Monday, December 31, 2007

Did you know about David Owen Dodd?

Peter was channel surfing this afternoon, and I heard a familiar name: Dodd. It was a segment about Arkansas, and the story was about David O. Dodd. So here it is, for those of you who are curious:

David O. Dodd

Stained glass fron the Little Rock Arsenal in the Museum of Natural Science and History. (Photo courtesy of Aristotle Internet Access)

From: The Civil War Quadrennium by William O'Donnell

The winter of 1863 came, and it was a cold, harsh winter. The Arkansas River was frozen solid at Little Rock for many months. Just before the New Year, great excitement swept the city because 17-year-old David Owen Dodd had been arrested by Union troops as a Confederate spy.

Word of young Dodd's arrest sent shockwaves among the remaining permanent residents of Little Rock. The regenerating grapevine picked up the information shortly after the boy was lodged in the guard house at the arsenal after being brought in from the old Hot Springs Road where, by an unfortunate mischance, he crossed the path of a Union foraging party.

All the permanent residents of Little Rock knew young and handsome David Dodd, his father, mother and sister, Senhora. The Dodds had friends and relatives from Little Rock to Texas. David had worked briefly in one of the Main Street business establishments at the time when Confederate recruiting had decimated available manpower. Circumstantial evidence indicates David may have worked in Little Rock Alderman James A. Henry's mercantile store, although there is another report he had brief employment in Little Rock's new telegraph office.

Alderman Henry demonstrated his strong character at this juncture by doing what he could to help young Dodd, even though he ran the risk of tighter Union surveillance of his activities. He hired William Walker, a Fort Smith attorney, to defend the boy and he went to General Steele's headquarters, seeking permission to visit David, who meantime had been transferred from the arsenal to the State Prison on the western outskirts of the city (where the Arkansas State Capitol now stands).

The alderman's personal interest in David Dodd derived, at least in part, from the fact that the youngster had long been a personal friend of Henry's youngest son, who at this time apparently was still among the Little Rock children remaining in south Arkansas.

Apart from the curiosity about the Dodd boy, Little Rock's chief concern as 1864 began was making a living and finding employment for a horde of freed slaves who followed the Union army into the city. Interest also began reviving in political concerns.

There was no indication in the National Union in the first days of January that a military tribunal convened on January 2 to try David Dodd for espionage. So the chief interest of the city's residents was the arrival of delegates representing 24 counties in northern Arkansas who convened in a constitutional convention on January 4. They debated several days whether to amend the 1836 constitution to eliminate slavery, but on January 8 there was a dramatic interruption.

The David O. Dodd Story

The David O. Dodd Camp from Benton, Sons of Confederate Veterans and others participated in A memorial service in Mt. Holly Cemetery near the gravesite of David O. Dodd on January 4, 1997. Front row (L to R): Scott Moye of Little Rock, Clifford Pearson of Beebe, and Jeff Pratt of Melbourn, Ark

David Owen Dodd was born in Victoria, Victoria County, Texas, November 10, 1846. At age 17 in 1863, he was a dark-haired boy of slight build and a winning personality. His father, Andrew Dodd, and his mother, Lydia, were married in a village somewhere south of Little Rock and immediately moved to Texas where David and his sisters, Leonora and Senhora, were born. Records provide little insight into Andrew Dodd's means of livelihood, but his movements indicate he earned his living in some sort of itinerant enterprise. David's sister Leonora died sometime before the war.

When David was 10 years old, the family returned to Arkansas and settled in the environs of Benton. It was there that David attended school for the first time. His sister Senhora was sent to Little Rock to live with her aunt, Mrs. Susan A. Dodd, and to attend school in the capital city. In the fall of 1861, the Dodds moved to Little Rock to be closer to Senhora, and David transferred to St. John's College, out beyond the arsenal, where, ironically, he was to die two years later.

The Dodd family remained in the capital city until August 1862 when Mr. Dodd and David traveled to Monroe, Louisiana, leaving the boy's mother and sister with Mrs. Susan Dodd. David was now 16 and he took a job in the telegraph office in Monroe, staying with relatives there during the fall and early winter of 1862 while his father traveled to Mississippi to enlist, as he told David, in the Confederate army.

In January 1863, David quit his telegraph job in Monroe after about four months employment and went to Grenada, Mississippi. There, curiously, he found his father not in the Confederate army but operating some kind of store. For the next nine months, David worked for his father and then, in September 1863, he began his fateful journey back to Little Rock.

The Union, meantime, had taken Vicksburg and word had just reached Grenada that Little Rock had fallen. So Mr. Dodd went to Union military headquarters and obtained a pass for David to go to Little Rock to bring his mother and sister to Mississippi.

Once back in Little Rock, David took a job clerking in a Main Street store (perhaps the mercantile establishment of Alderman Henry). There being no mail service at this point in the war, three months passed without Andrew Dodd receiving any news from his wife, his son or his daughter. So the husband-father crossed the Mississippi, traveled north through Confederate Arkansas and sneaked through Union lines at night. Reunited with his family, Dodd immediately arranged through friends and relatives to have a wagon waiting for the family beyond Union lines south of Little Rock, and on December 1, 1863, under the cover of darkness, the father, mother, son and daughter traveled cross-country toward Benton.

A week later, the Dodds arrived in Camden, and a curious thing happened. Mr. Dodd went to the headquarters of Confederate General James F. Fagan and obtained a pass for David to return to Little Rock, ostensibly to wind up some family business. David subsequently admitted that he delivered letters to several of his acquaintances on his re-arrival in the city.

David moved in with his aunt, Mrs. Susan Dodd, and for the next couple of weeks he was a popular figure with the city's younger set, especially the girls. There were, after all, very few teenaged boys left in Little Rock, except for some of the Union soldiers. David even became popular with some of the younger servicemen stationed at the arsenal, especially because he usually was accompanied by a local girl or two.

On December 28, 1863, David visited the Provost Marshal's office at St. John's College (several hundred yards southeast of the arsenal) and had no trouble obtaining a pass through Union lines to rejoin his family in Camden.

He headed out the Benton Road, riding a mule, showing his pass to Union sentries at the city line and again at a point eight miles from Little Rock, where the outpost sentry tore up the pass, explaining to David that he would have no further need for it because he was entering Confederate territory.

A short way farther on, David detoured to spend the night with his uncle, Washington Dodd, who had lived in the area for years. He obtained some pocket money and a handgun from his uncle, and the next morning, December 30, he resumed his trip south. He took a crosslots route back to the Benton Road, instead of returning the way he had come to his uncle's house, and this proved to be a fatal mistake. Had he followed his earlier route, David would have stayed in Confederate territory. But his cross-country course took him back through an area controlled by the Union, and it was there he encountered a foraging party of Union cavalrymen.

Challenged by these horsemen, who demanded to see a pass or other identification, David tried to explain how his pass had been destroyed the previous evening by the last Union sentry he met. But the foragers were not convinced. They forced the boy to ride his mule alongside them as they led him back to the sentry post. As it happened, the sentry who tore up David's pass was no longer on duty. So the cavalrymen took their captive to the nearby guardhouse to be questioned by the lieutenant in charge of the guard south of the city. This officer, too, became suspicious when David was unable to produce personal identification. So he ordered him to empty his pockets. The money, both Confederate and Union, did not surprise the officer. Neither did the handgun. Anybody traveling in remote areas without at least a pistol would be thought foolhardy. Some letters David was carrying to relatives and friends in south Arkansas caused no concern, but a memorandum book aroused curiosity. The officer found most entries in the book innocuous, but one page, written entirely in Morse Code, prompted him to arrest the boy on suspicion of espionage and send him back to Union headquarters at the arsenal in Little Rock.

General Steele called in a telegrapher from the Little Rock telegraph office to decode the suspicious page of David's memorandum book. The result was formal charges of espionage and formation of a Court Martial to try the case. The Morse Code in the memorandum book proved to be a highly accurate synopsis of Union strength in Little Rock, even listing the number of artillery pieces in certain units.

For two days, David Dodd was questioned by Federal military officers who were extremely anxious to identify the Union "traitor" who gave him detailed information about Little Rock defenses. They also demanded to know for whom David was working. Some histories claim the youngster steadfastly refused to answer either question, but Walter Scott McNutt's Elementary History of Arkansas maintains, without attribution, that David blamed General Fagan in Camden for his plight. He reportedly told Union investigators that Fagan refused to issue him a pass to Little Rock through Confederate lines unless he agreed to spy.

