Sacred Place of the Day

Shinto shrine entrance, Japan

Shinto shrines have these entrances - called tori (or torii) gates.  The gates mark the movement from the profane to the sacred.

Six Word Saturdays

http://www.showmyface.com/


I discovered I love my job.

Oooh, lookie what I found!

As my friend, Amy, would say,  "This makes my peasant heart beat a little faster!"  This image, and many, many more from Holy Card Heaven:

You know what I hate???

I've been blogging for months now, so clearly I'm an expert at this.  I spend a fair amount of time cruising through numerous blogs to see what other creative minds are up to.  I've come to two conclusions:

1.  Some bloggers are clearly frustrated novelists.  Their posts go on and on....and on.  In the world of blogging, this is a serious faux pas.  Plus, no one is gonna read it, except maybe your mom.
2.  Not updating your blog.  If you're going to be gone for awhile, tell people.  If people stop by your blog and see that the newest post is from a month ago, they won't stick around.  It's kinda like leaving food out on the table for weeks on end and then trying to feed it to someone who drops by.

Thus she has spoken.

Fresh, Clean and Pure Friday: Eat and Enjoy



Yesterday I was pondering lunch - specifically, what I was going to eat for lunch.  I almost went to a chain restaurant to spend $8 on an okay sandwich.  

Then I remembered that the amazing Italian restaurant across the street has a $7 daily lunch special.  So I went there and had a fresh salad and pasta in homemade four-cheese sauce, with fresh foccaccia bread.   Every bite was a feast.

For today's "Fresh Friday":  indulge in a bit of something good.  Instead of a mediocre candy bar, eat one piece of luscious dark chocolate and savor it.  If you usually grab a bottle of green tea at the gas station, brew a pot of tea and enjoy the aroma, the steam, the cup in your hand.  Eat and enjoy!

Calling of the Twelve

The Gospel today is the calling of the Twelve.  The photo here is the "Twelve Apostles" rock formation in Australia.  Enjoy!

Small Successes Thursday

http://www.faithandfamilylive.com/blog/
Time to review the small successes of the week:

1.  I am finally feeling better, after getting some medical help for insomnia.  I've been able to bounce out of bed and get on the treadmill this week.
2.  I lectored at the Cathedral of St. Andrew's on Sunday and did not trip on the steps.  Why do I always worry about that??
3.  After updating my MP3, I went on a cleaning spree. 

What about you?

Ansel Adams and the city streets

Check this out:  although we know Ansel Adams primarily for his nature photos, he was also a street photographer:  http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/2010/10/26/130838664/adamsla

Exit, Stage Right

No trial has come to you but what is human.  God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.  -
I Corinth. 10:13

This was the first thing I read this morning, and the words "he will also provide a way out" resonated.  It seems to me that we can take this literally.  That is, we occasionally are faced with a situation that we simply have to get out of or leave behind - seek our way out.

For instance, Tallest Son is dealing with a relationship that is no longer what it once was.  As much as he'd like to preserve it, he is also becoming aware that the decisions the other person is making are....well, bad - bad for that person and bad for others.  He's come to the conclusion that he just can't stick around - he has to get out of this relationship.   I'm quite proud of the way he's working this out, and wonder why more adults can't do the same.

God IS faithful, and He always provides a way out of trials.  Usually, though, the exit door is located somewhere we don't want to go:  "It's too far", "I don't want to do that", and "I don't like here, but I don't know what's there, so I'll just stay put."  Instead of seeing God's gift for what it is - a way out - we view it as another trial. 

If, as the Bard said, all the world's a stage, sometimes the best thing we can do is exit, stage right.

Sacred Place of the Day

India

An entire country is not really a sacred place, but the nation of India celebrates Diwali soon, the Hindu festival of lights.  

Fresh, Clean and Pure Friday: Cook

http://www.bellavita-bellasblog.blogspot.com/
I know we are all busy, and it is easy to warm up a can of soup or grab take-out, but today:  cook.  If you can't cook today, do it this weekend.  Roast a chicken, stir a pot of pasta sauce, bake a bread pudding and fill your house with delicious aromas. 

Small Successes Thursday

http://www.faithandfamilylive.com/



It was not a week of great successes, but that's why we celebrate the small ones!

