Thursday, December 24, 2009

Our tax dollars at work!

Now here's a government program I don't mind supporting with my hard-earned taxes: NORAD's Santa Tracker.

As I write, Santa is all the way over on the far side of the International Date Line, making good progress in Southeast Asia.

It's certainly great to be using these sophisticated (and expensive) defense systems for something other than defense.

Merry Christmas, NORAD folks!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Bedtime Story for Christmas Eve

My mother died of lung cancer fourteen years ago this past December 15th. It's amazing to me how long she has been gone! She was diagnosed only in the autumn of that year, passed away quietly at home on a Friday evening, and was buried in the middle of a wild, early snowstorm on December 20th. I was grateful that she had been spared most of the physical suffering that usually accompanies this type of cancer, and had resigned myself to letting her depart in peace.

My Dad, however, was inconsolable. Since retiring, he had built his whole life around Mom. She was the sun around which his little planet revolved. He had planned to die first, and could not believe that she had somehow predeceased him. He had no hobbies. He had no faith to sustain him. He insisted that no one had ever felt this way before; no one could help him with his grief. He would not come home with me for Christmas. He wanted to be alone.

In the late afternoon of Christmas Eve, Dad went to the cemetery, as he had done every day since Mom's funeral. It was twilight, and the gate attendant warned Dad that he didn't have much time to visit. The snow was fairly deep; Dad parked as close as he could, then struggled along the path he had already created to Mom's grave. Overcome with despair, he knelt down in the snow to say a prayer -- an unusual activity for him. As he finished his prayer and tried to rise, a deep weariness seized him. It penetrated every bone. All he wanted to do was to lie down next to Mom; he realized that, in that cold, he would not be getting up again. He looked around, and not a soul was near. The sun had nearly set, leaving only a streak of pink on the horizon.

Suddenly, as he told me later that night, two people seemed to be at his side. One was a man in his fifties, the other a young woman of about twenty-five. Both were dressed in warm winter clothing, complete with hats and scarves. Each gently took hold of one of his elbows, and assisted him to his feet. The man said nothing, but the young woman smiled at him and said quietly, "Your wife is fine."

Dad was, naturally, startled and bewildered. He thanked them for their concern, and managed to walk quickly to his car, which was only twenty feet away. Turning to thank them again, he drew in his breath in surprise.

They were gone, of course.

In great confusion, Dad dropped his keys, retrieved them, got into the car and wept. He was not sure what had happened. He drove home and told no one but me, his only child, of his strange experience. He refused to believe he had seen angels. He had been an internal auditor for a bank, a "bean-counter." Bean-counters didn't see angels, he claimed.

But I knew. Our cemetery is a vast, open space in the flat expanse of the Atlantic coastal plain. Erect headstones are not permitted; all markers must be flat, bronze plaques. Trees are few and far between, and none are in the vicinity of Mom's grave. There is nothing which could have prevented Dad from seeing his visitors. I struggled to convince him how blessed he had been.

I initially thought I had struggled in vain. But in January of the following year, my Dad was the oldest of the new confirmands at the Cathedral Church of St. John, in Wilmington, as I stood gratefully with my hand on his shoulder. Unfortunately, he contracted a stubborn form of pneumonia later that winter, and passed away in the early spring, just three months after joining the Episcopal Church.

I don't visit the cemetery often, because in my heart I know they are not there. I last visited Mom and Dad in the high summer a few years back, at noon on a blazingly hot day in July. I sat cross-legged on the grass for my silent visit. I suppose I am always really hoping the angels will return, to assure me that my parents are fine.

Bugs buzzed around my head, the recently-cut grass prickled against my bare legs, and the air was filled with the whine of the eighteen-wheelers out on Route 13. No angels appeared, however. I imagine they only come when someone is in extremis, as my Dad was that night.

But every Christmas Eve, I remember: this is the night my Dad saw angels! Thanks be to God!

And Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A snowy Advent 4!


As you'll see from the photo of our front porch, our region got an unexpected snowstorm last weekend, and it turned out to be the second-deepest snowfall for us since records have been kept: a whopping 23.2 inches. We don't usually get this kind of snow in December, so we were taken by surprise! I took the photo towards the beginning of the day, so it doesn't do justice to the magnificent drifts which replaced these later.

