Monday, May 30, 2011

Newest Contact Info

We're off to England! God willing and the creek don't rise the Iceland volcano don't blast, we'll arrive tomorrow.

Blogging will continue to be sparse for the next few days until we arrive, settle in, and rest some.

Beginning right now, our new e-mail address is:


Our telephone number in England (landline) remains the same as last year; if you've misplaced it and need it, you can e-mail me and I'll send it to you.

Mobile phones? We're the only humans left on the planet who don't own any. (Waiting for a pre-paid, no-contract, works-wherever-we-go phone, which exists, that can be had for a reasonable cost, which so far as we can tell doesn't yet exist.)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Photos With Stories, IV

Sister Cavanaugh (Seated) with a Student Nurse
Ormskirk, 1964
When Demetrios was first in Ormskirk, practicing medicine on his first job, a patient came in and said he had received his injury by pole vaulting.

Demetrios, whose English in those days was not proficient, treated the injury and then went and asked one of the nurses, Sister Cavanaugh, what pole vaulting meant.

"It's jumping with a pole," she said.

But he didn't even know what a "pole" was, much less how one jumped with one.

Sister Cavanaugh said it was like a big stick you used for jumping.  Demetrios still had no idea what she meant, and her repeated attempts at explanation all failed.

Finally, she looked around, and in a corner (just out of view of this photo, to the left) found a pole  with a hook on the end used for lowering the shades of those tall windows. 

"This is a pole," she explained.  And with a running start, she pole-vaulted right over the examining table!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Advice for Harold Camping...

...going around the Internet:

Cheer up, man; it's not the end of the world!

Rapture in Arkansas?

ARKANSAS CITY (EAP) - A Little Rock woman was injured after leaping through her moving car’s sunroof during an incident best described as “a mistaken rapture” by dozens of eye witnesses.

Thirteen other people were also injured after a twenty-car pile-up resulted from people trying to avoid hitting the woman who was apparently convinced that the rapture was occurring when she saw twelve people floating up into the air, and then passed a man on the side of the road who she claimed was Jesus. “She started screaming ‘He’s back, He’s back’ and climbed right out of the sunroof and jumped off the roof of the car,” said Everett Williams, husband of 28-year-old Georgann Williams. “I was slowing down but she wouldn’t wait till I stopped,” Williams said. She thought the rapture was happening and was convinced that Jesus was gonna lift her up into the sky,” he went on to say.

“This is the strangest thing I’ve seen since I’ve been on the force,” said Paul Madison, first officer on the scene. Madison questioned the man who looked like Jesus and discovered that he was dressed up as Jesus and was on his way to a toga costume party when the tarp covering the bed of his pickup truck came loose and released twelve blow up dolls filled with helium which floated up into the air.

Ernie Jenkins, 32, of Fort Smith, who’s been told by several friends that he looks like Jesus, pulled over and lifted his arms into the air in frustration and shouted, “Come back here,” just as the Williams’ car passed him, and Mrs. Williams was sure that it was Jesus lifting people up into the sky as they passed him by, according to her husband who says his wife loved Jesus more than anything else.

When asked for comments about the twelve dolls, Jenkins replied, "This is all just too weird for me. I never expected anything like this to happen."

It turns out to be an urban legend, but it's just too cool not to share on this day.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Uncle Panagiotis and the End of the World (Reprint)

Demetrios’ Great Uncle Panagiotis was a journalist. (That’s “Pahn–ah-YO-tees”.) He came to America sometime around 1920 and worked on the staff of the Greek-American newspaper, The National Herald. He stayed in America several years before returning to Greece.

Once, Uncle Panagiotis attended a service of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In those days, they were expecting the end of the world in six months. The preacher was talking about how money would become worthless and would be lying in the streets like trash, when Uncle Panagiotis stood up and said, “You don’t believe a word of this!”

There were gasps and protests, but Uncle Panagiotis stood his ground. “No, not one of you here believes this,” he said, “and I can prove it to you.”