David was now committed to the State Prison to await trial. The military tribunal convened January 2, 1864, at the arsenal with General John Milton Thayer as the presiding officer of the Court Martial. The trial record indicates the boy was asked repeatedly to name the Union traitor and the person to whom he was directly responsible. But in the four days the Court Martial lasted, David kept silent. His attorneys, William Walker, who was hired by Alderman Henry, and William Fishback, who later became Governor of Arkansas, had little but David's ignorance on which to base a defense, and the defendant made only a feeble effort to explain his Morse Code information as something he did to exercise his telegraphic skills. The boy did not take the witness stand, but his attorneys submitted a written deposition of his testimony.

The Court Martial lasted four days. David Dodd was convicted of spying for the Confederacy and was sentenced to be hanged at the discretion of General Steele. The boy was immediately transferred back to the State Prison to await his execution, and General Steele designated Friday, January 8, 1864, as the fateful day.

Much happened in the two days between David's conviction and his hanging. But through it all, there was no indication that the boy was ever other than stoical. Troops immediately set to work constructing a gallows on the front campus of St. John's College, but as the execution would demonstrate, the Yankees were much more adept at killing people in hot blood than in cold blood.

Alderman Henry had been forbidden to attend the espionage trial. The occupying army still feared his ability to cause trouble. But the alderman courageously approached the Provost Marshal following David's conviction and asked permission to visit the lad in his prison cell. Alderman Henry, it will be remembered, was a close friend of David Dodd and that apparently was the reason he was allowed a brief visit with the boy. It was during this visit that David asked Alderman Henry to take charge of his burial, and the alderman agreed, though he was certain the Yankees would object.

To avoid arousing further Union animosity, the alderman went directly from the prison to the home of friends, Dick Johnson and Barney Nighton, at Fifth and Rock Streets and arranged for them to apply for General Steele's permission to take responsibility for the boy's funeral." With the understanding that Alderman Henry would not attend, Steele chose a small delegation of David's friends to serve as bearers and mourners and granted Nighton permission to receive the body.

As these plans were being made, there were repeated appeals to General Steele to grant the young spy clemency, but the commander explained that death was mandatory under military law when a spy is convicted by Court Martial. Nevertheless, the city still held out hope that there would be a last minute reprieve because of David's age.

Before he was moved to the guard house at the arsenal in the early morning hours of his execution day, David penned a heartwrenching farewell to his parents and sister. In his cell at the State Prison, he wrote:

Military Prison
Little Rock Jan. 8
1 o'clock a.m. 1864

My Dear Parents and Sister:

I was arrested as a Spy and tried, and Sentenced to be hung today at 3 o'clock. The time is fast approaching but thank God I am prepared to die. I expect to meet you all in heaven. Do not weep for me for I will be better off in heaven. I will soon be out of this world of sorrow and trouble. I would like to see you all before I die, but let God's will be done, not ours. I pray to God to give you strength to bear your troubles while in this world. I hope God will receive you in heaven - there I will meet you.

Mother, I know it will be hard for you to give up your only son, but you must remember it is God's will. Goodbye. God will give you strength to bear your troubles. I pray that we may meet in Heaven. Goodbye, God will bless you all.

Your son and brother
David O. Dodd

Drama more poignant than anything Little Rock had ever seen now touched the soul of the city. There were grumblings about David's conviction, and there even were reports - idle gossip, perhaps - that Confederate troops would storm back into the capital city on a rescue mission. Such talk may have convinced some people, though it is doubtful the majority of Little Rockians believed it. Stricter surveillance of all now approaching the arsenal was an indication that General Steele had heard this talk and was taking it seriously.

Despite bitter cold weather with snow covering the earth and the coercive attitude of the Union military, the vast majority of Little Rock's residents trekked cautiously past the arsenal toward the campus of St. John's College where all had heard the execution would be carried out. Many hundreds of men, women and children trudged to the site from the north side of the Arkansas River, crossing on ice that had solidly covered the stream for several weeks. Many of those entering the arsenal area wondered why they were not challenged by military sentries, but they found the answer when they reached their destination.

Entering the college campus clearing from the woodland that surrounded it, the civilian spectators were awed by a military formation of hundreds of blue-clad soldiers who stood in a square human barricade around a simple gallows. The gibbet consisted of two tall timbers joined at the top by a rough crossbeam from which hung a hangman's noose. Silence was the order of the afternoon. One estimate said there were 6,000 spectators. Anyone who spoke kept his voice down, and complete silence spread across the throng just before 3 o'clock when the prison wagon bringing David Dodd from the guard house was seen approaching. The boy was sitting on his rough wood coffin.

The northwest corner of the phalanx of troops parted to admit the two-horse team, and from that point on, all was very methodical, except for one obvious embarrassment a Union oversight caused. The prison wagon backed up to the hanging noose, and David was told to stand on the tailboard. His arms were tied behind his back and his ankles were bound. Then, to the dismay of the officers in charge, it was discovered that those who planned the execution had overlooked the military requirement that a blindfold be in place before any convict is executed.

There were few, if any, at the scene who were more composed than David Dodd, and it was he who rescued his executioners from their embarrassment.

"You will find a handkerchief in my coat pocket," he told the soldiers. Thus the doomed lad was blindfolded with his own kerchief.

There was a brief pause for the reading of the official sentence: Death by hanging. The Provost Marshal next fitted the noose around David's neck and stepped aside while a local minister, Rev. Dr. Peck, voiced an invocation. All the while, spectators standing outside the square of soldiers and crowding every window on the north side of the college building kept silent and virtually motionless, as if disbelieving what they were witnessing. Nobody seemed to notice the bitter cold that embraced the city. Spectators wondered what was being said when the Provost Marshal stepped onto the wagon tailgate and conversed briefly with the condemned boy. No one could hear and there is no written record of the conversation, but there has been speculation ever since that David might have been given one last chance to save his life by naming his co-conspirators.

The Provost Marshal stepped down from the tailgate of the prison wagon, and, in another instant, he tripped the tailgate latch. Thus began a horror that sickened even some of the battle-hardened soldiers ringing the area. Man of the civilians and not a few of the military men averted their eyes. The scene before them was a shocking demonstration of Union ineptitude a executioners.

Hangings traditionally are conducted so that the victim's fall when the trap is sprung will break his neck and render him immediately unconscious. But that's not what happened to David Dodd. In the first place, the wagon tailgate was not high enough to provide the necessary fall, and the Provost Marshal had failed to realize that new rope would stretch.

Thus, when the tailgate fell, David's tightly-trussed body simply slid to the end of the rope, stretching it and allowing the boy's feet to touch the ground. Slowly, David began to strangle and ever more frantically he began flinging his weight from side to side in agony and terror. A stalwart soldier quickly shinned up one of the timbers of the gibbet and, sitting on the crossbeam, pulled hard on the rope to hasten the boy's death. But it was more than five full minutes before young David's body hung motionless, and many onlookers were nauseous. A medical doctor finally was able to find no pulse, and the body was cut down. The corpse was placed in the prison wagon and carried to the Provost Marshal's office at St. John's College. There, military doctors examined the pitiful remains and reported death due to "a disrupted spine."

An hour or so later, after most civilians had left the area, David's body was loaded in a wagon provided by Dick Johnson and Barney Nighton and was taken to Johnson's home on Rock Street where it was prepared for burial. General Steele insisted that the funeral be kept simple and quiet. But, by Alderman Henry's pre-arrangement, the body, ready for interment, was displayed on a couch on Johnson's front porch and many mourning residents passed that evening to view the remains.

Early Saturday morning, January 9, a small cortege of selected mourners accompanied David Dodd's body across town to West Main Street (now Broadway) and buried it in a grave in Mount Holly Cemetery reportedly donated by Nighton.

In 1913, an eight-foot marble spire was erected over the boy’s grave and a simple low marble curb was installed to outline the plot. On the spire is engraved: " Here lie the remains of David O. Dodd. Born in Lavaca County, Texas, Nov.10, 1846, died Jan. 8, 1864." A marble scroll overlaying the curb that surrounds the grave bears the inscription: "Boy Martyr of the Confederacy." The grave is in the southeast quadrant of Mount Holly Cemetery.

