Thursday, July 31, 2008

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity-Jig

I'm home from my outpatient surgery. Got discharged around 2:30. I've got to see my doctor for follow-up in two weeks, after the lab work comes in, but in his judgment everything looks all right.

Praise God and hooray!

I'm told I'm supposed to rest and do no work the next two days. I established that "work" means going out in the garden and pulling weeds. I didn't ask if it also meant sitting in front of my computer working on church-related matters. Or blogging.

If it does, too bad. I've gotten that "work" done and now I can do my relaxing with a clear conscience.


I'm due at the local med center at 9:30 tomorrow morning [later today], to check in for outpatient surgery for the health problem I noticed in June.

I feel fine. I'm not even worrying. That will resume when I'm waiting for the results of the biopsy thereafter.

Routine procedure dictates that I must ingest nothing by mouth after this past midnight. Not a lozenge, not a stick of gum, not a swig of toothpaste water (ick). The rule is so strict, I'm surprised they don't tell you you can't swallow your own spit.

I know what it's for. They don't want to run the slightest risk that you'll have a bad reaction with the anesthesia while you're under and throw up and choke. So I'm observing the strictures-- meaning that as soon as midnight struck, I was immediately sensible of a raging thirst, even though I'd had a couple glasses of water within the half hour!

Funny, what your mind will do to you.

I've finished the draft of my sermon for Sunday, so I can lie around Friday and Saturday, if need be. It's about two-thirds the length of my usual productions, and if anything, it needs cut down even more. The church I'm supplying this Sunday has Sunday School scheduled exactly an hour after the beginning of worship, and this is a Communion Sunday. With all three Lectionary readings. And a children's sermon, and a choir anthem. And they'll probably want at least ten minutes to get from the sanctuary to the classrooms. That leaves me fifty minutes if I'm lucky to get through everything.

Dickens of a way to do things, but it's the way it is.

Besides, the official Sunday School beginning time may be one of those merely monitory things, to keep people from showing up to class at half-past the hour.

On the other hand, the lady who called me from the Med Center said I was to be at the Outpatient Surgery door at 9:30 AM. Period, the end.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Fun Applet

Look what I just made! (Click on the image to see it bigger, since I haven't figured out yet how to do that)

That's a word cloud based on Sunday's pickle post. Made it on, a fun site I picked up from Chris Roseborough's blog. Don't click on the Wordle link if you don't have some time to play!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

In a Pickle

Funny, what a creature I can be of happenstance.

In this case, in regard to what I plant in each year's backyard garden, and what I do with the produce that comes from it.

This year, in May, I happened to visit a certain local garden center on a certain day, and they happened to have pickling cucumber plants for sale. So I got a four-pack of those, and a four-pack of regular cukes.

I planted them, and now in the fullness of time, I have-- cucumbers. A good many cucumbers. Too many to eat fresh, too many to give away.

So I resolved to make-- pickles.

But I was lost in a cookbook maze of crocks and brining and pickling salt and who knows what all. And that was before I could get to the vinegar and spices end of the process.

But there were all those pickling cucumbers! Nothing daunted, I hied myself to the local Agway to buy me some of this magical pickling salt. Maybe they could sell me a crock as well! And it so happened that there I discovered the pickle amateur's salvation, in the form of powdered pickling mix proffered by the estimable Mrs. Wages!

This evening I shook off the leading strings of happenstance. It was time to pickle! I assembled my forces and got to work. I used all the pickling cukes I had on hand, and part of an ordinary one, for good measure. I sterilized my jars and lids and boiled my water and timed my processing.

And now I have eight pints made with half the Polish Dill mix. Did spears, since even the smaller cukes were too big to put in whole. Could've filled one more jar, but alas! I was out of dome lids. If the bushes keep yielding, I'll have to get more Mason jars!

To be on the safe side, I used Mrs. Rombauer's fifteen-minute timing for the boiling-water processing, instead of Mrs. Wages' five. Knowing me, if I'd stopped at five I would've given myself a stomach ache when it came time to eat the pickles, worrying that they might possibly be off, even if they were perfectly good!

I am reliably informed that dill pickles are best if allowed to sit for six weeks before eating. We shall wait, and see what we have in early September!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sad, Mad, Bad, Glad

We had a long, useful, and thanks to the weather and no air-conditioning, exciting and sweat-drenched presbytery meeting tonight.

Some of the business was sad: We agreed to terms to dismiss one of our congregations to another denomination. The process was earnest, but withal gracious and amicable . . . now we get to see if our denominational headquarters stirs up our synod to challenge the decision. It's happened before, to other presbyteries.

