Green Lent 2020 6

Green Lent 2020 ~ All About the Bags

Green Lent 2020 6

Therefore you also must be ready ~ Matthew 24:44

In this passage, Jesus admonishes us to be vigilant, to be prepared, to be ready.  So don’t be caught off-guard.

Good advice.

When it comes to loving our planet, my best intentions are sometimes thwarted because I’m just not ready.  Good intentions waylaid by lack of simple preparation. Today it’s about bags.

Getting the Groceries Home

There’s no denying that plastic grocery aren’t good for our environment. They take centuries to decompose, they kill marine life when ingested, they uglify our landscape. We’ve all seen one of them fluttering up in a tree, haven’t we? In some locations they’re banned. I suppose you could ask for paper or purchase one of those sturdier plastic bags. Here’s the thing though – the manufacture of paper bags has its own environmental impact. And those thicker plastic bags some stores will sell you?  Most still end up in landfills shortly after that shopping trip. I used to virtously reuse grocery and newspaper bags to pick up my dog’s business.  Then I realized that those stinky packages went straight to a landfill. And there they’ll sit for the next century or so. Not ideal.

The best option, of course, is to bring something reusable to hold those groceries.  And then to reuse it.  Every time.

So Many Choices

I amassed a serious collection of bags over the years.

Bags from grocery stores – Ralphs and King Soopers, Hyvee, Sprouts, Walmart, Safeway, Trader Joes.  And Meijer  – those are fabulous because their design includes a secure way to carry wine bottles along with your groceries.

I’ve had my drawstring Whole Foods bags for nearly a decade – they’re made of parachute fabric, are washable and sturdy.

And I’ve owned more than a few that came from charities or were volunteer appreciation gifts or handed out at an event. I’ve got fabric bags and even a couple of hand-knit market bags. My aunt gave me a cute one that folds up to look a strawberry.  I even had a bunch of mesh bags meant for produce.

Do You Collect Shopping Bags Too?

That is an awful lot of bags. If I ever bought enough groceries to fill them all, I’d need another vehicle or two to get everything home.

Why so many?

There was a time that I’d feel guilty if I forgot my own bags. So I’d just drop a couple of bucks and buy whatever they had next to the register. Then one day I realized that my bag collection was taking up valuable real estate around my house and garage. Yet I still kept forgetting to bring them when I went shopping! This had to stop.

So This Is What I Did

This was not green. Not a sustainable process.  A change was in order.

I’ll share what I did a year or so ago.

First, I went around the house and garage, and, yes, even the backyard, and collected all my reusable grocery bags. I washed all the washable ones and added them, nice and clean, to the stack.  What a massive pile of plastic and fabric and fiber I created!

I chose the ones I couldn’t live without – those old washable Whole Foods bags, a few of my favorite logoed bags, that ten-pack that squishes into its own tiny pouch, and a couple of fabric bags. I

The discard pile was substantial. So I put the discard bags in a box in the laundry room cupboard. And I found ways to get them out of my house without throwing them away. When I brought groceries to the food pantry, they were in one of those bags. We had a garage sale and I unloaded a ton of paperbacks by selling them by the bag (double win!). Casserole for a sick friend? Door prize donations? Christmas cookies on a pretty plate for the neighbors?  I used those bags until they were all gone, and it didn’t take as long as I’d thought.

Success! No more excessive bagginess.  But I’d still find myself in the store bagless more often than not.

And the Ones That I Kept?

So now my grocery bags live in the back of the car in a nice small tote. And in my driver’s door pocket, next to my umbrella, lint roller, and emergency tool, I’ve got one bag that folds into its own little self.  Now when I run to the farmer’s market or the grocery store, I grab what I need. If I run into Walgreens or the spice shop or a boutique, I grab the one right at my side. And when I get home from whatever acquisition-of-things trip, I make sure to put those bags back where they belong for the next time.

