Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Gas Price Surprise



I snapped this photo the other day.

It is true that this includes a dollar off per gallon, thanks to our grocery store rewards system. It would have been impressive even at $1.779 a gallon, though.


Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!



To those who visit my humble space on the web, whether I know you in real life or whether we connect online only, I send my wishes for a wonderful Christmas season!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Is it only me, or do others enjoy a late-in-the-week Christmas, giving us a long fourth week of Advent?

For this last Sunday, once again, I share Brother Lawrence:
“To advance in the practice of the presence of God we should let go of all our cares, including a multitude of private devotions, good in themselves but often carried out for the wrong reasons, for those devotions are nothing more than the means to arrive at the end.” 
It cannot be helped. I cannot escape this quote! In just a few sentences, it sums up what I’ve needed for focus this Advent: Do not get stuck in a mindset that certain things, even very good things, need to happen in order to have a “good” Advent.

Ironically, it has been letting go of expectations of how things “should go,” that I’ve ended up being able to enjoy quiet time to myself, as well as take pleasure in the more exterior seasonal activities. That isn’t such a surprise.

What was a surprise was discovering attachments I didn’t know existed. I cannot share the specifics of the discovery, because it would mean telling others’ stories at the same time, which I won’t do. No matter, the generalities are sufficient in making my point.

I had been counting on a particularly meaningful devotion to help me find the strength to meet a specific challenge. Alas, external circumstances kept me from that devotion when I thought I was most in need of it. I spent a number of minutes in the car (by myself), railing at fate about it. Suddenly, I remembered Brother Lawrence’s warning about letting go of devotions, good in themselves, but perhaps blinding us to the end goal. Hmmmmm….

Almost immediately, a scriptural quote popped into my head, the one about God’s grace being sufficient. In that moment, I knew. I was putting more faith in the devotion than in the God I thought I was meeting in that devotion. If circumstances beyond my control kept me from the devotion, there was no need to fear God was absent without it.

After that epiphany, I felt better about facing my challenge. As it happens, the challenge was met better than I thought it could be done. Such a gift!

Happy Fourth Sunday, friends!


Monday, December 14, 2015

Happy Feast Day!

St. John of the Cross, pray for us!



I don't want those who have been reading my Advent Sunday posts to misunderstand me. Prayer is essential. I would make a grave mistake, if I were to put aside private devotions because I think God is calling elsewhere. It's from prayer that we hear God's voice.

In celebration of St. John of the Cross, I offer this writing of his, to be considered along with the Brother Lawrence quote.

Let those, then, who are singularly active, who think they can win the world with their preaching and exterior works, observe here that they would profit the Church and please God much more, not to mention the good example they would give, were they to spend at least half of this time with God in prayer. . . They would then certainly accomplish more, and with less labor, by one work than they otherwise would by a thousand. . . Without prayer they would do a great deal of hammering but accomplish little, and sometimes nothing, and even at times cause harm. God forbid that the salt should begin to lose its savor (Mt. 5:13). However much they may appear to achieve externally, they will in substance be accomplishing nothing; it is beyond doubt that good works can be performed only by the power of God. 

Spiritual Canticle 29.3

Sunday, December 13, 2015

St. John of the Cross: Novena Day Nine



St. John of the Cross Novena Prayer here.

Third Sunday of Advent

We are halfway there!





It’s the pink one’s turn! Or, the rose one’s turn, to be more precise.


There’s been no time to consider what I would like to reflect on, this Third Week into Advent.

Nope, not because I’ve been joining in the holiday craziness we are all warned against. Rather, circumstances have tossed things into my week that were not on the schedule. That is all right. It fits so perfectly into this Advent’s theme of not being too attached to devotions that I miss what God is actually asking of me. (Thank you, Brother Lawrence!)

And so, I reflect on gaudete: rejoice


Saturday, December 12, 2015

St. John of the Cross: Novena Day Eight

Poor St. John. I haven't been keeping him company here on the blog. That's all right. He knows why I've missed out.