Some of the business was mad: Some very bizarre decisions came out of the latest General Assembly, and we're still considering the best way to respond to it all.

The weather, for awhile, definitely got bad. I dashed downstairs to the ladies' lounge right after the Executive Presbyter's report, thinking I'd never get through the hour and fifteen minutes of business scheduled before break if I didn't. But as I started to come upstairs, I saw my colleagues streaming down.

"We're in a tornado warning," they said. "We're breaking now for refreshments, since they're set up down here."

And that's what we did, until word came in that the storm was tracking just three miles north of us. Grabbing cookies and cheese and crackers as we went, we, like a very discursive and not wholly biddable flock, were herded down to a lower level still, to the activity hall below the fellowship hall.

(A lady from the church was upset that such a thing should happen when they were hosting presbytery; I said, no, it's great: Their building gave us a safe place for us to reconvene, and we were using all their facility.)

And with business and happenings sad, mad, and bad, we had some that was glad.

It was glad news to hear that our presbytery is outstanding and first in the denomination for taking up the official 2007 challenge for every church to support a missionary in some way.

And it was glad because we successfully examined two of our own ministerial candidates, a father and daughter, who'll be taking up pastorates in other presbyteries. And we held examinations for three new colleagues who will be coming in.

I was wondering if I'd have to commit an act of ecclesiastical disobedience for awhile there: It was proposed and adopted that given the amount of business tonight, the examinations would be divided up and which presbyters dealt with which candidates would be determined by what color index card you were randomly handed at registration. There were two of the incoming candidates I'd been looking forward to seeing and perhaps questioning, and I didn't want to lose the fun!

One was a fellow blogger, with whom I've exchanged post comments on this blog and on his. Another was a former colleague from the presbytery of my first call. (I was recalling old times to him during the refreshment time, and he kept saying, "Well, cover me with batter and fry me!" Hilarious!)

In the end, I was where I wanted to be. All three of our candidates (for a bonus, we also had a neophyte coming in from another Pennsylvania presbytery) weathered their examinations well, despite the lights going out a time or two. And in case any of them were wondering, there was no debate while they were out of the room: It was AllinfavorsayayeAYYYYYE!!allopposedsamesignokay,examinationsustained.

We got out sometime after ten, a little excited, somewhat nervy, and very tired. The air was cool, the skies mostly clear. I had a drive of an hour or more to get home; it'll be a longer drive into the future before we see what comes of what we accomplished tonight.
More photos at They're the last ones posted; no captions yet.

My Great Britannic Adventure, Day Nineteen

Tuesday, 4 April, 1989
Holford (the Quantocks) to Wells to Bristol to Holford
Day Nineteen

This morning, after I’d mailed some cards at the post box in the wall of the shop across the road, I made good on my intentions to explore more of the
immediate area.

Passed several cottages with picturesque names till I got to the church. Went through the
lychgate and up to the church itself. Not stunningly memorable,† and I came out and tried the path that ran alongside the churchyard. It gave out into a broad, flat field of no particular interest. So I returned and, once more out of the precincts of the church, continued south till I came to a footpath giving the distance to Alfoxton. This is where I would have stayed if they hadn’t been full.

Before mounting that path I passed a
thatched cottage I liked very much. But it was clumsily obscured by a road works machine. Can’t imagine why they use those monstrous great contraptions on little roads like this.

The drive to Alfoxton turned out to be private, so I took the footpath to the left, past what seemed to be an outbuilding for the community
dog pound, donated by the Alfoxton family. This led through more deciduous wood, though to my left I could see a valley, dotted with all sizes of sheep, some of which came up to the fence bounding the wood to investigate my passage. There were quite a few little settlements in this dale, some of which were unfortunately composed of trailers. Cheap, convenient-- and ugly.

The wind was still pretty stiff today and I admit that after I got above the trees I rather wondered if I’d not taken all this a bit lightly, going out as I had with only my cameras and my car keys. Well, too late to think of that now.

More sheep grazing in the moor growth by the roadside and in among a clump of solemn, ceremonial-looking pines on the side of the eminence I was mounting. Turns out the ceremonial aspect was intentional. The pines were planted in the '40s in honor of the men and women of the surrounding villages who’d fought and/or died in the Second World War.

I came to what looked like the top but saw that no, the path led to the southwest to a higher stand. I pushed on, wind and all, to that. The weather was determined not to reward me with
the view I suppose would’ve been mine had it been clear. But I still could see the saltwater channel to the north.

