Saturday, March 30, 2013

Good Friday Is The Blues

Last night I had the most unique Good Friday experience ever.  Hubby Tony and I went to a concert called Good Friday Blues at the Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal) downtown.

The night was a fundraiser for two new organizations that are opening in 2014--the National Blues Museum and Magdalene St. Louis, a two-year residential community for women recovering from prostitution, violence and drug abuse.

Tony and I got there about 15 minutes after the doors opened.  The Cathedral is an imposing Gothic Revival building that's been designated as a National Historic Monument.  I've never been inside the building before; it has beautiful stained glass windows and elaborate carvings across the front, with a spotlight in the center that highlighted the crucifix section. The rest of the sanctuary was surprisingly modern, though.  Instead of pews there were rows of movable chairs, and the elaborate altar I expected was missing.  The raised area that would typically hold the altar was where the bands were setting up.

In addition to the rows of chairs for seating there were round tables (covered with tablecloths) in the back.  The tables were set with bowls of popcorn. Tubs on one side of the room held sodas.  There weren't many people there yet, so Tony and I chose seats close to the front and settled in.  While we waited I read the program, which offered a good explanation of why we were there:
There is no day on the Christian calendar where it is more fitting to sing the blues than Good Friday.  This is the day we see Jesus stripped naked, beaten, and hung on a cross.  It is a day where the deepest pain and deepest love humanity and God can offer is laid out for all to see.  Good Friday is the blues.
After meditating on that profound reflection I was ready for the night to start. The first part of the program was a dramatic reading of the Passion Gospel.  Three groups of parishioners spread out across the front.  There were several who shared the role of narrator, others who took on a variety of characters (including the crowd sections) and one read the part of Jesus.  In the background they played a song by Blind Willie Johnson called "Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground".

After the reading was over the music started.  The musicians were all unfamiliar to me: Beth Tuttle and Friends, the Kingdom Brothers, and Matthew Lesch.  It was amazing how the music could move from blues to spiritual to gospel...sometimes in the same song!  Many of the songs were somber, reflecting the solemn nature of the day, but others were joyfully infectious.  There were two sets, and in between there were short presentations by the National Blues Museum and Magdalene St. Louis.

When the house lights came up at the end of the evening I was amazed to see just how quickly two hours had passed. It was a very spiritual experience.

Five years ago today: New Thing #79--Zap the Dirt!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Free Is Always Good

Kenya G. Johnson, a blogging buddy, has written a book called The Christopher Chronicles. The book is a compilation of dozens of cute things her son Christopher said when he was five years old.

This weekend she's giving away the Kindle version of the book for FREE!  I've got should too.

Five years ago today: New Thing #78--Salaam

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Oh No She Didn't!

The other day two women walked by me at the mall Customer Service desk. One of them was carrying a large purse over her shoulder. When she got closer I noticed the purse sides were made out of mesh, and one of them was open a little bit.  I realized it wasn't a purse, but a doggie tote.  The only animals that are supposed to be in the mall are service dogs.

As they headed towards an inconspicuous spot just past the desk the woman pulled out a leash. Next I saw her unfolding a small blue absorbent pad and heard her say to her friend, "Let's see if she needs to go".  At that point I stopped watching and called Security to tell them there was a dog doing its business in the mall.

Unfortunately the women were gone by the time an officer arrived. I would have liked to heard the conversation that ensued.

Five years ago today: New Thing #76--House of Cards

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A FEW Of My Favorite Things

The Clifton StrengthsFinder is an online psychological assessment which helps you find your natural talents.  It's used a lot in business settings, but my church has also started offering workshops based on the test.  I'm in the middle of them right now.

Before the workshop started I took the online StrengthsFinders test, which helps you find your natural talents.  There are 34 possible themes (strengths); when the test was done I learned my top five, which are called my Signature Themes.

