Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Garden Views: End of March

Let us ignore the pest issue currently facing the garden, shall we?

First, bulbs!  The snowdrops have been and gone and I appear to have neglected capturing those.  The crocus are doing well.  The daffodils are making a start.  The hyacinth is definitely waking up.

The herbs are returning!  Chives, parsley, cilantro, and oregano.  The thyme is considering waking up, but is still grumpy.  I don't know what's happened to the basil.  Does that not reappear each spring?

Shrubbery and trees.  The only shrub showing signs of action are the forsythia.  Scratch that.  The dogwood has lost its winter brilliant-red color.  It's too early for the rest of the shrubs.  The maple is the only tree whose buds are growing larger.

I am expecting good things to happen, with the coming warmth!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Palm Sunday & Holy Week: A Day Late

I am a day late with this.  As winter refused to relinquish its claim on us this past week, so too did the poor health that has nagged me for the last few months.  Hopefully, it was the last hurrah for both cold weather and ill health.  I spent most of Sunday on the couch, keeping company with books, Sunday papers, and Netflix.  We did a family walk on a path that mostly shielded us from the wind, but I did not exert myself with the customary Special Sunday Dinner and Dessert.

Palm Sunday, Passion Sunday, often brings to mind something I read in “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers” by Maria Trapp.  It’s a good book.  She shares this:
Then Holy Week was close at hand, with Palm Sunday ushering it in; we made little excursions into the woods and came home with armloads of pussy willows. With the help of small branches of boxwood and fir twigs they were arranged into nice, round bouquets, fastened to a stick about three feet long. From the workshop we got nice, curly wood shavings, which were dyed blue, red, and yellow with Easter-egg dye, and hung all over the bouquets. They looked lovely and cheerful, and on Palm Sunday the church was a sight. Hundreds of children, each one with his Palmbuschn, jealously rivaling his neighbor’s in beauty. They were blessed in a special solemn way by the priest in remembrance of the palm branches which were used to make Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem such a triumphant one.

In the afternoon of Palm Sunday they were taken out into the fields. Each meadow or field or wood patch got its own; on each stick was fastened s mall bottle with holy water, and the family went around distributing them while they said the rosary together. Thus the blessing of the Church was brought to the meadows, where the cattle would graze; to the fields, where the grain for the daily bread would ripen; to the woods, where the beams for the house and the boards for table and bed were growing, to protect them against “the snares of the Enemy”: flood, hail, and fire.

That’s very beautiful.  A benediction upon the land that sustains you.  In that spirit, I will be burying our palm branches in the garden.  Since the palms are sacramentals, care must be taken with their disposal. Burial is appropriate; there’s the added idea of bringing blessing upon our physical land.

Trapp’s description of the children at church captures my imagination.  My Palm Sundays, off and on for the last two decades, depending upon the ages of my children, have consisted of being alternately amused and exasperated over the distraction the palms cause during Mass.  Yesterday was no exception.

For us, the rest of this week entails a custom borrowed from our older brethren in faith history, the Jewish people.  Cleaning for Passover.  It’s not just spring cleaning for them, but carries a religious significance.  I attempt to capture a similar spirit for Holy Week: we clean out the house as the exterior sign of interior purification.  A good clean-out prepares the house for the newness of Easter.  My children of a tidy bent enjoy this; those who aren’t see it as more Lenten penance.

Friday, March 27, 2015

7QT: End-of-Lent Round-up!

~  ONE  ~
Wrapping up Lent:

I started Lent with noble plans.  I’ve done fine with the giving-up parts.  In fact, it doesn’t seem like a sacrifice anymore.  By this time, I confess I don’t miss it all as much as I did at the beginning of the 40 days. 

I haven’t done as well with taking stock of what I gained from the giving up.  The learning to stop and smell the roses was meant to be a way to stop be self-involved, but to pay more attention to other people, especially the demanding three-year-old in my life.  #fail

~  TWO  ~
Consoling myself about Lenten plans:

And when night comes, and you look back over the day and see how fragmentary everything has been, and how much you planned that has gone undone, and all the reasons you have to be embarrassed and ashamed: just take everything exactly as it is, put it in God’s hands and leave it with Him. Then you will be able to rest in Him -- really rest -- and start the next day as a new life. ~--St. Teresa Benedicta

I’m a bad one for being unable to let go of the stupid things I’ve done.  St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross comes to my help.  Quote found courtesy of Elizabeth Foss.

 ~  THREE  ~
Listening to:

Bach.  St. Matthew Passion.