St. John of the Cross Novena Prayer here.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

St. John of the Cross: Novena Day Two


St. John of the Cross Novena Prayer

Second Sunday of Advent

“To advance in the practice of the presence of God we should let go of all our cares, including a multitude of private devotions, good in themselves but often carried out for the wrong reasons, for those devotions are nothing more than the means to arrive at the end.” Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection

The first week of Advent passed, for me, very much in the spirit of the Brother Lawrence quote I shared last Sunday. In being mindful that my Advent devotions are only the means to the End, I have been able to sit with prayers and reflections as if they are dear friends to linger with.

Which feels like an improvement over previous Advents spent earnestly begging God to help me know “what I should get out of” Advent. (Spiritual growth is so much more than a self-help improvement project.)

Looking back over the week, I see that the change in my attitude has spilled over to my mothering. I am able to approach the various activities of the season with a more relaxed frame of mind. We are engaging in activities (gingerbread houses, municipal tree lightings, Advent countdowns) because they are ways to color and flavor life, not because I-simply-must-expose-my-children-to-all-these-things-so-they-might-have-the-most-enriching-lives-ever. (Oy vey . . . yes . . . I can be that intense.)

So, life rolls on: the ordinary demands, with Advent-themed activities added in. And yet, there has been time for taking things slowly. This quiet has come about in an unexpected way. Several of us feel as if we are on the verge of wintertime colds. While this is not a welcome development, at least it has forced us to slow down. To choose to sit and read aloud, rather than be off doing something. That is a good thing. As an easily distracted person, it is good to learn to linger.

No new quotation for the Second Sunday of Advent. Rather, I am continuing to delight in the same Brother Lawrence quote going into this second week.

“To advance in the practice of the presence of God we should let go of all our cares, including a multitude of private devotions, good in themselves but often carried out for the wrong reasons, for those devotions are nothing more than the means to arrive at the end.” Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection


Saturday, December 5, 2015

Advent Treat



One of our Advent traditions: a special holiday-themed dessert to go along with one of our rotation of Christmas movies.

These are the chocolate peppermint cookies. Choose your favorite chocolate-chocolate chip cookie recipe, and add in broken-up candy canes.  Substitute vanilla extract with peppermint extract.

I won't be sharing the photo of the gluten-free varierty; they were tasty, but not very pretty.

St. John of the Cross: Novena Day One



Today is the first day to begin a novena in anticipation of the Feast Day of St. John of the Cross. I am hoping to have something to contribute on the blog each day, but I will be realistic and admit that it might not happen. I’ve got too much going on just now to commit to getting to the computer every day for the next nine days. No worries – I am not overstressing the holidays! Rather, I am prioritizing the TO DO list. My sneaking away to the computer will fall to the bottom of the list, as I attempt make wise decisions about keeping a healthy balance during Advent.

In the newly published e-book by Elizabeth Foss, Comfort & Joy, she shares her thoughts about a novena prayer:

“This prayer and most novena prayers allow us to state our intentions, to beg for favors, to ask God to grant our desires. But I have noticed, as I have prayed the prayer, that in the time from the beginning of the devotion until the time near the completion, the focus shifts from the desire to the rest of the prayer. Over time, with repetition, my gaze is taken from what I want or think I need (however good and holy that might be) to who He is and how He lives in me.”

This sums up, beautifully, my favored approach to novena prayers. In some ways, this reminds me of the content woman my grandmother was: she didn’t want or need gifts on birthdays or Christmas, she liked simply being with her loved ones. She wasn't just saying she didn't want anything out of a false humility, her desires were sincerely elsewhere. I am not asking for anything in particular during this novena; I am spending time in savoring the words that touch my heart.


Please, do spend some time with the words of St. John of the Cross. For Novena Day One, I’ll share one of the most well-known quotes:



For the traditional novena, follow this link.

Friday, December 4, 2015

7QT: Fast Food/Allergy Hilarity

File this under the category of: We don’t get out much, I guess? Given that almost half the family has food sensitivities of one kind or another, there is just a small selection of restaurants we visit, where we know we can work around the assorted dietary needs and not go hungry.

