Friday, November 30, 2007

The Nativity Fast - Preparation for Christ's Incarnation

we Orthodox Christians prepare for each major event in the Church year in fasting and repentance. Fasting must be understood as abstention. We strictly abstain from all animal products (including dairy), wine and oil. However, the Nativity Fast is one of the least restrictive. There are many Wine and Oil days (WO), and many Fish, Wine and Oil (FWO) days.

The music of our Fasts frequently is both beautiful and somewhat mournful. Here is some of the Music of Nativity from the Russian Orthodox Church.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Did You Know I Love Cats? and Kittens??

Can't resist! YouTube has some wonderful kitten videos! Turn on your sound and be prepared to laugh - a lot!!

This is true food aggression!

Then there's this one:

This kitten is soooooo sleepy...

Hungry motherless kitten being bottle fed - I've done this sooooooo many times! And it's a joy each time I can save a kitten and grow it up to the point of being adopted!

Even German kittens are pretty food aggressive!

Hungry kittens are convinced there will be no more food - ever - and they HAVE to have food NOW!!

Finally, not to overdo the cute kittens for one day, there is this happy, playful kitten crabwalking all over the place!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Magnus - the Democrat!?!

O.M.G. !! The Ol' Curmudgeon has hit the nail on the head! Our beloved cat, Magnus, is a Democrat!!

"He is all mouth and emotion and demonstrates no intellect. He is totally non-productive yet thinks the Powers That Be should take care of his every need. He neither pays attention to nor shuts up for anyone else's opinion. He is only interested in running his own mouth. He expects the Powers that Be not only to feed him but to clean up all his messes. And everything - EVERYTHING - is someone else's fault and/or responsibility!!"

ROTFLOL!! I love it when he starts "ranting" about stuff!!

Will post a pic of Magnus the Magnifi-cat in a few days.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Of Neighborhoods and Homeowners Associations

I'm going to imitate the Ol' Curmudgeon - HARUMPH!!

We live in an older neighborhood. With the national trend in decreasing mortgage values, some of the residents recently decided we needed a Homeowners Association. We went to one meeting - assured ourselves that we weren't dealing with a "Covenant Community" situation (yuck). At the meeting, the Powers That Be told us that a Homeowners Association would decrease crime, increase property values and just be a Good Thing.

Two connected streets are involved here. Let's call them Rockytop and Aspen. The PTB, of course, live on Rockytop, and think that the people on Aspen (where we live) are lower class, or at least less classy than they think they are. So, all the children who live on Aspen are considered to be delinquents by the people on Rockytop. One of the Rockytop women said she had to keep chasing "those Aspen kids" out of her yard before he did something criminal.

Not only do we live on Aspen, 3 of our grandchildren live on Aspen - next door to us! Kids play in yards - not only their own yard, but the yards of everyone in the neighborhood. That's the way we played when I was a kid, and it warms my heart to see the kids in our part of The Neighborhood playing in the same way. They have a "secret clubhouse" under the huge bush in a yard several houses away. I remember having one of those - 5 houses up the street in the yard of a widow-woman who had no children.

Thankfully, she thought it was "cute," and didn't call the cops. The woman on Rockytop was ready to call the police because a kid was in her yard! Please note, she lives on the "outside" corner of The Neighborhood - right across the street from The High School - and the kid was in her yard right after school let out. Who didn't cross yards when walking home from school??? She's worried about her property values because a kid walked across her yard?

Speaking of property values, how does belonging to a Homeowners Association either increase or prevent decrease of property values - when the rest of the country is experiencing a general decline in mortgage lending?? Put signs up saying "Our houses cost more because we are holding the line on mortgage costs?" No, we will "keep up" our houses and yards better because we belong to this Association - because other neighbors will "tattle" on us if we don't. All the City Property Maintenance regulations will be Enforced!! So what now? Someone will sneak into our yard at night and measure the length of the non-existent grass? Count the number of leaves on our driveway? Count the number of patches of peeling paint on our abode?

