Thor and Loki: Children of Odin

Before they were cartoons, before they were part of the Marvel Universe they were part of Norse Mythology for centuries. Thor and Loki: Children of Odin is a lyrical introduction to the myths and epic legends of the ancient Scandinavians. Fusing the different mythic accounts of his medieval sources, Irish-American poet Padraic Colum fashions a powerful tale of the divine adventures of gods and humans, locked in an inexorable march of fate. Written in a style accessible to both children and adults, Colum’s work offers a haunting and evocative portrait of the mythic world of the Viking Age.Before time as we know it began, gods and goddesses lived in the city of Asgard. Odin crossed the Rainbow Bridge to walk among men in Midgard. Thor defended Asgard with his mighty hammer. Mischievous Loki was constantly getting into trouble with the other gods, and dragons and giants walked free. This collection of Norse sagas retold by author Padraic Colum gives us a sense of that magical time when the world was filled with powers and wonders we can hardly imagine.

Padraic Colum (8 December 1881 – 11 January 1972) was an Irish poet, novelist, dramatist, biographer, playwright, children’s author and collector of folklore. He was one of the leading figures of the Irish Literary Revival.

This collection of Norse Myths includes: Part I. The Dwellers in Asgard 1. Far Away and Long Ago 2. The Building of the Wall 3. Iduna and Her Apples: How Loki Put the Gods in Danger 4. Sif’s Golden Hair: How Loki Wrought Mischief in Asgard 5. How Brock Brought Judgment on Loki6. How Freya Gained Her Necklace and How Her Loved One was Lost to Her 7. How Frey Won Gerda, the Giant Maiden, and How He Lost His Magic Sword 8. Heimdall and Little Hnossa: How All Things Came to Be 9. The All-Father’s Forebodings: How He Leaves AsgardPart II. Odin the Wanderer 1. Odin Goes to Mimir’s Well: His Sacrifice for Wisdom 2. Odin Faces an Evil Man 3. Odin Wins for Men the Magic Mead 4. Odin Tells to Vidar, His Silent Son, the Secret of His Doings 5. Thor and Loki in the Giants’ City 6. How Thor and Loki Befooled Thrym the Giant 7. Aegir’s Feast: How Thor Triumphed 8. The Dwarfs Hoard, and the Curse that it Brought Part III: The Witch’s Heart 1. Foreboding in Asgard 2. Loki the Betrayer3. Loki Against the Aesir 4. The Valkyrie 5. The Children of Loki 6. Baldur’s Doom 7. Loki’s Punishment Part IV. The Sword of the Volsungs and the Twilight of the Gods 1. Sigurd’s Youth 2. The Sword Gram and the Dragon Fafnir 3. The Dragon’s Blood 3. The Story of Sigmund and Signy 4. The Story of Sigmund and Sinfiotli 5. The Story of the Vengeance of the Volsungs and of the Death of Sinfiotli 6. Brynhild in the House of Flame 7. Sigurd at the House of the Nibelungs 8. How Brynhild was Won for Gunnar 9. The Death of Sigurd 10. The Twilight of the Gods

Check out this phenomenal book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B086G4JQ7L

Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

Main Street is a satirical novel written by Sinclair Lewis, and published in 1920. Satirizing small town life, Main Street is perhaps Sinclair Lewis’s most famous book, and led in part to his eventual 1930 Nobel Prize for Literature.You’ll meet Carol Milford, the daughter of a judge, grew up in Mankato, Minnesota, and became an orphan in her teens. In college, she reads a book on village improvement in a sociology class and begins to dream of redesigning villages and towns. After college, she attends a library school in Chicago and is exposed to many radical ideas and lifestyles. She becomes a librarian in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the state capital, but finds the work unrewarding. She marries Will Kennicott, a doctor, who is a small-town boy at heart.When they marry, Will convinces her to live in his home-town of Gopher Prairie, Minnesota, a town modeled on Sauk Centre, Minnesota, the author’s birthplace. Carol immediately sets about her plans to remake Gopher Prairie, but she is filled with disdain for the town’s physical ugliness and smug conservatism.She speaks with its members about progressive changes, joins women’s clubs, distributes literature, and holds a party to liven up Gopher Prairie’s inhabitants. Despite her efforts, she is ineffective and constantly derided by the leading cliques.Main Street initially was awarded the 1921 Pulitzer Prize for literature, but was rejected by the Board of Trustees, who overturned the jury’s decision. The prize instead went to Edith Wharton for The Age of Innocence. In 1926, Lewis refused the Pulitzer when he was awarded it for Arrowsmith.In 1930, Lewis was the first American ever awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. While a Nobel Prize is awarded to the author, not the work, and itself does not cite a particular work for which he was chosen, Main Street was Lewis’ best-known work and enormously popular at the time. In the Nobel committee’s presentation speech, both Main Street and Arrowsmith were cited. The prize was awarded “… for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humour, new types of characters.”In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Main Street #68 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.Harry Sinclair Lewis (February 7, 1885 – January 10, 1951) was an American novelist, short-story writer and playwright. In 1930, he became the first writer from the United States (and the first from the Americas) to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, which was awarded “for his vigorous and graphic art of description and his ability to create, with wit and humor, new types of characters.” His works are known for their critical views of American capitalism and materialism between the wars. He is also respected for his strong characterizations of modern working women. H. L. Mencken wrote of him, “[If] there was ever a novelist among us with an authentic call to the trade … it is this red-haired tornado from the Minnesota wilds.” He has been honored by the U.S. Postal Service with a postage stamp in the Great Americans series.In 1930 Lewis won the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first writer from the United States to receive the award, after he had been nominated by Henrik Schück, member of the Swedish Academy.

Check out Main Street on Amazon!

The Man in the Brown Suit

I just finished reading this wonderful Agatha Christie book: The Man in the Brown Suit. Adventure-seeking Anne Beddingfeld is in London when she sees a stranger fall to his electrifying death in the Tube. A dreadful accident? If so, who is the man in the brown suit fleeing from the scene? Curiosity, and one cryptic clue, leads Anne aboard a cruise ship to Cape Town and into the confidence of Colonel Race, counterintelligence officer for MI5. Drawn into a dangerous conspiracy, Anne’s found the adventure she wanted. And as she’s chased across continents, all she must do now is survive it.

Agatha Christie (15 September 1890 – 12 January 1976) was an English writer of crime and romantic novels. She is best remembered for her detective stories including the two diverse characters of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. She is considered to be the best selling writer of all time. Only the Bible is known to have outstripped her collected sales of roughly four billion worldwide copies. Her works have been translated into more languages than any other individual writer.Agatha Christie was first published in 1920. Her first book was The Mysterious Affair at Styles, (1920) which featured the detective – Hercule Poirot, who at the time was portrayed as a Belgian refugee from the Great War. Poirot is one of the most recognised fictional characters in English with his mixture of personal pride, broken English and immaculate appearance and moustache. The book sold reasonably well and helped meet the public’s great appetite for detective novels. It was a genre that had been popularised through Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories at the turn of the century. In 1926, she made her big breakthrough with the publication of “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.” This became a best-seller and made Christie famous as a writer.The plot of Agatha Christies novels could be described as formulaic. Murders were committed by ingenious methods – often involving poison, which Agatha Christie had great knowledge of. After interrogating all the main suspects, the detective would bring all the participants into some drawing-room before explaining who was the murderer. Her writing was quite clear and it is easy to get absorbed in the flow of the story. It also gave readers the chance to try and work out who the murderer was before it was revealed at the end.Agatha Christie enjoyed writing. For her there was great satisfaction in creating plots and stories. She also wrote six novels in the genre of romance and suspense under a pseudonym – Mary Westmacott.During the Second World War, Christie worked in the pharmacy of the University College London, which gave her ideas for some of her murder methods. After the war, her books continued to grow in international popularity. In 1952, her play The Mousetrap was debuted at the Ambassador’s Theatre in London and has been performed without a break ever since. Her success led to her being honoured in the New Year’s honour list. In 1971 she was appointed Dame Commander of the British Empire.Agatha Christie loved embroidery, travelling and gardening – she won various horticultural prizes. She expressed a dislike of alcohol, smoking and the gramophone. She preferred to avoid the limelight and rarely gave public interviews. To some extent she hankered after the more idyllic days of Edwardian England she experienced in her childhood and was dubious about aspects of modern life.“The quality of agreeableness is not much stressed nowadays. People tend to ask if a man is clever, industrious, if he contributes to the well-being of the community, if he ‘counts’ in the scheme of things.” -A. Christie, Part I of Autobiography

You can get this book for only $0.99 on Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/Man-Brown-Suit-Large-Print-ebook/dp/B086BZS7BZ/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+man+in+the+brown+suit+agatha+christie+large+print&qid=1585267843&s=books&sr=1-1

#28 – Eat Ten Different Kinds of Ice Cream

#28 – Eat Ten Different Kinds of Ice Cream

I know, ambitious, right?

