Friday, October 31, 2008

Grumpy Americans

It seems to be a particularly grumpy time in America just now. I know I'm grumpier than usual (and I'm actually a little grumpy to begin with, so this is a particularly bad thing for me) - and really think I could benefit from a five-day media strike. Five days - that oughta do it - until the election is overwith.


I find that I don't have time for much of anything that anyone's got to say at the moment - because it's all about politics and "why my-candidate-of-choice is the righteous candidate and the other candidate is just-plain-evil." As if it's not bad enough that we are bombarded with negative campaign ads by the TV, radio, newspapers and just about every other news source - now even much of the Christian blogosphere has turned from thoughts and writings of God and Church to negative campaigning for their candidate of choice - mostly based on a single issue. (Not all of my reads have succumbed to this, thank God, but a whole bunch of them have).

We might say or think that it's all a bunch of bunk anyway and that we really aren't listening to it - but you know what? We are hearing it whether we are listening to it or not ... and it does affect us. It's evident in the way we go about our daily lives, in the way we think about each other and interact with each other. Negative campaigning is weaving itself in the fabric of pre-election American culture, and it isn't pretty.

It's exhausting and it makes me not want to vote at all.

But of course, that would be un-American.





Thursday, October 30, 2008

When?

Did they stop looking like this?




And start looking like this?





Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Critically Orthodox?

I'm critical (just ask anyone who knows me!) and I'm Orthodox.

But this is not for me.

There was a time when I might have been curious enough to consider visiting such a place, just to see what was going on. I'm afraid those days are gone.

Maybe this is directed at some other kind of critically orthodox person.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Weekend Traveling

The Transposzing family returned last night from a brief visit to out of town family in SW Minnesota and NW Iowa, traveling the first leg of the journey Saturday afternoon to Sanborn, MN to stay overnight, and leaving there early Sunday morning to be at our niece's Confirmation in NE Iowa by 9 am.

The trip down there was beautiful - rolling prairie hills and almost-harvested fields, the trees were at or just-barely-past peak, so it was great for autumn sight-seeing.

As we neared our Saturday destination, DearHusband pointed out the wind farm at Buffalo Ridge, which was visible on the horizon. It was sort of eerily strange to see the long line of huge turbines on the ridge, spinning and harvesting the renewable resource which is in no short supply in that part of the state - wind. The turbines stood looming next to the trees and the barns and the elevators, looking a bit out of place, yet I thought they were a hopeful sort of a vision. This turbine was right next to the road and it was sort of cool to see one up close.

After the confirmation service in Iowa on Sunday, we had a wonderful lunch and began the journey home. It was very windy, but sunny and beautiful when we left Iowa, but about halfway home we noticed the skies turned that familiar shade of gray - not the sort of gray that the skies turn when it's going to rain, but that very distinct gray it gets when it's going to snow. Shortly thereafter it did snow - and the combination of snow and wind made for that sort of long drive that I dread. But after about an hour of the wind and snow (we saw children sliding in one town!), we drove out of the snow and finished the trip in only a little rain.

I wasn't ready for snow just yet.

I'm still not ready.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fourth Photo Meme

Nabbed from Mimi!

The instructions: Post the 4th photo from the 4th folder of photos on your computer.

As I explained in the comments on her blog, it was never my intention to post any of the pictures from this folder - except for the little piece of one of these photos which is my blog masthead. My own thoughts in not posting them was originally to preserve the privacy of those in the photo. But it occurs to me that about everyone in this photo is already pictured somewhere else on the web, so why not?

The 4th photo from my 4th folder of photos (taken at my Chrismation with the camera on my sister's cell phone - of all the things to forget that day, we forgot our camera):

Monday, October 20, 2008

Clouds

These are just the coolest clouds I've ever seen.

I took these photos one evening a couple of weeks ago from our deck and driveway. Every direction I turned revealed a different pattern in the sky...and the patterns changed almost as fast as I could turn around. They were all taken from roughly the same spot within about 5 minutes.

They were amazing.



















Mystery Worshipper

A great post today from Fr. Jonathan Tobias on his blog. Second Terrace:


Mystery Worshipper
“To try to keep their flocks, churches are turning to inspectors, who note water stains, dull sermons and poor hospitality.”

This was the grab-line splayed atop a recent Wall Street Journal article about “mystery worshippers.”