While many of our neighbors were able to sit inside by the fire, J. revved up the snowblower, as our son had to go to work -- the Post Office never closes, apparently. On Sunday morning, since the car was cleaned off, I thought I might as well go to church.

It was a lovely service! Those present were the priest, the organist, two choir members, and a chalice bearer -- no one else. But how many do you need, anyway? Our rector removed her snow boots, revealing Christmas socks with Santa Clauses and snowflakes, hung a stole round her neck (on top of the Christmas sweater), and said mass in her socks. The organist played as usual, and we 2 choir members belted out the hymns. We had a full sermon and the Eucharist, followed by coffee and cookies. It was a perfect Advent 4! I'm so happy I didn't stay in bed.

Friday, November 06, 2009

November harvest



I took a day off recently, and sought the quiet and comfort of my favorite retreat house, Francis House of Prayer. This is a sprawling farmhouse in the midst of 72 acres, most planted with soybeans. The view to the left is from the back of the house, and you can plainly see there is a labyrinth cut into the lawn!

There, under the watchful eye of Sr. Marcy, I gathered with 10 other people to enjoy a day with God. It's so quiet there in the fields! It was a lovely fall day: chilly, with clouds and patches of blue sky, and a light wind. This is my favorite time of year, as the old year draws to its close, the days grow short, and I look forward to nights by the fire. I wandered outside after doing some lectio and still-prayer, to enjoy the glorious view. The leaves were sadly past their peak, but the open sweep of farmland seems like heaven to this suburbanite.

The picture to the left is not very good (the light was fading), but you can see my favorite bench, with fields of soybeans beyond. Now, I come from a long line of farmfolk on one side, but my own farming knowledge is limited to the occasional tomato plant or small pot of herbs, or to flowering plants I keep on my porch in the summer. So when Sr. Marcy mentioned to the retreatants that the soybeans would be ready for harvest in about two weeks, I was surprised.

It seems late for harvesting anything, at least to me, but what do I know? Just as the rest of us are battening down for winter, the humble soybean, apparently, is coming into its prime. The plants don't look like much, as you can see: in fact, they look rather dead, as if they had already been harvested! The soybeans themselves are about the size of peanuts. and hang from slender stalks.

So I sat on my bench and thought about soybeans ripening in the cool autumn days and chill autumn nights, and about God's harvest surprise. As in the natural world, so in the human world. How many wise older people do you know, folks who have come into their own after the job was done and the kids were raised, and started new careers, businesses, hobbies just as their families were about to consign them to the rocking-chair? I know many myself. I would like to be one of them.

Late bloomers, those soybeans -- kind of like me.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why I did it ...

My two or three faithful readers will have noted that I took down the last three flames I had posted about the troubles at my former parish.

This was not done to minimize those troubles, or the exquisite pain they have caused to all my friends who, along with myself, became unwelcome in the place where they had worshiped, in most cases, for decades.

Nor was this done because I lost my nerve. I haven't. I tried to speak up to the Rector when I saw things going terribly wrong at the Church on the Pike, and I tried to maintain that commentary on this blog as the situation evolved (or devolved, depending on your point of view). Now, every time I drive by the church, I expect to see a FOR SALE sign out front.

The situation has become so grave that it is now in the capable and godly hands of our Bishop. I have said what I thought needed saying. Now, the Holy Spirit and the Bishop must do the sorting-out, and those of us who still care about the Church on the Pike must continue to support and love those who remained there till the end.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

She's baaaaaaaack!

It's September already? Where did the summer go? Not that we had much of a summer until the middle of August. But who's complaining?


Well, I suppose it's time I account for myself. I was busy this summer, though not, obviously, busy with blogging. A short summary of the season (with some pictures) is now in order.

At the end of July, I attended a convention in Washington, DC. I went a day ahead of time, and spent the day at one of my favorite places in the universe, the National Cathedral. I did the tour and attended the noon Eucharist. And I shopped ... and shopped ...





We sent the Little Princess off to dental school!


I had some unexpected gardening success: my hibiscus, now in its third summer, bloomed gloriously; and the clematis I had given up on did the same.







I completed two blankets, in similar granny-square patterns, for the Linus Project, which gives blankets to children with cancer.










And I have lost 35 pounds, and I'm only 5 pounds from the goal!! Stay tuned.




Thursday, July 09, 2009

It was 40 years ago today

Do you remember what you were doing in July of 1969?