As a result of the workshops I'm learning a lot about myself. Each week I attend a ninety minute session, then do homework and daily journaling that we discuss the next week.  The topic of this week's session is Finding the Right Fit, and the journal questions leading up to it has me thinking about how my talents have helped me in the past and how I can best use them going forward.   I read the question in the morning so I can ponder over it throughout the day, then write down my answer in the evening.  It's thought-provoking, but fairly easy.

The homework this time is throwing me for a loop, though.  I'm supposed to figure out my favorite job, hobby, vacation, and way to spend my free time. (The theory is that if you can see a connections between your favorite activities and your talents it will be easy to figure out what you're called to do.) Other than the job portion--I LOVE the one I have now--I don't think I have a favorite in any of the other categories.  Each category of favorites has questions that relate to it, which of course I can't do until I figure out my preferences.  The best I've been able to do is narrow each category down to a couple of options or patterns, and comment on all of them.

Ironically, one of my Signature Themes is Responsibility; I like to do things right.

Five years ago today: New Thing #75--Common Courtesy

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring, Where Are You?

Snow on my deck

The news outlets are calling the snow that came through here yesterday the March Madness storm. It was a doozy.

According to the National Weather Service, at 12.4 inches it set a record as the deepest one-day snowfall in March (The old record was set in 1912).

It's also the highest one-day total in St. Louis since Feb. 26, 1906, when 12.8 inches of snow fell.

It's supposed to be 60 degrees at this time of year.  I am SO ready for Spring!

Five years ago today: New Thing #74--Fashion Faux Pax?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Oatmeal. It's Not Just For Breakfast.

Last week Whole Story, the Whole Foods Market blog, had a post about greens you could eat in honor of St. Patrick's Day. I could have predicted some of their suggestions--adding spinach to sandwiches, greens to soups and main dishes, and zucchini to dessert breads. However, one of their breakfast ideas intrigued me; it was called Savory Oats with Hearty Greens. I like oatmeal and I like greens, but I never thought about combining them in the same bowl, so I bookmarked the recipe for later.

Later turned into today.  The forecast called for a huge snow dump, and I figured that if I was going to be stuck in the house a big bowl of hot oatmeal would hit the spot.  I already had most of the ingredients on hand, but yesterday I stopped at the store and instead of the trite emergency snowstorm ingredients of bread and milk I bought kale.

The snow started overnight. It made things so gloomy I didn't wake up until almost 9 o'clock.  I was hungry and didn't want to wait an hour for the steel cut oats to cook, so we had the dish for lunch.  This recipe is definitely a keeper!  I substituted yellow onion for the red (because I had a surplus of them), and coase sea salt instead of fine. At serving time I set a variety of hot sauces on the table so everyone could have use their favorite

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 small red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 cup steel-cut oats
1/2 bunch kale or collard leaves, thick stems removed, leaves chopped)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in oats and cook until coated. Add kale a few handfuls at a time, stirring and adding more as the leaves wilt. Stir in 3 cups of water and salt; bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer until oats are soft and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, 10 minutes. Serve garnished with Parmesan or nutritional yeast.

Five years ago today: New Thing #73--Reuse and Recycle

Friday, March 22, 2013

My Mind Works In Mysterious Ways

Last fall I led a committee that put together a page-a-day calendar for a group I belong to. As chair of the committee, I also became the holder of the finished product.  The calendars sold very well in November and December. Sales declined in January, and slowed to a trickle in February.  Since it's so far into the year, we've lowered the original price and still continue to sell a few.  Each time we have a group meeting I bring a supply of calendars in case someone wants more.

Our last meeting was two weeks ago.  At that time I carried two boxes of calendars out to the car and put them in the trunk.  When I got home after the meeting I was in a hurry and forgot to take the boxes out.  And forgot again the next day, and the day after that, as well as the next one.....

This morning the boxes were still there.  Each time I drive away from the house I remember them as soon as I make the first turn, because no matter how carefully I take the corners they slide from side to side in the trunk. As soon as I hear them sliding I have a 'palm-slap to the forehead' moment, and tell myself I'll take care of them when I get home.  The problem is the boxes are heavy enough I need both hands to carry them. When I get out of the car in the garage I grab my purse and anything else setting on the passenger seat that needs to come in.  By time I've set everything down in the kitchen I've already forgotten about the boxes.  Until the next time I leave the house.

