Monday, June 28, 2010

Church Closing

Our already small parish has, for the last several years, seen shrinking membership and pledge income. Tonight we had a meeting where our part-time paid priest, in conjunction with the vestry, announced that according to any analysis that makes sense, the parish isn't viable anymore. He and the vestry strongly recommend that we close the church, probably within a year.

This has been coming for a while, so I don't think anyone was completely surprised, but everyone's upset. It will be a huge loss. I'd already started thinking about other places I might go if this happened -- although none is ideal -- so at least I feel like I have options. (One of the reasons for our closing is that this area has too many Episcopal churches for its size.) I hope I get to keep preaching; my license is good diocese-wide, but whether I'm invited to preach will be up to the leadership wherever I wind up.

God's everywhere; I know that. I just hope I'll be able to find a place where the people welcome me as warmly as folks at St. Stephen's did, even though I'm eccentric and liberal and outspoken, and not very Nice even when I try to do Good. Sometimes contrived, and often rickety.

I'm getting ahead of myself, though. St. Stephen's will be around for a year or so; we already have meetings and barbeques planned, and we'll continue to worship, and everybody's being offered a lot of pastoral care to get through this.

I think I'm saddest about the loss of the building: our beautiful little sanctuary, with its hand-carved altar (made by a former rector who's the grandfather of the husband of one of our current priests), and the stained-glass windows made by the parishioners about twenty years ago. I trust we'll find good homes for all of that, though.

I do have to say that I'm really tired of grieving. Mom hasn't even been gone three months, and we're having Dad's memorial service in two weeks, and I'd hoped to be able to take a break in here somewhere, to go for a while without another major loss. But that's not up to me.

One of my favorite bumper stickers says: "I know God won't give me more than I can handle. I just wish He didn't trust me so much." And yes, many other people are going through much worse right now, and anyway, it's all an opportunity for resurrection. Right?

But it's still sad.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wild Kingdom

Last night I tidied up the cat nest on top of the yarn vault. Figgy's enjoying it!

Monday, June 21, 2010


We're told that the new deck should be finished by Friday. Meanwhile, we've been feverishly buying patio furniture: two Adirondeck chairs on sale at WorldMarket (red, since that was Dad's favorite color), a mesh glider from Lowe's, a 7-piece dining set from Home Depot. All of the seating is very comfortable. The table's a little more rickety than we'd like, but it will do.

In a fancy garden/patio store in town, we saw the patio set of our dreams: a gorgeous, huge oval teak table that seats twelve on four three-person benches. Beautiful: and for $4,000, it certainly should be! So we passed on that in favor of the Home Depot stuff for one-tenth the price.

With the new stuff plus our old stuff, we'll have various kinds of deck seating for sixteen people. That's a bit much for the two of us, or even the small Dad party, but it's a good number for my fiftieth birthday party on Labor Day.

Yesterday I felt very low -- it was Father's Day, of course -- and today I'm still droopy and tired. But this too shall pass.

Oh, today's the thirteenth anniversary of Gary's arrival in Reno! Also, the summer solstice. Happy summer solstice! Does anyone else find it ironic that the days get shorter during the summer? I always feel like that should only happen in the fall.

No matter: we'll still have plenty of sunlight for the new deck!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

You Folks Rock!

Thanks so much for the supportive comments on my last post. I'm very rich in my friends, and don't think I don't know it!


I was still kinda weepy when I got to my therapist's office. He listened, empathized, and -- after I gave him the briefest summary of Sunday's homily -- smiled and said, "The lesson here is that you have to have faith that someone out there will accept you even if other people judge you."

Good therapist.

After leaving his office, I drove out to Dale's gallery to pick up the cremains. Dale wasn't there, but I found a pretty little $10 pot and bought it (I'd have bought something bigger, but that was all the cash I had on me and I didn't have a check). I also left a note thanking him for his time in talking to me. So I hope he'll take all of that the right way. I don't bear the guy any ill will: he has to follow his instincts, and he sounded very upset this morning. Of course, so was I, but that's my issue, not his.

