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Saturday, March 26, 2016

The wild, lawless place in church: The balcony.

Good morning all and Happy Easter, if you celebrate Easter.  I do...and it's because I was in church much of the day yesterday for Good Friday services that I bring you today's blog.

Let's talk about the church balcony.


If your church is like mine, the balcony is a mysterious place for most church members. Choirs sit up there. The organist may live up there, since you probably don't see her much beyond that brief moment in the service when you're scampering out of church and she's still wrestling with the organ, limbs flailing, trying to make that beast sound like anything other than a bellowing whale. (I used to play organ in church. I would have LOVED to have gotten "bellowing whale" sounds out of the thing. So much better than what I managed.) 

Anyway...yes, the balcony. Musicians wrangled for special music on special days are up there. You may even have a hand bell choir that rings out from up there. You don't know. You're a main floor, show up on time, don't turn your head to see who on earth is making that ruckus (honestly the people they allow to play the organ these days) kind of Christian. You sit in a pew,  you have racks full of nice hymnals and Bibles.  Your pew probably was bought when the church was built, or maybe even more recently.  And there's a decided lack of sullen teens around you.

And then we go to the balcony.  

Up there, up those stairs that a generally poorly lit, are a sort of yard sale of chairs and old pews. In our church the choirs sit on these brown chairs that have lost their cushiness and the few pews that are up there came from the "old church" and are probably more than 90 years old. Those pews are wooden, they are narrow, they are not at all comfortable and yet they are guaranteed to be full every single service. Why?

Because they are in the balcony.

First and foremost, the balcony is a haven for those who do not wish to be seen in church either because they showed up late and they don't want their parents knowing it (ahem, Peaches and Skippy) or they look homeless because it's SOOOOOOO difficult to put on clothes that don't have holes in them (again, Peaches and Skippy) or simply because it's just too churchy downstairs with all the old people.  (that would just be Skippy.)

People who sit in the balcony pretty much show up when they want to and leave when they want to. Strolling in after the first hymn?  Balcony.  Can't find a seat because all the seats are taken because you forgot it was a high holy day and both choirs and the hand bell choir are up there taking up all he chairs?  

Sit on the floor in the balcony. You're not going downstairs. No way!

The choirs and musicians in the balcony give the place the feel of backstage of a big musical. There are electrical cords snaking all over the place, mostly for lamps and lights for the musicians because when the pastor really wants to make a point, usually on Good Friday or Christmas Eve, he does it by turning off the lights in the sanctuary.  And who loses the light first and is left in complete darkness longest?  The choirs. And who has to use flashlights or their phone to sing that final song as the parishioners leave the building in darkness? Yep, the choirs.

There are music stands everywhere. With some sense of organization, we could turn our church balcony into one of those obstacle courses from the set of "Wipeout."  Seriously, if we removed the
organ, we might even have room for those big red balls.  

People sometimes bring bottles of water to church.  Some bring travel mugs of coffee.  Up in the balcony, it's like Opening Day. I know this because I'm usually the one in charge of making sure everyone in my choir has a bottle of water. I stand there like  peanut vendor, holding a bottle of water and when someone points to my I toss it to them. I'm still waiting for them to send back my $3.50, but I'm sure they'll get me on the next one.  

Behavior up there is a little more relaxed, because when you're up in the balcony, you don't worry about things like rules. Man, sometimes it's CARNIVAL up there during second service because most of the musicians and singers have already seen the early show...I mean service...and we're just waiting for our cues.  So there's a bit more chit chat. People wander in and take their seats when they want to, not when the bell rings.  Most of them have procured coffee from the church basement where coffee never stops brewing. I believe you could go to pretty much any church basement/fellowship hall RIGHT NOW and you'd find coffee either brewing, just brewed, or brewed within the last five hours. Go ahead, go look.

Or the balcony.
 It's all very quiet of course, the behavior upstairs. We wouldn't want to bother anyone downstairs. It's not like we're the back pews reserved for families with small children.  The one rule of the balcony...don't talk loud enough to draw attention to the balcony.

