Saturday, May 31, 2008

Memorial Day has come and gone...

but we continue to remember. I saw two images this week that I wanted to share with you. This photo was taken last Monday by my new blogger friend, Pat, at the national cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas, where her brother, who died at 28 in Vietnam, is buried. The expanse of headstones reminded me of Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., where I once witnessed the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns. The photo also reminds me that thousands and thousands of people have given their lives in the defense of our country and to preserve our liberties, our freedoms, our way of life. I don’t know how many graves are in the Little Rock cemetery, but Arlington has over 250,000 according to one source.

And this photo of red poppies
growing in a field in France is also a poignant reminder to those of a certain age of our American war dead. It was taken by another new blogger friend, Papy Biou, who lives in France. When I was young, the American Legion or the Veterans of Foreign Wars sold red paper poppies every Armistice Day (November 11th) and Memorial Day (May 30th) to raise funds for their organizations. People wore them in their lapels in remembrance of our fallen heroes of both World War I and II. Last November on Veterans Day, I wrote about the end of World War I in a post entitled, “In Flanders Fields” and included the famous poem that begins, “In Flanders Fields the poppies blow/ between the crosses, row on row.” Whenever I see red poppies, and these captured by Papy are beautiful, I always think of that poem, and the reason it was written, and the American cemeteries in France as a result of the two World Wars.

To date, more than 4,000 Americans have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. Over 58,000 names are engraved on the low black wall called the Vietnam Memorial. Over 54,000 died during the Korean conflict, over 408,000 in World War II, over 116,000 in World War I, over 25,000 in the American Revolutionary War. Most heartbreaking of all are the figures for the American Civil War, which lasted from 1861 until 1865, because Americans were killing Americans. At a time when our nation’s population was around 31,000,000 people (a tenth of what it is now), the combined dead of the War Between The States is estimated at 562,000. And, lest we forget, thousands more have given their lives over the past 233 years in what are now considered minor wars and skirmishes.

Let us resolve, with Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, “that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

We remember them. Better late than never.

Mighty peculiar

Some in the ranks of the Christian clergy in this country are undergoing a good deal of public scrutiny these days. Certain names leap to mind: Jeremiah Wright (a United Church of Christ minister in Illinois), Michael Pfleger (a Roman Catholic priest in Illinois), John Hagee (formerly Assemblies of God, now pastor of a nondenominational charismatic congregation in Texas), and Rod Parsley (raised Free Will Baptist, now pastor of a nondenominational, Pentecostal megachurch in Ohio). The “crazy season” appears to be in full swing, what with 2008 being a presidential election year in the U.S. and all. (I suppose, to be grammatically correct, the subject of the gerund in the previous sentence should be in the possessive case, “2008’s being.” But I digress.) These four in particular have caused outrage, consternation, shame, disappointment, astonishment, pick a noun, among our citizenry with some of their recent statements and endorsements in the political arena (which I will not dignify by repeating here).

I can’t really say whether these leaders are truly Christian, sheep or wolves, wheat or tares. That’s for the Lord and His angels to decide at the harvest, the end of the world, the judgment seat (times to be announced later), not me. But one thing is certain: something mighty peculiar is going on lately.

I said all of that to say this. Without saying for a minute that some of the pronouncements of the aforementioned clergymen are worthy of anything other than disdain, the plain teaching of both the Old and New Testaments is that God's people, which I hope includes you and me, ARE peculiar. I didn't say they act strange or oddball or queer or anything of the sort. I said they were peculiar. But I mean something different from what you are probably thinking.

The word “peculiar” occurs seven times in the Bible, in seven verses. Here they are:

Exodus 19:5 -- “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:”

Deuteronomy 14:2 -- “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth.”

Deuteronomy 26:18 -- “And the LORD hath avouched thee this day to be his peculiar people, as he hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all his commandments;”

Psalms 135:4 -- “For the LORD hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.”

Ecclesiastes 2:8 -- “I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces: I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts.”

Titus 2:14 -- “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”

I Peter 2:9 -- “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:”

(end of quotations; emphasis mine)

The first five verses are from the Old Testament, where in the original Hebrew the word translated into English as “peculiar” is cegullah. Four times it is used to refer to the Jewish people; the fifth reference is to material things, silver and gold, musical instruments, and even musicians. The other two verses are from the New Testament, where in the original Greek the two words translated into English as “peculiar” are periousios and peripoiesis, respectively. In four of the seven instances, the phrase is “peculiar people” and in the other three instances, the phrase is “peculiar treasure.” According to Strong’s Concordance (our pastor in Florida used to say Young’s for the young, Cruden’s for the crude, Strong’s for the strong, but I think he was making a little joke), the shared meaning of these Hebrew and Greek words is this: something obtained and held as special, one's own possession, private property, valued property, special treasure. We are peculiar, therefore, in the sense that we have been chosen, specially selected, purchased, bought with a price. We are a people peculiarly His own. One version puts it this way: “his very own possession.”

So, in the sense the original writers meant, and on the authority of God’s written Word, if you are a genuine Jew or a genuine Christian (and, as I said earlier, I’m not saying who is and who isn’t, I’m leaving that decision up to the One who knows), you can revel in the fact that you are peculiar--not strange, not odd, not queer, mind you--peculiar.

Always happy to be of service.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sign in front of a fire station in Cherokee County, Georgia:

“April showers bring May flowers,
and May flowers bring pilgrims.”

Some firemen have entirely too much free time on their hands. Which is a good thing.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Little Boy Blue made me cry

I was an early and avid reader. An only child living in an isolated house, several miles from town, without a family automobile, I had few playmates and lacked access to them. I wasn’t completely without friends my own age. Sometimes Bruce and Mary Grace H. would come over and play Monopoly with me. Sometimes Johnny Wayne H. and I would go swimming in the pond in his parents’ pasture. But unlike most other children I knew, I was always happy when summers were over and school started for another year, because I could see so many of my friends on a daily basis once again.