Why not?  It’s Lent.  See here and here for background.


~  FOUR  ~
Springtime Surprises:

It is typical for me to share lovely photos from my garden or from the nature I encounter when I go about my daily life.  Today, I share with you photos of the traps that the wildlife people have set at our house.  SKUNK.  I’m not sure why the skunk(s?) haven’t yet gone in!


~  FIVE  ~

I spent some time feeling very cranky about the skunk.  After all, skunks are not why I am gardening!  The garden is meant to be a haven for birds, butterflies, beneficial bugs.  It’s meant to be a place to sit quietly and drink in the leafy greenness on a hot summer day.  It was not meant for the voles that ate too many flowers and shrubs last summer, nor for the skunk that is making its presence known this spring.


That’s life.  Every good thing we want to do has the messy bits tossed in, too.  Marriage!  Parenthood!  Friendship!  Work!  Travel!  All of those are things we choose to do because we have high hopes for life.  I'd choose all the Important  Things again, even knowing about messy parts that arise.

So, I will pay to have the skunk taken away.  And I will replant with flowers and shrubs that voles will not eat.  Because I get up and go on.

~  SIX  ~

Heading to Holy Week with two books that were recommended by two different friends.  I’m part way through both, but I’m already recommending them.


~  SEVEN  ~

Here’s my follow-up on this.  I was meant to be tossing a bag each day.  I did declutter; I didn’t blog about it.  Not that decluttering isn’t important, because it is.  Not that there aren’t spiritual elements to how we collect and rid ourselves of clutter, because there are.  I guess I was too busy doing the work to get it documented on social media, because we moved some kids around to different bedrooms, my husband built a fabulous bookcase for our playroom/schoolroom/finished-part-of-the-basement, and a lot of stuff got shifted through in all that work.

We spend Holy Week doing a good clean-out.  It’s my way of cleaning the outside along with the inside, in preparation for Easter.


Thanks to Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum for hosting Seven Quick-Takes!



Tuesday, March 24, 2015

At the End of Solitude

In one week, two similar articles crossed my path.  Why we avoid self-reflection, even though it’s good for us at Art of Simple and Busyness is a Sickness at Huffington Post were written for adults, but they are both informative for older children.

Silence.  It’s been suggested in places both religious and secular that people fear silence.  We don’t want to be left alone with our thoughts and we look to our hand-held devices to rescue us from a single moment of downtime.  We say stupid things in conversation with others, so as to avoid any awkward pauses.  There’s music in the background of every public place we visit.

In the self-reflection article, Author Ed Cyzewski writes about medicating through distraction.  “It’s easier to watch other people reflect on themselves: Sign me up for an afternoon watching other people bare their souls on Facebook. It’s far more difficult to turn my gaze inward.”  Personally, I enjoy reading uplifting stories others share and sometimes to excess.  There are times where I will realize that I have sacrificed my personal prayer time because I’ve been reading what others have shared.  Avoidance of my own issues?  Yes, I can see that.

In article about busyness, Author Scott Dannemiller illustrates the fear of self-reflection as shown in an experiment where participants chose “to self-administer an electric shock rather than sit alone with their thoughts.” That is desperation, indeed! 

Dannemiller’s remedy is to stop considering busyness as a status symbol, but to embrace the daily grind that makes up life.  Mr. Cyzewski suggests tips for cultivating self-relfection (with a link to a site on Ignatian Spirituality) because self-knowledge is the key to coping with life’s stresses. 

To all that, I would add that stripping away the noise is the only way to recognizing the constant presence of God.  It is good to savour life in its fullness.  It is good to engage in introspection in order to heal from past hurts, or to cultivate a more virtuous life.  But let us not overlook the role grace plays in these actions.  We strip away the noise, we learn to sit in silence . . . in order to find God.  God is the end of our self-reflection.  I think St. John of the Cross might back me up:
What more do you want, O soul!  And what else do you search for outside, when within yourself you possess your riches, delights, satisfaction, fullness, and kingdom – your Beloved whom you desire and seek!  Be joyful and gladdened in your interior recollection with him, for you have him so close to you.  Desire him there, adore him there. (Spiritual Canticle, Stanza 1, Section 8 of the ICS edition.)


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Dark Night Misconceptions

Is it Depression or a Dark Night of the Soul? is a helpful article that I found via Carmelite Conversations.

Even though St. John of the Cross is the go-to for reading about Dark Night, I thought of St. Teresa of Avila when I finished reading this.  She wrote in various places about people suffering nervous disorders, so she would likely approve of a contemporary look at the differences between depression and spiritual aridity.