I took a few of my children for an impromptu visit to McDonald’s. The reactions of the three-year-old were hilarious.

~  ONE  ~
She didn’t even know where she was. As we approached the counter, she asked (loudly), “Is this Wendy’s?”

~  TWO  ~
She didn’t know Happy Meals come with a toy. As we waited for our order, she became enchanted with the display of all the toys that are in the current Happy Meal cycle. I told her she’d be getting one with her meal and she was shocked speechless for a moment.

~  THREE  ~
The speechlessness came to an end when she became alarmed that she might not be the only one who didn’t know Happy Meals are meant to come with a toy. Specifically, she was afraid the employee serving us wouldn’t know. “How will the woman know she should give me a toy?” She asked that, worriedly, a few times.

~  FOUR  ~
The Happy Meal comes in a box.


~  FIVE  ~
The thrill continued beyond the food and toy, in a box. Whilst we were stopped at a red light just after leaving the establishment, she noticed an employee leaving work for the evening. She found it so unusual to see an employee out of the restaurant, she shared this adventure about with each family member who wasn’t with us at McDonald’s.

~  SIX  ~
She was still excited the next morning. The first thing she did upon awakening was tear through the house, “Where’s my Happy Meal toy?”

~  SEVEN  ~
Even I got in on the excitement. When did they start making the French fry boxes so tiny and cute?




Do we sound pathetic? As if we never get out? We do! Our adventures just don’t include fast food experiences.


It has been way too long since I’ve participated in Seven Quick Takes. I miss thinking of my 7; I miss reading others’ 7. 

Thank you, Kelly, for hosting!
This Ain't the Lyceum

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

#GivingTuesday

This blog seems to be spiraling out of control with hashtag activism. I apologize for that. It just happens that a handful of things I feel strongly about come together at one time.

Reece's Rainbow, one organization that can count on my support, is participating in #Giving Tuesday.



Reece's Rainbow Down Syndrome Adoption Grant Foundation

Sunday, November 29, 2015

First Sunday of Advent

“To advance in the practice of the presence of God we should let go of all our cares, including a multitude of private devotions, good in themselves but often carried out for the wrong reasons, for those devotions are nothing more than the means to arrive at the end.” 
Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection
 Advent. Waiting and preparation. As the inveterate planner and list-maker, I am always eager for new seasons. Such a chance to start fresh, make resolutions, advance towards a goal. Advent is no different. “Prepare the way of the Lord.” In our culture, this tends to mean being mindful of the reason for the season.

And so, we turn to a rich treasury of resources that are meant to help us achieve this reason-for-the-season focus: Holy Scripture, Church Fathers, contemporary authors. So many beautiful, touching, poignant words have been written that can help put us on the correct spiritual path through Advent.

Then I’m brought up short by words like those of Brother Lawrence: private devotions, carried out for the wrong reasons. And I know that I’ve unintentionally turned what was meant to be an opportunity for growing closer to God, preparing my own heart, into something akin to a self-improvement project from a woman’s magazine.

When I take an honest look at myself, it is a painful truth that certain devotions have been more about me than God. Take silence, for example. I believe in the importance of finding silence with every fiber in me. Yet it must be confessed that at certain times, my desperate search for solitude and quiet are more about a personal retreat from the world than spending time with God, even if I’m calling it “prayer time.”

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about wanting to recharge my batteries in solitude. Retreat is important; essential. But here I am referring to Brother Lawrence’s “devotions good in themselves, carried out for the wrong reasons.” For example, my thinking I need a specific atmosphere in order to find God. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it is that the “oneness with God” in prayer can happen in the midst of chaos. What opportunities might I have missed, in my steadfast belief that I know best what devotions will put me on the right path? 
“Over time we ought to discover that a single need returns in prayer which has little to do with the various reflections we undertake: namely, a longing for God beneath our thought, at the core of our being.”
Fr. Donald Haggerty, Contemplative Provocations
And so, this inveterate planner and list-maker will not be clinging quite as tightly to plans and lists this Advent. The plans and lists will be there, because some structure and routine is essential, even obligatory. However, some of the pressure of “getting it right” is relieved, with a renewed appreciation of their being merely the means to the End.