Most of the time at home I was left to my own devices. Daddy worked hard at the aircraft factory and craved peace and quiet when he got home. Mama struggled with her own thoughts, coping with the cancer that would eventually take her life. When I discovered books, I took to them like a duck takes to water. Books were a way of escaping my daily reality. Through the bound and printed word, my world expanded through the thoughts and experiences of others. Reading took me away from the unhappy, lonely world around me into worlds I didn't even know existed. On rainy days when I couldn’t play outdoors, on cold days when I preferred being indoors, and on weekend days when I was away from school companions, I often curled up in a chair next to a bookcase and read poems from A Child’s Garden of Verses or stories in The Golden Bible or lots of interesting articles from my 20-volume set of The Book of Knowledge and my equally imposing Grolier Encyclopedia.

It was on one of these days when I was about eight or nine that I discovered a poem called “Little Boy Blue.” Not the familiar nursery rhyme in which the sheep’s in the meadow and the cow’s in the corn and the little boy is under a haystack fast asleep. No, I'm talking about a poem by a man named Eugene Field that brought me face to face with death for the first time. If you don’t know the poem, here it is:

Little Boy Blue
by Eugene Field (1850-1895)

The little toy dog is covered with dust,
But sturdy and staunch he stands;
The little toy soldier is red with rust,
And his musket moulds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new,
And the soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.

“Now don't you go till I come,” he said,
“And don't you make any noise!”
So, toddling off to his trundle bed,
He dreamt of the pretty toys;
And, as he was dreaming, an angel song
Awakened our Little Boy Blue——
Oh! the years are many, the years are long,
But the little toy friends are true!

Ay, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
Each in the same old place,
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
The smile of a little face;
And they wonder, as waiting the long years through
In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue,
Since he kissed them and put them there.

I was devastated and wept many tears, not for the child who died, oddly enough, but for the toys he left behind that waited patiently, trusting that he would return. I think even then I was preparing myself for my mother's death, though it was still a shock when it happened. Since her death, in a way I can't explain, she is Little Boy Blue from the poem, awakened by an angel song, and I am both the little toy soldier and the little toy dog, wondering about her long absence. As of last October 4th, fifty years have passed since my mother died.

Another work that affected me greatly at an early age was a short story by Oscar Wilde called “The Nightingale and the Rose.” I will let you find that one on your own.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

If Seinfeld can talk about nothing, so can I

I’m tired tonight and the hour is late and I really have nothing to say, but I feel I must post something because I haven’t blogged for three days. And three days, as you know, is almost an eternity in blogdom. So consider this a spaceholder post [Update in the morning: I think I meant placeholder, but besides my being tired and the hour late, I was in cyberspace and so I think I coined a new word. I didn't mean to imply that this post has anything to do with orthodontia], and I will try to get something more interesting out to you soon.

If you find this an unsatisfactory solution, you are hereby authorized to refer to me as Dr. Fell, about whom the following four-line poem was written around 1680 by one Tom Brown, a student who was expelled from Christ Church, Oxford, by the school’s dean, the selfsame Dr. John Fell:

“I do not like thee, Dr. Fell.
The reason why I cannot tell;
But this I know, and know full well:
I do not like thee, Dr. Fell.”

I have known this little poem for years and years and years. It’s really hard to work into a conversation, and when you do you get strange looks from others.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

O Savior, stay this night with me; behold, 'tis eventide

Pat, a blogger who lives in Arkansas, recently captured with her camera two images of a beautiful sunset. She has given me permission to post them here. When I saw them, the words of an old hymn called “Beyond the Sunset” came to mind. I remember hearing it sung at many Christian funerals where my role was to be the organist:

“Beyond the sunset, O blissful morning,
When with our Savior heav’n is begun;
Earth’s toiling ended, O glorious dawning,
Beyond the sunset when day is done.

Beyond the sunset, no clouds will gather,
No storms will threaten, no fears annoy;
O day of gladness, O day unending,
Beyond the sunset eternal joy!

Beyond the sunset, a hand will guide me
To God the Father whom I adore;
His glorious presence, His words of welcome,
Will be my portion on that fair shore.

Beyond the sunset, O glad reunion,
With our dear loved ones who’ve gone before;
In that fair homeland we’ll know no parting,
Beyond the sunset forever more!”

(Virgil P. Brock, 1936. Copyright © held by Word Music, Inc.)

Pat’s photographs were taken about 90 seconds apart. How soon the day ends! How quickly night comes on! I thought of another beautiful hymn that perhaps is less familiar, “Abide With Me, ’Tis Eventide.” It was inspired by the Scripture passage in chapter 24 of Luke's Gospel that tells of an encounter with the risen Jesus by two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and I have loved the song since the first time I heard it. It is wonderful to contemplate the words of this hymn while watching a day come to its close. “O, Savior, stay this night with me; behold, ’tis eventide.”

It is an LDS hymn. But don’t tune out just yet; the words are pure New Testament and any Christian can appreciate them.

There is much about the LDS (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; that is, Mormonism) with which I do not and cannot agree, but I can agree that theirs is one of the finest choirs in the world. Here is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lake City singing “Abide With Me, ’Tis Eventide”.

[Note. If you should get the dreaded “The blog you were looking for cannot be found” message, simply go up to the address line at the top of that page and carefully delete from the address. Then you should be able to click on the arrow and hear the song. A second note to my regular readers: Look at the blue on the walls of the Tabernacle and the dresses of the women in the choir! Royal? Cobalt? Yves Klein? They might even be wearing lapis lazuli necklaces!]

Listen to this beautiful hymn, and then go watch a sunset.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sam, age 7, blogger-to-be?

I don’t know whether public schools in northern states have “snow days” built into their yearly schedules, but schools in southern states definitely do. These are days when the schools will not be open because of wintry weather. In northern states, and please correct me if I’m wrong, the schools hardly ever close regardless of the weather, even though northern winters are much more severe than southern ones. Blizzard or no, off to school the kiddies go (I’m being only partly facetious). But in the south, just the possibility of snow or ice sends people into a panic and they have been known to clear the grocery shelves of milk, bread, toilet paper, and the like in a matter of minutes.

