself the luxury of dumping horrendous rains on Brevard, and now parts of Volusia County, but not on my little patch of it.

I thank God, and pray Fay won't stay.

If she moves west back across the peninsula into the Gulf, who knows what she'll do?

A forecaster I talked to said Fay will be one for textbooks, and a case study, because her behavior has been so unusual. She's proof cyclonic storms aren't all just about wind or even storm surge. Fay is a rain-maker extraordinaire.

Monday, August 18, 2008

St. Pat's weather central - Tropical Storm Kay

Tropical Storm Kay stepped all over Cuba and is now ready to pounce on Southwest Florida tomorrow morning. She's now about 105 miles south of Naples, FL. Sustained winds are around 60 mph, but Kay may make it to hurricane status, 74 mph, by the time she makes landfall.

(TS Fay water vapor image cribbed from NOAA/National Weather Service)

The saintly household, with the rest of the county, is under a tropical storm warning. We're expected to get winds of 40-50 mph, with perhaps higher gusts, starting late tomorrow afternoon, as the the storm pushes up the Florida Peninsula. There are chances of isolated tornadoes tonight and tomorrow.

Fay's exact path is uncertain, but it looks like we're in for bad weather whichever track she takes. Wind shear will keep her from turning into another Hurricane Charley if the one model is correct, predicting Fay will cross the southern portion of the peninsula, go eastward into the Atlantic a bit, then make a u-turn for Central or Northern Florida.

I'm kind of thinking and praying we won't get anything really nasty here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Home improvement

The floors of the saintly household have been changed out. They're now lined with ceramic tile, instead of worn out, chewed up wall-to-wall carpeting.

It's been an exhausting couple of weeks. First, there was getting ready for the tile setters to come. Then, there was have the tile setters (actually, one setter and an assistant) in the house all week. Then, there's been trying to put the house back together.

Then, there was the lack of sleep. Poor little Jack the Brat cat was traumatized. He's scared of strangers, and runs and hides under the bed at the first sign of invasion.

Jack not only had strange men invading his domain, his whole domain changed!

The tile setters left my bedroom until last, and Jack stayed hid out by day. By night, he wandered the house, crying, because he didn't understand the changes. I could soothe him for only moments at a time.

The real trauma came when they pulled out the bed (his safety blanket) and tiled the bedroom.

Jack is just starting to recover. I got him drunk on catnip one night, and that seemed to help. I left out a catnip-infused scratching board, and he loves it. He rubs his face on it, then rips into it.

Betsy aka The Best Dog in the World got another hair cut - short - in an effort to reduce the amount of fur flying through the air. Hah.

I'm still trying to put the house back together, but not too much, because I want to paint first.

Meanwhile, I'm keeping an eye of Tropical Storm Fay, now near Cuba. The storm is expected to hit the Keys. She could strengthen into a hurricane, if she moves on into the Gulf.

So far, it's been a quiet hurricane season. I'm praying it stays that way.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Signs of life

Yes, dear hearts, I'm still here. I'm tired of working too much between my two jobs, but I'm surviving.

We've been deluged with rain the past couple of weeks, and that's just what we need. The rainfall totals for the year and the aquifer are both running low.

Everything is green, joyously and vibrantly so. The grass and clover, the plants in my yard are drunk on their extra rations of water!

These elephant ears by the patio are on a mission to repopulate my yard - lots of little ones are coming up.

My rose bushes have finally produced one rose this summer, but it's a glorious one, and it's stayed full all week.

Betsy, always alert to the possibility of thunderstorms, hears the dreaded sound of thunder approaching this evening.

St. Pat's new rain barrel overfloweth

Dear Lord, thank you for the gorgeous colors you give us -- greens and reds, blue sky, crystalline water. Thank you for the gift of life, not only our own, but that which abounds in the world around us. Guide us and instruct is in caring for this life. We know we are only your stewards, and none of it belongs to us. Amen.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Happy happy joy joy

I got a rain barrel, courtesy of my farming friends. It sat beneath the spot where two parts of my roof join, patiently waiting for rain. We got a little, one afternoon. I looked into my barrel a few days later, and found only dried residue.

Now, the rains have come. We've had some deluges, and the wildfire threat has largely passed. My rain barrel overfloweth. Yippee! Now, I have auxiliary water for times when storms that knock out my electricity — and access to well water. Plus, there's water for plants when the weather is dry.