Today I was at a meeting and had someone ask me for a calendar. I went out to the car, put a few in a bag, and carried the bag in.  After the meeting I put the bag (still holding a few calendars) on the passenger seat, and left it there while I ran my errands.  When I got home I carried the small bag in and set it on the kitchen island.  Fifteen minutes later seeing that bag there jogged my memory; I went out and removed the boxes from my trunk.

Five years ago today: New Thing #71--Energize Your Brain

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Signs Of The Season

Today is the first day of spring, but in my neighborhood that wouldn't be obvious.  I know there are many areas that don't expect to have nice weather at the change of the season, but they're NOT St. Louis. Here, the temperature is supposed to be in the mid-50s, but today it's in the mid-30s, with a brisk wind that makes it feel even colder.

However, even though it doesn't feel like spring, when I was out in the car today I found two harbingers of the new season. This morning I saw the first Garage Sale sign of the year, and later I had to navigate through a maze of trucks and tractors that were already starting the warm-weather neighborhood street repair.

When I got home I decided that even though it still felt like winter I was done with the season; it was time to bring some spring into the house. Over the years I've acquired so much artwork I can't display it all at once, so I swap some of it out seasonally. Today was the day. I removed the paintings and prints of people skating on a frozen pond, snowy barns, and bare trees and replaced them with works of children flying kites, flower-strewn meadows and bouquets of fully open roses.

The bright-colored pictures made me feel much better, and will help me get through until the warmer weather really gets here.

Five years ago today: New Thing #69--Show Me the Money

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Shortly after I got a Kindle for my birthday in January I figured out how to use it at work without anyone noticing. The mall Customer Service desk has a large overhang at the top.  I always have a water bottle tucked under there, and I just leaned the Kindle against it.  All I have to do is reach forward a bit every time I need to hit the page button.

That worked OK, but even though my water bottle is a sturdy metal model it would topple backwards if I pushed the page button too hard.  I also had a problem with the Kindle maintaining the right reading angle; it had a tendency to slide down on the slick counter top.  I looked in a couple of stores to see if I could buy a holder, but when I couldn't find exactly what I was looking for (something inexpensive and small enough to fit into my storage drawer in the back office) I decided to try making my own.

I started with a sturdy box that had held a small quilting kit....

and glued an interior section to what had been the top of the box.

I took my creation to work the next day.  It performed wonderfully, but I was concerned the bright colors and large size might draw attention to the Kindle, which was the last thing I needed.  I decided to make the stand less visible.

The first thing I did was cut it down to size.  When I did that the front lip was less sturdy, so I added additional cardboard to reinforce it.

Then, to mask the hodgepodge of colors I gave the whole thing a couple of coats of black acrylic paint.

I've already used the new and improved holder a couple of times.  It's amazing how inconspicuous it is!

Five years ago today: New Thing #68--Total Rewards

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Fact O'The Day

Today, of course, is Saint Patrick's Day, which celebrates the religious feast day and the date of his death.

Saint Patrick's Day is a big deal in the St. Louis area, thanks to the many Irish immigrants that settled in the area in the 1840s and 1850s.  Every year there are two parades (three if you count a newish one in St. Charles county, just to the west)--one the Saturday before and one on the Day.  This year they were back-to-back.  Today we feasted on a boiled dinner of corned beef, cabbage, new potatoes, and carrots.

As important and beloved as Saint Patrick is, though, I was surprised to learn he was never canonized a saint by the Catholic Church.  Patrick was born in 387 and died in 461. Back in the 5th century, canonizations were done at the regional level. After the death of someone they considered very holy, the local Church decreed that they could be celebrated as saints.

Five years ago today: New Thing #66--My Family Heritage

Friday, March 15, 2013

What Season Is It?