At first I’d stroll into the store only to realize that I’d forgotten my bag. Since I didn’t want to begin a new collection, I’d force myself to turn around and go back to get the bags.  And after a while, I stopped forgetting.

These days, I’m prepared.  At least when it comes to begs for my shopping.

Sincere thank you to The Rev. Christynn Koschmann of ELCA Central States Synod,  who provided the graphics and access to a  fantastic Carbon Fast Calendar. I also used the Lenten Devotional For the Beauty of the Earth, by Leah Schade, which you can use any year you like. And finally, I’ve been going throough Stewardship of Creation, by Sara Olson and Brooke Petersen,  a 30-day devotional you can find at Web of Creation at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.

Green Lent 2020 Light Bulbs

Green Lent 2020 ~ Dim the Light

Green Lent 2020 Light Bulbs

Darkness and Light

I find recent conversation around Light vs. Darkness challenging. I hear murmurs about re-evaluating, or even eliminating, references to  light and darkness in our liturgy. I struggle because I cannot understand. I cannot begin to comprehend, down to the core of my being, why the dichotomy of white and black, dim and bright, light and dark should suggest classification of human beings.

The conversation is challenging for me, because my inability to understand has been attributed to white privilege. The idea that I can’t wrap my mind around this concept simply because skin color as an indication of good or evil isn’t part of my fabric has been dismissed. I don’t deny that there is disparity in life experience compared that of those of a different dermal hue. But it hurts my heart to think that I’m therefore considered to be incapable of automatically applying isms.

That’s my struggle, today’s post may reflect some of that turmoil.

But that’s not the point.

And There Was (and Is) Light (and Dark)

God divided the light from the darkness – Genesis 1:4

Light and dark give us division between day and night and with that division is transition. Transition in what we see – dusk and dawn, and in fleeting clouds momentarily dimming the surroundings.  Transition in what we feel – warmth or coolness. Transition in time, as days and season are measured in not just day and night, but the lengths of each.

I feel beauty and see the majesty of God’s creation in each of these. The heat of the sun is welcome after the gray dampness of spring, but the cooling shade under a tree is just as agreeable in the middle of an August Day.

Over time, we’ve conquered the confines of the natural rhythm of day and night. Fire, oil lamps, candles…. now most of us have access to consistent switchable dimmable light whenever we want it. We’ve lower or raise ambient conditions to suit our mood. We’ve got blackout curtains to keep suns rays from disturbing our sleep. And we’ve even got choices of what we screw into the fixture – incandescent, fluorescent, halogen, LED. What control over our environment we enjoy!

Living as a Child of the Light, Practically Speaking

For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Eph 5:7-9

I believe it it good and right to take care of this earthly home of ours. Incandescent bulbs in our home were replaced, first with fluorescent options, and more recently with LED bulbs.  We turn off lights when we leave a room. Some of our lights are on motion detectors, switching off on their own, in case we forget.

And today I removed a lightbulb in my office. I work in natural light during the day, and at night, my little desk lamp and the glow of the laptop provide adequate illumination. I say adequate, but I still feel some discomfort. I like things bright when I’m working, reading, knitting. Maybe because I’m getting older. Possibly because my vision has never been great. I definitely notice the difference.  What a perfect reminder to take some time to reflect on Jesus’ journey to the cross. The room may be dim, but the emotion is not.

Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity for this simple daily reminder. Amen.

Sincere thank you to The Rev. Christynn Koschmann of ELCA Central States Synod,  who provided the graphics and access to the Carbon Fast Calendar. I also used as reference the Lenten Devotional For the Beauty of the Earth, by Leah Schade, which you can use any year you like.