We have a new rector at church, Fr. R. Though I'm still grieving our interim, Father M., who died a couple of months ago, I'm happy to greet Fr. R. He's middle of the road enough to keep the congregation together, I think, and he has a sense of humor and fun. I'm hoping and praying for good things to come. I'll write more later.

A couple of people spearheaded a move to start a community-supported farm nearby, and I'm very interested. I've been covering the movement through the newspaper, and intend to become a member. A 5-6 acre plot of land has already been offered to start the farm, and I'm getting ready to go out there and get photos of a tractor at work, tilling the ground.

Yipppee! Farmer St. Pat. Who'da thunk?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Florida Mistral

We've had hot, dry and windy weather. Perfect for brushfires, which have dotted the landscape.

It's been a dry spring, and the wind came last Sunday. I call the wind the Florida Mistral. Our Mistral is a fierce, hot and arid wind, blowing out of the west-southwest.

Last Sunday, the gusts were scary at times. They rattled the front door and windows unnerving Betsy, who moved from her usual nap spot by the front door to a more protected spot between the coffee table and sofa. The winds brought dry underbrush to tinderbox conditions.

We've been lucky in the saintly household -- so far, no fires very close to us, but the wind is still blowing, with no precipitation expected. Fires numbered around 103 around the state the last count I saw. Some were set deliberately.

The grass is yellow-brown and dry. It crunches beneath your feet.

Ah, Florida. Land of extremes.

Pray for rain.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Hola a Padre Mickey y la hermosa Mona

Padre, thank you for being concerned about me, along with the other posters! I was going to say so on your blog, but you shut off comments to go on vacation. Oy!

Some of my best memories of Panama are of staying at a little cottage on the beach, way up the coast from the Canal Zone. There, you meet the true Panama and its wonderful people.

I don't know who owned the cottage - a friend of a friend of my parents. It sat alone on the beach. We had the dunes and the wide open spaces in which to play!

Some of my school friends would come with me. We had no surf boards, so we sat on our inflatable beach rafts and rode in on the big rolling waves, yelling "Cowabunga!"

An adult was always perched on the little bluff overlooking the beach, armed with binoculars and watching for sharks. We were ordered out of the water occasionally, and never had any close encounters.

At night, we built bonfires on the beach. Try doing that around here, and the Beach Rangers would be on you like fleas on a hound dog!

A couple of the locals brought their horses, one time, and offered them for our rental, which we accepted. Now, these were plow horses, and I doubt they had ever been ridden much. They came with no saddles or bridles.

I took horseback riding lessons in my youth, so wasn't afraid of riding them. The horse I got just wasn't into the spirit of things, though. I sat on him, said, "Giddyap, vamos," and other sundry commands to get going.

He just turned his head and looked at me as if to say, "What were you thinking?"

After coaxing, the horse would walk several steps, then turn to gaze quizzically at me again. We lurched down the beach. This went on for a little while, until one of the sudden afternoon thunderboomers came up, letting a good ripping boom roll up the beach.

That horse suddenly turned into thoroughbred racing material. He took off as hard as he could go, with me clinging onto him by the mane. I caught up and passed my friends, and my horse kept going.

Finally, I got him to stop. Then, he turned his head and looked inquiringly at me again. We plodded along.

Ah, the good times.

The cottage had no electricity. We used gas for lights and cooking, and it gave the place the feel of another era. We would read or play board games in the evening, in the glow of the gaslight, when we weren't out on the beach.

A special treasure in the cottage was a Victrola, with a number of Tin Pan Alley hit records to play on it. Some of the records were square. I'm not making this up. (The grooves on them were circular, though.) Those records were probably collector's items then, and would be worth a fortune today.

I wonder whatever happened to them, to the cottage and all the people.

Con mi amor,

Santa Patricia

P.S. - Sending camera money

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The best and worst of times

My dear friends, I'm sorry I've been out of touch. I appreciate you so much.

The last weeks have been the best of times and the worst of times.

I'll start with the worst. Our interim rector, Father M. died suddenly, Saturday afternoon. I suppose "suddenly" is a relative concern. He was in the hospital a couple of weeks ago, with a heart problem I understand he'd had all his life. He was back at church last Sunday, though, and looking well.

He apparently went to bed for a little nap yesterday, and didn't wake up.

It's not at all the worst way to go. Still, it wrenched my heart. Father M. was an unfailingly kind and gentle man. He orchestrated a wonderful service so I could grieve surrounded by friends when my mother died, back in September.