1.  Did not commit any sins in reaching the end of soccer season, with Dear Husband (who coaches) and Youngest Son (who plays).

2.  Am no longer having panic attacks when handing over car keys to Curly-haired Daughter.

3.  Resisted the nearly over-whelming urge to wear jeans to the office today.

Parenting in the Shadow of the Cross

As parents, we hope that our children "turn out" well.  Most of us try our very best to get them there.  However, we all can point to examples where parents do everything right, and the kid is a mess.  We also know circumstances where parents are total and complete disasters, and the kid turns out to be a marvel.  I'm not saying it's a total crap-shoot, but sometimes, it can feel this way.

Right now, Dark-haired Daughter is struggling.  You know how when a person is drowning, and someone tries to rescue them, out of panic, the "drownee" often struggles AGAINST the rescuer?  That's where our daughter is.  Desperate for rescue, and fighting mightily against the help being offered.  We have friends whose young adult son is awaiting the birth of his first child.  Sadly, he has turned his back on the baby's mother, taken up with a new girlfriend, and seems to have no concerns about the situation. 

Parenting in the light of Christ is a joyful place: the birth of a new baby, the swelling of pride as a daughter accepts a school award, the wonder of seeing a "little boy" become a man in stature and choices.  Parenting in the shadow of the Cross SEEMS like a whole other place:  it is dark and often sad, a place where hard choices are required, and no reward seems immanent.  It is, though, exactly the same place:  a place where Christ lifts us up, a place where we don't know the outcome but trust that God does and that God is always good, and a place where the darkness of evil and sin can NEVER overcome the grace that Christ offers.   It is not an easy place, but at least (or maybe, at most) Christ is there.   

The Power of a Cup of Tea

When my sister-in-law was killed in a car accident, I called a dear friend to come over and sit with me until I could get my s^$% together.  She is Irish (off-the-boat Irish, not Irish on St. Patrick's Day Irish).  She walked in and hugged me, and then said,  "Oh damn, I forgot the tea!  You'll need tea!"  Thankfully, I had some on hand that met her standards.

I've always believed in the power of a good cup of tea.  This story confirms that:  http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2010/1018/He-invites-suicide-jumpers-for-a-cup-of-tea

Sleepwalking and Insomnia

I've got insomnia.  I think it runs in the family, because my mom goes through bouts of it too.  It's horrible to watch the little red numbers on the clock tick by, hour-by-hour:  "If I can get to sleep now, I can still get in a few hours..." but sleep is elusive.  I think in three nights I had a total of about 8 hours;  by Sunday, I was a zombie.  Trying to follow a TV show plot line proved too much for me.  I knew my eyes were open, but I might as well have been sleepwalking.

A friend of mine gave a talk today to the senior citizens at our church on our spiritual lives.  She's a great speaker, not "dynamic", but you get the feeling that's she just chatting with you over a cup of tea.  She talked about a child who kept getting an old standard prayer mixed up by saying,  "If I should wake before I die...."  That, she said, should be our hope:  that we are fully engaged and enlightened in our spiritual life before we leave this mortal shell behind.  Otherwise, we run the risk of really being dead - dead in our relationship with God. 

The trick is learning how to sleep and be awake wisely - times when our spiritual life is stiff and tired, groggy and weary, and learning to get through that.  Just like my insomnia, these times in our relationship with God will pass if we are faithful and willing to suffer through a bit of the nocturnal nemesis of anxiousness and exhaustion.  That doesn't just effect the body:  it effects the soul. 

Eventually, I will sleep.  The body will right itself.  And I'm sure I will have insomnia again - it comes and goes just like the times when I feel myself distant from God and have to make that right again too.   We all have miles to go before we sleep, every day and in our lives.  Waiting through the night for dawn can be torture, but dawn always comes, and with it, the Light of Life.

Knowing our audience

I thought this article from The National Catholic Register was really informative.  Those of us who blog, use social on a regular basis or work with young people should pay attention:

http://www.ncregister.com/blog/12-more-social-media-insights-for-catholics

Fresh, Clean and Pure Friday: Fix

Well, it's Fresh Friday!  This week, fix something.  You know that button on  your coat that is loose?  Fix it, and it won't bug you anymore!  That squeaky kitchen drawer?  Fix it!  That loose drawer pull in the bathroom?  Fix it!  Fix one thing that has been annoying you today, and enjoy your weekend.