I don't know what I'm going to do with the cremains I retrieved from him. Nothing right away, probably. I need to go into turtle mode and withdraw into my shell for a while before I stick my neck out again. (Now you know why I like turtles so much!) At this point, I'm very wary about approaching anyone else in the Reno area. I'm just not up to cold calling right now.

On the other hand, if any of you know a potter, in Reno or elsewhere, who might be open to such a project -- and who won't charge an arm and a leg for including some cremains in clay to make a small piece -- please let me know. The problem with most of the outfits that advertise this service is that their prices are prohibitive, like everything else in the funeral industry. One of the things I really liked about Dale is that he wasn't going to increase his price based on including some unusual material in the clay. I'd have paid it if he did, but I was pleased and grateful when he said he doesn't do that.

In other Dad-related news, I went to the VA to try to get proof of his military service. The lady at the hospital information desk, when I explained why I was there (I wasn't sure where to go), said, "I'm so sorry about your Dad," a piece of kindness I sorely needed today. I love the VA!

However, they didn't have any formal proof of service. (You'd think the fact that he was a VA patient would be proof enough of military service, wouldn't you?) The clerk was energetic and helpful and gave me what little she had -- a piece of paper saying that Dad had served in WWII, without any specifics -- but said I should try to track down Dad's records at the other VAs where he's been treated. I can't even count them, and wouldn't know where to start. That's a piece of family archeaology I'm not at all sure I'm up to. Otherwise, my only option is the online request form I already filled out, which takes 4-6 weeks.

The Coast Guard chaplain indicated that he'd be pretty liberal about what constitutes proof of service, so I hope we'll still be able to get Dad scattered on his birthday. I also hope the chaplain doesn't have any ominous dreams between now and July 14.

Anyway, after all of that, I swam for fifty minutes, which left me feeling a little better. Now I have to try to get a bit of the book done before we settle down to watching Weeds, our current TV obsession.


Dale from Peavine Pottery called me this morning, sounding very terse indeed, and told me he couldn't make the pot from Dad's ashes. He said he's a big believer in dreams, and he had a dream telling him not to do it, although he couldn't tell me -- because the dream hadn't told him -- why not.

I'm a big believer in dreams too, so the call freaked me out more than a little. It's hard not to take this personally: Dale was fine when I first spoke to him on the phone about the commission, and he's clearly made such pieces before -- he could describe the effect of cremains on glaze and clay, for instance -- but he became increasingly tense during our visit yesterday. So I think something about me turned him off.

I cried after the phone call, and I've been fighting shame ever since, especially since last week, a friend told me how "weird" it is for me to be investing in all these cremain keepsakes. "But if it makes you feel better, that's what's important." Well, yes. (Which is more shameful: finding creative homes for loved ones, or shaming others about their choices in doing so?)

Okay, so I'm weird. Guilty as charged. We've been knowing that, right? But really, the project isn't all that bizarre. There are companies that specialize in this, like Phoenix Memorial Art. Isn't making something beautiful and useful from cremains more sensible than just keeping them in an urn that can't then be used for anything else? I wanted to give the business to local artists, and now I feel like I've been kicked in the stomach. I hope John at Planet X doesn't back out, too.

Sometime today I'll go by Peavine Pottery to pick up the cremains I left there yesterday. Truth to tell, I'm kind of dreading the errand.

I also have a therapy appointment today. I can't wait to hear what my therapist makes of this!

If I had more free time, I'd take a pottery class and make something myself, but that doesn't seem feasible right now. On the other hand, cremains keep, so maybe I can do it sometime in the future. Whatever I made wouldn't be a tenth as nice as Dale's work, though; I mean, he's spent years at this. He's an artist.


