Monday, February 25

Foster Cat - Week One

About a week ago I saw this little cat on Facebook. My good friend and animal lover Melissa shared it from her friends at the Roanoke Angels of Assisi. The post indicated that the cat had been left behind when her family moved and that in the shelter she was unresponsive. She wasn't eating or drinking and was generally so unhappy that she was making herself sick.

My friends and family know what happened next - I felt such tremendous empathy for the little cat that I said to Melissa and her compatriots at A of A "I will ask my housemates if we could take her in for a little while." My generally agreeable housemates said okay (well, Dad said okay...I believe Mom said "whatever") so little Avocado was headed to share a house with me, my wonderful housemates and the world's rudest cat, Toey.

The best side of Rude Cat
Since Toey pays neither mortgage or rent - I decided she had no say in the transaction. When will I ever learn? Regardless of her station in our house - Toey always has something to say. Generally her statements over the last have been "hsssssssssss" and "arorowah" (not sure how to spell the gutteral screeching).

For her part, Avocado has been perfectly lovely. As circumstances unfolded, instead of meeting in Bedford to transfer Avocado to my care - I ended up driving to Roanoke to pick her up. Her transport wasn't going to be able to arrive in Bedford till 8:30 or it looked like she would have to spend another miserable night at the shelter. My empathetic sensibilities just couldn't allow ROAD TRIP! Off I went, stopping to pick up animal nut Melissa for company to Roanoke (she also needed to retrieve her car from the Star City...long story...I think it involved margaritas and first responders, but I can't be sure).

When we arrived at Angels of Assisi we met Avocado...who miraculously had changed from the miserable kitty who Facebook indicated was dying of a broken heart - into a purring and curious cat ready for a road trip. The shelter folk kept apologizing for "misleading" me - they insisted that she was making liars out of them, but that she had only started perking up about 6:30. That was exactly when I hit the road for Roanoke. Chaz and Chelsea just didn't know how powerful my aura is! As soon as Avocado heard from the universe that I was on the way - she knew all would be okay. Well...that is what I believe anyway. They packed her some food and litter and put her in a cardboard cat carrier and helped me get her in my car.

As soon as they were back inside the building I let her out of the box. I know it isn't exactly recommended...but I couldn't have her spend an hour in a box!! She headed to the back window of the Taurus and cried until Virginia Conversations (a political talk show on public radio) went off and Smooth Jazz came on. Then she relaxed, watched traffic and dozed off. When I arrived home I just opened the back door, picked her up and carried her in the house. She didn't try to bolt or scratch or anything.

'Cado (sorry, I can't call her's either Avo or Cado, sometimes Little Cat. Carl said that Avocado is a dog's name. Huh?) is the most laid back feline I have ever met. Even with Rude Cat making ugly sounds and being unwelcoming - 'Cado just ignores her. I think she would love to make friends with her cranky housemate - but it isn't bothering her at all. She eats, sleeps, wanders around the house...plays with toy mice...even spent some time on the lap of a happy man!

Available - One Rude Cat

If your home needs a very pleasant cat - check out her profile and how to adopt on the Angels of Assisi website. Or if you've always wanted a really seriously hideously rude cat - I'm up for a trade-in.

Saturday, February 16

Subtraction or Addition? Multiplication is better than Division.

So - the promised post about what I'm giving up for Lent:

No, I am not Catholic...but from my earliest memory of Lent, my family (spurred by church or by choice) has practiced the tradition of self-sacrifice for Lent. As a kid I remember my mother telling tales of her grandmother giving up movies for Lent - although she had never been to a movie in her life! In our family we were encouraged to actually give up something that we would miss. For me, it was often candy or desserts (though I didn't always make it to Easter) because giving up TV would have been too hard. I remember trying to give up Coke (the drink!) some year...I believe I made it to Ash Wednesday night before the cold sweats took over and I gave up something else.

This year I have chosen to give up McGriddles again...and meat. Beef, chicken, pork, bacon, goat...and although it hasn't been easy so far - I think that I can stick to it. I am allowing myself eggs and fish. And I'm still sticking to my Coke on one day a week that I've pretty much held to for 2 years. But some would ask - why? Why put yourself through this? One of my good friends is giving up digital media in the evenings - no longer on Facebook or emailing or texting at home. Another friend is giving up TV. Why sacrifice?

For me, it is simple - every time I'm confronted with the ham sandwich or meatball or delicious looking pork loin AND make the conscious decision to say serves as a reminder to me. A reminder of the sacrifice that God made for me when he sent his son - and the sacrifice that Jesus made for me when he allowed himself to be crucified. I need reminders. I find that it is easy to skate along through life and just think about my faith when it is convenient to me. If God had that same attitude I would still be needing to sacrifice a couple of pigeons or a lamb every time I wanted to communicate with him. (mmm....lamb...)

