See Grandma, my eyes are really dark blue....not big brown ones like daddy

See Grandma, my eyes are really dark blue....not big brown ones like daddy

Ryan and friend

Ryan and friend
Mommy, Daddy, I'm saying Hi to Grandma?

This one is for you, Grandma!


soccer with determination and no airplane distractions

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Only babies are spoon fed

It comes as no surprise what this title means. It suggests that when you are an infant you must eat what is given to you. Mothers know that if a baby does not like it, it will come back at you as fast as you give it.

People need not be spoon fed when they are as adults, able to think and reason for themselves, through the gift of discernment.

Many have watched what has transpired on television recently concerning the death of a young man. Some, have rushed to judgement, at the suggestion of wrong-doing coming from an emotional voice, exciting the crowd. People now, "react" right or wrong. Discernment is called for here. What needs to happen is a careful analysis of the facts. Where did the information come from, and who is this person that said it. Misinformation can be deadly, as we learned recently in our own town, as someone thought a comment was intended for a loved one, and was not. A lethal head injury was the result. There will be no resolve, just pain.

Sometimes we get emotional and without thinking, take things too far. Justice requires a quieted and calm soul, and much evaluation, given the evidence. The situation in the case of the young boy shot dead, can become violent beyond nasty, if justice is not upheld, and people react, sometimes out of fear.

Who do you listen to? Those who say "Your not smart enough to think for yourself, and therefore you must be "spoon fed." Maybe it's someone of influence, who does not allow you the choice of making your own decisions, given the facts. Maybe it is a person of power, a bully. Questions mean that we "care" to find out. Freedom requires "choice." Being spoon-fed requires "trust." All response must be measured, carefully, not to injure anyone, at anytime.

People respond well to eating at their own pace, in the proportions that they choose, not being coerced when full, and not forced to eat what they do not like. They certainly would rather not be spoon-fed. Force feeding and the like, usually does not sit well, and you know what can happen after that.

While all that is pretty bad, especially the spitting up part, it doesn't top the refusal to eat. It's better to keep the peace at any age.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


We live in a society that has now noticed a sharp increase in "going alone." In America, 28% of households consist of one person. What has caused this increase of loners? Many feel that we have not adequately provided for this demographic change, and in some ways, have not addressed the need of especially the lone seventy year old persons, who in times of a heat wave, may need to be looked in on. These are safety issues,but there are many other concerns.

City life allows the lone person the social atmosphere to spend time at bars, or clubs, interacting with friends or neighbors. That number is said to consist of 40%. Small towns do not offer the same small housing units needed, nor in some cases, transportation, allowing them to connect with other people. Some are totally cut-off from society, and are sad and lonely.

What has caused this unnamed social change, which now includes one out of every seven, where living alone, does not necessarily mean being alone? Yet, in some cases there is an appeal of going alone. Sometimes it is a case of not settling for living with the wrong person, as in the past. It means not having to share with anyone else, and to keep what is mine. Not having to answer to anyone but yourself could be another reason. Doing what you want and when you want, could be another reason. All good enough for some but that could suggest other social factors not being addressed. Would they want to be with someone if that person were to be made known to them, somehow?

This lifestyle is sharply on the increase, for whatever reason, it has it's appeal.

Life is constantly changing here in America. Years ago, people were so community minded, and the more the merrier, is not the case now.

I for one, do not find these statistics healthy. It means to me once again, that sadly we are losing something rich and essential.

Our parish offers a community meal three times a month, with a growing need for many reasons. Feeding lone people is one of the reasons that it has become such a success. People tell us that sometimes, it is the only meal that they get to eat out with someone else all week. It is good to be with others, as there is nothing else going on in a non-city atmosphere most of the time, which is affordable. And for some singletons, it is an answer to prayer.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Toll-houses is the teaching of the church

The latest rave on television, is from what I hear, the ability of the mystic to confer to other's information from someone who has passed on to the other side. The one question that no-one asks is how do you know that the information came from them. Could it have been from another source?

We have been studying the subject of life after death. The teaching of the Church will help to answer some questions on how mediums receive answers, as well as reveal the teaching of the church regarding after death experiences.