In other news, the deck demolition is coming along nicely.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fiddle News

I just managed to sound out Ashokan Farewell all by my very own self, in about ten minutes. Mind you, the people on YouTube sound infinitely better than I do; mine still needs a lot of work in terms of intonation and phrasing. But I figured out all the notes!

During my last lesson, after I'd copied a set of notes Charlene had just played for me, she said, "I love the way you sound things out." That's about all I'm good at, fiddle-wise, but I sure enjoy it!

Planks and Pots

We went with the second contractor, who'll start ripping out our old deck tomorrow, with the help of his daughter and nephew. We like supporting family businesses!

Speaking of which, today I did the Great Pottery Tour of 2010, with Dad's ashes along for the ride. I wound up ordering two pieces. At Planet X, way the heck out in the Nevada desert, I commissioned a short, wide pencil cup with trees drawn on the outside. Dad's ashes will go into the reddish glaze. At Peavine Pottery, I ordered a squat, asymetrical pot with a turned tulipwood lid, and a combination gold/iridescent and maroon glaze. Dad will be part of the clay on that one, and the potter's going to call me when he's ready to throw the piece so I can watch him work the ash into the clay. Oh, he also turns hardwood knitting needles! They're special order, though, and I'm sure I can't afford them.

Neither potter fires in the summer -- too hot -- so I'll have to wait until fall for both pieces. But that's okay.

I think both the potters thought I was a little cracked (they both make urns to hold ashes, but incorporating the ash into the piece is less common). I told the second one -- who knew I'd also commissioned a piece from the first -- "I can just imagine Dad rolling his eyes at this," and he said tersely, "Yes. I can too."

But hey, they're getting business and I'm supporting local artists, so it's all good.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Women of Ill Repute

Here's tomorrow's homily. This one was tough: I had to cut vast tracts of stuff about Mary Magdalene, not to mention the parallel women-washing-Jesus' feet passages in the other three Gospels. I'm not sure that what I came up with hangs together. I do love this hospital story, though; it's still one of the most moving things I've seen in the ER.

The readings are 1 Kings 21:1-10, 15-21a and Luke 7:36-8:3.


This morning’s readings star two women of ill repute: Jezebel, whose name has become shorthand for “wicked woman,” and the nameless sinner who anoints Jesus. (The second woman, by the way, isn’t Mary Magdalene, despite longstanding tradition linking the two. That topic could be a homily in itself, but it’s not what I want to talk about today.) Both women are undeniably powerful. Jezebel, from behind the throne, rules her husband so completely that she’s able to command murder. The woman in the Pharisee’s house, meanwhile, is economically independent, wealthy enough to afford costly ointments. While we can guess that she’s made this abundant living from men, she doesn’t hold herself to male rules and restrictions. Pharisees, the pillars of respectable society, were famous for their strict observance of purity laws. They might have been scandalized by any woman touching Jesus, but for a woman in this particular profession to do so, after bursting uninvited into the house, would have been truly horrifying.

Beyond their gender politics, these two stories clearly contrast judgment with forgiveness. Jezebel lies, connives, and commands murder to get more land for her husband, King Ahab. Confronted by Elijah, Ahab expresses no remorse. Jezebel and Ahab act in contempt of God’s laws, taking whatever they want, no matter who gets hurt in the process. Elijah accordingly delivers God’s judgment, promising, “I will bring disaster upon you.”

The woman with the ointment, in stark contrast, gives, freely and generously. What prompts these lavish gifts? Just before this morning’s Gospel, Jesus has healed the centurion’s slave and raised the widow’s son from his deathbed. Everyone in the area knows about these miracles. Furthermore, Jesus has repeatedly defended himself against respectable people who criticize him for spending time with sinners. “Those who are well have no need of a physician,” he tells his detractors. “I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

A man who heals slaves and forgives sinners: no wonder this woman of ill repute loves Jesus! The sequence of events, though, is initially confusing. Jesus tells the Pharisee that “her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love.” The word “hence” implies causation. The woman has shown great love, Jesus seems to say, because her sins have been forgiven. But she shows this great love before he formally forgives her, before he turns to her with the words,“Your sins are forgiven.”