Sam and Sawyer, our Alabama grandchildren, had a Friday off from school recently because of an unused, leftover “snow day” (the administration is going to get that day off one way or another, the logic apparently being that if they didn’t take the unused day off, the children would end up spending one more day in school than the minimum number of days mandated by law, something that apparently couldn’t be tolerated under any circumstances). On the following Monday, the first-grade teacher asked everyone in Sam's class to write a paper on the subject “How I Spent My Long Weekend.” Here is Sam’s paper in its entirety (and if I possessed a scanner or even a digital camera, I would have shown you the original, which is currently displayed on our refrigerator door):

I went to

gorgia to

my nana

and grapa

and ther

Dog jethro

Short and sweet. No wasted words. No ending punctuation. Capital letters used only when absolutely deserved. And that’s not all. Sam’s paper was illustrated. Across the top of the paper he had drawn, stick-figure style, the following from left to right:

a boy, a woman, a man, a dog, another woman, and a house

All of the human figures are wearing shirts and pants, but the females are the ones with long hair. The boy is shorter than the adults. Representational art at its best. We think the woman and man standing together are nana and grapa, the Dog is Jethro, of course, and the other woman is our daughter, Sam's mother. Unless the child is standing by the mother and the dog is between nana and grapa. There is no Daddy in the picture because Daddy had to stay home and go to work on that particular Friday. We are also confused about who the boy is. It might be Sam himself, in which case he left out his brother, Sawyer, who also made the trip. Or it might be Sawyer, and the scene is what Sam was looking at. Since he wasn't looking at himself, he didn't put himself in the picture.

One day I will ask Sam about his picture. But not just yet. In the meantime, as true Bulldog fans everywhere sing (to the tune of “Battle Hymn of the Republic”), “Glory, glory to old gorgia.”

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Please have your boarding passes ready

Papy Biou, the creator of that French-language blog where I found the beautiful blue flower I posted about on May 13th, tells me that the particular blue about which I was curious comes close to being “bleu Klein,” explaining further that Klein was a French painter (1928-1962) famous for his monochrome realizations based on that particular blue. Only Papy said it in French (“peintre français (1928-1962), célèbre pour ses monochromes réalisés sur la base de ce bleu particulier”).

I know about Renoir and Degas and Monet and Toulouse-Lautrec, but I had never heard of Klein. So I looked him up by entering “Klein” and “+blue” into Google and found myself reading all about Yves Klein Blue, except that the Yves Klein Blue I was reading about is a rock band based in Brisbane, Australia. Oops. But I am a quick learner, and I understood instantly that a great many people know about Yves Klein, about the particular color called Yves Klein blue, and about esoterically-named rock bands on the international scene, and furthermore that I knew nothing about any of them. Surfing the Internet can be a humbling experience.

So for a very interesting Wikipedia article about Yves Klein, please go to Gate 1 at this time. For Wikipedia’s article about International Klein Blue (IKB), please go to Gate 2. If you would like to stare at the color for as long as you like, go to Gate 3.

The color Yves Klein prized so highly is similar to one called synthetic ultramarine. By surfing some more I learned that the natural pigment ultramarine (from ultramarinum, which means “beyond the sea” in Latin) is produced by grinding up the lapis lazuli stone and has been found in cave paintings in Afghanistan temples dating back to the sixth and seventh centuries A.D.

Klein had gold and pink periods as well, and also used paint-covered nude models, both men and women, to produce both static and dynamic paintings he called anthropométries.

Armchair travel is so broadening.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A day late (literally) and only God knows how many dollars short

An anonymous commenter (I have a pretty good idea who it is) has complained that I haven’t blogged in five days and also said she thought I’d blog about the exciting weekend I had behind the enemy lines of Alabamistan sooner than this. So here goes nothing, and I apologize in advance for the length of this post:

This past weekend the 50th-year reunion of my high school graduating class was held on a ranch in Texas about 200 miles from the high school, or as they say out west in the wide open spaces, “just down the road a piece.” We decided not to attend as Ellie is still undergoing physical therapy for her new knees. Driving that far would have taken us away for too long, not to mention it being too tiring. As for flying, I felt that having to wend our way through two different airports twice each in four days might still be a bit too strenuous for Ellie.

But we didn’t stay at home, either. After Friday’s physical therapy session we took our dog to his favorite vacation spot and then drove over to Alabama (a three-hour trip) to visit our daughter and her family for a couple of days. As it turned out, the weekend was very busy, in a non-memorable sort of way.

Our daughter, who teaches third grade Mondays through Fridays, also works a second job some days until 7 p.m., so we met her family for dinner at a Chinese restaurant and followed them to their house. On Saturday, our daughter had to work again from 9 a.m. until noon, then rushed back home to take her family to a friend’s daughter’s sixth birthday party from 1 to 3 p.m., after which our son-in-law rushed out to get a haircut for a job interview he had on Monday. When he returned, the four of them went out again to attend a schoolteacher's wedding from 6 until 7:30 p.m. and rushed back home in time to welcome four nine-year-old boys who were spending the night as part of the older grandson’s birthday celebration. (His birthday isn't until next Saturday, but school ends this Wednesday and they will all be at the beach on his birthday.) Our grandson was allowed to open one gift a day early: a Guitar Hero 3. And since a cousin brought along Guitar Hero 2 and a wireless guitar, the boys had something fun to do well into the night. They didn’t fall asleep until between midnight and 1 a.m. Neither did we.

In the morning it was off to church, where our daughter and son-in-law play flute and French horn, respectively, in their church orchestra at all three morning church services. Then they rushed off to Wal-Mart to pick up the ice cream cake they had reserved, and met us and even more party-goers at the local Pizza Hut for our grandson’s birthday party from 12 noon until 2:30 p.m. After that, we caravaned about 30 miles to see the new Narnia movie, Prince Caspian, which started at 3:30, ended after 6:00 p.m., and drove back to their house afterward. Eventually all the mommies came and retrieved their offspring and our daughter’s house returned to what passes for normal. Not until around eight o’clock did the preparation of the evening meal begin. I get tired just describing it. I imagine our daughter and son-in-law are totally exhausted. Maybe next time we'll get to spend more “quality time” with them.