Answering this question, the church strongly presents it's tradition that St. John the Baptist, who was beheaded, went rejoicing to declare to those in hell, the good tidings of God having appeared "in the Flesh," (Troparion for the feast of his Beheading), while Christ was in the tomb. The gospel tells us what the three eye-witnesses saw on the Mount of Transfiguration, as they beheld Moses,(whose body was buried in the grave) and Elias, having never died, yet dwells in heaven. Yet, both were present at Christ's Transfiguration. There is no need to try to understand what the Church presents to us.Clearly, our spirit does not "sleep," just our body. Sleeping is a condition of inactivity in which it does not function, hear, speak or see. Clearly all of creation is in the care of a just and loving God.

The Soul After Death, Written by: Fr. Seraphim Rose, says the following:
'"For some sixteen centuries the Fathers of the Church have spoken of the toll-houses as a part of the Orthodox ascetic teaching, the final and decisive stage of the "unseen warfare" which each Christian wages upon earth. For the same period of time numerous Lives of Saints and other Orthodox texts have described the actual experiences of Orthodox Christians, both saints and sinner, who have encountered these toll-houses after death (and sometimes before). It is obvious to all but the youngest children that the name of "toll-house" is not to be taken literally; it is a metaphor which the Eastern Fathers have thought appropriate for describing the reality which the soul encounters after death." '

' "It is also obvious to all that some of the elements in the descriptions of these toll-houses are metaphorical or figurative. The accounts themselves, however, are neither "allegories" nor "fables," but straightforward accounts of personal experiences in the most adequate language at the disposal of the teller." '

The writer then goes on to tell us that in life we are unaware of the actual nature of the unseen warfare waged during our life until the eye's of our soul are open. We then can see "the actual beings who have been attacking us during our lifetime. There is no paganism, no occultism, no "oriental astrology," no "purgatory" whatever to be found in the Orthodox accounts of the toll-houses. These toll-houses teach us, rather, of the accountability of each man for his own sins, of the fact that at death there is a summing up of his success or failure in battling against sin (the Particular Judgment), and that the demons who have tempted him throughout life make their final assault upon him at the end of his life, but have power only over those who have not sufficiently fought the unseen warfare in this lifetime." '
' "The teaching of the toll-houses in Orthodox sources has never been defined as a "dogma," belonging rather to the tradition of Orthodox piety; but this does not mean that it is something "unimportant" or something that is a matter of "personal opinion." It has been taught everywhere and at all times in the Church wherever the Orthodox ascetic tradition has been handed down."

Saint Macarius the Great, one of the basic works of Orthodox ascetic literature (A. J Mason translation, Eastern Orthodox Books, Willitis , CA, 1974): "When the soul of a man departs out of the body, a great mystery is there accomplished. If it is under the guilt of sins there come bands of devils, and angles of the left hand, and powers of darkness take over that soul, and hold it fast on their side. No one ought to be surprised at this. If while alive and in this world, the man was subject and compliant to them, and made himself their bondman, how much more, when he departs out of this world, is he kept down and held fast by them (Homily 22, p. 171). But if whilst they are yet in the flesh, they shall with much labor and effort obtain from the Lord the grace from on high, assuredly these, together with those who through virtuous living are at rest, shall go the Lord, as He promised....(Homily 43, p. 274)."

Taken from "On Spiritual Knowledge" by St. Diadochos of Photike:

"If we do not confess our involuntary sins as we should, we shall discover an ill-defined fear in ourselves at the hour of our death. We who love the Lord should pray that we may be without fear at that time; for if we are afraid then, we will not be able freely to pass by the rulers of the nether world. They will have as their advocate to plead against us the fear which our soul experiences because of its own wickedness. But the soul which rejoices in the love of God, at the hour of its departure is lifted with the angels of peace above all the hosts of darkness (#100, p295)."

There are many sources that verify the demonic testing at death, even if one thinks the toll-houses imaginary. The teaching of the toll-houses is given us to help us overcome our lifetime struggles in order to avoid meeting with them after death, repelling the assaults of the dark spirits of the air. Orthodox Christians seldom hear such things nowadays, and owe much to the representatives who hold the Orthodox ascetic tradition, from the earliest centuries.