Green Lent 2020 Ash Wednesday

Green Lent 2020 ~ Ash Wednesday Reflections


Green Lent 2020 Ash Wednesday

All are from the dust, and to dust all return ~ Ecclesiastes 3:20

Dust you are and to dust you shall return ~ Gen 3:19

My family lived lots of places when I was growing up. I recall geography impacting the kinds of comments ashy-faced kids would hear at school. When we lived where many of our neighbors came from Hispanic or Irish or Italian backgrounds, everyone assumed ashes meant you were Catholic. When we were in the middle of the country where those of Norwegian or German descent were more common, of course ashes meant Lutheran. And no matter where we lived, those ashes were a sign that spring break was just around the corner.

But that was then.

In recent years, more often than not, kind folks quietly let me know I’ve got a smudge on my face. Or occasionally a curious person will straight out ask why I’ve got black stuff on my face.

So, what do those ashes mean anyhow?

Ash Wednesday is the Wednesday of the seventh week before Easter and the first day of Lent. The day is named for the practice of imposing ashes in many Lutheran and Catholic congregations.

Using ashes as a sign of repentance is an ancient practice, and mentioned in the Bible (Jonah 3:5-9; Job 42:6; Jeremiah 6:26; Matthew 11:21). The early Christians adopted the use of ashes from Jewish practice as an external mark of penitence.

Ashes symbolize several aspects of our human existence:. Ashes remind us of God’s condemnation of sin, as God said to Adam in Genesis 3:19.

Ashes suggest cleansing and renewal. They were used anciently to cleanse in the absence of soap.

Ashes mark out anticipation of the new life of Easter. Even on Ash Wednesday, this most penitential day, we receive ashes in the form of the cross, the same symbol placed on our bodies with water in our baptism.

Ashes remind us of the shortness of human life, for it is said as we are buried into the ground or as ashes are placed in a columbarium.

Ashes are a symbol of our need to repent, confess our sins, and return to God.

So the ashes on my forehead connect me to the earliest of days of our church. I join those of long ago in repentance, cleansing and renewal. And I have an opportunity for quiet witness, should anyone ask me about that smudge on my face.

Our Earth is amazing in its simplicity and complexity. I reflect on the variety of sustenance available to us, each appropriate to the unique geography and season that favors its growth. Of course, we’ve figured out how to work around that. I purchase mid-winter strawberries flown in from another continent. I enjoy avocado while living hundreds of miles from where the nearest tree can grow. I go online and order my favorite British biscuit or lobster from the other side of the country.

Today I am grateful for these gifts, for the luxury of the variety found in my pantry. I’m aware of the resources expended for my benefit.

Thank you Lord, for the gift of ashes and dirt. Amen.

Sincere thank you to The Rev. Christynn Koschmann  who provided the graphics and a fantastic Carbon Fast Calendar.  The other resource you may see evidence of is the Lenten Devotional For the Beauty of the Earth, by Leah Schade, which you can use any year you like.

Green Lent 2020 Introduction

What I’m Doing for Lent in 2020


Green Lent 2020 Introduction

Today is Shrove Tuesday, Mardis Gras, Carnivale, Pancake Day. According to Wikipedia, the word shrove is a form of the English word shrive, which means to obtain absolution for one’s sins by way of Confession and doing penance. Thus Shrove Tuesday was named after the custom of Christians to be “shriven” before the start of Lent.  How about that?

So Shrove Tuesday was the last hurrah before the forty days of the fasting and repentance of Lent that began on Ash Wednesday.

In New Orleans and Rio and elsewhere, that last night before the start of Lent is one massive party. I imagine the start of the Ash Wednesday fast is facilitated by celebrants inability to ingest anything at all. And who doesn’t find a hangover motivation for repentance?

Back on track…

I travel in tamer circles these days; we eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. Back when, that was a way to use up all the eggs and sugar and butter in the larder.  Why?  Because they couldn’t be consumed during the Lenten Fast. These days, Shrove Tuesday provides an opportunity for fellowship and youth group  Pancake Diner fundraisers in church basements everywhere.

So, I’ll eat pancakes for dinner tonight.  But then Lent begins.

Not giving up chocolate or wine this Lent.

Nor am I participating in a Facebook fast.

