Monday, August 31, 2009

Pert near, but not plumb

I don't know where I heard it -- or if I made it up -- but the definition of "nigh" is pert near, but not plumb.

Labor Day is nigh, but it sure ain't here yet.

Today we did little business at the little railroad that could, and I expect it will be that way until the holiday weekend. I will most likely have to work every day this week, but I am supposed to have off next Sunday and Monday. I am hoping so, because Michelangelo will be visiting from Chicago. If the weather holds out, we will even get to go to the Wisconsin State Cow Chip Throw and Festival in Sauk Prairie. It's a thing.

The mail was interesting today. I got a postcard from Cris in Seoul. She and Idris have been traveling in Asia, and I also got a postcard when they were in Vietnam. I gather they are now headed home to Italy.

The mail brought a book order for six copies of the Elijah book and three of the mystery. Hooray!

I also got an ad for in-home care for people on Medicare. Uh, not yet 60, folks! (Although pushing very hard.)

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Only it's not funny. I have a friend in the blogosphere who has it now. Sixteen cases have been reported in our county so far this year.

Go wash your hands.

Seriously. Use soap. Wash for thirty seconds.

Don't get crazy, but do get smart.


A couple of years ago, I had a student with special needs (nearly blind) who took one of my classes. I made all sorts of allowances for her -- gave her twice as much time on assignments, helped her with her research (Okay, I looked it all up online and gave her the URLs), and so on. I watered down the expectations a lot on the grounds that she was taking it non-credit and, I thought, just for her own personal enrichment. (Remember, this is a graduate level course. People normally take it as part of their Master's degree program in theology.)

When it was all over, she wrote and said she wanted me to write a letter saying she had done A-level work so that she could use it to get into a doctoral program. Needless to say, I had lots of issues with that. After some conversations with the director of the Carmelite Institute, I decided not to write such a letter, although I did offer to write a letter explaining the work she had done and under what circumstances and even saying that I believed she might be capable of graduate level work. I had not seen it, however, in my class because I had not required it of her.

I thought that was all resolved, but I went away feeling guilty and manipulated and generally icky.

Now she has signed up for another class. As soon as I sent the syllabus outlining the requirements, I got an email saying she [her readers] can't read all that and she can't possibly get papers done on time and on and on and on.

I wrote back explaining that I will be flexible and make allowances as to time and what I expect of the papers. It feels like the same old, same old, though. Makes me wonder if this is a game she plays with all the profs.

Or maybe I am just being too insensitive.

On the other hand, I have worked with students before with cerebral palsy, visual impairment and such things. They did the work, did it on time and did it well. Often they went well beyond the requirements.

Oh, well.

Oh, the weather outside is ...

Weekend of August 29-30: High today of 61 (16.1 C); low tomorrow night of 38 (3.3 C).

Can snow be far behind???????

Friday, August 28, 2009


Today we went to the International Crane Foundation, located between the Dells and Baraboo.

The International Crane Foundation (ICF) works worldwide to conserve cranes and the wetland and grassland ecosystems on which they depend. ICF is dedicated to providing experience, knowledge, and inspiration to involve people in resolving threats to these ecosystems.

ICF differs from most nature centers and conservation facilities in that its activities single out a very specific subject - cranes- rather than treating the natural history and general ecology of a region. But the focus on cranes is not limiting; instead it provides ICF an opportunity to address a series of issues not tied to a particular place: endangered species management, wetland ecology, habitat restoration, and the critical need for international cooperation.

To accomplish its mission, ICF relies on a wide range of education and conservation activities directed toward the many countries where cranes occur.

ICF is concerned with ecosystem protection and restoration and we strive to alert scientists, government officials, and the public to the dependence of cranes on their habitats, the causes and remedies for habitat destruction, and the importance of wetlands and grasslands for both wildlife and people.

ICF supports research, serving primarily as a catalyst for research, by making available its facilities and bird collection to scientists, by sponsoring workshops and publications, and by nurturing a network of conservationists, biologists, and managers around the world.

ICF's efforts to preserve cranes are dependent upon education at three levels. First is Wisconsin and neighboring states, from which residents can easily visit our site and benefit from outreach programs such as ICF's Annual Midwest Sandhill Crane Count. Second, we strive to inform people throughout the United States through outreach programs, films, and national media coverage of our programs. Third, is our international focus. We train and offer expertise in habitat management, restoration, ecology, captive management and propagation to our colleagues in many countries. We also sponsor visits for visiting delegations to ICF, other conservation centers in the United States as well as other countries.