We are accountable to a "loving God" and must understand the judgment that death brings to us all. We must be spiritually awake, and put off the "old man" and ways that lead to death, knowing that we cannot be assured of salvation without the mercy that only Christ can give. We therefore, with the fear of God, struggle for the Kingdom of Heaven against all the unseen enemies who oppose our path. Orthodox tradition remains the same, no matter how few may follow it. Who do you believe? Not some mystic, I hope, with clearly an unknown source. It seems that the evil spirits are very aware of all that goes on here on earth and in the air while they remain hidden.

We are in the end, called to be the children of God, to put on Christ, our only
Savior. We are to be obedient to His commandments and do His will, loving our God, neighbor, and, to pray for those who have gone before us, especially on those special days assigned by the Church for that purpose, because of our love for them and to help them to a place of blessed peace, which is also our hope.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Love is in the air

I have been happily sewing these past few weeks, usually in silence. During those moments, life stirring all around has taken on a joyful sound, which is the sound of love in the air. It is a joyful noise which nature provides from the animals which surround me in their natural habitat. Luckily, my home sets in a wooded area, which allows me the opportunity to bird watch.

They are the first to utter the breath of Spring. It is a "feeling" you get in the midst of the advent of life. That is, birds are busying themselves building nests, gathering. I've also seen snakes, and many ants, as well as other insects, and bees. I hear the distinct sound that cats make on the prowl, and have observed the pussy willows, now in full bloom.

Life is precious, all life. The changing weather, sunny days, and the coolness of the evenings, make the preparation for planting a priority, that is, if your to have a garden, or perhaps you will wait until the danger of frost has passed before setting plants into the ground. Whatever you decide, it begins now.

Each year, we still do spring cleaning, inside as well as outdoors, to rid the home of unnecessary accumulations that stifle our existence to some degree. If we allow our lives to be cluttered-in in any way, we will miss the opportunity of "newness" and "freshness" of life. It is a time for renewal. A time to break the habits of seclusion that comes with the darkness of winter, and breathe in life. Get rid of the clutter, both spiritually and physically, and you may discover as I have, that Love that is in the air.

Love is a many splendid thing, it puts a skip in your walk, a smile to your face, and a reason to live. Love springs "eternal." It is the song of life.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Pink Slime Exiting

Just read that title, one of which does not require any explanation. It says it all. If you haven't been introduced to the yucky substance, your one of the lucky ones. I find myself wondering, oh heck, I just don't care to even think that I ate anything that contained pick slime. The fact is, we really do not know what we are consuming from one meal to the next, when we purchase our food in restaurants, or eat out at fast food chains. How about supermarkets? Is it listed on the package as an added ingredient?

Lately it was announced that the slime was being put into some meat sources. One more thing I am going to have to watch out for. Where did it all begin, better yet, when will this all end. We do not care to have any color slime placed in our meats. Years ago, we are appalled to learn what was in the hot dogs that we consumed, unless they were "all beef."

I'm glad that my grandchildren bring their lunch to school. Some schools are feeding this gunk to kids who eat in the cafeteria.

Just got through eating a nice homemade bowl of cabbage/bean soup, chunky style meaning everything but the kitchen sink, and pink slime, are in it.I could stay on the fast forever. No need for anything "pink." Maybe I'll become a vegetarian.

And, for a side note, I wonder how this affects the cost of the product. Maybe this filler is weighty and your paying the price in more than one way.

I hope to see "Pink Slime Exiting" in all the stores that I frequent. When it comes to one's health, there are more important considerations, than the cost.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Steel-cut Oats

Years ago I utilized minute oatmeal for cookies and recipes that called for oatmeal. At that time, it was also instant oatmeal for breakfast, and a quick fix for those on the run.

Today we learn that processing takes away some of the beneficial nutrients and that leaves us full but empty. We ate but did we get the full benefit of the product?

It seemed in our haste, it didn't matter, as long as we were out the door, able to juggle everything for everyone, in our busy lifestyle.

