Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

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


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


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."