ICF maintains a collection of captive cranes, which allows us to pursue two vital techniques for crane preservation: captive breeding and reintroduction into the wild. Our work also demonstrates endangered species management for the public, and facilitates breeding and education efforts with cranes elsewhere in the United States and aboard.

Our programs stress the interdependence between wildlife and their habitats and the relationships that exist between wildlife, habitat and people. We believe that cranes can serve as a symbol inspiring people from many nations to trust each other and to work together to conserve these magnificent birds.

Their site here is a beautiful, peaceful place. Besides the crane exhibits, there is an extensive area where they are doing prairie restoration. It is a nice place to walk or just sit and enjoy the quiet -- well, with the noise of birds! I was so impressed I became a member. If any of you visit, I can take three guests with me for the tour. Trust me, you'll like it.

And they have volunteers, so this can be yet another place I can get involved. Trains, cranes, books ... where will it all end?

Just something I found from a Texas Lutheran bishop

Sex from the Perspective of Graveside

Where words are many, sin abounds. - Proverbs 10:10

Be still and know that I am God. - Psalm 46

Have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, through prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. - Philippians 4:6

Today we picked out flowers for the casket. Not only was it the same flower shop where we got our wedding flowers 21 years ago, it was the same florist. The owner's daughter. It's ironic how life comes around. We will stand tomorrow in the same place at the same church where Susan was confirmed, and where we were married, and where we buried her mother. And now her father. The end of an era that began decades ago when I stood on her front porch for the first time, for our first date.

And now to her kind, kind father, I have to say goodbye. A lifetime flashes before us. A boy growing up the on the farm. Then a young man flying his first bombing run over Germany on his 21st birthday. He flew 35 missions in all as a pilot of a B-17. I close my eyes and try to imagine those young boys in that paper-thin airplane, bullets whizzing through the cockpit, doing what they had to do. Saving the world from a garish fascism that would have annihilated Jews, homosexuals, political dissidents, the mentally ill, and so on. He once told us the anti-aircraft bullets were often so thick it looked as if you could get out and walk on them. "Were you scared?" I would ask. "We did what we had to do," was his matter-of-fact response.

This is his generation's song. We did what we had to do. This gentle, yet strong man, took everything in stride. He rarely got his ire up. He had the mind of a mechanic. Everything was just a problem to be worked out. He loved puzzles.

He was raised Baptist, then later became a Methodist. He didn't get worked up about the homosexuality issue. He had a live-and-let-live attitude about things. I think he felt sorry for gays and lesbians. He wasn't mad at them. They would not have children. They would be hated. But they were taught never to talk about this. It is taboo. If you're gay, you keep your mouth shut, get married and have kids. Yes, there are people with no attraction to the opposite sex, but this is to be ignored. Society is to pretend it doesn't really exist.

As we met at the funeral home to choose a casket and decide how much waterproofing we needed for our loved one's vault, and how much we would spend on our loved-one's this and that, I watched my 16-year-old son take it all in. "You'll be doing this for me some day," I leaned over to him and said. "I hope." Then all his questions in the car. Why burial? Why cremation? Why embalming? What's it like? Can I touch grandpa? What will he feel like? These are times for deep conversations. The time is now. There will never be a more teachable moment. This we believe. Life is good. God is good. As sad as we are to lose him, we know there is more to life than this life, and we are joyful he has been released from this body of death in which he was trapped. We now say goodbye as he walks down a pathway we cannot yet go, where he will be welcomed by Jesus and a host of loved ones who have gone before us, including his beloved Kay.

We return to the hotel room. Susan reads her dad's letters to his parents from boot camp while I check my email. I have a letter from an angry member, who is threatening to leave the church if I don't do this or that, or say this or that. I sit on the couch and smile, but it is a sad smile. In the light of Ultimate Things, this member's petty manipulation seems so badly focused, his anger so misdirected, for a hundred reasons, I'm not sure what to say. Where do I begin?

