Wednesday, August 29, 2018

With a 9/11 Anniversary Coming Up - A Must Read from a Ground Zero Chaplain

If you are a proud American, read this book.

If you are a Christian, read this book

If you are a first responder, paramedic, fireman, or police officer, read this book

If you are too young to truly remember 9/11 read this book.

If you ever wondered whether God abandons us during times of deep loss read and evil this book.

Written by a former Chicago firefighter, rescue diver and chaplain who volunteered (5 tours)at Ground Zero this is the most amazing story of courage, faith, and humanity as I have ever read. I stayed up well into the night finishing it, even though I had to be at work early. I ended it with tears on my face and a renewed trust in God and the humanity of His children. Chaplain Bob Ossler and Janice Hall Heck have crafted and edited a book deserving of its accolades

Thursday, August 23, 2018

You Had Me at Bacon

I  was wanting to make a snack the other day for my husband one day to tide us over to lunch.  I had some garlic and a can of chickpeas and was thinking of trying my hand at hummus because as it gets more popular, it seems to get more expensive!

I had to run an errand first,  so I figured I'd get some tahini (sesame paste) which is one of the key ingredients of hummus at the big grocery store or, striking out there, at the health store that's in the next village.

The big yuppie grocery didn't have it and the small mom and pop health food store was closed for inventory.

There was sesame oil at the grocery but that was $10. No thanks. Plus sesame is an ever-growing food allergy.   (If you have a bacon allergy, you really need to find another blog).

So I had to come up with plan B. I substituted some lemon and Braggs (real apple cider vinegar with the "mother") for the tahini with some spices that came to mind.  I offered Partner a spoonful for a taste -  "here, try this". It was good, but it needed something to add some savory to offset the ever so slight vinegary undertone.

Bacon and green onion.  Oh My!  It was the perfect combination of tart and savory. I sliced up a little baguette and we stood at the counter and literally cleaned the bowl here.  This WAS lunch.
Tahini-Free Hummus with Bacon
(c) Home on the Range
1 can chickpeas drained and rinsed.
3 teaspoons chopped garlic (from the jar).
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt
a grind or two of fresh pepper
1 Tablespoon bacon grease
4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (and if you get the urge to shout "EVOO" like Rachal Ray, please do so in the privacy of your own home).
5 pieces applewood smoked bacon, cooked,
3 heaping Tablespoons finely chopped green onion (green parts, not the bulb)

Serves 2-4.

Cook the bacon and set aside to cool. Retain at least one Tablespoon of the bacon grease.
In blender or food processor (preferred, the blender didn't make it that smooth) mix spices, lemon juice, fresh bacon grease and Braggs with the chickpeas until course. Drizzle in remaining olive oil, pulsating until you get the desired consistency (for me it was 4 Tablespoons). Stir in 1/2 of the bacon (chopped) and serve topped with remaining bacon and green onion.

Note - this used a can of chickpeas that needed to be used up.  Dried chickpeas are super cheap and easy to cook up.  Cook in some water with some garli  and add a fair bit of salt after they start getting soft (cooking time will be on the package). When cool and dry, freeze in small sandwich bags.  Great for snacks, salads or recipes, they will keep in the freezer for at least a month. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

A Basic for the Bug Out Bag

Having adequate light is a concern in any potential power outage situation or out in the elements after dark.  Candles can cause fires (and those little "tea light" candles have all the illumination of a Reese's peanut butter cup). Lighting sources can get wet and be unusable. Batteries can accidentally be left home.  There are water and wind. There are times you want enough light to find your way or find a certain item without being obvious to predator OR prey.