The end result of not eating properly is premature aging. That is, taxing the body to obtain what it needs to provide cells with adequate vitamins, minerals, proteins and healthy fats.

You become what you eat, pure and simple. Today I used steel-cut oats, which are the better product, however, timely in preparation. They are better than the old-fashioned oats that I am accustomed to using, and far better than the quick oats.

I used to hear the expression, "time is money" meaning it costs you to waste valuable time, especially, if someone is paying you to do something. Or, if your sitting around, what a waste of time, if you could be doing something else.

There is another way to look at time... If it takes you additional time to have a better product such as in your food preparation, that results in better health, isn't it worth the effort, when it means that you'll spend less time and money at the doctor's office? Can you afford to lose the benefit of good nutrition? Just think of what it'll "cost you" in the end.

Can you really have it both ways? Better nutrition is worth it's weight in gold in the long run. And just wait until you taste the difference...

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Bad Egg

The bad egg is not just an expression, but poisoning from a bad egg can make one extremely sick. Fresh eggs contain nutrients not found in other foods and are a valuable source of protein. They are worth their weight in gold, as the story of the golden egg suggests.

Today, I learned how to test for an egg that has gone bad. This happens when hens lay eggs apart from a nesting area, all over the place, and sometimes it is overlooked for a period of time. I read that eggs can be as old as two years in the marketplace. I sure hope that is not the case. The test for a fresh egg is so simple that it should not be overlooked.

Beside the checking for a good egg, normally an egg is cracked open and placed in a small bowl for examination before consumption, especially if you have a rooster who resides with the hens. Blood spots found within an egg, called meat spots are okay to use.

So how do you spot a bad egg? You lower an egg, one at a time into a deep bowl. It should sink to the bottom and lye flat on its side. That usually denotes a very fresh egg. If the egg begins an upward trend, it is still good as long as the bottom still touches the bottom of the bowl, pointing to the surface. This egg is about three weeks old. Should the egg float to the top of the bowl, it is not good. Throw it out.

A bad egg will be light in weight and give off an offensive odor.

I will take the time to examine my eggs more carefully now that I have learned why my grandmother dipped the eggs in a deep bowl before consuming them. I thought she was just washing them. Little did I know. These processes, now almost never done or heard of, can save your life, and much unpleasantness. The fact is that there is nothing better than a fresh egg from your own coop, which is starting to gain popularity once again.

Usually, eggs are washed for purchase in the store. I never knew that they should not be washed, as they have a protective coating. Store bought, are washed and I believe, oiled. It is important to be mindful of the freshness dates stamped on the carton.

The only way that chicks could be determined years prior, was by weight. There is a story told that after cooking a boiled egg, and cracking it open, a chick was discovered. Who knew!

My dad believed like many, that "the cure all" was an eggnog made from a fresh and uncooked egg, with a little sweetening, vanilla and fresh milk. So much is said today, that cooking food kills all the best nutrients in foods. We had many of his special shakes growing up. Today, it is unwise to eat a raw egg unless you know it was freshly picked from the hen that day.

Even those who suffer from heart conditions are allowed to consume four eggs a week. Soon we will not be fasting from eggs. It is tradition to color the eggs (red) in preparation for Pascha, or Easter, recalling the great miracle of Christ's Resurrection from the tomb, (colored on Thursday,) and delivered to church on Holy Friday.

As each person comes up to venerate the Holy Cross on Pascha, (Easter), they will be given a red egg, which has been blessed by the priest. This egg is a symbol of life and every good thing.

Suspected the unexpected

Wednesday, I took my grandson Ryan for a walk through the Old Sturbridge Village, where he gets to see all the animals which he has grown to love. This time of the year as spring grows closer, so does the anticipation of the birth of spring lambs. I heard a couple are expected.

Drawing close to the smoke house, I noticed that this time it wasn't a silent, still brick shed-like dwelling, taking its place along the garden, just behind the Freeman house, but it was smoking.

Having the little one with me made it difficult to roll the carriage up to the spot to take a peek, trying to learn the inevitable. So, we passed wondering. One of the places we usually stop at is the pig pen. And, again no pigs. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know or quess why.