Ultimatums are funny things. They are about control. I can control you if you are afraid of something. If you don't do what I tell you, I will leave. If I am truly terrified at the prospect of your leaving, there's no telling what I might do to appease you. Communities get messed up with this kind of stuff. I learned long ago that if I made my decisions by the polls, I made poor decisions. People think pastors are shaking in their boots at the prospect of someone getting mad and leaving. I suppose some pastors do worry. And then they'll blow in the wind, doing whatever they're told, for fear of declining membership and losing their job, when in reality the church needs strong self-defined leaders to grow. Not opinionated, my-way-or-the-highway pastors, but people who are gentle and kind, but won't get pushed around. In the parish, whenever someone said, "Do this or I'm leaving," I usually responded, "We are going to miss you so much." The only way to create healthy community is to take the power out of the equation. Once people see that "I'm leaving" is a playing card that doesn't work on you, they stop using it. And you really need them to stop using it. Congregations where people are constantly threatening to leave in order to get their way are not pleasant places to be. It's like the spouse who threatens divorce in order to get his/her way. It's an ugly, ugly way to be.

At the bottom of things, this conversation is about fear and manipulation, not sex. But I suppose it's also about how we read the Bible, and this has been another disappointing realization for me. Biblical literacy seems so low in our church. We have work to do. When someone can quote Leviticus and assume that it's binding, I marvel. The email writer points out that homosexuality is forbidden in the book of Leviticus as if that should settle things. But Leviticus also says you should stone your daughter to death if she has sex out of wedlock. Everyone knows this is absurd, and yet people continue to act as if everything in the Bible is binding on Christians. I find this astounding. We have so much work to do. Is anyone really proposing we follow all the laws in the Bible? I truly, truly don't understand why this isn't clear to people: The Bible says eating shrimp is an abomination. Do you believe this? Do you follow this law? The Bible forbids lending money at interest. Do you believe this? Do you follow this? Are you proposing a Bibliocracy?

Susan goes through her Father's clothing. His shirts and pants, are so him. They smell like him. They look like him. She decides what to keep and what to give away. She decides to give away his furniture except for a small oval end table that has personal meaning. It's an odd piece, but it has emotional significance. It's so hard to let go of things.

I think people feel this way about change in general. The world has changed. The quaint hyper-patriotic euphoric post-WWII baby-boom world no longer exists. People are grieving the loss. I may struggle with the strange hermeneutics of the Bible being employed, but I understand that there are people who see the world a certain way, and it's changing fast. I wonder what it felt like when we started ordaining women, for those who were strongly opposed. What exactly were they afraid of? Sometimes it's hard to get at. It just may be a loss of what was. I think of America after the Emancipation Proclamation, when European Americans had to accept African Americans into mainstream society. Why was this so hard? What were they afraid of? The slave-enhanced economy might falter? The gene-pool might be weakened? The fragile fabric of society might be somehow irreparably damaged? I'm not sure.

When people are faced with change, they need time to assimilate things. Their first reaction may be joy or anger, but in time we come to terms with the pros and cons of things, and we make better decisions. Try not to let people react too quickly. Don't fuel their anger. Use pastoral conversation to help people dig deeper into their feelings rather than going to the wall and doing something rash. IF they say they're leaving, they may in fact do so. Or they may not. But don't let them make rash decisions in the heat of the moment, decisions that they might regret later. Don't rush things. Give them time.

My parents have flown up for the funeral. It's always comforting to have family nearby at times like these. My family and I don't all agree on everything. We are divided on this and many other issues. And yet we are still family. When we have a stern disagreement on something, no one threatens to leave the family. We love each other too much. We need each other. What unites us is greater than what divides us. I believe this is true of most people in the church. Our love of Jesus, our desperate need of God's grace, and our need of each other binds us together, even when we disagree. People only leave if they don't have this connection. If they don't have that connection, we should let them leave in peace, and find a church where everyone thinks the way they do and where they can get connected in a significant way.

James says be quick to listen, slow to speak, in this coming Sunday's lesson. This is good advice. The author of Proverbs says, "Where words are many, sin abounds." No kidding. Sometimes you just have to listen. When Jesus finished his bread sayings it says many were offended and left his church. He didn't go running after them. Instead he turned to his inner circle: "And what about you?" They responded, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

In my view, the church is not a place where everyone agrees on everything. It's a place where we go to hear the only message that gives life. The church is a place that agrees on these things: God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. Because of this, we are saved by grace through faith, not by our good works. This is a perfectly free and undeserved gift. All people are sinners. None of us deserves God's grace. "By this shall all people know you are my disciples: If you love one another." When all is said and done, the dead in Christ shall rise imperishable, and we shall be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye.

