What the Catnip, Santa??

 

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Georgia here:

I have been so bad, I have forced Mom to write a blog which she hasn’t done for a very long time!  She said the story is too long for FaceBook.  She’s going to let me tell it myself though.  Mom said it may be cathartic.  I don’t know what that means, but I’ll take her word for it!

I was having a hard time sleeping last night, Mom and the dogs weren’t ~ they were sacked out.  I just love the laundry basket.  Mom was really tired, before she went to bed she went to the basement, folded the last load of wash, carried the laundry basket upstairs to the bedroom but decided to wait until morning to put the clean clothes away.  Did I mention I just LOVE the laundry basket?

Well, I couldn’t control myself!  I jumped into the laundry basket, ran around in circles, rolled in her clean undies, unpaired the socks and jumped against the sides of the basket until I knocked it over.  Then, piece by piece, quiet as a mouse, I ran off with the laundry!

Let’s just say Mom was not pleased that she tripped over the laundry basket on her way to the bathroom this morning and realized what I had done.  Then she had to have a scavenger hunt to collect her laundry before she even had her coffee this morning!  She is not pleasant when things disrupt her routine ~ and this is a woman who was a middle school administrator who was forever moving her daily Steven Covey “To Do” list to the next day before 8:30 AM!  I will admit, I left some of the laundry downstairs and by the back door, under the dining room table, and under the bed.  This is aside from the fact it all has to be rewashed.  I guess I was a little out of control!

Yesterday was my birthday.  I was 9 months old!  Don’t you love that sweet baby-face?  The dogs, my sisters, Emma and Sara, pulled me aside while Mom was crawling under the bed and tables gathering her now re-dirty laundry to tell me that Christmas is coming soon and I better get my act together or I will get coal instead of catnip in my stocking!  You see there is this guy called Santa Paws who brings treats to good animals.  They are good sisters to explain things to me since I’m still a baby.  Emma is 5 and Sara is 9 so they know a lot.  Mom says Sara knows a little too much, she gets into trouble, Trouble with a capital T, Mom says!  These are my sisters…  Emma is on the left, Sara is on the right.Header

They suggested I hang up my Christmas stocking and be extra sweet for the next few weeks.  I have to control myself until December 26th since Santa Paws is watching and if I am not good, he will not leave me toys and treats for Christmas.  So, I took their suggestion and hung up my stocking.  As soon as Mom saw it she was so happy again.  Then things started to fall apart.

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Mom decided it was time to take my Christmas picture.  She went upstairs and returned with these red and green frilly collars with sequins and bells on them.  Can you imagine!  I am a dignified member of the feline species, not a frou-frou cat.  I think not on these collars!

She slipped two, not one, TWO of them over my head.  She started to tell me how cute I looked, but before she got it out of her mouth, I shook my regal feline head and they flew in two different directions!  Whoo-Hoo!!  As Martin Luther King, Jr. so appropriately said, “Free at last, free at last.  Thank God Almighty I am free at last!”

I chased the frilly little garments around the living room, caught one, and treated it like an overdressed Christmas mouse from The Nutcracker.  This is what I think of Mom’s Christmas costume…

20151208_114224_resizedThis is an extravagant ball of decorated organza that needs to be destroyed, and I’m just the cat to do it!

Life did eventually calm down.  I was afraid coal wouldn’t be as much fun to roll in as catnip ~ and the girls said Santa Paws was watching.  So I will be a good kitty.  Sit on my perch.  Keep my teeth off of the Holiday Finery and watch my birds.  For now…..

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Merry Christmas, Georgia

July 4th in Ocean Park, Maine

One of the best days of the year, when you live by the sea in a town that originated as a Chautauqua in 1881 is July 4th.  Ocean Park, Maine is one of more than 350 assembly centers generated from the camp meeting movement in the late nineteenth century.  These assemblies were dedicated to self-improvement through religion, education, cultural enlightenment and entertainment and recreation. A few of these communities still exist across America.  While many of the original Chautauquas originated with a link to a specific religious group, those remaining are now non-denominational. One thing most of these assemblies have in common is that they were created near water, sitting within groves of trees and located along the railroad for ease in transportation.