The phrase is not so bad by itself. It sounds mystical and refreshingly outright religious. It could be the name of some neo-pagan group which is looking for some institutional endorsement so that its practitioners can get a free parking token at the local hospital. The Wicca leader/shaman/coven-coordinator can wear the same badge that my brother (who is a protestant minister) and I (who am not) wear at AGH Forbes. Why not “mystery worshippers”?

(by the way Ben, you need to pick up your new badge: it’s still hanging in the file close to Ms. Wicca)

But then I read the article, and my hopes are dashed. I would have preferred honest-to-goodness pagans: this kind, which is pagan with all sorts of self-conscious smugness but without the earthy rootin’ tootin’ Eleusinian cachet, is a big bad bore … I mean, boor.

The “mystery shopper” of WSJ fame is a suit-and-tie guy who leans pensively on a pew, with his left arm draped casually over the top lip of the wood, with an inchoate mainline color-swirly pretending to be a stained glass window in the background. For a few thousand bucks, this guy (and other “consultants” like him) will sneak around your church and grade you on your sidewalks, Kleenex, parking-lot greeters, greeters in the “sanctuary” (sic), and the sermon. He is kind of cutesy in that his evaluations are couched in the kindergarten-ese of “yellow light,” “green light” and “red light.”

(please ... what are "parking lot greeters"? the only "parking lot greeters" I've run into are the Gubi/Bethlehemers at my friend's place, who run out at you on Christmas Eve shaking collection-cans for the poor, I suppose, and frankly, that has a lot more to do with Halloween than Nativity Eve)

This particular “shopper” is a former AG minister who charges $1500 plus travel expenses for a site inspection, worship-service (sic) evaluation and detailed report (over 50 pages). He complains about musty odors in the children’s room, the unkemptness of tissue boxes at the end of pews, faded stripes in the parking lot, the length and quality of the sermon, weeds in the churchyard, scary bathrooms and dustbunnies, and the relative charm of the greeting staff (you know, the people who are wearing the “Hi, My Name is Blank” stickers that peel off cleanly only from textiles that flame out in 2 seconds).

The philosophical framework for this program was established by my erstwhile friends in the Church Growth Movement, the Fuller Brush Crusade. These are the peeps who brought us that fundamental bon mot “There’s no such thing as sheep-stealing, only sheep-feeding.” These are the ones who equated recruitment with God’s Will, and who inflicted the idol MBO on churches, and that cocytus, geryonic emblem called “The Mission Statement” upon even the elect.

But what set this program into motion was a recent event. A 2008 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 44% of American adults have switched their “religious affiliation” (another sic). Ergo, “Church leaders say they’re seeking new ways to assess their services and evaluate everything from the style of music to how comfortable the pews are as they court fickle churchgoers.”

Selah.

Mind you, I’m all for friendliness and welcome. I discourage, in my parish and anywhere else that will listen, the habits of uncivil behavior and the attitudes of tetchiness, clannish strife, and xenophobia. I encourage niceness and forgiveness, and patience with us converts who are still trying to find their way in the Big House of God.

But, mind you, I also encourage devotion. We cense wafts of ascension that carry our prayers, despite their hardship on respiration. We endure long services and a ritual that offends the modern knee. We confess, not anonymously or in a group, because we recognize (contra Oprah) the growing need for shame nowadays, because of that four-letter word called "sin" (which we are not afraid to utter out loud: "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner" -- an anti-consumerist statement if I ever heard one).

I call myself and my friends to repentance because we remember that God is Love, but He is also Terrible. He is Good, but Wild. He is Ineffable, Inconceivable, Invisible, Incomprehensible: there is no room in the commercial church for a wild God Whose Name is above all Names.

Do you really need to spend $1500+ for someone to tell you where your cobwebs are? Can’t your baba’s point them out and your gentlemen kill the spiders with their brooms? Or maybe the ceilings are too high, and you’ve got those hellish mercury lamps, and your meeting space is like a modern contemptible theater whose lines are intentionally diffuse, designed to meld with the audience consciousness so that passions can be aroused all the more efficiently. Maybe the grounds are too large and impregnated with carcinogens so that your old guys can’t mow the lawn and pray while they sweat under the sun? Maybe the children should be in Liturgy instead of being cooped up with their kind while they rehearse the jingles of a sesame street catechesis.

Maybe there are too many hallways if you can’t clean them, too many parking spaces if you can’t paint them, too many people if you cannot know them.