The Last Day

Well, not too exciting, but it's turning into a kind of wrap-up day.

First, this morning I finished up the billing for Evelyn's work for the county.

Second, I called and made an appointment with Dr. Ewing for later this week so I can renew my prescriptions. With any luck, he may let me drop a couple of them.

Third, we got the stuff together for our New Year's dinner tomorrow afternoon. Peggy and Rich have been invited, but Rich is a bit under the weather, so we don't know if he will be up to it. Tom is cooking the ham that the Screnock's gave me for Christmas, I am making New Year's Black Eye Peas from a recipe I found online, and we will have scalloped potatoes. Peggy is bringing a fruit salad and carrot cake. Peter will entertain us with his scintillating analysis of The Brothers Karamazov, which he has been reading in preparation for his next semester at St. John.

Fourth, one of the guys I had for spiritual direction when I was in Chicago will be passing by the Dells this afternoon on his way home from a funeral in Minnesota. He called and will stop and join us for dinner. When I met him in 2003 he was getting a graduate degree at Catholic Theological Union in Hyde Park, and he is now an ordained priest in the American Catholic Church. (This is a small church in the Catholic tradition, but they are not in communion with Rome and have married clergy.) His name, interestingly enough, is Tim Dodd. His wife is from Poland, and I believe she is there now, finishing up a degree in psychology.

Tomorrow morning I may go into Baraboo to print out Evelyn's bills, finish putting together a file for Joe in preparation for a hearing he has on Thursday, and then come back here to finish helping with the housecleaning and getting ready for the dinner. Helen and Jay will arrive late tomorrow night and stay overnight before taking off for home with Buddy the Dog on Wednesday morning.

And Wednesday, it will be back to the regular work schedule.

I don't know about you, but I am very confused about what day is what, given the holidays, the people in and out and so on.

Couldn't possibly be my age catching up with me!
PS -- I sometimes ask you to pray for my friend, Archbishop Sleiman, in Iraq. Right now I want to ask prayers for the Carmelites in Kenya, which has been struck by violence in the aftermath of a disputed presidential election. Four of the guys I know very well are living there, including Steve Payne, my best friend in the Order. (You remember him, Ted. He's the one you tried to sell a gun.) They are in a pretty safe suburb outside Nairobi, but one never knows what will happen when things explode over there.

And, of course, I am sure Archbishop Sleiman and his flock would appreciate your prayers for them, too.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


We keep getting more snow. Tom took this great shot of the stained glass with the deck behind it, covered with snow. We have had close to three feet -- yes, three feet! -- of snow this month. I'm as tired of writing about the snow as you are reading about it. The average annual snowfall for the area is only 30 inches, and only two inches for December, so you see what we are up against.

Friday, December 28, 2007

O Tannenbaum

Well, it's not a fir tree, which is what the German Tannenbaum actually means, I think. But it is our tree. You cannot tell from this picture, but it has some particularly Texas ornaments -- including a glass ornament shaped like the state, a red-and-green cowboy boot, a chili pepper dressed like a cowboy and a Mariachi cat. Okay, the Mariachi thing is actually more Guadalajara, but the Carmelite's parishes in San Antonio and Dallas have Mariachi Masses, so I think it works.

The tree looks kind of funny in this picture with that painting peeping out from behind it. That is a homeless guy in Chicago who used to sell papers in Hyde Park. His wild look indicates possible mental illness, or perhaps just the terrible stress of his life. The paper he sold, StreetWise, is designed specifically for the homeless to sell on the street to help earn some money. I used to buy mine from a young woman who had a station near where I worked in downtown Chicago near Loyola. Because they wore ID tags, you could tell who was legitimate and it was a good way to help people who were trying to improve their situation.

The pond

Tom thought the picture above of the pond in winter was better than the barn scene, so there it is. The picture was taken during one of last winter's storms.

This is the pond down the road where, in warmer months, we see sandhill cranes, ducks, does with their fawns and (once) a blue heron. It is by the site where Tom's great-great-grandfather built the original farmhouse. The family has been on this land since the 1840s, although they moved the house away from the pond eventually to get away from the mosquitoes. The land with the pond and where the old farmhouse stood now belongs to the Fosters. What they do about mosquitoes in the summer, I haven't a clue.

Word on the news is that we will probably get another inch or so of snow before the end of the month, and that we are close to breaking the snowfall record for December. When I asked the cashier at Wal-Mart today how she was doing, she said she was sick and tired of the snow.

What can I tell you? We've got at least two more months of winter ...

Let it snow ...

Well, whether we want it or not, it is snowing again -- up to four more inches. With local budgets way over allocations for snow removal, plowing and sanding are not up to the usual. The snow is supposed to end this evening, so maybe they will get ahead of it over the weekend.

In other local news, there is a possibility that a new Johnny Depp movie may film some scenes in Baraboo, including a bank robbery in the Baraboo National Bank, where I keep my pennies. When I was working at the Lumen Christi Institute at the University of Chicago, they filmed parts of the movie Proof on campus. Br. Michael Berry and I saw Gwyneth Paltrow walking down the sidewalk one day, which was pretty cool. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role, but didn't win. Anthony Hopkins and Jake Gyllenhaal were also in that one, but I never saw them.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Mama said I needed to change the picture at the top of the blog because it was winter. I tried to find a good picture of the Dells in winter without success, so I went with the barn. Seems kind of gloomy, though.

Today we went to Madison and I used the gift certificate Ted and Cynthia gave me. I got a set of CDs on philosophy that I can listen to on my way to Texas next month. Thanks, guys!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Enchiladas rule!

Recipe time again.

David called tonight from Chicago. He and Rebecca liked the enchilada casserole so much that they want the recipe so they can make it. Here it is:

Mexican Lasagna (or Enchilada Casserole)

1/2 large green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 large red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped (optional)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
corn tortillas--at least 12
3 cups (28 ounces) fatfree refried beans
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 tsp. chili powder, divided
1/2 tsp. cumin, divided
3 cups black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup salsa
1 can enchilada sauce (or 1 1/2 cups homemade)
sliced black olives

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a non-stick pan with a little water (1 tbsp.), sauté the peppers, garlic, and onion for about 3 minutes, or until softened. Set aside.

Spray a 9 X 13-inch baking pan with non-stick spray. Line the bottom with a layer of tortillas (you may cut some of them to fit). Make sure you cover the entire bottom of the pan.

Stir the refried beans and spread half of them evenly over the tortillas. Cover the refried beans with half of the pepper-onion mixture and half of the tomatoes; sprinkle with half of the seasonings and half of the black beans.

Add another layer of tortillas and repeat the layers of the other ingredients. Spread the cup of salsa over the final layer of black beans. Cover with a final layer of tortillas, pour the enchilada sauce over the top, and sprinkle with black olives. Cover and bake for about 30 minutes or until hot throughout. It will be easier to cut if you allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Note: Fresh corn is a great addition to this. Use about 2 cups of uncooked (or frozen) corn and add it as one more layer. You may need a deeper pan, though.
I made this with flour tortillas (I know, Mama, you don't like them) because I couldn't find corn tortillas that were parve (for people who keep kosher) but I did find parve flour ones. I am sure it tastes more Tex-Mex with the corn ones, but it was fine with the flour unless you dislike them.

I used the half jalapeño pepper, and it was not too hot by a long shot. So you may want to use more, or leave the seeds in, if you are adventuresome.

If you aren't keeping kosher or vegetarian, saute the pepper mixture in a bit of oil, use regular refried beans, and feel free to add cheese and chicken or something.

But if you do it as set out above, it will be healthier for you and it tastes fine.

Christmas turkeys

The turkeys were back this morning, and it looks like all the snow has made it hard for them to find food. They looked a bit more frantic as they found the corn that Tom had tossed out around the bird feeder and a few crumbs left over from the figgy pudding.

Yes, we did indeed have figgy pudding -- the stuff in "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" -- homemade by Helen and served with a special whipped cream sauce or with rum raisin ice cream. In Great Britain, pudding is a term that can refer to any dessert, and figgy pudding is more like a cake or like banana bread, steamed in a special mold. The picture is of a large chunk of figgy pudding, and ours looked about like that, only the figs were darker, making it look better in my opinion.