I got this nifty little item from a dear friend for my birthday. From uvPaqlite, it's a square piece of hard plastic-like material, quite bendable when warm to wrap around something, mountable on the wall, and easy to tote and carry.  It's their UVMatliteWhat does it do? With no batteries, no power source but light, no chemicals or radiation, it glows in the dark. And I mean GLOWS. It's bright enough to light your way out of a dark place, place a piece of paper over it for writing, or place near where you may need to find your way  in the dark of night when the power is out.
Of course, when I first opened it in sunlight I was tempted to stage it on my counter with my giant Ginsu knife and some sliced tomatoes and send a photo of it to M. with the note "Thanks for the cutting board" as a joke, as I recognized what it was.  But honestly, I don't think you could hurt this thing too badly even with a knife.  It seems to be pretty durable though I tried neither the .45 round or any lab test on it (here Barkley!)

It utilizes DILITHIUM Strontium Aluminate crystals blended with a rare earth called uropium (strontium is actually found in some toothpaste).  It doesn't produce heat, radiation or any known side effect toxic to human or pets.   The one pictured below had been inside a briefcase all day and still produced enough glow to take this photo.
It can use any source of light to "power up"  - sunlight, LED lights, Flashlights, halogen, fluorescent, blacklights, etc. and within minutes (about 10 in the sunlight) it will glow all night long giving you some light in a power failure, or to keep you from bumping into something.   For a natural disaster, it always works, even after the battery supply runs out. Unlike batteries, it won't expire, this should glow in 30 years like it glows today. Plus, it even works underwater (forensic hot tub findings are classified, however).  Try THAT with your decorative candle.

The uses around the home are many.  Open a safe to get out items you need to take out in the event of a natural disaster or Zombie Apocalypse. 
Find that one item for which someone would be totally lost.
Prevent panic.

What about hunting?  Put it up in your blind (photo from their website.)  Have it handy to find ammo in a moonless night before dawn without spooking the game with the spotlight or  "click!" of a flashlight.   I can see the size I was given easily working in a small tent. The Matlight is one size, but the less durable but just as effective Paqlites in the smallest size can be had for less than $4 and can be used as trail markers.
Even better, it's made in the USA.

My birthday Matlite is in my briefcase which goes with me to airplane and hotel.  Another one went on the dash of my vehicle when I leave it in airport parking (very helpful in finding the Bat Truck in the giant sea of long-term parking when I roll in on the red-eye) and then stored in the car emergency kit. There will be another one in the home emergency kit. It's not so bright as to keep you awake in your bedroom, but it will give you the light you need to be safe and aware.   Having such tools for emergencies is essential.  

I like this little addition.  On dark and stormy nights when predators abound, it will provide an illuminated platform for things I need close at hand when things go bump in the night. That's sleeping peacefully, in my book.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Life Aloft

What do you do to renew your spirit? For most of my female acquaintances, they shop. For me, mall shopping reminds me of the running of the bulls at Pamplona. Something I'd rather not participate in. If it wears out or breaks I can usually find a replacement at LL Bean. Online.

For myself, I often look upward to recharge. The heavens. The smell of aviation fuel is my perfume, and the roar of a Stearman's Lycoming 680-13 a symphony of wonder. There will be no flying anytime soon. I'm still physically not quite feeling up to it, and the forecast, clouds low, laden with rain. But today, I can retire to my library, happily clutching a book, and let the rest of the world become background noise for a little while. Sitting home when you'd rather be out is never fun, but grab a book, grab a dream.

Never experienced flight? Then sit and read with me. Ernest Gann, Gordon Baxter, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, were all my inspiration. All are masters at the art of weaving the aviation world into the fabric of your life. Our world awaits you. You don't have to be a pilot to experience those wondrous truths of life in the sky.

As the only sound in the room is that of the turn of a page and the gentle snore of a black lab by my side, I think back to a flight I took while in my last home. I used to have a little country airstrip right behind the house. When life got too busy, too rushed, I could walk across the road and take out a little tailwheel airplane I named Otis II. Like the old drunk on Andy Griffith, Otis was bedraggled, a little unsteady in a strong wind, and had seen a few years. But to Otis, the world was still a friendly, warm place, where his presence brought a smile to all. A quick preflight, and with the last of the daylight leaking from the sky we quickly launched, leaping into the air with an enthusiastic laugh, hurtling into the mystery, and occasionally scaring the absolutely wadding out of yourself.

