Friday, December 30, 2011

finding the beauty

After the last post, maybe it's time for something beautiful.  
I have taken so many pictures in the past few months.  
There is beauty in the late fall and early winter.  
But they haven't really fit nicely into a blog post.
(They don't really have much to do with this one, either, but I thought I'd share...)

The other day there was a beautiful sunset.  
One of my kids noticed it out the front window, and we ran outside with our cameras. 

I went hiking in the woods yesterday.  
True, it was with 8 other people.  
 But there is just something about walking in the woods.  
Something about it that makes it kind of a solitary thing even with other people.  
Maybe it is because you often walk single file? 

This water is an ugly, muddy brown.  
But when you look at it again - look deeper - it offers a vivid reflection of the surroundings.  
Often more intense than the original. 
It is like that with God, with others?  
What are we missing by just seeing the ugly, muddy, brown water?

Today is the Feast of the Holy Family.  
Convenient to have that after Christmas, isn't it?  
Probably wasn't exactly what the church was thinking when they placed it there on the calendar, though.  Mine has been an unholy mess lately.  

All these extra children....  I ran my dishwasher twice yesterday.  
The supper conversation, after I heated up a spiral sliced ham, went like this: 
"I don't like ham."  " you like peanut butter and jelly." 
"Yes."  "Great - one slice or two?"  
...... A little while later......
"Are there peanuts in the peanut butter?"  "Well, as a matter of fact, yes."  
"I don't like peanuts in my peanut butter."  
[Insert sigh here.] 
"Do you like toast?"  

But all around us there is beauty.  
This picture was of a few weeks ago.  The leaves were turning.  
Only God could create such a pattern - even with turning leaves.  

The homily this morning was one I needed to hear.  
Would love to hear again.
Families are the basic building block of our society.  
And if they mirror our society, 
then there is no wonder that there is greed, jealousy, hurt, anger in our families.  
But the change has to start in our families - in the domestic church.  

Prayer.  Forgiveness.  Love.
Our greatest joys...and also our greatest hurts
are probably found in the context of family life.

I've got quite my own situation.  
One that I'm pretty sure I can't sort out by myself, 
and even more unlikely - fix by myself.

Which is why we have God.
A God of miracles.
A God of the impossible.

(side note....^ that bird is really kind of ugly when it is flying...)

There was a wonderful bit from JP2 today at Mass about the role of the family.  
I will share it if I can find it.  

And there were the familiar verses from Colossians about 
compassion, gentleness, humility, gentleness, patience.

Noticeably absent from the list are
impatience, complaining, anger, self-righteousness.  

I could probably go on.  
Though I'm not really sure how much sense I've made thus far.

It's hard to think.  
But, I think I'm out of pictures for now.
And there is a birthday party happening later today at my house,
and much cleaning to be done before that happens.  

Prayers for Holy Families.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

where to start?

Am I alone in wishing that holidays could sometimes just pass unnoticed?  It seems like there is always a holiday issue.

Keeping it real, here, people  Advent was more or less OK. Christmas Eve was nice.  Christmas morning Mass was lovely.  And then it all hit the proverbial fan.  Something was said.  Feelings were hurt (mine).  More things were said.  Voices were raised.  Doors were slammed.  All in all, it was not a pretty scene.  For the birthday celebration of the Prince of Peace. 

I am so not a door-slamming kind of person.  I let things go.  I overlook a lot.  But it just blew.  I felt justified.  I know that the other party is not totally at fault, but I also know that there is a lot of validity to what I am feeling, thinking.  I still haven't sorted through it all...still haven't figured out how to make it better.  This is where it is handy to have someone to bounce ideas off of - someone who is not going to automatically take either side, but give you an objective picture.  But that is hard to find.

I thought briefly about going to confession this morning before Mass, but I wasn't sure exactly what I'd confess or if I was actually sorry or just wanting to complain.  So I figured I'd wait...