Is it winter or spring? At this time of year in my area it's hard to tell.  The furnace is running in the morning when I get up, but this afternoon it's supposed to be 72°F.  I won't get too attached to the nice weather, though, because tomorrow the forecast high is 49°F.

It's hard to figure out what to wear, and that applies to what I put on my feet.  Right now there are three pairs of shoes I use when I'm at home that are lined up on the floor in my closet.  The ones I reach for the most are a pair of old tennis shoes I wear as "house shoes", but there's also a pair of slippers and a pair of flip flops.  Depending on the season usually only two of the three pairs are handy and the off-season pair is shoved in the back of the closet, but at this time of year I use all of them, sometimes in the same day!

Five years ago today: New Thing #64--Hang It Up

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


Wednesday is my day to move slowly; I don't have to be at work until after lunch. In the morning I go to the gym, run some errands, and have a nice lunch at home before I put on my work clothes and leave.  This morning when I rolled out of bed, instead of taking a shower I put on gym clothes and pulled back my unkempt hair. Before breakfast I started a load of laundry.  After I ate I moved the laundry from the washer to the dryer.

I was sitting at the computer when I heard my phone beep, indicating I had a text. It was my boss-he was under the weather. Could I change my schedule and open for him?  I took a look at the clock and discovered I had 30 minutes before I'd have to leave.  I'd done none of the normal morning activities, but if I hustled it could be done!  I responded to my boss, then kicked into overdrive.

First task was making lunch.  Since I usually work alone, I've figured out that if I have everything in bite-sized pieces I can eat a complete meal at the Customer Service desk without anyone noticing. A typical meal includes protein, vegetables, a carb, and fruit. Today the quickest protein I could think of was nuts.  When I looked in the pantry, I discovered the almond container was empty, so I poured a serving of walnuts into a bag.  I opened the refrigerator to check on vegetables, and discovered we were low.  My bag ended up being mainly carrots, although I did include the stems from some blanched broccoli and a few celery sticks.  I tossed a couple of dry apricots into another bag, and added a muffin.  After I filled my water bottle lunch was done.   Time to clean myself up.

My showers usually take ten minutes because I can't bring myself to turn off the nice warm water. Today I washed up in the sink, and dampened my hair by pouring a cup of water over it. Took three minutes, including drying time.  I went to get dressed and discovered a problem.  My "everyday" underwear was still in the dryer!

Last summer when I was taking long walks in the stifling heat the cotton drawers I wear got so sweaty they started irritating my skin.  I went to the store and found a three-pack of wicking models on the clearance rack.  It felt so good not to have sweat-drenched unmentionables during a workout that I started using them every time I went to the gym. The neon purple, pink, and lavender colors are quite shocking, but since they don't show under my outer layer no one knows.

What to do?  If I waited around for the dryer I'd be late.  I'd had on today's purple nylon pair for a little over an hour.  It seemed gross to re-use them, but that's what I did.  My justification--I'd cleaned up before I went to bed last night, and hadn't been up long enough today to get dirty.  And, it was for a good cause.

However, the first thing I did when I got home is take off the purple panties and replace them with fresh ones.  I DO have standards!

Five years ago today: New Thing #62--Windpower

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

No Can Do

Today at the Customer Service desk a woman came up and wanted to buy a mall gift card. I asked her to fill out our form, which has spaces for the amount she wanted on the card and her name, while I logged into the computer. She indicated she wasn't the purchaser, but was doing it for her boss with his corporate card. Whose name should she write?

I told her that per mall policy, the name on the form has to match the one on the card, and the ID that she'd have to show me. Hers wouldn't, so I couldn't sell her the card. She tossed a business card with her name and the company logo on the counter, saying that proved she actually worked at the company-as if that would be good enough. It wasn't. I repeated our policy, but said I’d call my boss, who was at lunch, and see if we could make an exception for her (even though I knew what the answer would be).

The answer was no. I relayed the information, and she said I should call the mall facilities manager, who would recognize her boss’s name and OK the purchase. When I repeated AGAIN I couldn't do it, she snatched everything up and said it was a shame…they tried to support local businesses, but she guessed she’d just go somewhere else where they WOULD let her make a purchase.

