Friday, October 31, 2008

Katherine's Adventure

Katherine is my daughter-in-law, and she will be the first to tell you that she is not usually the preferred one to turn to in emergencies. She's the nervous type. When her husband isn't home, for example, she won't even open the front door.

So it was very odd, a couple of Thursday mornings ago, that a neighbor of hers did turn to her in an emergency, probably because Katherine is a stay-at-home mom and could more or less be counted upon to be there; and it was unusual that Kathy did actually open the door. She opened it because through a window she could see that her neighbor was hysterical.

Her houseguest, the neighbor said, had just delivered a baby on her bathroom floor.

Kathy grabbed her bathrobe, for it was still early in the morning, and slipped into some shoes, and went running across the street. And here, she says, is where being an obsessive-compulsive worrier paid off, because during her own pregnancy, she had studied every single thing that could possibly go wrong in childbirth, and had learned what to do if the baby arrived someplace other than at the hospital.

The first good thing, she says, is that as soon as she arrived, she could hear the baby screaming. Following the sound, she came to an upstairs bathroom, where a 28-year-old woman lay naked on the tiles, while on a bathmat, wrapped in a bloody towel, was a beautiful baby girl. The placenta hadn't yet been delivered; the baby was still attached to the mother by the cord.

Katherine called for a suction bulb, but told her neighbor, who wouldn't even venture into the bathroom, to call 911 first to confirm that she should suction out the baby's mouth. EMS said yes, do it. So she did, and wrapped the baby in a clean towel. The mother, apparently in shock, never said a word.

Whether the baby was premature was the next thing Kathy decided needed to be determined. "How far along were you?" she asked.

Finally, the mother spoke: "I didn't even know I was pregnant!"

The other thing was to be sure the mother was kept flat, in hopes the afterbirth wouldn't be delivered yet, because, Kathy says, that is when complications can set in that can be dangerous. She prayed it wouldn't happen yet.

EMS arrived and delivered the placenta and that's about the time it occurred to Katherine that she hadn't been wearing gloves. Who knew what blood-borne diseases the mother and/or child might have? Apparently, that's when her nervous nature, which she had (heroically, if you ask me) kept at bay until then, slammed her and she had to call her husband to come home and be with her. But of course, that idea would have rattled anybody.

At last report, mother and baby (7.5 pounds) were doing well, and both tested negative for HIV-AIDS and hepatitis.

Mark said he was just relieved Kathy didn't bring the baby home! I said that was the only part I rather regretted.

This Made My Day

To Enlarge, Click on Picture
Here is a picture my granddaughter Kelly drew of her father and grandmother (me) at his fortieth birthday party, She drew herself, too, over at the left.

On the table is the birthday cake, complete with the baby picture of Mark in the center. The things hanging down are shiny decorations from a banner stretched across the ceiling. (I would post a photo of the same scene, but it's on my laptop, which has malfunctioned.)

Thank you, Kelly darling, for this wonderful picture, and tell your Mommy thank you from me for sending it!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday is something I've just now heard about, thanks to a blog called Sting My Heart. You can go there to find out how to participate in a whole group of bloggers doing it.

Today I am thankful first and foremost for the love of God in Christ, ever-present, ever disclosing Himself, ever awaiting my repentance.

I'm thankful for my dear, hard-working, conscientious husband, the best man I know, whom I shall probably never deserve.

And for my whole family, every one of them, especially my grandchildren.

And for being in good health, and for my husband's good health.

And for the good progress all my baby squirrels seem now to be making.

And for having enough food, clothing, and shelter, and something to share.

And for good next-door neighbors on each side of us.

And for dear friends to bring joy to every day.

For happy memories.

For interesting things all around, that are so gratifying to learn about.

And that the campaign season is almost over.

Small Miracle

This morning my two Gray Squirrels finally ventured out of their nest. First, two noses appeared, sporting two pairs of whiskers. Then, two or three minutes later, two sets of bright eyes, two sets of ears. Another several minutes and they both emerged entirely from their hanging bag and began exploring their cage.

One of them even munched on an apple core. Then she discovered a tiny bowl of warm formula I had just placed there, and began sipping it. Unfortunately, that's when Demetrios sneezed. That sent both squirrels diving back into their bag.

Never mind; what one learns, the other will soon pick up! They aren't going to starve themselves, after all. They just needed a couple more days. They are going to make it, going to be just fine, and come April, I'll release these late bloomers.

Thank You, God!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I'm too lazy to think of a title for this post. In fact, I'm thinking that's what's wrong with me these days (and I wonder whether it may be grief-related): I'm feeling intellectually lazy! I am not interested in thinking much. I've delayed and resisted answering theological questions one or two people have asked me, and politics is another thing I'd rather not think about.

And if I find "words" such as cocytus (as an adjective) or geryonic, I am not going to read the rest of that entry. Even if you use too many words I do vaguely know, like "peroration," I'm not going to haul out a dictionary just to read your blog. Instead, I am going to lose patience quickly.

Ditto if I see strung together three metaphors in a single, short paragraph. I'm not in a mood to try sort it all out. That's too much work from my poor brain.

If a blog entry is longer than a thousand words, it has lost me. And if I'm not going to read a thousand words at a time (unless of humor), much less am I going to write that much! Lazy. Not interested.

But I do have some recommendations for you, things others have written.

If you are more in a thinking mood than I am, Fr. Stephen, as usual, writes excellent stuff, particularly his recent entries on The Meaning of Scripture, The Meaning of Meaning, and his latest on catholicity. I labored to give these a cursory reading, no more; but I can see that a careful reading is what they deserve.

Pr. Hall has a pointed and amusing dialogue between fetal twins which he got from Fr. Milovan Katanic. Question: Do you believe in life after birth? This is provocative without being any strain on the brain.

Matthew Gallatin's latest three podcasts (Parts 20, 21, and 22) are about how to experience true intimacy with God -- and why some approaches common in the West (such as contemplation, imagination, charismatic experience) fall short. Gallatin is easy to understand. He spoon-feeds you, one small bite at a time. (Thank you!) In fact, he divides things into such small chunks that you sometimes want to listen to two or three podcasts in succession, the better to get the larger picture. The podcasts lend themselves to that.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Squirrel Report

The four Flying Squirrels are doing very well. I consider them completely weaned, although I do still hand feed each of them once a day, just for fun and bonding. They can even crack open sunflower seeds and other seeds and nuts in the shell.

Not so with the two Gray Squirrels, Polka Dot and Swiss Dot. They are finally getting some fur, although it is still much shorter than it ought to be for their age. The fur on their tails, which ought to be fully fluffed out by now, still makes their tails look no bigger in diameter than your little finger. (At least they no longer resemble rats.)

And now a new problem has developed with them: they refuse to be weaned. I cut back their feedings to two a day, one in late afternoon and one late at night, but they still ate nothing else all day. Sunday night I fed them at 9:30 PM, and then I didn't feed them again until the same time Monday night. In that 24-hour interval, they refused all solids, even fresh apple slices smeared with peanut butter - a treat normally irresistible to a squirrel. I even put their formula, which they take so greedily from the bottle, into two small dishes at the bottom of their cage and dipped their noses in it to let them know what it was. They weren't interested. They hurried back to the quilted, hanging bag that is their nest. I countered by removing it. They just looked lost and frightened in their cage, once they had nowhere to hide. They clung to the sides. They did not feel encouraged to move around, to investigate the rest of the cage they've lived in now for a week. They refused their formula repeatedly when I kept dipping their noses in it.

