Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Preparing for the Bazaar

We make soap. We learned years ago from a good friend who has been making and selling soap for a long time. Her gift to us has become a gift to many others. I am so glad we can share it.

Gathering essential oils for this
years' soap.
We just made the soap we'll be selling at St. Nicholas' Annual Bazaar. It is very fine olive oil soap. So far, we have unscented, unscented with oatmeal, lavender, lavender with oatmeal, sweet orange, cocoa-peppermint, frankincense and myrrh, and ylang-ylang. If we can get to it we will also make eucalyptus.

I collect the best, affordable olive oil I can
in between soapmaking sessions.
We only use natural essential oils. I am sensitive to chemicals and artificial fragrance oils. If you are like me and need natural soap at home you know how expensive it can be. Learning to make soap ourselves saved us a lot of money. I do want to teach others at our parish to make it for their own use, but I have not found the time in a year. I feel badly about that. Four kids, buying a house, just life I guess.
Tikhon measures essential oil.
We sold a lot of soap at last years' Bazaar and then much more over the course of the year. It sells especially well on days like St. Nicholas Day when we have many visitors. This year we're putting a gift basket of the soap in the silent auction.

Pouring the soap into molds.

Tikhon cuts soap 24 hours after pouring it.

Soap curing before packaging.

I hope to teach more members of our parish and perhaps other parishes this winter. We have a move coming up, so it will have to be after we settle into our new home. Everything associated with St. Nicholas is the greatest gift I have ever received, and I am full of desire to give back.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Rome's 4th Birthday

Romneya (Romanos) Martin Grey O'Melay turned 4 on July 29th. The day was much-anticipated. My baby is 4! Below, you can see photos of him from birth.

Rome from birth to (almost) 4

We planned a big party for that afternoon. It was a joint party for Rome and Tristan (who turns 10 on August 9th) We had signed on the house the week before, so we thought we'd make it a big party. We have so much to celebrate. A year has passed since Karl's surgery, we have been blessed to buy a home, our eldest son turns 10 and our baby turns 4. Exciting times! I was worried about the party and the guests. Would there be too many people, to few? Would they like the food? Would people think this or that of me?

We had Liturgy in the morning then went to set up. My Saturday was a bay of baking, so I had 4 cakes to put out. We had a good selection of food and this 'make your own lemonade' stand with bottled organic lemon juice, simple syrup, water and ice (and vodka for the adults). The bottles all had bar spouts and the kids had so much fun concocting too-sweet and too-sour versions of their lemonade, tasting all the while.

I was amazed how people showed up. They all began helping laying out the food, everyone brought excellent dishes to share and began chatting. I saw a few people I have not seen in a long time and met others for the first time. There was a pedestal full of gifts and Rome was circling it. We had reserved the fireplace area of this lovely North Berkeley park, Codornices. Here is the fireplace, built into a hill.

The kids were running around it. In the back you can run up onto its shoulders because of the hill. A couple of guests even asked me, are you should he (Rome) is okay playing there? I felt like it was inevitable and that I should pick my battles. This was a mistake.

Rome was impatient for gifts, so I let him open one. It was a cute parachute guy that you could drop or throw and watch parachute to the ground. Naturally, the fireplace became the place to drop him as Rome could run back around and pick him up to do it again. I knew this was happening and yet somehow did not foresee the outcome.

In a millisecond: the most horrible sound you have ever heard. Rome fell from the top down to the stone below, some 5 feet, cracking his head squarely on the crown. I was over there with all swiftness, holding him. He was not even screaming at first, then flailing and crying. He didn't know who I was. There was very little blood, but hair everywhere as the hair had been broken by the impact. He sputtered and choked and screamed.

Rome's Godfather Nikola was there of course and he is a doctor. He came instantly to our aid. We were not sure at this point if we should go to the ER or stay awhile to see what would develop. We decided to sit for a minute, Rome still wailing, and try to distract him in case he was mostly in shock. We tried to open presents in front of him to calm him but it was no use. At some point the choice was made and we flew across the park to the car of another friend, Jim. Jim drove while Nikola kept watch over Rome and I sat there losing it. Jim was like a superhero, running red lights and saving the day. Nikola grew more and more frightened as Rome, who still didn't know who I was, started losing consciousness. We tried to keep him awake but his face was swelling where the area behind his eye was filling with blood (internal bleeding)  Rome slipped away, and even pinching and hitting would not wake him. When we arrived at the Children's Hospital, Nikola picked Rome up and rushed him in, speaking doctor to the triage people and getting him in quickly. They opened the big trauma room and cut off Rome's clothes with scissors. They had him on one of those boards and with a collar. It was very surreal as they swept me away to answer medical questions about Rome and Nikola stayed by him. By some miracle, Rome came to. "I want to tell you something," he said. "I love you."

