I’m sure I said no white stuff.


But that’s not, apparently, being processed. Tuesday I drove over to Vancouver, to spend the next couple of weeks cat sitting for my daughter, while she gallivants off to far places. For those who don’t know, I live on Vancouver Island, which means that any trips to Vancouver or places east entails either a flight or a ferry. Since I plan to see several people while here, and needed the car, it was the ferry.

I left Victoria just as the snow storm started, and got here and settled in just ahead of it arriving here. We were worried, because I had promised to drive Arwen to the airport, and I am not experienced in a) Vancouver driving and b) driving in snow and ice. .

It snowed all Tuesday night, and most of the morning, but eased off in the early afternoon, but the weather reports were promising not only more snow, but high winds and freezing rain. So we left an hour earlier than we’d already planned to (the estimates were that if we left at the original time to get Arwen to the airport, I’d encounter the rain and wind on the way back to her place. No thank you.) So we left at about 3 pm for her 9:30 flight, and I’m glad we did. The airport suggested a two and a half to three hour arrival before your flight time for the security check, since so many flights had been delayed in the earlier part of the day. With a three hour window for what is normally a 30-45 minute drive, I was able to move as slowly and carefully as I needed to. Fortunately, everybody else on the road was thinking the same way, so we all were going at about half or less of the speed limit. That was *very* reassuring. It took about an hour and a bit to get there.

The trip back was slower, because of traffic congestion (two highways converge and it was stop. Stop. Stop & go. Stop. for a long, long time. Took me, in the end twice as long to get home as it did to get there.) The Toyota won more brownie points for making it up the hills to the apartment. It was touch & go, but it had the power to do it! I was so happy! I made it right up to the last corner, to turn down the little back street to my parking spot, when I, yes, got stuck. If it had to happen, I’m glad it happened there. And with the help of some cat litter, two kind strangers who let their pizza get cold (they plopped it on the snow!) and a snow plow hovering in the back ground in case the push and the litter didn’t work, I did manage to get around the corner, and park the car. I am not moving it again until the snow is mostly gone. And I didn’t have to deal with any of the wind or rain, thank goodness.

In fact, looking out the window this morning, I don’t think we got any freezing rain at all. A dusting of more snow and maybe wind (although I didn’t hear any in the evening or night), and today it’s looking cold (and I just looked up and out the kitchen window, and it’s snowing again. So much for my walk! We’re at about a foot around here now, and I have no boots).

But I have food, cats, work, books, knitting, heat, lights, internet and coffee. What more do I need? I am blessed. And I might go out just because I’m restless, but we’ll see.

I don’t recall ordering white.


We went to bed with snow outside last night. Al was hoping for 8″ so he wouldn’t have to go to work. I was hoping for none, because I have to be out & about today. It appears that our wishes collided. We have snow, but not 8″ and it’s frozen. Which makes walking and driving high tension, anxious activities (when you’re 64, you finally realize that sliding and falling aren’t as much fun as they used to be (if they ever were!) because oldish bones are getting brittle). But there isn’t enough of it to cancel schools and work (here in Victoria, it doesn’t take much to cause cancellations. We do not own a snowplow in this city.) And there is enough on the sidewalk and deck that I have to shovel. Which is great for burning calories and upper body work, but not so great for lazy, comfort and warmth without sweat loving me. I am less than impressed.

And it all better go away before tomorrow, because I’m away to Vancouver tomorrow (which, I know, has had snow for several days now. I’m hoping that it at least melts from New West’s hills before I get there!) And I don’t have snow boots to walk in. Grump. There’s not even enough to make it look all pretty and post-cardy.

It’s the little things.


I’m getting ready to go on a trip for a couple of weeks, and I’m supposed to be helping my son with some stuff that is important and has major impact on his life & career, and packing for the trip. So what do I do instead? While I’m waiting for the computer to cough up some information related to another little task that has to get done before the trip, I end up watching a Budweiser commercial that is going viral. Those things are dangerous! They’re always heart tugging, but this one did a good thing, for me at least (even if it did make me cry a bit.)