After all the years I spent declining dessert while on some diet or another, I have some make-up work to do when it comes to consuming sweets. From around 1985-2010, if you asked me if I would like some ice cream, I probably said, “no.” I opted for the yogurt, or the fresh fruit, or a diet coke, or nothing at all. Either that, or I ate ice cream while alone, usually while on a food binge after some extensive period of dieting. It was tragic.

Because that’s how dieting works – you find some rules to follow that are guaranteed to slim you down, and you follow those rules for a period of time, and then one day you get so weary of following the rules that you eat everything in sight.

I was an excellent dieter. I was very, very good at following the rules of whatever diet I was on at the time. Over the course of twenty-five years I lost small amounts of weight and I lost large amounts of weight. Every time, I gained the weight back.

It always came to a point where the rules made my world seem so very small. Dieting made it so that eventually all I seemed to think or talk about was how much weight I had lost or what clothes I was going to buy when I hit that next milestone of weight loss. I would bask in the success and compliments and then cower under shame every time I needed to go off the carefully prescribed dieting course and eat.

One of the best things I have done is stop dieting. I stopped telling myself certain foods were “good” and others were “bad.” I stopped deciding I was beautiful only if I could fit into my smaller-size clothing. I stopped making anything off-limits. I started saying “yes” to the damn ice cream.

So, it wasn’t hard to try ten different kinds of ice cream. I’ll probably try at least ten more before my fiftieth birthday. But in the spirit of my Fifty Things I Want to do Before my Fiftieth Birthday task, here are the ten I have had in the last few weeks:

  1. Cookies and Cream
  2. Bunny Tracks
  3. Caramel Cashew
  4. Peanut Butter Core
  5. Scotcheroo
  6. Monster Cookie
  7. Goldmine
  8. Tonight Dough
  9. White Chocolate Raspberry
  10. Juneberry

For the Next Fifty: Eat ice cream like it is my job.

#42 Learn a New Salad Recipe

I love vegetables but especially when I am traveling, I tend to eat mostly bread in some way, shape, or form. Scones, bagels, crackers – I love the carbs. So, now that we are back, I want to swing the pendulum back toward regularly eating vegetables. I went looking on the internet for some good recipes and then I was reminded of this foolproof formula:

Base:

  • romaine/ green or red leaf lettuce
  • spinach
  • mixed baby greens
  • kale

Vegetables:

  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • tomatoes
  • bell peppers
  • mushrooms
  • sprouts
  • radishes

Cook things like:

  • squash
  • zucchini
  • onions
  • mushrooms (sometimes I prefer them cooked)
  • kale (same)
  • asparagus
  • brussel sprouts

Add-Ons:

These are the ingredients that make this process fun.

You can add things like:

  • nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans, etc)
  • seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, etc)
  • chickpeas
  • grains (quinoa, pasta, brown rice)
  • hard boiled eggs (ONLY certified free range from the local farmer’s market)
  • raisins/craisins
  • strawberries/blueberries/cooked apples or pears, or other fruits

It’s a great reminder for how to mix and match tastes that you like. I bought some spinach, nuts, blue cheese, cherry tomatoes, and made a homemade salad dressing and I was all set. If you want to read the whole article that inspired me and got me back on the salad track – check it out here: https://medium.com/@MrsDeeGee/make-a-kick-ass-salad-that-wont-bore-the-shit-out-of-you-827d9781bdc7

Then I bought this book to keep my love affair with salads going strong. Click on the picture to see the link. 

Fifty

We were on the road between Hokitika and Cromwell, New Zealand, listening to the TED Radio Hour podcast. I forget which episode it was, but something in it made me think about the coming months and how I will be turning fifty at the end of May.

And in that moment, I decided to make a list of fifty things I wanted to do before I turned fifty. It wasn’t a bucket list – just a list that was a mixture of things I have loved in this life so far and things I had thought about doing and things I wanted to do more of in the next years. I called the list FNF: For the Next Fifty.

The list has some items that are easy to complete and others that will take a great deal of effort. I’ll share the list and the process of my completion of the items with you in coming posts.