The history of the Chautauqua Movement in America, and the story of those communities that have survived is fascinating.  Take a few minutes to explore this piece of Americana.  The mission of self-improvement and family values is still strong.  In Ocean Park generations come from all across America, Canada and Europe to spend time within the comfort of a town that seems, in many aspects, to be frozen in time.  It is a place that is still guided by a mission and by-laws that were created by a community dedicated to individual growth in education, culture and the examination of moral and ethical beliefs within a recreational environment.  Enjoy some scenes from our traditional Independence Day Parade!!  I hope you had a day full of community as well…

Photos courtesy of the Ocean Park Association.

Sweet 16

Good Morning Peoples, especially those who love their felines!  Monhegan Mist here, aka Miss Misty.  This is the morning after…and I am a bit weary!    Yesterday was my birthday.  Mom had a Sweet 16 birthday dinner for me.  Before you start picturing wild cats running around and bouncing off the walls, I was only 16 in human years… in cat years I was 84!  The advantage I have over Mom is, I was born with grey hair so I can do a better job of hiding my age! Mom promised me I could be a guest blogger for my birthday, so here it goes…

I had a rather unusual beginning in my family.  My Mom had gone back to graduate school and was very busy.  She had a golden retriever named Maggie who was well taken care of by Mom’s friend, but was lonely.  Mom was thinking maybe a kitty would fit the bill.  Problem, Mom hated cats.  One Saturday Mom went to the pet store to get Maggie some food.  I was there with a group of cat rescuers who were trying to find forever homes for kitties.  Long story short, Mom saw me with my grey velvet fur and took me home.

When we got home we had a long talk.  She introduced me to Maggie and told me she realized God made me a cat, not a dog, and while she respected that she had always found cats a bit aloof and independent.  She said if I could be like a small grey golden retriever who used a litter box that life would be perfect!  I really wanted things to work out at my new “forever” home, but that was a lot to ask!  Mom sealed the deal by naming me after her favorite place on earth ~ Monhegan Island, Maine.  She said my fur was the color of the mist in the harbor in the early morning.  Add to that, I am a perfect lady who always lays with my legs gracefully crossed!

I took our little talk to heart.  Fact is, I wasn’t ready to be separated from my feline mother when I was and needed something with 4 legs to be my Mom.  That wound up being Maggie.  When your foster mother is a golden retriever it is almost impossible to be independent and aloof.  So, Mom got her wish and within 24 hours she loved me unconditionally and decided kitties were an individual decision and that she had been wrong to write off an entire breed.  I am a great cuddler!

Some of Mom’s other “quirks” I have an issue with.  She loves to dress up her animals for holiday pictures.  That behavior moves into territory I cannot abide!  I call it animal abuse!  I have to draw the line somewhere!!  I have beautiful green eyes that in pictures always look like some wild beast that belongs in a scarey movie.  She just doesn’t get it!  I HATE to have my picture taken!  I’m so much cuter in person.

One of my greatest challenges was when Mom brought home a golden retriever puppy two years after Maggie died.  Maggie was older when I came to live with her, I was not prepared for the challenges of a puppy.  Her name is Gracie.  I did a good job raising Gracie!  I was the mother this time!  People think we should be enemies because we are different species ~ why?  We aren’t enemies, we are sisters.  I wag my tail like a dog, and I taught Gracie to be the only dog who can cup her paws to scoop like a cat!  She is able to gather all of the edible treasures from the kitchen sink that Mom forgets to immediately send down the garbage disposal thanks to me!  And…did I mention that I do an awesome job of keeping my canine siblings clean and well groomed?

I’m sorry to interrupt Father’s Day to send my belated birthday message, but Mom was chasing me all day yesterday trying to get a Sweet 16 picture of me (the one at the top of the page).  By then, we were both too tired to write!

I am a very important member of the family.  I have been with Mom through a lot of life over 16 human years.  You too can have a special kitty in your life.  We can be independent or cuddly, your choice.  We can be entertaining.  We are playful.  We can keep the dog clean.  We can be your faithful companion.  We are low maintenance.

I would be remiss if I did not remind you that this is “Kitten Season.”  There are many kitties that do not have a forever home ~ young and old.  Please consider bringing a furry new friend into your home by adopting a rescue.  We are really special balls of fur… That’s my Sweet 16 message for you…

Love, Miss Misty (Monhegan Mist)

P.S. Special kitty hugs to my look alike blog friend… Teddy!