You mean ... ?

I had to share this. It is from a friend who is an Eastern Orthodox Christian in North Carolina.
A couple of weeks ago, at Church, we were discussing “winter customs” in the adult Sunday School. We spent about half of one session on Hanukkah: dreidles, candles, 8-day-oil miracles, doughnuts, history, the books of the Macabbees, etc. When it was all over and Father was putting the menorah up on the piano one of the people in class suddenly asked, “You mean Hanukkah isn’t the Jewish way of commemorating Jesus’ birth?” (We did, in fact, go over the whole thing again.)
It reminds me of my Jewish roommate from Michigan State, Gene Friedman. Gene's father was Jewish but his mother had been raised Catholic. I don't think she ever converted, but Gene was raised Jewish, more because religion was important to his mother than it was to his father. He certainly didn't keep kosher when I knew him or maintain any other external religious life.

Around Christmas, she always wanted to put up Hanukkah stuff, including a "Hanukkah bush" as a substitute for a Christmas tree. Gene's father hated it. I think maybe Mrs. Friedman never quite caught on that Hanukkah was NOT the Jewish way of celebrating a Christian holiday, but is in fact a celebration of Jews refusing to surrender their own faith to adopt the practices of a dominant culture.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

From Our House to Yours

Click here for Christmas greetings.

We had a great Christmas eve dinner and then exchanged gifts. John, as the youngest, distributed and everyone opened a gift in order or age -- youngest (John) to eldest (Jay) while the rest oohed and aahed and laughed as appropriate.

I got a pair of Wicked Good L.L. Bean slippers from Mama and Daddy, a set of DVDs from David and Rebecca, a tie from Helen and Jay (to replace the one that got caught in the shreddder at the office), and books from Lucy and the Anastaplos (George and Sarah, parents of Helen). Tom gave me a stuffed dragon to add to the collection. Ted and Cynthia sent me a gift card for books and Kristin has promised a photo album. Not bad!

When Tom and I drove up this morning, a new flamingo had appeared -- a gift, we assume, from Rich and Peggy. It is glittery, covered with beads, wearing sunglasses and a hat. A nice addition to the flock.

After a Christmas breakfast of bacon, eggs and a tea ring pastry from Barb Baker, people started heading out. By 10:30, everyone but Peter and Buddy the Dog were gone. Helen and Jay will pick Buddy back up next week on the way back to Minnesober. Peter will be here until mid-January.

Monday, December 24, 2007

'Twas the afternoon before Christmas

I went to work this morning, and the main roads and streets were fine. Side streets in Baraboo could have used some more clearing, but the county and various other jurisdictions around here are all way over budget for snow removal for 2007. They used it all up in the winter storms we had last January into March, and now with a lot of snow in December, they are having to skimp where they can.

I got the billing that had to be done completed and mailed out, but I still have to do the billing for the work Evelyn does for the county. That is another forty or so bills, all of which have to be itemized. Sigh!

Meanwhile, back at The Lodge, people worked on puzzles, prepared for the Christmas dinner (which we will eat tonight, Christmas Eve, because Helen and Jay had to leave Christmas morning to catch a flight), watched DVDs and so on. I went by the motel room to take a nap, but the housecleaning crew was in the room. So I went for a brief swim and enjoyed the jacuzzi instead. Niiiiiice!

When I got back to The Lodge, some of the kids were out shooting, Jay was watching The Lone Ranger on DVD and Helen was cooking. Cassdiy was sprawled out on the couch with Jay rubbing her belly. Sundance was curled up sleeping on my bed. Buddy the Dog was hiding somewhere.

After dinner we will do the gift exchange. I'll let you know how I make out later.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Everyone's here!

Lucy and John arrived about 4:00 p.m. It has been snowing and blowing all day, and the trip took them about an hour longer than they had expected. But now everyone is safely here. Of course, Tom and I still have to get through the mess back to the motel tonight after the tree is decorated. I have to go to work tomorrow morning, and I suspect it will take twice as long as usual. The good news is that no one will be at the office but me, so it won't matter it I am a bit late.

More later.

The snow is actually Christmas card pretty, but driving in it is not fun.

Nuns Hallelujah Chorus

My friend Noni (Blalock) Ham sent me this. Enjoy! Be sure to have your sound on.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Saturday at the Scharbach Shack

David and Rebecca got here last night just about sundown, slowed by dense fog. The vegetarian Mexican meal turned out quite well, and I think I will make it again sometime with cheese and chicken when being kosher is not an issue.

So far the day has been pretty quiet. It is 37 and foggy at the moment, but we are expecting snow, sleet and freezing rain this evening, turning to all snow during the night. Overnight we may get up to five inches of accumulation and pick up another inch or two tomorrow when it will be windy with a high of only 17. Lucy and John will be driving up from Chicago through that mess.

Tom and I are getting ready to go check into the motel and leave our stuff off, then hit Wal-Mart on the way back here. Helen and Jay and Buddy the Dog are due around four or five. David and Rebecca are housebound until sundown today for the Sabbath, and then (depending on the weather), they may go out and do some last minute shopping.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hectic holiday houseful

Well, David and Rebecca are arriving Friday, Helen and Jay and Peter on Saturday, and then Lucy and John will get here Sunday. Tom, Helen and Jay have been consulting on what to do about meals. There has been some uncertainty because we were not sure until today that David and Rebecca would be here, which means some kosher options have to be part of the program. Friday night will just be them, Tom and me. Tom is working hard on most of the meals except for Christmas dinner itself (which I think will be Christmas Eve, actually), so I volunteered to cook for Friday. The easiest way to go kosher is to go vegetarian, so I am planning a vegetarian Mexican meal -- a sort of cheese/bean enchilada casserole and a green salad. I made one for Hannah and Miriam once in Chicago when they came over for dinner, since they are vegetarians, and they liked it a lot. And it isn't too much work.

I assume Helen and Jay will also arrive with Buddy the Dog, so the house will be full of people and animals and the cats will no doubt be thoroughly flummoxed by all the activity. Tom and I take a room at a nearby motel and have a place to escape to when it gets too much. Since the young folks tend to stay up late (let me rephrase that -- stay up all night), it is nice to be able to go somewhere nice and quiet to sleep. Helen and Jay get my room, Lucy gets Tom's, David and Becca get the guestroom and the boys get to sleep in Tom's office. Buddy the Dog will most likely sleep on the floor in my room by Helen and Jay, and the cats will sleep with whoever will let them.

Joe has a trial in southwestern Wisconsin Friday morning, so he won't be in the office. He and Evelyn are not coming in on Monday, Christmas Eve, although I will keep the office open. So I won't see him again until after the first of the year. We had an impromptu office Christmas party today -- salads from Monk's down the street for lunch and I got my Christmas bonus. (Yay!)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tuna surprise

Last night Joe and Evelyn invited Tom and me over for dinner. There was sushi to start with, then a sort of noodle salad from a recipe Evelyn got from a Japanese former in-law, egg rolls followed by wonton soup and then pork stir fry. Good meal!

Tom likes to cook Chinese, too, and he and Evelyn got to chatting about food. He mentioned a low-fat cookbook that he bought a few months ago that has a lot of things we like in it. But he told her about one that did not turn out as expected.

Helen was visiting, and Tom decided to make a tuna casserole -- basic comfort food but from a recipe in this book. The recipe called for evaporated milk. To Tom this meant "canned milk", and he bought a can of milk. Unfortunately, it was not evaporated milk but sweetened condensed milk. If you don't know what that means, imagine tuna fish mixed with vanilla ice cream.

Trust me, you don't want to know any more.

He is normally a great cook, so I don't want to scare any guests away. Just stay away from the tuna casserole, and you'll be fine.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ubi, o ubi...

Muggie used to always give me black sox for my birthday or for Christmas or any other time she thought she needed to get something for me. Since I was in the monastery, this was a great gift. Something practical that I needed and could actually use, and it was not going to break her budget.

I know last year I suggested that the Dodd clan not feel obligated to gift everyone within a thousand generations (although I do appreciate those of you who chose to ignore me and gave me something anyway), but I thought of Mamma and the sox today. Or of underwear -- see how old I am now? Children dread underwear as the ultimate bad Christmas gift, the modern equivalent of a lump of coal or bundle of sticks for the Naughty. But when you get older, underwear becomes a good gift.