Instead of returning to Georgia on Sunday evening, we stayed an extra day because our daughter asked if we'd like to attend our grandsons’ elementary school’s Awards Assembly. Monday also happened to be our 45th wedding anniversary. We decided to stay and were glad because both grandsons were recognized for having achieved the highest grade point average in their respective classes.

I planned to take Ellie out to eat on Monday evening after we got back to Georgia, but my plan was changed at the last minute. While we were on the way to pick up our dog from his vacation retreat, our son phoned. He asked whether we might be able to retrieve his two boys from their after-school program and stay with them until he was able to get back home from his job (their mother works from 2 p.m. until 7 p.m. every day at a Boys and Girls Club in the area.) So we did. We had our dog with us, and our anniversary evening out looked less and less likely. We ended up eating some delicious home-made vegetable beef soup with them that had been simmering all day in their slow cooker.

Finally, this evening, one day into our 46th year together, Ellie and I went out for that anniversary dinner at an establishment a local talk-radio host refers to as Dead Lobster.

As I’ve often said, life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans. There now, Anonymous, I hope it was worth the wait.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Off we go into the wild blue yonder

Ellie and I have not flown on an airplace since before 9/11. I retired about a year and a half before that so all of my employer-paid business flying had come to an end. Our gadding about in recent years has all been by automobile. But that is about to change, because we plan to fly to Texas for a family get-together in late June (and boy, will our arms be tired--I know, it's an old joke). I have been poking about on the Internet to find low fares because there's no point in giving the scoundrels more money than you have to. But our friends in the airline industry have come up with a few surprises since I last made my way down a concourse. Along with the special deals that make air travel so affordable these days, you should be aware that a few extra fees are hidden in the fine print.

The “fares” do not include a Federal excise tax of $3.50 per takeoff and landing, airport-assessed passenger facility charges (PFC) of up to $9, and a government-imposed September 11th Security Fee of up to $5 one-way. They let us fly their friendly skies at a low, low price, but then charge us for extra frills like taking off and landing. I'm serious. Those necessities, without which a flight cannot be considered truly complete, are now chargeable extras. And though I understand about the need for a September 11th Security Fee, really I do (someone, after all, has to pay for the screeners' wages and their scanning equipment), just what is the “passenger facility charge” for? Breathing their air?

I must not let my blood pressure get too high. I still have to go through security.

The photo above is not the plane we'll be taking next month. It's a Douglas DC-3, the type of aircraft on which I took my first plane ride, back in 1955, between Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I just included it for old times' sake.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Am I blue?

I don't know what kind of flower this is, but it is definitely blue! It is blooming at this very moment somewhere in France and is brought to you courtesy of that French blog I posted about recently. If someone knows what sort of flower it is, please let me know! [Update: Pat from Arkansas says it is a clematis.]

Even the beloved bluebonnets of my youth tended toward a blue-violet. There are many shades of blue, of course--azure, cobalt, cerulean. There is my mother's favorite, robin's egg blue. There are cornflower blue, Alice blue, royal blue, periwinkle blue, baby blue, sky blue (North Carolinians say, “If God is not a Tarheel, why is the sky Carolina blue?”), even midnight blue. But what, exactly, should this beautiful blue be called?

Monday, May 12, 2008

The rest of the story

Last Thursday, May 7th, I wrote a post about the time in our marriage when Ellie and I saw things quite differently about a pregnancy that occurred while she had an IUD. This is an addendum to that post. We both feel it should be included in the reporting of what happened during those particular December and January weeks 32 years ago. If you didn't read the earlier post, scroll down now and read it before continuing, or go over in the left margin and click on the post titled “From one nut case to another.” Don't come back here until you've read it.

(Twiddling thumbs while you are away)

Okay, the story continues. We had a close relationship with the choir director and and his wife at our church; I sang in the 90-voice choir and was one of several pianists. Ellie and I had told no one, and I mean no one, about the pregnancy, our dilemma, or her miscarriage. (Back in the day, people were not as quick to blurt out the details of their lives as they seem to be today.) Ellie's miscarriage had occurred on a Monday evening. The following Sunday, the choir was not scheduled to sing in the evening service because The Hawaiians (Mark and Diane Yasuhara) were going to present a concert in our church. Since the church was often full a half-hour to an hour before services began, we arrived early. Our church had a U-shaped balcony and we decided to sit in the left front balcony. A few minutes later, the choir director and his wife came down the row, looked surprised to see us, and sat with us. As the church continued to fill with people, we found ourselves quietly sharing with our friends what had been happening with us over the past several weeks. They were even more surprised.

The choir director's wife suddenly said, “Oh, my Lord!” and then continued, “I just remembered. Let me tell you what happened to me about two weeks ago. I was coming down the stairs at home to make coffee and get ready to leave for work when the thought came to me, 'Ellie is pregnant, but it's not a pregnancy to be had.'” Because of all the busy activities of the holiday season, the four of us had not had an opportunity to be together in a setting that lent itself to bringing up the subject. She had thought only, “Where did that thought come from?” since we had not mentioned anything about a pregnancy, but she did pray for us. Ellie and I do not think this was merely woman's intuition at work. We believe that thought came from the Lord.

We include this addendum not to seem eerie or superspiritual or so that you can conclude that we and our friends are weird. Here's why we are including it. What our friend said to us was a strong confirmation that the Lord is indeed in control of every aspect of our lives, even the smallest details.

As Paul Harvey would say, and now you know the rest of the story.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

My favorite W. H. Auden poem

I was commenting on someone else's blog recently about W. H. Auden, the mid-twentieth-century British poet who became an American citizen (thereby putting back into balance the cosmic imbalance caused by T. S. Eliot's move in the other direction). You may be familiar with Auden's work without realizing it; his poem “Funeral Blues” was quoted in the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral. Today I want to share with you another of his poems, “The Unknown Citizen.” It is one of my favorites:

The Unknown Citizen
(To JS/07/M/378/ This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)

He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn't a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Installment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war,
he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of
his generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.