Ah-a-a-a-a Cho-o-o-o-o

I don’t know about you, but following a rather mild winter it seems to be an especially miserable season for those who suffer from seasonal pollen allergies.  That being said, it is a banner year for those who sell allergy medications and tissues.  Those of us who suffer are buying more and more over the counter medications, feeling buried in mountains of soggy mucus laden tissues, are feeling wretched and at the mercy of Mother Nature through a foggy brain that we are sure has an ax buried in it!  Amongst the blooms of the season the quality of life is diminished.  I keep getting a mental picture of my friend above reciting Katharine Hepburn’s famous line, “the calla lilly’s are in bloom” in a very nasally voice and with red, swollen teary eyes.

All of that being said, my fair readers, I am angry!  No, not at Mother Nature, I’ve learned in my 62 years that it is self defeating to get angry with Mother Nature (she always wins).  I am

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angry with those who manufacture tissues.  What were they thinking?  They have chosen the time of year in which they must be making more money on tissues than any other, with the possible exception of winter cold season, to change the design of their tissue boxes.  On a scale from aesthetically beautiful (10) to downright ugly (1) the latest offerings are a minus 10!

Judging by the picture at left, even Abe Lincoln had to resort to a neti pot during allergy season!  They must have had a bad season of tissue box designs even in his day.

If you read my mother’s day post, you know that I was raised by a mother who would not allow even a ketchup bottle on the dinner table.  While from that standpoint I was a major disappointment in that department, I am finicky about my tissue boxes.  They need to be of coordinating colors to my decor, and have an artistically pleasing design.

While in one of the big box stores today I surveyed five different brands of tissues.  Puffs advertises the new designs with “The same great tissues you love… with a prettier wardrobe.”  I was left wondering where they are buying their clothes!!  I found that tissues come in many varieties: basic, with lotion, ultra soft, cool touch, with Vicks, auto pack, and anti-viral.  Some brands only came in basic, some had “purse-pack” gifts included.  What they all had in common was that they have new UGLY designs on their boxes.

So, for someone who is visually distracted by an un-visually pleasing box of tissues in a room, what is one to do?  Tissue box covers, and there are many types to choose from.  I found basic stainless steel, bunnies, strawberry shortcake, Hello Kitty and King Tut’s mask with tissues popping out of his nose.

One company offers to print your own photographs on each side of a tissue box cover.  I was thinking maybe you could pick your favorite painting to have on your tissue box.  How would it look to have tissues coming out of Mona Lisa’s nose or mouth?

I should probably be grateful that I’m having a bad allergy season.  When the eyes get red and puffy and tearing, and the ear canals get itchy, and the head hurts because the sinuses are swollen, and I am sneezing repeatedly I reach for my allergy pills and nasal spray.  At that point I either take a nap or get myself wound up over something as important as the new designs on the boxes my tissues come in.   The real issues of the world get lost in the fog that has taken over my brain.

One important warning, if you feel a sneeze coming on while driving… pull over!

thetelegraph.co.uk

So, what’s bugging you today???

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait…

Photo by Carol R. Craley

Although the calendar has said it is spring for quite some time, I still seem to visually judge the arrival of spring by Philadelphia standards ~ developed during the first five decades of my life.  Despite living in Maine for almost 10 years now, I have learned to use the term “wicked good,” but have not adopted Maine standards for “spring.”  It visually arrives about a month later than Philadelphia.  Well folks, now that it’s almost “summer” by the calendar, it is finally visually spring and time to plant!  Are you following this???

I haven’t used my photographer’s eye for quite a while so I ventured out yesterday to record the arrival of spring before it turns into summer.  Forget my inept explanation and take a tour outside of my door right now…

Photo by Carol R. Craley


Georgia O’Keefe’s version of a rhododendron.

NOTE:  (I am not a gardener.  Playing in the dirt wasn’t even fun for me as a child.  Please don’t anticipate that I will ever be as good as many of my readers who can give the botanical names of flowers and trees or the Latin names for the birds who visit them without a pictorial guide.  I am content with the American name of the bush they grow on… or more practical names like “pink flowers that grow on the bush next to the porch out front”)

Photo by Carol R. Craley

Photo by Carol R. Craley

What if Scarlet O’Hara Decided to Write a Book?

Since I retired 10 years ago I have managed to become afflicted with Scarlett O’Hara Syndrome.  While I’d like to tell you that refers to her 18 inch waist, it doesn’t.  It refers to the quote, “Tomorrow is another day.”  Read that, I now live totally in my right brain and all of the years of living with my Stephen Covey organizational methods that made me a highly successful person have been traded for a red dress and I’ve gone to the ball!