“How much are you paid per month?” he asked the preacher.

The preacher told him.

“Fine,” said Uncle Panagiotis. “I will pay your salary for the next six months so you can quit your secular job and devote yourself to preaching the end of the world to as many people as possible, to prepare them.”

Silence, while people weighed the pros and cons of the preacher giving up a good job.

“But if the end of the world doesn’t happen by the end of the six months,” Uncle Panagiotis continued, “then each member of the congregation will owe me $2 per month for the rest of my life.”

No, no, that was too much. No deal!

“But you’ve just said money will become worthless,” Uncle Panagiotis replied. “Well, then, make it one dollar a month from each of you for the rest of my life.”

They didn’t want to do that, either.

“You see?” said Uncle Panagiotis, with a shrug. “It's as I said. You don’t really believe the end of the world is coming.” And out he walked.

"Never Forget!"

That's a slogan we regularly hear from Jews in reference to the Holocaust.  But it seems to me many Jews themselves, especially in Israel, have forgotten all too quickly.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Shoe on the Other Foot

In August of 1974, I was helping my friend, Bea, in her garden. We were on our knees, weeding, when out of the blue she asked me, "When are you going back to college?"

I had quit college after my freshman year almost a decade earlier, having, as I thought, much better things to do than study. There was the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam war movement, and not least, getting married.

The question caught me completely off guard; I said, "I suppose whenever my husband and children can spare me and I miraculously have some money, and - do you know what my college record is like?"

Beatrice Bruteau, my one-
time spiritual guide, mentor,
and best friend

"You know your family will be happy to make the necessary adjustments."

"That's probably true..."

"And as for the money, I'm proposing to supply that myself."

I said, "That's ridiculous!"

"No, it isn't."

"There is no way I could ever pay you back, so just forget it."

Standing up and wiping off her hands on a towel, Bea said, "Come inside a few minutes.  I want to discuss a business proposition with you."

So we went into her office and she said, "Since I have no children, and I've always wanted a daughter, and you're the closest thing to one, I regard you as my daughter, sort of."

I didn't even know what to say to such an honor as that.  Bea is exactly 6 years younger than my mother, born on Mom's birthday.

"But I have no biological children, and Jim is 15 years older than I, so I figure there's a good chance he may die quite a while before me and I'll be left all alone..."

I nodded.

"...with nobody to take care of me," she concluded.  "So here's the proposal.  I pay for your first two semesters of college.  You make top grades and get scholarships to pay for the rest.  And when I am old and alone, you make sure I am very well cared for.  I do not require you personally to be the caretaker, only to take charge of my affairs and make sure somebody is providing excellent care."

My mouth dropped open; my eyes filled with tears.  What kind of a deal was that, so lopsided in my favor? 

But we got busy that very afternoon, requesting my transcript from Meredith College, making an appointment with the admissions lady at Wake Forest, etc.

The dear admissions lady took a liking to me and did some sort of finagling to get me in despite my earlier grades - I never did ask or find out how she did it - and next thing I knew, I had a letter of acceptance from the appropriate dean.  I ran over to the campus on the second (last) day of registration and signed up for all sorts of exciting classes. 

(Greek was the first thing I signed up for, and this was years before Orthodox Christianity was even on my radar, or ever I dreamed I would need Greek for anything other than reading the New Testament.)

I did get top marks  as promised (and sent a copy of my report card to the sweetheart in admissions, attached to a large bouquet of roses, which she kept, atop a filing cabinet, dried up, until the day she retired) and I did get the necessary scholarships.  The dean in charge of that was startled when, during an appointment with him, he happened to glance down at my transcript from Meredith. 

"How did you ever get into Wake Forest?" he asked.  "We don't admit students with those kinds of grades."

"I received a letter with your signature on it," I said with a smile.

"It was a mistake!  Well, obviously a felicitous mistake."

"I grew up some in the interim."

So he congratulated me on the scholarship as he handed me the certificate.