I'm not talking anything fancy, of course. I'll leave that for spouses to shock one another with on occasion. I am talking about WARM underwear for those of us in northern climes. Last week when we were heading out into the cold to do our part for the Holiday Train food pantry project, Tom gave me a pack of long underwear he had bought and never opened. (Only with something like underwear could someone tall and skinny like Tom have something that might fit a person like me -- short and stout like the little teapot in the song.) I was a bit reluctant, because I had always thought long underwear would be bulky and uncomfortable, but it was great. Next year I plan to buy some for my feet!

Anyway, I am not angling for someone to go out and buy me long underwear. But for those of the clan who live in the cold and have not yet discovered the possibilities, this old coot is passing it along.
The title of this post is taken from a terrible Latin student pun: Ubi, o ubi est mihi sububi. Ubi = where; est = is; mihi = my; sub=under. Put it all together: Where, oh where is my under where?

I told you it was bad.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


One of the other blogs I read pointed me towards this tee shirt. The Hebrew word “Sh’viti” is the first word of Psalm 16:8 “I have set the Lord before me always.” It is also the word for a Jewish devotional object intended to keep one mindful of the presence of the Holy One. The designer connected this with the words of Genesis 1: 26 where God decided to make men and women in God's own image. The tee shirt is a reminder that the person wearing it -- indeed, every person -- is an image of the Holy One.

I bought one for Tom because of his Jewish roots, and I got one for myself because I like the idea behind it.

Sew much to do, sew little time

Well, the cats were quite perplexed and curious about the entire sewing project. They had to examine everything, and found that the cushion leaned up against the wall awaiting its new cover made a great tunnel through which to creep and surprise attack one another. I did point out to Sundance that if this were a Disney movie, she would be helping. Buddy the Dog simply wandered off to take a nap in Tom's bedroom and ignored everything.

Tom sorted out what to do and managed to get the denim covers on the cushion with very little assistance from me. Other than helping hold the material while he fed it through the sewing machine, my main contribution was to stop giving him a hard time.

The cushions have until now had a denim mattress cover over them, a sort of oversized pillowcase. This is a real improvement. We hope we also have resolved the tendency of the lower cushion to slide forward, letting the back cushion fall into the crack and making for uncomfortable seating.

Yay, Tom Terrific!

More toys, Or A Stitch in Time

This morning a trip to Wal-Mart to get some fabric to reupholster (way overstating the case) the cushions on the sofa in the living room turned into an opportunity for Tom to get a new toy -- a sewing machine.

He got all excited about sewing months ago when he was staying with Chris in Chicago. Chris, needing to occupy himself while recovering from the massive cancer surgery he had undergone, had taken up sewing. He was even taking classes. I think what started it was when he bought his wife a sewing machine. Being someone with more assets than self-restraint, he bought her one that -- now I am generalizing here based on Tom's report -- essentially made the clothes all by itself. What you did was place some material, a spool or two of thread and a pattern (or just a picture from a catalog) near the thing and pushed a button. The machine took over from there. (Personally, I suspect a small Russian woman lives inside it and has one of those pincushions that you wear on your wrist.) So as I understand it, for ten thousand dollars you can buy a machine that will provide you with clothes for a cost of just two or three times what it would cost to buy them from the catalog in the first place.

The sewing machine Tom got on sale at Wal-Mart is not quite of this stature. It is a Brother LS 30, somewhat more modern than the one pictured above. Instead of doing all the work for you, it's primary function seems to be to drop pieces all around, shoot bobbins in all directions and generally frustrate the innocent person who bought it because of the box that says things like Easy to Use and Super Easy Automatic Bobbin Winding System. I am pretty sure that no man can resist any gadget that claims to include an automatic system of some sort.

I tried going to the library while he was getting all set up, but my timing was off and I got back too soon.

At the moment, Tom is sitting at the table muttering, "I don't understand this at all," and making noises about me trying to be of some help. I explained that I am incompetent in these matters. In fact, I pointed out that I have carefully cultivated incompetence so that I don't get asked to be of help when things like this are happening. He is not amused.

More anon.

I remind you that this all began with a simple search for some material to be folded and pinned around a couple of cushions. The plan was to use safety pins and maybe some fabric glue so we wouldn't have to take needle in hand at all.

But, nooooooo!

The Wonder Dog

Yesterday morning I woke up to what sounded like machine gun fire in the house. It turned out to be Tom shelling some dried corn into an old coffee can so that he could put it out to lure the turkeys back. (This is what happens when you retire early...)

Helen and Jay dropped off Buddy the Dog yesterday as planned. He will stay with us for the weekend, and they will pick him up on their way back to Minnesober. Tom noted that as soon as he got here, Buddy the Dog did what he does best -- sat down and began to shed.

This morning about a dozen turkeys came stalking through the backyard, lured by the corn or not, and eventually Buddy the Dog noticed them. He barked loudly at the deck door in his role as Protector of the Lodge, but they pretty much ignored him. What seems to get them going is noticing shadows or any movement. When I came over to see if he had scared them off, they poked their heads up and high-tail-feathered it for the woods.
I don't know if Ted remembers Tom Terrific and Mighty Manfred the Wonder Dog. It was a cartoon on the old Captain Kangaroo show on CBS. We didn't get the CBS channel (I think it was Channel 11 out of Houston), but Buddy and Florence did. So occasionally when we were over there in the morning, we got to see the cartoon. Amazingly dumb, but for some reason it appealed to me. (No need to say what you're thinking!)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thursday's child has far to go.

Well, it's all happening with the Brooklyn Branch, isn't it? If you haven't been keeping up, be sure to check out both blogs over in the Places to Go and People to See column.

Today Tom claims to have seen 25-30 turkeys over in Jerry's field. Shortly after I came home, there were 17 in our backyard at once. Tom took this picture from the kitchen window. (That's my statue of John of the Cross in the corner, there.) There are five or six around the bird feeder, partially hidden by the bushy branches in the foreground.

The other day I was watching about ten of them stalk across the road, and I was thinking, "They really do walk like little dinosaurs."

Then I realized that the reason I think that is that the movies make dinosaurs walk like birds -- not the other way around. Just shows how our perceptions of reality can be messed with by imagination and fantasy.

But I'm not going to talk politics, I promise!

Meanwhile, Tom's train set is looking good downstairs. He has the Dells and has put up a couple of mountains/hills in corners so the train gets to go in and out of tunnels. Tomorrow Helen and Jay will be dropping Buddy off on their way to visit a friend in Milwaukee, so they will get to see what all the hoo-hah is about. I will be at work, so I probably won't get to visit with them until they come back through on Sunday. It should be fairly decent traveling weather for them, fortunately.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Something Sweet

Okay, to make up for whining, I am posting a recipe. As I mentioned before, I have been making candy for gifts for the neighbors. This recipe is very easy and so far is the one Tom and I like the best. You need two or three big cookie sheets and room in the refrigerator to cool the candies. Once cooled, you can put them in containers. It says to keep them refrigerated, but they don't last long enough to melt once you put them out.

Raisin Cashew Drops

2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (basically, one bag of chips)
1 can sweetened condensed milk (Eagle Brand or whatever)
1 tablespoon light corn syrup (Karo, etc.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups coarsely chopped cashews (probably works fine with peanuts, etc. Don't chop too small!)
2 cups raisins

Melt chocolate chips with milk and corn syrup in heavy saucepan for 10-12 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally. (I melt it in the microwave. Heat for a minute, stir it well, heat for another thirty seconds, stir, repeat if necessary. It doesn't need to boil, just get warm enough to melt smoothly.)

Remove from heat, stir in vanilla until it is blended.

Stir in cashews and raisins until well mixed. It will be pretty thick. (The raisins tend to clump up, so I break them up by hand and mix with the nuts before hand. This makes them mix better when you add them to the chocolate mixture.)

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto wax paper-lined baking sheets. Refrigerate for 3 hours or until firm.

This is amazingly easy if you use the microwave to melt the chocolate chips and very tasty! It makes a couple of pounds of candy, so it is easy to give some away and still have some for yourself.

Variations: I haven't tried this, but you could do it with white chocolate chips (or vanilla chips) and golden raisins for a different look and slightly different taste. I have also thought about doing it with dried cranberries instead of raisins.

