Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Garden Views: End of January

January, 2015 has been a month of varied weather.  I shared the temperature extremes we've seen.  There's been rain, snow, ice, and even zero precipitation.  Here I've captured those moments where the garden is only kissed by snow.

Poor dying shrub! This will be removed soon.

Friday, January 30, 2015

7QT: Outhouses & Running - A January Overview

It's been so very long since I've gotten together a 7 Quick Takes!

Here's a pictorial overview of January.

~  ONE  ~

We had snow!  Despite my semi-delirious state (more on that later), I stopped to take a few photos of the lovely winter scene.  I was going to take a snap of that rust-colored tree just to the left of the outhouse you see in the photo, when I noticed something hilarious.  The camera simply cannot do it justice, but there are deer tracks that are headed straight for the outhouse!  The snow has been cleared just before the door to the oh-so-welcoming toilet, but the Real Life effect is that the deer kept going straight . . . right to the outdoor facilities!

~ TWO  ~

I draw your attention to the big red arrow.  I ran for 4.01 milesWithout stopping! That is a personal record.  I decided to give it a try because running a 5K was not really a strenuous anymore. 

Any runners visiting this blog might not be impressed with the 10:55 pace.  In my defense, it was windy AND I ran up a hill about halfway through.

~  THREE  ~
And then, just as the running and physical health were going so well:


And now I haven't run in over a week.  And the fever is gone, but I'm exhausted all the time and coughing so much.  Blech.

~  FOUR  ~

These are within one week of each other.  This is not Climate Change(TM).  This is Life in the Midwest.
~  FIVE  ~

Because we spend a bazillion dollars in groceries every month, we tend to reap the full benefits of the shoppers' rewards/gas discount deal.  A full ONE DOLLAR off per gallon means that I filled the tank for about NINE CENTS more per gallon than I did when I was a free-wheelin' teen in Dad's Chevy Sprint.

~  SIX  ~

Another gas pump photo op.  Is it just me, or is there a grammatical problem here?  Don't they mean my financial institution MIGHT hold funds, rather than MAY hold funds? Feel free to chime in and correct me, if I'm wrong!
~  SEVEN  ~

I'm cheating on Take Seven. This is not my photo, but my celebration of participating in the Seven Quick Takes Friday for my first time at This Ain't the Lyceum.  Woot!

Now let us see if I can get a bit more disciplined about doing this more often.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Funny Link

I like this.

My children know I won't allow phones at the dinner table.

I can be a bit cranky about how texts interfere in social interactions nowadays.  I get it when mothers text with their kids at home.  As well, there are situations where you might warn people in advance, "I'm waiting for the auto body shop to be in touch with their quote," so you can check messages that come in.  Other than that, please put the phone away when you go visiting people. Or hosting people.

I imagine, though, that this will change.  I remember when it was considered bad manners to chat on the phone when riding public transportation or walking through a store.  It's become rather accepted now, hasn't it?  And still, some of those conversations proclaimed loudly in public are not for public consumption.  And some of those talking-while-shopping are so clueless of their surroundings that they don't notice how they get in the way of people around them.  Please, modulate your voice.  Please, be aware of fellow shoppers if you must take a call when out and about.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

General de Sonis

I mentioned my discovery of General Louis-Gaston de Sonis, OCDS in an earlier post.

Here is my very scattered introduction to the man.  He was a general in the French army.  He was the father of twelve children.  And he was a Secular Carmelite. 

·         This link will take you to his Wikipedia page. 

·         This link will take you to his French Wikipedia page, which is more informative than the English one. 

·         Here is a link to a scanned/microfiched newspaper page from 1929, telling of his exhumation.  There are two interesting details in this.  His body was found “in excellent state of preservation.”  The article also states his children and grandchildren were present at the ceremony; his daughter is listed as a prioress of the Carmelite at Verdun.  Très intéressant! 

·         For those who understand French, this site contains prayers useful prayers.  One was written by General de Sonis, the other is to the Sacred Heart, asking for the beatification of the General.  

Alas, there is not a lot that I can find about him online.  His cause for sainthood was proposed but I haven’t been able to find where it stopped.  Many more websites in French than in English, obviously, but I do not want to rely on my rusty French to be able to pass on information about the General. 