However, the way the clouds were moving in didn’t look too reassuring. Another drenching like those of Iona I could forego. I made good time back down into the trees, where the wind was not so punishing. Soon I came upon a party ahead of me, two women and a number of children and dogs, all apparently foraging casually for kindling wood. This spread-out and leisurely group occupied the path, which I myself was taking none too hastily, and kept ahead of me till not far above the dog pound, where I passed them.

Took a different way back to the B&B cottage, once I was back to the paved roads. I was happy to see the construction machine was gone from in front of the cottage I’d admired, so I was able to get a shot of it. And I was able to examine the flowers, still mostly nameless to me, that grow along the roadside. There was a stream running alongside and many little paths over and beside it which I had no time now to explore. Maybe someday.

Shortly after noon I took out the car and drove east along the A39 to

I’m glad I stopped to admire the
cathedral's west front on Sunday, as the sun, if it was out at all today, was only making the most coy and fleeting of appearances. Still, I was able to study the cathedral’s interior sculpture sufficiently. Those stiff leaf nave capitals are simply amazing. They’re so wonderful you could eat them. I made sure to look for the story capitals and was lucky enough to come upon a cathedral guide who was describing them for the benefit of whomever cared to listen. They’re in the south transept, west side, as it happens.

And I had the chance to watch the
indoor clock, with its jousting knights, strike the hour of 4:00.

Which reminds me, I was there that late because before heading to the cathedral I stopped at a tea shop in the High Street and lunched on a grilled ham and cheese sandwich and treated myself to a
cream tea. And made an indulgent pig of myself and made sure I eked out the scones to justify eating every bit of the clotted cream and every bit of the strawberry preserve and felt no remorse about it, either.

Anyway, at the cathedral. I was able to see the fantastic
chapterhouse stairs, and not in entirely bad light. The ensemble looks smaller than it does in the photographs but also not as gloomy. It’s all in golden stone and beautifully patina’d and worn by all those clerics-- and tourists. I had to admit that today we would’ve put in an extra storage closet to take up the excess space left after we’d supplied the canons with a regulation-width stair. And I immediately decided to hell with modern spatial efficiency. It’s delightful as it is, from dozens of different angles.

The chapterhouse, off the stair to the right, is the classic circular kind with a column in the middle and the canons’ seats all round the walls, with their prebends named over them. Though I suppose the existing brass plates are recent replacements. They say they give concerts in there, though not just now as the ceiling is being restored.

The stair goes on up to a corridor leading to the canons’ refectory, still in use these days. In the passage they’ve set up an exhibition of the archaeological history of Wells, including photographs of the bones of bishops they dug up after they’d been buried below the cathedral floor for centuries. This had mostly been done in the last century, by those literal-minded Victorians who couldn’t leave anything to stay put.

Made my pilgrimage to the cathedral shop just before it closed at 5:15. As well as the usual postcards and information booklets I purchased a little devotional book on the Psalms. Something like that might do me good.

Having purchased still more Somerset postcards and a shocking pink highlighter (to mark my actual, as opposed to my proposed, route in my road atlas) at the W. H. Smith’s, I took off northwest along the A371 towards Cheddar.

It was too late in the day to sample any real Cheddar cheese but I could still enjoy the
Cheddar Gorge, outside of the town. Leaving aside more spectacular formations that occur in other countries, the Gorge is in itself a spectacular natural feature. You’re tootling along in this nice, innocuous rolling English countryside and then, wham! high rock walls on either side, stretching up to heaven, their fissured sides doing an offbeat undulating dance with the road that goes through between. Not the best weather for seeing the place but at least there weren’t any more tourists around at this time of day. Only locals who can now take it for granted and were probably wondering why they had to get stuck behind the only rubbernecking tourist (me) who was around.

If they do take it for granted they shouldn’t. Somerset is an amazing county.

Crossed the A368 at Barrington and noted the turnoff for Blagdon. That’s where we [our Oxford group of year-abroad students] went to enjoy a cream tea after visiting Bath in March. Picked up the A38 at that crossroads and continued on to Bristol, for the sole purpose of again seeing the
Clifton Suspension Bridge. It’s a perfectly wonderful thing, up there over the Avon Gorge.

When I got there I left the car and walked back to the river Avon where I could attempt some pictures, despite the fog.

Then I took the car and tried to get closer, but had a deal of a time finding my way onto the Hotwell Road (that runs by the river) in the first place. I finally did but could find nowhere to stop for quite awhile. Got way north of it, turned around, and finally located a coach stop on the way back. Walked up along the side of the road till the bridge was in sight, now
all lit up outlined with white lights in the foggy dusk. The photos are purely experimental, as I doubt my hand-holding was steady enough. And I was trying for some streaky headlight effects at very low shutter speeds.