BAH!! And again I say, BAH! At the first meeting, we asked what we were supposed to do - I have Rheumatoid Arthritis, Fibromyalgia and 2 degenerated disks in my low back. The Ol' Curmudgeon has 6 bad disks in his back and has had 2 heart attacks. We can't get out there and do major yard maintenance. The son next door had several episodes of heat prostration while in the military, and is very sensitive to heat - can't "do yard" in the summer. We finally found some kids up the street who are greedy capitalists (I love teenagers who are greedy capitalists!) and will mow our yard, front and back, for less than $100. So at least the mowing is taken care of. We'll teach them how to blow off leaves and stuff them into bags so the pick-up service will take them.

We were sent a message from The Homeowners Association that the police would be driving The Neighborhood and noting any deviations from the Property Maintenance Regulations.

OK - so now the police will take their valuable time inspecting the length of our grass and the number of leaves on the driveway? Great use of resources!!

The people on Rockytop say they are experiencing a small crime wave of break-ins. Especially on empty houses that are for sale. In addition, someone's garage was raided and several yard-maintenance tools (of the electronic and motorized variety) were stolen. OK. Rockytop is having a "crime wave" and the kids on Aspen who cross yards after school are part of this crime wave? How will our Neighborhood Association help with this crime wave? Well, the police will respond more quickly if we are United and have an Association!

HUH? How does that work? How about the people who live in Slum Row neighborhood? What if the residents there get together and create a Homeowners Association? Will the police respond more rapidly than they do now if they form the Slum Row Homeowners Association? The mind boggles!

Not only that, but to be a member of the Rockytop Homeowners Association (why isn't it the Aspen Homeowners Association?) we will be required to pay a membership fee! Currently it isn't much - only $35 a year. Remember that when I post the yearly fee every year from now on. Wanna make any bets as to whether it stays nominal or goes up?

Those of us on the "back end" of Aspen are considering having a block party and forming our OWN "Back of Aspen Homeowners Association." We'll help each other out with yard work, have block parties, and play loud music - so we can drive the residents of the Back of Rockytop crazy. Oh yeah - and we'll report suspicious kids setting up secret clubs in the bushes or cutting across yards to get home from school to the police.

Where's that CD of the Carmina Burana I got last year??

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Service Dog - For Me?

Well, Saturday was THE day. The woman from the dog organization came to do an in-home interview to see if I "fit" their profile of people to get one of their dogs. I've done all I can to make the house acceptable, but the master bath and my office are still in a mess, and there is a corner of the Ol' Curmudgeon's office dedicated to my clutter-stuff. I need to toss out 3/4 of it all and find "places" for the rest "to live."

She was very nice. So was her husband who came along also. The Ol' Curmudgeon waxed eloquent as only he can, and I spoke to my perception of my needs. She had me demonstrate grip strength, gently squeezed my hands to elicit pain level, and watched me walk and function at a couple of tasks. She looked at the (currently leaf covered) back yard approvingly.

So, now my "case" will be presented to their Board tomorrow (Tuesday). If approved, it will not mean a service dog tomorrow. First, we will have to raise funds. Not necessarily directly "pay" for the dog (to the tune of $7000), but literally fund-raise - find new donors to help support the service dog organization - a non-profit, 501c organization. The Ol' Curmudgeon is going to submit their corporate package to his place of business, and I'm going to submit it to several of the larger law firms I work with.

After doing the fund raising, or while that is going on, there will be a waiting period for me of between 1 and 5 years while they find a "match" for me. The dog has to meet my needs and be compatible with both me and the Ol' Curmudgeon. Then, when a likely dog has been found, it will have to be trained to the particular tasks I need done. All that takes time. Not to mention, there probably are people of higher priority ahead of me.

Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Drought in GA

Georgia is experiencing the worst drought in decades.

Governor Purdue has asked all the Churches in the state to pray for rain. Following is a Prayer in Time of Drought from and Orthodox Patriarch (Patriarch Callistus, d. 1363).


A Prayer in Time of Drought
by Patriarch Callistus of Constantinople
O Master, Lord our God, who heard Elijah the Tishbite in his zeal for Thee and commanded the rain to hold itself back when it was about to be sent to the earth, and then later granted it fruit-bearing rain by his prayer! We beg Thee, O Master of all: from the depths of Thy own goodness, liberally give rain to Thy inheritance. Overlooking our sins, send down Thy rain upon thirsty places in need. Gladden the face of the earth for the sake of Thy poverty-stricken people, children, livestock and all others looking for Thee to give them food in good time -- for Thou art our God, the God whose nature it is to have mercy and to save, and we send up glory to Thee, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.