For some reason I haven't yet been able to put into words, this particular poem has always made me feel simultaneously melancholy and hysterical.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Flannery O'Connor writes of peacocks

That Flannery O'Connor was clearly interested in, preoccupied with, and loved peafowl has not escaped the literary critics. Indeed, these mysterious and magnificent creatures (the peafowl, not the critics) have become to some a metaphor for the author herself and for her work. This is seen in such titles as The Voice of the Peacock (Kathleen Feeley, 1972) and The Invisible Parade (Miles Orvell, 1973).

Here are four short excerpts from her story, The Displaced Person, that mention her favorite creatures:

The peacock stopped just behind her, his tail--glittering green-gold and blue in the sunlight--lifted just enough so that it would not touch the ground. It flowed out on either side like a floating train and his head on the long blue reed-like neck was drawn back as if his attention were fixed in the distance on something no one else could see....

"What a beauti-ful birrrrd!" the priest murmured.
"Another mouth to feed," Mrs. McIntyre said, glancing in the peafowl's direction.
"And when does he raise his splendid tail?" asked the priest.
"Just when it suits him," she said. "There used to be twenty or thirty of those things on the place but I've let them die off. I don't like to hear them scream in the middle of the night."
"So beauti-ful," the priest said. "A tail full of suns," and he crept forward on tiptoe and looked down on the bird's back where the polished gold and green design began. The peacock stood still as if he had just come down from some sun-drenched height to be a vision for them all....

“Where is that beautiful birrrrd of yours?” [the priest] asked and then said, “Arrrr, I see him?” and stood up and looked out over the lawn where the peacock and the two hens were stepping at a strained attention, their long necks ruffled, the cock's violent blue and the hens' silver-green, glinting in the late afternoon sun....

The priest let his eyes wander toward the birds. They had reached the middle of the lawn. The cock stopped suddenly and curving his neck backwards, he raised his tail and spread it with a shimmering timbrous noise. Tiers of small pregnant suns floated in a green-gold haze over his head. The priest stood transfixed, his jaw slack. Mrs. McIntyre wondered where she had ever seen such an idiotic old man. “Christ will come like that!” he said in a loud gay voice and wiped his hand over his mouth and stood there, gaping....

and here are three more from her essay, The King of the Birds:

“ or eight screams in succession as if this message were the one on earth which needed most urgently to be heard.”

“To the melancholy this sound is melancholy and to the hysterical it is hysterical. To me it has always sounded like a cheer for an invisible parade.”

“When the peacock has presented his back, the spectator will usually begin to walk around him to get a front view; but the peacock will continue to turn so that no front view is possible. The thing to do then is to stand still and wait until it pleases him to turn. When it suits him, the peacock will face you. Then you will see in a green-bronze arch around him a galaxy of gazing, haloed suns.”

Perhaps you will see my French blogger friend's photo in a new light:

This just in from our London correspondent...

Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, is the husband and consort of Queen Elizabeth II, monarch over what's left of the once grand and glorious British Empire ruled over by their shared great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. Elizabeth and Philip have been married for 61 years. Born Prince Philip (Philippos, actually) of Greece and Denmark on June 10, 1921, he married Princess Elizabeth, the heiress presumptive, on November 20, 1947. In February, 1952, Elizabeth became queen (I believe the correct phrase is "ascended to the throne") upon the death of her father, George VI.

Originally a royal Prince of Greece and Denmark, Prince Philip renounced these titles shortly before his marriage. At the time of his engagement he was known as Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten of the British Royal Navy. Prince Philip is a member of the Danish-German House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, which includes the royal houses of Denmark and Norway and the deposed royal house of Greece.

The day before Philip married Elizabeth, King George VI granted him the style of “His Royal Highness” and, on the morning of the marriage, created him Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich. In 1957, Philip was created a Prince of the United Kingdom by Queen Elizabeth II (as a tenth-anniversary present, maybe?). When he became a British subject, Prince Philip took the surname Mountbatten, which is an anglicised version of his mother's German family name, Battenberg. Later it was realized that, as a descendent of Sophia of Hanover, Philip was a British citizen from birth anyway.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about him in the minds of Anglophiles everywhere (well, in my mind at least) is that he has one name and one name only, the singular and solitary Philip, which means “lover of horses.” (Some of you may remember from my April 29th post “The Celebration Continues!” that Elizabeth's grandmother, Queen Mary of Teck, was christened Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes.) The British royal family do love names. Philip and Elizabeth have four children, all of whom received multiple names.

There is enough stuff in this post to keep any trivia nut happy for a very long while. Thank you, wikipedia (augmented by me).

Thursday, May 8, 2008

My new favorite blog, c'est magnifique!

I stumbled upon a blog recently that contains many beautiful photographs. Lots and lots of them. And each one is more beautiful than the last. The peacock above, for example, is just stunning and would make Flannery O'Connor proud. Here are some more examples:

The photographer/blogger is in France and all the words are in French but a picture is worth a thousand words. The blog,, is called “Le monde comme je l'aime,” which I think means “The world as I love it.” It would be well worth your time to check out the great photography there.

To any French readers, excusez mon Anglais, s'il vous plaît. Je parle Français seulement un peu.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

From one “nut case” to another

Today on a blog I like to read, the writer, who has been a Baptist minister for 37 years, posted an article entitled, “Almost The Whole Story: What’s Happened In Our Family Since Holy Week 07 And Why I’ve Been A Nut Case Ever Since.” He explains at length that his wife of over 30 years has been attracted to the Roman Catholic Church for about a year and will soon begin receiving instructions on becoming Roman Catholic. He is devastated, hurt, has stopped believing in the God he thought he knew, and is ready to chuck it all, or so it sounds to me. Here, for what it's worth, is what I posted in a comment:

Michael, I don’t know whether this will encourage you or make things worse, but this is my own “nut case” story. Ellie and I, parents of three children in five years, decided not to have any more children, so Ellie had an IUD inserted. (You can tell already we’re not Catholic.) Long story short, seven years later, a week before Christmas, she discovers that she is pregnant. Because an IUD is in place, the doctor is recommending a therapeutic abortion because of all the possible problems, which include death to both my wife and child. “Go home and think about it,” he says, “you still have a little time to decide.”