On a really high Holy Day, take Easter, for instance, you've got two services that are going to be PACKED with people and you can bet there's going to be a choir. And a bunch of instrumentalists. And then you've got the late comers with little kids who want to avoid the circus that is the back pews of the church (Quite possibly the only other place that's more lawless than the balcony, the pews reserved for "families with small children."  Well, that and the mother's room. Let's face it, there are NO rules in the mother's room, except put the dirty diapers in the bucket.  That's it.) But on a day like Easter the balcony is remarkably silent chaos.  Random percussion instruments lying around for people in the Senior choir to bang away on when they sing something fancy....chairs and music stands scattered all over for the various young instrument players who don't play for church all that often and are really nervous and therefore wander around with their reed in their mouths or constantly clearing their spit valve.  (Which is why I chose percussion.  No spit valve.  No reed. Just hitting stuff in a musical fashion.)  There's an organist, who probably got assigned this Sunday as opposed to volunteering for it because no one wants to screw up on Easter.  And she's got piles of music books laid out in a certain order on top of the organ and on the organ bench.  (Wanna mess with an organist's brain?  Rearrange her music.  Then step back and watch.)

Walk a family with small kids into that...a family that arrives late and has to share a battered, ancient, wooden pew with six sullen teens who did so not WANT to get up at the crack of dawn for "Sunrise Service" but who very much did want to get in on the free Easter breakfast, so they're there, dozing in the corner.  Now they have to share their hiding place with little kids tearing pages out of the Bible's and hymnals that are still in the hymn racks. (The few intact hymnals that make it up to the balcony are in the rack just above the choir music rack. The big secret is if you just go up and take one, no one in the choir is going to stop you.) It's okay though, for balcony people because anything you really need to know will be on the big screens in the front of the church.  Better hope the guy who makes those screens did it right and you don't have the entire balcony singing the wrong words to verse four of "I know that My Redeemer Lives."

And then there are the times when a children's group will sing up in the balcony.  Here's a secret I've learned having been the music director in a Sunday School for more than twenty years:  There is a reason most children's groups sing in the front of the church and then go sit with their parents:  those kids are disgusting.  Since I don't like to direct my kids in the front of church  (I look like a whale trying to take flight...I even jump up and down...yep, I clearly skipped "Choral Directing" in college.) and since I don't like sending them down the steps after we sing (because forty kids sounds like both armies on the Russian Front when they're told to "BE QUIET ON THE STAIRS) I keep them up there with me. And I get to observe and I have to tell you, parents, you're all raising a bunch of balcony dwellers.  We've got girls pulling their skirts up over their heads and boys picking their noses and every single one of them is a stranger to the concept of blowing their noses, so it's snot snorting in three part harmony. And every single one of them is CONVINCED they can read so they demand a hymnal and that just deteriorates into one of them, guaranteed, smacking another one in a hymnal version of a Star Wars battle.

So what brought on this rant like observation?

Well, it's Good Friday and Good Friday is one of the two nights a year (Christmas Eve being the other) when ministers combine turning off the lights in church with dividing up the verses of a hymn for certain groups to sing. Tonight was a new one. Usually we just do men and women. Men since very one, women sing verse two, you get the picture.  But tonight, Pastor says, "Those on the far right will sing verse one, those on the left will sing verse two."

A goodly portion of the choir, up there in the balcony, were spot on in the middle of the two groups.  And, being in the balcony, and also knowing we'd be sitting in the same spots for the night service as we were for the day service, we had a little chat, those of us in the middle.  We decided we were going to rebel against these new, difficult rules. 

Okay, really it was one other lady and I and we decided we'd sing with the left.  But STILL...that's the kind of thinking up there.  You just don't know which way people in the balcony are going to go.

Go ahead, turn off the lights.
See what we do with that kind of temptation.
All I know is that if I'm singing for a night service I keep my phone handy...you just never ever know when the lights are going to go out and then it's seriously the Wild West, only at night, and with adults who go to church on a regular basis.  But you get my meaning.




Saturday, March 19, 2016

Hey! Oprah! How about leaving some for the rest of us?

Disclaimer:  Today's blog, like all others, is meant to be funny. I do not truly believe that Oprah Winfrey has the capability to eat all of the Weight Watchers frozen meals in the country.  I do, however, believe she has the power to send her minions to my house and make me disappear.

Oprah, please don't send your minions to my house.  And also, please touch the cover of just one of my books.  I believe you, Oprah, have the power to make my sales skyrocket simply by touching one of my covers..or even saying the name of one of my titles.  Come on Oprah, just say it:  "Missing in Manitowoc."

