Some Days I Miss the Freezer Sale

For many years, our church did a massive fund-raiser called the Freezer Sale. Looking back, I can’t believe what was accomplished in that project. We literally cooked every Saturday from early summer through November, producing hundreds of homemade soups, entrees, side dishes, and pies. A small group of us steered the project from menu-planning to procuring ingredients to  marketing the event and managing the financial record-keeping. This all culminated in a sale on the Saturday before Thanksgiving which became a community tradition.  

Like many undertakings of this nature, the Freezer Sale eventually ran its course, and for a number of reasons—burn-out, Covid, changes in the evolution of the church itself—it no longer exists. Toward the end, it was turning into way too much work for way too few people, and then the pandemic sealed its fate. The dozen or so commercial freezers in the basement stand empty and unplugged and are probably on the market to be sold if they haven’t been already.

But on these crisp fall Saturday mornings, I miss coming into the parish hall and smelling onions cooking or chickens roasting or seeing a group of parishioners gathered around a giant trash can peeling apples or potatoes. There was always chatter and laughter and at times, frustration, and griping. None of us were professional cooks or had background in food management, but we just plugged along with the various skills that we had and made it happen. There was a spirit there, a sense of camaraderie, a sense of working for the greater good that superseded all of the challenges we faced. The Freezer Sale provided nourishment for the soul as well as the body.

We told our stories while chopping onions and vented our worries and fears while rolling pie dough. We laughed about the antics of grandchildren and pets while slamming overloaded trays into the cantankerous dishwasher. And after most cooking sessions, we sat down together to rest and share a communion of sorts. Coffee and baked goods after the liturgy of shepherd’s pie.

The Freezer Sale was an example of believing in what you cannot see. We did not see the elderly widow alone in her apartment, savoring ham and bean soup on a cold night. Or the family tearing into chicken enchiladas giving the exhausted mom time to catch her breath. Or that the proceeds from the sale provided a winter coat for a child, a rental or fuel oil payment, or Christmas gifts in a room that would be otherwise empty.

So occasionally I’m nostalgic for getting up early on Saturday mornings and lugging my Kitchen Aid mixer into the church for a mashed-potato-making marathon. Or sitting at the check-out desk, cash box at the ready, waiting for the doors to open on sale day. I miss the people and the knowledge that when one of us grew tired, someone would be there to take the spoon from our hand and keep stirring. And I miss the special grace that comes from showing up, even when you don’t feel like it, and saying, “What can I do to help?”

On the Passing of the Queen

As I watched the Queen’s funeral ceremonies this morning, my eyes were drawn to Prince George and Princess Charlotte. Beautifully dressed, right down to Charlotte’s precious little black hat, they stood quietly beside their parents. They didn’t squirm or fidget or need a video game to keep them occupied. They were being taught that there are times when we need to put up with a little discomfort and set aside our own agendas and things we’d rather be doing in order to show respect and honor for another person. Their great-grandmother did that every day of her life.

I was up at 5:30 this morning to watch the funeral. As a cradle Episcopalian who prefers her faith with a healthy dose of pomp and pageantry, (not to mention sublime music) this was must-see TV. I know there is a sense that the monarchy has outlived its usefulness, that’s it’s a relic from another time and no longer relevant in today’s world. But I would counter that by suggesting there is something to be said for an institution that still represents deep commitment and service to its people. That for all its over-the-top ceremonial trappings, is, at its heart, a class act. Queen Elizabeth personified those qualities with grace and dignity right up to welcoming the new prime minister two days before she died.

Like us, the UK has more than its share of problems right now from political division to economic uncertainty. But for the last ten days, the people of Great Britain managed to lay aside their differences and political angst in order to honor the woman who has served as their Queen for 70 years. They were able to step outside themselves and pause for a time to honor the only Queen most of them have ever known.  We’ve seen the footage—David Beckham standing in line with his fellow countrymen and the elderly gentleman dressed in a Union Jack suit who struggled out of his wheelchair for one final good-by to his Queen. I don’t know that there is any past or present leader in this country who would be afforded such unified respect and gratitude upon his or her passing. I find that sad as well as deeply disturbing.

I was awe-struck watching the nearly hour-long procession after the funeral. The entire royal family walked out in the open behind the casket as it passed thousands of people who were quiet and bowed their heads or saluted. No one heckled or held up signs that said “Let’s go, Charlie” or God forbid, crouched behind a monument with a high-powered rifle. I don’t know–the Brits don’t mess around, so maybe they had all the potential troublemakers locked up in some ancient dungeon. One of the news commentators remarked that the security people around President Biden worry about every moment he is out in the open and vulnerable in a crowded public setting.  

The Queen has been laid to rest, and in a few months, a new King Charles will be crowned. I hope the monarchy survives although, admittedly, it needs to change to better meet the needs of the world we’re living in now. I think it will. If nothing else, King Charles is an environmental and climate change activist. And Prince William and Princess Kate appear to be raising wonderful children who know how to behave in public. Who are learning what it means to be grateful to those who have gone before them. To those who have done the hard work, fought the good fight and given their all for the good of their beloved country and its people, often at great personal cost.