This is totally ridiculous behavior from nearly full-grown squirrels! Yes, they do have both top and bottom teeth, and yes, even the top teeth (which come in later than the bottom teeth) are long enough for them even to be able to crack acorns. They just refuse everything except the bottle.

My latest plan is to feed them well for the next two days, to compensate for their near starvation these last 3 days, and then to try again. Next time, if they don't eat, I will not feed them anything at all. I will keep them hydrated by subcutaneous injections of Lactated Ringer's Solution if necessary, but I won't give them anything by mouth.

I hate tough love. But their mother would have been tougher; she would have stopped nursing them three or four weeks ago, on account of their teeth. (And then they would have been in real trouble, because they would have been forced to venture out into the Fall weather without fur, to forage for food.)

They never would have survived in the wild. Maybe they shouldn't be kept alive in captivity, either. Maybe their mother, with that uncanny understanding wild mothers have, rejected them and that's why they ended up in rehab in the first place.

But I'm not ready to face that decision yet. I've had 'em since they were smaller than your thumb.

Monday, October 27, 2008

After the Feast

So Saturday and yesterday I cooked/prepared: a leg of lamb, 39 Greek meatballs, Shrimp Newburg, garlic mashed potatoes, fruit salad, Chocolate Kahlua Pound Cake, lemon cheesecake, Greek peas with tomatoes, broccoli-cheese casserole. We also served olives and stuffed grape leaves, feta cheese chunks, tiropita (cheese in filo appetizers), Nacho chips with a nacho dip of refried beans and spring onions and Mexican cheeses and olives, you know the stuff, and taramosalata (Greek caviar) with crackers.

We had ten wonderful guests and an interesting and enjoyable conversation, with each person explaining to Vada why he or she was a Christian. (Vada is a skeptic.)

Nobody could believe anybody with as sharp a mind as Vada's, with such a trim figure and that much energy, could possibly be 90 years old!

Demetrios and I also spent part of the day remembering the disaster that befell us on this day last year, while we were in Greece. I still cannot imagine how two people in the same church could not find each other after the services, but that's what happened. Demetris actually gave up and came home first, but I wasn't there yet, and I was the one carrying the house key. So he took another taxi back to the church, getting there just after I had left for home in yet another taxi... It took us until almost 2:30 that afternoon to be reunited, each fearing something dreadful had happened to the other.

Chocolate Kahlua Pound Cake
(Courtesy of my son-in-law, Jeff)

1 box Duncan Heinz Yellow Cake mix (Moist version)
Small box chocolate instant pudding
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
¼ cup Kahlua
¼ cup Vodka

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan. Sift together cake mix and chocolate pudding mix. Add in eggs, vegetable oil, sugar, Kahlua and Vodka. Mix with hand mixer and pour into bundt pan. Bake for 55 minutes, then cool for 30 minutes.


1 cup 10x powdered sugar
¼ cup Kahlua

Mix together with wire whisk. If too thick, thin with spoonful of brewed coffee.

Cake should be warm when you glaze it; glaze will soak in better and it will be moister.

Jeff’s Notes: Probably my favorite dessert recipe.
My Notes: Mine, too!
Stirring cake mix and pudding mix together works as well as sifting, in my opinion.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

St. Demetrios the Great Martyr

Another hat-tip to Christopher Haas, who does us all such a great service by posting his "Word from the Desert" series.

There was a certain bishop from the country of the Africans, Cyprian by name, who cared for the true priesthood and led a life most deserving of God. He arranged to journey to the queen of cities, Byzantium, on a pressing matter of necessity. And when they had sailed for many days and had already drawn near to the regions of Greece, he was captured by the most fierce Slavs together with all his [companions]. When they had divided these captives among themselves, the [Slavs] enslaved the aforementioned bishop together with his [companions]. When these things had been done in this way, they returned to their native places, and each barbarian placed the burden of slavery upon his captive according as he wished. Bishop Cyprian managed his lord's stores and distributed his foodstuffs wisely and with foresight, and in praiseworthy fashion took comfort in prayers, vigils, and fasts. And he said to the Lord, "Although I am without any merit, you appointed me a shepherd of your flock; how have I now been brought to such a state that I have been demoted from such rank to the service of the barbarians? But I call to mind that this has happened to me on account of my sins, and that it is for this reason that I am held ensnared by this affliction. Who will guide my sheep now that their shepherd has been captured by barbarian animals?"
While he was weeping about these and similar things, a beautiful young man, decorous in form, with a military bearing and appearance, said to him, "If you want to be freed from the slavery in which you are held and to be rescued from the barbarians, rise and follow me. Watch yourself, while we are walking, lest you say anything at all to me; but let us march each striving for quiet and praying to God in our minds." Then the bishop replied to him, "Who are you and from where have you come here?" The other said to him, "I am called Demetrius, and I am a soldier of the great emperor. My house stands in the middle of the city of Thessalonica, to which I will lead you without harm if you follow me." Rising, therefore, he followed him, and they both proceeded in silence. They marched during the night and rested during the day. Furthermore, Demetrius used to leave the bishop in the morning and return to him again as the evening drew near, bringing with him fruit from various trees, together with the berries of shrubs, with which he fed his companion, and when they had taken their food, they used begin their journey.
After eight days, when they had drawn near the walls of the city already mentioned, Demetrius set Cyprian in front of the gates of the city and disappeared. When the bishop looked for his faithful guide and good companion and did not find him, he entered the city. He made enquiries of those he met and asked them where was the house of Demetrius the soldier. And when they replied that there were many Demetrii in the city who discharged military office, he remarked, saying, "The house of the one I am looking for is in the middle of the city." Therefore, since they were are all at a loss in this matter, the man being sought was found nowhere. However, the inhabitants of the city led the bishop to the church of the martyr. When he entered, he immediately surrendered himself to prayer, and gave thanks and praise to God the Savior; and as he raised his hands and eyes in prayer, he saw an image of the martyr Demetrius in the clothing of his companion and guide. Then, in the presence of all, he cried out, declaring that, without a doubt, it was Demetrius himself who had guided and saved him, and that this was the house which the martyr himself had mentioned to him as he appeared to him in the beginning.

Anastasius Bibliothecarius, The Passio of St. Demetrius
Great Martyr Demetrius, commemorated 26 October

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Photo Meme

Deb's wonderful meme, which she goty from Mimi, prompted me to see what the fourth photo in my fourth folder in my photo folder might be, and I was very pleased to discover it was of Prince Afrasiab Assad Bakhtiary of Iran, because this photo comes with the very interesting story of how he courted my mother.

Prince Afrasiab Assad Bakhtiary ("Afool"), Teheran, Iran

Mom wrote about her relationship with the Prince in connection with a college class assignment in March of 1945, when she was 21. Here are excerpts:

When Afrasiab Assad Bakhtiary first pulled into New York Harbor [that would have been in 1943], he had a number of reasons to offer for coming to the United States from his home in Iran. I prefer to believe his first excuse – he wanted to marry me.

Even though I had invited Assad to visit me, I cannot say that I was actually expecting him to show up. After all, had I not, during the past eight years, invited scores of men from all over the world to drop in – any old time?