But the sky is darkening so I will have to head back to home, turning back towards the strip while some light remains, utter silence now other than the song of the engine. Wind in my face from the open window, I felt one with the air. It felt like all life, all my past, my future was contained in this sky and I'm not just flying through it but I'm a part of it. It's the most contented, calming time in space you can experience and as the wheels gently kissed the ground, my breath slowed to one of coherent peace.

These are life's shining moments. Small minutes of time you can carry inside of you while the chaos of life hurries past. So turn the page, peel away the tired layers of your life, the noise, the stress. The sky awaits you.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Update on Dad

Sorry for the lack of posts.  Those of you whom I know off blog who are on Facebook know this, but Dad finally went into assisted living (his call).  There was a lot of arrangements to be made to be him settled and get his house ready for sale as he is in the Pacific Northwest and I'm in Chicago. For starters, the king size waterbed with the bright red velvet bedspread had to go. "The Love Boat" as Big Bro and I named it, is but a fond memory and Dad has a comfy bed with a new mattress and a new bedspread and a newer chair that will lift him to a standing position. With some of Mom's things around and photos of family and he's right at home.

His mind is still pretty sharp (not enough to handle his finances as I think he probably spent $3000 to various shysters that weren't legitimate charities to get Obama impeached before the checkbook was confiscated, but enough he could enjoy beating me at a rousing game of cribbage on a regular basis and enjoy some lively conversations with neighbors and friends).  But his strength was declining quickly and one of the home health aides we were paying $20 an hour for 24-hour care for stealing his opioid pain medication and replacing it with OTC stuff that left Dad in a lot of pain.  That was the last straw for Dad.

My cousin Liz and her partner of many years (who has family an hour from Dad) was a huge help in the physical move but still so many little details to take care of. The Pastor we had as a child has a son that has, with his wife, been friends with my parents for years. I used to babysit his kids and his lovely wife works with the seniors in our church and was there with them for prayer time with both my Mom and Stepmom as they lay dying. He owns a large realty company and Dad will have him sell the family home, the money going into a trust for his care, and any residual to my late brother's children.

But Dad is safe, he's happy in the changed environment (better cooking he said and lots more to do) and there are three men from his church at the same facility that he can play cards with. He's got two rooms and a lovely view of a garden. Not in his hometown, but a much better facility than what he could get there and not too far of a drive for friends that want to visit.

I'll try and be back with a post this weekend.  Partner in Grime is on the road and there is a  lot to do both at home and at work.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

A River Song

Frost on the window turned to fog as the heat kicks on.  It was a trip to my Dads, taken in the fall, the growl of the furnace waking from hibernation, waking me too early from the rapture of deep sleep, as I roll over and sigh with its loss.

Dad was still sleeping - going to bed around 7:30 pm waking about the same time in the morning. For myself, a cup of hot coffee and fresh baked bread, consumed at the table that's seen several generations pass.  A sip of liquid, the tear of bread, a communion with the morning, as I said a prayer of thanks.  Elsewhere, the world rushed ahead, gathering like seagulls at a fast food place, eating their microwaved food thrown at them out a window. Few wish to get up earlier just to have this quiet time, the language of yeast and oven and hands being a foreign tongue, a Mass for the dead, the generations gone, whispering from the walls around.  That morning, I sensed them, the history in this house, even as I knew they are not there, the words I spoke, head bowed, a whisper in the mist.
Each time I visit, weeks apart, I wonder if it will be my last, but for a funeral.  It's a thought that's never far from my mind as I arrived back home, the clock showing a new day has started, even as I exited the terminal from a delayed flight.  Cabs waited, hovering around the doors, like stray cats, seeking warmth and sustenance. I hailed one, my husband being told to not wait up when I realized I'd be landing just a few hours before he got up for work.  The driver was an older man, cordial and polite. After ensuring I was buckled in, and an obeisant glance at the cross on the rear-view mirror,  he takes off into the night, uttering a torrent of Greek into his hands-free phone, a cheerful animated conversation with a friend, by his tone.  Though he's totally attuned to the road, his words rush past with emotion, a smile, a gesture of futility, a pondering frown, and more smiles.  Of the rapidly flowing language, I only caught one phrase in English "walking dead" and I had to stifle my laughter.  We are a nation as bound by the old as we are the new.