Yesterday, I went back to the area and saw a resident chopping his wood. I inquired about the smoke and the pigs. Sure enough, one had met his demise in January, and was infact, being smoked yesterday. I got to see the process. The other luckily escaped to a neighboring farm.

They had to work very hard in those yesteryears, for the meat that they enjoyed. Of course they had chickens, but most of those layed eggs until they died and very rarely were killed for meat. So, I'm to understand that for the most part pork was the staple.

The fat was seperated and utilized for making soap. This process began with the women of the home's removal of the fat after the butchering of the pig. They placed straw in a barrel, along with ashe and the fat, in a layering method on a sunny rock, uncovered at times, and stirred with water, until the broken down substance leaked onto a groove in the stone which was under the barrel and leaked down to the container. I was told this was lye soap, which had the consistency of soft peanut butter. Some was cooked down to be hardened into a mold. I'm not sure if they used it to bathe with, as at this point in time, scented bath soaps were available at the local store. Mainly this mixture produced was to wash clothes which were line dried.

Their method of washing the body was with a stiff brush and water, unless they had the option of buying the soap at the market in which goods came in from all over the world.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Crying out to the Giver of Life

The little things in life, the small tender moments are what makes life so worth living. They are to precious to rush by them. Sometimes all it takes is one word to make someone else happy, or to recall to you someone who has meant so much to you in your lifetime. It's perhaps, a song, or an expression, facial or otherwise. All life is so important and such a gift.

Today, its going to be marvelous, perhaps in the sixties. I just went outside and things are melting quickly, so by time I actually take in my walk, it will be heavenly.

Years ago, I planted pussy willows that came from a tray which filled the perimeter that contained the cross of Christ, on the feast day of Holy Cross. Pussy willows are a sign of new life, one that only Christ can give. That was probably twenty-five years ago, that I planted the few twigs which had sprouted roots. It was carefully guarded through the years, having been blessed, by three sticks which it eventually surpassed in height. Several years ago, it got its first pruning, and today I cut the first pussy willows from it, which I placed in my Icon corner.

Life is like that, a few seeds produces much. It is through toil and care that we arrive at a stage of pruning. Pruning so we can arrive at at stage of beauty and produce good fruit. I thought it looked healthier this year, as we have had several trees removed a few years back and it now gets more sun.

This time of the year especially, we are prayerful, asking our Lord, according to His great and rich mercy, to shine upon us sinners and provide for us both physically and spiritually. For the Lenten spring has come, and we like the tree, and all life, are crying out to the giver of life. Life is designed to be renewed, having cycles. Having need. And, we are required to ask in order to receive.

We have a need to be forgiven and to forgive. On the fourth Sunday of the Triodion period, the Sunday of forgiveness, provides for us the opportunity to ask someone that we have hurt in some way, to forgive us. This is a two way street. Until we can forgive our brother, God does not hear us when we pray. Unlike nature, this is essential for our life. Reconciliation with God and each other fulfills one of our greatest needs, even above love, peace, and joy. Without forgiveness, we are the living dead, incapable of love, as we are cut off from our creator. How can we have love within us if we have hatred toward our brother? We are commanded to love even our enemies. Love the sinner, but despise the sin. Let us then have the courage to take the first step in resolving our differences.

We also have the need to thank God for what he has given us and that is more than we are capable of understanding. "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." One of the things that humanity has got to learn and has to be forgiven for, and cease doing, is the destroying of it's own kind. Life is God's greatest gift. What are we thinking? Do we have the right to take such matters into our own hands? Shouldn't all decisions concerning life and death be determined by our maker, fashioner, and our God? Playing God is dangerous...I am thankful for the vessel of the Church, who is available to us, helping us with questions having great consequences concerning life.