This book came in the mail:

But I haven’t had the time to sink my teeth into it, yet.

I do know this.  Because he was the father of twelve, I decided to ask his intercession on behalf of some children who needed help.  These children had been in need for a while, but within a week of asking General Sonis’s intercession, their situation was resolved.  It was not, emphatically not, how I would have chosen to solve their problem.  However, I am able to see how the resolution is something that can be good for each of them.  I’ll never know how it works out, as they will have moved out of my circle of acquaintance.  But I’ll always wonder if it was the intercession of this Secular Discalced Carmelite that helped them.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Reading: God Alone and I

New book!  New format!

Yes, I have been won over to the electronic way of life.  I have a Kindle.  Truthfully, I've been using the Kindle app on my phone for quite some time.

I resisted.  I did.  There's something about the material experience of a real book: the feel of the cover and the pages or the smell of a new book.  As well, I resisted for political reasons: I grew up on Orwell during the Cold War. I wasn't happy with the idea of such an easy ability to obliterate the written word, to change words and their meanings electronically.

But portability convinced me.  As did being exposed to bedbugs from the library.  THANK HEAVENS we did not get bedbugs.  But it changed forever my ability to share books with the general public.

Now I am reading this:

Yes, it's black and white.  But I wanted an e-reader, not a tablet.

God Alone and I: Carmelite Meditations

Paperback or Kindle format here.

I borrowed this book through Kindle Unlimited, but I ended up purchasing it because I knew I wanted it for the long term. 

The book contains a number of short meditations.  First, a quote.  Then an explanatory reflection.  Then a colloquy consisting of another Carmelite quote.

Because of this book, I was introduced to a new Carmelite.  An OCDS by the name of General de Sonis.  More on him in another post, most definitely.  Here is the quotation that captured me:
"O Jesus, I no longer care what people think of me.  Truly I do not understand this pride.  I believe that true heroism consists in constant fidelity to the humble and hidden way.  I am happy when lost in the rank and file, and when I feel that I am counted as nothing.  Then, only, can I walk in a glory that lights the soul without burning it."

I happened upon this at the right time.  I needed the reminder that the thing bothering me at that moment was rooted in pride.  Thank you, General de Sonis.

I recommend this book!

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Most Important Lesson for Parents: Children & Prayer