The party was left behind completely of course. I know now that the guests stayed to light candles for Tristan and have him open presents. Then they all helped Karl clean up and get home. We were not thinking of this much in the ER.

All through the evening into the night, our dear friends Lien and Jim and their children stayed with us, bringing me hot food and even pajamas and treats. They were so awesome.

They did a CAT scan. By this time Rome was aware of his surroundings and who I was. The bleeding seemed to have stopped. They were about to put us in a room with an IV but immediately came to remedy the mix-up. His CAT scan revealed a skull fracture and we were meant to be in the ICU.

The fracture starts at the right eye socket and all of the way through extends to the crown of his head where he struck. Once the neurosurgeons decided that it was clean and in-line (no surgery) the biggest concern was the eye itself. They explained that the many tiny muscles behind the eye can easily become impinged by the fracture area and bits of bone.

We stayed in the ICU for one day, but it felt like a week. We had visitors and many calls and prayers. When we came hom we were so relieved, but also scared. We have to keep Rome near us at all times in case of sudden bleeding. He has to wear a helmet until the neurosurgeon signs off on his healing. Otherwise he is okay. He is in some pain which translates into very bad behaviour more than anything. He is testy, angry, and will not listen to me- even more than before. Church has been trying. We had a long weekend with Transfiguration and all, 4 services in a row. I felt like by the end of it everyone was tired of Rome's screaming. I know I was. I pray that everyone will find some room in their heart for Rome right now and that I will do the right things in getting him back to full health and normal behaviour.

We had an eye follow-up and it's fine. Thank God! All we have to do now is make sure he doesn't hit his head again while it is healing.

Rome in the ICU right as we were discharged. 

Long Absence

I have been absent, and I'm sorry. I love keeping a journal and I know that someday this blank spot will sadden me. Let me fill in where I can.

Naturally, we brought the kids back from camp safe and sound. When we returned as a family we spent a day at the retreat center, went to Liturgy at the Life-Giving Spring monastery, and drove up into Kings Canyon forest to see the trees and swim in that big, beautiful river. The kids had a great time at camp. I should not have worried. (a sentence that pretty much sums me up)

We were during this time completely mired in home-buying treacle, but looking back I have a hard tine remembering what specifically we were doing. Loan conditions, funding, things like that. It still very much felt as though it would not happen. It felt that way until the last day, when we were called to sign and record! That's right, we got the house. We own a house. We served notice to the tenants 24 hours later and are waiting, no, to take possession. We bought a house!

Every day I pinch myself when I remember.  And I thank God.

The day after we signed on the house, our dear friends took us to Vigil at the church just a short walk away from 'home'. It felt so good to be there and know that this house was God's will. All the work we put into it would have been nothing if God had not willed this for us. As we venerated the icons we found one tiny icon of Blessed Xenia, whose intercessions help families find homes near their church community.
The church near our new house.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Our two oldest children are in church camp this week. I drove them down, dropped them off and stayed a night to be sure all was well, and came home with just my two little boys.

Sometimes I have out-of-self moments where I look at what I am doing and see it with secular eyes. The worry was building for camp and I had one of these thoughts. We, who have never left our children with anyone, are abandoning them for a week with people from a church we recently gave our entire lives to at a moment's whim. From the outside this does not look 'good'.

From the inside it is perfect. 

Yes, I chose this camp as safe because it is Orthodox. But that is not the only reason I am suddenly able to trust in the concept of leaving my children with other people. I have changed. I have a trusting relationship with the church and with life. I am worried about my kids, of course. It is my new-found belief in the profound goodness of God that overcomes the worry. All the hard things in my life are nothing compared to the good things God has given me. This is and will be true for my children, too. They are going to be okay. In the same way that last summer's crisis brought us unimaginable gifts, a little homesickness or sorrow at camp will be okay in time.

I find I do not care if outsiders think I am addled. It was not long ago that I would have thought something like that myself. Who could have imagined that I would be here, feeling these things? 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Kings Canyon

“I love forms beyond my own,
                 and regret the borders between us” 
-Loren Eiseley
An unexpected change in plans brought us here.

My two youngest were with me.
They took off down the path.