Father M. celebrates the Eucharist during our church cruise in November:

Depart, O Christian soul, out of this world;
In the Name of God the Father Almighty who created you;
In the Name of Jesus Christ who redeemed you;
In the Name of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you;
May your rest be this day in peace
and your dwelling place in the Paradise of God.

(From The Book of Common Prayer, "A Commendation at the Time of Death.")

I am grieving now, but couldn't join the congregation today. My car is temporarily out of service, and I'm put out the mechanic didn't get it fixed the end of the week. That's the trouble with my commute to church. It's a bit far.

Regardless, I know Father M. is in the glorious and joyful company of the saints in heaven.

Mostly work, some play

I've been slammed with work the past weeks (OK, a month) since my last post. I keep getting hit with one late-breaking story after another, cool in a way, but difficult when I'm working two jobs. I've often gone from one job to the next, then back to the first to finish writing a story. Then either go out with friends for a glass of wine to stave off isolation, or home to fall in bed, so I can start another day in the morning.

At least being without a running car has given me time at home this weekend (and time to blog!).

Work hasn't been all bad. I've gotten to do some neat things. I took an airplane ride in a World War II vintage Texan, an advanced trainer aircraft, when History Flight came through on a barnstorming tour.

I figured on a quick five or 10 minutes around the airport, but the pilot took me up for a great flight, putting the plane through its paces. We did a variety of loops and rolls over the countryside. It was wonderful.

Last week, I found out I will be the recipient of not one, but two journalism awards from the state press association. One is for a series on our local homeless people, and another for religion writing. Not too shabby!

Saving the best for last: claiming the blessing

We had a great healing mission at the church not long after my last posting, with Jack and Anna Marie Sheffield. I came with no great expectations, after disappointment with big talk from leaders but not much happening at other healing missions the past few years.

I received inner healing, deep in my heart and spirit, as we prayed. I can't explain it; I just accept it. I felt the Spirit of God surround me, the words of his love pouring out on me, and his love, which is healing, flow through me.

I've had more peace since than than I've had in my adult life. Not that family, financial and other problems have disappeared, by any means.

After a month to make sure I didn't experience just a temporary emotional reaction to the mission, I know I'm operating more from a center of peace to deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, for God is my shield. I've know this, but now I know it in a more deeply personal way.

I've been inner focused, any time I've had a chance to rest. That had a lot to do with my lack of blogging.

Healing hasn't come to me in one big pow. It comes in smaller and larger measures. That's all right; the divine hands are doing the measuring.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Lord, have mercy

It's Good Friday.

I've hardly given a thought to Holy Week. It's been rush, rush, rush to get things done, to run from one job to another. By the time I get home at night, I'm good for nothing.

I've hardly stopped to pray, to meditate, to do any of the things I want to do during Holy Week. It's all just sliding past.

Yet, I feel his presence. He's here with me, knowing I will turn to him sooner or later.

Yes, Lord, here I am. I'm sorry I haven't been listening. I'm sorry I haven't been asking.

I don't know what you want me to do; I don't know what you want for me right now. I promise to spend more time seeking your presence and your counsel. I promise to listen and to heed.

Lord, have mercy on me.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Our glorious Iraqi victory

Today's Washington Post tells us, "For a majority of Americans, today marks the fifth anniversary of the start of an Iraq war that was not worth fighting, one that has cost thousands of lives and more than half a trillion dollars. For the Bush administration, however, it is the first anniversary of an Iraq strategy that it believes has finally started to succeed."

That would be the big "surge" strategy. It could have us outta there in just years.

I'm reminded this optimism came from the president who told us in the beginning the incursion into Iraq would be a 30-day mopping-up operation. In and out.

This is the same man who, a little less than five years ago, showed up on the deck of an aircraft carrier in a stylish pilot's flight jacket and told of of the glorious victory we had attained.

May, 2003

Meanwhile, the death toll mounted, mandatory extensions of duty became standard, and our economy is down the drain. Now, Osama bin Laden still lurks in Afghanistan (or somewhere) and issues more threats.

Pardon my cynicism.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What I like about Florida

The days now are sunny and clear - warm, but not too warm. Perfect.

I took this photo on another such day, back in December, at Blue Spring. I barely managed to catch the image of this gorgeous great blue heron sweeping over the water before it was gone.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A disciple's tale

I wrote this story back in 2004 and reran it two years ago. It started as a Maundy Thursday meditation, then grew into a story about a young disciple I can relate to. Foolish, protesting strong faith but quick to succumb to despair. I think my own understanding grew through writing the story. The disciple is one of my favorite creations.

