Jan 23, 2006

Be Delicious

My friends Cathy and Dave included the following quote in their Christmas letter. It's from Anne Lamott's Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. "Bread is as spiritual as life gets. [The poet] Rumi wrote, 'Be a well-baked loaf.' Loaves are made to be eaten, to be buttered, and shared. Rumi is saying to be delicious and give life." I shared the quote in a Sunday school class recently and then got a copy of the book from the library. I have always liked Anne Lamott. The first I ever heard of her was on This American Life ("Music Lessons," 1998). I didn't catch her name, and never learned who she was until the segment was repeated. (You know she's a woman after my own heart when she writes, "On the day I die I want to have had dessert.")

Back to the bread. "Be delicious and give life." We don't think of ourselves being delicious, do we? It sounds too . . . sexual, too available. But I think of it as an innocent generosity, a willingness to fling good will outward, not knowing where it will land or if it will be returned. Lamott several times has mentioned that she "flirts" with old people at the grocery store or on the street. I know what she means, taking a risk to connect, even though you have nothing to gain. It's a way to be delicious.

In Sunday school class that day, someone mentioned that a person in a rice-based culture would have trouble with Jesus' statement, "I am the bread of life," and suggested that it be translated especially for whichever starch the particular culture is based on. "I am the tortilla of life," or "I am the rice cracker of life."

On another level, so many people don't even know what good bread tastes like, or think that baking it yourself must be very difficult, and not the simple but patient task it really is. The impoverished idea of "bread" as either something unattainable and labor-intensive OR something bland and factory-made, surely has deep spiritual consequences. At myYMCA the other day I overheard a lady in her 70's telling a woman in her 30's about her sourdough bread that she has made for thirty years. The older lady offered to give the younger one some starter and the recipe, but she said"I don't have time to wait for things like that." The exchange made me feel sad, as it was but one small refusal of a life-bestowing gift that could have multiplied itself for years to come, giving joy to countless other hungry humans and begging dogs under the table. She refused the call.

Here is my recipe for oat bread. I don't remember where I first got this recipe, but I've changed it so many times that it's really and truly mine now. I make it in the bread machine I've had for ten years. The boys eat this for lunch every day.

Lauren's Humble Everyday Oat Bread

Combine in bread machine:

3/4 cup oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached regular flour
1/4 cup powdered buttermilk
1 tablespoon yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
slightly less than 1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cups water

Start machine. When it beeps to add extras, you can add 1/2 cup of flax seed meal, walnut meal, oat bran, millet, or some other grain. You can use molasses or maple syrup instead of honey. Or use all unbleached regular flour. Don't forget the yeast, for Pete's sake. I've done that twice. Share this bread and remember to be delicious!

Jan 20, 2006

Two Hotties Share a Birthday

James Denton, who plays Mike Delfino from Desparate Housewives, turns 43 today, as does my lovely husband John. John is willing to illegally download that very show so that I can TiVo Bleak House. Desparate Houswives or Bleak House? Desparate Houswives or Bleak House? Thanks to John, my brain doesn't have to explode after all.

Feel free to wish John a happy birthday in the comments section, dear readers.

The job and school situation continues to percolate, thanks to you all for your comments.

Jan 15, 2006

Schools and Jobs and Jobs at Schools

An actual blog entry.

My sense of humor is on vacation, happens every year in midwinter, sorry, dear readers. That's why no blog for a while. Feeling blah and fuzzy. Dear husband is illegally downloading The Daily Show and The Colbert Report for me, the lovable rascal, but it hasn't helped yet. I've told him that a long trip to a warm sunny place would work better, but does he listen? No, so just my sense of humor gets to go. Sheesh.

Anyway, I've been losing quite a bit of sleep this past week over a buncha stuff:

A teaching position has opened at a small college I worked at recently, which I would have a shot at. However, several years ago I got pretty badly mauled by the politics of academia, in what I feel was an abusive situation. And this isn't any better, just different patterns of abuse. In this situation I would be the person perpetually soothing injured egos, not the scapegoat. This college has no English majors. Very few students are even interested in liberal arts. Every year, it seems, the faculty endures a bruising labor dispute or some kind of battle that pits Division X against Division Y. The money is scant. No tenure. Whee!

Got that? OR I could teach English enrichment to a handful of gifted 7th and 8th graders. The principal of my sons' Montessori asked me last week if I wanted to do it. Also they are encouraging us to keep Jack there, and can offer reduced tuition. I went back to them and said that if Jack doesn't go to public school then I would need to work more, and would they let me do some grantwriting and PR work (the latter I already do for them on a freelance basis) on a salaried basis. She called the president of the board and will get back to me . . . . I have to say this job is much more appealing than the college job. Mainly because the people are actually nice. And they're professional. Plus, they know and love my children. It's close to my house. And they will pay me to read books and teach writing to kids who already love it.

We live in a town with a "blue ribbon" school district, and we're paying high tax bills for the privilege, so why would we send our kids to private school? Here's why I'm tempted: because Jack reads at a 3rd or 4th grade level now in kindergarten, and we're afraid he will be bored. At the school he goes to now, he could just keep going at the pace he is going now, which is completely his own initiative. My question for the Internet is: How horrible is it to be slightly bored in first and second grade? And my second question is: What happens if you blow college savings on private school?

And what's brown and sticky?

A stick.

Jan 8, 2006

Real Headline, or The Onion Headline?

Here is a headline from my very very local newspaper:

"Audience Will Sit in Lang Lobby to Watch Donizetti's Opera 'Elixir of Love,' Sung in English in a South Philly Setting"

It took up four lines. Wow. And moving the lobby of the Lang Performing Arts Center from Swarthmore College to South Philadelphia is no mean feat, either. Just shows what you can do with a huge endowment.

Jan 3, 2006

Dusting off the Ole Blog

Ahem. . . Testing, testing. Is this thing on?

It was a good Christmas, even though things did drift a bit off message. We try to teach our children rather earnestly about Jesus and gift-giving, about how we celebrate Jesus' birthday by giving gifts to each other. We say that Santa is a nice story but we EMPHASIZE Jesus. The result is that Jack fervently believes in Santa Claus and that Will is really into Hanukkah, happily singing songs about dreidels all throughout the house.

The interminable week between Christmas and New Year's was made less so by a trip to the Franklin Institute and roller skating. Jack and John liked the roller skating. My rented skates did not fit, and I felt creaky and insecure on them. Will slid around hopelessly and just wanted to look at the arcade games (we never actually give the boys money to play them). So Will and I sat around, very patiently I thought, while John and Jack went around and around and around and around and around and around the rink. I tried not to let Will see the game with the man getting shot in half with a machine gun and spurting gallons of blood in every direction. Did not completely work. Even if you touched the machine a murder happened on it. So I'd say "Let's watch Jack and Daddy skate to 'She's a Brick House,' which I remember from sophomore year! While that big shiny ball turns! (So it's come to this, has it?) Hey! Wanna go home?" John glides over and says gamely "I'm really getting the hang of this. I could skate for a while yet."

Will and Jack created much art over the vacation. Will has been making representational pictures for a couple of months now. Jack has just started making "comic books." He did a drawing last week that features a doctor wearing a pirate hat with a cross on it. The doctor has a thought balloon in which he remembers his past as a pirate. Also featured in this drawing are a radio, a civil war, and, according to Will, "A girl with a vagina." And all on an Office Depot 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of premium white copy paper, no less.