Of course, I had always asked my mother’s permission, and there was really no excuse for her amazement. I can remember distinctly when she said:

“Afrasiab Assad – is he your Persian, dear? Of course, invite him anytime you want to. It’s perfectly all right with me.”

The whole thing started in a high school French class when we all wrote for correspondents in another country...

My mother's foreign correspondence grew from there. She began writing to some of her classmates' pen-pals as well as to her own. Then after America entered the War in 1941, and her soldier correspondents began showing her picture around, letters "started coming faster as the American Army spread. Africa, England, France, India, Hawaii, the postmarks on my mail listed countries all over the world." They all read the same: "I met a boy over here who knows you and he gave me your address. Your picture is very beautiful. Will you write to me?”

I'm guessing this is the photo she had sent people. And as you can see, she wasn't exactly blonde, although she looks more blonde in some other pictures.

Mom, of course, didn't yet know her Persian correspondent was a prince. Her narrative continues:

Afrasiab was the only correspondent I had who went beyond the limits of a polite friendship. I can’t say I discouraged him, when I told him I had never visited Iran, but since I had such a charming friend there, I certainly intended to.

“Ah, my dear Barbara,” we wrote. “I think of you all day long and all night long when I am awake, Your picture is hanging near my bed. Tell me, do you the same?”

That was a little too much. I told him frankly no. He wrote and invited me to Persia. “With your blonde mane and blue eyes, you will get along very well here,” he said.

The Prince (Seated)

Next he said he was coming to America to see me. I told him I would be married by the time he got here and sent him an invitation to the wedding. One year later, he arrived, telling the Red Cross motor corps women who met him on Ellis Island that he wanted to go to Barbara Hafford’s house in New Jersey.

Mother met him in New York a few days later to politely explain that I was in Oklahoma, with my husband. He didn’t understand English quite as well as he spoke it, and insisted on going shopping with her. The day ended in a night club with my father grilling him with questions.

He lived in luxury at one of the New York hotels. Not being able to make anyone understand him, he had gone without food for two days until he called the Iran embassy.

“I ask where I can eat,” he explained, “but they jut say ‘huh’. In Persia we kill a man like that.”

The crowds bothered him, too. He had to walk between my parents, because it frightened him when anyone bumped into him on the street. “In Persia we carry a knife for anyone who bumps into us and does not apologize.”

When his story came out, my parents discovered that he was a prince, Prince of Bakhtiary, where his grandfather had been chief chief. His grandfather was the man who overthrew the old king and replaced him. His stories about that varied, but the Persian consul confirmed the gist what he said, warning that he did like to talk. He was never serious, and his sense of humor would make the Mona Lisa giggle.

The Prince's Grandfather, who Overthrew the Old King, With Entourage

I didn’t meet Afool (as he preferred to be called) in person until September, 1944, the day before I was to return to school. It seemed as though we had known each other for all of the eight years we had corresponded. I ached from laughing before the day was over. We had lunch at the Waldorf, where Afool decided that we should talk in French for the rest of the day. It was easy – he didn’t know any more words than I did.

Afool has two ambitions now. The first is to become an American citizen; the second, to marry an American girl. Any girl will do as long as she has blonde hair and blue eyes. She should be short too, for Afool comes just to my shoulder.

He had been the only one of my foreigners I never wanted to meet; now I shall probably know him all my life. He has not yet found the girl he will marry, but he is well on his way towards becoming a citizen. In October he entered basic Army training. After the war he hopes to live in New York where he will go into importing and exporting.

I still have a beautiful Persian tablecloth the Prince gave my mother; it is silk, with a lacy center in which Adam and Eve are embroidered with gold thread. (No, not gold gold; I mean that is the hue of the embroidery.)

Another Flying Squirrel Picture

Here are Roscoe and Hankie. Roscoe is the grayer one; Hankie is browner.

Notice how blunt Roscoe's nose is, compared with Hankie's. That can be a symptom of Down's Syndrome, which afflicts squirrels as well as humans. I'm almost sure Roscoe does have Down's, from the way he acts, learning everything more slowly than his peers. He is definitely going to be mine permanently.

P.S.) The reason Roscoe's eyes are closed and Hankie's aren't is that Roscoe feels so at home in my hand he frequently snoozes while I'm holding him. I've handled Hankie a lot less, as he is destined for release in the Spring.

Holy Demetrios, Great Martyr of Thessaloniki

Hat tip to Christopher Haas:

The Martyrdom of St. Demetrius of Thessaloniki

When the emperor Maximianus (probably Galerius Maximianus, emperor 293-311) was spending time in the city of the Thessalonians, being a superstitious man, he persecuted those who heeded just religion and killed them. Among these was blessed Demetrius, he who had both performed good works since his youth and had taught others, who displayed himself and was without fear. For he taught how divine Wisdom had descended to the earth from heaven in order to bring back to life by means of his own blood man who had died because of sin. When he was preaching these and other things, some imperial servants who had been entrusted with the capture of Christians, seized saint Demetrius and presented him to the emperor Maximianus.
It happened that the emperor had gone to the city's stadium on account of those who had been about to join together in single combat. A circular enclosure was being readied there by means of some fencing where he was about to watch those who fought each other face-to-face in turn in the manner of the theatre because it was a delight to him to witness the spilling of human blood. Nevertheless, not without care and concern did he regard that which was perceived as delightful to him. For he burned with support for a certain single-combatsman, Lyaeus by name, who, abusing the strength and size of his body, had already vanquished many and possessed a knowledge of killing gained through theory and practice. Because all were afraid of this man and there seemed to be no-one to withstand him, Maximianus held him in high regard, prized him, and used watch him with great pleasure. He praised and admired him, and gloried in the arrogance of the man as if concerning something important. When he had arrived near the stadium, those who had seized blessed Demetrius, brought him forward to him. Hearing that he was a Christian, the emperor, because he was entirely focused on the spectacle that was at hand, ordered blessed Demetrius to be held there next to the stadium and to be kept under guard in the public bath. So the emperor took his seat, and when Lyaeus had been brought in, he asked who was willing to enter into single-combat with him, offering and promising gifts.
And a certain young man by the name of Nestor leaped forth from the higher seats, and, desiring single-combat, took his stand opposite Lyaeus, so that, stupefied, Maximianus called Nestor, he who had leaped forth for this reason, to himself, and advised him, saying, "I realize that lack of money has caused you to be raised to such a state of fantasy so that you either win and acquire sudden wealth or, cheated by your desire, rid yourself of your poverty along with your life. But because of my pity for the youth with which you are adorned, I will even give to you worthy and fitting gifts on account of your unique daring. So come on, take the gifts too along with your life. Do not hurl yourself against Lyaeus, since he has conquered many more powerful than you. When Nestor heard these things, he neither accepted the emperor's advice nor feared concerning Lyaeus' strength. He answered the emperor, "I have not come to this contest for gain, as you have asserted, but in order to prove myself better than Lyaeus. So then both the emperor and those who were about him, supporters of Lyaeus, rose in anger at Nestor's words, not tolerating his boastfulness. The emperor reassured Lyaeus and restored his confidence. He, for his part, hastened to show himself worthy of the imperial judgment. And when battle had been joined, Lyaeus received a mortal blow, immediately fell dead, and caused the emperor extreme confusion. For this reason, without paying Nestor any of the monies that had been agreed and promised, he then leaped forth from his seat and returned in sadness to the palace.

