Category Archives: Gatherings

civic sacrament

About twenty years ago I signed up to be an election judge. I had switched from a full time schedule to working just three days a week, so I regularly had Tuesdays off. It seemed like a good time to step forward and help my community make its voice heard.

You meet all kinds of people in the polling place. I think the most memorable voter I ever met was a woman who called me over to discuss her voting dilemma, I think in 2004.  She said she was having trouble deciding who to cast her presidential vote for, because she didn’t really like any of the candidates. They all fell short of the standards she felt candidates should meet. “The people I would really like to see on the ballot are Paul Wellstone, Jesus, and Princess Diana,” she explained. I gently advised her that while those were not going to be realistic possibilities, since all three of them were dead, and only one of them had even been a U.S. citizen, she was quite free to write in any name she chose.

The other memorable thing about the woman was that she had large plastic bags on both hands, secured at the wrists by rubber bands. She was ahead of her time.

I will be staying home this election day, trying to keep myself safe, after voting early. I’ll miss watching this exercise of political power by ordinary citizens. Of all the unsettling changes that COVID-19 has brought, this may be the most unsettling for me. So far.

Any disruptions, major or minor, that have arisen for you lately due to COVID-19? (Or for any other reason, for that matter?)

Good Teaching

The trials our elementary and secondary teachers are having are also evident in the professional continuing education arena. How do you teach remotely?

I must have 40 hours of continuing education of sufficient quality and relevance every two years to maintain my psychologist licensure.  At least 3 hours must be in the areas of ethics or jurisprudence.  20 hours must be from live presentations.  These hours can be in person, or in live presentations on the computer in which you can communicate with the presenters. The other 20 hours can be through giving presentations, writing  chapters in books, reading books and taking tests on the material, or participating  in non-interactive online training.   All continuing education for this reporting period must be obtained by October 31.

This is my year to report my 40 hours. On October 1, I had a total of 20.5 hours. They were all live and in the area of jurisprudence.  It wouldn’t look too good for the president of the psychologist  licensing board to be short continuing education hours, so I had to hustle to find more training.  I found 6 hours of online workshops through the  American Psychological  Association that I completed last week. I was also very happy to find a three day workshop which started yesterday, live and online and at no cost, for 10.5 hours concerning trauma focused therapy for youth with developmental and intellectual disabilities.  The training was sponsored by a facility in Fargo. It was paid for by a Federal grant. The trainers were absolutely wonderful, all PhD’s and LCSW’s from places like John’s Hopkins. We had handouts we got ahead of time, and I curled up on the sofa and petted the cats while I learned from my work laptop. There were 50 participants from across ND,  and we could all see each other and communicate via a chat function on the screen or via microphone.  It was also nice that husband listened along and will participate with me in live advanced training on this topic in Fargo in December. He already had enough hours.

The technology challenges were huge, but the workshop went off as planned. It was so nice to have good teachers. While I would rather go somewhere and get live training, this was wonderful. I am excited for today and tomorrow.  On Friday and Saturday,  I will gain yet another 7 hours of continuing education in jurisprudence in an interactive workshop for psychology licensing board members. Dull, but I will have enough training hours.

What kind of a learner are you?  Who was your best teacher?  Who was your worst teacher?

Choir During Covid

We had church choir rehearsal yesterday for the first time since March.  Our county is a Covid hot spot, and the idea of rehearsal made me somewhat nervous. Choir rehearsals have been superspreader events across the country.

I really had little to worry about, as  there were only six singers, plus the director and the  accompanist. We sat in the pews instead of the choir loft, two singers to a pew, socially distanced, with two pews in between each twosome.  The church bought these plastic dealies that go under our masks and prevents the masks from being sucked back against the lips when you inhale. We all wore masks. We were all glad to sing. We expect more to join us in the coming weeks, but I think we can distance and sing and perform. We really have to listen carefully since we can’t sit right next to each other, and the tenors  aren’t right behind us and the sopranos aren’t right in front of us. It is  a musicianship challenge.

I have always considered myself a risk take, but this was a little scary until we got started and I saw how things would go.

What kind of a risk taker are you?  Has Covid changed your risk tolerance?

 

Artistic Differences

Our church has a large garden space meant for contemplation as well as growing vegetables for the local food pantry.  Yesterday was the Sunday we spend every fall engaging in community improvement projects instead of worshipping.  Husband and I and several other volunteers spent the morning getting the garden ready for winter.