Well, eventually I did graduate, but meanwhile I had discovered Orthodoxy and was moving away from Bea's New Age eclectic religion, and that was hurtful to Bea; I had been her most ardent disciple for 10 years.

Other things happened, too. There was a horrible event in which we all became indirectly and involuntarily involved, and in this case, it was I who was regarded as the unrepentant offender. I did what I then felt and still today feel I had to do. Other friends and my pastor agreed with me, but Bea and Jim and their other followers did not and were most distressed.

And then the final blow was the break-up of my marriage, regarded by them, I think, as mostly my fault. Not long after that, I moved away and became Orthodox, and that, for practical purposes, was pretty much the end of the friendship.

But there's a sequel, and it happened just a couple of weekends ago, on Mothers Day. I took my sister's daughter Elizabeth and went down to North Carolina to be with my children and Lizzie's various cousins, and my daughter hosted a cookout Saturday night. She took me aside beforehand and said, "I hope you don't mind; Dad's coming." Okay, he and I have been together at numerous weddings, baptisms, birthdays, and the like and have gotten along well; no problem. "But the thing is," Erin continued, "he took the liberty of inviting Bea and Jim."

I said good, there was a thing I had been wanting to say to Bea for a long time. "But invite your neighbors, too, the MacDonalds," I said, "so it won't be just us alone."

So she did, and armed with a prayer and a margarita, I sallied forth to meet my old friends.

And what do you think happened? Exactly what Emily, Anam Cara, and s-p have been recommending. We were all cordial; we asked one another polite questions; Katie MacDonald asked them many more and pretty much took over the conversation for me.

And at the end of the evening, I finally got my chance to say to Bea that I have never forgotten my promise to see she was well cared for in old age. She smiled and said, "Have you heard about Dusty and Barbara who come in every day now to look after us?"

I said yes, I had; I have monitored that all these years. But should the time ever come when they do need me to organize something more or different, I most gladly will.

So Bea smiled again and thanked me and said she needed to be invited back to more such get-togethers, especially whenever the children were involved.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Another bothersome issue related to our attempts to forgive people is, "So I no longer have hard feelings toward this person, but he or she is not at all repentant; how am I supposed to relate to him or her now?" And it's a stumper. I'm going to tell you about my former friend, whom I'll call Eleanor, to illustrate the problem.

Eleanor had a bad reputation in town. People warned me about her. But I liked her anyway, and seeing she was friendless made me want all the more to be her friend. She seemed to want the same, seemed to need a friend. She was smart, she was Orthodox, she had compatible views about nearly everything, she was fun to be with. In the course of several months, we became - I thought - close confidantes. Once, we even took a short train trip together, I to visit my mother and brother, and she, ostensibly but not really, to visit a son.

I knew she wasn't happy in her marriage. I sympathized when she left her husband and moved to another city. I was ready, of course, to say yes when her husband was found to be so full of cancer it was inoperable, and Eleanor, feeling the need to come back to Richmond, wrote me wondering if she could stay with us.

Demetrios, though, said we would just be enabling her if we consented to this. Pressed by me to explain what he meant, he finally sighed and said, "You should know she has been seen all over that city in the company of some professor."

I clearly remember my incensed reply: "What vicious gossip told you that?" and he said, "Put it this way: her husband has twenty-one first cousins in that city. Plus their spouses and their grown children. No way to eat out anywhere without some of them knowing. Not only that, she has even brought him to church a couple of times."

Although amazed, I was/am in no position to judge anybody, so I tried not to.

She called me on the phone when she had arrived in town, having decided to stay at her former house with her husband until he died. It was only going to be an estimated four months, at most.

"You can stick it out that long," I said. "You can be reconciled for that long." And she agreed, although she didn't intend they should live as man and wife. At least, she said, they could get along, and she could be kind.

It was only three months. When I heard that Alex (not his real name) actually was near the very end, I phoned the house and asked for Eleanor, and whoever answered the phone just said, "She's not here," and hung up.