Quite a lot happened that month. In Britain, Charles became Prince of Wales; I recall watching the ceremony on (black-and-white) TV, and wishing I could meet him. Probably just as well I didn't in the event.

The United States put a man on the moon. I watched those grainy images as well.

I was fifteen, about to turn sixteen, and I had my first boyfriend, a guy named Bob. He later became a doctor, and turned out to be a wife-abuser or something equally nasty. Bob, if you ever read this, thanks for dumping me! I survived the heartbreak somehow!

July of 1969 was also the month I went to Europe with my parents -- a whirlwind, two-week jaunt to London, Paris, and Rome.

None of us had ever been on an airplane before. Mom made us all dress up -- it seemed like quite an event. Nowadays I fly in jeans and a tee-shirt (this happens to be what I live in, anyway ...), but I remember I had a two-piece outfit, a flowered skirt and matching vest, with a white shirt underneath. And new sandals. I was absurdly overdressed for a long night flight into Heathrow.

In London, it rained (what a surprise!). During a shopping trip, my parents bought a mantel clock in Girard Street, and had it shipped back home. How eagerly we waited for our "English clock" to arrive! It's one of the things I treasure most, and it's ticking away downstairs on my own mantel as I write. We saw Piccadilly Circus, and (of course, it was the 1960s) Carnaby Street. I ate a lot of pizza -- there didn't seem to be much else I liked.

In Paris, the weather was better. We stayed in an upscale hotel where the waiters placed your napkin on your lap and peeled the orange for you. This creeped me out at the time, and probably still would. I practiced my French incessantly, for better or worse, and we walked on the Champs Elysees, where my mother bought a green-and-white dress in a little boutique.

Rome was my favorite! The taxi drivers cheated us, but they were so charming you didn't mind. The catacombs were musty, dark, and awesome; we spent most of a day there. We saw umpteen churches -- Santa Maria Maggiore stands out in my memory, as does St. Peter's, of course. But my favorite excursion was to the Villa d'Este, which had Renaissance gardens, grottoes, fountains, and was gorgeous and wild in the evening as the sun set.

It was the trip of a lifetime, Mom kept saying. She had never been to Europe before; Dad had not been back since the war. They always intended to go back yet again, but life got in the way, I guess. In the end, death got in the way, and they never went back. I have all the pictures I took with my little Sears camera, but I can't seem to locate them.
After Mom died, I was cleaning out her clothes closet, and there was the Parisian dress. It's funny what outlasts us: a few pieces of green cloth, a clock, some misplaced pictures.
And a lot of good memories.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Blessed Time-Out

I'm home and blogging again, after a wonderful journey.

From June 9-14, I was on retreat in Wisconsin with other affiliates of the Order of Julian of Norwich, and then attended our annual JulianFest at the same location. What a heavenly interlude! I would like to be able to do this more often!

This was my very first experience of a silent retreat lasting longer than a day. The facility we used this year is the Redemptorist Retreat Center, located on Crooked Lake in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. It's a fabulous place, as you'll see if you hit the link. I had my own room with a private bathroom instead of a shared one, and more private time than I had believed possible in my busy life.

In fact, after a day fraught with travel delays due to thunderstorms, I had trouble settling down to silence. Out for an early-morning walk the next morning, I noticed that the house of the resident monks was outfitted with a most impressive satellite dish, and found myself pining for CNN.

Fortunately, this longing passed when I discovered the labyrinth. It is large but of simple construction: a fine gravel base on which the paths are demarcated by larger rocks, most about the size of a fist. I walked the labyrinth several times while I was there, and took pictures to bring home. At the Church on the Hill, we have been sighing about not having a labyrinth (we have the space, but we haven't felt that we have the know-how). But this design is one that I feel we might be able to execute ourselves! What a nice feature it would be for the community, since we are located at the intersection of busy county roads.

Our lakeside location was another source of great peace. Crooked Lake is beautiful! To the right is pictured one of my favorite benches. The weather was cool and sunny, the water inviting, but unfortunately the canoe was off-limits to us retreatants. But there was a dock upon which we could walk, with another bench at the end of it.

The retreat center also has an excellent library, where I curled up in a chair during our two silent evenings and digested an entire biography of one of my favorite saints, Edith Stein. I also found many books on the ministry of spiritual direction, in which I am very interested.