Maybe your building/facility/praise-center/corporate-office is not a real building. Perhaps its design is so inhumane, so unearthly, so offensive to the Created Order that time itself will quickly wear it away. Perhaps your successor will fire Mr. Harrison and the “mystery worshippers,” and put up a Cross instead. Perhaps, even, an iconostasis. The usual megachurch design is one of the reasons why Creation groans: it cannot believe that the children of Adam could inflict upon it such a grievous erection.

Maybe people are shifting listless, like tumbleweeds, from one “affiliation” to another, because no one has the guts to tell them that the Creed is the only Symbol, and the Eucharist is the sole Constitution of Life. The people are wandering the wilderness, looking for manna, but their particular “Moses” cares only about the lay-out of the camp, and how neat are the latrines.

Here I will lodge the most uncharitable thing I’ve written on this phosphorescent page: the reason why more people aren’t Orthodox is because so many other places say that they are just as effective substitutes.

No, they are not. If “mystery worshippers” have the “wisdom” (last sic) sought and paid for by the commercial church, then it is not real wisdom that is bought, and it is not the Church that is doing the seeking.

So, Mr. Harrison, Mystery-Worshipper that you are, it's too bad that you're not a pagan like your title implies, because you'd have been so much more fun. But as a consolation, take this invitation to come to the St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church.

Leave your red lights in your car, and set your clipboard aside. There will be evaluations made, to be sure. But they will be made on you. And not by me or anyone else (that is, of the creaturely sort).

There is an Evaluation, but we call it Judgment. Until that Day, Church is a moment and a place to repent and to pray, to believe and to become.

I am sure the usual discomforts of people and house will bother you: but all these “bothers of the brothers” are only the first calls to leave the world and to escape the Sheol of your "comfort zone."

Only God comforts, but He does so under the Sign of the uncomfortable Cross.

A little difficulty, a little discomfort, a little discipline and hardship helps to start you off, to take up your Cross and follow Him.

(The logo is from a site I used to visit now and again for a laugh - Ship of Fools. The "Mystery Worshipper" is a regular feature of their site.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Halloween: Finding a Balance

OK, I'm personally not a huge fan of Halloween - never have been, even as a kid. But now as an adult with kids of my own, I'm not at all religiously conflicted about it, as some seem to be. I don't worry that allowing my kids to go trick-or-treating once a year means that we are somehow participating in that which is "of the devil." For my own kids, their participation in Halloween only means participating in that which is "of the candy" - and that's it. At our house, we have never made a big theological issue of Halloween, and our kids have never exhibited any sort of a crisis of faith because they dress up in a costume and go trick-or-treating once a year. They know it's about fun - and not about anything more than that.

For our own simple Halloween traditions, we've encouraged our kids to stay away from macabre costumes, we've tended to stay away from houses that seem just a little too over-the-top in yard decorating, and we limit the amount of candy-collecting time they have (nobody needs to have that much candy around the house). We've mostly stuck to taking them to the homes of neighbors we know.

But whatever the origins of Halloween are - the observance has come a long way from druids and the sacrificing of livestock to appease the evil spirits. To my knowledge - none of that sort of thing goes on in my neighborhood. We have not concentrated on any "evil" aspect of the day (if there even is one anymore). For us it's about fun and candy, and that's pretty much it.

As I said in my previous post, I know some bishops and priests have come down pretty heavily, forbidding those in their jurisdictions and parishes from participating in any way - and of course those whose clergy and hiercharchs have have admonished their flocks not to participate must deal with this themselves - or not. But as for me and my house - our priests and heirarch have said nothing about it that I have heard or that I can find. And I have complete trust that if allowing our kids to go trick-or-treating on Halloween were, in fact, so perilous for our spiritual lives, our priests and bishop would address it publicly - and annually.

Ultimately, though, I think it's a question of balance. While we as Christians are to strive to live lives of faith and holiness, we aren't monastics. Unlike monastics, we have to live in the real world. More importantly, our kids do, too. So instead of forbidding our kids to participate because "it is evil," we tend to take the emphasis off fear and evil, and place it on fun, and let them have some on this day. It's as evil or as innocent as parents choose to make it. We can either make our kids afraid of that which is "of the world" (turning off our lights and locking our doors, refusing to answer with a piece of candy when trick-or-treaters arrive), or we can teach our kids to live in the world as Christians.

Steve Robinson put it very well in his comment on the last post, "we must engage culture instead of sitting in our churches casting stones at it." He's exactly right. I'd even take Steve's comment a little further to also say that we must engage culture instead of running away and hiding from it or pretending that it just doesn't exist.