In Oprah's name, amen.



Hello everyone!

Some several weeks ago, Oprah Winfrey began a partnership with Weight Watchers.  You've seen the ads, Oprah's sitting there, talking about weight loss and how great Weight Watchers is.

We've been down this road with Oprah before, and I think if it proves noting else, I believe Oprah's struggles with weight proves that it's nearly impossible to lose and keep weight off.  If the wealthiest, most powerful woman in the world can't keep it off, what hope do the rest of us have?

But I give this to her, Oprah does not give up.

So that end , she's with Weight Watchers and doing TV spots talking about the joy and losing weight with the points system.

What's the easiest way to make sure you're doing a diet the right way?  Well, eat the food with the diet company's name on it.  And aren't we lucky, Weight Watchers has a line of foods that are point savvy for those of us serious about counting our points and staying with the program.

I'm not exactly what you'd call a fanatic about points...or indeed any diet that doesn't have melted cheese as a cornerstone of the weight loss plan.  Hey, I'm a Dairy State girl.  I gotta have my 16 kinds of cheese on a grilled cheese sandwich.  It just is what it is.  

And as a side note, why are we suddenly putting tomatoes on grilled cheese sandwiches?  I never had to do anything but order the triple gooey sandwich and they would bring it to me.  (Yes, I order grilled cheese in restaurants.)  NOW, in the last couple years, I've had to say, "No tomato." And of course I wind up picking the tomato off the thing because no matter where I'm eating or what I tell them , no one remembers to leave the tomato off the sandwich.

I mean, tomato and cheese sandwich, yes, is a good idea.  Tomato and HOT cheese sandwich is a terrible idea. HOT TOMATO?  EEEEEEWWWWWWW.  And let's be honest, the inside of a tomato is sort of an unfinished, unformed pile of slimy goo that, when heated, breaks down into some sort of gritty,  slimy seed infested, bitter acid sort of unpleasentness. Why would you put that in the middle of a gooey volcano of dairy lava?

Wait, where was I?  Oh, right, Oprah.

So anyway, Weight Watchers has all these different foods, all carefully calculated on their points scale.  I'm partial to some of their frozen foods, the "smarts Ones."  I especially like the egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches.  Not the ones with turkey sausage or bacon, I like to ease up on the processed meats sometimes and just have a quick breakfast that tastes good. I like these little sandwiches. 

My other favorite thing is the the Snack Size Fudge Bars.  These are really, really delicious, and at 45 calories each, don't break the bank on the guilt level.  Now they make a GIANT size fudge bar, but I find that the snack size is just right and while there are 2 bars per serving with the snack, I can usually be good with one.

These two items are sort of hard to find.  I don't know if they're always sold out or only certain stores sell them, but it seems like if I can find them at all, I wind up having to buy a couple boxes at a time
because who even knows when you'll see them again?

And that was BEFORE OPRAH.

Now, and I'm not making this up, since Oprah started shilling for Weight Watchers, it's difficult find ANY Weight Watches meals or snacks anywhere. The Smart Ones shelf in the freezer section always seems to be in some sort of state of nearly empty disarray.  If you find anything on the shelf at all, it won't be the breakfasts, those are ALWAYS gone.  There might be a few boxes of black bean tacos or something, but nothing you'd want to grab for a quick breakfast.

And let's even forget about the snack size anything.  

My friend Linda says she can't even GET to the Smart Ones section in her grocery store because when she's there, even if the store isn't crowded, there's always someone just parked in front of that particular door. So if the egg and cheese or the snack size items are in there, she can't get to them. 

I mean, this is good for Weight Watchers and all, but I can't help feeling there's one big reason I can't find my two favorite items.

So I'm putting it out there.

Come on Oprah...how about leaving some of the Weight Watchers food for the rest of us?  I mean, I'm fluffy too, and I don't have my own chef. I actually do HAVE to eat the frozen meals to get the points right. How about not buying up ALL the Smart Ones just because you're, you know, Oprah, and you can?

Could you maybe...just...you know...leave a box or two  the egg and cheese sandwiches and the snack size fudge bars in one of the six stores I go to to find just those two items?

Please?