Maundy Thursday: Who will wash these feet?


Feeling pissy, Satan asks, "For heaven's sake. If you're God, how can you demean yourself with their smelly, stinky feet?"

Jesus looks at him with pity, then says, "Humility fosters love, both from the giver and the recipient."

"Oh, fine." Satan says. "Just continue with this 'humble servant' bit. See where it gets you."

"You will see," replies Jesus. He sighs. "Most of the time, my disciples don't get it, either."

The Disciple speaks:

It had been a long week. Jesus came riding into the city as an honored prophet. Many accepted Jesus as our Messiah, and some continued their disbelief. Jesus had been saying some puzzling things that we did not understand, but tonight, we would relax and have this supper together.

It is the time of the Passover. As it is written in the Book of Genesis, "This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance."

It is the custom to bathe before coming to a banquet. We arrive clean, except for our feet, which get very dirty on the streets and roads. Usually, a servant will bring water to wash the guests' feet before the banquet.

We came in, we disciples, and found our accustomed seats. We said prayers and sang songs just as we do every time we come together. Nothing seemed different tonight than any other night, except that Judas was gone, and except that tonight, there was no one to bring water to wash our feet, and no one volunteered.

I thought about it, but didn't want to appear lower than my actual station, for I was a disciple, not a servant.

We proceeded with the meal. I was careful to keep my dirty feet out of sight. They discomforted me. I saw Jesus get up and wrap a towel around his waist.

I remember...

Jesus took a towel, bowl and basin and began to wash his disciples' feet. I drew back in embarrassment. I heard Peter protest, then acquiesce. I lurked in the back in confusion, hoping to avoid notice.

"Why then, Lord, are you now kneeling in front of me, like a servant? Are you going to wash my feet, too?" I asked. I was shocked at the thought of it.

"No, I can't allow that," I said.

My feet were caked with dirt, for I had been long on the road this day. My toenails were thick and uneven. The nails and cuticles of my toes were grimy. My feet were covered in thick calluses and dry, cracked, peeling skin. And more dirt.

Lord, I thought, I can't let you look upon these feet, much less touch them. You were not meant for this.

These ugly feet were no fit offering to the Lord. I kept them tucked back, hidden from his sight.

Kneeling, Jesus looked up at me.

I implored, "Ask something else of me, Lord, and I will give it, I will do it."

He gazed at me steadily. I saw love and compassion in his eyes, and I was smitten in return.

I knew he understood my embarrassment, my pride that made me want to hide these unattractive members from his sight. But he already knew. He had seen -- he had already seen everything.

Like Peter, now I wanted to be washed all over. I wanted whatever would make me more worthy. But he required just this tonight.

Hesitantly, I pulled my feet from their hiding place.

The water sparkled as he poured it over my feet. I heard a soft murmuring and splashing of water.

Layer by the layer, he washed the grime away. The water was soothing, relaxing. I felt the blood moving through my feet, my hands, my heart. I floated into this renewal.

Jesus' hands healed the cuts and sores on my feet. He held my feet as he carefully dried them with the towel. My feet were clean and warm.

Who am I that my Lord should tend to me as a servant?

No one. It he who makes me worthy.

I am filled with a deep peace.

Thank you Lord, for this gift.

This is what happened with the Lord on the night of Passover. He told us to love one another, to be servants to each other. He showed us.

What I received from the Lord, I hand on to you. Let me look upon you with Christ's eyes, see you with Christ's love, treat you with Christ's humility. Allow me now to follow Christ's example of servanthood. Please allow me to wash your feet.

We will be blessed if we do these things for each other.

Saturday morning

Where is my God?

How can it be that my Lord is dead? I thought that cruel execution would be stopped. I prayed for it to be stopped. Yet my Lord is dead.

How could you have left me? How could you have forsaken me?

I am desolate with grief.

People on the streets snicker and say, "Where is your Lord now?"

I don't think I can even stand, yet I run from their sneering faces. I run from the image of the blood-soaked figure, lifeless, as him mother croons over him. That image has the force a thousand knives plunged into my heart. I run from it.

I run like a dog who has lost its master, loping this way then that, pawing the ground, panting with thirst.

I stop in a grove of olives. I rend my shirt. I claw at my chest until I see drops of bright, red blood fall to the ground. Yet there is no atonement for what was done. I am sick in my soul.