Ellie, a registered nurse with medical knowledge, whose own life is in danger, agrees with the doctor. Me, I go bonkers because my view is that God created this new life and I am not about to end it. We schedule a counseling session with the pastor of our very evangelical and pentecostal church, who I think will show Ellie that she is wrong and I am right. Instead, the pastor agrees with her and the doctor; he advises doing as the doctor recommends. [Note to personal friends who are reading this: We were living in a different city and attending a different church at the time. This is not our current pastor.] If you were 17 and this had happened in the back seat of a car, he says, I might be telling you something entirely different, but you had completed your family, you weren’t planning to have any more children, he says, you had taken steps to prevent any more children. What if the IUD is implanted in the baby’s brain, he says, and she gives birth to a monster. What about your other children who would be deprived of your attention and energy, he says. What if your wife dies because the IUD perforates her uterus, he says. I say, what about if God has given us this child to raise, He will give us the strength to cope with whatever comes? They both look at me like I am crazy. The pastor prays with us and says, “Go home and be with your family and have a Merry Christmas, and decide in January.” Ellie points out to me in the middle of my ravings on the way home that when our pastor prayed with us he had tears in his eyes. The next Sunday morning he leads the congregation in singing, “Only believe, only believe, all things are possible, only believe.” You @#$%&!# hypocrite, I think. Full of faith in the pulpit, but where are you one on one? Still, he is a good man. There were those tears.

Ellie and I stay up late for several nights talking as we’ve never talked in all our years of marriage. She is scared; I am scared. What to do? About a week later, after much inner turmoil (I can’t imagine what a whole year would be like), I say to the Lord, “If we have the abortion, I am going to be in the psychiatrist’s office every week. If we don’t have the abortion and something is wrong with the baby, Ellie is going to be in the psychiatrists’s office every week. We can’t solve this problem, Lord, so I give it to you. You are going to have to solve this problem.”

About a week later during the first week of January, Ellie experienced a spontaneous miscarriage. Afterward, she had a complete hysterectomy and the doctor found the IUD embedded in the very thinnest part of the uterine wall–-I probably would have lost both my wife and my baby if things had been done my way.

I said all that to say, God–-the real God, Jesus, not the one you have stopped believing in–-knows everything that is happening in your life and He will be your problem-solver. (I know that probably sounds trite, but it is true.) Right now, only He knows what the solution is to your problem. Keep an open mind and an open heart. Don’t let a root of bitterness creep in. If you find yourself becoming bitter, tell God all about it. Scream at Him if you like. When you have reached the end of your rope, then God can begin to work.

I heard a wise pastor (a different one) say that God seems to reserve the greatest suffering for His strongest saints. I am glad, in my own “nut case” example, that I am one of the weak ones.

We have to be like Job and say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”

Please forgive me for going on too long. I will be praying for you and Denise.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I need to vent

Sometimes I get really weary of people who act as if the whole world revolves around them. I want to shake them and say, “Look around! You are not the center of the universe! There are others here!” And they do act like they think they are the center of the universe, being totally self-centered types who would make observations like these if they were clever enough:

I am firm, you are stubborn, he is a pig-headed fool.
I am sparkling and witty; you are talking a lot; he is jabbering on.
I daydream; you are an escapist; he is totally delusional.

You know the type. They have a hangnail; it is a tragedy. Twenty-two thousand people die in a cyclone in Myanmar; it is mildly interesting but no concern of theirs.

Being an old codger, I see this tendency both in Baby Boomers who indulge themselves with expensive toys and in children who get their way all the time because their parents let them, because they think their little darlings are perfect. Case in point: there is a reality show called Jon and Kate Plus Eight on Monday nights on the TLC channel in which two otherwise seemingly normal people are raising a set of twins and a set of sextuplets. The twins are Cara and Maddie, who just turned seven. The sextuplets are Hannah, Leah, Alexis, Collin, Aiden, and the other one whose name escapes me just now, who are three. The house is all chaos, all the time, bedlam everywhere, in every conceivable form. Maybe it's the fault of the people doing the editing of the footage, but the screaming of the children is almost non-stop. When they're not screaming, the older ones are being totally obnoxious and the younger ones are hitting each other, which leads to more screaming, and it's all to the smiles and only occasional consternation of their parents.

I know it's difficult to raise children. We raised three. It must be extremely difficult to raise eight, especially when six of them are three years old. But why would TLC film it and turn it into an endless series? TLC has another reality show called Little People, Big World about a family of six in which both parents and one of their 17-year-old twins are dwarfs. All of the people are normal enough, but the house is a mess. I don't even want to get started about that.

More to the point, why do I even watch these programs? At least on Antiques Roadshow there is no screaming.

I think I have just identified who is the pig-headed fool around here. Enough of this jabbering on, before you think I'm totally delusional.

Michael, Thoreau the boat ashore?

In today's edition of The Writer's Almanac, which we talked about yesterday a little, is the following snippet of fascinating but useless information:

On this day in 1862, Henry David Thoreau (author of Walden; that's his picture there in the corner) died of tuberculosis. He was 44. His aunt asked him if he was at peace with God. Thoreau said, “I was not aware that we had quarreled.” The last clear thing he said was, “Now comes good sailing,” and then two words: “moose” and “Indian.”

I was going to end the post here and just say, “Okay, but what's the point?” and then I remembered a famous poem (well, it used to be famous) by one of Thoreau's contemporaries that seems a fitting commentary:

Crossing the Bar
by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

R.I.P., Henry David Thoreau. Now comes good sailing, indeed.

