Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Allergy-Aware Food Pantries

Kansas Opens First Allergy-friendly, Gluten-Free Food Pantry in the US
I've wondered what we would do, if we were ever in financial straits and at the mercy of whatever food was on offer.  Half of our family would go down, quickly.  No jokes about natural selection, please.

This article reminds me that special needs diets exist beyond places where people pay money to have others prepare food.  There are celiacs, peanut-allergic, soy-allergic people out there who are struggling to make ends meet.  Not everyone goes gluten-free because it's the latest diet fad, despite what the cynics might say. I'm glad to see that there is a food pantry to meet special needs.  It's sad it's the first of its kind in the country. I wonder what the local need is.  I am not able to provide for every needy person who visits our local food pantry, but I'd be happy to make my donations allergy-friendly.  I shall have to investigate this.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

A girl can dream . . .

photo credit

Have you seen the story of the university in Utah that decided to create lanes on their staircases, in order to "add functionality" to the place?

I'm envisioning such lanes installed in most public places.  I've already established myself as a bit of a curmudgeon when people wander into the wrong lanes on walking/running tracks.  Perhaps, then, the problem is me: I need to learn to slow down and smell the roses.  Okay, I can accept that.  But that doesn't excuse the texters who get in others' ways: they need to put down the phone and smell the roses. 

Problem solved.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Humility and Tolerance

St. Josemaria's 17 Signs of a Lack of Humility showed up in my Facebook feed.  The person who shared it commented, "I've got work to do."  I chuckled at that, clicked on the link, and wondered how many of the seventeen signs would speak to me.  The page loaded.  Ouch.  Indeed, I have work to do, too!

1. Thinking that what you do or say is better than what others do or say
2. Always wanting to get your own way
3. Arguing when you are not right or — when you are — insisting stubbornly or with bad manners
4. Giving your opinion without being asked for it, when charity does not demand you to do so
5. Despising the point of view of others
6. Not being aware that all the gifts and qualities you have are on loan
7. Not acknowledging that you are unworthy of all honour or esteem, even the ground you are treading on or the things you own
8. Mentioning yourself as an example in conversation
9. Speaking badly about yourself, so that they may form a good opinion of you, or contradict you
10. Making excuses when rebuked
11. Hiding some humiliating faults from your director, so that he may not lose the good opinion he has of you
12. Hearing praise with satisfaction, or being glad that others have spoken well of you
13. Being hurt that others are held in greater esteem than you
14. Refusing to carry out menial tasks
15. Seeking or wanting to be singled out
16. Letting drop words of self-praise in conversation, or words that might show your honesty, your wit or skill, your professional prestige…
17. Being ashamed of not having certain possessions…

This list provides an examination of conscience that is truly universal.  While the Christian aspires to humility, is it not true that most people of good will, Christian or not, desire to live in harmony with others?  St. Josemaria's list applies to all people of good will. 

Imagine re-writing it slightly and calling it "17 Signs of a Lack of Tolerance" and you'll see what I mean.  It works!  Tolerance is one of those secular-society 'virtues', in which the more you flaunt the word, the less likely you seem to actually practice acceptance of others.  I say that, having experience as both flaunt-er and recipient of secular 'tolerance.'

Back in that shady past of mine, I considered myself a pillar of tolerance, but I failed at a great number of the 17 items listed.  I didn't understand that, when I was aspiring to tolerance, it was really humility I was wishing for, even though I couldn't have defined it as such.  The way I would describe a humble person, speaking through the lens of a practicing Catholic, is on par with how I would have described the admirable characteristics of a person I would have labeled 'tolerant' back in my secular days.

Why do I bring this up at all?  I wish everyone would engage in an examination of conscience.  As a Catholic, such a thing reminds me of where I fall short in living a virtuous life.  When I was very secular, I would have been intellectually honest enough to admit, if I'd come across such a list, that my actual practice of tolerance often fell flat because of both my pride and my lack of charity towards others.