I’ll eat fish, but only because I like it. I’ll eat meat, too and maybe some Girl Scout cookies.

I’m going in a different direction this time around.

Did you know the very first Earth Day was fifty years ago – in 1970?  That’s enough of a nudge for me. This year for Lent, I’ll be focused on Creation Care – doing my little bit to be a better steward of this orb we all inhabit.

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John share in their gospels, over and over, the importance of Creation. Jesus used images from nature in his parables.  He prayed on mountains and in the wilderness. Reference And Earth testified the resurrection of Jesus with sunrise and earthquakes. Caring for God’s creation is strongly connected to my faith and I’m looking forward to spending time in the Bible with this focus. I’ll be combining that with practical application of care for our Earth. I hope you’ll join me on this hourney.

I was fortunate to come across The Rev. Christyn Koschmann’s (of the Central States ELCA Synod) Carbon Fast Devotional.  So she gets all the credit for the graphics and verses.

Note, Lent is 40 days, but you’ll see more posts in this Lenten practice of mine.  Because of the Sundays.  Did you know the 40 days doesn’t include Sundays?

Sincere thank you to The Rev. Christynn Koschmann  who provided the graphics and a fantastic Carbon Fast Calendar.  The other resource you may see evidence of is the Lenten Devotional For the Beauty of the Earth, which you can use any year you like.

Well, I Didn’t Anticipate That

ThSnowy Treeree weeks ago I had a plan, details lined up in perfect formation, creating a straight path. Except for that one niggling little element that kept barging into my orderliness.

Persistent nudging, a suggestion growing more intrusive by the day. I gave in. I took the steps to explore that little detail and get it out of my mind, once and for all.

Two weeks ago, my plan started growing a few little fissures, cracks in my path. Certainty sliding towards unease.

Last week, that niggling little item defied me and took on a life of its own, scattered my nice linear arrangement.  A bomb that cratered my perfect little plan, leaving me to explore an unanticipated road.

And here I sit today, precarious; teetering and scrambling, praying and reaching out. Looking for answers that will balance logic and practical against the visceral emotion of call.

Itching for the comfort and confidence of the control I actually thought I held. Knowing that those C’s are unattainable and that I must trust.

Prayers answered in weather that keeps me housebound, plenty of time for reflection, exploration, maybe even some action.

It’s gonna be a hell of a week.



Shattered – Mishelle Christene, Purple Ink and Fountain Pens

My friend.

Once, she lost a loved one.

We mourned, we cried, we laughed at the wrong things. Or maybe the right things.

She didn’t feel well.

We met and drank coffee  and Pepsi and solved the world’s problems and tried to sort our parenthood and wifeliness, and a good Christian life.

We prayed.

She got the diagnosis. I refused to believe.

We broke bread and cried a little and prayed a lot.

And I saw her strength, and her youth, and her  sweet soul.

And I accepted what the doctors said, but I knew she’d beat it.

Or so I convinced myself.

And we decided hat we’d concentrate on things more fun than the world’s problems.

And I went home and prayed some more.

She had surgery.  We chatted, we talked, she was tired and sore.

But feeling better every day.

We made plans to get together when she left the hospital.

And she got home from the hospital, but I couldn’t get over there, new job and all.

So we chatted some more.  And she was feeling better.

A little better every day.

So we decided I’d be taking her for coffee when she felt just a little bit better.


And I waited for her to tell me to come on over, with beverages and purple ink that she probably already had in her stash anyways.

And I messaged, but she didn’t respond.

And then she died.

Just like that.


I still owed you a coffee my friend. 



lyrics and music for hymn god be with you till we meet again

God Be With You Till We Meet Again

lyrics and music for hymn god be with you till we meet again

Its no secret that I’ve been a hospice volunteer for over a decade now.  I continue to see my little piece of involvement in end of life care as a privilege and a gift.  I know that when my feelings change, it’ll be time to move on to something else. But I’m not there yet. Even after all these years, sometimes I experience a goosebumps moment.