Meeting self imposed deadlines has become a thing of the past.  It took me 2 years to paint my kitchen and dining area.  First I had to find the right color, decide how I was going to organize colors and decorating, then I had to motivate myself to go buy the paint and architectural details, then there was the motivation to get up and decide “today is the day” rather than “tomorrow is another day.”  Finally, I had to gather the ladder, the cans of paint, the brushes, the edgers, the paint tape, and the wet and dry paper towels for when I start painting the floor or myself.  I’ve had no problem going from someone who had every minute of the day organized and working a 60 hour week to sending the left/organizational side of my brain on permanent vacation.

I have been researching and mentally organizing and processing a YA book for about 20 years now.  I have tons of research, but keep running into stone walls.  Each time I hit a wall, I sit back with frustration and say, “Tomorrow is another day.”  In an attempt to kick start this project again, I attended a Women’s History Month program in Washington tracing African American women from the Civil War to Civil Rights.  Fascinating workshop.  Got me motivated.

I also registered for a workshop on Writing Children’s Books which requires me to produce at least one chapter.  I created the annotated chapter outline.  I then did a first draft (which was actually about 53 drafts) of Chapter 1.  Parts are good, parts are very good, parts have no right to be on paper.  “Tomorrow is another day.”  Well, I’m running out of tomorrows (deadline for submission is June 1st) and I feel like I am throwing darts at a dartboard while blindfolded to find an approach to the story that is natural and flowing, not painful and contrived.  There is a correct framework for this story, all I need to do is to find it, then rewrite Chapter 1 by June 1st.

While this post (blast of frustration) will never be my best work… I am a good writer.  That being said, writing a book for publication is a far different thing than my professional writing or writing the results of research, writing a report, or writing a blog, or writing a letter, or writing a note on a card.

Writing a book requires just the right narrator, just the right concept, just the right dialect in dialogue, just the right pacing in unfolding the story, enough information yet not too much information, enough description so that the reader feels like they are there involving all of their senses, and do all of this while stimulating a reader to keep turning the page…

Before Miss Scarlett lets loose with another “Tomorrow is another day”  and I lose all chance of meeting my deadline, could some of my writer friends out there offer some suggestions to slow down this overactive brain and tell it to shut up so that I can write…

I’d love to hear your thoughts…

Memories of Easter Sundays Gone By

In the northeastern United States we are still awaiting the first leaves on the trees and the trees and bushes to flower.  Planting season is weeks away and the visual and aromatic signs of spring are not yet evident.  This is the time of year this Philadelphia girl turned Mainer relearns the lessons of patience as we sit and wait for nature to come alive again.  One location in which spring is in full bloom is the floral department at the grocery store.

As I went through the door yesterday to pick up the last few items for Easter dinner I was immediately consumed by the smell of lilies.  I always associate the smell of lilies with Easter.  I used to teach a graduate level course for teachers on designing and delivering instruction for brain-based learning.  Scent is the strongest of all senses in producing imprints on the brain leading to retained memory.  Years of Easter memories came flooding back from childhood as I stood next to the heads of lettuce and clementines and was taken away, not by calgon, but rather by the scent of lilies.  I looked next to the lilies at the tulips and other spring flowers.  My eyes followed to a display I don’t remember seeing for years and years…small square boxes containing an orchid corsage.  Wow!!  That sight brought a tsunami of memories!  An orchid corsage, growing up, was always a part of my Easter tradition.

Easter was a benchmark.  It was an annual “graduation” of sorts leading to first perfumes, first lipsticks, first kitten heels.  Easter Sunday required a complete new outfit for church.  There was to be a new suit or dress with a coordinating hat.  If Easter fell too early in the year a coat was required to go with the dress.  Just before the big day a package would arrive from Gimbel Brothers from my Great-Aunt Margaret which would contain everything that went under the dress ~ it was time for new underwear and slips.  I got my first pair of stockings for Easter Sunday which meant Aunt Margaret would have to throw a garter belt in that box with the undies.