Maybe, then, his words only confirm what was already true? Maybe the woman was forgiven even before she barged into the house? Maybe she knows she is forgiven, feels it, and pours out her lotions in sheer gratitude?

As he bids the nameless woman farewell, Jesus says, “Your faith has saved you,” and I think faith is the heart of the matter. This wealthy, but disreputable, businesswoman has heard the stories about the healer who loves and forgives sinners. She has faith that he will love and forgive her, too, that he already loves and forgives her. Her faith gives her the strength to burst into Jesus’ presence, into the house of a respectable man who will certainly not welcome her.

This story shows us that forgiveness requires two elements. The first is repentance: we have to be sorry for what we’ve done wrong. The second is faith: we have to believe in forgiveness before we can feel it. Jezebel and Ahab demonstrate neither repentance nor faith. The woman with the ointment illustrates both.

Some people fall in between: truly sorry for what they’ve done, but with no faith that they’ll be forgiven. Sometimes, in their shame, they don’t believe they deserve forgiveness. Their shame only deepens if the people they’ve met have been more judging than forgiving, have acted more like the Pharisee than like Jesus. People who already hate themselves may shrink from "respectable" people they believe will judge them: anyone in authority, anyone with power, and, sadly, anyone associated with religion.

Most of you know that I volunteer four hours a week as a lay ER chaplain. The ER is often noisy, full of crying kids and moaning adults. One evening a few years ago, the decibel level was much higher than usual. We had a full-blown screamer: a patient howling in such agony that the sound bounced off the walls and made everyone a little crazy.

I rushed to the room to see if I could help, and found a young woman, in her late teens or early twenties, howling and writhing in the first bed. Her frantic mother sat by the bedside, stroking her daughter’s forehead, trying to comfort her child. When I told them I was the chaplain, the patient turned sharply away from me, and the mother, tight-lipped, shook her head.

I left. Outside, a nurse told me the story. The young woman was on Methadone to kick a heroin habit. The Methadone clinic had decreased her dose too quickly. As a result, she was now in withdrawal, in tremendous pain, screaming nonstop. The nurse begged me to do something to help. "Junkies feel so horrible about themselves, and I'm scared this kid will just go out and use again." But when I went back into the room, the patient wouldn’t even look at me, and her mother just gave me a helpless shrug. I realized that because I was the chaplain, the young woman expected to be shamed or lectured.

As an addict, she may already have had such experiences. ER staff are notoriously dismissive of anyone struggling with substance abuse. Everyone in the department, though, sympathized with this particular patient. She was clearly trying to get off heroin. She was a victim of bad medication management. And –- unlike most addicts -– she was accompanied by a caring, well-dressed and well-groomed relative.

Our sympathy didn’t matter. She couldn’t see it, didn’t give us the chance to show it, because she shrank from all of us.

The second bed in that room held someone else from a stigmatized population: a burly fellow with prison tattoos, including swastikas. He had company, too. He'd been brought in by a woman, wife or girlfriend, who looked as if she'd had a hard life of her own. The well-dressed mother sitting next to Bed One could have stepped out of a corporate boardroom; this woman, in contrast, looked as if she might have worked on the streets, a ragged descendent of the woman who covered Jesus’ feet with ointment.

The nurse assigned to the room was non-white, and understandably nervous about those swastika tattoos in Bed Two. The noise from Bed One was unbearable. It wasn't a good room. I found myself avoiding it, and the nurse probably wanted to do the same thing.

And then I went by the room on my way to somewhere else, and heard -- nothing. Silence, sweet peace. My ears rang from the lack of noise. I ducked inside to see what had happened, and found the tattooed patient’s female companion leaning over Bed One. She was giving the young woman a backrub. The patient, now quiet, had finally relaxed, and so had her exhausted mother.