And that's as political as I am going to get here.

St. Josemaria, pray for us!  Happy Feast Day!

St. Josemaria Feast Day

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

It's the first asparagus in the garden!
(Please don't expect me to remain wordless about that!)

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Anthropology and Running

This blog post is not going to be an ad for Foundation Training or any other specific training scheme.  Rather, I offer just a small reflection on how fascinating the body is.  The 2 Secret Causes of Your Running Injuries offers anthropological insights into how we use our bodies, and these insights are enlightening for runners and non-runners alike:
And for the majority of us, the main culprit is sitting.

Just think about how much we sit. We sit when we eat, in our car to and from work, while we work, when we watch t.v., heck, even at the gym as we sit on the stationary bikes for hours!

At no other time in our history as humans have we sat for such extended periods of time. And, as a result, our bodies have began to adapt to this position.

To offset the gravitational forces pulling down on us as we sit, our bodies begin to compensate: Our head starts to droop forward, our pelvis’ become tucked, our glutes get stretched out while the hip flexors become shortened. Our bodies literally adapt to a seated position, so that when we go to do ‘normal’ human activities, like walk, run, lift, jump, or climb, our bodies can no longer perform them correctly.
I love coming across information like this.  It's a valuable thing to do, looking at how our bodies would or should work, if they could be removed from cultural influences.  That's something I was taught from a very early age.  What's the natural state for the body?  How, then, do you bring about healing when something is wrong?  Running helped cure knee pain and back pain that began creeping into my life more frequently as I hit my late thirties and early forties.  It was pure chance that I discovered that running eliminated those pains.  I cannot help but wonder if the aches were a result of sedentary living.  Would more people out there benefit from getting out and moving, as they age? 

Advil has its time and its place; I've been grateful for it more than I can remember.  But for long-term aches and pains?  There might be a better solution.  It's not easy for me, getting out of that sitting position to go running.  However, it's better than being forced onto the couch for a few days because the back pain has flared up again.
Dysfunction is often easy to spot and presents as asymmetries of the body. The right and left sides of your body should look and function the exact same. Thus, in the vast majority of cases, unequal leg lengths or a hip that is higher than the other is not the result of poor genetics, it is the result of muscular imbalances.

The same holds true for knees with worn out cartilage or flat arches in the feet. These conditions are VERY rarely a result of genetics or old age; rather, they are a result of poor movement patterns repeated over time. Just because you have been running for 20 years does not necessitate the wearing down of your knees.

Consider more primitive groups like the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico who run their whole lives without ACL tears, meniscus injuries, or plantar fasciitis. They have members of their tribe who are in their seventies and eighties who still run marathon distances without any pain.

I know what you’re thinking: “Well Jon, these groups probably have great genes.”

We know this is not the reason for their athletic longevity because when these groups are introduced to a more modern way of living, they develop disease and injuries at the same rate as the rest of us.
What's the natural state for the body?  That has driven a lot of my health choices over the years. Alas, I didn't always pay attention to the natural state of things.  Before I knew soy was making me sick, I jumped on the bandwagon that proclaimed soy-disguised-as-a-chicken-strip was better for me than a home-cooked chicken tenderloin.  What was I thinking?  Luckily, consideration of the natural state saved me from some bad decisions. Back in my secular days, I would never have chosen various and assorted chemical or surgical practices that are labeled as "women's health" nowadays.  Those methods are all about subverting something that the body does naturally, in essence, 'breaking' something that is working just fine, thank you.  Thus, Church teachings on birth control weren't a stretch for me, as I returned to the faith.  Reason and faith are joined; moral law and natural law embrace.

Don't get me wrong.  I am more grateful than I can say for modern medicine.  Even if the concept of open heart surgery isn't 'natural,' it fixes the body when something has gone wrong.  Where modern medicine is used to heal what has gone wrong, it's a good thing.  Still, an anthropological look at our bodies can teach us a lot about how our cultural constructs can and do run contrary to the natural state of our physical selves. 