And where did she turn out to be? Touring Greece and Turkey, and visiting the Patriarchate, with her professor/lover! She had to be summoned home, and arrived there barely in time to be with her husband when he died.

At the prayer service and the next day at the funeral, her sons wouldn't even sit with her; only her daughter did. At the cemetery, as soon as the last "Amen," had been prayed, she turned to the funeral director and said, "Get me out of here!" My main recollection is of her red shoes disappearing into the black limousine.

I called her the next day to offer condolences. She told me she intended to stay here in Richmond for the Forty Days (the deep mourning period for Orthodox Christians) and then go back to her apartment in the other city.

Long before those 40 days were up, she had married her professor and disappeared.

A few short years later, he also died, and she came back to Richmond to bury him in the plot beside her husband that had originally been bought for her. The only reason we found this out was, Demetrios happened to be at the church that day with business at the church office, and when he opened the door to the sanctuary, to go inside and pray, he found the funeral in progress - and an usher at the door who told him who it was, but had strict orders to deny entry to all but a very few whose names were on his list.

Okay, so as I said earlier, when someone goes away and is no longer in your life, you don't need to deal with the issue of, "What now?" But if that person comes back, then what? Or if the person doesn't go anywhere and you still see him or her regularly, NOW WHAT?

What do you say? How do you act? It's not the same issue, quite, as forgiveness. It presupposes you've forgiven, in the sense of giving up any grudge, in the sense of maintaining tenderness of heart toward the other. But even when that's the case, what are you now supposed to DO?

One Sunday a couple of years ago, I spotted Eleanor among the crowd at the coffee hour. I had no answer to these questions, felt completely flustered, and all I could say to Demetrios was the same thing she had once said to the funeral director: "Get me out of here!" so we departed hastily.

Again, I'm only using this story as an example. Unless Eleanor comes back to stay (and she won't, because she has always despised Richmond), it'll be a moot question. What still troubles me is the more general question.

I only know two, seemingly (but surely not truly) opposite things. One is, you have to keep on loving. "Bless those who curse you, do good to them who hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you."

And the other is, you must not connive in the wrongdoing, mustn't pretend it didn't happen (or isn't still happening), must not approve of it, or (I suppose, but perhaps herein lies a mistake?) must not appear to approve of it. Have nothing to do with them, is St. Paul's guidance, referring only to our conduct toward "the brethren," though, not unbelievers.

The problem is how to reconcile these two "musts" at the practical level. Sorry, I still don't have any answer. Any insight you may have will be most welcome. Meanwhile, I just stumble along day to day, and some days seem to manage better than other days.

Clarification on Forgiveness

In failing to define "forgiveness" in my most recent post on that subject, I seem to have done a disservice to my readers, especially the non-Orthodox. Please accept my apology and my attempt, now, to recitfy this - somewhat, at least. It's a complex subject, one with which we all struggle, and I despair of doing it justice in less than a full chapter of a book, but at least a few remarks are in order here.

When I said God forgives everyone, period, I meant He loves everyone, at all times, unconditionally, infinitely. He holds no grudges; His tender compassions never fail; His steadfast love never wavers. He is good, as Jesus taught us, to the unthankful and the wicked. He makes His sun to shine on the just and the unjust alike, and His rain to bless the good and the wicked alike. He loves the worst sinner with "as much" love (if His love could be quantified) as He loves the greatest saint.

What I do not mean when I speak this way is that the unrepentant are restored to communion with the Most Holy God. I do not mean all is well with us if we do not repent; far from it. I do not mean the unrepentant are justified or sanctified or given a portion of the Kingdom of God or are spared from eternal misery. God's fathomless forgiveness cannot benefit anybody who does want it.

No, without repentance, God's very love will seem to us an exquisite torture; His sweet forgiveness, the most beautiful thing there ever was, will rankle, with harrow our souls. In short, the ultimate effect of impenitence will be not one iota less fearsome than if God literally hated us - which is why it's put that way in some Old Testament passages that come to mind.