Recently, I regularly spent time with a bedridden patient and sat with her while her husband got out of the house and ran a few errands.  He’d visit with me a bit, make sure she was settled, assure her he’d be back shortly.  Then he’d take off to take care of the little things that we don’t even think about.  Little things become a logistical issue when you’re a full-item caregiver.  While he was gone, she and I would visit until she tired, then she’d rest.  I’d stay close, within touching range, in her line of sight, and I’d read a book until he returned.  She always woke up when he returned.

One visit, while she was sleeping, he initiated a frank conversation about her death and his own life after she was gone.  He said he’d be okay if she just died in her sleep one night, and that their sons would be around to keep an eye on him.  And he promised me that he’d take care of himself, that he’d be okay.

The next week, while he was out, she spoke to me about how her husband and sons would manage without her. She said she knew they’d be heartbroken and lonely, but that it would be okay anyhow.  She told me she was finally going to see her son again – the one who’d died in a horrific accident decades ago.  She said she’d see me again, but neither of us said “next week”. She drifted off to sleep and I stayed by her side, holding her hand feeling bones and warmth and heartbeat beneath delicate skin .  Her eyes fluttered open as her husband returned from his appointment.  This tiny little bedridden woman flashed me to most brilliant smile then turned her gaze towards him.

We chatted for a bit, then my visit time ended and I prepared to leave. I leaned down over the hospital bed,  she and I shared a gentle hug.  I turned towards her husband, standing right there.  Instead of releasing me from our hug, he pulled me closer, over to her bed. He placed my hand on her shoulder.  He said we were going to sing together, God Be With You Till We Meet Again.  I’m sorry to admit I didn’t know the words.  So I hummed along and listened as she gathered enough breath to get a few of the lyrics out.  He, a man very near his ninth decade, sang with the voice of  youth.  He sang with strength, and sorrow, and utter faith and trust.  We ended the song with tears in our eyes, and we said goodbye.

Then, as he did every single week,  he asked if I’d taken a look at the literature he’d left for me.  Photos and testimonials and pamphlets for a miracle health product which had saved his life.  Yes, it was an amway product pitch, each and every visit. That  slightly awkward multi-level marketing opportunity provided us a transition from this confidential little life story back to the day-t0-day of the world around us.  Plus, you know, it was an amazing opportunity, too.

As I headed  towards my car, I heard the click of the deadbolt, just as I’d heard each and every week since I’d starting seeing these two.  In the car,  I paused before starting the ignition. I reminded myself that goodbyes are part of the deal when spending time with people who are dying.  I took a few breaths, gathered my composure, and mustered up some patience for the inevitable highway traffic I was about to face.  And I drove off.

Later, I contacted the hospice office and asked for an update on the patient’s condition.  I was told that her decline continued but there was no evidence that her passing was imminent.  Of course, we never can tell for certain, but there were no changes that would suggest she would die very soon.

But she knew.  And he knew.  And so did I.

We knew I’d never again enter that overheated room, where she liked the drapes closed  for privacy.  That I wouldn’t  hear about their farm, long since sold,  or sift through and admire photos of children and grandchildren.  I knew that I’d never again gently deflect his requests for me to share marketing materials with all my friends. We knew that we’d not have another opportunity to thank one another for the gift of our time together.

And she passed away, quietly, in her sleep.





What, Me? Committed?  About Those Resolutions…..

What, Me? Committed? About Those Resolutions…..

2015_16So I took several posts to share my plans for the New Year.  My resolutions, if you will.  Then I sort of fell off the virtual earth.  Been awfully quiet around here, I know.  So, after taking a peek back at what I said, I think it is only fair to share what I actually did.  Here we go.