I'm a  fluffy girl. I should not be eating anything called "GIANT' anything.  A snack size is just right. Please leave a box or two for me someplace.  And I really should eat a breakfast that isn't two Eggo Waffles slathered in butter and syrup.  (mmmmmmm....Eggo waffles.....)

Or wait...maybe...

Maybe it's not Oprah. Maybe it's all of Oprah's disciples who think if they eat what Oprah's eating they'll be like Oprah or something.  Maybe there are tens of thousands of women all over the world simply hoarding Smart one's Egg and Cheese breakfast sandwiches because when Oprah takes over the world they have to be ready and they'll need a protein packed breakfast that doesn't involved turkey sausage.  (Turkey sausage is not good.  Don't know if you picked up on that or not.)

So if that's the case then I have a message for those people:  STOP IT!  Weight watchers will make more. Stop buying 10 boxes of the snack size bars.  (Seriously, some of you are not fooling anyone.   We know you're not stopping at one small bar. just  buy the giant ones and leave the snack sized ones for those of us who have sated our appetites with melted cheese and just need a palate cleanser.)


And finally I'm going to make a plea to Weight Watchers:  Stop rationing!  These two items sell out all the time...MAKE MORE!  For the love of all that's holy, MAKE MORE!

Well, now I'm off to eat half a GIANT bar.  Or I'll probably eat the whole thing because who puts half a fudge bar back in the freezer?  And then I'll feel guilty. And the only way to ease that guilt is to bury it under another fudge bar.

Which is not good for me. I don't think it matter if it's Weight Watchers or not, if you're eating TWO Giant Bars, you're not going to lose weight.

So see, Oprah?  See Weight Watchers?  You're the reason I'm still fat.

There. I feel better about myself.  I'm feeling so good about myself, I'm going to go get an ice cream bar.







Saturday, March 12, 2016

I realize we're all idiots...but we can't really be THIS stupid, can we?

Good afternoon!

It's a rare Saturday post from, but I'm on my own for the weekend and thanks to a recent carpal tunnel surgery I can't put a lot of pressure on my right hand. Now this was amusing when it came to having to have Hubby help me with foundation garments and learning to do some of the more basic things with my left hand, but when I couldn't open a bottle of wine on my own last night....I realized just how eager I am to have full use of my hand!

No worries on the wine front, however. I got Skippy to pop the cork for me before he left for work at 10 AM.  I also had to teach him how to use the cork screw, so it was a teachable moment.  A parent never stops teaching, ever.

Anyway, I wanted to do something nice for Peaches' boyfriend, let's call him George  (because he plays piano so much like George Winston....brilliant.)  George is headed back home to Missouri to go back to school for music. A good move, but it means he and Peaches have to be apart and we all know that long distance blows.  So he's leaving this weekend, I thought I'd do something nice and
send him off with a coffee cake. My mother, believe it or not, has a great recipe that's ridiculously easy. It starts off with yellow cake mix and the ingredient list doesn't get much more complex from there.

I assembled the ingredients, all four of them, and began the baking process. How does one begin?  One opens the box of cake mix.  That's when I saw it...the thing that made me say, Um...really?

Stupid warnings have been around us forever.  Some we follow like, "Don't use the hair drier in the bathtub.'  Some we as a society ignore, like, "Don't stick Q-tips in your ears."  But many products have the "duh" warnings on them.  I realize it's all, as Hubby calls it, is CYA insurance  (if you don't know what CYA insurance is, look it up.) but it never occurred to me that manufacturers really think we're all complete idiots.

I looked at the box of cake mix and at the very top were the words, "Pull up here."  

Is this something we need?  Instruction on how to open a box of cake mix? It's a small box made of very thin cardboard.  It's not like it's hard to get into.  And hey, if you puncture a different part of the box and nip the bag inside holding the cake mix, well, it's a little messy, but it's still all in the box which means it's still all going into the bowl.  

Think about this:  This box goes through how many layers of printing to get all the colors and pictures on it and yet there's time for one more thing, instructions on how to open the box.  

Where are the bakers who can't manage this?  Is there a section of the population sitting there saying, "Wow, I could really go for cake and I'd like it fast. I have a box of cake mix...but I just don't know how to open it."