But there were some good moments, too.  I like this picture of my dad and granddad.  My granddad turned 95 in April, and his health has not been the best in recent months.  But he was with us for Christmas - alert and "with it".   It brings back bitter-sweet memories of an elderly neighbor of my parents who was like a grandparent to us.  About three or four years ago, she was with us for Christmas - as good as ever - and then gone two weeks later. 

And this picture of my brother and sister watching their little ones play.

Dear Hubby's grandkids are visiting.  There are six - ranging in age from nearly 3 to just turned 12.  The oldest always spends most of his time with us when they visit.  He likes hanging out with "the uncles" who are nearly 15 and 16.  They enjoy him in limited quantities.  He thinks he is on vacation...but there is still boring stuff to be done - like raking leaves.

With a house that is big enough to hold a few more, we have also had some of the others spending the nights and days.  One night I had the 5, 6, and 12 year olds. The 5 year old was walking around the house at 3 am crying.   Last night was the 6 and 9 year olds.  They are good kids as kids go, but taking care of other people's kids during my Christmas break...  Is it wrong to feel that way? 

I am so thankful that my 16 year old has wrestling practice at 7 a.m.  That means we have to leave the house before they wake up.  I go to Mass and work-out or run errands waiting for him to finish.  A little bit of peace. 

Does anyone have cheese to go with my whine?

Friday, December 23, 2011

preparation and anticipation

Or alternately titled, I don't have everything bought and wrapped and need a respite from the madness.  (And making up for the recent lack of pictures.)

Wednesday, I picked up my friend for her meeting with our priest.  Wednesday was one of those days when hardly anything went right, but this did.  She met with him in his office, while I waited in the church (a blessed hour for me, for sure)  He answered all of her questions, she said what she needed to say.  He was kind and wise (as he always is) and in about an hour, nearly 40 years of "stuff" was washed away.  She said he did not talk down to her, he did not question or fuss (I had told her he wouldn't, but...).  Thank you for holy, humble priests who make time for this wonderful sacrament.  As we left, he was knocking on the door to the office of another priest who has an office on our parish property.  His turn at confession, she said.  Yep, priests go, too.  Preparing for Christmas.

Our first Christmas in our new house!!  Finally I have a house that I can decorate!!  But I had no decorations.  I was beginning to imagine that our neighbors thought we were Jewish or something.  Bought this ^ yesterday at Lowe's.  It was relatively inexpensive.  I think there are 2 categories of people - those who like white lights and those who like the colors.  We are color lights people! 

The tree is from the "old house".  As a matter of fact it was still in the shed there, and that was one of my things on Wednesday morning - extracting it.  It took up way too much square footage in the old house, but it looks quite inadequate here.  Part of it broke as we were putting it up.  Thank you to my younger child for taking care of the tree-putting-up duties.

We decorate to make things special for the one who is going to visit, the good Father says.  We need to make sure we do as much "decorating" on the inside (in our souls) as we do on the outside.  But perhaps that was an idea that was better suited for earlier in Advent.  It is kind of lost on some members of my family.  Sometimes I feel like the voice of one calling out in the desert.  Other times, I remind myself that even Jesus wasn't accepted among his people.  I mentioned to my little family the other night that Father was hearing confessions that evening from 6:30 to 7:30.  I had no takers, just a sarcastic comment.  (sigh)  I forget that I live among saints sometimes. (Oops...would that be sarcsasm?)

Waiting for the One who is to come.  I am so thrilled to have room to set up things this year.  The side view (below).  Those who have yet to arrive on the scene.

When we moved, one thing that we had in spades was wrapping paper.  We would buy it, not use it, and then by the next year, could not find it, or it was buried under whatever.  It was like an archaeological dig.  I may never have to buy wrapping paper again.  Especially if the world ends next year before Christmas.  What's the date?  December 21, 2012??  I don't keep up with that stuff.