Each time I go home to see Dad, things change. Small businesses closed, a big box mart type store replacing a row of houses that used to line the small highway in a nearby town.  Dad's house itself is largely unchanged, but for fresh paint and a good roof, something my brother always took care of. The only thing that changes as I come in, is my Father, the man slowly and carefully coming to the door, still the man I remember chasing me down the street when those training wheels came off the bicycle and I realized how fast I could fly, unfettered. Yet, even as he's approaching a hundred years on this earth, his spirit is as strong as the staff in his hand, to be raised when one needs help to fight, to be leaned on when one is weary. Yet even as he has aged, he's remained a constant, and even as my own faith at times foundered, I saw his strengthen in his eyes.
On the table by his chair lay a well worn Bible, something to be read each day before his meal. On the wall, certificates and flags, photos of submarines and airplanes, markers of duty that stand above a table on which sit two children's toys, sturdy little vehicles a generation old, one commanded by a small, well-loved teddy bear. Dad has outlived two wives and two children in this house, an older sister, lost before I was adopted, and the reason this family became mine. As I sat each day and listened to him read, I was aware, dimly and without regret, of the silent sundering of this family, too soon, only one of us remaining.

But the words of the Book of Psalms call me back into the present  This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. And we will, taking every moment we can out of the time remaining, like the savoring of a fine meal, one flavor upon another, sweet diffusing the bitter, the spray of warmth against the tongue, the velvet of oil, that binds but does not subdue. We are not shy guests at the feast the world offers, breathing deep of the day. Like the freshly baked bread, the air is full of the breath of sweet warmth, comforting long after it has been consumed.
After the breakfast dishes were washed, we would make our way into town for gas and supplies, taking the ferry. It's a ritual journey that's been made a hundred times. Sure, one can take a small bridge to the other route, then a huge span of metal across the river some miles further, but it's not nearly as fun. Passing the Nordic Hall, we get to the ferry in time to be first on, where Dad can sit in the vehicle sensing the motion, and I can lean against the front barrier, the wind in my hair, stray raindrops on my face.

The river looked like steel, the wind coming from the mouth of the river, humming as if through wire. I remembered another ferry ride, the last one with my big brother, as he stepped off the boat back to land, to have that silent cigarette he thinks I don't know he'd smoke.  I watched him in the faded fabric of the shore, his form, a thin piece of steel unbending before the wind, the embers of his cigarette fraying away in fiery shreds, carried on that biting wind like sparks of ice.
That day, everyone now on board, we moved away from the dock. The ferry moved with the aged motion of service, the rituals of grace, the tending of the fires of an altar, burdens born secretly, yet even in its cumbersome age, moving towards the light on the horizon.

A ferry has been making this run for almost a hundred years, and will a hundred after we are all gone. The faint leap of my heart reminding me of how much I missed the water, the faintly metallic scent of the sea, evoking pale images of silent hopes, the fragrance of forgotten tears.  The other riders probably thought I'm was daft, standing out there in the cold and the wind, the throb of the engine a song within me, of history and a name which lies on the edge of memory beyond capturing, falling behind, left in the churning wake. The sound of a ship's horn brought me out of my pondering, cleaving the air like a star does the secrecy of night.  I turned and waved at my Dad, and went back in the vehicle to keep him company.

I would make this trip again, the intervals between, shorter and shorter, as is time. Even when the last trip is made, the ferry will continue to run. From island to shore, from the past to the future, the span of distance is small.
 - Brigid