It was for this major basketball player, #3, who has apparantly been an incredibly kind and generous person when he’s not being a basketball superstar, and Bud found a number of just ordinary people he’d heard of and helped – so that it changed their lives in some major ways. They showed up to acknowledge and thank him.

What it did for me was remind me that I do give. I always think I’m this selfish person who never extends herself, or who gives to others, or does much that’s good and helpful and necessary. And that the things that I do aren’t enough – I don’t help enough of my friends, I don’t reach out to others who aren’t yet friends, I don’t give enough alms, I don’t do things out of my privilege and abundance enough. Because that’s the way I used to be, years and years and years ago. But y’know what? They are. They are enough, because, in trying to live a life of repentance, it’s a conscious thing for me that when someone asks me for something, I don’t refuse unless I have a valid reason (and yes, “I’m too overcommitted” is a valid reason.)

It reminded me that all the tiny little things I do for other people that aren’t life changing but do help them, and are given out of my abundance and my privilege and yeah, I can never do enough, so that’s a reason to keep doing it. And I’m never going to know, in most cases, how this helped people or changed people’s lives or, in many, many, many cases, what happened next. But be reminded that giving brings people joy even if you don’t ever see it, is so nice when you see other people who do get that feedback. And for me, that’s the best thing about this commercial – not that #3 is such an amazing person, but that he stands for all of us who do give – little bits and widow’s mites and purses of gold in the dead of night, and suitcases and boxes of things and love and comfort – and that in the giving, whatever other good we do, we bring Christ’s love and mercy and comfort to them. It’s nice to know that. It’s nice to be reminded that we can be Christ to others, even when we’re feeling like the diametric opposite to Christ. God is so good.

A few thoughts on a grey morning.


I’ve been thinking for a while now, that every time there’s something going on that celebrates something, somebody somewhere has some objections to it. Often, those objections have merit – fireworks do scare people with PTSD, especially those who’ve seen combat, and they scare dogs and cats. Does that mean we should ban all fireworks? Well, maybe? Somebody holds some kind of very physically active event to celebrate something else and those who know or care for or are physically unable to participate object on the basis that they can’t participate and so are excluded, so the event shouldn’t be held. Really? Maybe? Balloons shouldn’t be flown, because they cause harm to the wildlife and they clutter up the landscape. And there are more. It seems for every joyful and celebratory event, there’s somebody out there saying we shouldn’t do it because it excludes or hurts somebody.

On their own, each thing and each objection has merit, and validity. Physically constrained people are excluded from certain kinds of physical events – it’s hard for someone who moves by a wheeled chair or with external aids to participate in a marathon or foot race, and that isn’t fair. It’s very hard for a person who can’t see to participate in a car race. Or even drive a car, for that matter. And that isn’t fair either. (And no, I’m not going to use the old canard, life isn’t fair. We know that. That doesn’t change how people feel.)

But what I’m seeing is that as we ban the things that exclude people, and don’t allow the bright, shiny things that bring joy and laughter to people’s lives, collectively, all these bannings and preventions are turning our lives in to grey, dismal and joyless existences. Or can, if we ban enough of them. It worries me. I have no solutions, no conclusions, no real thoughts – just that our culture seems to be trending toward a very grey, joyless existence, and that worries me. Makes it feel like the images that came out of the Soviet countries way back when, and some of the feel of Brave New World and 1984.

Just early morning, not enough coffee yet thoughts on a grey, dismal-looking day.

#bloginstead


I’m coming late to the party (nothing new there), but I are here. I’ve been very scarce for the last few months on social media (well, Facebook, which is my only social media thing) for a variety of reasons, and this place, this warm and welcoming Blogtown seems like a good place to explain some of the reasons why, and why this place feels, for now, much more like my kind of town.

