Thursday, February 27, 2014

Spiritual Speech Therapy

Sunday's sermon left me simmering like a hot stew.  

Apparently the Jewish leaders went to John the Baptist and asked "Who are you?" 

He denied he was a prophet or Elijah come back from the dead. He described himself as one who preceded the Messiah. One who would cry out hardily, "Here is your God."

John the Baptist was the Voice for God.

having an argument with myself by Probably Okay!
a photo by Probably Okay! on Flickr

By comparison I hear my voice as loud, persistent and judgmental. It is vituperous rather than persuasive. 

The sermon reminded me (again) how sorry I am for the unkind words I dump on my husband like a pan of cold, scummy dishwater. I want a do-over for using sarcasm as a bludgeon on my daughters. I regret complaining over trifles when I have a thousand thousand reasons to be grateful.

photo taken off of blogs, no longer on Munchkin site
Jesus said that our words come out of our hearts. Woe is me for I am a woman of unclean lips and a contaminated heart.  God wouldn't be out of line to scour my offensive inner parts with a stiff brush--a high-pressure version of Mother's old threat to wash my mouth out with soap.

So I prayed:

Lord, I truly long to hear Your patience, sweetness, and mercy, in my voice. 
So God, hush me. Not permanently, please. And I'd hate it if You had to wire my jaw shut, although either scenario could have merit.  I'm thinking more fairy-godmother zap me and make me mute when You know I'm going to spew sewage. 

But I know You're neither a Bippity-bobbity-boo God nor The Terminator. 

You promised to make me new; but, the mystery of the process is vast and the current speech therapy isn't working.

No wonder some Christian orders require vows of silence. Would it jump-start my progress if I were nun-for-a-day? What if I quit talking for Lent? 

I'm all ears.


Thursday, February 20, 2014


I was a bibliophile before I knew there was such a word.

I don't have to own books because I love libraries almost as much as the books they house.

As a youngster in Livermore, California I was allowed to walk to the imposing old brick library by myself. 

I didn't climb the grand steps up to the second floor adult entrance, but entered by the small door on the ground floor to the children's room. My first library card was the size of a credit card, and had a little metal plate with the four raised digits of my user number.  The librarian had a hand cranked machine that imprinted my number on the borrower card, after which I would then press my thumb to the number, still damp with ink. The ritual was part of the fun.

I visited the real and fantasy worlds found on its shelves until adolescence. Then I crept up the stairs to the adult section, waiting for some grown-up to  disapprovingly hiss at me to go back downstairs. They never did. 

The library sat in the center of a city block. I enjoyed the grounds nearly as much as I did the stacks.  As a child I always lingered for a minute at the fountain in front and watched the koi glide around. Gravel walks circled the building, shaded by large oaks. As a teen, my first boyfriend and I spent hours on the benches under the trees--talking instead of studying. 

I was sorry when they built a new library closer to home and Mother insisted I use it.  It didn't smell right, and it was much too bright. 

When we moved to Whidbey Island in Washington State I had to take a ferry, then a bus, to borrow books from the Everett library.  I remember the thrill of entering the library after several months without access. Eventually I had to forsake its luxury for the more practical bookmobile that came to the island. But I missed the hush of the reading room and the tingle I felt when surrounded by hundreds of books.

In college Mizzou's (University of Missouri, Columbia) stacks were open.  I found many books that had been on the shelves since they were bestsellers in the late 1800's. I used them for a history project--the bestsellers up to 1910.  I toted home armloads of original musty first editions like The Virginian (1903), Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1905) and Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1909).

In San Francisco I enjoyed the old Civic Center library, a Carnegie grantee, which opened in 1888. Grand stone steps led to the brass and glass doors. I didn't get to spend enough time there.

Over the twenty six years we lived in Denver, Colorado I checked out sheet music, did research on microfilm and microfiche, and listened to LPs in the  main library. Shortly before we moved they built a massive, elegant addition. There were study nooks, and comfy upholstered reading chairs.  I still use their extensive electronic collection.