When some mentioned about Demetrius to him, roused to anger, he ordered him immediately to be pierced with lances in the very place where he was being detained. In this way blessed Demetrius completed the martyrdom of a good confession. His body was counted as little by his killers, but some religious men came secretly by night and rescued it from the dirt where it had been thrown, and having gathered as much earth as they were able, they carefully buried it so that it would not receive injury from any fierce and cruel animals. After these events, no-one cared to move the saint's body, but it remained beneath its marker. Furthermore, to say little, no few miracles and healings were worked in the same place for those who called upon him with faith. When the martyr's merit had presently been made common knowledge, Leontius, assuredly beloved of God, a man who adorned the seat of the prefecture of Illyricum, cleaned the building which contained the most holy body of the martyr, and freed it from all harm, since it was very humble, concealed on all sides, and restricted by the porticoes of the public bath and the stadium. He enlarged it by means of further lots of land, and erected there an oratory in honor of the holy martyr Demetrius for the praise of Our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom the Father and the Holy Spirit share glory, honor and power through ages of ages.

Anastasius Bibliothecarius, The Passio of St. Demetrius
Great Martyr Demetrius, commemorated 26 October
icon and troparion at:

Friday, October 24, 2008

Now There's a Reversal!

This year, I've released 8 squirrels in my own yard,. (I've raised more, but they were released elsewhere.) So every morning I take a cup of squirrel munch and place it on a tree stump outside our sunroom windows, and we watch the squirrels and chipmunks eating their breakfast while we eat ours.

Squirrel munch consists of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, puppy chow, parrot chow, raisins, Cheerios, and dried corn. I add acorns Daphne gave me, fresh apple slices, and frozen green peas.

The trouble is, there's a little Nuthatch who lives in the nearest tree, who comes and helps himself to the sunflower seeds. So today I found myself thinking, "Get away from my squirrel feeder, you thieving bird!"

Just Checking In...

Still doing and thinking nothing worth writing about. Getting ready for the Feast of St. Demetrios, Sunday, when we will have a party here. That involves lots of preparation: cleaning, shopping, cooking. Other than that, my mind is occupied with politics, the financial crisis, and my adorable squirrels.

Here are some photos of Sydney, the younger of my two granddaughters, holding the largest of the flying squirrels, Roxane. (She's twice the size of the other three.) Click on a photo if you want to enlarge it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Break from Blogging

Sorry to have worried a couple of you by being silent so long. All is well; it's just that I've been busy, and out of town.

Thursday I went to North Carolina for the birthdays of both my children. Mark's 40th birthday was on Thursday, and Erin's birthday was on Saturday. Both of them had parties Saturday night and I shuttled back and forth between them.

Mark's was a surprise party and he was very surprised indeed. His company had donated generously to the Humane Society and all the employees were expected to attend the Fur Ball in support of that organization. Of course, Mark's boss was in on the plot, so the ball got talked up at work a great deal. When Mark got home, all the party guests were in the front yard, blowing horns and shouting, and Mark simply stopped his car in the middle of the street. Later, he told me he was thinking, "What the -- are all these people DOING there? Kathy and I have to LEAVE!" He said it was seeing my face in the crowd that finally turned his mind in the right direction (What's a mother for?) and made him realize the plan for the evening was quite different. And better, balls not being exactly his thing.

Herer are some photos; I haven't yet received the ones from Erin. You can click to enlarge.

Mark Arriving home, still dazed by the surprise

By now somebody has handed Mark a beer. Here, his children greet him. Kelly, foreground, has handed him a camellia; the twins flank him, Ryan in the red jersey, Connor blowing his horn.

The whole piece of cake, in one bite!

It was good seeing all my grandchildren, too! I already miss them all.
I've been waiting for years now for Mark to turn 40, so I'd have his company on the other side of the divide between young and OLD. Trouble is that when the day at last came, suddenly 40 seemed very young!

The flying squirrels were hits with all of them. They have accounted for most of the rest of my time lately, not that they require so much time, but by my choice. I suppose I'm burying myself in critters to distract myself from things like the economy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Yet More Confusing Pairs


Use which when you want to add parenthetical information.

The collie, which we sold, was Jack's dog. The collie was Jack's dog, and by the way, we sold him.

The computer, which was very old, finally crashed for good. The computer died, and oh, yes, no wonder because it was very old.

The house, which has red shutters, is at the end of the cul-de-sac. I'm telling you where the house is, and adding, as a bonus, that you can recognize it by its red shutters.

Notice that the "which" phrase always has commas before and after it, or only before it if it comes at the end of a sentence: I drank cognac that night, which was my favorite drink.

Use that to specify something particular.

The collie that we sold was Jack's dog. This implies there were other collies we didn't sell, but the one we did sell was a particular one, namely, Jack's.

The computer that was very old finally crashed. Not just "the computer," but specifically the one that was very old is the one that died.

The house that has red shutters is at the end of the cul-de-sac. I'm telling you where the house with red shutters is, specifying which house is at the end of the cul-de-sac.

Notice, no commas around the "that" phrase.


Once again, to be able to tell which is proper to use, we have to be able to distinguish between the subject of a sentence and the object. The subject is the person or thing acting, doing, the one the sentence is about. The object of a sentence is the person or thing acted upon, to whom or to which the action was done. In the sentence, "The flame burned her fingers," the subject is "The flame" and the object is "her fingers". The flame is what acted, what burned, and her fingers are what it acted upon, what it burned.

If we understand subject and object, we can easily tell when to use "you and I" versus "you and me."

You and I should be used as the subject of a sentence. Wherever you could say "We", you can say, "you and I":

You and I should attend that meeting together.
You and I both know better.
You and I agree to disagree.

You and me should be used as the direct or indirect object of a sentence. Wherever you could say "us", you can say, "you and me":

They invited Jack and Jill and you and me.

We are all going, including the Smiths, the Joneses, the Browns, and you and me.
(Including me, just as you'd say "including him", not "including he".)

Christ died for you and me.

BRING or TAKE? (Thanks to Monica)

Confusion about this arises particularly for people who speak Greek or some other language in which the two words are not differentiated. In Greek, both are "fero."

In English, it's a bit more complicated, but basically, "take" emphasizes a point of departure when something is transferred, while "bring" emphasizes its destination.

Some examples are fairly straightforward:

Here are some flowers for you to take to your mother.(Meaning, take from here or from me)

Take it out of here! I don't care what you do with it, so long you get it out of here.

Greg, please bring that note up to my desk. The note's destination is the important thing. Teacher wants to see it.

Did you bring your receipt with you, ma'am? Whether it's here for the cashier to see is her concern, not where you took it from (your shopping bag).

Other examples are less straightforward.

He took the note to his mother connotes he departed with the note.
He brought the note to his mother connotes he arrived with the note.
He took the Holy Fire from Jerusalem and brought it by plane to us.

Well, I hope these have been as fun and interesting for you as for me!

More Confusing Word Pairs (and Triplets)...

...with thanks to Christopher Orr for his suggestions.


They're is a contraction (short form) of "they are." The apostrophe indicates where the letter a has been left out.
They're coming!
They're still right where you put them.

There is a preposition, a word that indicates a relationship to place. It is the opposite of "here" and the answer to "where?".
Where's baby's nose? Yes, good! It's right there.
Here and there, a star poked out of the cloudy night sky.