See the rest of the blog hop at:  http://www.bellavita-bellasblog.blogspot.com/

Small Successes



http://www.faithandfamilylive.com/blog/you_did_it_now_tell_us_about_it1/
 
Danielle Bean, over at Faith &F amily, believes we moms are often too hard on ourselves and should celebrate our small successes.  I concur.   On her blog, she asks blogging and non-blogging moms to share their small successes every week.  Here are mine:

1.  My 17 year old son, who until recently breathed fire in my direction whenever he was in the same county as me, just walked into my room and invited me to a concert.  Given how rocky our relationship has been over the past few hormone-enriched years, that is a success.

2.  No one died of starvation or food poisoning this week. 

3.  Although not a strictly-mothering related item, I have remembered to give the dog his medicine (almost) every day this week. 

We take our victories where we can get them.  Onward, Christian mothers!

No one said it was gonna be easy, but....

I saw these rings advertised on a Catholic news site, and followed the link to their home.  It's a lovely site, but "crown of thorns" wedding rings?  Really?

Ahem.

While I realize that everyone's marriage has some rocky points, and it is not champagne and roses every moment of every day, this seems a little....penitential.  Starting off marriage with a sense of mortification?  "With this ring, and this hair shirt, I thee wed...."

Beware long-faced Christians....

Meeting new folks without leaving the pew

One of the great things about our faith is the Communion of the Saints.  I like the fact that I am as closely tied spiritually to Ruth of the Old Testament, St. Edith Stein, and my niece in DC as I am to my sisters that I talk to almost daily.  God's time, since it is eternal, doesn't have any boundaries like our time does.  Death holds no boundaries for our souls, since they are eternal.  We are all truly one in Christ.

That means, when I'm pondering the writings of a great soul before Mass, she may as well be sitting next to me, whispering in my ear.  Isn't that a terrific thought?  I don't know much about Gertrude von le Fort, but she was whispering in my ear this morning.  I know she was German, a Huguenot and a convert to Catholicism.  She was born in 1876 and lived through the Holocaust.  She was a writer;  her best-known work is The Song of the Scaffold.  (I found other writings of hers on the 'net, but a lot was in German.  I don't know if this means she hasn't been translated much, or if I wasn't looking in the right place.)

This is what she was whispering in my ear this morning:

Return to Church

I am a branch on an uprooted stem, but your
   shadow lies
on the treetops like a forest glade.
I am a swallow that could not find its way home in
   the autumn, but your voice is like the rush of
      wings.
Your name rings like the name of a star.
As far as my eye can reach there is no image that
   resembles you.
You are a lovely column amng dead ruins.
You are a noble beaker amongst idle potsherds.
Kings must fade before you and armies grow pale,
   for the wind is their brother, but your brothers
      are rocks.
Who shall not presume to speak as you speak?  Would
   he not be destroyed by the wrath of the Most
      High?
You lift your head to heaven and the crown of it is
   not singed.
You stride to the borders of hell and your feet are
   unhurt.
You profess eternity and your soul is not afraid.
You order certainty and your lips are not silenced.
Verily clouds of angels must be encamped above
   you and storms of cherubim must cover you.
For you flower in your pride like a palm in the
   desert, and your children are like a field of ripe
      grain.

Lest We Forget

I am humbled, and I have much to be humble about.  I've spent the last few weeks worrying about some health issues, both mine and Dear Husband's.  We're both fine, and lingering questions remain, but we have access to the best medical care in the world, and I am confident that we'll get the support and help we need.

Transfer station at Auschwitz
I think about the time and energy I've given to these worries, and then I read a story like this and I'm humbled.  Catholic News Service reports that Murry Sidlin, dean of music at The Catholic University of American in Washington DC, has created a concert drama that pays homage to Auschwitz camp choir.  The choir, which performed for other camp inmates, Nazis and other German officials, sang Verdi's "Requiem", which is music for a funeral.  Mr. Sidlin has created a remembrance of these performances.  You can read the article here:  http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1004153.htm 

I have had to struggle to give glory to God in some strained and difficult circumstances, but none of us have ever had to do this:  sing with all our being, raising our voices to God, knowing that our only hope to escape the horror around us would be death.  That Mr. Sidlin has chosen to focus on this is a great remembrance of these very brave humans, our brothers and sisters....lest we forget.