Happy First Sunday of Advent!


Saturday, November 28, 2015

Small Business Saturday


Stick it to the man, part two?

All joking aside, such small things can make a large difference to your local community.

Friday, November 27, 2015

#OptOutside


Anyone joining me in sticking it to the man by refusing to shop this Friday?

We are going to #optoutside today. I'm not sure, yet, what we will be doing. But I will share photos. Later today. Or tomorrow. Or Sunday.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Best wishes to everyone on Thanksgiving 2015!

We take this day to be grateful for all the blessings in life, choosing to find beauty and truth amidst the trials (and even horrors) life throws at us.

Let us enter into a spirit of remembering to be thankful every day. I love this quote of Chesterton's; it is my personal "theme of the day" this Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Post-Christ the King

Just getting around to sharing my attempts to do cute things for Christ the King.

Before I unveil the Great Art, I must emphasize that I am not one of those bitter anti-Pinterest people. Back in the day, I would get annoyed at people who belittled the creative types when they performed small touches that made the world a prettier place. I remember being in a coffee shop, where our hot chocolate was served with decorative sprinkles on top of the whipped cream.  "Oh, how Martha Stewart," sneered the friend who must have felt inadequate for not thinking of sprinkling whipped cream herself. This kind of reverse snobbery has kicked into high gear now, with the online world sharing its collective artistic talent. Although I am not artistic, I am not bitter towards Martha Stewart or Pinterest. My artistic friends are not to feel that I am denigrating their talents in that overly-sensitive, anti-Pinterest manner. 

Not being artistically-inclined did hurt, once. Then I accepted it, begrudgingly. Now, I can laugh at myself without defensiveness. I try art; it doesn't always succeed. I move on. With that . . . 

Last Saturday, I was scanning the Catholic online world, looking for a clever way to impress upon my young children that Sunday would be Christ the King, the last Sunday in the Liturgical Year. I found: cookies! Given that I do not have a crown-shaped cookie cutter, nor would free-handing it with a knife be something I could do, I decided to make one big cookie crown.  And it turned out like this:


The gluten-free version didn't even try. It baked into one big puff:


I think I should have baked the dough as one long rectangle and then attempted to cut it into a crown shape.  This is how it looked, once I fixed it:


Wow.  Crowns.  I can hear the laughter.  And that's okay. Keeping it real on Irish Stew.

The design was based on the paper napkin rings my eleven-year-old made for the Christ the King dinner table. The napkin rings were lovely. Obviously, her generation has the gene that was given to others in my generation, as well as the preceding generations, even if said genes missed me.

And that is all right. We cannot all be artists. Otherwise there would be no patrons of the arts, right?

Happy end-of-the-liturgical year, friends!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Fall Flowers



It is a lifelong frustration that I cannot create art. I love beautiful things, but I seem doomed to be a mere partaker of beauty, rather than a creator of beauty.

Nature comes to my rescue. Such a pretty centerpiece: flowers decked out in fall colors!


Friday, November 20, 2015

#prayforparis

Always one to need time to process things before I can share, I haven’t yet put anything on the blog about the terrorist attack in France. So, a week on, my reflections. My pebble into the vast sea.

Like most people, I was heartbroken as I followed the news updates last Friday night. So much has been written in the last week. Emotions are so varied, but that is not surprising: anger, hope, frustration, forgiveness, bitterness, healing, revenge, sadness, determination to carry on.

I’ve been considering my personal connections with France. There are so many things I admire about the French culture, from architecture to French films to food. The loveliest music I have ever heard in a church (or anywhere, perhaps) was in the church at the top of Mont St. Michel. I have loved the French language for most of my life. And some of my favorite Saints were French, not just the French Carmelites, either!

In considering France, and the French, it occurred to me that I have the perfect icon, as I am praying for every soul involved.



Sand from Utah Beach.