I am ready to go back here, anytime!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Abba Arsenius and Me

OK, you already know I'm different ...

I was one of those odd teenagers who love to stay in their room and read. Of course, I had friends, and I saw a lot of them; but if no one was around, no problem! I loved solitude. I stayed happily alone and read, or wrote stories.

My mother actually locked me outside in the summer! Fearing this, I often concealed a book in a plastic bag underneath the hydrangea bushes. I am fond of hydrangeas to this day.

As an adult, I still love solitude, especially when I get to share it with dogs. I spend my lunch hours reading, either in a remote corner of the courtyard, or in a cozy place I have discovered up in the stacks, by a sunny window. I love the anonymity of the subway, and dread to meet someone I know on the platform, since I'm not good at small talk. I have been known to scurry to the other end of the train if I see a familiar face (and am not seen first).

So I wasn't much surprised when, having recently picked up a copy of The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, I discovered in it others who found solitude agreeable to their nature and profitable to their souls. Of course, the solitude of the desert was rigorous: the abbas often did manual labor to support themselves, survived on a very simple diet, and were plagued by all sorts of temptations that arise in solitude. And yet ... I see myself, there in the desert.

Take Arsenius, for example. His sayings were among the first in the book, as it is arranged alphabetically.

Born in Rome about 360, he was well-educated and well-born, and served as tutor to two Roman princes. In 394, however, he left his well-appointed life, sneaked off into the desert and became an anchorite. He was well-known for his asceticism and habit of silence, and apparently other anchorites found him somewhat forbidding. In fact, his behavior sometimes approached the curmudgeonly:

Blessed Archbishop Theophilus, accompanied by a magistrate, came one day to find Abba Arsenius. He questioned the old man, to hear a word from him. After a short silence the old man answered him, "Will you put into practice what I say to you?" They promised him this. "If you hear Arsenius is anywhere, do not go there." (p. 10)

Obviously, he was a little extreme in his love of solitude (and his lack of manners!). But I do see his point. He probably would have liked to have as his epitaph my personal favorite:

IF YOU CAN READ THIS,
YOU ARE TOO CLOSE.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Just what I needed

I've been doing some interesting reading since I last posted. Did you ever come across a book which was exactly what you needed, just as you needed it? That's what this one was like for me. I may send a copy to my former Rector.

The book is Holy Adventure, by Bruce G. Epperly, a pastor and seminary professor in Lancaster, PA, and was written, in part, as an answer to the theological viewpoint expressed in The Purpose-Driven Life. This fact alone would be enough to make me giddy with glee, but in fact it's a really good read!

In contrast to the God of Rick Warren, a God who has planned out our entire lives prior to our birth, and who knows exactly what he expects from us, Epperly posits a God whose creation is not yet finished, who expects us to be companions and co-creators with him, and who is eager to see the results. This process-theological approach is about as far as you can get from the fundamentalist, reductive view of God as the omniscient creator who has everything figured out in advance (how boring!). The God of Holy Adventure gave us free will so we could choose among possible futures, for ourselves as well as for creation.

What comes through most strongly in this book is the sense of mystery and excitement -- two things I find completely missing in Warren's ho-hum, "it's-all-in-the-Bible-just-go-read-it" approach. Without a sense of mystery, basking in the certainty that we know all the answers, we would risk doing great harm:

A sense of God's deep mystery provides the antidote for too much certainty about subjects such as the afterlife. Too much certainty perpetrates violence upon persons and belief systems alike. It can lead to exclusion, objectification, and spiritual abuse in faith communities; intellectual abuse in academics; and emotional abuse in relationships. When we think we have all truth, we create artificial boundaries between companions and outsiders, saved and unsaved, orthodoxy and heresy. Those outside our religious camp can become the objects of spiritual warfare and violence when we assert that to become one of "us," others must forsake their deepest insights and understandings of the holy and unconditionally accept ours. We may even threaten anyone who does not hold our views with the ultimate act of spiritual and ideological violence: eternal damnation and alienation from God. (p. 193)

This book was a breath of fresh air for me, and left me uplifted and hopeful. I may be giving copies of this for Christmas!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Tropical Easter eggs

It amuses my kids that I still love to dye Easter eggs -- not for them, but for myself! It's just not Easter for me if I don't have eggs. I put into them all the love and care that I can't seem to summon for the Christmas tree.