Hey baby, what's in this for ME???

I luuuuuuv Sunday mornings.  Most Sundays, I sleep in (which means I don't have to get up at 6 a.m.), Dear Husband makes me French toast and a pot of tea, and I peruse the paper.  When I finally decide to shower, I turn on CBS' Sunday Mornings.  I am often introduced to an amazing artist on this show, and I really enjoy it.

This past Sunday, though, I got mad.  This babe, Faith Salie, did a navel-gazing piece on her own fertility.  She has had her eggs frozen in the hopes that she'll have a baby someday, even though she has no father-in-waiting.  What really bugged me (beyond the ethical questions) is how incredibly SELFISH this whole piece was.  It was all ME, ME, ME:  in the short piece, she used the words "I" and "my" about 25 times.  SHE wants to take charge of HER fertility, SHE really wants to have a baby, she is upset that her insurance won't pay for this.

She never once mentions what a baby or child may want or need.  Like a dad.

I'm really compassionate about infertility.  (By the way, there is no mention in Faith's article about infertility.   She's just hedging her bets against a ticking bio-clock.)  I know what it means to desperately want a baby and not be able to  have one.  Been there, bought the mug, the t-shirt, the mousepad and done that.  However, I never once believed I DESERVED a child - that the universe owed me that.  Further, I knew then what I know now:   a kid needs two parents, a mom and a dad.  A kid needs a stable home, with two mature parents ready to take on the responsibility of sacrificing for the kid's needs. 

And sacrifice we do:  sleep, money, time, desires, hobbies, sanity and humility.  Having a kid is ALL about the kid, and not about the parents' wishes and desires.  Ms. Salie seems to think that just the opposite is true:  it's all about what I want, what I deserve, what I think will make my life complete. 

One of the hallmarks of maturity should be that one is able to put the needs of the weaker, tenuous, fragile and delicate ahead of one's own.  Ms. Salie and her ilk flip that on its head:  it's not what the baby needs, it's what I want. 

Being a parent is a privilege, and its one that we shouldn't take lightly.  I don't suppose the egg-freezing procedure that Ms. Salie was fun, but it sure wasn't about the baby.  It was all about ME.  And that's not a good place to start making a baby.

You can read Ms. Salie's piece here:  http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/10/10/sunday/main6944730.shtml?tag=cbsnewsTwoColUpperPromoArea

U2 and the Vatican

http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=7874

L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, has again paid tribute to the Irish rock band U2. Lauding the band’s performance before 75,000 in Rome on October 8 Giuseppe Fiorentino and Gaetano Vallini note with approval that Bono, the band’s lead singer, asked those in attendance to pray for Burmese political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi-- an action that “demonstrates that engagement in favor of human rights and against poverty does not necessarily end in political correctness.”

Nothing cooler than a rock star with a conscience!

Sacred Place of the Day

A tiny chapel in Quebec, Canada, dedicated to St. Apollinaris, bishop and martyr.

Let's just make something up to make ourselves better

I am - at least in my own estimation - pretty darned open-minded when it comes to religious faiths and practices.  With the exception of Scientology (which is flat-out bonkers, and you can't convince me otherwise), I figure there are a lot of paths to God.  (Before you jump all over me, I do believe that the Catholic Church is the seat of Wisdom and Truth, in its best form, here on earth.  I just think we don't have a monopoloy on wisdom and truth.)

Someone pointed out the news story to me this week of the high school student who was kicked out of school for a piercing, and the ACLU (cough, sputter) has now taken up her case.  Apparently, she and her mom are members of the "Church of Body Modification" and the ACLU (ahem, cough) wants to make sure her civil rights are not being violated.  (Where was the ACLU when I got called a Nazi while praying in front of an abortion clinic??)