Maybe I’ll have time to come back tomorrow, and it’ll be nicer.

Meant to catch the M5 at Portishead but instead got on the road to meet it at this side of
Weston-super-Mare. One of my wrong turns that came out all right, for a change.

By the time I got the A39 at Bridgwater it was snowing. Not a bad thing in itself but impossible to see the curves without the brights.

As a reward for a long day and not having any stupid accidents on the way, after reaching Holford I took myself to
the pub and treated me to a glass of cider. Took it and Uncle Walter to a table in the dining area and drank and read, between listening casually to the conversation filtering over from the bar proper.

One of the men in the group started to sing and another shushed him. Whereupon the singer said, "Dammit, this is a local pub and there’s nobody but us locals here and we can sing if we want to!"

Cannily, Mrs. Ayshford, who was on duty, kept silent about my presence, and several of the jolly company took up some song. Alas, modern culture intervened-- some idiot in the snooker room geared up the juke box-- and Real Music retreated from the field. It was really too bad.

Packed and planned my route for tomorrow before retiring. Tried not to read too late.
†Neither my memory nor my trip journal tells me whether I entered the church itself. If it was unlocked and I didn't bother, I am a retrospective idiot. Photos available online show that the Church of St. Mary the Virgin at Holford has some wonderful carving in wood and stone, a delightful little organ, and some lovely work in embroidery and stained glass. Did I think if it didn't sport flying buttresses, it wasn't worth seeing?

Monday, July 21, 2008

I've Given In

. . . To creeping middle age.
I've always hated the look of eyeglass keepers. Nothing says Over the Hill like an eyes-going-bad, where-the-hell-did-I-put-that-pair-of-specs, jawline-jowl-enhancing eyeglass string.

I mean, not even Tom Selleck looked good with them actually on-- which probably is why you can't find a picture of him with his glasses-on-a-cord anywhere but dangling on his sexy chest.

But I've given in. It was either keep my close-up, high-magnification glasses tied to me, or go on looking like a total dafty running round trying to find them. I spent two or three dollars more for the handmade-in-India beaded model-- it reminds me of the hippie-dippy days of my misspent youth.

Hey, that's it! My new eyeglass keepers aren't a sign of advancing senescence! They're returning me to my childhood! I mean, aren't they a lot like that string your mother used to sew on your mittens and thread through your coat sleeves, to keep you from losing them?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Test Results

I had my conference with my doctor this morning, and I was surprised to find I didn't have anything to be surprised about.

After all, three weeks ago when the nurse practitioner sent me for the sonogram, she did say I'd most likely be going for a biopsy thereafter. I mean, if nothing had shown up on the sonogram, where'd the initial symptom come from?

Only thing different is that the kind of biopsy I'm being sent for will entail my going under general anesthesia, not a local plus a head drug to send me into LaLa Land. I don't mind that for me-- I deal with anesthesia well enough. But it certainly adds to the cost.

The doctor was good-- or factual-- enough to say that the possibility of cancer is way down low on the list. That's a nice little sop to quiet the kishkas.

I'm to hear next week when the biopsy will be. And see how it goes from there.

After I left the doctor's office, I sat on the banks of the river, reporting in to my friends Frieda* and Hannah*, and watching the boats at their moorings. Something very peaceful about boats, I always think, whether they're going any place or not . . .

Thursday, July 10, 2008

And Now, in the Medical News . . .

Almost four weeks ago, I discovered that my body was doing something it should not have been. Nothing shocking, or alarming . . . just . . . out of place.

So being a person of my time, I Googled this symptom, and found that it can betoken anything from stress or a mild infection, all the way up (or down) to cancer.

And that one should see one's physician about it as soon as possible. Which I did, in the next few days.

Findings from that examination were inconclusive. Actually, the test needed could not be run on me in the doctor's office. So I was sent for a sonogram at the regional medical center.

That came off on the 1st. The tech told me I'd have my results back in "one or two days." And that usually, if everything's fine and negative, they won't phone you at all.

I waited the 2nd. No word. The 3rd. No word.

Didn't consider myself out of the woods yet. "One or two days" can stretch to three and even four, if the lab is busy. And Friday the 4th was a holiday and Saturday and Sunday were, well, Saturday and Sunday. A friend of mine who's been through breast cancer and come successfully out the other side told me I should be sure and call the doctor's office regardless, to find out. Said she knew a woman who didn't know her test had come up positive until the hospital called her six months later to learn what treatment she'd undergone for the disease she wasn't aware she had.