Shoes were always an issue since Mom was a stickler for fashion rules.  I knew these would be my only dress shoes for quite a while.  Some years I wanted white patent leather rather than the usual black… but Easter was before Memorial Day… a no-no.  The purse would match the shoes and the hat was always a struggle.  I’ve never liked hats, they squashed and messed up my hair forcing me to either leave it on all day or take it off and look like squirrels had been nesting on my head… yet, a lady always wears a hat to church.  The only year I actually looked forward to wearing my hat was the year I had picked a Jackie Kennedy pillbox number to go with my suit.  I even had the Jackie voice down to make it a complete package.  And… bless me, I always had my white gloves for Easter Sunday.  Soon after Easter, I would manage to lose ONE somewhere and couldn’t wear gloves until next Easter.  Funny how that happens!

Before that glove was lost and my new shiny shoes scuffed, Easter Sunday was photo day.  Pictures in our family were always taken on the front step walking out of the front door of the house.  We have DVD’s going back to the era of super 8 Kodak movies of the front door opening and people walking out of the door, pausing, then walking to the car, starting the engine and waving as they pulled out of the driveway.  The other standard spot was by the lamp post in the front yard.  It was the only spot where daffodils were planted.  I guess that means I spent my Easter Sundays as a child all decked out tiptoeing through the daffodils.

In addition to the religious celebration of Easter, it was a family celebration.  The Easter basket contained only Zitners (of Philadelphia) cocoanut cream eggs.  I still have them mailed to me in Maine every year!  The dying of the Easter eggs has always been a big deal.  Mine is a family of creative people.  It would be blasphemous to either just dye eggs a solid color and call it a day, or to repeat a method of decoration for more than one year…new year, new creative challenge.

As my brother and his family moved to MD in the DC suburbs, we began to take my youngest nieces to the Easter Egg Roll  at the White House on Easter Monday  .  Can you believe that some adults actually taught children to lie and say they had not received their souvenir wooden Presidential egg so they could have one of their own (being way above the cut-off age for receiving the souvenir children’s eggs)?  As my nieces got too old to participate we considered renting children to take to the Easter Egg Roll to continue the set of eggs.  I fortunately found out you can purchase the souvenir eggs and support the National Park Service all at the same time.  I was so excited that when I came back from sniffing the lilies at the grocery store yesterday I found that the Easter Bunny had come to my house to deliver my 2012 set of eggs.  Note the fuchsia egg front and center… it is the first White House pet to have its own egg.  Ta-da… the Bo Obama egg which he signed on the back and left a paw print (such a talented puppy!).

May all of you reading this post have a blessed Easter filled with your own traditions and benchmarks!

Thomas Jefferson and The Jefferson Bible ~ Rim Walkers 3

Smithsonian Institution

To consider the life of Thomas Jefferson, we think about a heroic statesman, patriot and intellectual.  We visualize a man who knows what he wants and does not stop until he has manifested his dreams of how things should be.  We consider a man who, by all appearances, is known for “doing the right thing.”  To use my terminology from former posts, Thomas Jefferson was a “Rim Walker.”

I just returned from a trip to Washington, D.C. to visit family, attend a Women’s History Month Symposium  at the Capitol (more on that later) and go in search of the last of the premature cherry blossoms who could not wait to celebrate their 100th anniversary year.  A stop at the Smithsonian Museum of American History held an adventure that was unanticipated.  I noted that the “Jefferson Bible” was on display.  I battled my way through the crowds of American schoolchildren on spring field trips and headed in that direction expecting to view the small Bible that Jefferson held at his inauguration and consulted frequently.  I left the museum later wondering, “What rock  have I been hiding under?”

Thomas Jefferson, I found out, was more of a spiritual man than a “religious” man.  His views on religion were, at the very least, complex.  Those views he held private.  He rarely publicly wrote of religion, nor did he speak of religion.  He shared his views, and this ultimate creation, with only his closest friends in confidence. Jefferson was, as we know, the author of the Declaration of Independence.  He was one of the champions of Religious Freedom.

Thomas Jefferson was a devoted student of the teachings of Jesus.  That being said, the intellectual Rim Walker in him, intellectually challenged the validity of the writings of the Apostles in the New Testament.  He considered their interpretation, as published, to be untrustworthy.  Thomas Jefferson was considered to be a religious renegade, and in the 1800 presidential election he was declared an “atheist” by his opponents.

At the age of 77 Thomas Jefferson embarked on a project that settled his confused feelings about the life of Christ  and his own belief system.  He purchased six Bibles published in English, French, Greek and Italian.  He set  them side by side, and took knife to page in what many who define the Bible as the undeniable Word of God consider a blasphemous act.  Jefferson began cutting passages that accurately expressed his belief system, passing over the rest. These passages were then pasted into a new volume he titled “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.”  This was Jefferson’s second attempt to “edit” the Bible.  His first attempt was 16 years earlier, and lost.