"Thank you," I said, amazed and grateful, and the woman smiled up at me.

"I'm a masseuse,” she said. “Massage really does help people calm down."

The young woman had accepted the backrub because this other woman was a peer, an equal: someone else dealing with real or perceived staff judgments, someone who wasn’t going to lecture or shame or judge an addict in withdrawal. The hard-bitten masseuse had succeeded in offering comfort where a host of highly trained, respectable medical professionals –- and one volunteer -– hadn’t had a chance. “The last,” as Jesus reminds us, “will be first.”

Scripture doesn’t tell us what happens to the woman with the ointment. All we know is that she leaves the Pharisee’s house, forgiven and thankful. But I’d like to think that she began her own healing ministry, reaching out to those without the courage to barge in on Pharisees, or even to call out to Jesus in the street. I’d like to think she worked among the shamed and hard-bitten: those who felt unworthy of forgiveness, or who feared judgment by respectable society. I’d like to think she brought the Gospel to people who couldn’t have heard it from anyone else. “He forgave me,” she might have said. “He’ll forgive you, too, if you let him.”

And what of us? This Gospel challenges us to put aside our own respectability, to use our experiences of shame and vulnerability to heal others. It asks us to be wounded healers, to admit the ways in which we are broken, that all may be made whole. It asks us to remember and reclaim the lowest moments of our lives, and to reach out in love to those who live there still.


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

A First!

Today's contractor didn't become apoplectic after inspecting the deck! Today's contractor actually said that the existing supports are actually fine: extremely sturdy and in very good shape. What needs replacing is the wood.

So we're waiting for this guy's bid. Gary likes him a lot better than the first fellow. I didn't meet him, because he came early (!), when I was out running errands, but I trust Gary's judgment.

Stay tuned. We may have a deck by Dad's birthday after all! Or, at least, by my birthday.

Adventures in Veterinary Care

So our vet, a petite and demure young woman, showed up at our house this morning with her stethoscope, rabies vaccine, and a trank shot just in case. Bali was feeling sociable and actually walked up to sniff her; he also deigned to accept chin rubs, scritchies, and comments on his beauty.

I think Harley was jealous, because he kept vying for the vet's affection by rubbing against her ankles, even though he hated her when he was in her office yesterday.

After enough pleasantries had been exchanged, the doc picked up Bali and put him on our coffee table to examine him. He was unhappy, but things went fairly well until she tried to take his temperature. Bali let out a screaming howl and twisted away from her and Gary; Harley let out a matching howl and dove in to attack Bali, which he's been doing lately despite always having been a mellow guy. The two cats chased each other through the house, hissing and yowling. Fur flew, literally. Gary managed to grab Harley and shut him in the downstairs bathroom, where he continued his air-raid siren routine. Bali, meanwhile, had fled to safety on top of our seven-foot bookcases.

Note to self: The next time the vet comes over, move the kitty condo so the cats can't use it as a ladder to get to the bookcases.

So there was Bali, seven feet above the floor, with no intention of getting down. Gary climbed up on a chair and tried to make nice. Bali growled. Gary got down. The petite, demure vet climbed up on the chair and tried to make nice, cooing, "Hey, dude, you still need your rabies shot, so we've got to get you down from there."

We tried coaxing him with toys and catnip. He wasn't having any of it. "Would a towel help?" I asked the vet.

"Sure. Do you have a big bath towel?"

I gave her a big bath towel. She showed it to Bali and then, in several calm, fluid moves, managed to throw it over him, wrap it under him, and get him down from the bookcase while he fought furiously.

"Wow," Gary and I said in unison. "You're good at that!"

"Kitty burrito," she said cheerfully, lugging the lunging bundle -- which looked at least half as big as she was -- back to the coffee table. "We do this all the time."