While I cannot know all of the mistakes I’ve made about the topic of children and prayer, there is a big one that has revealed itself to me.
I was under the naïve impression that to expose children, to expose any person, to certain aspects of the spiritual life, is a way to spare them confusion when troubled times arise.  For example, does knowing the existence of such a thing as a dry spell in prayer make the dry spell easier to cope with, when in the middle of it?  I thought it might. 
I thought wrong.  I’ve come to understand that intellectual knowledge will only take a person (child or adult) so far.  I underestimated the need for experience.
All along, I’ve been a little harsh with myself over how I dealt with difficult times in the past.  My thoughts ran along the lines of “if only you’d read St. John of the Cross years ago, think how much better you would have handled that particular Dark Night.” I’m learning that it is because I’ve gone through various anguishes throughout the years that I fully appreciate what St. John has to say about the Dark Night.
The life event that helped me understand where I’ve gone wrong is not one I can share in detail.  It is not my story to tell.  What I will say is this: I witnessed someone going through an extremely difficult time.  During the worst of it, I could recognize the feelings both because I’ve been there and because I have read so much St. John of the Cross when I am there.  With every fiber in me, I knew what was going on with this person.  To my frustration, there wasn’t a lot I had to offer in support because every word that St. John has to say on the topic that brings me comfort does so only because I’ve gone through the grinding despair and come out on the other side, understanding and appreciating the purgation and growth I’d experienced in the midst of the darkness.  As well, I was frustrated because there was nothing in secular psychology or even Christian psychology* that could put in simple language what I’d learned from St. John of the Cross. (* see note below)
The story has a happy, blessed ending.  The beauty that emerged on the other side of this darkness fills me with awe.  I am humbled because I am aware of the Invisible Hand at work here.  I suspect that the post-despair results could not have been achieved without that painful growth.
I could not have rushed the process of growth along by quoting St. John of the Cross from one end of the day to the other.  This dark night experience was new.  Intellectual knowledge of the dark night was no help until it was experienced.  After all, even combining rudimentary knowledge of St. John with years of experience of cycles of the dark night does not spare me when my time for darkness comes around again. Yes, knowledge of it provides me with a comfort that things will be better again, but I must still re-experience darkness and purgation of self.
This has caused me to examine what it is I’ve been trying to do with my children, in teaching them about prayer.  The examination has been a painful one.  It is not for me to teach them about prayer in order to spare them a bit of pain in life.  Rather, it is my task to teach about prayer because I accept there will be pain in life, regardless of how we prepare for it.  I must accept that prayer is sometimes less a preventative medicine and more a healing medicine.  Ironically enough, this is something I knew intellectually but didn’t really accept on an emotional level.
It’s like that story about the butterfly being helped out of its cocoon.  Supposedly, it will die if it does not have the opportunity to strengthen its wings as it struggles out of the pupa.  Would telling the caterpillar help it feel any better about what it would have to do to become a butterfly?  You could tell it all you like, but the experience cannot be understood until the metamorphosis occurs.  Of course, the analogy falls apart when applied to human spiritual growth, as we go through that metamorphosis of growth over and over.  Happily, humans can learn from experience that the growth is painful but also necessary.  Only experience, however, makes the lesson real.
I will not stop talking or writing about prayer.  Not to my children or anyone else who wants to listen.  I love sharing spiritual gems, especially those from Carmelite sources.  But I understand in a new way that all I can do is share.  I am not able to spare anyone difficulties.  That’s hard.  I wish it could all be preventative, but sometimes the words are only ones of healing.  Ah, well . . . fiat voluntas tua!
* nota bene:  Fr. Marc Foley does an excellent job at making St. John accessible, but I think experience is still required.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Epiphany and Beyond

Happy Epiphany!

(Not that it is yet the Sixth of January, but because today is the liturgical celebration of Epiphany.)

Christmas has not ended!

A few years back, ten years to be precise, I was reading about cultures that do their Christmas gift exchange on Epiphany, not Christmas Day.  At the same time, our then-parish priest made the suggestion to split up the Christmas gifts between Christmas and Epiphany, as one way to drive home to children the fact that Christmas does not end on the 25th of December.  We've been doing that, ever since.

It does underscore the full 12 Days of Christmas for children, to have the days bracketed with attending Mass, receiving gifts, and having a special dinner.  In between, we make sure to keep the days relaxed and carefree, as befitting a holiday break.  We continue with Christmas movies, books, and music.  We keep the tree up and lights lit.

So much do we keep the air of the holidays, my children feel a bit sorry for those who experience a post-December-25th let-down.  We don't have that depressing sensation, because we know the celebrations have only begun.  As well, the Christmas festivities gently peter out so that there isn't an abrupt stop as there is for a holiday of "Christmas is only the 25th" or the whole misunderstanding that the 12 Days are somehow the days preceding the 25th.

Interestingly enough, Christmas needn't end with Epiphany.  The traditional end is on Candlemas, which is February 2nd.  Candlemas is a term I think I've come across more in British literature than I've ever come across in Church teaching.  Perhaps that's just my American perspective, though.  Almost thirty years ago, when I was on a student exchange trip in France, the local municipalities had their Christmas decorations still hanging in mid-February.  In fact, the family that hosted me had a small fire on their tree because it was rather dried out by that date.

My need for order and visual simplicity will not allow me to keep the decorations up until Candlemas.  That doesn't stop me from finding other ways to keep the season until the end.

For further reading:


Christmas to Candlemas in a Catholic Home
This is an online book at the EWTN website.

A Yearbook of Seasons and Celebrations by Joanna Bogle
I do own this book.  It has disappeared from its proper place on the bookshelf.  Amazon promises that is discusses Candlemas.  St. Anthony, can you help me?


When Is Christmas Over?
This was published just the other day.

Candlemas is a fitting end to the traditional Christmas season
Published a few years ago.