Hugh Talman/NMAH-SI

Jefferson was a product of the intellectuals of “Age of Enlightenment.”  The same world view that created the Declaration of Independence also created “The Jefferson Bible.”  Jefferson once wrote that he was “a sect by himself.”  He was born into the Church of England (Anglican).  The Church of England was the official religion of the State of Virginia.  He studied under Anglican clergy from elementary school through college.  He attended Anglican services all his life.  That being said, Thomas Jefferson was a brilliant intellectually curious man.  That trait caused him to question everything (hence his ability to visualize and script The Declaration of Independence).  He consistently defended his right to make his own judgements in regard to religion and encouraged others to “question with boldness even the existence of God” and to form their own judgements.  As outrageous as that sounds, especially on this Good Friday, one of the characteristics of creative people who have historically changed the world for the better is that they continually challenge assumptions about the world and commonly held beliefs.

Jefferson’s belief system was based on rational thought.  He believed that nature itself proved the existence of God.  Biblical stories of miracles such as the story of feeding the multitudes with only two fishes and five loaves of barley bread will not be found among the passages in the Jefferson Bible.  The Jefferson Bible ends with the entombment of Jesus following the Crucifixion.  There is no Resurrection in Jefferson’s rational thinking Bible.

Was Thomas Jefferson truly an atheist and an “enemy of God” as described by John Adams and the Federalist party in the 1800 presidential election?  Despite repeated attacks Jefferson won the election.  Jefferson wrote, “I am a real Christian, that is to say a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus.”  He described the teachings of Jesus “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.”

In 1895 The Jefferson Bible was purchased by the Smithsonian from Jefferson’s granddaughter.  In 2011 it was completely restored and repaired.  The “new” Jefferson Bible is currently on display at the Smithsonian Museum of American History until July 15, 2012.  A copy of the Jefferson Bible can be purchased in numerous forms, including one from the Smithsonian Institution itself.

On this Good Friday it is an appropriate time to ask ourselves what role, if any, religion should be taking in the upcoming presidential election.  We, are a society that rewards creative thinkers who challenge everything and provide us with a new perspective on the world.  Is it just, then, that we then turn around and delve into personal and private belief systems involving religious beliefs to evaluate and chastise whether a particular candidate should be running/elected in the presidential race based on those very private and personal beliefs?

Would we elect Thomas Jefferson in 2012?  Unfortunately, probably not.  What a loss it would be to lose his intellect and well defined belief system.  I, for one, welcome a candidate who challenges everything before making a plan of action.  That behavior, after all, is what brings about change which we say we desperately want.  That plan of action would then need to be clearly defined and concisely publicly presented based on thorough research of all aspects of the issue and designed to anticipate success with a plan A, B, C… to manifest that solution.

Do you challenge commonly held beliefs or accept them (because they come from an “authority” you are taught you should not question)?

Do you question everything and create your own world perspective?

Would you vote for Thomas Jefferson today?

Is it possible to be a believer, yet question?

Some thoughts to ponder this weekend.  I wish you a blessed weekend.

Additional Resource: “The Bible According to Thomas Jefferson” ~ http://thehumanist.org/march-april-2012/the-bible-according-to-thomas-jefferson/

Lent: To Give or To Give Up??

It is Lent.  For those who grew up in a culture where Lent meant giving up that which you loved the best – sweets, perhaps a favorite cocktail, video games, shopping for your favorite guilty pleasure, or, these days, an electronic toy.

The custom of “giving it up for Lent” dates back to the middle ages when Ash Wednesday would mark the beginning of Lent and a period of sacrifice ending on Easter Sunday.  For many, “giving it up for Lent” is only slightly more successful than a new year’s resolution.  For others who were not raised with this predominantly Catholic tradition, Lent passes eating no guilt cheeseburgers on Friday with friends who are chomping away on a McFish sandwich.  In addition to the sacrifice of choice, in the Catholic church there is to be no meat consumed on Fridays.

Last Sunday, columnist Bill Nemitz wrote an article for the Maine Sunday Telegram about a program at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.  Rev. Timothy Boggs explained their congregation’s approach to Lent, a “Compassionate Cross.”  At St. Alban’s, they are asked to give rather than give up.  Right inside the door to the church is a large cross.  The cross is covered with colored index cards.  On each of the colored cards is the name of a local social service agency.  Additionally, there is a wish list for that agency.  Perhaps they need office supplies or kitchen equipment, perhaps they need a volunteer for outreach work, or perhaps they need a driver with a car to provide transportation.  The colored cards are also presented online.