My Lord, my Lord, have you left us? How could you abandon us?

The sunlight is dull and wan. I watch until nightfall, and there are no stars.

I cannot sleep. Oh God, grant me death, too. My face is stiff with tears that brought no comfort, and still I cannot sleep.

I stumble back into the city, avoiding the soldiers and the mockers, and ask where they have taken my Lord. I find the tomb. I sit and lean against the stone wall.

Was it only two nights ago that we broke bread? You washed my feet. I look at them now and they are filthy and bloody.

My Lord, where have you gone?

I will wait here for whatever is to come. I lean against the cold stone, and at last, I sleep.

Saturday night, Sunday morning

Listen to my story:

I sleep against the hard stone of the tomb of my Lord Jesus, called the Messiah, who had been crucified and buried. A couple of guards come by and poke at me, but I refuse to move. I am too exhausted and too grieved to care. If they take my life, so much the better. I no longer need it.

I go back to sleep.

"Disciple, wake up. Arise," comes a voice.

I float upward to consciousness from a very deep place.

"Awake. Your Lord needs you."

A creature stands before me, luminous in the dark. It iss beautiful, the creature, but very strange. Almost like a man, but not. I have trouble seeing it properly. Its glow makes it hard for me to focus my eyes on it.

The world is moving in odd ways.

"Don't go fainting on me. You have work to do."

The creature touches the stone in front of the tomb. It rumbles away from the entrance to the cave.

Listen. I see the risen Lord.

He walks toward me. He is beautiful, so beautiful. He glows with a luminosity much greater than that of the creature beside me.

It is him.

I can see the empty funeral linens behind Him.

He's dressed in white. He moves with a fluid grace. I don't know how this could be, but it is.

He is risen, shining in glory. I see it with my own eyes.

Listen to the good news.

I remember what He said about the three days that I hadn't understood.

With one scarred hand, He touches my forehead. Peace comes over me.

"Tell the others when they come. Disciple, you will make disciples. Tell your story."

I can only say yes. I kneel. He puts His hand on the top of my head for a moment, then walks past me in radiance.

My clothes are now beautiful and white. The wound on my chest is gone. My feet are clean and soft, and my skin iss as fine as a child's.

He has done many miraculous things. But the most miraculous is that he lives.

"Wait here for the others," says the creature who had awakened me. It only can have been an angel.

I sit on top of the stone, waiting and examining my new clothes and my new skin, when the Roman guards come back. I enjoy their confusion over the open tomb.

"Are you looking for Jesus of Nazareth?" I ask in my best and most holy of voices. I chortle at the guards'confusion.

They look into the cave and then look at me in my new appearance with their mouths open, not recognizing the disciple they tried to roust a little earlier.

"He is not here. He is gone. An angel came and moved the stone with one finger. Now he is risen and he is gone."

I am now laughing, holding my sides. I realize this is joy, come back into the world.

"He died, but he rose again. He will never forsake us." I lift my arms. "Share my joy!"

The guards back away from me carefully, then run up the path from the tomb.

I sit rocking myself, singing, praying and praising and laughing through the night. I wait until I see Mary Magdalene on the path, then I jump down from the stone, landing lightly on my feet, ready to tell her the good news.


Listen, all of you, to my testimony and we shall make disciples of many, for Jesus Christ is alive. He brings life in abundance, life everlasting and salvation.


Lazarus, Lazarus, where did you go?
Once freed from the dank fetid tomb,
They say it was the Messiah who brought you back.
Couldn't you stay and tell me what you saw?
What happened to you those three days full?
Tell me, tell me.

What did you see, where did you do?
Did you just slumber? Did you descend to hell?
Did you stroll down streets of gold?
Are you glad to be snatched from the dead,
to walk with the sun on your face once more
-- Or is it hell to be snatched from heaven.

Friday, March 07, 2008

A quiet evening at home

This morning's tornado watch was extended from noon until 7 p.m., then from 7 p.m. until 2 a.m. We haven't had any really bad weather, just some hard rain. We saw a little hail this afternoon.

I saw more little bits of hail bouncing up in front of my car's headlights while ago, when I came up my driveway. It's now thundering ominously.

Yep. A good night to stay in. I'll think I'll watch a movie -- I got Babel today -- or read.

Tornado watch

Well, here we are, with the third severe weather watch in 10 days. My weather alarm sounded at 6:45 a.m., with a tornado watch in effect until noon.