The paths make you want to follow them. 

It was our first time seeing giant sequoia. 

We ran through the centre of fallen trees.

It was the most beautiful place.

We picnicked underneath the giant trees.
The kids ran off to play and I stayed to pray.
I discovered I had no words to pray with
so I followed my boys on the path.

Thank you, God, for unexpected changes in plans. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Last year, today's Gospel was read on July 3rd.  I even wrote about it. I felt so much like this message was timed perfectly for me.

I feel the same way this year.

It could read, "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'Will we get this house?'..."

I must accept that I am not in control. I can't make this happen the way I want. If it does happen, it will not be my doing. My energy is best spent on what I can control.

I can contribute to happiness and peace in our home.
I can thank God for all the good in our lives.
I can love my family and everyone around me.
I can ask for strength to weather this day and everything that will take place during it.

Friday, June 22, 2012

I can't imagine

Earlier today we signed a piece of paper that lifted the first of two contingencies on this house purchase.  From now on, if this fails, we will not see the money we've put in again. It is at risk now, as our agent says.

It had to happen sometime.

I spoke to my Godmother and while we were talking I remembered that the last time I felt this was was not long ago. Remember Holy Week? We had prepared for more than a year. I had sewn the white gowns by hand. Then we were sick, and sicker. I was coughing red blood. My seven year old daughter didn't eat or drink for eight days and we rushed her to the ER. She lost 10 pounds. At the end of Holy Week, on the morning of Great and Holy Friday, I was completely lost. I felt that this plan, God's plan, was bad. I couldn't imagine what God was thinking. How could we prepare for so long and be abandoned by Him at the last moment? What terrible lesson did God have in store for us to cause so much suffering? I was despondent and bitter. I spoke to the small few I trusted on the phone and spitefully suggested we wait another year or two.

Then, in the afternoon of Holy Friday, when the time came for us to say the Creed and renounce Satan, we arrived at the church. I carried my baby girl in my arms and a white quilt. She couldn't lift her head.

We said the Creed, we spit westwardly.

And then it was as if a spell was lifted. Kassi stood up and was hungry. She didn't stop eating from then on. All was well. In the most amazing way, it was almost as if nothing had happened.

Almost. On the morning of Holy Saturday I was a new person. All expectations and designs of my own were lifted. The trial we had endured erased them. I had nothing, wanted nothing. We brought ourselves to be Baptised without anything but the marvellous present. I felt empty, singular, clean.

I could not imagine the things God had planned for us. I saw only darkness through my fragmented, darkened lenses. Great and Holy Saturday and Pascha were the most beautiful and Heavenly experiences of my life. I had no idea.

I am trying to hold onto that memory as we approach the close of this house deal, for better or worse. My mind wants to pin down God's plan. I think, what if we lose this house and money with it, how can that be God's plan for us? We have done everything right! We deserve better.

I am trying to remember that I can't imagine what good God has for us. It is beyond my understanding, and if losing this house is part of it, that is what will happen. If having this house is God's will, we will have it.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Still House-Buying

I wish I had more to say here, but all I do is print and sign and make phone calls these days. And pray.

The house we are desperately pursuing is great:

  • It is just a few blocks from Karl's work. Not only is that great for him but it means I will have use of the car to take the kids places. 
  • It is 2 blocks from BART, useful now and later when the kids are older. 
  • It is huge. 4 bedrooms, formal dining, laundry, huge kitchen with room for dining, giant backyard of dreams. 
  • It is affordable. This is important!
  • It is 3 blocks from an OCA parish. We have never been to this parish because I always think how shy I'll feel. We have good friends who want to take us and introduce us soon, seeing as how we'll be 3 blocks away and may frequent that church especially during Lent or other busy times.
I can hardly imagine being so close to a church, walking to Vigil.

We don't know God's will for us in this. We can think of all the reasons this house is perfect and yet, if it doesn't happen we'll have to accept it and know it was for the best. It's a very hard thing for our family. The kids want a house so badly. As we fall asleep Anatoly says, "Mama, when we have a house, I want the grass to grow really tall! Into corn!"

In thee, O wandering stranger, Christ the Lord hath given us an ardent intercessor for our kind. For having received in thy life sufferings and grief and served God and men with love, thou didst acquire great boldness. Wherefore, we fervently hasten to thee in temptations and grief, crying out from the depths of our hearts: Put not our hope to shame, O Blessed Xenia.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Buying a House

What a complex and unpleasant experience. We're trying to buy a house. Father mentioned in his homily yesterday that when we align our will with God's will, everything we will happens.