We had a lot of Christmas lights, too.  Not sure what happened to them.  Maybe we didn't bring them?  Maybe they are still in the shed.  For whatever reason, the tree was half-lighted.

But we fixed that.  I had bought 2 of the garland thingies from Lowes - having no clue how much it would take for the bannister.  The second one became tree lights.

I have wrapped some of the presents (in vintage wrapping paper, no less).  Is it ironic that the first present under our tree is from my stepson's mother?  Probably so.  My stepson is coming in from out of town today with his wife and (6) children.  Most of them are staying at his mom's house (our old house), so we are dropping off some cots over there later today.  It is nice to have a relationship that is not full of mistrust and animosity, but it wasn't always that way.  That is why the Prince of Peace humbled Himself to come into our midst.

This morning after 6:30 Mass, we decorated our church - a friend and I, and the good Monsignor.  This was 2 1/2 hours of a labor of love.  We brought the flowers and the nativity figures in from the parish hall and got the wreaths and other decor out of the attic above the sacristy.  Curves was closed today, but I got my workout in, I assure you!  Monsignor took care of the sanctuary, my friend and I took care of the rest of the church.  It was our third year, and this year, it worked out well.  We all knew what needed to be done.  "Enough, but not too much," was the consensus.  He says that is how you know when decorating is well-done.

The choir loft.  That gold thing took more time than it should have to attach (with ducT tape and velcro).

A wreath underneath each station of the cross.

There were new decorations for the window sills this year.  Two years ago, we put spray-painted pine cones there.  All throughout Mass, you heard the sounds of pine cones hitting the floor.  At the end of Mass, in the back corner near the cry room, was a little pile of pine cones.  I pointed that out to our priest, and we shared a laugh. Last year, we skipped the pine cones.  This year, a parishioner made these arrangements for the window sills.  Very nice!

And when we were done, there was a beautiful poinsettia for each of us from our pastor.  "Extras," I asked?  (Was that a dumb question?)  "No, by design," he quietly said.   It is so nice to be appreciated!  And I had just the spot for it!

And so it is almost upon us.  In all of the buying and wrapping and decorating....let us not lose sight of Who's birthday it is and what we are celebrating.  May our preparations point the way to Jesus, who loved us enough to become one of us!

Not sure if I'll be back here before Christmas, but if I'm not....a joyful, peaceful, safe Christmas to all of you and yours!

Monday, December 19, 2011


My apologies for the lack of pictures lately.  I took a few yesterday and then my battery died.  Sigh.

What's been happening here?

I am a slacker mom.   The advent candles haven't been lit.  I haven't baked cookies.  I still have too much shopping left to do.  We still haven't put up a tree.  As a matter of fact, I don't think our tree made the move.  I think it is still in the shed at the other house.  But I haven't had a chance during daylight hours to get in there to see.

Actually we haven't decorated for Christmas at all.  Tonight I cleared a spot in the garage so that I could get the attic stairs down.  (A lot of stuff that came from the old house is still in the garage...we I have lost our my momentum with getting it put away.)  Anyway, there were 4 whole boxes of stuff in the attic...all Christmas stuff.  We brought them down.

When I was in the attic, I smelled something....death.  And then I saw it!  OMG!  EWWWWW!  Hanging over a beam at the top of the attic was a dead R-A-T!!!  They looked at me like I was going to get it down.  NOT!  There are three people in this house with y-chromosomes.  That makes them infinitely more suited for vermin disposal than me!!  Three cheers for #1 son!  And #2 son who was his assistant!