Our pastor’s husband was instrumental in planning the layout of the garden and planting the flowers, shrubs, and trees when the garden was started five years ago. He helped clean up the garden today.  Mike is a  school administrator, but spent the early years of his marriage running a landscaping and tree service to support his wife through seminary.  He told me he is happiest climbing trees.  I realized today that he and I have very different ideas about gardens, as he is most concerned  about aesthetics, while I am far more practical.  He feels a garden should look beautiful even in the winter.  I just want everything trimmed so it looks neat and tidy and there isn’t so much cleanup needed in the spring

Mike  planted everbearing strawberries in garden when it was new. They bear nicely and the children love searching for strawberries after Sunday services.  Husband and his girl scout gardening sidekick gave lots to the domestic violence shelter all summer.  Mike was in a quandary today, as the strawberries are growing all over the place amongst the flowers and shrubs, and don’t look as neat as when they were first planted. He wanted to trim them all up and cut them back. I thought we should leave them so we could continue to have enough for the children and for the shelter.  We compromised by his trimming back the messiest ones and leaving the rest spread free and unfettered.

I am a firm believer in trimming irises and day lilies in the fall. Mike knew they had to be trimmed but lamented that the daylily foliage still looked so nice, and it was a shame to cut it down. I reminded him how disgusting and slimey the foliage was when it froze and rotted.  We both agreed that the Monarda should be left untrimmed.  I like to leave it so the stems catch snow for moisture.  He likes to leave it because the dried flower heads are pretty in a winter garden. Same result, different philosophies.

When we were all done, the garden was cleaned up for winter. We all agreed it looks quite nice.  Many of the shrubs are turning red and the Michaelmas Daisies are blooming  profusely.  Children were finding lots of strawberries to eat. It was a good day.

How do you coexist with those with whom you have artistic or philosophical differences?

Christmas Is A Comin’

We purchased scads of stories on audio cassette tapes when our children were young. They listened to them as they drifted off to sleep. Daughter says she still has to listen to audio books before she can go to sleep.  Some of these were stories narrated by famous actors.  Meryl Streep narrated Peter Rabbit  and The Tailor of Gloucester.  Danny Glover narrated How the Leopard Got its Spots.  Jack Nicholson narrated The Elephant’s Child and How the Camel Got Its Hump.  The stories changed as the children got older, and there were crime mysteries, old time radio shows, and, finally, recordings of novels like  A Wrinkle in Time and the Lord of the Rings.  They all sit now in the basement in boxes.

In our effort to get rid of stuff, we are going to have these stories transferred to electronic files and CD’s, and give them to our children for Christmas. Our grandson is old enough now to appreciate stories. It will give us the pleasure of passing on these wonderful recordings and make space in the basement shelves.

Christmas is coming, and we are starting to plan for quiet visits with our son and his family in Brookings. Our daughter is flying to Sioux Falls for a wedding at that time, and we will see her in Brookings, too. It will be a quiet and very much appreciated time together.

What are your plans for Christmas?  What are your ideas for gifts? What stories do you think are essential for children to hear?

Lining Up For Lobster

Until the last oil boom, fresh fish of any kind was a rarity here in the grocery stores. The influx of oil workers from Gulf Coast states changed that, and now we have a pretty reliable supply of fish and shellfish.  Fresh lobsters are still a rarity, and when one of the local grocery stores advertised fresh lobsters, $9.99 each, Husband and I decided to try to get a couple.

The sale was on for a Saturday starting at 10:00. Customers were limited to four lobsters each.  We arrived at 9:45 to find the line stretching from the back of the store to the front door. We qued up, and waited  patiently while the line got longer and longer behind us. Store employees were taking photographs of the customers.  By 10: 15, they were sold out. We didn’t get to move ahead much at all before the lobsters were gone.

I can’t say I was too disappointed not getting lobster. It was going to be a busy weekend anyway, and a couple of lobsters would have made it even busier. I marveled, though, at the dozens of people who got there before us, determined to get a lobster at a fairly decent price.  I typically hate standing in line for things.  I don’t know why I was willing to do so this time. I suppose the novelty of fresh lobster was a draw.

When have you stood in line for something.  Was it worth the wait?

 

Putting On A Show

I was the assisting minister in church yesterday. That required me to sit up front with the pastors and read aloud a selection from the Old Testament, read the Psalm responsively with the congregation,  and then read a selection from the New Testament.  This week I read from Jeremiah and Romans. I really love reading the lessons, and I try my best to convey the meanings in them to the congregation.