שלומ سلام Peace,

Rev. Michael Rinehart, bishop

The Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

12707 I-45 North Frwy, Suite 580

Houston, TX 77060-1239



After seeing my post yesterday, Tom posted this video of the title sequence for Band of Brothers. You will note this does not have the lyrics, which were written after the series was completed by Frank Musker. The music was composed by Michael Kammen.

Even with words, this is a moving sequence, showing as it does the human face of the (actors representing the) men who fought. Because the series is so long, you get a sense of who these guys were -- remember, it is based on the historical E Company. And you see people die, whom you have come to like and admire. Interspersed with the dramatized episodes are interviews with now-elderly members of Easy Company who survived, adding to the poignancy.

Although I am not much of a war movie or war documentary fan, I agree with Tom in recommending this one. It often shows up on a variety of television channels.



This week I only have one day off from work because Ann is transitioning back to school. So naturally the weather report says we may get thunderstorms ...

Labor Day is coming!!!

Thursday, August 27, 2009


This is a beautiful sung version of the theme for Band of Brothers, a ten-part television World War II miniseries based on the book of the same title written by historian and biographer Stephen Ambrose. The narrative centers on the experiences of E Company ("Easy Company") of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, from Easy's basic training at Toccoa, Georgia, through the American airborne landings in Normandy, Operation Market Garden, the Battle of Bastogne and on to the end of the war.

The lyrics are:

You never lived to see
What you gave to me:
One shining dream of hope and love,
Life and liberty.
With a host of brave unknown soldiers
For your company, you will live forever
Here in our memory.
In fields of sacrifice
Heroes paid the price,
Young men who died for old men's wars
Gone to paradise.
We are all one great band of brothers
And one day you'll see we can live together
When all the world is free.
I wish you'd lived to see
All you gave to me:
Your shining dream of hope and love,
Life and liberty.
We are all one great band of brothers,
And one day you'll see - we can live together,
When all the world is free.

The "band of brothers" reference, of course, is from Shakespeare's Henry V:
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.


No matter what side of the argument you are on, you always find people on your side that you wish were on the other.
- Jascha Heifetz

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Long day

I went in even earlier than usual to unpack, price and shelve some stuff. Then after work, I went to a district meeting. I almost didn't go to the meeting, since I figured I would be late getting away from work and the meeting is in Baraboo. Things were slow getting out of the railroad, but I went anyway and made it with a couple of minutes to spare. Then the district meeting went almost twice as long as usual because we had a guest speaker. By the time I got back home, I was very hungry and tired. Fortunately Tom had made ribs on the grill, so I had a nice (cold) supper.

Now I am ready to crash. I have to work tomorrow because Ann has a school conference and cannot come in. So I will only have one day off this week.

But Labor Day is coming, and then I will have some free time!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Another plagiarized story

This is from Tom's blog, but I had to share it with the Dodd clan:
The local paper reports this morning that Jeremy Heifner, an out of state visitor in the area for a friend's wedding, was having a few drinks with friends after the wedding at a local bar.

A few, as in a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.165, twice the legal limit. The old-fashioned word is "drunk", although probably not "drunk as a skunk".

Semantics aside, the paper reports:

"He doesn't know how he got there, but the next thing he knew he was alone in the dark and standing in a watery marsh, covered with mud, scared and disoriented, he reportedly told police.

Not sure if he'd find alligators or other dangerous creatures, Heifner headed toward the brightest lights he could see in the distance. He came to a building that was locked, found a pipe, and broke a glass window that allowed him to get inside, police said.

While inside the building, he picked up a phone - which allowed him to contact the control center at Columbia Correctional Institution. He said he needed help and prison guards responded, police said in the report.

The building Heifner reportedly broke into is a warehouse building belonging to CCI that sits outside the fence. Following his call, the guards took him into custody and called Portage police, who took him to jail, police said.

Heifner is charged with entry into a building and criminal damage to property, and is free on $400 bail.

Breaking into a prison. That's a first, even for Wisconsin. But at least Heifner didn't get eaten by alligators. That's a plus ...
On a more personal note, someone(s) bought a couple of mysteries.

I imagine you are tired of hearing about the trickle of book sales, but each one makes me happy. ;-)

Monday, August 24, 2009


On our way to dinner last night, Peter was surprised at the sight of some sand hill cranes in a field. They are fairly common around here, but being big birds, they do catch your attention.

On the way home, I saw a pea hen (pictured) alongside the road. I don't know if there are peacocks around somewhere, but this was an interesting sighting.