The quick story: 2019 turned out to be one of the worst years of my family’s life. From January right on through till this January (and I’m just hoping that it’s not a harbinger of another horror of a year), things kept happening: my parish blew up, resulting in the loss of 20 families (and since we only had about 60 families tops, that was a significant loss), all of whom were long time members and dear, close friends. My mother-in-law died suddenly and unexpectedly, and since she was the matriarch, and Al and the kids were very close to her, it was a huge blow that we are all still trying to cope with; in June, our parish discovered some honest financial mistakes from a number of years ago that rocked us badly. We’re dealing with them, and there was no question of criminal intent or dishonesty – that much is clear and a huge relief. It was more a case of people trying to do a good (and legal) thing, but not doing it well enough or correctly enough, and we have to fix the mistakes. My son and daughter each had crises (which, that being their stories, I won’t go into, suffice it to say they were and are serious and worrying and have lots of ripples). There were constant, other problems of a lesser nature, just enough to keep the emotions high and the stress on a constant upward curve. By November, I was emotionally raw and way overly sensitive, and on the edges of being overworked and overstressed. So I pulled back from social media, since every post, even ones with cats, and cute kids and little fuzzy animals (and sometimes even Strange Planet, one of the least offensive and funniest cartoons going) made me feel excluded, out in the cold, and as though every emotion I had, along with every nerve, was on the surface of my skin and throbbing.  And in December, something happened professionally, which I’m not yet ready to talk about, but it was serious and it felt devastating, and it’s hurt me professionally. For how long, I don’t know.

Finally, just after New Year’s Day, my son, on his way back to Edmonton from our Christmas celebrations, hit a patch of black ice and spun out at 10:30 pm on a stormy winter night. He is fine. His guardian angels and his patron saints were praying overtime, because instead of spinning into the oncoming lane and the direct path of an oncoming whatever (probably a semi), or into the ditch, he spun into a rest area (Canadian rest areas are not like US ones. We get a very short exit lane, a picnic table or two and an outhouse) and ended up between two concrete lane dividers, rather than plowing into the outhouse. There wasn’t a scratch on him, not even a touch of whiplash. The car, however, was totaled. With his guardians still praying, a car happened along within a moment or two of the accident, stopped and drove him into Jasper to report the accident and get a room for the night. But y’know, we really didn’t need it, thank you very much those down below!

I’m back to raw nerves and all emotion again and when I dip into Facebook, I’m greeted with all the stuff that drove me off to begin with, only now, with everything on the teetering edge of meltdown, it’s ten times worse. And Melinda comes up with #bloginstead. I need this. I need the internet equivalent of face to face, in someone’s home, with tea and a crackling fire (or the smell of baking cookies) and homey sounds; not the mall, which I’ve never liked even in person.

So here I am. Thank you all for pioneering this with her, and I look forward to all your blogs and commenting and having a conversation that is free of rancour, the need to be better than my best, an influencer (what even is that?), a brand (really? I’m circle 8!) and for me just to be me. I don’t have a platform here, and won’t get one. Just one little chair for one of you, a bigger chair for two more to curl up in, and for someone who likes to rock, a rocking chair in the middle. Now look up, awwwwwaaaaay up, and I’ll call Rusty. (Bonus points for the reference!)

Lights on the Mountain – a review


LIGHTS ON THE MOUNTAIN
by Cheryl Anne Tuggle
Paraclete Press, ISBN 978-1-64060-166-6 226 pgs.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.

For as Darya put it: how else does the tall, tall man with the sober jaw and the eyes planted so deep find the girl who can see the promise of harvest in them? Unless she believes, as Gracie did, that farmers may also be saints and mountain dwelling fools, holy. (pg 5)

It’s a quiet book about an ordinary life, with extraordinary people and places in it. A book that celebrates the growing of faith, the slow birth and development of belief, from a vision of a miracle. Was it truly, as Jesse first thinks, Glory and the Shekinah Light, of “God himself, paying some lucky devil a visit”? Or was it, as Jesse’s father said, just “… a sun pillar. Ice crystals way up in the atmosphere, reflecting the light of the rising sun”?