You can also make a contraction between "there is", which becomes "there's". The apostrophe indicates the deleted letter i.
There's nothing wrong with that plan.
There's only one correct solution to each puzzle.

Their(s) is the possessive form of "they":
Our property ends here; past this point it's theirs.
Their cat keeps manacing the birds at my feeder.
It isn't any of their business.
It isn't any business of theirs.


Very confusing! Dying and died are forms of the verb, to die:
He prayed as he lay dying.
The autumn leaves are dying.
Day is dying in the west.
She died six years ago in an auto accident.

Dyeing and dyed are forms of the verb, to dye, meaning to change the color.
She stopped dyeing her gray hair black.
He wore a tie-dyed tee-shirt.

I don't even know what die means as applied to a machine, as in die-cast. Maybe somebody else can enlighten us in its correct usage.

(Note: fly and flying, cry and crying, but flier and town crier.)


Bear is either a large, furry carnivore or else a verb meaning all sorts of things, such as to carry, to endure, to yield fruit, to give birth, etc.
We must try to bear it bravely.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things.
How are you bearing up?
This tree bears the sweetest apples you ever tasted.
This is a load-bearing wall.
He bore his grief for the rest of his short life.
They have borne for too long the occupation of their land by foreigners.

Bare can be a descriptive word (adjective) meaning uncovered.
The bare branches clutched at the winter clouds.
This is just a bare-bones sketch; we can fill in details later.
What is so cute as a baby's bare bottom?

Or "bare" can be a verb, meaning to uncover.
The vicious dog bared his teeth. (Uncovered them by opening his mouth)
The assassin bared his knife. (Took is out of its sheath)

The confusion creeps in when we consider that "bare" is also an antique past tense of "bear," used where we today would use "bore."
He bare our sorrows.
And she bare a son and called his name Seth.

But except when we are reading Shakespeare or the King James Bible, we don't have to worry about this one. It's obsolete.


Whom is always the object of a verb, the done-unto. Use it wherever you would use "him":
Whom do you trust? (Do you trust him?)
Whom shall we invite? (Shall we invite him?)

Whom can also be an indirect object; always say to whom, for whom, from whom, by whom. Again, you can tell by substituting "him" and seeing if that works:
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow. (From Him all blessings flow.)
To Whom are due all glory, praise, and honor... (to Him are due...)
For whom will you vote? (Will you vote for him?) Whom we live and move and have our being... (In Him we live and move...)

Who is always the subject of a sentence or of a phrase. It's what or who is doing whatever is being done. It stands for "he" rather than "him":
Who is coming to the party? (He is coming to the party.)
Who knows? (He knows.)

Where it gets confusing is when you have a more complex sentence, such as, I will give it to (whoever? whomever?) will take it. What we have to remember here is that every single verb in the whole world has to have a subject. That is, someone or something has to be doing it. In this sentence, the subject of "will give" is "I". I will give it. And the subject of "will take" is whoever, not whomever. He, not him, will take. Whoever, not whomever, will take. Whom is always an object, a done-unto, never a subject, never the doer.
I don't know who used my credit card. ("Who" is the subject of "used".)
She doesn't care who knows about her past. ("Who" is the subject of "knows".)
He wondered who was knocking at the door. ("Who" is the subject of "knocking".)
We will welcome anyone who comes. ("Who" is the subject of "comes".)

In each of these sentences, the entire second phrase, "who used my credit card", "who knows about her past", etc., is the object of the first verb in the sentence. But within that object phrase, each verb still has to have a subject, a doer of the action. "Who", in each of these examples, is the subject of the second verb. "Who" rather than "whom" is the proper form for a subject.

As this post is already long, I'll put the other things people have suggested in another post.

Confusing Word Pairs

Here are some tips or reminders about certain confusing words in English.

Its or it's?

It's is a contraction for "it is" or "is has."
It's understandable she went away.
It's been a long time since we've seen you.

Its is the possessive form, and yes, it lacks an apostrophe.
The butterfly was drying its wings in the sunshine.

Ones or One's?

Ones refers to specific things or to numbers.
No, I don't want those; I want the ones over there.
On her eleventh birthday, there were two candles on the cake shaped like ones.

One's can be a contraction, as in One's never sure which is better, or a possessive: One can't have one's cake and eat it, too. This is confusing because it doesn't follow the same pattern as its and it's. So it's both easier to remember, and more correct, to use "his" as the possessive of the pronoun "one." One can't have his cake and eat it, too. That way, you can remember, no apostrophes with any possessive pronoun: mine, my, your, yours, his, hers, its, ones, ours, theirs. No apostrophes. Except with proper nouns: Sam's, Brittany's, Doug's.

Lay or lie?

Lay is a transitive verb, meaning it's something you do to an object.
Please lay the forks on the lefthand side of the plates.
He laid his cards on the table. (Past tense)
I have never laid eyes on him before. (Past perfect tense)
Now I lay me down to sleep.
"Me" is the object upon which the verb is acting.
His hens suddenly stopped laying. Here, the object, eggs, is implied.

If you mean to recline, the word in the present tense is lie.
Lie down now and take your nap.
Let's lie out in the sun a little while.
Do you sleep lying on your back or stomach or side?
When I was in Spain, I lay down for a siesta every afternoon. (Past tense, and where the confusion comes in!)
I've never lain in a more comfortable bed.
(Past perfect tense)

Can you think of other confusing word pairs we all really ought to learn once and for all?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wild Animal Nursery Update

Gray Squirrels. Three have been in a cage outdoors for two weeks now. On Friday, I began leaving the door to their cage open. One departed. The other two were inside their hanging bag when I checked at dusk, so I closed their door for the night to protect them from predators. Saturday, the remaining two departed, but returned to their nest sack for the night. Sunday morning early, the third one returned and I admitted him back into the cage. Today they all ventured back out, and none has returned. I’m hoping to dismantle the cage by Wednesday.

The two tiny squirrels I took in September 14th have grown quite big. Their eyes have been open a week. But they are strange squirrels! For one thing, normally by the time a squirrel’s eyes open, it is fully furred. These are still practically naked. For another thing, such sparse fur as they do have on their tails is white instead of gray. So they aren’t in a wire cage yet; they still snuggle in a box on flannel baby blankets. I’m just hoping their hair will all come in and that these are their only abnormalities and others won’t show up.

JUST IN (THURSDAY): Comparing notes with other rehabbers, I find that two of them also have squirrels whose hair grew in very late. Nobody knows why. Something wrong with the formula? A disease? Thyroid problem? Too much heat? But the good part is, others tell me their squirrel babies DID eventually become fully-furred and were thereafter normal.

Flying Squirrels. I’ve had Roscoe about three weeks. He is the only survivor of a nest of five caught by a cat. Last week, once we were sure Roscoe would live, he and I sent out a Personal Ad to the other rehabbers: “Male flying squirrel, 16 grams before feeding, eyes opened October 6, seeks female (or male!) flier for companionship, cuddling, and ??? Will provide room and board all winter long.”

So now Roscoe has three foster siblings, Roxane, Hankie, and Pankie. Roxane is twice the size of the others, but seems to like snuggling with them, doesn’t harm them, so it works out okay. She is old enough to be released if the weather holds, but needs one more day of antibiotics because of having been cat-caught. (Cats have a bacterium called Pasturella in their saliva that is toxic to birds and small mammals.)