Now this doesn't mean that there aren't some things to which parents must just say "no," - there are many such things. I'm just not sure Halloween is one of them.

(All that being said, I don't really understand why some parents who are so concerned about keeping Halloween evil out of their homes don't seem to be as concerned about television and computers with internet access, where evil abounds and preys unceasingly on our children. And I don't really understand why those aforementioned clergy and hierarchs choose to make a big deal of what they perceive to be a one-day-of-the-year "evil," while completely ignoring all of the other evils which confront us and our children every day.

But perhaps I can blame my lack of understanding about such things on convert ignorance ...

Anyway, here's another good Halloween option for Orthodox Christians, complete with Orthodox guidelines.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The First of a Couple of Posts About Halloween

I've noticed with a little interest (and virtually no surprise) some recent posts by Orthodox blogger-parents who have decided that their families should not participate in any observance of Halloween because they believe that it is at odds with their faith.

I know that some priests and bishops in some jurisdictions have issued statements about it, and I don't wish to contradict anything they have said on the subject, only to offer my own views as a parent and an Orthodox Christian. So I'll do so over a couple of posts (though it hardly deserves 2 posts, really).

So I thought I'd begin by sharing the following as a possible alternative for those strongly opposed to allowing their children to trick-or-treat. DearHusband forwarded to me this portion of a discussion a couple of years ago, shortly after Halloween. He said it was posted on one of the Orthodox discussion groups he was reading at the time. (I knew it would come in handy some day!)

I've looked around the 'net and can't seem to find any information about where it might have been originally posted, but I think it's interesting enough to post here. It's a description of one Orthodox Christian's approach to how to handle the evening of October 31.

...Every year, on Halloween, I sit on the front porch of my house with a bowl of candy, a box of beeswax candles, and a large icon for the Feast of All Saints.

Every child who comes to the house gets a piece of candy, and may also light a candle and place it before the icon. Very few kids (even the jaded teenagers) turn down the opportunity.

For those who ask, I tell them that the meaning of the word "Halloween" is "the eve of the Feast of All Saints".

If they press me on the point, I tell them that they can think of the true meaning of Halloween as being that, because of Christ, they can dress up like ghosts and goblins and whatnot, because we do not need to fear those things any longer.

I wish I had a few photos of the kids in Satan masks, lighting a candle and placing it before the icon...


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Saint Euphrosynos the Cook



Commemorated September 11

Euphrosynos was raised by devout parents, but given no advanced education. They were quite old when he was born, so they committed him to the care of the monks on Mt. Athos while yet a lad. They died not long after. This was at a time when Mt. Athos was known as quite an intellectual center. Euphrosynos was relegated to the kitchen. He preferred the solitude of a cave for his prayers to the chapel, or scholarly discussions. He grew to be an elder in the community.

One evening, there was a profound theological lecture delivered in the monastery. As one of the elders, Euphrosynos was called upon to comment on it. He had comprehended very little of it and offered few words. He retired in embarrassment to the mountainside. That night the abbot had a dream, in which he saw the most beautiful garden. The only one in this garden was Euphrosynos the Cook. Euphrosynos explained to the abbot that he was seeing the Kingdom of Heaven and he handed him a branch with apples on it. The abbot awoke to find a real branch of apples in his hand. (It was not the season for apples.) He awoke the other monks and sent for Euphrosynos. Euphrosynos acknowledged that that was the branch of apples he had given the abbot. The monks were all amazed and gave Euphrosynos great honor. He simply asked to be excused from the kitchen and the monastery to live out the rest of his days as a hermit in his cave. The abbot excused him. The apples were found to have miraculous healing powers.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

We're With the Band

As someone who really doesn't care one whit about football, I count myself very lucky to have married a spouse who doesn't care one whit about it either.

But strangely enough, though ElderSon doesn't play on his school's football team - we spent last evening in the bleachers at the high school in a loud, screaming crowd of squirrely high school students and some somewhat less-squirrely parents, getting ourselves a good case of bleacher-bum, while ElderSon played in the pep band for last night's game.

ElderSon's only in middle school, but his resourceful band director arranged a joint band experience with the high school pep band for this last home game of the season. They got to play a couple of numbers at halftime, which, during the whole first half of the game, we thought would never come.

But it did come, and the combined bands tromped out onto the the field and played very well. Once the band's little halftime gig was over, I looked at DearHusband and said, "Well, are you ready to go home?"