Pastrgrrl Press

I’ve been keeping journals since I was in second grade – back when my handwriting was barely legible. For me, a great day consists of a cup of coffee, a good pen, and blank pages. Thus, it’s only natural that over time I felt the desire to create some beautiful journals to share with others who also enjoy the joy and therapeutic properties of writing. “A Month of Hymns: A Journal for Prayer and Reflection” uses hymn lyrics as prompts for each day. Read the classic lyrics, reflect on your own life and the leading of the spirit, and write. There’s room to draw as well on the 8X10 pages. Order today at:

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=pastrgrrl+press&crid=1U55EFAKOW8N&sprefix=pastrgrrl%2Caps%2C240&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_9

Keep up with new projects on Facebook:  Pastrgrrl Press

S is for Sacristy

A sacristy, also known as a vestry, is the room where vestments, paraments, and other items used for worship are kept. Oftentimes, the sacristy is right off the sanctuary or it can be in another part of the church. At times, the sacristy is where pastors will keep their albs and chasubles and prepare for worship. A small sink, called a piscina, is sometimes located in the sacristy. The piscina has a drain called a sacrarium which empties directly into the ground. This sink is a place to wash sacred vessels and to pour out baptismal waters and leftover communion wine so they go back into the earth and not into the sewer system. A sacristan is someone who has been given the duties of watching over and caring for items in the sacristy.

The sacristy is the room where I’ve disappeared to have a panic attack between services, the place where congregants have tracked me down to commend or scold me for sermons, and where I’ve stood to look in the mirror before church during a difficult season of ministry and thought, “is this it? Is this my life?” It’s where I’ve felt the hum of excitement as we prepared for a particularly big service, waited for the strains of the processional music to begin, and at times, wished I could be anywhere else. The sacristy is where we keep the stuff of worship – and at times it has felt like it is where I am kept, too. It’s where people can make sense of me – there with my alb and my proper stole for the church season. People know me there. They may not recognize me immediately at the grocery store or the movie theater or the swimming pool – but at the sacristy, robed and microphoned, I am in my place and easily classified.

Lately I have been thinking about the “stuff” of church and how it can both bring us closer to God and farther away – sometimes at the same time. For some people, being in the presence of a sanctuary with the stained glass, the pulpit, the altar, and paraments can be comforting and help one focus on celestial matters. For another, that atmosphere can feel rigid and oppressive.

As a pastor, I have sometimes felt that same push and pull in people’s interactions with me. I recall a particular wedding I was invited to preside at for parishioners with whom I had become close. The wedding was in the yard of a home in the country and I was at the house with the families and friends a bit before the wedding began. The place was buzzing with activity and nerves were frayed. Every few minutes it seemed someone would zip past me with a broken shoelace or looking for a lost bouquet or coming from a interaction with someone else and cussing up a storm. Then, they would see me, pause, and say, “Sorry, pastor.” Then they’d move along.

We were friends but we weren’t. Their interactions with me were just like with anyone else – and yet not. I was there to celebrate the joy of that wedding like everyone else, and yet I was also set apart somehow. And while part of me wanted everyone to just be themselves around me, a smallest fragment of my mind liked that I was somehow noticed because of my role. I liked that I had a particular role to play there.

I’ve always loved being a pastor – but the perceptions put upon me by others because of that role are not always predictable. Just like being around a church building can bring out the best or the worst in people, so can being around a pastor. However, I imagine it’s true that many people experience being treated in particular ways personally because of who they are professionally – the doctor who gets asked medical advice when she’s out trying to have supper with her family; the attorney who gets asked legal advice on the golf course; the baker whom everyone expects will contribute the cake to the family get-together. None of us can extract our professional lives from our personal lives entirely – not that we would want to. And as I’ve grown older, I’ve grown more comfortable knowing that to the vast majority of people in my life, I am their pastor first. Perhaps that is why it has made my closest friendships, my husband, my children, even more precious to me – because to them, I’m just Ruth. Just mom.

Thank God for the work we all are called to do in this life. Thank God that we are all more than the work we do in this life.