Something Sweet for Justin

I realize that Justin can't eat nuts, so here is a very easy Christmas recipe that looks great and tastes good, too.

Christmas Candy

1 (10 ounce) package vanilla baking chips (Our store sells 12 ounce packages -- same thing.)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup mini candy-coated chocolate pieces
You can use mini-M&M's or whatever. I used mini-Hershey Kissables-- which aren't so "mini", so you could get away with regular M&M's. Multicolored makes it nice, but for Christmas, you may want to use only red and green.
Line a baking pan with waxed paper or foil. In a microwave safe bowl combine vanilla chips and vegetable oil. Microwave on high until chips are melted. Stir until smooth; let cool for 2 minutes. Stir in candy-coated chocolate pieces. Spread mixture onto prepared pan; chill for 10 minutes and break into pieces. (Spread it fairly thin so that it breaks into pieces more easily.)

See? It's a snap, looks good and will disappear quickly.

Fortune's fool

Today I ate at a Chinese buffet in Baraboo and got the funniest fortune cookie:
"Plan to be spontaneous tomorrow."
The best spontaneity is planned, I always say.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Totally Tuesday

1) Snow. More snow. Slippery streets. Hoo-hah!
2) Gas is below $3.00 a gallon again! Yay!
3) Dinner: Leftovers à la fried rice. Nummy!
4) Television: Why does the National Geographic Channel have such sloooooooow programs? I like the topics, but they take an hour to tell a fifteen minute story.
5) Television II: Why do the National Geographic Channel, Discover and the History Channel at Christmas/Hanukkah (and again at Easter/Passover) keep showing such absurd "religious" programs about the Ark of the Covenant or whatever, rehashing lame speculations that usually indicate a shocking ignorance about history, scripture and so on? Newflash: Ominous background music does not make weak research any more powerful.
6) Why don't I stop now?
7) Okay, I will.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Mostly Monday

1) Feet: My feet did thaw out, but that only revealed how sore they were from walking around on ice and concrete for five hours. Still, by the end of the day I was no longer limping.

2) Going Postal: It took three trips to a post office to mail one package today. The Baraboo Post Office was so jammed at noon that I couldn't even get in. So I decided to stop at the Lake Delton one on the way home. Lake Delton is so small that they close the post office for lunch -- from 11:30 to 1:30 -- yes, even during the Christmas season. At midafternoon, I managed to get the box mailed off (Mama's birthday/Christmas gift; Daddy's will get in the mail tomorrow). As always they asked if there was anything dangerous in it. "Not unless she hits my father with it," I told him. People seemed to think that was right funny.

3) And that's about it.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Weekend Report III

I called Mama to wish her a happy birthday this morning. I didn't ask, but I assume she is still 49. Seems to me when I turned 50, she told me I had passed her.

On the critter front, a flock of ten wild turkeys prowled around the backyard and by Tom's end of the house for a while this morning. Eventually they flapped their wings and scuttled off into the woods, although we never saw what startled them. Both cats were asleep in my room at the time, so it wasn't them. All these turkeys were big enough to swallow one of the cats whole, so I don't think as such they would have been too frightening.

The event of the day was the Holiday Train, a project of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. Holiday Trains, decorated with thousands of Christmas lights, run in partnership with the Canadian Association of Food Banks and U.S. food collection agencies to raise donations and awareness for the issue of hunger. All the food and money raised stays in the local community.There are two trains, one in Canada and one in the States. The American train visits forty communities in seven states. There is musical entertainment, a chance for kids to visit Santa and food tents. The project began in 1999, but last year was the first time it stopped in the Dells. They raised over 2,200 pounds of food and $7,400 in cash donations.

Tom's work with the Riverside & Great Northern Railway (a non-profit preservation society nearby that focuses on small trains built for places like zoos and fairs)) got him hooked into volunteering to be part of the security for this event, mainly to keep crowds of children off the tracks. I agreed to help out, too, but mostly I just wandered around and did whatever the organizers asked me to do.

The good news was that the predicted snow did not turn into anything. The bad news was that, although we had to be there at 2:45, the train was not scheduled to arrive until 6:15. Santa arrived earlier, and the local school bands and choir and a couple of other entertainers sang to fill in the time. It was a very nice, small town Christmas event. The train itself was lovely, looking like something out of a movie (or, as I told Tom, out of a Coca-Cola commercial), and the entertainment was good. People who had been there last year said this year's crowd was smaller, last year having been warmer. Still it was a good experience. I hope they did well with donations.

And I think my feet will probably thaw out within the week.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Weekend Report II

Wal-Mart was a bit of a zoo, of course. After getting all the stuff to make candy, I told Tom it would be less expensive to buy people a box of candy and give that to them. I know, it wouldn't be the same.

After doing the first batch of rocky road fudge and a batch of candy that uses vanilla bark and mini-kisses (pretty, tasty and sooo easy), I was cleaning up and saw an unfamiliar bird on the feeder. Because it was brown and clearly a woodpecker, I assumed it was a female of one of the species that we have already seen, but it was huge. So I looked in our book, and it is one we had not seen before: the Northern Flicker. The only brown-back woodpecker in the state, it is not supposed to be around in the winter, so I assume it is migrating south and stopped off for some suet. Anyway, it is good to add another one to the list.

Then I made some more candy: Peppermint Bark (with a layer of white chocolate, layer of smashed peppermint candies mixed with crushed pretzels (I know, weird) and then a top layer of milk chocolate; another Peppermint Candy using vanilla bark, peppermint extract and peppermint candies (all this peppermint is for Peggy); and then just some plain fudge.

Tom, meanwhile, was ironing my shirts and watching a movie on the tube. He didn't see the beginning or the end, but it was something to do while ironing.

More anon.

Weekend Report I

Well, we got the brief done in time yesterday, but the interrogatories that had been due a week ago are yet to be completed. It was an exhausting day, and Tom and I went out for our monthly Friday fish fry, then came home and did nothing. I am reading a book about fads from 1890 to 1990, so that helped put me to sleep.

I woke up to sunshine and Tom working away on his train in the basement -- the train set-up is under my bedroom. He thought he was being quiet, and it didn't wake me up. But I can hear his shoosh-shoshing away down there. The set-up is looking very good. He is making a model of the dells along the Wisconsin River. [See picture above.]

I decided to treat myself to a slice of bacon with my fake eggs this morning, which set off the smoke alarm. (No, I didn't burn anything.) Which set off the cats, of course. They eventually decided to come back in out of the cold, but Sundance is still eyeing me suspiciously.

The plan today is to make Christmas candy to take to various neighbors. Last year Tom did cookies, but he has other trains to fry this year. So I am making various fudge and other candy-like concoctions. If he ever comes up from the basement, we will go over to Wal-Mart for the makings.

Tomorrow we do our volunteer schtick at the Santa Train. I think he is on the security detail -- trying to kep the kids off the tracks -- and I am going to be dishing up something in the food tents.

PS -- It is four degrees out at 10:00 a.m., Kristin, if you are still jealous. You are welcome to this weather. At least it is not windy, though, so it is four and it feels like four.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I know, I know ...

... if it's not critters, it's the weather. What can I say? Life in Wisconsin is soooo exciting.

I live at the tiny red dot on the map below the e in LaCrosse.

So instead of the three to five inches of snow, Tom says we got about seven inches Tuesday night. He should know -- he's the one who does the shoveling and snow blowering. Joe and Evelyn were two hours late getting into the office because of having to dig themselves (and the farm) out and then driving on treacherous icy roads to get to Baraboo. I wasn't able to park in our parking lot because, although the guy who shovels it had done a great job clearing our spaces, the snow plow came along and piled up a barrier of snow two feet high that the Vibe could not climb over. Fortunately there is free on-street parking a block away.

When I woke up this morning, instead of it being the predicted zero degrees, it was nine -- BELOW! Of course, it warmed up to a toasty 19 by lunch time.