Catholics, we've got science on our side.  Now, get moving!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Got Goats?

Is there anything you cannot get on Amazon?  Ever since learning that you can rent goats to clear your land, I've been fantasizing about municipalities using goats to keep vacant lots trimmed.  It's probably expensive to move goats around town, but what if they . . . er, completed their circle of life at the downtown farmers' market?  Bring money back to keep the program going?

This photo, from Seattle, is great.  How could anyone resist goats in an urban setting?


Thursday, June 18, 2015

I love this.

A Wannabe Runner, a Half Marathon and the Finish Line | 13.1 Random Thoughts

Clever concept, 13.1 thoughts, yeah?  It's an inspiring journey.  I agree that running is soooo good for a healthy emotional state of mind.  The author's last point, in particular, poked at an uncomfortable spot in me.  She tells herself:
Lisa, it’s time to stop calling yourself a wannabe runner. You are a bone fide runner. A s-l-o-w bone fide runner, but a runner nonetheless. Now go set another goal and get after it!

It's been two years and two months of running for me, now.  [Not a half-marathoner.  Just a 5K-er.]  But I still have a hard time calling myself a runner.  Aren't I just a wannabe?  [See?  I have to apologize for running "just" 5Ks.]

There's something so mythical about runners.  Non-runners and wannabe runners see 'real' runners as doing the impossible.  Hard to put yourself in the category of people who do the impossible.

It's the way some people see the Saints, too.  Surely, they must be given something more than the rest of us.  That's why they are able to do big things.  I've not been given those gifts, so I cannot be one of them.  Of course, all we will ever be is wannabe saints, until we reach the finish line.

I'm reflecting on what it will take to make me feel like I can be called a real runner.  That's unanswered, as I publish this . . .

Most of my runs are #morningrun, but this was a recent #eveningrun. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Parenting and Prayer

We have reached a milestone, my husband and I.

It seems we are once again able to stay in one place during Mass.  No more beating a hasty retreat to the back of the sanctuary with an ornery child.  And while all six have had their share of Moments, Child 6 seems to take the cake.  It took a while, but it appears the bribery of a post-Mass doughnut has finally taken root.  Ahem.
Funny how that saying applies here, the days are long but the years are short

5 Tips for Praying at Mass While Taking Care of a Toddler found its way to me via a friend who has two children younger than my youngest child.  Thus, she's still in this.  And those days can be long.

I like the 5 tips, especially "Practice putting yourself in the presence of God throughout your day."  Very Brother Lawrence, right?  Here's Brother Lawrence, from The Practice of the Presence of God:
We must perform all our actions carefully and deliberately, not impulsively or hurriedly, for such would characterize a distracted mind. We must work gently and lovingly with God, asking him to accept our work, and by this continual attention to God we will crush the head of the devil and force the weapons from his hand.

 During our work and other activities, even during our reading, no matter how spiritual, and even during our religious exercises and vocal prayers, we must stop for a moment, as often as possible, to adore God in the depths of our hearts, to savor him even though in passing and on the sly, to praise him, to offer him our hearts, and to thank him.

I had some spiritual direction very recently, in which it was suggested that I be more deliberate in taking the time to do this.

Not only that, I was reminded that I should be seeking God's will in all things.  If you are the parent of a young child, it's true that a prayerful, contemplative Mass might not be in the cards; taking care of the toddler is God's will at that moment.  How many times as a mother have I wished to retreat somewhere with my spiritual reading, when instead I had the temporal duties of life to attend to?  I'm not saying a mother shouldn't ever retreat, whether that means a weekend away, a night out, or a half hour for a run or a soak in the tub.  Even Jesus took some Alone Time.  However, taking the time to luxuriate in a long book may not be possible in certain seasons of life.