Joy Matters – sermon from 5/13/18

Rob Bell, a well-known pastor, author, and speaker tells a story about a time he was sitting in a meeting at the church where he was a pastor. It was a huge church and this was the meeting where the various leaders of the different departments of the church came together to discuss the running of the church.  Important stuff. But it was a very large staff, and so at one of their meetings, a couple of the people said that after those meetings they have to go back and tell everyone else about what happened in the meeting and so it might be good to invite more of the staff to come to the meeting so they could get the information first-hand. This was discussed for a long time and nothing was resolved, so they spent much of the next meeting talking about this, too. And Rob said that his heart began to sink because he realized now they were mostly just having meetings about meetings. So, he went to the person who was in charge of the meeting to talk to him and he said, “You know, I’ve noticed that we’re spending an awful lot of our meeting time lately just talking about the meeting,” and then he said he stopped because he realized with horror that in that moment he was having a meeting about a meeting about a meeting.

He talks about how in the course of all of it, he felt a whispering in his mind saying, “What am I doing here?” He said it was a feeling deep in his bones – that although figuring out all the meeting stuff was important and there were other people who may have been really into that and whom God put on earth to organize and attend meetings about meetings about meetings, he knew that was not his work to do. He had other work that needed to be done, other work that God had given him to do, work that energized him and gave him life and was hard in its own right, and it wasn’t to sit in meetings about meetings about meetings.

As we continue going through Paul’s letter to the Philippians, Paul is talking a lot about humility and service. He says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.”

This is the kind of verse that is so contrary to our culture today. Most everything in our culture is hyper-focused on developing the self and looking out for number one. In fact, this culture elevates a positive self-image to such a degree that we run the risk of becoming our own false gods. Having a positive self-image is important, but it seems like it can run off the rails pretty quickly, too. For example, during a confirmation class some years ago, I asked a teenage girl to name someone she admired the most and she said herself.

Herself? Is that the message our kids are getting? That they should love themselves so much that they refuse to open their eyes and admire all the varied gifts and beauty of the people around them? To think so much of themselves that they have unwavering certainty that their way of seeing the world, their story, their little plot of land on which they live, their past and their future, is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end? I inwardly did the hugest eye-roll possible and then calmly asked her, “how about someone aside from yourself?”

Oh, trust me, Saint Paul would have done an eye-roll, too. As he sits in jail, writing letters of encouragement to his co-workers in Christ, urging them to put others first, think more highly of everyone before themselves, so much so that they consider themselves slaves to others.

These words about selflessness are powerful – and they can conjure up visions for us – maybe we think of Mother Teresa, serving the poorest of the poor in India. Maybe we think of our mothers, sacrificing their time, their energy, their own interests for the sake of our growth and security. Maybe we think of teachers, who so selflessly give of their energy and love and wisdom to teach our kids.

And probably, if you are at all like me, you feel a little guilty. Because it can feel like there’s no way to measure up to what Paul is asking of us here. The truth is that we don’t want to always think of others first – sometimes we want and need to look out for ourselves. We are fine with thinking highly of others, but we need to value who we are, too, and what we have to contribute to the world. And as far as being a slave to others?  It’s just hard to get behind that one at all.

But it’s good to remember here that the word slave is from the greek word ‘doulos’ – which means slave or servant – and usually by one’s own free will. One has chosen to serve, chosen to give one’s life over in this way. And that makes all the difference, along with something Paul says a bit later in this same letter, “Rejoice in the Lord.”

Yes, this giving over of ourselves, this putting others first, this thinking more highly of others than ourselves, it’s important to who we are as followers of Jesus, but the key is to find a way of doing that that brings us joy, and brings joy to the world through us. Joy matters.

There was a fellow I knew at seminary who, like me, was studying to be a pastor. He was a very good student, he always knew the right answers in class and everybody liked him. We graduated at the same time and lost touch, but years later he found me on Facebook and I was interested to notice he wasn’t a pastor anymore. He was a full-time traveling musician now and leads song-writing conferences and retreats. I asked him a little about his work and he told me a bit about his journey – how he had gone to seminary because his parents wanted him to and because it seemed like the right thing to do. He wanted to serve God. It seemed like a good thing to do, even though he wasn’t ever very excited about it. “Seminary was fine,” he said – “I liked the classwork and our friends and the variety – but once I got into a church it got harder. I felt claustrophobic and like I was playing a part that wasn’t me. I stayed for many years, partly because I had invested so much money in the education and partly because I felt like maybe I was just supposed to suck it up and try harder.” He talked about how the church he grew up in had stressed that you had to think about others first and die to yourself and so he wondered if maybe he was supposed to be miserable. Maybe that was part of learning how to really follow Christ. After all, he thought about people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and other martyrs who had suffered and died for the faith – surely he could withstand a bit of unhappiness for the sake of his love of the Lord, right?