And it is snowing again tonight. This time they predict only an inch or two -- so who knows? We have two major pleadings (fancy legalese term for a document that has to be filed with the courts) due tomorrow (both of them are past due, to be honest), so we had better not be snowed out of the office again. Every day this week I have gone into work prepared to work late to finish these two papers up, but I can't type what the boss hasn't written. So once again, here we are at the last minute, a thing that does not seem to cause my boss any loss of sleep but that drives me nuts. I do hope it is over tomorrow, even though it is probably going to be a hectic day.
I shouldn't complain -- I am picking up some extra hours, which is nice this time of year, and eight hours of word processing is eight hours of word processing, whether the paper is due that day or a month later. If you think that will stop me from complaining, however...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Supposed to hit zero tonight.

Degrees, that is.


Just thought you'd want to know.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

One of Eight

Okay, so much for the reliable weather forecast. It started snowing this afternoon about the time I got back to the office from lunch. Right now they are saying three to five inches. The snow is supposed to end, but we will have a high no better than 20 tomorrow. Hope the driving isn't too bad. We are behind -- not a rare thing, unfortunately -- and I expect to have to work late again tomorrow.

I did see a big cardinal at the bird feeder late this afternoon. I know cardinals are not exactly exotic birds, but we don't see a lot of them at our feeder. Not sure why.

Oh, with sundown -- Happy Hanukkah!

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Twelve Deer of Christmas

On the way home from the library this evening, I saw a herd of twelve deer. They stopped and stared at me long enough for me to get a good head count.

My cold is much better, although I am not back up to full speed yet. I hope to be as well as I ever am in a couple of days.

Evelyn's birthday was Saturday, but it turned out not to be such a good day. She and Joe went into Madison for a workshop. They expected to be back on the way home before the storm struck, but it got there an hour and a half earlier than expected. So the trip home took two and a half hours of white-knuckle driving, instead of the easy drive of under an hour that it usually is. So they got home exhausted, only to discover that they had a lot of snow to shovel and that the sheep had broken into the barn, overturned all sorts of things and gotten into the corn and hay stored there. Then they found out that the heater that keeps the sheep's water supply from freezing had broken and the tank was a block of ice. Joe struggled with that without any success, and they both went to bed tired. Sunday was not much better as they tried to get caught up on some of those things. This evening I think she had a family celebration planned, so I hope that makes up for the mess over the weekend.

Tom took the snow blower over to have it repaired this afternoon. From what he says, I think it is about like I will be after I get over this cold: about as well as it's ever going to be. Not quite what it was in its prime, but it'll have to do.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sundays with Sundance

Well, the winter storm was not as bad as predicted. The best news was, despite the ice storm portion, we did not lose power. Tom was able to get the snow blower working well enough to clear the drive, but he will have to take it over to Reedsburg tomorrow for real repairs. At least for now they are not predicting more significant snow for the coming week, although it will be cold. A low of four (4) degrees midweek.

So it was another day couped up in The Lodge. I finished re-reading Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time, a mystery built around King Richard III and the death of the Princes in the Tower. I think you have to be English to care about this, or a Shakespeare freak. The point of the book, though, is that there are all sorts of things about "history" that we take for granted that are simply not true, but pointing this out never seems to change anyone's mind, even when you can prove it with overwhelming evidence.


The cats, meanwhile, are a bit stir crazy. Sundance was very whiny this morning, but she seems to have gotten over it. It takes them a week or two to realize that winter means not much outdoors activity, not even bathroom trips. They have begun using their litter box, but I suspect for cats it is always a second best. Sort of like a Port-a-Potty. Given a choice, one always prefers a real bathroom. Or in the case of a cat, a real yard.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


The snow has turned to sleet and frozen rain, and I can hear it hitting against the wall and windows of my room. Not a fun sound.

But the good news is ...

I just found out that my article for Spiritual Life magazine will appear in the Spring 2008 issue. I realize most of you have never read anything I wrote, and I thought I would show you that writing has been a bigger part of my life than you may think. This bibliography includes all but a couple of articles and a couple of poems I have had published.

Michael Dodd


Articles in Spiritual Life magazine

“Divinization in John of the Cross” 24:4Winter 1978, 258-253.

Saint John of the Cross and Friendship” 26:4 Winter 1980, 194-204.

“Beginners and the Spiritual Canticle” 29:4 Winter 1983, 195-208.

“’In the Heart of the World, I Will Be Hope’: The Discalced Carmelite Charism Today” 38:2 Summer 1992, 99-106.

“The Trinity in a Poem of John of the Cross” 50:4 Winter 2004, 195-208.

Other articles

“The Historical Setting of St Teresa’s Life” Teofanes Egido, OCD (translated with Steven Payne, OCD) Carmelite Studies: Spiritual Direction, ed. John Sullivan, OCD (ICS Publications: Washington, DC) 1980, 122-182

“The Economic Concerns of Madre Teresa” Teofanes Egido, OCD (translated with Steven Payne, OCD) Carmelite Studies V: Edith Stein/Teresian Culture, ed. John Sullivan, OCD (ICS Publications: Washington, DC) 1987, 151-172.

“Joan Gurutekoaren mezua: historia, agerrera, etorkizuna” Karmel: Loiolako Inazio – Joan Gurutzekoa 1491-1591 (Karmel: Zenbakia, Spain) 1990, 211-222.

“Master in the Faith: John of the Cross for Today” (with Steven Payne, OCD) Listening: Journal of Religion and Culture 26:3, Fall1991, 232-245.

“John of the Cross: The Person, His Times, His Writings” Carmelite Studies VI: John of the Cross, ed. Steven Payne, OCD (ICS Publications: Washington, DC) 1992, 7-28.

“Pere Jacques” Carmelite Digest Summer 2005, 26-43.

“Constitutions of El Cerro: A Humorous Work by Jerome Gracian”, Jerome Gracian (translated by Michael Dodd) Carmelite Studies IX: A Better Wine: Essays Celebrating Kieran Kavanaugh, ed. Kevin Culligan, OCD (ICS Publications: Washington, DC) 2007, 95-135.

Book reviews in Spiritual Life

Elements of Rite: A Handbook of Liturgical Style 29:3 Fall1983, 185-186.
The Future of Our Past: The Spanish Mystics Speak to Us Today 32:2 Summer1986, 113-114.
Take and Receive: A Guide for Prayer Series 35:2 Summer 1989, 112-113.
Out of Chaos: Refounding Religious Congregations 35:3 Fall 1989, 182-184.
St. Teresa of Avila: The Way of Perfection: A Study Edition 47:1 Spring 2001, 52-54.
To Quell the Terror: The Mystery of the Vocation of the Sixteen Carmelites of Compiegne Guillotined July 17, 1794 47:2 Summer 2001, 114-116.

Articles in The Catholic Dictionary of Spirituality

A Michael Glazier Book, Edited by Michael Downey
(The Liturgical Press: Collegeville, MN) 1993


Conferences available from ICS Publications on cassette and CD

“John of the Cross: The Person, His Writings, His Times”

“St. Teresa of Avila and the Trinity”

“St. Teresa of the Andes: An Experience of American Sanctity”

“St. Therese of Lisieux and the Mission of the Church”

Remember the Sabbaath to keep it snowy

Winter may not arrive officially for another three weeks, but it is already here in Wisconsin. Friday I woke to three to four inches of unpredicted snow. About two weeks ago, Tom had gone out with the snowblower to run it and make sure it was ready when needed. So naturally yesterday morning it ran for a while and then quit before he got the drive cleared. He spent much of the morning getting it to work -- but it is definitely not fixed. Getting it to a repair shop is going to be a challenge, because all the people who discover that their snowblowers aren't working will be in the same predicament.

This is an issue because the winter storm that was supposed to arrive around lunchtime today may drop up to six inches of more snow + an inch of ice on us. Could be bad for driving and power lines. It actually started snowing about 10:30. If the bird feeder population means anything, we are in for it. I counted twenty dark-eyed junco males alone at one point. They tend to eat seed that has fallen to the ground, which is why there can be so many at once. There is always at least one woodpecker at the suet and a couple of finches on the seed bags and a chickadee or two coming and going at the feeder itself, along with a tufted titmouse.

I'm still sick -- hack, hack -- so I didn't go out to Wal-Mart with Tom this morning to stock up for the weekend blizzard: some cold medicine and comfort food for humans, cat food and bird seed. To be honest, I would be happy to be snowed in for a few days so I could just rest and get over this thing. I did go to work yesterday -- if I stay away more than a day, I come back to a real mess -- but I was not at my best. Poor Joe has this thing now, and he was in court arguing a case all morning, coughing, swallowing cough drops, sneezing. Not fun at all.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hack, hack Parte Tres

Whatever this is that I have makes time seem to dra-a-a-a-g. I'm hoping to make it to work tomorrow. I just hope the time there doesn't drag on and on, too. Of course, at work I will probably have so much to do that I won't notice the time.