Of course he was.

So we connected with ElderSon via cell phone on our way to the car to see if he also wanted to go home, since his gig was overwith. He did not - so we went home anyway and returned to pick him up after the game.

Lesson learned: Just because you very intentionally put musical instruments instead of footballs into the hands of your young sons doesn't mean you aren't going to spend a few Friday nights in the bleachers.

What a Prayer Rope is (K)not



... easy to make.

And to think that sometimes I find it difficult to simply pray ...

HT: This is Life!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

St. Tikhon, Apostle to America

"Perhaps the saint's own words can best sum up his life: 'May God teach every one of us to strive for His truth, and for the good of the Holy Church, rather than something for our own sake.'"

HT: The OCA's Feasts and Saints

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Center of Our Lives



-From the photostream of "A Whistling Train."

He has many beautiful photos at his Flickr site - take a look around if you have a few minutes.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Thought and a Question


The thought:
I think that if St. Luke, the first iconographer, had been able to use a couple of Sharpies, the whole art form might have evolved into something a bit more accessible.

The question:
How many times to you have to paint over a problem portion of an icon before it technically becomes a sculpture?

Autumnal Vacation Week


What I'm thinking of doing with this week of vacation.

Here's a menu from which I can choose:

1. Harvesting our beets and then deconstructing the garden (which I pretty much neglected especially during our dry August, anyway. So how did my parents plant a huge garden every year and do absolutely nothing to it all summer except sit back and receive it's fruits? I don't ever remember them - or us - watering it or weeding it. I just remember putting stuff in the ground and then gathering food from it a coupla months later...).

2. Painting the living room - Burning cheap oil in your vigil lamp means you get that sooty stuff on your walls...and not just the walls of the room where the vigil lamp is burning. Having a couple of rambunctious boys means paint on any surface in the house gets all nicked up. It's time.

3. Laundry. Instead of cramming it all into a single day (Saturday), this week I have the luxury of dragging the monotony out for an entire week.

4. A last minute checkover session is planned midweek to put our church cookbook in the mail to the cookbook company. They will hopefully take one ream of printed paper and a CD with some images on it and turn it into a lovely little cookbook for members of our church and their friends and family. I find myself thankful that they will send us a proof copy in a month, so we will have one last chance to save ourselves from the dreaded page of "errata" which is tucked into most church cookbooks I have.

5. Work a little - or a lot - on an icon I started, which has a long way to go. (I'm currently on the 8th do-over of one section. A section which should be one of the simplest parts of all, but which I can't seem to get right...). This morning I saw some inspiration here.

6. Perhaps try and grab a cup of catch-up coffee with my friend, "you-can-just-call-me-Bob-now."

7. Host a "come and get it" old hymnal giveaway for a seminary student friend and his cronies. We need the bookshelf space now. I gave away a little slab (20 or more) of my old hymnals to another friend a few months ago and found that it didn't hurt a bit!

9. Go fishing with our boys one evening.

10. Sit on my duff and watch re-runs of Law and Order, with intermittent naps.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Bucket Walk

The Transposzing family missed our church's annual apple orchard outing this afternoon in order to attend the Bucket Walk at the kids' school.

For the past couple of years, Highview Middle School has financially supported a new school in Kenya. They have also looked for other ways to help the people there to lead better and healthier lives. A year ago, the school started a fundraising program called, H-2-O for Life, (if you check the link, be sure to watch the little video, which describes the need for such a project) which raises money to help with water systems and water sanitation efforts there. Today was their second annual Bucket Walk, a fundraiser for this project.

Students and and staff were encouraged to solicit pledges for this 3-mile walk (3 miles is the average distance that children and others have to walk to get clean water for their families in this part of Kenya). Bucket-carrying for this Sunday afternoon walk was optional.

YoungerSon graciously accepted the pledges which were handed to him on a silver platter - but ElderSon worked a bit harder and was able to garner much more support from several generous folks at church during coffee hour today which was, fortuitously, just before the walk.

Here are a few shots from this year's Bucket Walk:


ElderSon and YoungerSon (center and right) and ElderSon's good pal (left).



Some walkers got into the spirit of things by carrying buckets of water on their heads! (Some tried this and dumped the water all over themselves, which must have been a bit chilly for their walk on this very cool and cloudy afternoon!)



The Bucket Walk gave parents a little opportunity for some excercise and conversation, too. Here's DearHusband and the parents of some of ElderSon's friends.