Let us today, receive the arch of salvation, through Christ and like Noah, build a vessel in our hearts that overcomes the storms in life, the raging relentless waters, beginning with one drop at a time, keeping our focused and ever present journey toward Pascha, the day of the Resurrection of Christ, where all things are renewed and made new in us and for us. And in that vessel, we plant seeds of forgiveness, hope, love, joy and peace, for that life in us which springs eternal. This is your Lenten Spring. Let your voice be heard, crying out to the Giver of Life.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Blooming Town

I live in the town of Southbridge, where I was born and raised in a place where there was much emphasis on faith, fun and family. This is my town. And, as my town, I will stand up to remind others who have made comments recently saying, that we are no better off for the form of government that we now subscribe to, that we have always been and still are a jewel in the crown of Massachusetts. Your claim is unfounded, and simply not true. There is no going back to "the simplicity, days of our youth, given the complexity of the world we now live in, we need expert and full-time management. He keeps it all together like a well-oiled tool. We are grateful for his endeavours on our behalf.

Yes, I too am unhappy about the extra dollars that we have to pay for the "necessary" services, but they are what makes us unique, and in the end, is well worth the extra money. Towns who brag about their lower tax rates, don't also tell you that they call upon us to borrow in their need. Our services are second to none. We have qualified, and trained personnel who work hard at being "the best in their field" and do not deserve to be unappreciated. Yes, they do deserve their pay as hard-working employees.

People use our gym, our hospital, and other services such as the airport. It is a great place to live, as any city has concerns, we have ours which are met with one of the best police departments around. If you want statistics just look at the towns that surround us, that do not have the same protection, to see the numerous and increasing break-ins.

Water and sewer bills have gone up in the past, but at least we have the water we need and, it is clean and well maintained. It will be interesting for those who have wells that go dry in this season, of little and much needed accumulation, when there is none. Count those among your blessings. Yes, we do go out of way to help our neighbor, it is the American way-- is it not? Being a good neighbor has its reward. Towns have always looked to us and they still do. We are developing a reputation that makes one proud to say, Southbridge is where I'm from.

Stop living in the past. Let not the opinions of those who are not qualified, nor have the understanding of how to run a town, and who are uninformed of the challenges faced daily, tell us that a selectmen form of government is what we need, for our city-like town. We are looking ahead--to the future, not the past. Like it or not, it's what we are and it's going to cost us. Our town manager gets a decent salary for a very difficult and well-done job. His pay should reflect his responsibility and be considerately more than the quality people who report to him as "town employees." Most would concur.

This town is shaping up due to the fantastic people who give of their time, with numerous improvements. With determination, courage and steadfastness our Councilors are "the unsung hero's" that do not bend to the likes of the naysayers, but their concern is for the betterment of their town and it's safety and people. People should be proud to make this town their home and permanent residence, for to many reasons to list. This town has the vision of having outstanding safety personnel, who want nothing more than to keep it's residents as safe as possible under every circumstance and endlessly work toward it's resolve. They were there during the recent tornado, and are working to improve by developing communication and methods of improvement during emergency's of all kind.

Committed people develop and do not run from challenges, and while forging ahead, look to a time, when through many efforts, hope the dirge of cancer will be a thing of the past. But as for now, have secured a place of our own, so they do not have to run to the nearest city for cancer treatments. Much of the money has been raised on the backs of our own residents. Why, because we have people that remember how much sweat their ancestors put forth in building this great town. We feel their presence everywhere, we remember them and their participation in concerts, and parades, and football games. They have made us proud--this was their town and it's ours. We owe it to them to do the best that we can.

I have the privilege of working at a Community Program , where in feeding guests three times a month, I have met some fine people in this town. We are the best of the best, because we care for our own, and we help our brother, where and how we can. We have learned here that we do not run from our problems, but united we can make a difference to their resolve.

So, if you were not born here, something drove you to believe in Southbridge. We hope you will help the people who choose to see the positive things it has to offer and are not afraid to role up their sleeves in an effort to make Southbridge attractive to others who are looking to make us their permanent home. There are problems everywhere, if you look. Consider joining us in working toward that better day. We all need to work together, to meet our goals with positive solutions, embraced and realized in a team effort, which welcomes ideas as well as criticism.

I am confident that "empty storefronts" someday will be filled again as we have an attractive downtown, due largely to our architecture. When you look around, who has more to offer than us? We are not going back to what we used to be, why would we? We plan to forge ahead to what we will become, and that is very impressive. Our best and better days, are just ahead of us, Southbridge is a blooming town.