We visited the World War II sites in Normandy for the history. I stood in the same spots that had seen such horror, fewer than thirty years before I was born. And yet, time pressed on. Healing happened. Yes, new generations have come along with new sets of problems, but such is the way of the world. Rather than dwell on the as-yet-unknown horrors that humanity still has left to face, I take comfort that people continue to defy the scary things by Getting On With Life. Anything could go wrong, but we still fall in love, and write books, and have babies, and build where things have been destroyed, and laugh, and plant gardens, and learn new hobbies, and start new careers, and  . . .


I have a bit of physical France with me. 

My relic to the past . . . my tenacious hope for the future.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Nearly-Wordless Wednesday


This lovely tree was holding onto its beauty in ways its friends hadn't been able to do.

All its neighbors had lost their leaves on a windy day. When we took our walk the next day, here was a splotch of auburn, rust, and orange.  A tree refusing to let go of its autumnal beauty!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Nature Walk Find

A recent nature walk turned up something I've never noticed.


These white, papery balls feel so delicate. There's a seed inside, attached to the stem at the top of the papery ball. I'm not sure why I've never noticed this plant, in the almost-decade we've lived here!




I have not been able to identify them with certainty. If Lynda pops by, hopefully she can help me.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Thanksgiving Retail, 2015 Edition

It is that time of year again. Time for me to get on my soapbox about shopping on Thanksgiving. I feel as passionately as ever that it is a Nice Thing To Do on holidays, avoiding activity that requires others to be at work instead of at home.

Today, though, I won't rant about the negative.

Rather, I celebrate retailers who will not be opening on Thanksgiving. And a retailer who will be closed on Black Friday, as well.

First, a list of stores that will not be opening on Thanksgiving.  I bookmarked this last week, so maybe there's a more updated list out there. Some of the retailers on this list will be getting my business - and, when I visit, I plan to tell the manager that I applaud the decision. They need to have the feedback. (I am soooo happy Barnes and Noble is on the list!)

Next, the fantastic news that REI will not be open on Black Friday.  (Or Thanksgiving.) AND employees will be paid for not working, but for going outside to enjoy the world. Good plan. I think I'll plan to go outside that day, too. The next time I need something for running, I will reward them for their decision.

PS: Previous highly-opinionated posts about shopping on Thanksgiving can be found by clicking here and scrolling through the list.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Children and Prayer Link

Awesome article!

Our Father Who Art in Stop Hitting Your Sister: praying with regular kids

A snippet:

It can be hard because you want prayer time to be this time of beauty and joy and serenity . . . not yelling and punishments. But, in my experience, kids don't naturally behave during prayer anymore than they naturally behave for anything else.

I'm adding this to the "Children & Prayer" collection.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Post-All Souls

The weather this week has been rather warm.  Thus, I was anxious to get outdoors yesterday, to enjoy every last bit of warm weather.  As it was All Souls' Day, we made a last-minute decision to visit the cemetery.


The fall colors were delightful. Crunching in dry leaves is so satisfying. As well, there's so much "scope for imagination," as certain literary heroines would say, in visiting grave-sites. I don't mean that in a callous way, romanticizing the tragedies of others. Rather, more of a wondering about the lives of the people who have gone before me.  The family who lost multiple children all in the same calendar year. Taking note of someone's son, listed with a military rank, who died in 1918.  Or the gravestone of a World War II veteran who still lived until the 1980s.  Mothers, fathers, children, grandparents.  Long-lived, short-lived.  Some graves marked with plaques, telling the story of the person's contribution to the building of our city; other graves that are so lichen-covered, it's possible no one visits them any longer. None of this is depressing to me. I find it reassuring when I remember that no matter what I face in life, countless people have gone through it before me.  Except that final trip of theirs, of course; I haven't faced that, yet.



The littlest of us was growing tired of hiking up and down hills on the uneven terrain, so on our way back to where we'd parked, we walked along the road, for easier travels. We crossed paths momentarily with a priest who was also visiting the cemetery. Before we were out of earshot, the three-year-old asked, "Was that a priest?" Yes, we told her.  "OH! I didn't know priests went outside."

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Lavender Tea



Lavender tea.  Why not?