Hankie won’t be old enough to go before the weather turns. He will be released in the Sping, along about April.

For Roscoe, it’s too late; he already thinks he’s a human; so I’m stuck with him permanently. (Aww, ain’t that a shame!) and I’m keeping Pankie, a female, to go with him.

It's absolutely unbearable how cute baby flying squirrels are!!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Watching People Take Holy Communion

It’s okay to see people getting older, okay to see them getting grayer, wrinklier, fatter, thinner. It’s when you notice the usher giving Voula a hand up the step to the solea your heart sort of twitches and you think about the brevity of life. Or when the old Presbytera, passing you on her way back from the altar, smiles as usual but you realize she may not remember who you are. And then there are the little children approaching for Communion. The little boy who solemnly crosses himself three times – with his left hand. The little girl who bows her forehead to the floor, and the newly-baptized baby. And then comes Andrew and the bitter memory of once having mocked him, before whose feet I’d now fall, who is quite simply a saint. And the heart leaps for reverence. Not far behind him, Vera, our dentist, another holy one, and her brother, Nick, whose radiance makes him look younger than he did 15 years ago, and here comes Adamantia, bringing up the rear, as always, all in black because she recently lost a son; and she’s spiritual mother to so many. And then there are those still with us, but only invisibly…like Theophilos, who turned into a saint when nobody was noticing. And Kyria Polyxeni and Barbara, and –

And then, the dawning realization: you’ve just received Holy Communion 200 times, every time any of these received. No, wait, that doesn’t even count those who have already reposed, whose communion with God is uninterrupted. And it doesn’t count the generations of Christians yet unborn. You’ve received Holy Communion each and every time any Christian ever has, ever does, and ever shall until the end of the world.

So we, [being] many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. (Romans 12:5)

More on Holiness

If we want to become godly or Godlike, we also need to be sure we aren't confusing holiness with moralism. Imagine how horrible it would be if some people actually became like their god! (In fact, that chilling idea is what's behind Bill Maher's proposition that religion must die for people to live; and he's right vis-a-vis most religions.)

Holiness, for the Christian God, is defined by His Love. Holiness is whatever Love does.

Our Only Hope

Just as God could not make us immortal unless He Himself first had immortality, so He could not make us holy unless He Himself first were holy. If we long to be changed from who we are, if we aspire to be good, God's holiness is our only hope.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Still More Antique Photos

Click any picture you wish to enlarge.

. . . . . . . . . . For Punky, Two Views of Train

. . . . . . . . . . Chautauqua Entertainers Out West

. . . . . . . . . . What's She Doing??

Saturday, October 11, 2008

More Antique Photos

As always, click on any image you wish to enlarge.

No idea who this is, but it's my stereotype of a mobster...

This label says "Chautauqua Utah", confirming my impression that my grandfather had gone out West.

Across the desert by automobile

Hotel with automobiles. It looks to me as if it must be in some biggish city.

Not sure who these are, either, but the woman on our right looks very much like my children's paternal grandmother. Matter of fact, the man in uniform looks a lot like their paternal grandfather, too!

Antique Photos

In his youth, my maternal grandfather, Clarence Hafford, joined the Chautauqua Circuit as an accordion player. It was a traveling group, offering lectures, concerts, plays, singing, dancing, and other entertainment, a bit like Vaudeville, I take it, perhaps ratcheted up one or two cultural notches (or not).

(Wendy, if you read this, why don't you tell us The Rest of the Story about that accordion?)

I don't know where my grandfather's particular circuit went, or exactly when these pictures were taken, but my best estimate is, within a year either side of 1920. I think they are charming and interesting, so I wanted to share them with you. I'll put a few more in another post.

You can click on any of these images to enlarge it.

Shopkeeper Opening Up

"Miss Clemmons" Grandpa told us this was the sister of Samuel Clemmons, aka Sam Clemens, aka Mark Twain. She gave lectures about her famous brother. I think it must be his daughter, though.

Grandpa in the foreground, Miss Clemmons hamming it up with other ladies of the Circuit.

Barbara and I once dubbed this picture, "Fords Fording the Ford."

Gamblers on Train. I believe the man looking at us on our left is my grandfather. To catch him cheating was half the fun when he played cards with us.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Why We Believe

The Bible is not the reason Orthodox Christians believe in God. It's the other way around: those things are in the Bible because we have believed them.

But we believed them before they were written there. Noah built his ark, believing God, without consulting any Scriptures. Abraham followed God out into the unknown before there was any Bible for guidance. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt before there was any written Word. Elizabeth, the mother of St. John the Forerunner, recognized the Lord in His mother's womb without having derived the idea from an interpretation of Scripture. And so did her as-yet unborn babe. So did Symeon, and Anna. It wasn't the Bible prompted St. Joseph to flee with his family to Egypt, or St. Paul to sail to Macedonia. None of these famous deeds of great saints was derived from Scripture or was normed by it, either.

Yes, yes, I can imagine someone saying, but that was back then, whereas we, today...

We, today, what? No longer have the intimate, personal presence of God among us to lead us? God has withdrawn that and left us with a Book to go by? Or He has withdrawn Himself into a Book?

That is just not the case. The Bible itself bears witness to its not being the case. God doesn't do that. (Why would He?) In fact, the reverse is true: Christians now have greater access to God (if we would but take advantage of it) than anyone ever had before the coming of Christ. Because we have living communion in Christ Himself, in Whom we live and move and have our being. Because, as the Bible bears witness, He has not left us orphans. Because He has sent us the Spirit of Truth to teach us all things, the same Spirit who taught Noah and Abraham and Moses, Elizabeth, Symeon, and Anna, Joseph and Paul and Cornelius and all the rest of us, and still teaches us today, in Person, directly. Sometimes He teaches us the Scriptures and sometimes He teaches us other things, such as what to do next or to recognize a person who intends, figuratively, to stab us or how best to help in a tricky situation. His guidance is not confined to any text.

We were probably first atrracted to Christ, first induced to throw our lot in with Him, by some small but overwhelming insight into His infinite, mighty, tender Love and our own wretchedness, so in need of healing; as St. Paul said, "God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

But now the reason we believe, or rather know, is that we have met the Crucified One as living; in fact, as our own true Life. We been baptized into a whole new existence, a new dimension; as Fr. Stephen says, "into the everywhere and always." We have been raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:6) We "have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel." (Hebrews 12:22-24)

That is why we believe. Because we cannot NOT believe, once we have met Him and once He has bestowed His own Life upon us and we are living it, once the Incarnate Word has sealed us with His own Spirit, His Life. This is how we know Jesus loves us, because He ever lives for us, and we in Him.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

This I Know

Last week, I found myself in the same room with an electrical music box that kept playing "Jesus Loves Me" for the whole hour I sat there. And it reminded me again that this song has it exactly backwards. There is no particular reason to credit the Bible unless you already credit its Author, and no convincing reason to believe there is a God Who wouldn't lie unless you have already encountered Him.

If the Bible were the source of doctrine, then we could know that doctrine only emotionally and/or cognitively, not existentially. The Bible bears witness to true doctrine. But for the Christian, the crucified and risen Christ is the Source; more correctly, He Himself is the True Doctrine. ("I am the Way and the Truth and the Life...") To encounter Truth, you have to encounter Him, not just read about Him.