Winston Salem main library
I knew I wouldn't have access to the same resources in our small rural NC community. But it was a shock to walk into a "library" that was smaller than my house. Fortunately, they've grown.

  I got a card to the Forsyth library system and enjoy its collection too. 

Electronic borrowing makes thousands of books available from my reading chair, but I miss the quiet walk down the narrow canyons lined with books waiting to be opened. The color of the spine may catch my eye and lead me to a new discovery. Or browsing to the left and right of the book I've specifically hunted down, I find an unexpectedly good read. 

wikipedia creative commons
I visited the Library of Congress last year. I craned my neck to look over the railing to the closed reading room. It reminded me more of a church than a library. I imagine myself sitting there blissfully turning pages of hard-to-find books in a bibliophile's dream-come-true.

Tell me about your first library, what did you love about it? 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Second-Guessing a Splurge

Yo Yo Ma is coming to Winston. And I will be there. 

Tickets aren't going on sale to the general public until August.  I imagined myself sitting up all night in a lawn chair, part of long line waiting for the box office to open. What if they sold out before I got to the front of the line? What if I was forced to buy from a scalper at super-bowl-of-music prices? 

I couldn't rest until I found a way to obtain tickets now

The only way to purchase early was to buy 2014-2015 season tickets. It's a perk (perquisite) for subscribers. The morning after the newspaper announcement I called the symphony offices. I quit breathing for just a moment when I heard the total cost. Would I splurge, or berate myself forever for being stingy?  I forged ahead.  I secured two coveted seats for the special Ma concert, and twelve more during the regular season.

Frugality immediately lobbed pleasure-seeking missiles at my excitement. Prudence ambushed from the rear and set me second-guessing. 

Was it a splurge or was it decadent? They both indicate luxurious indulgence. The nuances differ however. The former, (thought to be derived from a blend of splash and surge),  suggests an isolated event. Repeated splurging denotes decadence. 

I used the following reasoning as a counter-terrorism measure:

1. Was this a rare expenditure or part of a pattern? Rare as a pink diamond.

2. Did I shirk any responsibility or have to borrow money?  No. Besides, I earn travel miles on my credit card.

3. Additionally, I spent that much on the recent heating bill which caused excitement--but the negative kind that starts with disbelief and ends with swearing.

4. Seven nights with the symphony would be far more fun than replacing the deceased dishwasher, and I didn't think twice about that

5. Compared to the $75K peacock feather coat or a $40K necklace advertised in the Wall Street Journal, my purchase was a trifle, a bargain!   

The arguments routed self-reproach. Reason shot down shame.

Shaking off the dust from the skirmish, I emerged a patron of the arts.

* see my January 16th post.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sprigs: Persian Buttercups

Five pots of Persian Buttercups (ranunculus asiaticus) are hibernating in my dining room. 

Once I bought a lush bouquet of them from a Paris street stall. The petals grew tightly packed luxurious layers, creamy yellow, orange and red. They brightened our dark little hotel room for the week, and I faded long before they did. They became my new favorite flower. 

Overly optimistic about our winter temperatures, my first attempt to grow them fizzled. I later settled for silk flowers that are quit realistic if you don't get too close. But of course they have no scent, and I can't caress the petals the way I would live flowers. 

So I bought a pack of twenty five dry and shriveled tubers. I let them sit in water for 24 hours to get reconstituted. They looked like plump fibrous spiders when I planted them, with the "body" up and the "feet" down. 

If all goes well, they should sprout in a few weeks and be ready to transplant--or leave in the pots--for gorgeous June blossoms.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

One Good thing about Winter

I found one good thing about winter this week--a sunset.

It started with a rosy golden blush reflected on the snow.

The color swelled like a crescendo, deepening to salmon and prom-dress pink.

The jet streams looked painted onto the sky. 

The zenith was a stupendous burst of color that froze my boots to the ground.  

Two minutes later it shimmered away like dying sound rolling off a gong.