Jesse doesn’t have an easy life – the youngest son of a dairy farmer in the hills of western Pennsylvania at the beginning of the 1950s, he loses first his brother to the Korean war, and then his parents to a fatal car crash. He willingly shoulders the work of his beloved dairy farm but he plods through his life, empty and a hollowed out husk, until he meets, first, Gracie, the woman who becomes his wife, and then Tsura, the wild forest child raised by Eli, an Amish apostate, who informally adopts the child when Tsura’s mother arrives on his doorstep in a labour that takes her life.

It’s a book which follows Jesse and shows a growth toward faith, of how God puts people and events and moments in our lives to draw us closer to Him, to invite us to change to accept Him, not in a Road to Damascus, blinding light and noise kind of way, but in the normal, quiet everyday course of events: the passing of days and nights, the turning of the seasons, of full and dark moons, in sorrow, in joy, in laughter, puzzlement, and mystery. Small things that may or may not be miracles draw Jesse closer to God while leaving the mystery of whether they are of God or “just” natural phenomena for the reader to decide. Cheryl Anne Tuggle shows us exactly what CS Lewis meant when he wrote, in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader that a huge ball of flaming gas “is not what a star is, but only what it is made of.”

She catches the feel and moods of the Pennsylvania mountains through all the seasons, and make it as much a character as Jesse and Tsura. As a gentle background accompaniment to those moods and sensations, she also captures the feel of the decades over which the story takes place – the post WWII, Korean war 1950s, when rural places were catching up to the 20th century in a slow, thoughtful way. A time that small farmholdings could still support their families and earn money from surplus production, though the signs of change were in the air, through the bewildering and painful 60s and 70s, when agribusiness and modernization finally reached even the most isolated of the settlements in the mountains and the revolutions and unrest of the decades left everyone bruised and reeling.

It’s a book about how to hope, no matter how dark and sorrowful things can seem. From his wife’s inability to carry a child to term, Jesse learns the lesson by watching her. “With each disappointment she somehow emerged with hope intact. Her flexibility amazed him, though it was true that he marveled at it from a distance, much as a man with no legs admires a circus acrobat.” His life, even with the joyous interlude of the marriage is one of sorrow and sadness, but Gracie teaches him to hope for the appearance of joy, of light, of radiance, for the appearance of those people who bring those things, and to soak them in when God sends them.

But mostly, it’s about how all of life, and all of us are, in our fallen and broken state, still holy, still God’s creation, made in and for love, wonder and hope. The book invites the reader, in as quiet and unassuming a way as God invites Jesse, to look for God’s gentle touch inviting us into a deeper relationship with Him.

Macrina the Younger.


July 19 is the feast day of St. Macrina the Younger, sister of two of the three Cappadocian Fathers. She’s my namesaint.

Born in 327 AD, Macrina’s birth foreshadowed her life. As her brother Gregory related in his biography of his sister, “When the time came for the child to be born, at the end of her labour, Emmelia fell asleep, and dreamt she held in her hands the child still in her womb. A being of superhuman form and appearance stood before her, and addressed the child as Thecla, who is so famous among the virgins. He named the child this three times, then called on Emmelia to witness this after which he eased her labour pains and disappeared. She woke and found her dream had been realized. But in my opinion, it seems that the being spoke that name not to indicate to the mother the right choice of name, but to foretell the life of the child and to indicate that she would live the same kind of life as her namesake.” The family called the child Macrina after her paternal grandmother, who lived with the family.

Her parents were devout Christians and the family had a reputation for their piety, their generosity and their hospitality. Additionally, Basil the Elder was a lawyer and a teacher of rhetoric, and was famous throughout Pontus, for his talent and dedication to his profession. Macrina came from a prestigious family. Her ancestors on her mother’s side had held important government posts, and her grandfathers on both sides of the family had been martyred. Her father’s mother, St. Macrina the Elder, was a confessor of the faith – someone who had suffered grievously for their beliefs, and she lived with the family, helping to raise Macrina and her siblings.

Emmelia and Macrina were close from the moment she was born. Emmelia taught Macrina, using the classical Greek curriculum specifically adapted and altered to use Scripture, particularly the Psalter and the Wisdom of Solomon. According to her younger brother, Macrina was reciting the Psalter by heart at a young age.