I politely smiled as she walked away.

Five years ago today: New Thing #61--Comic Commentary

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Not Perfect, But It'll Do

The precipitation started sometime after I went to bed, and I woke up to the sound of raindrops hitting the roof.  When it was time to leave for church this morning it was raining cats and dogs.  Hubby Tony dug around and found an umbrella for each of us to use.  Mine was one that's been in the house for many years--it's full sized, with alternating gores (the triangular sections of fabric) of white and maroon, and a long shaft.  I can't remember where we got it, but since two of the gores have large corporate logos it must have been a freebie.  That didn't matter though, as long as it would keep me dry.

Since the car was parked in the garage I didn't have to use the umbrella until I got out of the car on the church parking lot.  It was still raining hard, and I had trouble unfolding it without getting wet.  I probably got a little wetter than I needed to, though, because I was noticing how dirty the white portions were.

I always leave the umbrella open until it's dry, but somehow over the years it had acquired a yellow dinginess accompanied by a fair amount of scuff marks.  All the grime was cosmetic; the umbrella did the job on the way into church and again on the way out, but it really needed a good freshening up. After lunch I researched ways to clean nylon umbrellas.

There were a multitude of ideas on the Internet to choose from.  I discarded the ones (OxyClean and carpet cleaning foam) that required ingredients I didn't have in the house, and those that had requisites that couldn't be fulfilled (lemon juice and sunshine, which was nowhere to be found today).  I finally decided on hydrogen peroxide, which was cheap and already in my linen closet, and set out to clean the umbrella.

I used the bathtub for my experiment.  After mixing a 50/50 solution of hydrogen peroxide and water I rubbed it on both sides of the umbrella and let it set for 20 minutes, then came back with a bowl of soapy water and repeated the process.  I rinsed off the soap, and left the umbrella open in the tub to dry.

When I was done it looked much better.  There were still some scuff marks, but they were lighter and the grime was gone.  Now I won't be ashamed to take the umbrella out in public.

Five years ago today: New Thing #59--21st Century Manicure

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

I Don't Need Another Coat. I Don't Need Another Coat. I Don't Need Another Coat.

One day last week when I was killing time before my shift at the Customer Service desk I stopped in at an outdoor store close to the mall.  The weather had been frigid and the sun hadn't been out for more than a week, so my first stop was the women's clothing department, where the spring weight fabrics and colors provided a welcome change to the things I've been seeing in my closet since before the holidays.  However, I knew it would be at least a month until I'd be able to wear any of those clothes, so I reluctantly left them on the shelves.

I meandered through the store, looking at things in the Hiking, Shoe, and Cycling departments that reminded me of the new season to come.  After I'd killed enough time I made my way towards the exit. Just to the right of the front door were some clearance racks that held a selection of winter gear. Even though I don't need anything, I stopped just to see what the sales were like.  As I got closer, I heard a bright ruby red jacket hanging at the front of the rack calling to me. It was quilted with curved horizontal lines, and the price tag said it was half price.

I kept telling myself I didn't need it, but I tried it on and was immediately impressed with how comfortable it was.  It was warm, but very lightweight. When I looked at the tag I discovered the jacket was designed to be a midlayer as part of a technical layering system for strenuous exertion.  I don't do a whole lot of strenuous winter exertion, and certainly didn't need a jacket for it.

But the jacket was red, and I hadn't seen the sun for almost a week.

I continued to read the label, and discoved the jacket weighed less than a pound, was wind and water resistant, and had two nice large pockets and hemcords to draw it in at the bottm.  The insulation was compressible, and it could be washed and dried at home.  It had a "lifetime warrenty".

But I already have a closet full of coats.  I didn't need another one.  I took the jacket off, hung it back on the hanger, and walked away.