Monday, June 4, 2012


A year since we became catechumens, the Church is reborn, and so am I. Everything about the Liturgy triggered memories for me. I felt an overwhelming sadness that I am not better than I am.

"the place of the skull has become Paradise"
I miss Lent. It is so far away. I feel unequal to the challenge of reliving the year again and again. I will always fail. This is a joyous Feast, but I am full of sadness.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


We are in waiting for news on a house. We pray that God's will is done and we are brave enough to co-operate with it, whatever the outcome.

I am sharing the song below because it makes me think of the kind of uncertain waiting we are doing.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Running, Prayer Life

I am still running. Maybe I never mentioned that here. I have been running early in the morning. Karl wakes me when it is still dark and I run, in my pajamas, with no coffee. When I return I am sweaty and slightly more awake than before. It is goo to start so early and begin the day with a workout. I only run a mile or a mile and a half. When I don't run I feel badly. While I am running, I pray.

I don't have my prayers all memorised. The common ones, yes. But there are many and I can't commit them to memory for some reason. While I run I repeat the ones I do know.

Recently, I used an app on my iPad to record myself saying my morning prayers. I hope to put them on an iPod and listen to them in the morning while I do other things. I am thinking that if I can incorporate saying them form memory into my life, I can pray my rule while I run in the dark of the morning. When I don't complete my prayers it is always for some reason like, the ids are awake and hungry and crying, there is no peace or quiet. In the night when I skip them it is because everyone is needing me, the boys won't go to bed without me and then I fall asleep too, putting them to sleep. If I had the evening prayers to recorded, I could listen and speak along with them even while I fell asleep.

I know this would not be keeping the rule Father gave me, because I should find the time to devote to prayer and prayer alone. Until I find the time (wherever it is...) memorising my prayers can help me use what peaceful time I do have (running, getting to bed) for prayer.

It is funny to hear my voice reading the prayers.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Seasons, again

I have been posting at the homeschool blog again, building up to a beginning. We thought we might take the summer off but instead we took the spring off. Now we are beginning a new round of curriculum. Yesterday I laid week 1 out on the bed to familiarise myself with the resources.

This Thursday, Ascension, marks an important anniversary for us. Last Ascension I took the kids to church with me and left Karl at home sick in bed, thinking it would give him more rest. When I came home, the ambulance was loading him up and the long summer began.

 Here we are, a year later, and Karl with us.  There were many days last summer full of doubt that we would be here.

Ascension is also important to us because it marks our 40th day post-Baptism.

I am still amazed that happened. I am still counting the times I approach the chalice.

At the same time, I am feeling less and less worthy of that approach. I feel like I should prepare a confession and let go of the failure of my post-Baptismal 40 days.

Monday, May 14, 2012

candle day

We made our candles with the parish today. Tristan and Kassi were quite helpful.

At first it seemed I would not be helpful myself because the younger boys were not co-operating. Then they settled in and with the help of another mama friend, whose older kids helped while she cared for her 1 year old, I was able to be useful.

We make candles with equipment that is one-of-a-kind. It was designed in Rhode Island for Father. This does not surprise me.

What surprises me is how there is no place I would rather be than  Saint Nicholas parish.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Buying a House, Prayers for a sign

We have been preparing to buy a house for months, and we are finally pre-approved and ready to put in offers. This has been a long wait and lots of work.

Now that we're ready, we find there is not a house ready for us! We are praying to know when and where to buy, and ask for your prayers too.

We are focusing on staying in Alameda where we currently rent. I have reached out to many people asking for prayers and for information should they know of anyone selling a house here. This is such a stressful time, falling very near to the one year anniversary of Karl's illness. I hope that once we make this move and have a home, we can settle into a new period of peaceful normalcy in our lives.

Blessed Xenia, pray to God for us!

Monday, May 7, 2012

A poem from the homily

Blessing, by John O’Donohue

blessed be the longing that brought you here and quickens your soul with wonder.
 may you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire that disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.
may you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease to discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.
may the forms of your belonging - in love, creativity, and friendship - be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.
may the one you long for long for you.
may your dreams gradually reveal the destination of your desire.
may a secret providence guide your thought and nurture your feeling.
may your mind inhabit your life with the sureness with which your body inhabits the world.
may your heart never be haunted by ghost-structures of old damage.
may you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.
may you know the urgency with which God longs for you.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Saint Tabitha, today

Today my name was read in church; how vividly I remember last year

From Saint Tabitha, the widow raised from the dead by the Apostle Peter, was a virtuous and kindly woman, belonged to the Christian community in Joppa. Being grievously ill, she suddenly died. At the time, the Apostle Peter was preaching at Lydda, not far from Joppa. Messengers were sent to him with an urgent request for help. When the Apostle arrived at Joppa, Tabitha was already dead. On bended knee, St Peter made a fervent prayer to the Lord. Then he went to the bed and called out, "Tabitha, get up!" She arose, completely healed (Acts 9:36). 