Here in the US we put a man on the moon, we've cured a bunch of diseases, we've developed countless modes of transportation, medical procedures, technology. We have free education until you're 18.  Higher education, while expensive, is pretty much every county in the country.  We have three year olds who can operate an iPhone.

And yet...

We need to put the instruction, "Lift up here" on a box.

Normally I'd blame Big Broccoli for this because Big Broccoli is behind everything else.  (think about it. Every single type of diet includes broccoli.  Not one other food can say that.  Big Broccoli is solid no matter what the health trend is.)  This time around I have to look elsewhere.  So I'm going to blame the Democrats...and the Republicans...because clearly both sides are in the pockets of BIG INK.

This is why a two party system doesn't work.  If we had a strong third party, we wouldn't have idiot warnings on cake mix boxes and then maybe cake mix would cost less than a dollar and I could afford to eat more. 

Of course, that's exactly what Big Broccoli would want.


Saturday, March 5, 2016

not sure why I have to take my pants off for this...

Good morning!

This will be short I'm typing mostly left handed but I had to share.

Yesterday I had a right handed carpal tunnel release.  It's a long time coming and I am very excited for the results to happen.  But the procedure itself gave me this post and I can't wait until next week when the casting comes off.

We were told to get to the surgery center at 7:45 AM.  Other instructions included wearing loose clothing. It said nothing about not wearing metal and there was certainly nothing about getting naked for surgery. Believe me,if there had been I would have prepared better.

At this point I'd like to warn Hubby and Todd and anyone else with delicate sensibilities that you may want to turn away.  Well, not Hubby so much since he was pretty much there.  

Are we ready?  Okay.

So they bring me into what is basically a large closet with a curtain...they call it an exam room...and they have me sit on a wheeled bed.  They call it a cart. For a fluffy girl like me, saying "Get on the cart" is sort of an insult.  But anyway, the first nice nurse tells me to remove all my clothing except my underwear.  I'm rather surprised by this.  Why bother telling me what to wear if you're just going to make me take if off?

I seriously did not think I'd have to shave my legs for a hand surgery...

She also tells me to remove my bra since it has metal in it.  This was a debate I had before getting there.  Sports bra?  Regular bra?  The way this procedure was sold to me I figured a regular bra would be fine. Again, it never occurred to me I'd have to get naked for what was described to me as a "quick out patient thing that won't take half an hour."

I ask, "The non metal containing sweat pants too?"  

nurse:  Yes.

Here's the thing:  I got my monthly punctuation 12 days EARLY.  (nothing like having punctuation twice in the shortest month of the year.)  I was annoyed but realized that dealing with a punctuation is probably something I can't do with one hand, especially if that hand is my left which is basically an ornamental appendage.  But yesterday morning i was still a little concerned about my punctuation protection which ALWAYS leaks.  I was not wearing my extra sport shorts under my sweats as I do for massages and other instances where I'm required to remove my pants. Why not?  

BECAUSE THIS WAS FOR A HAND SURGERY!

Talk about causing stress. Any wonder my blood pressure, taken by very nice nurse #2 was a little high?  

After stripping and getting into their gown WHICH HAD METAL SNAPS ON THE SHOULDER...I lay on the cart for an hour before nurse #3 wheeled me into the surgical suite.  They shot me full of anesthetic which was awful,  and put a tent over my head.  My surgeon, the doc who six years ago told me I was too young to have my kind of arthritis started talking movies to me and by the time the surgery was done 12 MINUTES LATER nurse #4 and I had him convinced to go to the Big Screen Bistro for all his movie watching needs.

I got back to the closet and was told I could get dressed.  Well, having the bulky dressing/cast on my hand made it impossible to put on the bra (again, had I known wearing metal would be a problem I wouldn't have done it...except it couldn't have been a problem since my gown had metal.)  So I got everything else back on, was happy to see my punctuation protection didn't do what it ALWAYS does, (leak) and I  returned to the waiting room, where I managed to jam my bra into my purse before even Hubby realized what I had in my hand.

So my friends the moral of the story is this: it doesn't matter what you're going in for, you're going to have to strip so if you're going to the doctor you may as well shave your legs and leave the bra at home.  No matter what. 

5 for Friday (On Monday) Shocking Weekend Discoveries!

Good day all! Sometimes the 5 for Friday takes a little bit because I'm in the middle of living my life and don't realize how absu...