Every year, however,my Easter eggs come out pale pastel, sort of wan-looking if I'm honest. This year, I decided I wanted bolder, more "in-your-face" colors. So I experimented with the "recipe."

I bought two packages of the PAAS Easter egg dye (instead of just one), and when I mixed the colors I used two tablets of each color plus 4 1/2 tablespoons of white vinegar. After the tablets dissolved, I put in the recommended amount of water (1/2 cup). And voila! Brighter eggs! Tropical eggs, perhaps?

Which reminds me that I could make pineapple casserole to go with the ham ...

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Almost-Palm-Sunday update

I know, I've been a little bit of a slacker lately. But here's what I've been up to.

  • Passed the 30-pound mark on the diet. 10 more to go, and then I'm stopping at a good, healthy weight. No, I will not be as thin as I was when I got married. Suck it up, J.!!

  • Bought pansies in flats and hanging baskets just about the day they appeared at the garden shop. I'm already pining for my porch, but it's been a little too cold to sit outside. April will be better!

  • I've been missing my neighbors (I have great neighbors!). We tend to get isolated in the winter. It's pathetic to have to say hi to your next-door neighbor on email. I will make more of an effort when we're all outside pulling weeds. Or not pulling them, in my case. Weeds are green, after all. I just leave them alone.

  • Got invited to be a presenter at an ordination!!!! I'm over the moon about this. I even bought a lovely dress with a bright red jacket --red being the appropriate liturgical color --for the occasion (may I recommend J.C. Penney? -- they are practically giving clothes away. Given how often I have an occasion to wear a dress, who wants to spend buckets of money on them?).

  • Stopped drinking and joined AA. It was time, ladies and gentlemen. Maybe past time. Maybe far past time.

  • The Little Princess got into dental school (!!!!!!), so we've been doing the inevitable financial aid forms (the Parental Bank is closed for grad school).

  • We just started a Julian Gathering at church, so I've been helping with that. It's a great group, and we're growing every month! We have still-prayer for 20 minutes, then healthy snacks, then we read and discuss sections from Mother Julian's writings.

  • Signed up for JulianFest in June, and for the 3-day silent retreat preceding it. This is new ground for me. I've been to silent retreats, but 3 days sounds kind of looooong.

  • A bunch of us from church are going into Philly for a Tenebrae service on the Wednesday before Easter. I've never seen this service, but I'm told it's moving and dramatic.

  • I get to be Jesus in the Palm Sunday Passion reading! I have always wanted to be Jesus! In my former church, I remember only male Jesuses. I guess I will read in my alto register. LOL!

  • I'm singing Faure's Requiem with a large choir on Palm Sunday afternoon. So now I have it blasting in my car wherever I go, trying to remind myself what it sounds like.

Well, Holy Week looms before us. It's my favorite week of the year. I hope yours is good!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Flower Show Pics

As promised, here are a few pictures I took at the Philadelphia Flower Show last week. This year's theme was "Bella Italia," and I thought the show was even better than usual. My friend and I wandered through the displays for nearly two hours, before we ever made it to the vendors!





If there were ever a welcome tonic to a long, cold winter, it's the sight of thousands of spring bulbs all in bloom at once, in great profusion.










I don't know how the little Celtic cottage made it into a show on Italy, but I'm very glad it did.
















I'm already looking forward to next year!




Thursday, March 05, 2009

Flower Show Eve, or Is it spring yet?

At long last, it is Flower Show Eve.

Never heard of it? I celebrate it the day before my friend Jess and I take the afternoon off to go to the Philadelphia Flower Show. This year's theme is Italy.
Here in the Northeast it has been brutally cold (for us), with highs in the 20s and single-digit lows. This has been the coldest, windiest winter I recall in my not-so-short life. Last weekend, the first weekend of March, to add insult to injury, we had snow. I love snow -- in January and February. In March? Not so much. Winter gets old by March. I can hear you New-Englanders snickering at me as I write this ...

The Flower Show is perfectly timed to arrive just as the spirit is pining for a tender bud or two. My friend and I will probably start off with a festive lunch in Chinatown before hitting the show. Then we'll spend the afternoon taking in the colorful sights and sweet fragrances, and try to restrain ourselves at the vendors' displays -- always a fruitless endeavor.