Over the next number of years, Macrina was joined by a lot of brothers and sisters. Basil (the Great) was born about 327, followed by Nacrautius, then either a stillborn or miscarried child, or perhaps a sister, Theosebia, and then her brother Gregory (of Nyssa) who came along in 335. There were several other children, and the youngest, Peter, was born around 340 AD. All told, there were nine living children in the family, and Macrina, as the responsible oldest sister, helped look after them all.

When she was twelve, she was betrothed to a young man, possibly a distant relation, but before the two could be married, the young man died of a fever. She declared, after his death, that she wouldn’t consider another marriage, and instead, preferred to dedicate her life to God, as a virgin-widow. Contrary to some hagiographers, though, her decision to become a monastic wasn’t because she loved the young man so much she could never consider another in his place – it was because, like most of her forbearers, especially her mother and grandmother, she loved God more than anyone else, and wanted nothing more than to dedicate her life to Him. Eventually, her parents acquiesced, and shortly after that, Macrina’s father died, just before or upon the birth of the family’s youngest son, Peter.

From the time of her father’s death until her mother’s death sometime around 370, Macrina and her mother became even closer. Macrina stepped in and became her mother’s body servant, administrative assistant, constant companion and effectively raised her youngest brother, Peter. Emmelia, for her part, supervised, for a number of years, her daughter’s spiritual development and whatever education remained for the young woman.

Over the years, Macrina’s influence on her mother and the household grew. Gradually, the group of people living on the family estate at Annesi, about a day’s travel from Neocaesarea, grew more like an egalitarian community, living together and sharing food and work and worship, and less like the home of a wealthy Roman family, whose members were waited on hand and foot by servants and slaves. Emmelia and Macrina shared the work of the estate with the servants, and eventually Emmelia freed the slaves and lived with them in total equality. By the time Basil returned from Athens, where he’d been struck by the writings of a friend and wanted to rethink his purposes and his future, the household was very close to a monastery. Macrina’s influence on her brother, combined with Eustathius’s book, convinced him to also live as a monastic. Over the years, the community’s reputation grew and gradually, people, unrelated to the family, arrived at the gates and asked to join the community.

In 369, a famine struck the area, and the community gained a reputation for its generosity. Not only did they feed everyone who came to them, Macrina and her brother Peter, now a young man also dedicated to the monastic life, scoured the roads and lanes for children abandoned by their starving parents. They brought the children back to the monastery and adopted them into the community.

Macrina died in July of 379. She was approximately fifty-four years old, which isn’t old now, and wasn’t then, either. She isn’t known for her wonderworking, although she was a wonderworker, or, like her brothers, for her brilliant defence of the Orthodox belief against heresy or for the depth and brilliance of her theological thinking. She left no letters or books, there are no quotes of hers that show up in other people’s writings that would give us any indication of her intelligence and her beliefs. But for her brother, Gregory’s, biography of her life, we would never have heard of her. Yet she was an immense influence on her family, and her dedication to God has inspired and encouraged her spiritual children for over 1700 years.

For more information about St. Macrina the Younger, these books have more detailed information:

Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Series II, Volumes 2 (Sozomon), 5 (Gregory of Nyssa), 7 (Gregory Nazianzus), 8 (Basil)
The Cappadocians by Anthony Meredith SVS Press, 1995
The Asketikon of St. BAsil the Great, Anna M. Silvas, Oxford Early Christian Studies, 2005,
Gregory of Nyssa, The Letters, translated and written by Anna Silvas Brill, 2007
Wandering, Begging Monks, DF Craner, University of California Press, 2002
Virgins of God, Susanna Elm, Clarendon Paperbacks, 1994
Macrina the Younger, Philosopher of God, by Anna Silvas, Brepols 2008
Fathers of the Church, St. Gregory Ascetical Works translated by Virginia Wood Callahan, CUA Press, 1967
The Life of St. Macrina by Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa, translated by Kevin Corrigan, Peregrina Publishing Company 1996