Schools have started in most of the surrounding states, and business at the railroad was waaaay down today. After Labor Day, we will only be open on Saturdays and Sundays and only until 4:00 PM. I am looking forward to it!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Unsupervised children

Last night at the Sandstone where we went for dinner, they have a sign that I like. It read
Unsupervised children
will be given two cans of Red Bull
and a free puppy.
I am thinking of making one for the museum store that says the same thing, except instead of a puppy, we will give the kids a train whistle for the ride home.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Because these things matter

This weekend is the 46th Annual Badger Steam & Gas Engine Show, Wisconsin's largest exhibit of early American steam-powered and gas-powered equipment. Tom likes to go look at the old tractors. I always expect his intrinsic frugality to break down and let him bring one home to put out front and decorate with who-knows-what. We usually get some cedar chips or pieces from the sawmill exhibit, and I like the flea market.

I couldn't go last year due to work, but this year I am off on Fridays and free to go. Unfortunately the morning began with rain followed by rain and the occasional break for drizzle. I decided that we weren't going to make it to the show and took off for Baraboo to get the mail for the District, part of my duties as treasurer. I picked up the mail, which included a couple of checks, and made a deposit. Then I brought my spreadsheet up to date in preparation for next Wednesday's meeting.

I also somehow managed to make three trips to the library: one, to drop off some books I am donating to the book sale; two, to pick up a couple of items that had come in for me from other libraries; and three, to take Tara a pair of bib overalls and a couple of straw cowboy hats for a hoedown [her word] that she will be attending over Labor Day. I don't know if she intends to wear both hats or give one to her husband.

After all that, I settled down to read a novel by Gore Vidal, but Tom and Peter were both a bit restless and wanted to give the steam and gas show a shot. It had stopped raining, so we headed out. It was okay -- the aisles between the stalls at the flea market were very muddy and in some places huge puddles. I didn't buy anything or even see anything I regret not having bought. Tom bought a belt from a guy that he buys a belt from just about every year. The weather stayed ominous throughout, although no rain fell while we were there. That photo up there is from last year when the weather was nicer. As you can see, they get quite a turnout. For a rainy Friday, it was a respectable crowd today.

Now we are home, getting ready to head out for a fish fry for dinner. For some reason, I have NO energy -- possibly due to the weather and this being the end of my "weekend". Maybe I'll perk up tomorrow.
It is supposed to go down to 47 (8.3 C) tonight. This is August?

Ties that bind

Peter is about to start his new job, so we went to Kohl's last night for him to get some business casuals. He got slacks, dress shirts, ties and sox.

I tried to convince him to get some Jerry Garcia ties, but he did not seem to think it would be appropriate.

I think they would have been perfect.

Young people!

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Chiaroscuro (Italian for light-dark) is a term in art for a contrast between light and dark. The term is usually applied to bold contrasts affecting a whole composition, but is also more technically used by artists and art historians for the use of effects representing contrasts of light, not necessarily strong, to achieve a sense of volume in modeling three-dimensional objects.

The weather today has been a bit chiaroscuro -- blue skies followed by dark clouds, rain followed by sunlight and so on.

There have been other light-dark aspects to the day. I got a letter from a monastery in California telling me how much they are enjoying the mystery and ordering five copies of the Elijah book. It is always nice to sell a few books. I see online that someone bought a copy of the mystery yesterday and another copy of the Elijah book sold today. The nuns' letter also encourages me to get to work on the second novel once work at the railroad slows down after Labor Day.

I went by the bank and put another $10,000 into a certificate of deposit. Not that I am going to get rich on the interest they are paying these days, but it is good to have money earning something.

When I went to the library, however, I found out they have already hired a new guy. He is a young yellow named Jim, very friendly and likely to be a real asset. It does mean, however, that my hopes for a job there are pretty much dashed at this point. Something may change, but I have decided not to put any more effort into that. I will keep up with my volunteer work, and next month I can get involved again with the Friends of the Library. But that is all I will expect to come of it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sunny with a chance of learning

When Tom cleaned up the pile of seed husks under the bird feeder this spring, he piled some of it along the side of the drive. I think he had a vague plan of creating a compost heap. At any rate, recently we have been treated to sunflowers growing out of the decay, and it is an attractive and unplanned garden.