Trying to visualize the cross with all of the multicolored cards attached made me think of the Christmas tree we had set up at work.  Tied to the tree as ornaments were mittens made of construction paper which contained the age and gender of someone with a “most needed” item for Christmas.  Employees took the mittens from the tree, purchased the requested items, wrapped them and they were confidentially delivered to neighbors in need.  So it is with the cards on the cross.

A contact person in the congregation called every agency they could locate, described their plan and asked them to share their wish list.  This is a win-win situation for all involved.  Rather than giving up desserts for Lent, this congregation is asked to give of themselves to a community in need.  It goes beyond writing a check to a local charity.  It asks that they contact the agency, learn about what they do and what they need, and how they can come face to face and form a relationship with agencies and members of their community.  All humans crave “belonging.”  The Compassionate Cross opens the door to enlarge their definition of community and lend a hand to neighbors and agencies that are less and less able to meet community needs each budget cycle.  This is a plan that could easily work regardless of denomination or spiritual ideology.  It’s called humanity.

If you feel the need to “step away from the cheesecake” by all means do so.  Put down the fork, reach out to your neighbor and make a sacrifice for Lent that really matters.  Better yet, make it a part of your lifestyle…

Have any of you seen, or heard of, an alternative to the traditional Lenten sacrifices?

Tuesday By Any Other Name…

Depending on where you spent Tuesday, February 21, 2012 it was either Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Carnival, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day, Fasnacht Day or Kinkling Day.  If you celebrated any of these days heartily you are most likely spending Wednesday, February 22, 2012 in a carb and grease coma!  This day has been celebrated since the middle ages as a time to confess our sins and to clear the pantry of lard, sugar, butter and fat before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.  Lent can then begin with a clear conscience and an attitude of sacrifice.

Basel, Switzerland has an annual Fasnacht Festival.  The 19th century immigrants settling in the Mid-Atlantic States in America became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch in the area of Lancaster County, PA.  They brought to America their recipes for fasnachts, donuts made with potato based dough and cut into square or rectangular shapes.  They are either uncoated or coated with table sugar or powdered sugar.  Fasnachts are synonymous with Carnival in Germany, Switzerland, Alsace and Austria.

A long-time friend and former co-worker grew up in this area of Pennsylvania.  Karen used to spoil our team and bring us fasnachts on Fat Tuesday each year.  They were wonderful and have left an imprint that will cause me to celebrate her salivate like one of Pavlov’s dogs automatically on Fat Tuesday.  Each year going forward I celebrate (and will continue to celebrate) Karen’s culinary skills and friendship.  Thank you Karen for all of those gastronomically delightful Tuesday mornings!!

In the state of Maryland, especially in the area of Frederick, you would find Kinklings on Fat Tuesday.  They are, in essence, identical to fasnachts.  Fasnachts have some other relatives.

Paczki  is a Polish cousin of the fasnacht.  They are traditional round donuts (no hole) made with yeast dough and filled with either fruit jelly or crème.  They are often covered with powdered sugar.

On Fat Tuesday in America we always think of Mardi Gras.  Mardi Gras brings forth images of the King Cake.  King Cake originated in the middle ages as an oval shaped braided cake decorated with cinnamon sugar in the official Mardi Gras colors of gold (for power), green (for faith) and purple (for justice).  In medieval times there would be a coin hidden in the cake.  Today, it is a small plastic baby, the person who gets the slice of cake with the baby must host the next party and may be crowned King or Queen of the Mardi Gras party.  King Cake, although associated with Shrove Tuesday, traditionally was eaten between the Twelfth Night (after Christmas) until Fat Tuesday.

In the United Kingdom, Tuesday was referred to as Pancake Day including games and races involving airborne flapjacks.

The French celebration involved a large meal including crepes and waffles.

In Northern Sweden they were most likely dining on a meat stew.

In Southern Sweden there are Shrove Tuesday buns called semlor.  These buns are filled with an almond paste and whipped cream.

Finland they dined on pea soup with a blini (a rich pancake) served with caviar and Smetana (sour cream).

What did you eat today that you will be wearing on your thighs throughout Lent?