Other members of my family are using the opposite side of the equation for Lent - addition. Instead of giving up something, they are adding something positive to their lives (I guess they are giving up time...or energy...or laziness) like walking 30 minutes a day. I think it is just the other side of the same coin. In fact, today I went to the Lynchburg District UMC training and enjoyed a great sermon by the Virginia Annual Conference Bishop Cho. He challenged all of us as leaders in our churches to spend 1 hour each day in spiritual discipline. Not anything like whipping ourselves or running off to join monasteries. His intent is for us to each spend 1 hour of every day in prayer, study, meditation and reflection. That is a great idea. I am giving that great consideration.

So - subtraction or addition? As long as it leads to a deeper faith, I think it can be whichever works best for you. And since we're on the topic of math...

The breakout session that I attended this morning was about communications (led by one of my favorite humans on Earth - the Rev. Liz Ecklund). I went because I am chair of communications at Centenary United Methodist and am interested in how to communicate better. There was sharing of what participants are doing now (newsletters, bulletins, web pages) and ideas of things we could be doing (Facebook, Twitter, advertising...maybe even blogging?). During that session there was an exchange about how much good we can do by telling our stories...and how much damage we can do by telling our stories.

If we are sitting in a restaurant telling our friend about the exciting thing coming up at church (music, mission, worship, entertainment...) and someone overhears they can know that our fellowship is positive and there are things happening that are impacting the community around us. On the other hand...if we are sitting at the restaurant gossiping about who did what to who and how we "can't believe she/he would dare to show their face in church" or how we "may have to forgive but are darn sure not going to forget" - well, you can see what that kind of storytelling reflects.

We have to watch what story we are telling - whether it is through our actions (inside or outside the church) or our inaction. I think my favorite story of the session was this: Pastor Liz and Pastor Rick were visiting the new church that Rick had been assigned to (many years ago) and let themselves into the church on Saturday afternoon through the education building. Straight ahead was a bulletin board that was faded and missing letters in the headline. The picture that was the centerpiece of the bulletin board was a beautiful curly haired blonde boy lying on a rough altar. His father stood over him about to plunge a knife into his chest. (the scene of the near sacrifice of case you didn't recognize it) Wow. Welcome, guests!!

What story are you telling?

Look around and see what story your church is telling?

Is it communication to be proud of? If the answer is yes, share your ideas! If the answer is no, then let's work on that...ok?

Division - through gossip, unwelcoming attitudes, petty nit-picking - just reduces the potential. Multiplication expands potential. Which side of the equation do you want to be on?

Tuesday, February 12

The post less blogged about....

While I was driving home I was trying to decide which of two topics I would blog about - Lent (what would I give up or add during Lent) vs. Avenue Q (the Broadway musical). Some of my readers will be disappointed with my decision (but I'll write about the other tomorrow).

I have decided to tread the road less traveled...the road to Avenue Q!

I saw the show on Broadway about 6 years ago when my sister-from-another-mother Belva and I were asked to accompany a young friend to New York City. The young man was the son of our pastor, a budding performer who had decided to visit NYC with a couple of friends during spring break. They were all in high school and were going to stay in a hostel and see shows...a grand adventure! But then his friends backed out and his parents were not keen on the idea of their son roaming the streets of the city alone. Pretty wise thought process!

So they asked Belva and I to substitute and take young Joseph. I agreed, but refused to stay in a hostel....if I wanted bedbugs there are any number of places in Lynchburg I could go get bedbugs. So Joseph's parents entrusted him to us (perhaps a less wise thought process...) and we jumped on Amtrak and headed to the Big Apple.

I will leave the details of the trip itself out of this post - but if you want to hear some hilarious tales, get me a couple of Irish Car Bombs and I will spill... After all "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" but we didn't go to Vegas!!

We saw two shows during our few days (if you count only Broadway shows...I recall a show of sorts in that gay bar down in Chelsea....). We saw The Odd Couple with Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane - which was absolutely incredible. And I'm not just saying that because I loved Matthew Broderick from the time I saw War Games...the entire production was excellent. And I know that I have seen The Odd Couple a dozen times (including a few female versions) - it was like seeing again for the first time. The other show that we saw was Avenue Q. Which I had not heard much about (even though it had won the Tony for Best Musical in 2004...beating out Wicked!).