Yes, I told F*, I was going to call on the Monday anyway. Count it as the third day.

And I did. Left a message at the voice prompt for "test results." Got a call back a couple hours later: "Oh, yes, your results are on the doctor's desk. He'll look at them and get back with you tomorrow."

No word on Tuesday. Was it because there was nothing to tell? After all, for the past two and a half weeks I haven't observed the symptom that drove me to the doctor's office three weeks ago. If I have any pain, it's my digestive system doing my worrying for me-- a task my brain never asked it to undertake-- and it varies with what and when I eat-- whether I'm occupied with work and other people or sitting around with an idle mind--which all sounds like stress to me.

But Wednesday morning, early yesterday, I got a call from the physician's nurse. She said, "The doctor wants to make an appointment with you to come to his office to discuss the options on your sonogram."

The appointment is set for 9:40 tomorrow morning.

But "options." What's this "options"? Will I have "options" indeed, or is that just doctor-speak for "Either have major surgery tomorrow or expect to drop dead in two weeks"?

I guess I'll find out. Meanwhile, I'm mentally practicing being intelligent and receptive of whatever he'll have to say. I don't want to sit there looking stupid-and-stunned or launching myself into the hinterlands of denial.

And I'm praying there will be nothing to go into denial about.

Monday, July 07, 2008

What Happened

I've met this evening with my Committee on Ministry.

It's been a few years since my Scouting days, but I am yet undergirded by the motto, "Be Prepared."

And I was. A week or two ago I caught a rumor or two of what might be wrong. That maybe they thought I hadn't done some things I was asked to do when my last call ended four years ago. So I got to work and documented that I'd taken care of all but one thing, and that one thing depended upon others, not on me.

I presented this to my executive presbyter before the main meeting, and by the time I was called in, it was no longer an issue.

I was prepared.

But I wasn't prepared for some other things.

I asked for this meeting because one committee member told me, "You're being stymied for some reason, and you need to find out why."

Turned out, I'm not exactly being stymied. At least, not by my presbytery. Tonight I learned they have referred me for Interim Pastor positions-- it was the churches who chose not to ring me up. And as for why I've had only a handful of contacts via our centralized PC(USA) computerized church-pastor dating service in Lullvull, and why Lullvull made me no matches at all from late January to early May-- I should ask Lullvull. My presbytery hasn't been saying unflattering things about me!

Let me tell you, this made me feel like an idiot. But saying, "But Leslie* said I was being stymied!" would not cut it. It would impress no one with my grace and maturity. No.

So I asked what would make them feel able to enthusiastically recommend me if a church did call them for a reference.

Are you prepared for this?-- (I wasn't)-- they said, "Get a job."

Ain't that something to make a girl feel like a pimply twenty-four-year-old drinking beer and watching ESPN on his mother's coach at 3:00 in the afternoon on a weekday!

They said they want something definite to say when inquiring pulpit committees inquire, "What is she doing now?" And, they reminded me, a suitable church position may not come up for me for months still. And no, it wouldn't be rude or unchristian to quit my secular job to follow my dream when one does.

I see. Working on my house (sometimes) and in the garden does not give them a high opinion of my industry. Nor, I suppose, do part time pulpit supply, sending out resumes, and hoping people look at the ads on my blogs cut it for them as great ways to support myself.

Well, I've got this application for a manager trainee position at a grocery store chair, and they're paying more than I've ever made in my life. And I suppose if I'm hungry enough I'll make myself get up in time to open the store and receive shipments and all by 5:00 AM . . .

But I've got a couple of architects to bother as well. If anybody's building anything in this blinking economic climate!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

And Now for Something Completely Frivolous

Here's something I found in my files when I was commenting on people's comments on my June 26 post:

Yeah, that's me, back in 1985, with Galadriel, my 1950 Chevrolet Deluxe. Alas, I had to sell her a few months later: She was getting to be too much of an art project (vs. transportation), and I couldn't afford it.

(BTW, if I've misremembered and anyone recognises her as a 1951 instead, let me know. I've mislaid my file-- and parts of my memory.)

I Haven't Fallen Off the Edge of the Earth

Just deep into some work I have to take care of before Monday night.

But I've finally posted my sermon from last Sunday. It's here.

And I've got several other pulpit supply assignments lined up for the summer, always assuming . . .

Well, we'll see. God is faithful; may I be, too.