Regardless, God hears the prayer you offer up whilst making dinner, driving children to and from activities, being awake in the middle of the night with the child who just won't sleep.  Ever.  I had three years with erratic sleep and very little prayer of the kind I prefer.  It was difficult being in that, but I knew intellectually that God was there.  Now I'm out of it, and I know in my heart that God was there.

I cannot believe there is a tinge of regret that those hard times seem to have gone by so quickly!  Maybe I don't regret the sleeplessness and the inability to read more than a few paragraphs at a time, but I miss the sweet moments of having a very little one about.  The days are long, but the years are short.

Happy milestone! 

I love this photo.  It was not the one that accompanied the article, but it was from the same site.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Visit to the Farm

A recent visit to an historical farm.

The baby was only two days old.

Across the field was a moaning cow.  We are not sure why she was separated from her week-old calf.

Cow, not moaning.

Baby grapes!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Chasing my tail this week.

WE HAVE WINNERS for the book giveaway!

I was meant to be giving away one hard copy and two Kindle versions of Connie Rossini's new book.  However, there was only one entry for the Kindle version.

So, I will make a change and give away two hard copies and one Kindle version.

Congratulations to L and J, for their hard copies, and to N for her Kindle version.  None of them blog, so no links to provide.  I know N personally and think she should blog (ahem), but that's up to her.

Read this book!

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, June 8, 2015

Facing Summertime

Another academic year has been completed in this house.

Once again, I sit on the brink of summertime, hoping to strike the balance between keeping a routine and being flexible & fun. 

Maybe I'm looking at that in the wrong way.  Do you see what I just wrote?  I have routine and fun listed as opposing activities.  I think that's what Other People tell me.  In my gut, I know I need routine in order to have any sort of productivity.  But I know I need retreat every now and then, too.

Elizabeth Foss is driving my summer plans.  Truly, just one author.

Throwback: 40 Ways to Keep Summer from Slipping Away

Gathering my thoughts on the cusp of summer

The summer of self-care

My plans are still coming together . . .

And I am NOT live-blogging this particular post.  I'm writing it just before going on a retreat and as I struggle back after fighting a virus.  Hopefully, my thoughts will be more clear later this week.

Friday, June 5, 2015

7QT: Book Giveaway Part TWO

I didn’t plan this well.  I’m meant to be awarding copies of A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child today.  But there’s too much going on this week and this weekend.  I knew this was coming when I planned the first 7 Quick Takes, but I just didn’t think out the logistics.  So, instead, I will entice everyone with seven favorite quotes from the book.  And I’ll do the drawing after the weekend.  And read through to the end for a second chance at winning a copy of the book.

Now, some of my favorite quotes from Connie Rossini's book:

~  ONE  ~
This is the goal to work towards. You may not see much measurable progress in the years you have with your child. His reluctance to talk about his feelings often makes him reject any suggestions you give about controlling his anger. But if you can start the conversation with him, making him aware of his need to change, he will begin thinking about ways he can attack this problem.  Give him time.  Show him that you can be patient.  Commend him for his insights.  Do not nag or lecture him.
(Chapter 6)

~  TWO  ~
Besides the intellectual formation of knowing what is right, your child needs to form habits of virtuous behavior.  The habits of childhood can last a lifetime.  When these habits are reinforced by the virtuous examples of others, they provide the foundation for a spiritual life.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience.  This requirement of interiority is all the more necessary as life often distracts us from any reflection, self-examination, or introspection.