It reminds me of an article Sr. Vilma from Barrington wrote years ago, Meditation on a Compost Heap, about the way life springs up and creates beauty from things we had cast aside as nothing but trash. I admit that the pile of dried and decaying vegetation by the drive never looked attractive to me. Now, however, it is a bright spot in the yard and in my day.

BTW, the forecast gives us an 80% chance of thunderstorms this evening. We may need all the spots of light we can get!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Book update

I got a couple of nice notes today about the books from nuns in New York and New Hampshire. I think the New Hampshire monastery must be the one that bought the three copies of each book recently.

Anyway, it is encouraging to hear kind things from readers.

One thing that amused me was that Sr. Rita (Beacon, NY) was struck by the use of the small raven figures at the end of chapters and on otherwise blank pages in the Elijah book. That was just a way to fill "white space", but for her it was significant.

Who knew?

In fact, the raven is the equivalent of the letter B in a font named Animals. Since it is not an actual image of a raven, I cannot show it on the blog because it would just be a B, at least on blogs that don't have the Animals font loaded. And why would you?

I would like to have used this image of the raven, but it is an animal totem from this site on the internet and I assume it is copyrighted. Very nice, though, and it is said there that
"The raven shows us how to go into the dark
of our inner self and bring out the light of our true self;
resolving inner conflicts which have long been buried.
This is the deepest power of healing we can possess."

Body pillow

Cassidy loves my body pillow. (She looks grumpy because she does not love having her picture taken when she is trying to nap.) She comes in and pushes at it for a while, looking for milk, or so I have been told. Once she is convinced that there is no milk forthcoming, or that she has tenderized it enough to satisfy her, she leans up against it and goes to sleep.

She does this sometimes at night or early in the morning when I am in bed. She crawls over me to get to the pillow, sometimes doing her kneading act on my leg or stomach before settling down to punch the pillow.

Life is rough when you're a cat.

I share this picture and non-story because, although I wound up with a day off from work today so that someone else could make up a day she missed, the best laid plans ganged agley as they aft do. We had hoped to get into Madison, but the weather was rainy and threatened thunderstorms and we passed it up. Of course, once it was too late to go, the storms passed us by completely and the sun came out. Had we gone as planned, things would have ben fine.

Life is rough when you're not a cat, too, sometimes.

I did use some of the time to prepare for work on my next novel. My goal is to complete the first draft in a month, once I get started. Hey, it's a goal.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Comida mexicana con huéspedes y tren

Matthew is hanging out with Dave's grandson this weekend, so we invited John and Judi over for dinner. I was off today and took responsibility for the meal. Usually when we have company, Tom cooks or we get pizza. I knew Mexican would work for everyone and had fun with it.

I made my famous enchiladas suizas, with the usual sides of rice and refried beans. We started with tortilla chips, salsa and guacamole. I even made a pitcher of non-alcoholic sangria and finished it all up with a cake that looked like a train.

Peggy and Rich gave Tom this train baking pan last Christmas and this was the first time I tried it out. (Tom does the fancy baking, while I normally make easy fudge and candy.) It turned out remarkably well. You may not be able to tell much from the picture, but the train consists of a locomotive, a tender (coal car), a couple of tank cars, four other freight cars and a caboose. Because the shape would be hidden by layers of frosting, I just sprinkled different colors of sugar on the cars. I made a track from licorice sticks, added white coarse sugar crystals as ballast (the stones and stuff along the tracks) and green sugar for grass sprinkled with tiny candy flowers.

Yes, it is a bit much. But this is what happens when you leave me home with too much time on my hands.


On my way back from grocery shopping this morning, a grey squirrel ran across Berry Road a few car-lengths ahead of me. I don't know why it was crossing the road (other than to get to the other side), but presumably there was something there that it considered better than what was on the side that it was leaving.

As the car approached, it froze into that familiar pose of panic. I beeped the horn on the Vibe, and the squirrel -- already more than three-quarters of the way to the desired side -- turned and ran back to the departed side. This actually placed it more at risk since it had to cover three times as much distance and cars could be coming in both directions. Also, it gained nothing from its previous efforts, but simply found itself -- propelled by fear -- back where it began, in an unsatisfactory (for whatever reason) place.

Sounds so human, doesn't it? We rush back to a place that was not satisfactory to avoid something we fear, even when it would make more sense and probably be safer to keep going toward our goal.