He began to get chronic backaches and headaches, various other aches and pains – but figured he was just getting older and that happens. He got used to a low level of despair hanging over him and took comfort that his work may not make him happy, but at least he could be useful.

The only time he felt really joyful in his work was when he was leading music – which he would do often at church or for other events that needed a musician. He wrote music and recorded some songs, always thinking of it as a hobby but nothing more. It wasn’t until one day a woman in his congregation stopped him after church and told him about how she appreciated his ministry of music. He thanked her – others had kindly said this to him before. But then she added, “I wish you could only do that. I mean, it seems like that is when you are happiest.”  And something deep within him said, “Yes.”

Those few words she said shifted something for him that day and he knew what he had to do. He set for himself the goal that within a year he would find a way to let music be his full-time ministry. He said it wasn’t easy, there was no direct route to follow to do what he does now, it took longer than he planned, but he loves his work now because he’s using his best, most life-giving gifts, and he’s joyfully serving God and others. The backaches and headaches went away.

Joy matters. My prayer for all of us is that we find ways to put others first, to serve often and well, but to find ways to do that with joy. Rejoice in the Lord! If you consistently have a slow sense of dread on your way to do something, even if you are good at it, listen to what that dread is telling you. Is it time to find another way to use your gifts or perhaps change up the way you are doing the same old task? Is it time for that season to end so another can begin? Listen not just to all the needs of the world and the advice of those around you, but listen to yourself and the Spirit of God at work within you. Or as the author and theologian Howard Thurman said it, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Simplifying: not always so simple

Last night, at the end of a long day, I went downstairs to confront the sorting of piles once again. In the traditional Christian story of the Creation, God separated the light from the dark to create day and night. In my current story, I separate pictures from the letters from the notebooks from the concert stubs, from the family history records to create piles upon piles.

I grabbed another notebook of dad’s to look through and decide if there was anything in there I wanted to keep. The one I grabbed was not his usual ranting, sad poetry, or angry letters to be sent later. This one was nearly full of letters he wrote to women in response to classified ads they placed in magazines like The Enquirer. I don’t know if magazines still have these kinds of ads – perhaps it is the early equivalent to Ashley Madison or other dating sites. Anyway, this notebook was plum full of letters my dad wrote. “Dear Ms, I am a divorced, 5’9, 190 lb man living in Minnesota,” (he was none of those things…except living in Minnesota) each of these letters would begin – and then he went on to share his version of woo-ing the intended recipient. Some of it was sharing his dreams of moving south, some of it was piling flattery on some details she may have shared in her description, “you love to cook? That is perfect, because I love to eat!” In some of his letters, he spoke about how his “ex” wife didn’t understand him, didn’t meet his needs, didn’t live up to her “wifely duties.” He ended each letter with expressing how he couldn’t wait to meet and giving our home address and phone number.

These letters were mostly dated around the year I was 16. He would have been 52. ‘

I can’t say the letters upset me all that much. It’s not like I have any illusions he was a perfect man or that his marriage with my mom was without difficulty. I’ve been married long enough to know that sometimes things can happen that drive you bat-crap crazy. Maybe mom and dad had been fighting and one of the ways that he got through it was imagining a different life for a while. I don’t know if he ever sent one of those letters but I do know he never met one of these women. He was a hermit – he never left the house. In fact, he could barely walk down the driveway so he most likely would have had to ask mom to mail those letters.

No, I think these letters were a gasp at life and freedom and excitement for my dad whose real life had already become so severely limited by physical and mental ailments that he was desperate. “Is this all there is? Is that great opportunity never coming to find me up here on this hill where I hide? I’m scared shitless of this gray hair, these wrinkles, this expanding midsection, this unending sickness of spirit and body.”

Was this my dad’s version of a mid-life crisis? Writing letters to imaginary women in the far-off warmer climates where he always wanted to live? Dreaming of himself as taller, thinner, free-er, healthier, just different than he was?

No, these letters don’t upset me. What upsets me is knowing he felt trapped by circumstances – ones that were both within his control and beyond his control. He had all sorts of longings – like all of us do – but he felt powerless to change. He was so infinitely afraid…and unfaced fear eventually turns to anger.

The anger was what we got to see. He may have had all sorts of complex emotions roiling underneath, but what we saw and how we remember him is by the anger.

I tossed the notebook in the garbage.