Last night, our parish had its annual Lessons and Carols "prayerformance".  I volunteered to read when I saw our choir director on Facebook lamenting the lack of readers.  (Our local college team played in a bowl game in New Orleans this weekend [and won!!] and half of our city was in New Orleans - including a couple of readers.)  I had the reading about the bud shooting from the stump of Jesse.  That was all well and good until I got to the part with the ox laying down with the lamb and the lion browsing with the goat and who knows whatever else.  I was afraid I was going to have the wrong animal doing the wrong thing with some other animal!  And then I left my binder with the reading in it on the podium.  (I discreetly retrieved it when we all stood a few readings later to sing a carol.)  One of our nuns this morning - God love her - told me that I had read well (I don't usually read), but that I wasn't loud enough.  She could hear me, she said, but if someone was deaf...they wouldn't have heard me!  The music was always.  Some of it in Latin, some of the songs unfamiliar...but beautifully sung by our little choir of a dozen members.

The closing song:  Cantus by Connie Dover

Sometimes when I think my Advent or Lent has been kind of "blah", I need to look to see what God is doing in the lives of those around me.  I have a co-worker friend whom I have known for many years - at least 10.  She is old enough to be my mother. Without going into all the specifics - she has been away from the church for a long, long, long time.  Decades.  A lot of them.  She's been coming to Mass on Sundays for the past year and a half or so.  Sometimes, all you have to do is invite someone who has been away.  And the Holy Spirit does his part.  But always at Communion time, she moves out of the way and lets the others out of the pew.  We have been talking about confession for a long time.  She was one of the people that I shared my good news with 10 years ago.  And she told me that she had "problems" with confession.

My friend is stubborn.  If she happens upon this, she will agree.  But God is God of the impossible.  I doubted that this would ever happen, but she came to school last week saying that she needed to talk to that man (our priest).  Scared to death of the whole idea, but willing to listen to the *something* that was telling her to do this.  I didn't push right then...I waited a few days and asked if she was going to call to make an appointment or if she wanted me to email "that man" and see what could be set up.  He is busy, you know, and who knows if he would have time this week.  She gave me the go-ahead to email him, and the next morning I had an email from him saying that he would do WHATEVER it took for her to have peace, along with some beautiful words of encouragement, which I passed along.  Long story short....Wednesday is the day, people!  Say a prayer for courage for her and wisdom for him.

I have a couple of Examination of Conscience Apps on my iPad - one is really thorough.  Today I wrote out detailed directions for her to access it - if she wanted - and to take some notes.  I told her she could probably skip the one about nipple piercing.  We laughed.  Prostitution.  Forgery.  Blackmail.  Negative for all three.  She's still nervous, but feeling a little better about the whole prospect I think.  God is so Good.

So even thought the presents aren't wrapped yet, the cookies may never get baked (because none of us really need the calories), and the advent candles may get saved for next friend will receive His presence on Christmas.  The most important Gift that we receive.  Lord, thank you for coming to save us.  Thank you for giving us the gift of yourself.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

10 years ago today....

and waited.....

In retrospect, I have wondered if I just assumed that churches had confessions before daily Masses.  To this day, I don't know if there were supposed to be confessions that day or not.

Finally one of the church ladies asked me if I was waiting for confession.  I told her I was, and she offered to go get Father.  There would have been times where I would have just died before agreeing to that, but at this point, I was going to confession.  Before Mass.  After Mass.  If I had to hunt the priest down myself.  I was not leaving without confessing.  Maybe that was the Holy Spirit - inspiring that boldness.  I was only a little nervous.

A couple of minutes later, the priest arrived, dressed in khakis and a sweater.  I have known him for a long time, so I was not offended when he asked me, "is this going to take long?"  I knew that Mass was scheduled to start soon.  I told him that if he didn't talk too much, it surely wouldn't.  I think he told me that he had just gotten back from the Saints' Monday Night Football Game in New Orleans.

And so we entered the confessional.  Bless me, Father, for I have's been about 8 years....

It didn't take long.  It had been a while and I had "stuff', but it was mostly the same stuff over and over, which makes for a pretty short list.  I really didn't even attempt "the small stuff".  I just went with the major [mortal] items.  We were sitting face-to-face...he had his eyes closed...and I was genuinely amazed at the time that he did not even bat an eye.  He didn't gasp in horror.  He just listened.  And because most of it were things that were over and done with, I don't think he even commented much.