Can you encounter Him in reading the Bible? Sure. But then it's He, and not the Book, that caused you to believe both.

Why do we Vote for Crooks?

Ron Paul will tell you the truth. Bob Barr will tell you the truth. Ralph Nader will tell you the truth. Mike Gravel will tell you the truth.

Why is it that every one of these truth tellers comes across to us as somewhere in the spectrum between slighly kooky and totally nuts?

They aren't really. Closer attention shows them to be serious men. Ralph Nader, in particular, is highly intelligent, well-educated, well-informed, politically savvy, experienced, and articulate. And yet, we take none of these men seriously. I even heard someone say (about Barack Obama), "He's too honest!" - which recent events have shown him not to be, but that was the reason given for NOT voting for him!

Why is it we scoff at the honest ones? Why is it we don't want them, don't consider them qualified? Above all, WHY do they invariably seem to us like weirdos?

Monday, October 6, 2008


by Joseph Bert Smiley (my great-grandfather)

Saint Peter stood guard by the golden gate
With a solemn mien and an air sedate,
When up to the top of the golden stair
A man and a woman, ascending there,
Applied for admission. They came and stood
Before Saint Peter, so great and good,
In hope the City of Peace to win–
and asked Saint Peter to let them in.

The woman was tall, and lank, and thin,
With a scraggly beardlet upon her chin.
The man was short and thick and stout,
His stomach was built so it rounded out,
His face was pleasant, and all the while
He wore a kindly and genial smile.
The choirs in the distance the echoes woke,
And the man kept still while the woman spoke.

“O thou who guardest the gate,” said she,
“We two come hither, beseeching thee
To let us enter the heavenly land
And play our harps with the angel band.
Of me, Saint Peter, there is no doubt,
There’s nothing from heaven to bar me out.
I’ve been to meeting three times a week,
And almost always I’d rise and speak.

I’ve told the sinners about the day
When they’d repent of their evil way.
I’ve told my neighbors – I’ve told them all
‘Bout Adam and Eve, and the primal fall,
I’ve shown them what they’d better do
If they’d pass in with the chosen few.
I’ve marked their path of duty clear –
Laid out the plan for their whole career.
I’ve talked and talked to them, loud and long,
For my lungs are good and my voice is strong.
So good Saint Peter, You’ll clearly see,
The gate of heaven is open for me,
But my old man, I regret to say,
Hasn’t walked in exactly the narrow way.
He smokes and he swears, and grave faults he’s got,
And I don’t know if he’ll pass or not.

He never would pray with an earnest vim
Or go to revival, or join in a hymn,
So I had to leave him in sorrow there,
While I, with the chosen, united in prayer.
He ate what the pantry chanced to afford,
While I, in my purity, sang to the Lord.
And if cucumbers were all he got,
It’s a chance if he merited them, or not.

But oh, Saint Peter, I love him so,
To the pleasures of heaven please let him go.
I’ve done enough, a saint I’ve been.
Won’t that atone? Can’t you let him in?
By my grim gospel, I know ‘tis so
That the unrepenting must fry below,
But isn’t there some way you can see,
That he may enter, who’s dear to me?

It’s a narrow gospel by which I pray,
But the chosen expect to find some way
Of coaxing, or fooling, or bribing you
So that their relation can amble through.

And say, Saint Peter, it seems to me
This gate isn’t kept as it ought to be.
You ought to stand by the opening there,
And never sit down in that easy chair.

And say, Saint Peter, my sight is dimmed,
But I don’t like the way your whiskers are trimmed.
They’re cut too wide, and outward toss,
They’d look better narrow, cut straight across.
Well, we must be going, our crowns to win,
So open, Saint Peter, and we’ll pass in.”

Saint Peter sat quiet, and stroked his staff,
But in spite of his office, he had to laugh,
Then said, with a fiery gleam in his eye,
“Who’s tending this gateway, you, or I?”
And then he arose, in his stature tall,
And pressed a button upon the wall,
And said to the imp who answered the bell,
“Escort this female around to hell.”

The man stood still, as a piece of stone—
Stood sadly, gloomily there alone.
A lifelong settled idea he had
That his wife was good and he was bad.
He thought if the woman went down below,
That he would certainly have to go–
That if she went down to the regions dim,
There wasn’t a ghost of a show for him.
Slowly he turned, as by habit bent,
To follow the woman wherever she went.
Saint Peter, standing on duty there,
Observed that the top of his head was bare.
He called the gentleman back and said,
“Friend, how long, may I ask, hast thou been wed?”
“Thirty years,” (with a weary sigh)—
And then he thoughtfully added, “Why?”

Saint Peter was silent. With head bent down,
He raised his hand and scratched his crown,.
Then, seeming a different thought to take,
Slowly, half to himself, he spake:
“Thirty years with that woman there?
No wonder the man hasn’t any hair.
Swearing is wicked. Smoke’s not good.
He smoked and he swore – I should think he would.

“Thirty years with that tongue so sharp?
A jeweled harp, with a golden string,
Good Sir, pass in where the angels sing.
Gabriel, give him a seat alone–
One with a cushion, up near the throne,
Call up some angels to play their best.
Let him enjoy the music, and rest.
See that on finest ambrosia he feeds.
He’s had about all the hell he needs.
It isn’t just hardly the thing to do
To roast him on earth, and the future too.”

They gave him a harp with golden strings,
A glittering robe and a pair of wings,
And he said, as he entered the realm of day,
“Well, this beats cucumbers, any way.”
And so the scriptures had come to pass.
The last shall be first and the first shall be last.

The story behind this poem:

In 1893, my great-grandfather, Joseph "Bert" Smiley, began courting Nina Burdick, of Galesburg, Michigan. Her mother, Lucinda, objected because of his nervous twitch. She broke off the match. My great-grandfather took his revenge by writing this poem, in which Lucinda Burdick was easily recognizable to all the citizens of Galesburg, much to their delight. The reference to cucumbers was also recognizable; Dr. Burdick, Nina’s father, had been overheard to complain in public about his wife going off to meeting without having prepared him any meals. Cucumbers, he said, were all he'd had to eat for three days.

This poem became a national best-seller and a portion of it was quoted in
Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations until, I think, 1974. (But I’d have to look up that date to be sure of it.) Many of Joseph Bert Smiley’s descendants, including my grandmother, my father, and me, have, if not the same talent, at least the same penchant for writing humorous verses. (As a matter of fact, Bert Smiley's father, George, wrote a few, too.)

In 1896, my great-grandfather married Fern Hawks, my great-grandmother. In 1903, he suffered a nervous breakdown and put a bullet through his brain. Fern was left to support two small children. By hard work and frugality she managed, although barely.

Nina Burdick, my great-grandfather’s first love, never married, but lived to old age in relative comfort. When she died, she left everything to my great-grandmother Fern.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Living in the Age of Scoundrels

from The National Herald (Greek-American weekly newspaper), September 27, 2008, by Dr. Nikolaos A. Stavrou

Bankers of the world, unite to defend your loot! The system that produced, nourished and coddled you still needs your breed very badly and you need it. Neither you nor the system can afford to follow the path of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers. Be reminded that your persistence in the art of theft of public assets and peoples' wealth paid off. Indeed, you, the bankers, succeeded where Stalin and Trotsky failed. Those two historical anachronisms fought each other to death over the issue of whether "permanent revolution" (Trotsky's choice) or "Socialism in one country" (Stalin's) should be the goal of the first Marxist state. As we now know, they both failed; but you, the bankers, succeeded brilliantly. You achieved "socialism in one country", the United States, and a "permanent global turnoil" which is pretty much the same as "permanent revolution."