Intrepid researcher that I am, I looked into this "church".  (I Googled it.)  Here is their mission statement:

We, the congregation of the Church of Body Modification, will always respect our bodies. We promise to always grow as individuals through body modification and what it can teach us about who we are and what we can do. We vow to share our experiences openly and honestly in order to promote growth in mind, body, and soul. We honor all forms of body modification and those who choose to practice body modification for any reason. We also promise to respect those who do not choose body modification. We support all that join us in our mission and help those seeking us in need of spiritual guidance. We strive to share a positive message with everyone we encounter, in order to act as positive role models for future generations in the body modification community. We always uphold basic codes of ethics and encourage others to do the same. We are a dynamic community, always growing and changing, continually promoting safety, education, and experience in body modification.


Can you please tell me what this means?  I cannot figure out what these people BELIEVE in that makes them a church, not a club.  I don't see any religious values or belief statements here.  The other thing on their website (http://uscobm.com/) that was a BIG clue that they aren't a church (hey, ACLU:  pay attention!!):  their bid for "corporate sponsorship".  A "church" looking for big corporate bucks, and this is gonna fly as a legit religious organization?  Yeah.....

Fresh, Clean and Pure Friday #:6: Blessings


http://www.bellavita-bellasblog.blogspot.com/


Today, take a few minutes to think about the blessings you have in your life.  Whatever you think the source of those blessings are, give thanks for them.  Count yourself rich if are blessed with family, friends, health, a job.  Blessed!

First Saturday of the Month

http://www.elizabethesther.com/threes_a_crowd/2010/10/the-saturday-evening-blog-post-vol-2-issue-9.html
Okay, so I'm a bit late for this, but I still want to get in on it....

Doing Just Enough

I was at a meeting last night for a new social justice ministry at church.  We're trying to figure out how to do the enormous task ahead of us:  educate our fellow parishioners on what the Church teaches about social justice, and then encourage them to put these teachings into practice in their own lives, and here at church.  I suggested that we focus on doing two or three things very well, rather than on trying to do a dozen things scatter-shot.

Then I started thinking that this is a good rule for life in general.  A lot of us pride ourselves on "multi-tasking":  making dinner while checking email while overseeing homework while throwing in a load of laundry while walking on the treadmill.  We get it all done, but none of it very well, or at least attentively.

Awhile ago, I was asked to provide the dessert at a funeral luncheon for a Franciscan sister who had passed away.  I never knew her, but had been told by those who did that she had a heart for cooking and especially for hospitality:  creating a warm and welcoming environment for feasting and friends.  When it came time for me to get the baking done, I (of course!) had a million other things to be done, and I was thinking,  "Okay, I'll chop up this rhubarb and then I'll throw in a load of laundry.  If I can get that done by 10, then I'll be able to...." And then I stopped myself.

I had been given the honor of being part of the celebration of this woman's life.  This was a woman who, by all accounts to me, had been attentive to the details of putting on a meal:  the "little touches" that make a visit with friends memorable.  This final meal, in her honor, was going to be done - in part - by my hands and my heart.  And I wanted to get it done with as quickly as possible, with as little thought as possible.  And that was wrong.   So I stopped myself, took a breath, and paid attention to what I was doing, and I enjoyed every minute of it!

Take your time with something this weekend.  Do one thing and do it well.  Enjoy it.  Slow down and breath.   It will be worth your time.

Our Lady of the Rosary

Autumn in Michigan


















If you don't live here, then I am sorry for you.

My office windows look out over apple orchards, and the scene gets lovelier every day.

I am the "snack person" for my meeting tonight, and I'm going to stop on my way home at a local orchard for fresh apple cider and fresh (fried-just-a-little-crispy-and-frosted-with-cream-cheese-oh-sooooo-good) donuts. 

Autumn in Michigan is good - very good.

Meat loaf musings

Our staff had meat loaf for lunch today.  One of our parishioners (God bless her!) brings us lunch every Tuesday, and it's always a home-cooked, down-home meal.  Nothing fancy, just a simple meal.  Today was meat loaf.

We talked about how hard it was to make a decent meat loaf, even though it seems deceptively easy.  One of our priests mentioned that it seemed to be one of those foods that you always associate with your mother and her cooking:  "It's good, but it's not as good as Mom's" sort of thing.  The meal was topped off with a homemade, from scratch, butter cream cake.  Made with real butter.  It was amazing....but I digress.