Next week: pictures, right here. I promise!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A somewhat-diminished Midget

So, in 12 full months of dieting, I've lost 25 pounds.

I'm grateful, even thought it seems like it should be more. My husband lost 100 pounds in seven months! But then, he was perfectly single-minded about it. I am rather hit-or-miss about dieting, as about much of the rest of my life.

It's nice to feel better on the subway steps. Walking is also a lot easier. But there has been one unintended consequence:

I'm cold all the time!

It used to be that I would be the one the neighbors saw, in the throes of a hot flash, sitting out on the porch in a tee-shirt when the temperature was 9 degrees! Now I am huddled under an afghan, with a large dog cuddled on each side and one on my lap. Isn't it spring yet?

Anyway, just 15 pounds to go. I hope this doesn't take me another year!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Double-Digit February!

Happy Double-Digit February, everyone!

I am always a bit happier when the tenth of February arrives. Most years, the weather has begun to moderate somewhat; we have often had our last snow; and if you look closely (very closely, with a lot of hope!), you can see the very tips of crocuses peeking from the earth.

This morning, the birds were having a convention in my yard -- at first light, when they woke me up! Thanks, birdies (grumble, grumble).

At the Church on the Hill, we are beginning to gear up for Lent. The Julian Gathering's first official meeting will be on the 19th of this month, and the chapel we are constructing from an old Sunday School room now has a new rug (rolled up and waiting for paint to be selected).

At home, our sometimes-wayward son is back in college and doing well (at least, today!). Our daughter has had several dental-school interviews, and is hoping for a few more. It seems like it will be an exciting spring, once it arrives.

How about you? What are you planning for spring?

Monday, January 19, 2009

The tree with the lights in it

I'm just your basic wannabe mystic, I'll admit. But I've slowly been reading my way back though the works of Annie Dillard, whose writing I first encountered while teaching Freshman English. Now, Annie seems like a true mystic to me, and I never get tired of her muscular prose and her visionary approach to the world. My favorite of her books, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, has a fascinating chapter entitled, "Seeing." At the end of this chapter she describes an experience of seeing the "tree with the lights in it":

I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. I stood on the grass with the lights in it, grass that was wholly fire, utterly focused and utterly dreamed. It was less like seeing than like being for the first time seen, knocked breathless by a powerful glance. The flood of fire abated, but I'm still spending the power. Gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells unflamed and disappeared. I was still ringing. I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck. I have since only very rarely seen the tree with the lights in it. The vision comes and goes, mostly goes, but I live for it, for the moment when the mountains open and a new light roars in spate through the crack, and the mountains slam.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Winter is finally here ...

Winter has settled in here in the mid-Atlantic -- with a cold thump.

I just learned that the low in North Dakota was -44 degrees this morning! So I guess we can't complain about our projected low of +9 tomorrow morning.

The dogs don't care much for the cold, however. When I put them out in the yard, they stand and look at each other, as if puzzled. What is she thinking, putting us out in weather like this? She wants us to do what?

Now if we could just get some snow. About two feet would be fine -- enough to shut down my place of employment for a day or two. I love being snowed in!

Snow, please!

Friday, January 02, 2009

A New Year, a clean slate ...

Notice that I'm not using the word resolutions ... this is more like a plan. Plans suggest flexibility, fluidity, adjustment. Resolutions suggest, well ... resoluteness. None of that here! But I am hopeful, even if not resolute! So here we go!

  1. Listen more; talk less. Pray more; talk less. Stop whining when you do talk.
  2. Lose the remaining weight. 23 pounds is good, but it's not enough to be healthy. So keep dieting. Stop at 115. Then have a hoagie.
  3. When you get to 115, go on a cruise with J.
  4. Don't worry that there is no money for a cruise (or for anything else).
  5. Save the chardonnay for Friday and Saturday. Your waistline will thank you. Your liver will be ecstatic.
  6. Do NOT check on your 403b(7) retirement account several times a day. Check it only on Friday night. Wash down with abovementioned wine if needed.
  7. Spend more time with friends. What're you saving vacation days for? You have no money to travel with!
  8. Carry a dollar in your jeans pocket when you go to work. Someone might need it more than you do.
  9. Politics (including church politics) is so last year! Get over it.
  10. Go on more retreats, including a silent retreat.

Well, there you have it, the ten parts of the plan. All are good, commonsensical ideas. We'll see if I can manage them!