It started with tornado watches all day Tuesday a week ago, then severe weather watches this past Tuesday, then today's tornado watch. Is all this stuff just the usual, cyclical pattern? Or have our weather patterns undergone an atypical change, because of global warming?

I don't know. It seems like the first many years I lived here we never worried about tornadoes. An occasional thunderstorm would catch us as fronts came through, and that was it. Now, tornado watches are becoming typical, from the end of December through spring. Then it's time for hurricane watches.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Betsy's spring do

February means springtime in Florida, and the advent of shedding.

Betsy, a border collie/Australian Shepherd mix, has copious amounts of long fur with a wiry undercoat. She sheds in chunks, with the undercoat curling up, catching loose fur and snarling like crazy. Betsy hates to be combed or brushed. It pulls, and she has even more sensitive skin than me.

So, for the past few years, I've been giving her haircuts through the shedding months - February through November.

Here's her new do. You can't see it too well, because Betsy is camera shy and skulks off when she sees the camera. She doesn't mind me giving her a haircut too much, though. Then I can brush her remaining fur with a soft brush. I left the "feathers" on her legs and her fluffy tail long, but cut the rest of her fur short.

Betsy flees the paparazzi:

Jack and Elvis are much less camera shy:

Friday, February 29, 2008


The right to vote?

Here's a shocker from Leon County Florida Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho: The Constitution of the United States does not guarantee citizens the right to vote in a presidential election.

You heard me right. The story I wrote on Sancho's talk got me arguments in the office. Everyone thinks the Constitution affords us that right, and perhaps the spirit of the Constitution does. But it doesn't explicitly give or imply that right.

Sancho quoted the infamous 2000 case Bush vs. Gore, the one that decided George Bush won the election.

In the decision, it was noted in Per Curium, Section II-B (page 104), "The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States unless and until the state legislature chooses a statewide election as the means to implement its power to appoint members of the Electoral College." [Bolding is mine.]

According to the 1892 Supreme Court decision in McPherson v. Blacker, state legislators can select the electors, an option which several states chose for many years — not the voter. The state can take back that power any time it chooses.

If there is a vote, equality in voting is protected; there can be no discrimination. But, the overall right to vote is not protected.

Big Brother can decide he knows what's better for us.

Sancho is calling for a constitutional amendment to ensure the right to vote for president. He believes it was an oversight by the framers of the Constitution that there is no guarantee of the right to vote. It's left up to the states.

If some partisan state officials were to decide to invoke the right to select members of the Electoral College, instead of allowing the voters to vote, there would probably be an outcry, now. But give it a few years of spin, and who knows?

Who'd have thought 10 or 15 years ago we'd have given up so many rights in the name of "Homeland Security," or that an attorney general of the United States would stand there and argue we don't really need the Geneva Convention?

Losing the "right" to vote for president could happen.

Get out and VOTE this fall.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

My teachers done teached me good

Your Language Arts Grade: 100%

Way to go! You know not to trust the MS Grammar Check and you know "no" from "know." Now, go forth and spread the good word (or at least, the proper use of apostrophes).

Are You Gooder at Grammar?
Make a Quiz

Yes, it's true. Moi, not a graduate of Florida's public schools, knows a wee bit of spelling and grammar.

Thanks to Janis at Juanuchis' Way for the link.

Schools are so different now than when I was in high school (back in the days of horse and buggy). I'm afraid many high-school students would not pass that grammar quiz.

I was in Blockbuster a few evenings ago. As I checked out Becoming Jane, I remarked I was really getting back into Jane Austen. The clerk, who looked to be about 19 years old, looked at me blankly.

Now, I thought even if she hadn't read Jane Austen, she might know her name from the movies -- this one and The Jane Austen Book Club, (which I saw a few weeks ago, and enjoyed) and maybe the movies based on Austen's novels.

But no. She was not only clueless (heh-heh, the name of a modernized movie version of an Austen novel), she was huffy about it.

"I wouldn't know anything about that," she said.

What a shame. I fell in love with Austen's gentle novels when I was in high school. Of course, I was a nerd, even then.

Still, I feel sorry for these kids, who seem to know only Britney Spears and reality TV shows.

I've been watching Jane Austen's novels come to life on PBS-television's Masterpiece Theater. Currently, we're in the middle of Pride and Prejudice, with smart and spunky Lizzie Bennet and the melancholic Mr. Darcy falling in love.