An article that links off of this article is Am I depressed or just deep?  Well worth a read, as well.  The author had me chuckling at the recollections of my teenaged self. The Then-Me thought I was being philosophical and deep; I was really suffering a self-imposed depression.  I call it self-imposed depression because my mood back then wasn't anything that could have been helped by the medical profession.  Rather, I needed Me from the future to travel back in time and tell Then-Me to grow up a bit, stop being so self-centered, eat properly and get enough rest, and things would be a lot better.  Ah, well.  At least I am finally able to chuckle at Then-Me.  She has been haunting me for years!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Day!

It's the Feast Day of the Saint who brought the Faith to the land of my ancestors.

I honor the day by driving Irish dancers many miles to various locations, bringing the gift of Irish culture, in the form of dance, to people.  For someone who is not that fond of driving around town, it's actually a nice day.  I am proud of the culture that is my heritage.  Ireland is called the land of saints and scholars, so why it was ever hijacked as a day of public drunken revelry is beyond me.  Not that I don't enjoy Baileys Irish Cream, but everything in moderation, my friends.

Now for a lovely prayer that I found at EWTN (where the image above was found, as well).  Even if the entire prayer is not familiar to all, the end is quite common.  I've seen it in Protestant books, as well.

Happy St. Patrick's Day from Irish Stew to you!

Lorica of Saint Patrick

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a multitude.
I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation

St. Patrick (ca. 377)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Laetare Sunday

It's obvious to the three or four regulars who visit this blog that my Lenten writing plans kind of fell apart.  Here is my attempt make slight amends.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia website:
The fourth, or middle, Sunday of Lent, so called from the first words of the Introit at Mass, "Laetare Jerusalem" — "Rejoice, O Jerusalem". During the first six or seven centuries the season of Lent commenced on the Sunday following Quinquagesima, and thus comprised only thirty-six fasting days. To these were afterwards added the four days preceding the first Sunday, in order to make up the forty days' fast, and one of the earliest liturgical notices of these extra days occurs in the special Gospels assigned to them in a Toulon manuscript of 714. Strictly speaking, the Thursday before Laetare Sunday is the middle day of Lent, and it was at one time observed as such, but afterwards the special signs of joy permitted on this day, intended to encourage the faithful in their course through the season of penance, were transferred to the Sunday following. They consist of (like those of Gaudete Sunday in Advent) in the use of flowers on the altar, and of the organ at Mass and Vespers; rose-coloured vestments also allowed instead of purple, and the deacon and subdeacon wear dalmatics, instead of folded chasubles as on the other Sundays of Lent. The contrast between Laetare and the other Sundays is thus emphasized, and is emblematical of the joys of this life, restrained rejoicing mingled with a certain amount of sadness. The station at Rome was on this day made at the church of S. Croce in Gerusalemme, one of the seven chief basilicas; the Golden Rose, sent by the popes to Catholic sovereigns, used to be blessed at this time, and for this reason the day was sometimes called "Dominica de Rosa". Other names applied to it were Refreshment Sunday, or the Sunday of the Five Loaves, from a miracle recorded in the Gospel; Mid-Lent, mi-carĂªme, or mediana; and Mothering Sunday, in allusion to the Epistle, which indicates our right to be called the sons of God as the source of all our joy, and also because formerly the faithful used to make their offerings in the cathedral or mother-church on this day. This latter name is still kept up in some remote parts of England, though the reason for it has ceased to exist.

Mothering Sunday exists as Mother's Day in England.  When we lived there, I opted to celebrate British and American days.

And in the spirit of new life awakening . . . .

I hope the garden has a chance to make much more progress before Easter arrives.

It is intentional that my fingers are in that first photo.  It shows the size of my galanthus (snowdrop) tip, compared with my fingers.  The forsythia are not ready to bloom, but the flowers are showing signs they are beginning to awaken.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pi Day!

Web sites galore to celebrate this day.

It's an extra-special day in 2015.  Why is that?  Click here for the whole story, as I'm not that much of a math fan that I care to put all that much thought into it. 

We will celebrate today by eating pie.  I'm thinking pizza pie, pumpkin pie, maybe something potato or spinach.

Alas, too much on the schedule this day to celebrate THE moment at 9:26:53

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Easy Activity Link

I don't know why I didn't discover this when the weather was cold and icy.  But, it is what it is.

Loyola Press Printables for Kids

A sight for quick and easy print-offs for kids who love worksheets.  I do know some kids who devour such things!