Actually, I don't remember what, if any, counsel he gave.  I don't remember what my penance was.  I think he told me to say my Act of Contrition later.  I do know that I floated out of that confessional.  There was so much weight that was lifted - just like that.  I floated for days...I know I did.

I sat down in the pew afterwards.  I hadn't intended to go to Mass, but I figured I might as well while my soul was in a state of grace.  I remember the sensation like that of a warm blanket - fresh out of the dryer - around my shoulders.  A divine embrace?

I received Communion for the first time in a long time.

Later at home, I shared my good fortune with my BFF by email.  How I wish I still had a copy of that email!

There were graces in the days that followed.  It was a wonderful time.  I shared my joy with anyone who would listen!

Christmas came a week later, and what a special Christmas it was to receive Jesus and to have a soul ready to welcome him into my life.

Today is an anniversary that I will remember fairly privately, but I am so thankful.  This event was life-changing and life-giving. 

As divine providence would have it, I was scheduled today to serve at Mass this morning!  What a privilege! What a way to celebrate!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

10 years ago tomorrow...

After 9-11, my family found its way back into the pews of a church, but it took me a little while longer to make it all the way back "into the boat".  I had taken somewhat of a leave of absence from church.  It had started when I was pregnant with my first born.  We had a new pastor, and try as I might, I was not really all that fond of him.  I was tired one Saturday afternoon (when I would have had a chance to go to Mass) and decided just to skip it.  I remember that like yesterday.  And from then on, it got easier and easier not to go. 

I had a baby...and it was just to hard to plan church attendance around naps and nursing.  And then there were two.  My toddler nearly escaped in the parking lot one Sunday after Mass when I let go of his hand to open the door to put the baby in the car.  And then there was the time as preschoolers that they stopped a homily dead in mid-sentence fighting over a book.  (This church is now our parish and they altar serve there, but we didn't return for a l.o.n.g time after that episode.)

So, yeah, church attendance was sporadic.  Until 9-11.

I don't remember if we would abstain from Holy Communion in our sometimes attending church days, but for some reason, at this point, we knew that we should.  So we stayed in the pew while everyone else received.

In the months that followed, I was like a fish on a hook.  Caught.  But still flopping around.  Not quite in the boat.  I knew I needed to go to confession, but I surely wasn't all that eager to go.  I was hoping that in the time that I had been away, the church had caught up with the times and figured out how to do email confession.  I was pretty sure that would be better than face-to-face.  A whole lot less embarrassing, anyway, because you know, I had some "things" on my list.

I devoured information on the internet about confession.  And do you know, I did not find one loophole that would let me off the hook.  No email confession.  No statute of limitations.  No magic formula of prayers and good deeds. But I did find plenty of evidence that other people had gone to confession, some with similar or even worse things than those on my list, and even lived to tell about it!  Much of what I read was encouraging.  I would read and reread those things.  I was just going to have to do it!

So I began to formulate my plan.  I thought Advent would be a good time because there were Penance Services in Advent and everyone knows there is safety in numbers there.  But, alas, Penance Services didn't seem to be quite as popular as they had been 15 or so years earlier.  I know most priests will schedule confessions "by appointment", but there was no way in h-e-double hockey sticks I was going to call and put my business out there with the secretary and whoever else. was going to just have to be a regular confession time. 

Trying to get away on a Saturday afternoon with a 4 and a 6 year old just wasn't going to happen in my world.  Everywhere I went, they went, and that just wasn't going to work for this.  And the priest...just any old priest wasn't going to do.  I wanted someone who I knew wouldn't throw me right out of the church.

The priest at the parish where we had started attending after 9-11 was just such a person.  He had been at the Catholic Student Center when I was in college and then was pastor at the parish I had attended before my leave of absence.  He had married dear hubby and I.  I knew him well, and I knew that he would react with the compassion of Jesus.