I almost got to the door before I figured out that thanks to my middle aged heat fluctuations I'm often trying to shed my heavy coat while I'm driving.  If I bought a lighter weight one I wouldn't get overheated as easily; I'd certainly be a safer driver if I wasn't trying to remove my arms from the sleeves at highway speeds.  The jacket's warrenty meant I could wear it for many years.  And did I mention it was half price?

Take a look at my new jacket:

Five years ago today: New Thing #55--My Peeps

Monday, March 4, 2013


Do you have a song that instantly reminds you of a person? I do. Today at the mall Customer Service desk a tune came over the speakers and I thought about "Mikey", one of the students at the tutoring center for teens I used to run.

Mikey attended the center in 2007. He was a smart kid, but had one of the shortest attention spans I've ever seen. When he wasn't distracting himself, he was looking around the room to see what everyone else was up to.  He tried to get by with doing the minimum, but when I got him to move beyond that, he produced very insightful work.

I allowed the students to use their personal music players while they worked as long as they wore headphones. One day Mikey started singing out loud to the song "Ironic" by Alanis Morissette, using a horribly fake, squeaky voice:
It's like rain, on your wedding day
It's a free ride, when you've already paid
It's the good advice, that you just didn't take
And who would've thought?
It figures.
It was SO funny, everyone started laughing. The song turned into a standing joke. Every week or so Mikey would break into song again:
It's like ten thousand spoons, when all you need is a knife
Now I remember Mikey every time the song comes on.

Five years ago today: New Thing #53--Let It Snow!

Sunday, March 3, 2013


The Book of Mormon is a religious satire musical that in 2011 won nine Tony Awards (including Best Musical).  The play's touring company is in the middle of a stop in St. Louis at The Fabulous Fox Theater.  Today Hubby Tony and I, along with two of the Sons and the Daughter-In-Law, were there for the matinee performance.

DIL Nicole was the organizer for the adventure. She and Son Brian had tried to see the play in New York last year, but it was sold out. A couple of months ago when they were in town for the holidays she convinced us that going to the play here would be a nice family excursion. We checked our calendars, decided on a day, and purchased the tickets.

On my own I probably wouldn't have chosen this show, but when it opened here I started hearing a lot about it and got excited to see if it lived up to the hype.  After lunch we all piled into the car and drove to Grand Center, where the Fox is located, and followed the crowds into the theater.  We found our seats in the Upper Balcony, and didn't have to wait long before the house lights dimmed and the play started.

The Book of Mormon was written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, creators of the animated television show South Park, and composer and lyricist Robert Lopez.  It's about two mismatched Mormon missionaries (Elder Price and Elder Cunningham) who are assigned to Uganda, where they encounter problems--a village besieged by poverty, disease and despair, disheartened fellow missionaries, and a genocidal warlord.  Despite all the problems, they persevere to a happy ending, accompanied by several big musical numbers.

The show had more than it's fair share of coarse language and raunchiness. (Not surprising, considering the writing team.)  I had trouble understanding some of the lyrics, but that was probably OK.  Quite a few times I found myself laughing at things I'd usually "tsk·tsk" at, but I really enjoyed it.  All too quickly the play was over and the cast was lining up for their curtain call.

Five years ago today: New Thing #52--Where Do You Sweat?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

'My Favorite Things' (AARP Version)

Sent to me by a friend.  It's especially funny if you sing it out loud:

Botox and nose drops and needles for knitting,
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,
Bundles of magazines tied up in string,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Cadillacs and cataracts, hearing aids and glasses,
Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses,
Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the pipes leak, When the bones creak,
When the knees go bad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don't feel so bad.

Hot tea and crumpets and corn pads for bunions,
No spicy hot food or food cooked with onions,
Bathrobes and heating pads and hot meals they bring,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Back pain, confused brains and no need for sinnin',
Thin bones and fractures and hair that is thinnin',
And we won't mention our short shrunken frames,
When we remember our favorite things.

When the joints ache, When the hips break,
When the eyes grow dim,
Then I remember the great life I've had,
And then I don't feel so bad.

Five years ago today: New Thing #51--My Heroes