St Tabitha is considered the patron saint of tailors and seamstresses, since she was known for sewing coats and other garments (Acts 9:39).

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Even More Pictures of Baptism, First Communion on Holy Saturday 2012

I am grateful that so many were taking pictures of this most important day of our lives.

You can also click through to see the photos.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Holy Martyr Anatoly, pray to God for us!

Anatoly said "my love of this cake will just keep going and going!"
Toly holds his Baptismal candle in front of the icon of his saint.

Two illustrious officials, Sts Anatolius and Protoleon, who were secretly Christians, openly confessed Christ after seeing St George tortured, then miraculously healed of his wounds. Immediately, and without a trial, they were beheaded with the sword by order of the emperor.


Holy martyr Anatoly was a warrior. He was present at the tortures of St. George the Victorious. He saw the legs of St. George being enchained into the stocks and a great stone being put on his chest, and saw him beaten with ox sinews, broken on the wheel, thrown into quicklime, forced to run in the boots with sharp nails inside. The holy martyr underwent these patiently and did not deny his faith in Christ. Seeing the faith and the courage of St. George, warrior Anatoly came to believe in Christ and announced it openly. He was beheaded at once.

It is also Great Martyr George's day, of course.

You were bound for good deeds, O martyr of Christ: George;
by faith you conquered the torturer’s godlessness.
You were offered as a sacrifice pleasing to God;
thus you received the crown of victory.
Through your intercessions, forgiveness of sins is granted to all.

My experience of the Liturgy

Holy Saturday morning. We enter the church as
catechumens for the last time.

I have to at least try to write this out. It has been my experience that writing can't do this sort of experience justice. I can't let myself forget this, so if even a single phrase I write can recall the essence of what I have to say, that is enough. You might think I would start from the beginning and tell the story starting with our final act as catechumens. I am working on that. This is an out-take.

One of the plethora of my trivial concerns before Baptism was this: I worried about how we would 'make it' through the entire Divine Liturgy. We had never done it before. From our first Liturgy, I left at the dismissal of the catechumens and at least Rome left with me. One time I stayed in a little too long, unable to remove Rome without disrupting the Great Entrance. I felt so out of place there, kneeling low to hold Rome, that I never let it happen again. I did not belong there in the Liturgy of the Faithful.

So, back to my trivial concern. How could we 'survive' the full length of the Liturgy? After leaving each time I always took Rome into the hall where we could hear the Liturgy and draw or read. I felt there was nothing I could do but wait and see, but it did not keep me from mulling over this worry occasionally as we approached Holy Saturday.

In every way, something unexpected happened. This alone is a great reminder that nothing is ever as we plan or expect. Worrying is a futile attempt at control.

Holy Saturday was perfect. The most perfect day. For reasons I will have to detail in the start-to-finish version, I had let go of all expectations that morning and was truly ready for Baptism. So, we were anointed, Baptised, and Chrismated. We put on crosses. We processed into the church holding Father's stole. Around the tomb three times. We held candles. The Liturgy continued. The service was 4 hours long (including the Baptisms) but it felt like just a moment. We went up to the cup.

When we ate the dried fruit and wine after the service, I was not tired. I felt brighter than ever.

Pascha was much the same: the energy in that service had us all wide awake and smiling, from 11:30pm to 5am. I have never seen anything so beautiful and may never again, unless it is more Pascha. Our second time approaching the chalice, amazing.

The real surprise–I see I have delayed here with clunky words– was Bright Monday, Bright Wednesday, and Thomas Sunday. I rationalised the speed of the services on Holy Saturday and Pascha- those were truly special days for me and it seemed no wonder they flew by. But Bright Monday was a hard day, just me and 4 children at church. Instead of being gruelling, it flew by like a single moment. We had barely arrived when it was time to walk up those stairs. Even at a new church, Holy Trinity on Bright Wednesday, it was like this. And yesterday it finally occurred to me, this is something. It is not the excitement of Pascha. Something has happened here, because instead of a service twice as long, I experience something more fleeting than before.