Monday, May 5, 2008

¡Olé! ¡Cinco de Mayo! (and The Writer's Almanac)

According to The Writer's Almanac (a website I visit regularly), today is Cinco de Mayo (“the fifth of May” in Spanish), “a Mexican holiday that celebrates the Battle of Puebla, 1862, in which Mexican forces defeated French invaders against overwhelming odds. What began with a demand by the govern-ment of France for payment on bonds turned into a war of conquest. The French commander was sure of victory, but 2,000 troops under General Ignacio Zaragoza carried the day instead. The French ultimately won the war, installing Maximilian of Austria as ruler of Mexico, but the victory at Puebla gave the Mexicans the confidence to depose him and declare independence, five years later [Aside from me: depose, my eye, they executed him]. Cinco de Mayo is celebrated with fiestas, parades, battle reenactments, and often a combate de flores, a battle of flowers. The site of General Zaragoza's birthplace, in Goliad, Texas, was designated a state park in 1960.”

So says The Writer's Almanac. Funny, I always thought Cinco de Mayo had something to do with Mexico's independence from Spain in 1821. But unlike Arthur Fonzarelli from Happy Days, I find it very easy to say I was wro..., I was wro....

Mr. Garrison Keillor of St. Paul, Minnesota, which also happens to be where the photo above was taken, reads daily from The Writer's Almanac on your local National Public Radio station. Twice a day, in fact. This week he'll be talking about Karl Marx, Soren Kierkegaard, Henry David Thoreau, Sigmund Freud, Johannes Brahms, Robert Browning, Fred Astaire, and Salvador Dali. He'll also be talking about a lot of people I never heard of. If you'd rather not listen to him, you can read The Writer's Almanac for yourself online every day, or do as I do: I prefer to read a week's worth every Monday morning.

It's fascinating stuff. I recommend it.

But back to Cinco de Mayo, here's more about it from another source, “In the United States, Cinco de Mayo has taken on a significance beyond that in Mexico. The date is perhaps best recognized in the United States as a date to celebrate the culture and experiences of Americans of Mexican ancestry, much as St. Patrick's Day, Oktoberfest, and the Chinese New Year are used to celebrate those of Irish, German, and Chinese ancestry, respectively. Similar to those holidays, Cinco de Mayo is observed by many Americans regardless of ethnic origin...Special events and celebrations highlight Mexican culture, especially in its music and regional dancing. Examples include ballet folklórico and mariachi demonstrations held annually at the Plaza del Pueblo de Los Angeles, near Olvera Street. Commercial interests in the United States have capitalized on the celebration, advertising Mexican products and services, with an emphasis on beverages, foods, and music.”

With an emphasis on beverages, foods, and music. No kidding. Thanks, wikipedia, I would never have known, otherwise.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Best St. Patrick's Day Blog Post I Never Read

It's funny (as in funny peculiar, not funny ha-ha) the stuff you can find poking around on the Internet. And I don't mean porn or new ways to bash George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton or Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi or even former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Actually, I try to keep as far away from all of those particular opportunities as is humanly possible. No, I'm talking about thought-provoking, interesting stuff you just happen to stumble upon by innocently clicking your mouse.

For example, just today I discovered this one, originally published on March 17, 2008, in “The Guest Room” section of a blog called “Steve Brown Etc.” that had this additional caveat up front, “We have a number of regular guests on the talk show. When they're not talking, many of them are writing. This is where you'll find their stuff. The views expressed by our guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views of sane, moral and/or reasonably intelligent people. Jesus may or may not be pleased (or even care). And what's more, they certainly don't reflect the views of Steve Brown (I'm not even sure he knows any of this is going on).”:

Finding the Good Stuff: Discovering The Christian Year
by Michael Spencer (March 17th, 2008)

I grew up in the 1960's in a small city in Western Kentucky among fundamentalist Baptists who were sure their kind were the only Christians on the planet. My ignorance of the broader Christian world was too abysmal to be described with normal adjectives.

When I became aware of other kinds of Christians--around 1972--I was frightened of them. Methodists actually scared me. My best friend was an Episcopalian. He came to my church all the time. I would have sooner asked for a root canal than go to church with him. The first time I attended a mass, I got so frightened I actually ran out the back door.

All that to say that it's a miracle I heard the phrase “Palm Sunday” and had some idea that those words related to Jesus. Good Friday was a day the Catholic kids got out of public school to go to mass. Easter was resurrection day, but its deeper meaning involved wearing new clothes and bunny rabbits.

Yes, Easter and Christmas were what was left over of the Christian year when my fundamentalist tradition got finished with it. Advent? Lent? Pentecost? Holy Week? Good Friday? Those were the property and invention of those not-to-be-trusted Catholics.

“But isn't it all about Jesus?” Who's asking that question? Bring me that kid so I can smack him.

We had our own calendar at our church: Revivals. More revivals. Fourth of July. Halloween. (Oh yeah. Back in the day.) Thanksgiving. Valentine's Day. And the biggies--Mother's and Father's Days.

My tradition couldn't comprehend arranging the days of the year around the life of the Lord. Easter and Christmas were supposed to be about Jesus, but they were examples of the secular world ruining our Christian celebrations with their rabbits and Santa Claus.

The truth was that we were ruining it all by ourselves, by believing the ever-present evangelical lie that everything starts and ends with my church, my pastor and my Bible. My tradition was constantly susceptible to anyone who said we were going “back to the Bible” or were practicing “simple” New Testament Christianity. We called ourselves “old fashioned” Baptists, but as far as the Christian tradition was concerned, we were a plague of tradition-eating locusts.

The fact is we were functionally rootless and woefully ignorant of whatever roots we'd once had. We had cut ourselves off from the whole of Christian history and were convinced that inside our building, with our preacher and our Bibles, we were as right as we could be. There was us, our parents, our grandparents and Jesus, a KJV-English-speaking Baptist white man from the United States. With short hair.

In fact, we were celebrating the secular calendar and then bizarrely carping about what we were major contributors to--the secular invasion of our little world.