His parish had an evening Mass on Tuesdays (and I assumed confession before Mass) .  Tuesday was a good day because dear hubby would pick up the children from school and deposit them at his Mom's house before he headed off to work (so they were taken care of).

As I had searched the internet the last few months, the list had pretty well formed in my head.  It was major stuff.  And some of it, I wasn't sure that *I* agreed that it was a sin.  But at some point, I decided that it really didn't matter if I agreed or not.  That perhaps if "they" said it was, then perhaps they knew more than me and since I was going, I might as well just put it all out there on the table.  Better safe than sorry.  I was tired of carrying it around.  

So I had picked my day, my priest, and I had my list.  I took the day off of work.

I wanted to Christmas shop.  It was hard to do that, too, with kids that went everywhere I did.

The night before I could hardly sleep.  By this time, it was not nervousness.  It was excitement!  It was Jesus that I was going to meet in that little room!  Sure, the priest would be there...because he had to be, but it was Jesus that I was talking to.  I was like that prodigal son, going back home.

That day I shopped.  I shopped alone, and I remember that it was a very reflective day.  I was very aware of what was going to happen later that afternoon.  I ate lunch alone - at Taco Bell.  I passed the time, but I knew Jesus would be waiting.

I drove to the little town where the church was located.  I remember wondering that if I would die on the way, would I go to Heaven, because at least I was on my way to confession....

I got to the little church and went in.  There were "church ladies" there.  One was praying the Stations of the Cross.  The confessional was in the back of the church, so I sat in a pew there.  But there was no priest there.  So I waited....

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

candle lit

Remember this post about praying in a candle lit church with my teenage sons?  I got a chance to do it again!  This is simply one of the best things!  Their high school's team made it to the final game of the state championship.  The big game was last Saturday, so Friday evening found us attempting to locate proper spirit clothing for them to wear to the game.  (Thank you to the wonderful parents of their friend who took them.)  Since we were in the area, I asked them if they wanted to stop at the church and light a candle.  (We seem to mostly do this for football games that we want decided in our favor.)

One son strenuously objected, so I continued on my way.  Gotta pick your battles, you know.  We stopped at the Walgreen's down the street to pick up some items and then I headed the car towards home.  "Aren't we going to light a candle?" the objecting teen asked.  These are opportunities you can't pass up, so I made a U-Turn and headed back to the church.  We bought the candle, lit it, and the objector offered a prayer....out loud!

Not wanting to end there, I invited them to sit down in  the pews in the dark and just soak up the peace.  It was a moment that lasted only a few minutes, but God must know what He has to work with.  We approached the tabernacle, and we talked about that for a minute or two.  And then we headed home.

Their team did not win, but as my husband said, "God did His part....the offense did not."  They had plenty of breaks that they did not capitalize on. 

Maybe this excuses the fact that our Advent wreath finally has candles, but has not been lit.  I'm thinking now, I might as well just save those candles for next year!  And they are objecting heavily to going to confession for Advent, since they just went last month for catechism, and I will probably not force that issue.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

advent and other random thoughts

Or alternately titled "seven not-so-quick takes"

1.  The wonderful liturgical season of Advent.  Possibly my favorite.  It stands in contrast to the fever pitch that the rest of society reaches at this time of the year.  It has been a good one, so far, for me.  I have done a little bit of my Christmas shopping already.  (this is a first!)  Taking advantage of some of the early sales and not creating more pressure for myself at the last minute.  One thing I have tried to do is to read one of the readings from the daily Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours.  (There's a free app for that.)  There are two readings each day after the Psalms.  One is from scripture and the other is usually a homily or some writing from a saint or someone significant in the early church.  Today's was kind of "out there", but some are really good.  There is such a wealth of unread treasure in our church.