Rest in Peace, Queen Elizabeth.

Some Days I Feel Like Ruth Langmore

I got called out this week for what was perceived as an over-reaction to a recurring problem in our neighborhood. Point taken. There’s probably some validity to the comments. And yet, for those of us who keep trying to put up, shut up, and allow for what is flat-out unacceptable because of this or that extenuating circumstance—we’re reaching our limit. A constant grind of recent annoyances made we want to go all Ruth Langmore from Ozark and spew obscenities at the top of my lungs. Ruth’s character is feisty white trash with a heart of gold and barrels through life with an arsenal of spectacular profanity. Most of the people on the receiving end of Ruth’s F-word-laced tirades deserve them.

I don’t know—maybe it’s the heat or the constant barrage of depressing news or simply being officially old, but I keep looking out at the world and wondering how we managed to reach this point. (This  interminable virus doesn’t help matters, either.) Has the lack of responsibility, the rudeness, and the entitlement always been here but social media makes it more obvious? Why is it so hard to say I was wrong and accept that there are going to be consequences for our words and behavior? We don’t accept consequences anymore. Instead, we make excuses, lie, and file lawsuits.

Ok, Boomer alert, but I didn’t grow up this way. If I did something wrong, I was punished. Period. No one looked at me and said, “Let’s talk about your choices.” I learned to apologize when I said or did something to hurt another person, and woe unto me if I said or did anything disrespectful to an adult. I was fortunate to have good parents and a stable home life, and sadly, I know that’s no longer the case for a significant number of young people. But the guardrails of common sense, respect, and decency that most of us managed to stay within, have all but disappeared, and that’s scary. People who work in jobs that involve dealing with the public are at their absolute breaking point.

Most times, I suck it up and keep my mouth shut. You can only wander into the weeds in so many places. But constantly trying to take the high road is hard, and holding back too many times can have a toxic cumulative effect resulting in potential Ruth Langmore-like implosions. Sooner or later, those of us who try not to over-react eventually do, and that just adds to the chaos.  My former teaching colleague used to say to particularly annoying students, “You have just plucked my last nerve,” and that’s where I find myself right now.

I wish I had answers. I’ve found that singing helps. So do long lunches with old friends and swimming laps in the pool. For me, simply putting my frustration and anger into words is cathartic. I try to find ways to send a little something positive back into the world, whether it’s texting a friend who needs some support or letting a car go ahead of me in a stopped line of traffic. I’ve always followed the simple advice given in a long-ago teaching seminar about discipline. In a bad situation, you’ve got two choices. You can make it better or make it worse. But these days it’s getting  harder to figure out how to make it better.

Random Thoughts on Ireland

Being immersed in another country’s culture, even briefly, is a palate-cleanser for the soul.

The Irish pronounce the “th” sound like a hard “t” making for an interesting pronunciation of “King George the Third.”

Driving a 50-passenger bus along one-lane roads overlooking a precipitous drop-off into the sea is not for the faint of heart.

Even in Ireland, Domino’s delivers when there is no food available anywhere near the hotel, and the choir is starving after a concert.

Standing inside a simple stone hut built for worship thirteen hundred years ago is as awe-inspiring as being inside the most ornate cathedral, perhaps even more so. Singing The Lord Bless You and Keep You inside that hut is sublime.

Multi-generational traveling is a good thing. We all learn from each other.

There are So.Many.Rocks including rock-fences that literally climb up the side of mountains. (How did they do that?)

The air feels cleaner, the food tastes better, and even tourist places offer fresh salads and wonderful soups. And the bread…there is nothing like hearty, dense-textured Irish bread slathered with real butter.

Ireland is ahead of us on addressing climate change. Power-generating windmills are everywhere.

Do not miss the Jameson’s tour in Dublin. Take home the “Crested” version because it’s not available here.

Businesses providing “dinner and a show” (consisting of cheesy Irish songs blasted at an ear-shattering level) to a room filled with too many tourists packed in too small a space should be banned during Covid and perhaps, permanently.

The Irish people are warm and gracious and know how to brew a good cup of tea.

The scenery, especially along the west coast is stunning, and unlike anything we have in this country.

Palm trees grow in Ireland, and it rarely snows, due to the influence of the Gulf Stream.

Religion has been both a blessing and curse, but I suppose that’s true everywhere.

The Irish have the best expressions—“brilliant,” “well-done,” and “giving out a stink.” (yelling at someone or complaining about something.)

There are delightful waitresses who look and sound exactly like Mrs. Patmore on Downton Abbey—“Would yourself like some more tea?”

Do not eat the round black objects offered on breakfast buffets. Do not eat anything containing the words blood and pudding.

Covid is not over. Repeat, Covid is not over.

For fellow Stranger Things fans, today’s airports probably contain a portal to the Upside Down. On second thought, they may actually be in the Upside Down.

Choral music is an international language of love and beauty, and we need it now, more than ever.

Travel makes us better humans.