We know Mr. Darcy's dour demeanor is about to change.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Florida: the land time and sense forgot

Mark Twain said, "God made the Idiot for practice, and then He made the School Board."

A number of Florida school boards are trying to prove that saying. They are stuck in the Victorian era, outraged that scientists say they are descended from monkeys. Yah, it's like the Scopes trial never happened.

This is their grasp of the concept of evolution, which they vigorously oppose being taught in the schools -- though it already is taught. Just the word "evolution" is avoided in curriculum guides.

Today, the state board will vote on new standards for science teaching in the state, and some of those new standards require that students be able to explain the theory of evolution by the time they graduate from high school.

When that news hit, the fur began to fly. School boards in some districts, especially in north Florida, passed resolutions against the measure. They demanded Creationism and intelligent design be taught as equally valid "scientific" explanations of the origins of humankind. Hearings around the state on the new standards ran hours and hours, as anti-evolutionists railed against these new-fangled teachings.

The local school board proved an exception to Twain's dictum, at least in this matter.

I imagine the state board will pass the science standards, including the one on evolution. Florida students are lagging too far behind in science not to.

While we may not be descended from apes or chimps, it's clear that genetically, we're not too far from these primates:

Update 2-20-08: the new science standards are in. Evolution will be taught, albeit with the emphasis that it's "the scientific theory of evolution," as a sop to its opponents.

It's all just a theory, children. Hush, now; everything will be all right.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Disenfranchised in Florida

I'm getting pretty put out with the national Democratic Party. First, they told us Florida Democrats our votes in the presidential primary wouldn't count. As if disenfranchising the faithful Democratic voters would be an effective punishment or deterrent to state officials in a Republican administration, who made the shift to an earlier primary date! (though I kinda like Gov. Charlie Crist.)

The latest was talk of a special caucus, as party leaders tried to back-pedal a bit.

Bah, humbug! Why should votes already taken be thrown out? Take the results you have, Democratic Party, and quit jerking us around. Your voters will lose faith in you.

And no backroom deals. No superdelegates deciding for us.

I don't say this out of partisan politics -- I will support Obama or Clinton, and was undecided what my vote would be until I got into the voting booth and had to make some sort of decision.

But I went to the effort to vote, like so many others. These votes should count.

Ali Gator: Making soup

Ali Gator says stop on by.

"I'm making a big pot of soup for a Lenten feast. None of that wimpy vegetarian stuff. I like a nice stew. Come on over for lunch," he says.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Good times and not so good

Yipes! Dear friends, I didn't realize how long it's been since I last posted.

At least it hasn't been all work and no fun, just mostly.

I had a good time last Sunday, down by the St. Johns River, listening to friend Rog Lee perform.

Rog is one of those people who has a special gift. He's not just a singer-songwriter, he's a poet, who tells us of Florida as it is, and as it should be. You might get to see him on the TV-show America's Got Talent - Rog got a private audition for the upcoming season!

Now, it's Lent, which is probably pretty fitting for my mood, which has been introspective and another of the reasons I haven't posted much, I guess. Feb. 2 was the anniversary of my dad's death many years ago, and mother's death a few months ago stirred up grief over dad's death, too. He was younger when he died than I am now.

Things have been pretty quiet in the Diocese of Central Florida. The convention came and went without getting a constitutional change to make us members of the Anglican Communion, in place of, and not in addition to, being a constituent member of the Episcopal Church. A handful of parishes are set on leaving, apparently without big fights over property, and one parish that earlier announced it would leave, changed its mind. A good thing.

I don't think the would-be Nigerian-bound contingent has all gone away. They've just gone to re-group.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. -- the dream thrives

I was just a kid when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to prominence as a civil-rights leader. I remember the "I have a dream" speech and a few marches, and that's about it. We lived overseas during a good part of his rise as a leader, and I'm sure I missed a lot.

We came back to the states just in time for his assassination. It was a terrible time of murders, of marches.

I really didn't come to appreciate the minister until I was an adult, and read his speeches.

One that brought tears to my eyes was this account:

In 1967, King spoke to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia. He said, “I want to ask you a question, and that is: What is your life's blueprint?”

He went on the say, “Whenever a building is constructed, you usually have an architect who draws a blueprint, and that blueprint serves as the pattern, as the guide, and a building is not well erected without a good, solid blueprint.”

“Number one in your life's blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness. Don't allow anybody to make you fell that you're nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance,” King urged the students.