If this reminds you of anything of a political nature, you are not alone. But then I try to avoid political topics on this blog. I just notice lessons from nature, in faint imitation of SomeOne else who noted lilies of the field and sparrows.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I checked my book sales this afternoon and was quite surprised to see that in the last 24 hours someone[s] had bought three copies of each of my books. I know better than to think this represents a new trend, but it was a delightful discovery.

So, if it was one of you folks out there, thanks a bunch! And if it was a total stranger, well, thanks to you, too!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Updates as developments warrant

Vince asked how Tom and I were doing. This has been a busy sort of week. Tom and John are supervising a group of ten guys hired to help for several days with the track work at the railroad. Things are going very well with that, but they are wiped out by the end of the day. They have been replacing between 75 and 100 ties each day.

Things in the shop have been up and down. This is a pretty bad August in the Dells. Some businesses are down 40%. We had been holding steady compared to last year, but we are definitely not doing as well as we did last August. Still, we will probably come through the summer relatively well.

I am looking forward to Labor Day, though. Then we move to weekends only, and instead of 50-60 hour weeks, I shift down to about 20. Since my salary is spread out over the year, I will have the same paycheck coming in as I do now, but working only about one-third as much. Yay! Will have time to work on a new book, I hope.

Peter is in Maine for a couple of weeks with Helen and Jay. Peggy and Rich are still in Canada. Tom and I are house/cat/mail/plant-sitting. Tom goes over and pampers Molly every morning and evening. I think Peg and Rich may find he has totally spoiled their cat when they get back.

Tomorrow I will go to a meeting and then have coffee and a chat with Barry in the morning, followed by library volunteering in the afternoon. Tom will be at the railroad with the work crew. Friday John and Jude will join us for dinner, and I plan to do something Mexican. Normally Tom would cook, but he has an appointment with his lawyer Friday afternoon about his will. And I like to do Mexican and we have these great plates for it. It's not just about the food -- it's about the whole experience! (I can see Judi rolling her eyes.)

And that's about all there is.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

No matter what

This is a beautiful song from a lesser-known (unknown?) Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Whistle Down the Wind.

Another beautiful song from this work is The Vaults of Heaven:

[Full congregation]
The Keys to the vaults of heaven
May be buried somewhere in a prayer
The Keys to the vaults of heaven
May be heavy or lighter than air

Open up the vaults
Open up the vaults
We've got to find the keys

The nights have been growing darker
They're darker now than sin
We'll open the vaults of heaven
The treasures are there within

The keys to the vaults of heaven
May be seen in a pure child's eyes
The keys to the vaults of heaven
May be heard in our desperate cries

[Solo & Children]
Open up the vaults
Open up the vaults
We've got to find the keys

The nights have been growing darker
Even darker now than sin
We'll open the vaults of heaven
The glories are there within

[The Children]
One sweet day when the whole worlds ready
We'll awake to a glorious sight

[Swallow & Children]
Our saviour returns to guide us
We'll be gratefully blinded by light

[Full congregation]
We've got to find the keys
We've got to find the keys
To open up the vaults
The nights have been growing darker
So much darker now than sin
We'll open the vaults of heaven
And the answers are there, within.

We've got to find the keys
We've got to find the keys
To open up the vaults
The nights have been growing darker
So much darker now than sin
We'll open the vaults of heaven
And the answers are there, within.

Friday, August 7, 2009


Because no single drop of water

thinks it is responsible for the flood.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Light upon the earth

August 6 is the anniversary of the last sacrifice offered in the Temple at Jerusalem before its destruction by the Romans in AD 70. The holy fires of the Temple were extinguished.

It is also the day on which Catholic, Orthodox and some other Christians celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration. As such, it is a feast of divine light shining out through a human being.

It is also the anniversary of the bomb at Hiroshima.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Playing clean up

Last night I cleaned up my Bookmarks media folder. I realized that many of the news services I look at don't inform me so much as irritate me. So I trimmed the list down a lot. (Not totally!) I find it saves me a significant amount of time, too.

And so far the world seems pretty much to be muddling along the same as ever.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

The dragon pile

John, his mother, Katya and Elena stopped back on their way home from Chicago. This time it was the dragons who got a lot of attention. First they were arranged in orderly rows on top of my bed. Then the girls put them into a very neat parade. Finally, they were all grabbed and thrown into a pile in the living room. As you can see below.

John, who truly is a responsible parent, had the girls put all the dragons back on the proper bookshelf in my room before they headed out for ice cream and then back to the motel to listen to a story before going to bed.

And that's the way it is.