Praying for Godpapa

Just writing the title, I begin again to tear. Just writing Godpapa.

I’m afraid everything is colored sorrow at the moment. We are in the midst of an immense battle for life, through prayer. My son’s Godfather, whom I posted about a few weeks ago, has had an awful turn for the worse. During the recovery, after his surgery, something–many things–went awry, and only a miracle now, today, will bring him home to us. I continue to pray.

My son leaves for Seattle, for a new life and adventure in college in just a few days. He and I made the long trek down the coast of Southern California, through the stop-and-go traffic, to USC’s Keck Hospital to see his godfather. Once there, we scurried up the stairs and entered the ICU where everyone works in hushed tones and monitors beep, and patients are fighting for their lives. I have to say, Deacon Howard’s room, his wife Gail curled into a chair, his daughter massaging his feet, was a haven of love and beauty and even home. We brought a handmade Saint Brigid’s cross, one from this lovely night (Deacon Howard is pictured in one of the photos–he has the most awesome white mustache!), and a bag of  fresh peaches for Gail.

Bless him! I held his hand, and kissed his arm, and rubbed his feet. We prayed, and talked, and my son’s eyes grew redder and redder, and we all cried together, and spoke words of peace. But the sorrow hangs heavy. The doctors were all there–all huddled–all looking beaten and grave. Mother Viktoria was there, too–thank God. Thank God.

Today is the day for a miracle, folks!

And it’s another day for giving thanks.

I’m thankful for: Deacon Howard and Gail, and all the love they’ve showed us as a family, and the special attention they’ve given my son, Andrew. I’m thankful for the people who filled in for me so I could take Andrew to the hospital–picking up the other kids, tending to them, etc… I’m thankful for prayer and the comfort it brings. I’m thankful for a community that bands together like glue when need be; I’m thankful for the fountain and the sunshine outside my office, offering sweet notes of light and encouragement to me today. I’m grateful to all of you who have whispered prayers on Deacon Howard’s behalf. And I’m comforted to know that Heaven is just a wisp away, and that death opens a door to that place where all the saints stand, cheering us along!

I ask your continued prayers…


Gift of a Goddaughter

One 3 lb loaf of sourdough

Mixed: 6:30 pm

Molded: 9:30 am next day

Baked: 11:20 am

Gave half to Kh. Jan and Fr. Nicholas

Our goddaughter, Julia, was just whisked away by her parents, back to Colorado yesterday. She was here for almost three weeks-and we played in the sun, and in the fog, and in the sand. We visited the harbor, and the wharf, and toured State Street. She made a blue and green ceramic vase for her sister, and read Royal Monastic, and went to church with us, and helped with the dishes, and even went to Camp Saint Nicholas for a week where she learned (among other things…) the lima bean song. There were a few tears as the big Suburban drove off.

We haven’t seen Julia in four years, and she wasn’t even three when we moved from Colorado to California. Being a faraway godparent isn’t ideal… but prayers are the most essential ingredient in godparenthood, and what a blessing to see that she has blossomed into a lovely, loving young woman.

We miss you already, Julia!

And so… in honor of Julia, I made bread and shared it with my daughter’s godmama. On the same day that Julia left, Kh. Jan spent the day with my Madeleine, speeding her around town and loving her so thoroughly…

To all godparents: keep on praying! These beloved children,

whether near or far,

are worth every minute we can spare


on their behalf.

People Who Inspire Me: Olympians

Two loaves of molasses bread (see link to recipe below)

Mixed: 2:45 pm

Molded: 4:45 pm

Baked: 5:25 pm

Gave to a family who runs the race–and hard…

Some of you may know that I was a gymnast as a young girl. I trained for many years. Five or six days a week, four or more hours each day. I stretched, strengthened, and flew my body around daily, and loved it. I also learned lessons about pain, about finding strength when you thought you had none, about staying dedicated and being determined.

The Winter Games are in Vancouver and I’m inspired. These athletes who have given themselves to sport inspire me to give of myself at the next level. Not just give bread, though that’s certainly become part of my daily life… But especially to give more light than dark. Light, not dark. That’s really my deepest quest. It’s the way I, with my aged body and sometimes failing brain, can remain an athlete for years and years, even past the days when I’ll be able to kick up into a handstand like you see above…

Have you ever noticed that sometimes, when you’re at the end of your strength, the most light and clarity about life is shed? I recently needed to find peace during a dark moment–and my body was clogged with food, my heart felt heavy, and my head was spinning. I took off running, something I typically despise, but three miles later had found immense relief and a clear vision of what to do. Think about past times when you’ve been severely ill, or have run a long race, a marathon even, or when you’ve fasted from food, or dedicated yourself to a long stint of prayer. If we look at the athlete, we know that he won’t skate to the finish line swiftly if he hasn’t broken down his mind and body in training so that it might eventually be built stronger. The very struggle and fatigue helps us find a hidden strength, energy, and vigor that can only come with giving all of yourself over to that pursuit. As a Christian, I know that I am at my best when I break down all of the Me-Barriers and allow God to flow freely through my stubborn head and cluttered heart. At my weakest, because of the struggle, I hit my peak.