It is a unique type of socialism: big business, bankers, and assorted crooks get the profits and the tax-payers assume the losses. The latest effort to save the bankers of the world will cost each and every American taxpayer approximately seven thousand dollars. Indeed, it took the ingenuity of capitalism to bring the world closer to what Karl Marx envisioned, i.e., a world in which the state would be irrelevant and will be ruled by financiers, with no national or state allegiance, and eternal global allegiance with each other to defend their class interests. The only mistake Marx made was that he picked the wrong class to put an end to the concepts of nation, national interests, and nation-state. He should have known better than depend on the working class to abolish the global political edifice known as the bourgeois state system. That is the specialty of thieves, the bankers, and the products of Harvard's Business School; in other words, the very people who for thirty years worshiped the Gospel of privatization, and worked tirelessly to demolish the regulatory system that Franklin Roosevelt establsihed to avoid a repetition of the Great Depression...

The still unfolding financial meltdown is the logical consequence of thirty years of a carefully orchestrated social engineering that went through four stages:

First, the educational system was re-programmed to produce human robots instead of citizens equipped with the necessary ethical foundations and critical skills to challenge the system. Ethical norms were dismissed as the ruminations of "dead, white European philosophers."

Second, a systematic assault was unleashed against the social ownership of critical economic assets. Privatization became an article of faith and was promoted with evangelical zeal by Ronald reagan and every president since. "Get the state out of the way of the private sector" was the credo of modern conservatism. As we all know, the fastest way to privatization of public assets is to steal them.

Third, a systematic assault on Franklin Roosevelt's regulatory and social welfare system as well as on workers' rights was unleashed and exacerbated with advances in technology. Exporting the industrial production to China, Bangladesh, India, and Mexico negated any influence of labor unions, leaving financiers and industrial magnates to roam from country to country in pursuing easy profits and corrupt politicians.

Fourth, with the removal of oversight and regulations, the state was relegated to one and only one function: to secure the unimpeded flow of capital from one country to the next in search of the cheapest labor and the highest profits.

But when the sandcastle collapsed, the scoundrels tell the government, "We are too big to let us fail." The government in turn tells its citizens, "You are too stupid to understand." Just strust us, "be happy, don't worry," The age of scoundrels pursuing socialism of big business has dawned. Fasten your seat belts.

Dr. Nikolaos A. Stavrou is Professor Emeritus of International Affairs at Howard University.

DISCLAIMER: I know some very good, ethical, wonderful people who work for banks, who are definitely not crooks and far from it - including my next-door neighbor and my son-in-law. (Please pray for him, as he is with Wachovia.) Also, I worked for a bank myself once...

Announcement from Her Majesty's Government

This has been around the Internet for awhile, at least since our last presidential election, I think. But posting it now seems appropriate. I edited it slightly.

To: The citizens of the United States of America:

In view of your failure to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA or mind your country or operate her systems and institutions; in short, to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately. Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy).

Your new prime minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a governor for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether
any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect (you should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary):

1. Look up "aluminium" and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at how incorrectly you have been pronouncing it.

2. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix -ize will be replaced by the suffix -ise. Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up 'vocabulary'.)

3. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as US English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of -ize. You will relearn your original national anthem, God Save The Queen.

4. July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

5. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.

6. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

7. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and this is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean.

8. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left effective immediately. You will adopt the metric system immediately without benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrics will help you
understand the British sense of humour.

9. The Former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) - roughly $6/US gallon. Get used to it.

10. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.

11. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable as they are pound for pound the greatest sporting Nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth - see what it did for them.

12. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialogue in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.

13. You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play Rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies). Don't try Rugby until further notice - the South Africans and Kiwis will thrash you, as they regularly thrash us.

14. Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America, Cuba and Japan. Since only 2.1% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.

15. You will be required to tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

16. An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).

17. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 pm with proper cups, never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; strawberries in season.

God save the Queen. Only He can.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Check it out!

What do you truly, ultimately want from God? There's really only one right answer, and Fr. Stephen supplies it. Check out his other posts, too.

The latest two podcasts from Matthew Gallatin (numbers 18 and 19 of the current series) explain what heaven and hell really are -- and are not.

Finally, if you missed Deb's recent little misadventure, it should add a smile to your face and a lift to your day. While you're there, read about what alone gives meaning to suffering.

They've Got us Either Way

The bill the Senate passed is a fake. It has no checks and balances. The oversight committee can only observe; it has no power actually to act. The Treasury Secretary will still be the sole person empowered to manage our nation's economy. The CEOs of failed companies can only receive a million dollars a month, but that restriction is only on paper. In reality, there are enough loopholes to make that provision meaningless. And are we, the taxpayers, ever going to retrieve any of that money, as we've been told? Forget that; this bill doesn't provide for it. It only provides for a President to decide whether to apply for that on our behalf.

The Senate added a lot of pork to the bill, targeted at the states of the balking Congressmen, to induce them to vote for the bailout bill. That's the carrot. The stick, according to one Congressman from California, is that our legislators have been told if they do not pass this thing, their own pensions will disappear. Also, they have been told the stock market will fall 2,000 points in a single day and a further 1,000 after that and then martial law will have to be imposed.

Our democracy is going to be in tatters either way.

And voting for Barack Obama will not even begin to address the problem. (Neither will voting for McCain, of course. Or anybody else.)

Birthday Boys

Ryan (right) and Connor (left) turned four on Wednesday. Here's a picture of them two weeks ago during their trip to Washington, D.C. Katherine (their mom) says wouldn't it be great if the fellows in that building behind them got along this well.

(You can't really appreciate how darling these guys are unless you click photo to enlarge!)


I've been at my mother's, helping her get her paperwork and files organized, checking that she still has correct userids and passwords to get into her online accounts, and so forth. We went to her lawyer to revise her will and trust, we spoke with her financial advisor, etc. etc.

We haven't finished yet. There is still some more organizing/simlifying to do, and revisions to be made to her list of medications. There are a zillion forms to be filled out, most of which require you to attach to your reply a death certificate, birth certificate, marriage certificate, durable power of attorney, photo ID, and/or a quart each of sweat and blood.

Anyway, the upshot is, that's why I haven't posted lately and or felt like doing so.

I also keep busy with my orphaned wild animals. Current status: Only three of the larger ones left, the rest having been released. The remaining three are in an outdoor cage and are weaned. If the weather holds up another week or so, I will release them, as well; otherwise, they may have to winter over with me. There are currently two more tiny, as yet furless Gray Squirrels in my nursery, doing very well, and one of them extra pretty because she has a white nose. Mom named her Polka Dot; I call her Dottie. Her sibling remains unnamed so far. Latest addition is a flying squirrel whose 4 siblings all died after having been "rescued" by a person who didn't know what he was doing, but this last one is doing well. He has his fur, but his eyes haven't opened yet. He's lively and hungry and seems to be doing well. I named him Roscoe. A tiny thing, about half the size of a golf ball when curled up, he is unbearably cute.