Last year we hired a new Worship and Music director.  It is a lay position.  She has done a nice job revitalizing our worship services. I must confess, however, that I find her presentation more than a little disconcerting .  She really, really, loves the Lord, and during services she beams with this beatific glow from her head to her toes.  The problem is that she expects those of us assisting in the worship services as well as musicians to exude the same joy she does. I was raised in a more somber tradition, in which you don’t show much emotion in church, and public displays of religious fervor are highly suspect.  This passage from Matthew sums up what was deeply ingrained in me growing up:

And when you pray, be not like the hypocrites.  For they love to stand in the synagogue and on the street corners to be seen by men. . . But when you pray, go into your inner room, shut your door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen.

Our services are now in person (we are all masked), as well as broadcast over a live Facebook feed and over the local radio. The other Sunday after Husband was the assisting minister, our Worship and Music Director emailed him to  chide him for looking too serious and glum during the service. Husband always looks glum. Moreover,  it is hard to exude joy in a mask, or when you are reading something gloomy from the Old Testament.  We just ignored her email.

Yesterday as I sat in front and read the assigned verses, I couldn’t help but smile surreptitiously behind my mask as I thought about this number from The Producers.

I imagine the Worship and Music Director wouldn’t think it was very funny, but it really sums up her idea of putting on a church service.  Her tenure is limited, as she and her family have moved to another state. She brought us some good ideas to enliven worship, but I am relieved I won’t be chided for not putting a sappy look on my face as I assist or provide music.

When have you had to put on  a show?

Dinner For Twelve

Last weekend was a real scramble dealing with all the garden produce that chose to ripen at the same time. We made our tried and true Minestrone ala Milanese recipe from Anna Thomas’ Vegitarian Epicure. It makes twelve or more servings, and I thought what a good thing to have on hand if a Congress of Baboons showed up at the door!

That really got me imagining how I would go about feeding a mixed bunch of vegetarians and omnivores at the same time. I think it could be quite fun. I haven’t settled on a menu yet, but it is fun to think about.

What would you serve at a dinner party for twelve people of differing food preferences?

My Favorite Restaurant

Today’s post is from Steve Grooms

Last September I joined a group of friends who met when we lived together in a dormitory at Grinnell College. David, Jack and Ralph flew into Saint Paul from Boston and the District of Columbia so we could relive old times. Because David made a fortune in the scented candle business, he happily funded the reunion. We would dine in a restaurant two nights. My suggestions about places where the food was good and inexpensive were laughed off. For David, cost is no object. He is used to the very best when dining out near his primary home near Washington, DC.

Since cost was not a factor, I had another suggestion. WA Frost and Company is a splendid old restaurant on Selby Avenue in the Cathedral Hill district. Built late in the 19th century in the Richardson Romanesque style, the Dakota Building, the home of the restaurant, now exudes the charm of an early time. While I had not eaten there in many years, fond memories of the place allowed me to hope it would not disappoint David or my other friends on this special occasion.

The restaurant was as lovely as I’d remembered. The building features arched windows, copper cornices and walls of sandstone and brick. Giant fireplaces provided light and warmth for diners. The room itself was so quiet we could all speak at normal volume as we told stories about our shared past. The wait staff was deft and unobtrusive. The bounty from the kitchen was so good that we kept saying, “This is the best ___ I’ve ever had!”

We had the sort of evening one remembers with a romantic glow. We had expected a great deal, but WA Frost delivered more than anyone could have hoped for. It was perfect.

Other restaurants can be excellent in other ways. The header photo shows Mickey’s Diner, which in its own way is perfect. You don’t go to Mickey’s expecting the elegance and refinement we had at WA Frost, but my last visit to Mickey’s was all we’d hoped it would be.

What memories do you have of a special restaurant, diner, food truck or family eatery? Or do you remember a restaurant that was so bad you can’t forget it?

Staying Home

Perhaps I’m odd. Perhaps my early years as an only child enhanced my ability to entertain myself. Perhaps I have forgotten what it was like to be young.  I just can’t understand why people are having such a hard time staying at home.

I see in my Facebook feed challenges to live for  a couple of months off the grid in a remote cabin, and winning a bunch of money. Heck, we have all sorts of entertainment in our living spaces, yet people continue to crowd into bars and large parties.

My  question for the Baboons today is:

Why is it so hard to stay home?  What would you include in a tutorial that would help people stay put?  How would you manage in a remote cabin off the grid for a couple of months?