Even more amazing, of the time I experience as passing, most of it is the span of time from stepping to the cup and stepping down. My children go before me. While I am making sure they are in line properly and kissing the chalice everything is 'normal'. Then I step up. My mind knows that it only takes as long as Father takes to say,"Newly Illumined servant of God, Tabitha, partakes of the precious and holy Body and Blood of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins and unto life everlasting." The experience cannot be understood by the mind. Time stands still. I feel like I am teetering on a moment. There is a sense of longing and suddenness, at any moment this seeming spell will be broken. It is like when something falls off a counter. The time it takes to reach out and catch it is stretched. When you do catch the thing time begins again and you are left with a jolt as you rejoin the stream of time.

When I step down my hands shake, time begins again. I am left with a wondering thought- How long was I up there? Even, subtly, Where am I?

I told Father. It was at his suggestion that I write this down and not forget.

This is who I am. Nothing else.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Consummatum est!

Father Stephan chose these words to say good-bye to me after a very meaningful eighth day post-Baptism. This week, and my new state as a communicant, are the result of much work. It is all finished.

Now new work begins.

Our shoes sitting in line as we are Baptised.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Time stands still...

Here are the clothes we wore in the font drying on Father Stephan's line.

This week has been like their drying time. We are nearly there. On Sunday, we will remove our white and return to the world. God willing, after today and tomorrow I will have been in church each of the 8 days of this process. After the eighth day, we remove our outward symbols and become the symbols ourselves: Orthodox Christians.

Friday, April 20, 2012


Our second time. Tikhon is explaining what to do. Until Holy Saturday
I did not see what happened after the dismissal of catechumens. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Our whole family stands with Father Stephan on Holy Saturday after the Baptisms. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

I am Baptised

Along with my children, I am Baptised, Chrismated and A communicant Orthodox Christian. I will write more and add pictures when Bright week is over. Thank you for your prayers. Everything is wonderful.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Yesterday I was crucified with Christ;
Today I am glorified with Him.
Yesterday I died with Him,
Today I am made alive with Him.
Yesterday I was buried with Him,
Today I am raised with Him.
Let us become like Christ,
Since Christ became like us.
Let us become divine for His sake,
Since for us He became man.
He assumed the worse,
That He might give us the better.
He became poor, that by His poverty
We might become rich.
He accepted the form of a servant,
That we might win back our freedom,
He came down that we might be lifted up.
He was tempted, that through Him
We might conquer.
He was dishonored, that He might glorify us.
He died, that He might save us.
He ascended, that He might draw to Himself us,
Who lie prostrate, having fallen into sin.
Let us give all, offer all, to Him who gave Himself;
A ransom and reconciliation for us.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Holy Week, Batman

Forgive my off-colour title. This has been a very trying week. The stomach bug got worse. Kassiopeia had to go to the Emergency room to be re-hydrated. She is home as of yesterday afternoon and is doing much better. While I was with her at the hospital, Karl came down with the bug. He was home with the 3 boys and so ill. Poor man. I came home, feeling terrible, and cleaned the house. There was laundry. Kassi is feeling even better today and Karl is off to work- Thank God he is quick to recover! The 3 boys have not been ill, yet. Two of them are complaining of stomach pains this morning. I pray it is nothing.

Tomorrow is Great and Holy Friday, the day we should be saying the Creed and beginning our process of entering the church. Then Great and Holy Saturday. I do not want to miss this.

 I confessed. It was wonderful. I am not forgiven yet. When I am Baptised, I will be forgiven.

 I want to think of a way to bring some portion of us to the service tonight. It is frightening to think of the boys coming down with this while at Church, but it seems to me they would have been sick before Karl, if they were going to get it. Karl must have contracted this while caring for sick Kassi. The boys, who have much less vigilant hygiene, have not been sick and perhaps will not be. I myself didn't become quite as ill as the others, maybe they have had some lower grade version of it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Another Week

It has been almost 2 weeks since I wrote here last. We recovered from the flu eventually, but have had another round of illness in our house in the past few days. This time it is a stomach bug. I was sick but and doing so much better, truly a 24 hour bug for me. It is Holy Week, the week we have waited all year for. Yesterday was Palm Sunday. Yesterday marked a year since we first walked into the church. We became catechumens on Pentecost. This year, we will be Baptised and Chrismated on Holy Saturday in the late morning. Tonight I go to confess, making up for last week which I missed. This is my lifetime confession. Having waited a year, learning and longing, I hardly know what to do with myself. I do not want illness to keep us from the services.