Here's a lumpy-looking DearHusband (most folks put their t-shirts on over their jackets because it was COLD!) He was beating the chilly weather by walking briskly and bringing a cup of coffee along!



The most enthusiastic of the Transposzing family walkers - he was delighted that well-behaved 4-legged walkers were also invited. There were lots of dogs there and so Ollie had as much fun as the boys!

While we were sorry to have missed the apple orchard trip with folks from church, our Sunday afternoon activity was for a great cause.

I'm glad the guys wanted to participate, and glad we went and did our small part to help with this worthy project.

Which of the Five Senses Are You?

I am the sense of sound - no surprises here, I guess. (Except that I might substitute "blabbermouth" for "natural conversationalist"...



You Are the Sense of Sound



You love to talk, but you also love to listen.

You are simply a natural conversationalist.

You can have a deep conversation that lasts for hours and come out of it feeling energized.

You have a good ear for foreign languages and accents of all sorts.

You can imitate people quite well.

You also are a huge lover of music. You probably love music more than most people you know.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Why?

OK, I rarely would post a FW:FW:FW: but this one's just so seasonally appropriate - and I've been so crabby lately that I welcomed the laugh.

It's a beefed-up version of a funny I saw about a year ago (HT to a former colleague - a then-vicar who shall remain nameless):

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

BARACK OBAMA: The chicken crossed the road because it was time for a change! The chicken wanted change!

JOHN MC CAIN: My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road.

HILLARY CLINTON: When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure right from Day One that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn't about me.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

DICK CHENEY: Where's my gun?

COLIN POWELL: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with that chicken. What is your definition of crossing?

AL GORE: I invented the chicken.

JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

AL SHARPTON: Why are all the chickens white? We need some black chickens.

DR. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on this side of the road before it goes after the problem on the other side of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he's acting by not taking on his current problems before adding new problems.

OPRAH: Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

NANCY GRACE: That chicken crossed t he road because he's guilty! You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.

PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmers Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain, alone.

JERRY FALWELL: Because the chicken was gay! Can't you people see the plain truth? That's why they call it the other side. Yes, my friends, that chicken is gay. And if you eat that chicken, you will become gay, too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media whitewashes with seemingly harmless phrases like the other sid e. That chicken should not be crossing the road. It's as plain and as simple as that.

GRANDPA: In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.

BARBARA WALTERS: Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its lifelong dream of crossing the road.

ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.

BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken2008, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook. Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken2008. This new platform is much more stable and will never reboot.

ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?

DR SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.

AVERAGE WO/MAN ON THE STREET: He crossed the road to avoid all the political garbage that is being dished out during this presidential season! Smart chicken!

Ferris Bueller's Day Off?

Those of you who have seen this classic movie probably aren't surprised that it's one we haven't recommended to our middle-school aged sons - at least not just yet.

But it seems they don't need Ferris to give them any tips about the easiest way to score a day off from school.

We're thinking that ElderSon was working on this today. And who wouldn't want to? A sunny, crisp, fall morning - a day ripe with possibilities: Mom at work and Dad is driving to Rochester to pick up his mom and bring her to her home in SW MN. Without a younger brother underfoot and parents lurking about - the sky's the limit!

Having fallen into the "I'm too sick to go to school today" trap a time or two (only to discover a miraculous complete recovery just seconds after the school bus passes by the house), DearHusband and I know that we must weigh these words very carefully when we hear them.

Allergies can certainly be helpful, especially at this pivotal point of the year before the first hard frost. Skip a day of allergy meds and one could end up with symptoms that fairly closely resemble a good cold. But we almost always know just by simply looking at our child whether he is truly sick or not.

So today, without benefit of a fever, some very convincing vomit, or even "that sick look," we took him to school, despite his complaints of being too weak to even stand up.

But I assured him that if he really felt that he was too sick to be at school, that he should have the school nurse call me at work and of course, I would come and pick him up and take him home. But I reminded him that if he's home with me and too sick to be at school, then he's too sick to watch TV, or play video games, and certainly too sick to be outside or to go anywhere (including the football game at the high school tonight). But I would make him some nice soup and allow him to get some good sleep, or to read a book. (He knows I'm not bluffing - we did this once before and he was so bored at home that he cried "uncle" long before noon and confessed that he really wasn't sick at all).

So now it's lunchtime and I haven't gotten a call from the school nurse yet ...