But it's important, for the sake of our own ability to love God, to know that all this is caused by our own perversity, egged on by the devil, and is not due to any shortage of love or forgiveness on God's part, nor to any limitation upon them. It's the devil and our own intransigence pervert love into torment and forgiveness into agony.

And I think there is another issue as well, involved in our struggle to forgive others, which I hope to address in the next post.


This year, I wasn't able to rehab any wildlife because we were planning (still are) to leave before I would have been able to finish raising any little orphans.

So as there's nothing of my own to share with you, I thought you might enjoy photos of some of the animals my friend and fellow-rehabber, Chris, has helped and then released in the past few years.

Chichuahua Puppy.
Chris has added raising orphaned puppies and kittens lately.

Juvenile Little Brown Bats, Here Seen Larger than Life.

Woody.  He and his brother Chuckie lived with Chris a long time.

Fawns.  Chris still has on the bandage from where the Great Blue Heron
took out her eye.

Red Fox Kit - Oops, make that a Gray Fox

Great Horned Owl

Chris called these chicks her "Vulturettes," but this is actually a Turkey Buzzard.

Skunk Kittens

This is the one view of a skunk you never want to see!  But no, Stinky
here is just exploring the sofa.  If he were getting ready to spray, his tail
would be standing straight up.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

It's All Joy

Fifteen years ago, the Ecumenical Patriarch sacked our pastor. I wrote the Patriarch and thanked him for this and a couple of other changes he'd made at the same time.

Anyway, our former pastor was virtually never heard of again in these parts.

He showed up in church today. Actually he’s been a regular since Pascha. He doesn’t sit in the altar; he doesn’t even wear clerical garb. (We’re not sure whether he is still entitled to.) He doesn’t draw attention to himself. He just comes. He’s 80 years old now and looks quite a bit older.

“No doubt the angels in heaven are rejoicing,” I said to Demetrios.


“Well, I’ve been having a harder time.”

Demetrios laughed out loud. “That’s terrible,” he said.

“It is terrible.”

“You mean that he has come back, or that you – “

“That I - have had such an attitude.”

It would have been easier to forgive him if I knew whether he were the least bit repentant.

But you know what? That is not the way Jesus’ forgiveness works. In today’s Gospel, He heals the paralytic first (i.e., demonstrates His forgiveness) and only afterward, upon finding him again, calls him to repentance: “See that you sin no more.”  (John 5:2 and following)

The story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3 ff.) always used to bother me, just slightly, for the same reason - back in the days before I found out I was worse than she. Jesus forgives her (saves her life) before there is any indication she has repented. Only after He has done this does he tell her, “Go and sin no more.”

God does not wait until we have repented to forgive us! He forgives us always. “His mercy is from everlasting to everlasting.” So should I try to be more “just” than God? What business have I to withhold my forgiveness if God doesn’t withhold His, ever, from anybody, under any circumstances? And what’s so special about my forgiveness anyway, that I should be unwilling to give it away? Who am I, that anybody should need forgiveness from me? Or by what right do I withhold it, who so badly need forgiveness myself? Or how do I know whether this person might be far ahead of me on the road to glory?

I looked around me, recalling the bad old days, and thought, “And this parish has still not recovered…” but then came rushing to my aid the words of the ever-wise Fr. Stephen Freeman. The Church, he points out, has not fallen away from some ideal, because the Church was never an ideal to begin with. We are a communion of sick and wounded souls, struggling together to lay hold of our high calling, needing each other for our healing, for support. We cannot reach heaven alone, but only together. And all of each others' shortcomings, foibles and yes, even our sins, the Great Physician turns toward our cure.  We are like stones being tumbled together by a jeweler to knock off each others’ rough edges, that we may shine.  

So forget whether he has repented; I repented. God set me free and my hard feelings melted away.