Friday, March 30, 2012


Our family has the flu. It began with Tristan, then myself and the rest of the kids. Tikhon doesn't have it. This is a bad one. I have been more sick, but I haven't even been in this much pain for so long. The only thing that compares to the head pain which lasted for the first 3 days of this flu is post-op wisdom tooth surgery, when I let my medication wear off. Even strong pain medicine, which I have taken full time this week, barely touches the flu pain. Head pain, body pain, cough and fever. All of the kids have had fever and cough. The fevers ranged from 102 to 105. I no longer have a high fever, the kids fevers are also waning. Anatoly had a seizure at the peak of his high fevers. I was mostly delirious in the fever days. We are all very weak. I have been laying in bed for 4 days now. I can only whisper today, my throat is hurt from coughing. Everyone is wet with sweat today. When I first came down with this flu, I dealt with a lot of angry feelings that an illness was slowing me down so close to Holy Week. I had plans! Things to do! I felt very sorry for myself. Now, even though we are approaching a week of complete downtime, I feel more at peace with it. This flu has given me plenty of time to think about how needful I am of God's mercy. My lifetime confession is this Monday evening, if I am well. I thought I was prepared but this week I have been scared. I hope Father will understand that I have no idea how to do this.

Monday, March 26, 2012

why galabia?

I have nearly finished the last of the garments! This last one was for Tikhon, a shirt for Pascha. I used the same galabia pattern as for Tristan's.

If you're wondering why a galabia, there is no secret reason. I have a pattern for it, it is a formal tunic, and I wanted to. Galabia is just tunic. The tunic is usually very long and looks more like the vestments at church than the St. Louis Tunic, East and West and all. I had a wonderful time with the Folkwear patter. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fear Not

I am trying to not be afraid. Lent is running out. In the words of today's Gospel, "Lord, I Believe, Help my Unbelief!"

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Paschal Artos update

Last time I baked a passable artos, I left a single loaf out for a week.  I have baked a few other recipes in the meantime with poor results. I left this one out because it is the recipe I have had the most luck with and I wanted to see what happened after a week.

Over the week, the outside hardened and the loaf became visibly smaller... mummification, I suppose.

Today I cut it open to see what it will be like one week after I bring it to the church.

It was fine. Moist inside... nothing wrong with it. I won't pretend it wasn't stale bread, but I don't think there's much that can be done to avoid that in a loaf that has sat out for a week. Today I am attempting to re-create this loaf and then I will freeze it as a backup. 

Why did I do this experiment? Because I have been plagued with nightmares that the artos has molded during Bright Week. 

thoughts about turning seasons

There is so much goodness in the seasons of the Church. I have felt it all this year even though I barely comprehend.

Sometimes I am tempted to feel exhausted by the momentum of it all. The incredible wonder of the Church, how can it happen again and again and always? My mind rails against the way the seasons make me aware of my mortality, of my delusions. It is just a temptation...  I feel it's edge occasionally. I know to turn away from the thoughts when they come up. For a moment, though, I wonder how Father can stand it, or others around me. The notion of the Feast figures like a Siren in my mind. It will lure us all and we'll go overboard, you'll see.

I know I should let go and go overboard. It doesn't have to make sense.
Every day is Nativity, every day is Lent, every day is Pascha.

Friday, March 23, 2012


I cut the fabric for Tristan's galabia yesterday. Today I hope to start putting it together.

I have never made one and find myself worrying about the sizing. I have a pattern for adults and chose the smallest size, which is called 'slender woman', for Tristan. It claims to be a woman's size 6 but the nature of the galabia makes it very forgiving. Tristan has very broad shoulders and I chose his sized based on that.

When I make one for Tikhon, who also has very broad shoulders, I will use the 'men's large'.

The side panels, which drape from the gusset area of the sleeve,  cause the shirt to be very wide in the torso. I am curious to see how this looks when all is done.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Romanos and Martin

Holy Saint Romanos, pray to God for us.
Saint Romanos the Melodist was our first thought for Rome's name saint, but we had settled on Martin of Tours after awhile because it felt wrong to ignore his middle namesake. Rome's full name is Romneya Martin Grey. Still, would we really call him Martin? I would love to, it was a first name choice of mine that never made it. But to most he is Rome, and if we could we should keep his name and call on his saint whenever we said it. 