Bali got his shot. Harley got let out of the bathroom. The vet left: we'll get her bill later. Gary and I mopped our brows and let out sighs of relief. All the cats are vaccinated for another year. Thanks be to God!

Reno Anniversary

Thirteen years ago today, I moved to Reno to take the job at UNR.

Yay, Reno! Yay, UNR!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Scary Scaredy Cat

Last week, Harley went to the vet for his check-up. He yowled and fussed, but survived the ordeal. Yesterday, Figgy went to the vet for his check-up. He was paralyzed with terror, but survived the ordeal.

Today, Bali was supposed to go to the vet for his check-up. We couldn't even get him into the carrying case. At one point, Gary grabbed him and almost got him in, but the shrieking, hissing, spitting, howling banshee-blur of fur wiggled away from him and escaped. Bali, claws and teeth at the ready, wedged himself firmly behind Gary's computer desk and made it very clear that he'd defend himself against all comers.

We decided that we wouldn't survive the ordeal.

I called our vet. What to do? Could I race down there (they're only a few blocks away) for some kitty-valium? No, because it's been over a year since Bali's last check-up, so it's illegal for them to give him drugs.

However, it turns out that our vet will make house calls for an extra $50. She's going to come tomorrow, armed with kitty tranks. If she doesn't succeed in doping and examining him, she won't charge us anything. He's normally a fairly sociable cat, so it's possible that he'll be fine without tranks, as long as the dreaded carrying case isn't visible and his humans haven't been pouncing on him.

Poor Bali! Gary thinks he was traumatized for life by early removal from his mother; I think he was traumatized by hospitalization during his kittenhood, when he had an upper respiratory infection and was running a 105-degree fever and we had to rush him down to Animal Emergency, where they kept him for three days. Whatever the issue is, he absolutely freaks when the carrying case comes out. He's even worse than our old cat Pyewacket, who was the terror of vets in three states and collected all kinds of colorful warning stickers on his files. Pye's last vet used to put the entire carrying case into a gas chamber and dope him with trank gas before she even tried to take him out, but at least Gary always managed -- albeit with difficulty -- to get him in.

I wish our brave vet luck tomorrow!

Shaping Up

We're getting another bid on the deck tomorrow. Meanwhile, we now know how we'll scatter Dad. My friend Sherry, one of my priests, has an uncle-in-law (her husband's uncle) who's a lay chaplain for the Coast Guard Auxiliary in Oregon. They do burials at sea. She suggested that I call him, and sure enough, not only is he willing to do it, but he'd be happy to do it on Dad's birthday and will try to do it from a sailboat, rather than one of the "stinkpots" Dad disliked.

Yay! I really like the idea of Dad going home to the ocean eighty-eight years after his birth, especially if the sailboat part works out. There's something very satisfying about that.

The downside, of course, is that we won't be there. But the Reno party's shaping up, too. I made Fran's plane reservations yesterday; Liz and my nephew Owen made theirs today. And today I got e-mail from two of Dad's Mississippi friends (who've now moved North, I think to New Jersey) that they'll be joining us in their RV. Liz and I are excited, and it will be great for Fran to see them again. We didn't expect any of Dad's old crowd to be able to make it, so this will really be a treat.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Scratch That

Doing further research into deck construction, Gary discovered that (surprise, surprise), our deck was built completely incorrectly, which means that it will have to be rebuilt from scratch. We may be able to use some of the existing concrete supports, but since this is our house, infamous among contractors everywhere, I tend to doubt it.

In case I haven't explained this before, the previous owner of the house was a recording engineer (allegedly under close Federal scrutiny for drug dealing, although that may just be a colorful rumor) who had all of her home-improvement projects done by her musician friends. Based on the reaction of every legitimate contractor who's ever seen any of this work, said musician friends must have been operating in extremely altered states, whether the previous owner sold them the substances that got them that way or not.