I’ll start right away with That Temperature Scarf.  I’ll admit I did get a bit behind.  I used my most recent road trip as an excuse.  Who wants to haul 8 balls of yarn around?  In any case, I found a great website, wunderground.  It’s a weather site, and the fun part is that people who have home weather stations can post all kinds of weather-related activity.  So, I found one right near my house, and, funny world that we live in, I actually know the folks who are sharing their data.  She’s a talented (read: published) novelist and they have two super-smart sons.  Daughter used to play tennis with the older one, back in the day.  But I digress.  I printed up a blank calendar, and, from their weather station, I jot down the high and low temperature for each day. Since each day is only two short rows of knitting (it is a scarf, after all), I sit down every week or two and get the needles going. Since it was so cold, I decided to make a daily low scarf.  Perhaps later I’ll make another for high temps.  I’m pleased to say not only is January complete, but based on one month’s worth of stitches, it looks like my scarf-of-lows will be a bit long, but not freakishly so.

Good for me!

Now, let’s talk about Taming the Paper.  I’m proud to say my kitchen counter is clear, the shredder is busy and I fill my recycle bin each week.  I do have a couple of paper projects to finish. I need to send that registration paperwork for Rosy the Therapy Dog (and AKC Canine Good Citizen!).

paperworks needs to be done- stack of papers, folders and envelops

A bunch of bill-paying is set to automatic now, wish I’d done that ages ago.  Taxes are nearly done, FAFSA will be finished right after Uncle’s stuff gets e-filed.  What is FAFSA, you say?  Lucky you!  Someday when your offspring head off to college, you’ll know the pleasure and pain of FAFSA.  Simply put, FAFSA is an annual online entry of a bunch of information you’ve already shared with the IRS.  Your child(ren) don’t get any financial aid if FAFSA isn’t done.  Magazine piles are gone – yay me!  Why am I still getting magazines?  Oh well, they’ll all expire eventually.  I’m using all the time I’m saving to plan a big trip.  Anyone have good hints on cheap car rentals in Europe?

So far, so good!

Those Genealogy Files.  Well, I’d kind of vowed to go through and remove errors and get everything organized and beautiful.  I made some progress, I really did!  I’ve got an indexed list of everybody and another list of all the things that need rechecking.  I’ve added a bunch of photos to dead people’s profiles.  I made it through a major genealogical panic when it looked like my software was going kaput, and found a solution and rode out that storm with only a few chewed fingernails.  I’ve backed up and got caught up on correspondence.

But the occasional search is just way too tempting.  And how can you deny me the pleasure of finding treasures like this?   I mean, honestly, this is just too fascinating to let go.  The_Escanaba_Daily_Press__Escanaba__MI__4_May_1948__Tue__death_of_Helen_Duprie_at_age_36I’m not exactly sure who she is, but I’m almost certain she’s related to my great-grandfather.  This clipping is from 1948.
So, not only must I find some time to figure out exactly who she is, but I must, must do a little digging and see if they found out why she died after eating a hamburger.  Did she choke?  Was she poisoned?  Did the counter clerk hit her over the head with a brick for non-payment?  Seriously, this merits attention.  Then I’ll get right back to organizing and cleaning my genealogy files, I promise.

Now, about that long list of Random Resolutions.  There were twenty of them.  I won’t bore you with every detail, but I have managed to keep on top of 18 of them.  I even scheduled the damn mammogram.  It is so very difficult to not yell at the tv, what with this being an election year, but I’m trying.  I’d say 50% success on that one.  I’ve blown it completely on baking cookies more often.  In my defense, however, I’ve been getting my fanny to the gym and just snagged a treadmill.  Why would I bake cookies when I’m working so hard to remove the sweets deposited on my hips?  I will make a batch soon, and it will go straight in a box to be sent to Daughter at college.  My plants are watered, I knit and write and read nearly every day, and I watch His shows without whining too much.  And I’m giving that forgive thing a great effort.  I’d say mostly a win on Resolutions 2016.

Granted, it is only February.  I may have to revisit this in a couple of months.