So, here we are with no cable and no ability to watch the Winter Olympic Games! In general, we’re not much for the television. But I’m in the mood to be inspired…  I dropped an Olympics hint earlier today and my husband ran with it.

So, don’t tell the kids, but the cable dudes are on the way. We’ll call again after Closing Ceremonies and cancel our subscription. But in the meantime,  I’m hoping to mix, mold and bake many batches of bread…

…during commercials.

Ooh, ooh, and before I go.

I spotted the very recipe that I use for making molasses bread at this website! Yay!!! This is a wonderful recipe from Rabbit Hill Inn in Vermont–a loaf of brown delight that gets gobbled up by even the per-snicketiest sort of bread people… Most times I switch out a cup of the white bread flour for a cup of whole wheat. And sometimes I leave the butter out… Enjoy!

Fifth Century–The Brewer and the Baker

Three loaves of Jim’s Irish Brown Bread–from Jim Lahey’s My Bread

Mixed Tuesday and Wednesday eves

Molded–Baked–All that…

Gave one loaf to neighbors on the next block that we sort of, kind of know. Ate one loaf. Gave the third loaf to Brian at Telegraph Brewing. Here he is by his shiny tanks…

These past two days have been all about brown, Irish-style bread. Who would think that bread made with a small scoop of bran, a lot of wheat, both white and whole, plus buttermilk and brown ale would be so very good! The loaf that we saved for ourselves was gobbled up in no time. It’s already being requested as a favorite by the kids. We slathered the slices with a hazelnut chocolate spread. Oh, my…

Most of what went into these loaves makes them quite authentic to Saint Brigid’s time. There would have been both whole wheat and “fine” (white–what they preferred, if they could afford it) flour available. There would have been buttermilk, especially as Brigid and her mom tended cows, including one white cow with red ears… And there would have been brown ale. Brewers and bakers back then were important folks to have around. Have you ever seen this poem attributed to Saint Brigid, where she wishes lakes of beer for everyone? There are a variety of translations from the original; this is one that I like:

I would like the angels of Heaven to be among us.
I would like an abundance of peace.
I would like full vessels of charity.
I would like rich treasures of mercy.
I would like cheerfulness to preside over all.
I would like Jesus to be present.
I would like the three Marys of illustrious renown to be with us.
I would like the friends of Heaven to be gathered around us from all parts.
I would like myself to be a rent payer to the Lord; that I should suffer distress, that he would bestow a good blessing upon me.
I would like a great lake of beer for the King of Kings.
I would like to be watching Heaven’s family drinking it through all eternity.

So, there I was hanging out with my husband and my four year-old at Telegraph Brewing Company here in Santa Barbara.

Brian, the proprietor and Master Beer Guy, was kind enough to give us a quick tour and talk to us about “spent barley” and “yeast trub” and the whole world of brewer’s yeasties. Though I have some very potent sourdough starter at my disposal, and I do think the sour starter is a very valid method of rising dough that was used in the fifth century–a method that pre-dated those cute little packets of instant yeast :)–brewer’s yeast is mentioned so often in my research that I just had to try and see what all the fuss was about.

Brian first let me taste some of the spent barley–it was sweet and warm and delicious, reminding me of a satisfying, hot morning cereal–and then bagged some up for me to bring home and bake with. Here it is, still warm in its copper tank…

This barley is the grain that is going to eventually make a batch of experimental brown ale that Brian is trying out. Normally he sends his spent barley off to a farmer in Carpinteria, who uses it in his compost mix, but today that farmer got one baggy less, thanks to me! I’m anxious to fiddle with barley. It seems to be the poorest of the grains used in the fifth century–the one that monastics seem to have used frequently in their bread baking. I’ve never eaten bread made with barley, have you? I have a batch of slow-rise bread working right now, that has some of that barley mixed into it.

After a quick tour of the brewery we got down to brewer’s yeast business. Brian opened the tap off the bottom of his Robust Ale, which he makes each spring, and after a plug of hops sludged its way out…

The nice brown, batter-like yeast mixture filled the cup. Ooh, it smelled so good, so alive and ready for adventure.

So we headed home and I immediately got to work. I’m sure Saint Brigid’s days were full of chores, too. I had laundry, and dishes, and notes to write, but I wanted to get some dough working as well. While the baby played, and the washer trudged through another cycle in the other room, I mixed up a new starter, using just the brown ale brewer’s yeast, mixing it with a cup of flour and a bit of water. My very own Telegraph Starter. I then mixed up a batch of barley/wheat bread, using brewer’s yeast instead of the typical 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast… and also started a batch of French bread, using just the yeast trub as a leavening agent. We’ll see. So fun to experiment with all these natural grains and methods. So fun to head back several centuries and pretend to be a part of another time.

Tomorrow I’ll let you know the results of today’s play.

In the meantime, I know one thing. The people in Haiti are suffering, and I’m here baking in my cozy kitchen. One reason I love to bake, and knead by hand, is so I can pray while I work that dough, watching it change before my eyes… Please join me in praying for those people, who could use more than a loaf or two of bread. Who could use some mercy, and many hands reaching their way in love.