On a whim, I broke a sprig of lavender off a small bush in the garden.  I poured boiled water over it and let it sit for just a minute.  Removed the sprig.  Voila!

It was tasty. It wasn't coffee. But it was a good herbal tea, fresh from the garden.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

October Sights

We found ourselves with an afternoon free of outside obligations.  Although this month has been a crazy back-and-forth between August-like warmth and November-like chill, there have been a few days of comfortable fall weather: not too hot in the sunlight, not too cold in the shade.  That's perfect for me.









This urban-raised girl has never lost her enchantment with Things Rural.  Just ask my kids. They find my enthusiasm odd. Not that they are rural kids, but in the various places they've grown up, planting and harvesting of fields is a common sight, as is livestock grazing in a field.  It still thrills me!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Gen de Sonis: His Exhumation

More on General Louis-Gaston de Sonis, from the book Le Général de Sonis by Gérard Bedel.

There are English-language sources which share the story of the General's exhumation and how his body was found to be incorrupt.  The book by M. Bedel, published in 2012, shares more detail about that exhumation than I've been able to find in English.

A bit about incorruptibility.  The Cliff Notes version, from Wiki:
In Roman Catholicism, if a body is judged as incorruptible after death, this is generally seen as a sign that the individual is a saint. Not every saint, however, is expected to have an incorruptible corpse. Although incorruptibility is recognized as supernatural, it is no longer counted as a miracle in the recognition of a saint.
Embalmed bodies were not recognized as incorruptibles. For example, although the body of Pope John XXIII remained in a remarkably intact state after its exhumation, Church officials remarked that the body had been embalmed and additionally there was a lack of oxygen in his sealed triple coffin.
Incorruptibility is seen as distinct from the good preservation of a body, or from mummification. Incorruptible bodies are often said to have the odour of sanctity, exuding a sweet or floral, pleasant aroma.

A more lengthy description, from a Catholic source, can be found here.

Thus, I note that finding General de Sonis in a state of incorruptibility does not prove his sanctity. It would not be the reason he would be elevated to the status of Saint. I share the story for the sake of sharing another element of life (and death) of Louis-Gaston de Sonis.

My loose translation/summary:

On September 26, 1929, the Bishop of Chartres and the members of the ecclesiastical tribunal, along with some members of the de Sonis family, went into the crypt of the church in Loigny, for the purpose of exhuming the General's remains. Two years earlier, Madame de Sonis had been interred next to her husband. The workers undertaking the task were surprised that they didn't hear the noise of bones moving around, when they moved the General's coffin.  One would have expected loose bones after the number of years had elapsed, not an intact body. Thus, further investigation was desired.

In the official report of the exhumation, it is noted that de Sonis was buried wearing his general's uniform and the scapular of the Secular Carmelites. Except for some damage to the General's head, which had been accidentally crushed by the lid of the coffin, the body was found to be preserved. There was a doctor present, who swore on a Bible that he would conduct an honest examination and report of the state of the General's body. The amputated leg was noted, but still intact were: teeth, tongue, hair.  The limbs were still flexible, an incision showed the intestines to be undamaged.  The skin, too, was in good condition, not "shriveled like a ham."  Yes, that's a direct translation!  The clothing had rotted, but not the body. Thus, a new uniform was placed on him, provided by one of his daughters.

Those present for the exam were fearful that there would be an odor, when the coffin lid was removed. This was not the case with the General. The book mentions that a foul odor was released during the exhumation of during the exhumation of Frederic Ozaman, the founder of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.  I do not know that story, so I cannot comment anything more on that.

Just two pages is all it takes to tell this story in 
Le Général de Sonis.

Aaannndd . . .  No one has come forward, volunteering to translate M. Bedel's work into English.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Like Minds?



As you can tell from the date, this is from last week. I'd forgotten about it until I was scrolling through my camera roll.

Columbus Day, I started the preliminary work of putting the garden to bed for the winter. It's not all dismantled, but quite a bit of the post-summer droopy plants were removed.

This was the phone screen waiting for me when I was done.

Messages from Child 1 and from Child 2. Eight miles apart from each other, mind you. But obviously in sync!