While we were reminiscing about our fave meals from our childhood, I mentioned the most hated dish my mother made:  creamed tuna on toast.  This is now a meal of legendary proportions in our family and elsewhere.

I'm not sure the origin of the meal:  if it was a recipe or something Mom "whipped up".  (I should add here that my mom is an otherwise fabulous cook.  Really.)  It may be something from Mom's Depression childhood.  I do know we got it a lot during Lent.  My dad never complained about it, but then he never complained about anything.  I know I ate it, so at some point I must have thought it edible....

The basic recipe is this:  you take a can of tuna and cook it in a can of cream of mushroom soup - sort of a gravy, if you will.  You can add various veggies;  Mom liked lima beans.  She also sliced up a couple of hard boiled eggs and put those in.  Then, you pour this whole "mix" over several pieces of sliced, plain toast.  Creamed tuna on toast.  (You may have known a chipped beef variation, known as "SOS" to soldiers: 
"S#&^ on a Shingle.")

No one - ever, anywhere, NO ONE - has ever heard me describe this and said,  "That sounds okay."  No, it is always met with a look of horror.  Disgust.  Outright disbelief.  As it should have been.  My children are pretty sure it was a meal used only for torture purposes.  My mom claims it was never that bad (and isn't that how we want our food:  "It's not that bad....."?).  If nothing else, it has given us a meal that is now the benchmark of nastiness for me and my siblings. 

Got any meal memories from Mom you want to share?

Sacred Place of the Day

Pope's Private Chapel

Feast of St. Francis


There are a lot of pictures of St. Francis.  I chose this one because it illustrates what St. Francis has taught and is teaching me:  that the only way to joy and Christ is the Cross.  

Korean artist Clara In



http://campus.udayton.edu/mary/papermary/papermary.html

What were they thinking?

I spent some time yesterday outside an abortion clinic, praying.  It was part of the 40 Days for Life campaign  (http://www.40daysforlife.com/about.cfm). 

I've never done this before, so I really didn't know what to expect.  It was prettty quiet, actually.  There were a couple of us praying, and one guy holding up pro-abortion signs.  The clinic isn't open on Saturdays, but there were a lot of people in the city for various events, so there was much traffic, both on the sidewalk and the street.  One guy screamed at me out of his car window that I was a Nazi, but that was about as raucous as it got.

I found myself wondering what people were thinking about me, walking back and forth, fingering my Rosary.  Did they think I was some sort of religious zealot?  Did they think I was some baby-crazy nut who put a fetus on a pedastal of some sort? 

The guy holding the pro-abortion signs didn't look like a nut, and I didn't assume he was.  I sort of assume most people do NOT wake up in the morning setting out to do something intrinsically evil;  they figure what they do is good....most of us want to do good.  For whatever reason, this guy thinks that abortion is good.  I think he's wrong, but I don't think he's crazy. 

I know I've seen sidewalk preachers and folks handing out religious "information" that clearly are a few sandwiches short of a picnic, as my mom would say.  Did these folks going by, honking their horns and waving in support of the pro-abortion guy, think I was like them? 

Yeah, I'm rambling.  I'm just curious:  if we both think the "other side" on the abortion issue is crazy, evil, fanatical, zealous or just plain nuts, how will we ever get around to solving the problems of helping women, babies, fathers and families in crisis?

Sacred Place of the Day

Rosslyn Chapel, Scotland

Fresh, Clean and Pure Friday #:6: Listen

http://www.bellavita-bellasblog.blogspot.com/

Don't you feel overwhelmed by sound sometimes?  We're so "plugged in":  the tv is on, we've got the earbuds in, kids are chattering, the dishwasher is buzzing......so much noise!  I'm guilty of this as well.  Today, take time to listen.  When someone is speaking to you, really listen:  focus on their face and their voice.  If you're outside, listen to the rush of wind in the trees, or the rush of traffic as you walk.  Listen to your body.  Listen to God speaking to you.  Listen.

There is a bike in my dining room....

Really. There is a bike in my dining room. DH got obsessed with cycling after we bought our first house. You know: young, married, no ki...