Years have passed, and God has led me to an appreciation of what Robert Webber called “The Majestic Tapestry,” or The Great Tradition that Christians all hold in common. I've learned that the Christian year is mine because it is about my Lord. The roots of my faith go deeper than the reasons Christians are in 20,000 different denominations, to the times when blood and necessity held Christians together in a common faith. Our Christian history is yours, mine and ours. I don't have anything that I didn't receive, and that process goes back considerably farther than I ever knew.

I've taught my children a different version of the faith. I am still a Baptist, but my daughter is an Anglican, my son a Presbyterian and my wife is a frequent attender at mass. As we enter Holy Week, we're one in ways deeper and more meaningful than my family ever celebrated in the past. We're all part of a church that embraces many traditions and differences.

As a post-evangelical, I am committed to undertaking the journey of salvage and recovery in my own tradition. We have sold, abandoned and thrown away the precious belongings of our ancestors. These aren't just antiques for appreciation; these are the pieces of our own identity as evangelical Christians.

We will never undo the reformation, nor should we. But we can come to a place we lament its necessity and we see beyond it to the centuries when there were no labels or denominations. We can take up the year, the liturgy, the heritage of saints, the path of devotion and the love of the whole people of God that characterizes “the majestic tapestry” on earth.

Have a wonderful Passion and Easter season. Appreciate the gifts these days give to all of us, and love one another as brothers and sisters.

(Michael Spencer is the popular blogger, podcaster, and self-described post-evangelical also known as The Internet Monk.)

So, Michael, what I would like to know (this is rhymeswithplague again) is, was it coincidental or on purpose that your post was published on St. Patrick's Day? I mean, is St. Patrick's Day secular or part of the Christian year? Obviously, “Saint” is part of a Christian's vocabulary, but I'm talking about the way the day is usually celebrated, with green beer and shamrocks and leprechauns and all. I used to work with a guy, a great big 305-pound Jewish guy from Burlington, Vermont, who wore a bright green suit every year on March 17th and altered his badge to read, “Sanford J. O'Epstein.” That's what I'm talking about. Michael, row your boat ashore and help me out here.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Courtesy of the Hubble telescope: ARP 272

Here is what NASA (the U.S.'s National Aeronautics and Space Administration) says about this photo, which was their Astronomy Picture of the Day on April 30, 2008: “Linking spiral arms, two large colliding galaxies are featured in this Hubble Space Telescope view, part of a series of cosmic snapshots released to celebrate the Hubble's 18th anniversary. Recorded in astronomer Halton Arp's Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies as Arp 272, the pair is otherwise known as NGC 6050 and IC 1179. They lie some 450 million light-years away in the Hercules Galaxy Cluster. At that estimated distance, the picture itself spans over 150 thousand light-years across. Although this scenario does look peculiar, galaxy collisions and their eventual mergers are now understood to be common, with Arp 272 representing a stage in this inevitable process. In fact, the nearby large spiral Andromeda Galaxy is known to be approaching our own galaxy and Arp 272 may offer a glimpse of the far future collision between Andromeda and the Milky Way.”

You can click on the photo to get a better “close-up” view. Amazing, amazing, amazing.

Even more amazing is this: In Psalm 147 in my Bible, immediately after verse 3 (“He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds.”) comes this statement in verse 4: “He tells the number of the stars; he calls them all by their names.” I don't know which statement is more remarkable.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Lord's Prayer in Tosk (Albanian)

This red flag with the double eagle (that's what the figure is, not a Rorschach test) is the flag of Albania, the country where my wife's parents were born. Her father came to the U.S. in 1917 at the age of 22, and her mother came in 1927 at the age of 19 after Pop went back, married her, and brought her over. Pop became a naturalized American citizen in 1924 and Mom in 1943. They were married for almost 57 years. He died in 1983. She died in 1986. Both of them are buried near Orlando.

One of the most precious possessions my mother-in-law owned was a New Testament that she was given after she arrived in America. It was written in Tosk, the variety of Albanian she spoke (there are two varieties of the Albanian language, Tosk and Gheg.) Mom's New Testament was precious to her because in Albania only the priest was allowed to have one. It was kept chained to the pulpit in the church except for rare times when it was borne aloft among the people for them to venerate (not worship) at a distance. A mere lay person was not allowed to own or even touch a Bible. (A missionary named Brother Andrew who smuggled Bibles into Communist countries attested to this: everywhere he left Bibles, he said, they were snatched up in minutes. Except in Albania, where people put their hands behinds their backs and wouldn't come closer to the book than four feet.) And the Turks, who ruled Albania for centuries, did not permit the development of a written Albanian language until early in the twentieth century. So to have her own copy of the Word of God in a language she could read meant a great deal to my mother-in-law, and every time she picked up her New Testament to read, she kissed the cover before opening it.

Here is the Lord's Prayer in Tosk, a prayer I heard my mother-in-law say many times:

Ati ynë që je në qiell: u shënjtëroftë emeri yt.
Arthtë mbretëria jote. U bëftë dëshira jote, si në quiell, edhe dhe.
Bukën tone të përditëshma jepna neve sot.
Edhe falna fajet tona, sikundër edhe ne us falim fajtorëvet tanë.
Edhe mos na shtjerë në ngasje, po shpëtona nga i ligu.
Sepse jotja është mbretëria e fuqia e lavdia në jetët të jetëvet.

You may not realize it, but you know at least one Albanian, a woman whose name was Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. You probably call her what the world called her: Mother Teresa. Two other Albanians (well, Albanian-Americans) you may also have heard of (and this is going from the sublime to the ridiculous) are the brothers Belushi, John and Jim.

The most astounding 8 minutes, 44 seconds you may ever spend

The choir director at our church told us all at rehearsal last night to go home and watch a YouTube video about Laminin. I had never heard of it, but after watching the video, I will never forget it. The video takes 8 minutes, 44 seconds to watch. I hope you will make the time.

Turn up your sound and click here to watch it.

After watching the video, if you want to study a diagram of Laminin more closely, click here.

I will be laboring (<i>British,</i> labouring) under a handicap for the next couple of weeks (<i>British,</i> fortnight)

More about that below. First, though, I want to add an addendum (what else would you do with an addendum?) to my previous post about phone...