I imagine the weekend will fly by, though, if I'm feeling better. I don't think anything is on the agenda this weekend, but the following weekend (on Mama's birthday), Tom and I are working as volunteers for a Santa Train, a project to raise money and collect canned goods for local food pantries. So I do need to be up for that.

Welcome, Vince!

I'm glad to see Vince is joining the fray online. So I added a link to his blog, too.

PS -- Lookin' good, dude.

Hack, hack Parte Dos

I turned in early last night, hoping the extra rest would speed along my cold/whatever. I woke up about midnight, coughing away and unable to get back to sleep. I got up and watched TV for a while and finally went back to bed around three. I called in sick this morning -- something I hate to do. I have been lying around pretty much all day, watching the television (actually just looking at the program list, hoping to find something to watch), playing Free Cell on the computer and surfing the net. In between I sneeze and cough and startle the cats.

Tom is having a small meeting here tonight and invited the couple of people who are coming to join us for dinner. I am tempted to take my bowl of Boeuf Bourogne and a hunk of bread to my room and eat in private. Not only do I not want to spread this thing around -- although lots of people we know have it, so it is not like I am the only carrier they are likely to run into -- but I think it is gross when someone at the table has to keep dragging a handkerchief out to wipe his nose.

Not appetizing!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hack, hack

Just checking in for a moment to report I am still breathing. I finally caught the cold (or whatever) that Tom brought back from up north, and it looks like this is one of those things that hangs on for a couple of weeks. This is a particularly hectic week at work, too, so it is not the best time to feel draggy.

Even Cassidy has an eye infection of some sort. All this illness makes Sundance even needier than usual. I took a nap this afternoon after work and the cats came and slept on either side of me, like bookends. It's kind of sweet, but I am a tosser and a turner in bed. Don't fence me in!

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Tom has been sickly most of the weekend. He brought back a cold from Minnesota last week, and it moved down into his throat and chest eventually. So he's been kind of draggy. We went out and did some Christmas shopping yesterday, but it wore him out.

It has made for a pretty quiet Sunday around the Lodge. The cats keep wandering in for attention, of course. I finished reading a book on Native American religions and another on proper behavior when attending worship services in various Christian and non-Christian churches, synagogues, temples, etc. It is an award-winning book (How to Be a Perfect Stranger) with a brief description of what kind of service to expect and how guests are expected to behave. Considering how many groups they covered, it is pretty good, although I noticed a couple of things that might not be exactly right in every instance at a Church of Christ, for example. And their explanation of the Catholic understanding of the pope was not too accurate, but I don't suppose that would matter to someone who just happened to be attending Mass with a friend. I guess it will be helpful to have read it if I ever get invited to worship with any Sikhs or Hindus. Or Lutherans, for that matter.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Oh, say can you see?

Joe and Evelyn belong to a club in Baraboo that meets every couple of weeks to discuss topics of general interest. One member gives a presentation and then they all talk about it. At the next meeting, Evelyn is speaking about the history of the American flag, and I had done some research online for her. Since the office does not have a color printer, and I do at home, she asked me if I would print out some pages with pictures of various flags of historical interest. I had planned to make this my lazy weekend project, and this morning I was going to do a page or two and then get the rest of it done later. But once I got started, it was just easier to keep going -- and it didn't really take that long.

So now what do I do for the day? Tom is rearranging the basement to make room for his train setup. The libraries are closed for the day because of the holiday yesterday. I suspect the stores are a madhouse with people doing the whole Black Friday thing.

I'll have to think of something. John and Lucy are due to stop back overnight on their way back to Chicago, but they won't get in until tonight sometime. Tom is making Chinese for dinner, which will be good.

I have started an article on the names we give to God and what that shows about our understanding of God. I suppose I could work on that...

Twelve Step spirituality programs usually talk about "God as we understand him", leaving that understanding up to the individual's personal faith. Some people say "the God of my understanding" as a shorthand. A friend of mine who has been in AA for many years always says, "the God of my misunderstanding."

I like that.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Over at the Episcopal Church in Baraboo, in their meeting room, there is a box for donations to a general fund. The motive for donating is supposed to be things you are thankful for, and the box has a number of things written on it as suggestions: health, children, a football victory, laughter. Among the items listed is "An answered prayer."

It always reminds me of the Garth Brooks song:
Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.
Remember when you're talkin' to the man upstairs,
That just because he doesn't answer, doesn't mean he don't care.
Some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.
Some of God's gifts come in disguise, too. So as I am grateful for the blessings that are obvious -- such as the people I love and the people who love me, near and far -- I also want to be grateful this year for the unanswered prayers, for the gifts hidden inside disappointments, for the unexpected blessings of limitations and failures. And I pray for the grace to face the things that come (or don't come) with eyes open to discover the gift, whatever form it may take.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

'Twas the night before ...

Late in the afternoon, Tom's kids, who were on their way to Minnesota to spend Thanksgiving with Helen and Jay, called. The weather and traffic getting out of Chicago made it unlikely they could make it to St. Paul tonight, so they decided to stop and spend the night here, about halfway there.

This led to the "put one more potato in the pot" syndrome. Tom had been making chili for us for dinner, so we ate ours and he threw some more meat and spices in and put it back in the slow cooker to stay warm until the kids got here. Just as we were preparing to go over to get some breakfast stuff to feed them in the morning before they head back out, Rich called to say that Peggy had been cooking pies like a dervish and he was bringing one over for us. So we wound up with a fresh apple pie, the appropriate dessert to offer John and Lucy when they got in a little before eight. The normal four-hour trip had taken them about six.

Meanwhile the snow had continued to come down, stopping just before they arrived, and the cats got into their routine of wanting out until they got out and then wanting back in to be cuddled, dried off and warmed up. Eventually they climbed onto my bed and curled up. The extra people sleeping in unexpected places will no doubt have them more perplexed than usual later.

White treats

On the way home this afternoon, I saw a bald eagle. It was circling the road ahead of me, and then it swooped down and grabbed something in its claws and soared aloft. Although I have seen eagles along the river, this is the closest I have been to one in the wild. Wild!

I saw one of the albino squirrels again, which normally is a treat, but it can't compare with the eagle sighting.

About 3:00 this afternoon the snow started. One rumor is that we can expect three inches overnight. Isn't that nice? I pity all the folks heading home for the holidays in the traffic plus the snow.

It turns out the office won't be open on Friday, so I will have a long weekend to goof off. I'm loving it!

Of course, I already told Joe that I will be available to work all day Monday if necessary. I/he/we are getting way behind.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I'm dreaming of a white ...

On the way to work this morning, I saw the albino squirrel down by the intersection of Berry and Birchwood for the first time in a while. Even better, about twenty feet down the road, I saw a second one. So maybe we'll have a whole colony going someday.

In other news, Tom made it back safely from Minnesota. He came in, set his bags down and went to see if his train would still run. It does, so at least he knows the cats and I didn't mess it up in his absence. (I'm not saying no one played with it...)

Joe didn't get a deer this weekend, but one of his grandsons who was part of his hunting party got one.

Joe's flock of sheep is having some health problems, which has made him miss work a couple of days and may keep him away for most of tomorrow morning. He was supposed to be taking lambs to market tomorrow, but it remains to be seen if he will manage that. If not, his flock just got bigger because this is the last chance before winter arrives. Next spring they won't be marketable, I guess. Not as lambs, anyway.

Evelyn brought me a turkey at work today. Long-range weather reports are getting a bit iffy for travel over the holidays, so I e-mailed Kristin and suggested they stay safely home and come visit us another time. She agreed with that plan, so we put the turkey in the freezer for a later celebration. Meanwhile, our Christmas Mountain neighbors found out none of their family will be making it for the holiday, either, and Barb wants to cook anyway. So they invited us to join their party. I think Tom plans to take a razzleberry pie, a favorite that we haven't had lately. I made some fudge over the weekend, but it may not survive until Thursday. Candy seems more like a Christmas thing than a Thanksgiving one anyway.