Studying and working on temperamental issues with your child can lead him to be more reflective, so that he can hear the voice of his conscience and respond to it.
(Chapter 3)

~  THREE  ~
A choleric sometimes needs to be shown how a change will benefit him.  For example, if he learns to praise rather than criticize others, they will more willingly join in his cause.  If he learns to argue fairly and calmly, you will listen to his point of view.  If he becomes humble, he could be a great saint.  If you are not choleric yourself, you may find it distasteful to have to address the “what’s-in-it-for-me” question.  Try not to see this as a selfish question, but just the way your child’s mind works.  It is useless to try to motivate him as if he were a sanguine, phlegmatic, or melancholic.
(Chapter 3)

~  FOUR  ~
The Christian faith is not just an academic subject, and you don’t want your children to think of it as one.  Although it’s vitally important to know about the faith, knowledge is just the beginning.  The Catechism tells us we were made to know, love, and serve God.  Notice, it doesn’t say know the faith but know God.  We learn the faith in order to have an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  The Church teaches us how.  Then we must practice it.
(Chapter 4)

~ FIVE  ~
By letting your choleric have an increasing say in his education, you are teaching him that learning is interesting and rewarding.  You help him continue seeking knowledge and personal growth throughout his life.
(Chapter 9)

~  SIX  ~
Prayer is at the heart of the spiritual life, no matter what age a person is.  The most important prayer is the Holy Mass.  Your faithful attendance at Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, as well as your active participation in the liturgy, show your child the importance of the church’s prayer.  Study together the different parts of the Mass, the meaning of the words of the Creed, and some of the common Latin phrases used – even if you attend Mass in English.
(Chapter 10)

~  SEVEN  ~
“The choleric has little sense of his shortcomings.  He believes that he can do anything if he makes up his mind to it.  He is liable to make prayer an intellectual exercise – more of a Bible study than a conversation with Christ. And he is liable to give himself credit for any advancing.
(Cholerics and Mental Prayer)

Buy the book!

Thank you, Kelly, for hosting Seven Quick Takes.


Any new visitors can enter the book giveaway through the weekend.  I hope to wrap it up early next week.  It all depends on when this phlegmatic-melancholic can recover enough to get it done!



Monday, June 1, 2015


Pruning.  Nope.  Not a garden post today.  A must-read article from last week:

Hospitalland and the Divinization of One’s Passivities

Father Barron reflects on his hospital stay, after an emergency appendectomy.  In such circumstances, one learns how survival means turning over one's will, one's autonomy to hospital staff.  But it turns out that it is also a greater lesson in releasing control.

An excerpt:
A convinced Jesuit, Teilhard desired to devote all that he did (and he did a lot) ad majorem Dei gloriam (to the greater glory of God).  But this attitude, Teilhard felt, came nowhere near the spiritual power of divinizing one’s passivities. By this he meant the handing over of one’s suffering to God, the surrendering to the Lord of those things that are done to us, those things over which we have no control. We become sick; a loved one dies suddenly; we lose a job; a much-desired position goes to someone else; we are unfairly criticized; we find ourselves, unexpectedly, in the valley of the shadow of death. These experiences lead some people to despair, but the spiritually alert person should see them as a particularly powerful way to come to union with God.

And the whole time I was reading that, I couldn't help but think of St. John of the Cross.  Well, Fr. Barron thought so, too:
In some ways, Teilhard’s distinction is an echo of St. John of the Cross’s distinction between the “active” and “passive” nights of the soul. For the great Spanish master, the dark night has nothing to do with psychological depression, but rather with a pruning away of attachments that keep one from complete union with God. This pruning can take a conscious and intentional form (the active night) or it can be something endured. In a word, we can rid ourselves of attachments—or God can do it for us. The latter, St. John thinks, is far more powerful and cleansing than the former.
I would agree that the pruning God does is "far more powerful and cleansing." Consider the difference between choosing on your own to give up something, compared with being forced by outside circumstances to do so.  Giving up chocolate for Lent versus being forced to give up a food for health reasons.  Eliminating shopping, cable, or eating out because you are simplifying life versus having to give those things up because of an unfortunate turn in finances.  Either means of sacrifice can help rid us of attachments, but the ones we don't choose tend to be more painful.  Still, it is the cleansing I didn't choose that has brought me the most freedom, in terms of growing less apt to fall into despair over things beyond my control.

We shouldn't fear the pruning.  Not the pruning we know we must do with intention; not the pruning that happens to us.  AMDG!