Joseph and Belva had gone to the 1/2 price ticket outlet to get our tickets (I needed a nap because I had a fever...broke it later with the aforementioned Irish Car Bombs) and with their damaged thought processes - managed to get us 2 tickets together and 1 single. This turned out to be a stroke of good luck - because I'm not sure that Avenue Q is meant to be enjoyed in the presence of the pastor's son. Despite the muppet-like puppets, make no mistake - this is a very adult themed show!!

Next week Randolph College will be presenting their production of Avenue Q - directed by Jim Ackley and supported by some cast members from the community. When I heard that the show was going to be at Randolph College my first question was "a road show or are they trying to do this themselves?" And when I discovered that it was a local production, I was not sure that they would be able to pull it off. I am far more confident in the possibility of a quality performance with the addition of Jim Ackley. Jim was one of the key people who helped build the highly respected E.C. Glass Theatre program. I attended Amherst County HS, so I don't worship him - but I do think he is very talented and I am excited to see this upcoming show.

But I want parents to understand that this is not a show for children!! A quick look at song titles from the soundtrack will give you a clue: It Sucks to Be Me, The Internet is for Porn, Everyone's A Little Bit Racist and You Can Be As Loud As The Hell You Want (When You're Making Love) are just a few of the songs in the first act. Don't get me wrong...this is a great show. Hilarious. And I love listening to the soundtrack - in fact I really want "I'm Not Wearing Underwear Today" as a ringtone. But leave the kids at home. Or be will want a seat on the other side of the theatre from your kids. And I KNOW they will want a seat far away from you...because they will get the jokes, and laugh...and make you wonder!

If you're going - check out this website for ticket info.

Monday, February 4

Welcome to Cooking!

I received an email today that I never expected: "Jack and I are preparing Spaghetti Bolognese for dinner. Why don't you plan to join us before going over to church council meeting?" My first thought was "sure, dinner before the meeting would be nice..." - my second thought was "What? Denise is making Bolognese?" What perverted alternate universe had I stepped into?

My sister Denise does not cook. Well, she can microwave...and make English Muffin pizzas...and I believe she scrambles eggs...and does something with crock pots and turkey breast and black beans. So, it is not completely true that she can't cook. But her experience is somewhat limited. She is determined to change that. You go girl!

I would like to think that she has been inspired during her time as my sous chef at JIFF (the after school program at Centenary UMC on Thursdays). This year (I got another one of those wild ideas...) I decided to teach the students some life skills in the kitchen. Each week I have a different group with me for the whole 90 minutes and we cook a meal, then eat it! The groups are 3-5 grade girls/boys and 6-8 grade girls/boys. So far this year my capable sous chef and I have taught four different sessions (we cook the same thing 4 weeks in a row): macaroni and cheese - from the box and from scratch; English Muffin pizzas - with marina AND alfredo (pretzel/Hershey kiss candies for dessert); pancakes, scrambled eggs and sausage links (chocolate chip pancakes for dessert) and the latest session has been enhanced chicken noodle soup (canned soup with extra carrots, ramen noodles and shredded rotisserie chicken) and grilled cheese sandwiches (with Muenster!) and blueberry crisp for dessert.

When Denise offered to help me in this endeavor - I figured that she would at least provide another set of hands (and remind the little darlings to wash their hands after running their hands through their hair...or worse). She has been outstanding. Not that she is completely unflappable - she gets a little stressed when things are running behind schedule (because I teach/talk too much) or when knives are involved, or when the occasional fire breaks out (okay, only once...a potholder too close to the flame). But otherwise she is fearless! Ready to try new things - she has even led the class in my absence on several nights.

So - it should come as no surprise to see she is ready to tackle some new techniques in her own kitchen. And tonight's Spaghetti Bolognese was very tasty! She will overcome those tricky time management issues with some experience and guidance. The recipe didn't arrange steps very well - and she nearly had her sauce complete before the water was on to boil for the pasta. Tomorrow night she is making blackened salmon tacos with lime yogurt sauce and quinoa salad. I've given her a few tips to make things come out at about the same time. And Jack is becoming proficient at dicing tomatoes and peeling cucumbers.

Now I just need to help her organize and equip her kitchen with the hardware (pans/tools) and software (spices/pantry stock) to help her be successful. Tonight we looked for something to zest her lime with for tomorrow night's dinner. Found two garlic presses, two mouli, and this odd device. I have at least 6 books of kitchen tools and gadgets...not cookbooks...just books about the tools! I have never seen this thing before. Help me out folks - what the heck is it? Why would it be in Denise's kitchen?

Ah...the mysteries of the kitchen.

And if you have tips for my new cook...I'll be happy to pass them on. I don't see her heading to the Cordon Bleu anytime soon - but she is embracing her new adventure and I've got to respect that!