In any case, the deck seems to have been a Musician Project.

This means:

1) We won't be going with the initial contractor, who didn't pick up on the problems after a visual inspection of the deck, whereas Gary sussed them out with an internet search, and

2) We definitely won't have a new deck by July 14.

My dear, and sensible, friend Sharon points out that there are lots of lovely parks in Reno, and has even offered her own deck in a pinch, although I hope we won't have to take her up on that. Dad liked parks, and most of our parks have views of river or mountains or both, which he would have loved.

Dad also liked simple food, so I've decided that the menu should consist of various salads -- Gary has a ton of great ones for summer -- along with things like shrimp rings and smoked salmon. The less cooking that's needed, the better. We'll have chocolate cake, however, because Dad loved chocolate, a trait his daughters have inherited.

So I'm feeling better about all that. On the guest front, I think we're going to have to put Fran in a hotel. Our house has a very open floor plan; the only downstairs room with a closing door is the half-bath. I doubt that Fran can handle stairs at this point, and I don't think I want her to try. (Gary and I have both been having flashbacks to Dad's traumatic arrival in Reno.) She also dislikes cats, so sleeping downstairs with roaming cats and no available shower probably wouldn't be too much fun for her. She loves casinos, though.

Tomorrow we'll start getting new bids on the deck. I think we should award the job to whomever laughs the loudest, or turns the most interesting shade of purple, after looking at the old one.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Unproductivity, with Ashes

Is that even a word? Probably not. But it is now!

So we've been back a week, or a bit less, and I've gotten very, very little done, because all I really want to do is knit. To be more precise, all I really want to be doing is knitting on a cruise ship, but since that's not possible, all I want to do is knit at home.

This isn't helping my book get written.

I have done things other than knit this week: I've exercised almost every day, had a very solid and satisfying hospital shift this afternoon, took Harley to the vet for a routine checkup (Figgy and Bali go next week), and moderated this year's final Lit & Med discussion group at the VA. I've also, as of this evening, finally gotten back into practicing the fiddle. Yay!

But I haven't written. Or cleaned up my study. Or attended to the ragtag ends of the semester still requiring attention.

We've made some progress on the Deck Project: Gary contacted a contractor who gave us an estimate of $13,000 to replace, with redwood, only the current version of our very large deck. We'd hoped to add a second story, but clearly can't afford it. And this guy estimates that replacing the current deck will take a month. Huh?

Deck timing has become newly crucial as of this evening. I suggested to my sister that maybe, since scattering Dad in the oily waters of the Gulf doesn't appeal to us, and since he loved eating dinner on our deck, we should have a party in his honor on our deck on July 14, his birthday, and figure out someplace to scatter him around here. I didn't think she'd like the idea, but, unexpectedly, she ran with it. Liz and her son Owen will be coming out here; Gary and I will fly Fran out; we've invited Dad's closest friends from the Gulf and also one of his nurses from the Reno VA. I have no idea if any of them will be able to come, but while I initially liked the idea of everyone coming here, I'm now feeling a bit panicky. Will the deck be done by then? Should we cook the food ourselves, or have the party catered? And where will we scatter Dad?

On Monday I'll call the funeral home where he was cremated and ask them about regulations and legalities. In the meantime, there are a number of services that, for not too much money -- $150-250, say -- will scatter cremains from a plane. We could have him scattered over the Sierra Nevada, or over and into the Pacific Ocean. We couldn't be there, of course, but the companies sell videos for just that reason. Also, they're all certified and legal and know local regulations (although I'm sure Dad wouldn't mind getting into trouble one last time!).

Dad loved Pyramid Lake, but Liz points out that since the lake's on a Piaute Reservation, it's almost certainly illegal, as well as unethical, to scatter him there. Also, I definitely want him somewhere with access to ocean.

Research must be done. A deck must be built. A study must be reorganized. A novel must be written.

But all I really want to do is knit socks.