We here in Georgia, Florida and Alabama are suffering from a lack of rain. Without a large influx of rain between now and then, sometime in January Atlanta will be OUT of water! We in that area already are having to forego watering lawns (not a problem for us - we hate grass anyway) and washing cars (except at approved carwashes that recycle water). We are asked to conserve by not flushing the toilets as much, not showering or bathing as frequently, not washing clothes unless we have a full washer's worth. But soon even this won't be enough.

Many businesses have had to shut down, with resultant hiatus in employment and paychecks for those working for those companies. Many people are drinking bottled water, but this will soon be too expensive to buy.

The water-based recreation industries (fishing, boating, swimming) are taking a big hit - especially around the lakes. Other tourism and recreation areas (Lake Lanier, Lake Alatoona, Callaway Gardens, Chattahoochee National Forest, Okeefenokee State Park, etc) are also down, leading to marked decrease in income for the entire state. All the ancillary industries - fast foods, bait shops, sports equipment stores, motels, etc - also take hits.

This all adds up to PEOPLE losing jobs, losing incomes, losing their homes, families breaking up etc.

Please keep us in your prayers!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Role Models

Someone asked who my role model was. But I have not one but thousands of role models - the saints who have gone before us and who pray for us.

One of these, and the chiefest among them, is the Theotokos (the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary). She was a human being in every sense of the word - yet she CHOSE to live according to what God wanted her to live. She CHOSE to be without sin. God blessed her and chose her to bear His Son for the salvation of the world. In bearing Christ, God, she became in effect the mother of us all. So I turn to her first and foremost to be my role model - to help me see that willingly fulfilling God's Will, I am "doing the right thing." When in trouble most of us turn in thought or in reality to our mothers. When in trouble my thoughts turn to my mother (Memory Eternal!), who died at a young age from the same disease I have. And at the same time, I turn to the Theotokos. Her prayers are powerful, and I petition her to pray for my troubles. Daily, I praise the Theotokos for her sacrifices that had brought us our salvation - Christ our Lord and Saviour, the very Son of God.

Some of the others I consider to be role models, are:

St. Xenia of St. Petersburg - a "fool for Christ" who lived in the early 19th century. When her husband died, she was so concerned about the salvation of his soul that she took to wearing his clothes, took his name, "Andrew," and gave away all her possessions. She voluntarily lived on the streets of St. Petersburg. Her life is inspirational.

St. Elizabeth, Mother of the Forerunner and Baptist, John - This is my Patron (or Matron) saint. She was righteous in the sight of God and of men. She was married, she loved her husband and desired his child. After many years of childlessness, this was granted to her. The Church, which glorifies virgins, glorifies her for her marriage and for her childbearing. This is a good model for those of us who are married.

St. Macrina the Elder - This is a wonderful saint who has remained in obscurity entirely too long! It is rather incredible to contemplate the life of a woman who was the wife of a saint (St. Basil), the mother of a saint (St. Basil the elder), the mother-in-law of a saint (St. Emilia, wife of St. Basil the Elder) and the grandmother of 4 saints (St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Macrina the Younger, and St. Peter of Sebaste)! Saints ran in this family, due mostly to the strong influence of the women, particularly that of St. Macrina the Elder. She is considered to be the Matron saint for grandparents. She underwent persecution for her faith, and, with her husband and child, lived in the wilderness for over 7 years during the last and worse persecution of Christians under Diocletian. Contemplating what is known of her life helps me to be patient and to be the best guide I can for my own 11 grandchildren. She also gives me strength to bear up under the subtle but real persecution Christians undergo in this country as it wends it's way toward atheism and suppression of Christianity.

These are only a very few of the many thousands of saints who have gone before us and provide role models for us. More information about various saints may be found HERE and HERE. I commend their lives to my readers.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Mr. Tambourine Man by the Byrds! They Rock!!

The Byrds Playing "Mr. Tambourine Man" with Bod Dylan. I used to adore the Byrds!

Hope you enjoy it as much as I used to - and still do!