When final choices were being made, we left it up to Rome's Godfather, Nikola. I believe he has chosen Romanos, so "little Martin" will have two saints. He will be Baptised as Romanos, and be named also for Martin of Tours the Merciful. Romanos has the bigger feast day, and an icon of him hangs over the kliros. 

Holy Saint Martin, pray to God for us.

Mid Point of a Long Journey

Last night Father said two Litanies for the Catechumens, one was for all of us and the other just for we who are preparing for Illumination. There are two new catechumens since we began our catechumenate but neither are being Baptised this Pascha.

Can it really have been a year? On Palm Sunday it will have been. Looking back I can't imagine it being any other way: We first walked in on Palm Sunday, completely unaware of the nature of the Feast. We processed with the parish. We held little bouquets of pussy willow. After the Liturgy we shared salmon and wine with everyone, again unaware of the significance of that fish.

Then we didn't return for Pascha. Our kids got sick and we had other plans for "easter". Not knowing what we were missing, we did not return to St. Nicholas until St. Thomas Sunday. We had an easter egg hunt near our home. What were we doing? We lived in a different world.

I am so grateful that we missed Pascha last year. I am so happy that we will come full circle on Palm Sunday after our first Lent. I approach Holy Week with a mix of fear and expectation. I do not feel ready, but I feel for the first time just how unready I will always be.

I told Father the other day that the only thing I know about being a catechumen is that I was not ready for Baptism before Lent and I didn't know it. I meant that I am still not ready, but now I know I will not be. By the grace of God (who will vouchsafe it to be so) I will be Baptised and Chrismated and approach the chalice for the first time.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Seemed Like it Might Never Happen

I am nearing completion of the gowns. I have made 4: Mine, Kassi's, Toly's & Rome's.  Kassi's is completely finished, the other 3 need hemming and they are done. Last night I cut a pattern for a galabia-style shirt for Tikhon. I already have Tristan's cut.

The galabias will be a new thing for me. They seem fairly straightforward. I love Folkwear for easy to use patterns, so I am not anticipating too much trouble. The sizing has been really hard. This pattern has no measurements listed and I had to wing it. I erred on the side of too large and can easily make the shirts smaller if need be.

As an aside, flat felling by hand has been really good for my whip stitch.

I look forward to having all of it done.

Monday, March 19, 2012

What earthly sweetness remains unmixed with grief? What glory stands forever on earth? All things are but feeble shadows or deluding dreams--one moment only and Death shall take their place. But in the light of Thy countenance, O Christ, and in the sweetness of Thy beauty, give rest to him whom Thou has chosen, for Thou only lovest mankind.

St. John of Damascus

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Very Near

Pascha is very near, a fact made only more obvious by the Mid-point service today for for the Cross.

So we went and bought the underthings we need for the Baptism.

We bought cotton undershirts and leggings for Kassi, Toly & Rome.

I bought myself silk underclothes. We also bought white headscarves for Kassi and me.
Kassi had to try on her gown over the underclothes. She is so excited!

Friday, March 16, 2012


It just gets longer and longer.

I find it fascinating how many important things I forgot at first. Then they start trickling in and suddenly what I thought was my final draft is covered in a chicken scratch of additions and clarifications.

Yesterday it was a single page, today it is two.

I have thought about publishing it here once I have confessed.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Preparing for Confession

I am sewing gowns and trying to make a passable artos. I am also preparing for a lifetime confession.

I worked a little on this back when Tikhon made his. He was ill so I read all of the books on confession out loud to him. Later, I renewed my interest in preparing mine when I learned I would have one- there was a time when I assumed that since I was being received by Baptism, I would not have to make a lifetime confession.

Confession likes to be forgotten about, I have found. Once I moved on from it, I neatly forgot about it until recently. Then I spent 2 or 3 weeks just thinking about working on it. A week or so ago I had a conversation with Father about it and resolved to finalise my confession. Yesterday and today I put pen to paper and got back to work.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Gowns

There has been progress. There has also been regress. I am about caught up to where I was before the mistakes. It has been an effort to keep moving forward with the little issues that have come up.

My gown, which is not pictured here, is coming together as well.

artos 4.0

I tried a Greek recipe for the Paschal artos. According to my family this must be an acquired taste, the bread was nearly inedible. Last night I made a plain prosphora-style artos. I took a picture of the seal before baking:

I am trying again today. I intend to make a very good one and freeze it, in case my efforts on Good Friday are not successful. 

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