But "Out of sight, out of mind." How many others may there be I am not even conscious of not having forgiven, unless they too show up some day? It's easier to think you've forgiven someone who has gone away, out of your life, than to welcome him back.

Lord, have mercy!

P.S.) The necessity of repentance, though, is that impenitence is a de facto rejection of God’s eternal forgiveness. So it makes that forgiveness all moot, all of no effect. Well, it’s actually worse than that; it has a devastating effect. Impenitence makes our souls burn from God’s forgiveness, the Prodigal’s elder brother being a case in point. Forgiveness, when not accepted, piles hot coals on the head of him who rejects it.

Reply to my letter to the Patriarch.  I cried the first several times I read it;
apparently, though, I failed to take its message entirely to heart.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Asia House, Part 1

or, How the Other Half Lives

"Asia House", a beach house in Corolla, N.C. (the Outer Banks) is now called something else, but never mind; it is still by far my favorite house of all-time, and Demetrios agrees. We visited it numerous times with my daughter, Erin, and her husband, Jeff, and went camera-crazy.

You can make the pictures larger by clicking on them, and doing so is the only way to get any proper appreciation of what you're looking at.

I have dozens of these pictures, and (mostly for my own pleasure, but I hope perhaps for yours, too), I'm going to share many of them in this and succeeding posts. This house, which was to be sold as is, is crammed full of decorating ideas! Not everything is something I would have chosen - in fact, most of it isn't! - but I'm so glad someone else did.

"Asia House".  Top level:  L-R, Kitchen, Master
Bedroom & Bath, Guestroom & Bath. 
Mid-level;  More guest rooms and baths.  Bottom: 
garage, rec room, bath for pool.

Floor of Entry Hall

Waterfall / Humidifier in Entry, Bird Theme Matching Tile Floor

Sculpture, Landing Between Entry Hall and Lower Level

Landing between Entry Level and Main Level

Living Room, Main Level.  Demetrios Below, Jeff in Loft Above
Decoration on way up to Loft

The Loft.  From Loft Windows, Ocean and Sound are Both Visible.

View of Living and Dining Rooms from Loft

Pretending We Own the Place.  Note Funky (but it was Beautiful!) Pink Floor Lamp.

Living Room

Pretending Again to be at Home

Asia House, Part 2

or, How the Other Half Lives

Again, clicking on an image gives you a far better feel for the house.

Living and Dining Rooms

Between Dining Room and Kitchen

Dining Room

House Was to be Sold "As Is", complete with Funky Table Settings
Looking into Kitchen
Jeff in Kitchen


Pretending Again to be at Home

Detail of Kitchen

Guest Bathroom 1, with Hand-painted Walls

No Shower Curtain, Just Stone-tiled Walls, Feels like a Cave

Asia House Part 3

or, How the Other Half Lives

Master Bath w. Hand-painted Mural

Master Bedroom; Click to see Foliage is REAL, Affixed to Wall

Master Bedroom
Guest Bedroom 1

Guest Bedroom 1

Guest Bedroom 1



Still Pretending to Belong Here!

Guest Bath 2

Guest Bath 2

Guest Bath 3

Guest Bath 3

Asia House, Part 4

Or, How the Other Half Lives

Guest Bathroom 4 and We're Not Done Yet!

Guest Bathroom 4

Second Sink, Same Guest Bathroom 4

Guest Bedroom 2

Guest Bedroom 2

Big Mistake:  We Forgot to Take More Photos of Guest Bedroom 3.

...Unless This Wall Decoration is in Guest Bedroom 3; Don't Remember

Rec Room on Bottom Level Near Pool, with Bar
Jeff Pretending to Enjoy Oysters on Ice.  (They're Fake.)

Pool in Back

Pool.  Note Funky Bench in Background!

..And Funky Bar

Guest Bathroom FIVE!  Darker Tiles on Floor Match Inner Rim of Pool.

Do Click to Enlarge this Shimmery Guest Bath 5.  It's Right off Pool.