We all need a good, solid blueprint. Whatever our race, our sexual orientation, our circumstances, even our looks -- whatever negative messages we received growing up. First, we have to believe in our own dignity.

King was felled by an assassin's bullet in 1968.

The birthday of civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Martin Luther King, is remembered on the third Monday of January. King was born Jan. 15, 1929.

The son of the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, King answered a call to the clergy, as well as to a call to seek equality for all and to advocate for the poor and against the war in Viet Nam. He believed in nonviolent forms of protest, which led to his arrest at a number of demonstrations throughout the South.

He came to prominence as a leader in the civil-rights movement after he led the black boycott of segregated buses, resulting in the desegregation of Montgomery, Ala., bus service in the mid-1950s.

King's “I Have a Dream” speech was delivered in front of the Lincoln Memorial at the climax of a 1963 civil-rights march through Washington, D.C. It helped speed the passage of major civil-rights legislation through Congress.

King’s dream was not one just for young black people. His vision was one of children standing together, hand-in-hand.

He said, “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

At 35 years of age, King was the youngest person ever to win a Nobel Peace Prize. King was also a founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957.

Monday, January 14, 2008

In my right mind?

I succumbed to temptation and took this quiz. I think I'm actually more in the middle than the results indicate, because the quiz questions force you to answer once extreme or the other. I would have taken the middle, if offered the option. But, maybe that's my left brain kicking in.

You Are 30% Left Brained, 70% Right Brained

The left side of your brain controls verbal ability, attention to detail, and reasoning.

Left brained people are good at communication and persuading others.

If you're left brained, you are likely good at math and logic.

Your left brain prefers dogs, reading, and quiet.

The right side of your brain is all about creativity and flexibility.

Daring and intuitive, right brained people see the world in their unique way.

If you're right brained, you likely have a talent for creative writing and art.

Your right brain prefers day dreaming, philosophy, and sports.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

On a weather roller coaster

As a couple of commenters have noted, we've had some cold weather here. We're on a weather roller coaster. We've had record highs and lows in the space of a couple of weeks!

We went from highs in the 80's to highs in the 50's before Christmas, then it warmed back up for New Year's Eve -- I wore sandals -- then turned cold again. We had a FREEZE the other night! Now, this may not seem a crisis to Yankees, but down here, it endangers the citrus industry and fern growers (another big local industry), who scramble feverishly to put out heating pots and misters to protect their crops.

I have to worry about water pipes freezing. My well assembly and water softener have above-ground pipes, and I've awoken a few times in past years to no water until the sun melted the ice.

This time (the first freeze for three or four years), I was out in the dark turning on a a low flow to the sprinkler on the side of the house. This kept water moving through the pipes enough to keep them from freezing up. My hands got wet and it felt like they were being stabbed! Betsy went out with me, and thought we were going to go for a walk. I told her sorry, I'm going back inside to warm up.

The ice coating on the grass and on my fence was quite pretty the next morning.

Now, the weather's turning milder again.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Animals of my life

As we roll toward Epiphany, I've taken note of the animals in my life. Betsy, the best dog in the whole wide world, and who graciously puts up with Christmas Eve antlers (for a few minutes)is my Number 1, closely followed by cats Jack the Brat and Elvis.

This Christmas, a couple of more animals have been added to the roll call.

I adopted a Manatee named Phyllis through the Save the Manatee Club. She's a habituee of nearby Blue Spring State Park, and a reminder that we need to work to protect the river and the spring from the side effects of development and population growth. Ground water levels are in danger of becoming low enough to dry up marshes, destroy ecosystems and allow salt-water intrusion, because of drawing down for drinking for the thirsty and growing population.

There are already changes to Blue Spring because of nutrient loading from nitrates found in runoff from lawn fertilizers and from septic tanks. The manatees, other wildlife and our water sources are all in peril.

Finally, some people in Africa are better off because of a Christmas gift from my friends -- the donation of a couple of goats in my name through the Episcopal Relief fund. Goats are especially valued for their milk, meat, manure -- and the offspring the produce. It's hard for us to imagine the poverty in some countries, and how much difference a goat can make.

Thank you, Lord Christ, for the bounty and diversity of life you put on this planet. Make us your trustworthy stewards of this Earth and teach us to care for it and each other.

Remind us who have so much that we are to share what we have with those in need.

In your name's sake, I pray.

(Ed. note: I started this post New Year's Day, but didn't finish it until this morning, Jan. 5)