2.  Speaking of church...Thursday was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  A holy day.  I took my boys with me to 6:30 Mass.  It wasn't really a huge sacrifice...we left the house a little later than we usually do when they catch the bus.  We did the same for All Saint's Day and they made it to school before the tardy bell rang.  I guess the new translation runs a little longer, because this time we didn't make it.  They were 8 or so minutes late.  Not to worry....religious observance is an excused absence.  So I went in with them to check them in.  I said something to this effect to the Assistant Principal who was standing there (I used to work with her long ago).  She had some comment like "good try".  Kind of uncalled for, I thought, and they marked the kids as "unexcused".  They both called my attention to it, and I just told them I would research it further.

I found a copy of the student handbook when I got to school, and sure enough...  So I emailed someone in the office of Census and Attendance for clarification.  He told me to email him my children's names and he would take care of it..

3.   I can check their grades and attendance record on line.  The greatest thing ever.  There's a free app for that, too.

4.  I had an observation on Monday(by my principal).  He's a pretty laid-back kind of guy, so I wasn't really too stressed.  I had him come when I have fifth grade.  Oh my!  I had two that claimed they had headaches and they didn't do anything.  My student with autism was in full autistic mode.  Another one took his shoes off and then decided in the middle of my math lesson that his desk needed to be 409'd.  It was a circus.  But it is over.  As he left,my principal said, "Well, THAT was interesting."  Oh well.  Laugh.  Cry.  It is what it is and it's why I cling dearly to the brink of sanity.  He did say that I "handled it well." 

5.  Our parish has an annual Christmas concert called "Lessons and Carols".  Scripture readings alternating with Christmas songs.  I go every year...usually the guys stay  home and watch football.  I have been toying with the idea of becoming a lector at Mass.  It's been a thought for a long time - even before I was asked to be a Eucharistic Minister.  Some of the people who read...oh my...I try to be charitable, but sometimes I just want to scream, "It's 'expiate" not 'expedite"!     But I am reluctant to know...what if I suck at it?  So earlier in the week, I had the idea of reading for Lessons and Carols.  It could be a kind of trial run.  But then I figured that readers had already been selected.  Today on FB, our parish's music director was lamenting the fact that he had picked the "wrong" weekend.  Our local university football team is playing in a bowl game in New Orleans and the Saints play on Sunday, and some of the readers wouldn't be back in time.  So I offered to read.  :-)  Cool how God arranges things sometimes. 

6.  My kids are going to New Orleans this weekend with a friend (one of their wrapping buddies)  to watch the football team from their school play for the State Championship.  The house where they are staying is right by the French Quarter.  They were excited.

7; I prayed for my car the other night.  (I got the idea from one of our Bible Studies.)  The 4-wheel-drive on my vehicle seems to be going out.  Sometimes it gets stuck in 4WD, but always the next time I start it, it is back to normal.  Last week, one day, it was stuck in 4WD all day.   So after I dropped off my young 'en at the football game, I stopped in at the church just for a minute.  "Lord, if you wouldn't mind, I would appreciate it if you could get the stupid thing out of 4 wheel drive."  I went back out, got in the car and guess what???  It was out of 4WD!  I love how God is there in even the little details of our lives.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

mental health day

It's been quite a while since I've had a real "mental health day".  But today was such a day.  My youngest had a haircut appointment at 3:00, and this year the only way I can swing hair appointments is to take off of work.  Last time I just took half a day.  Today, I figured it was a good excuse to skip the whole darn day.

I got dressed and made my lunch just like I was going to work.  Is that dishonest?  It was MY mental health day and I wanted to do what I wanted to do.  Alone.  Us introverts recharge by being alone. 

I took the kids to the bus stop as I do every morning.  At 6:10, it is still dark (except for a couple of weeks after the time change).  A few mornings we have gotten there and the bus was waiting.   Not sure if it was waiting or if we just arrived at the same time.  Today from a street over, we saw flashing lights where the bus stop is.  Our buses are pretty flashy in the darkness.  But alas, it was a fire truck. Just stopped in the street.  I waited a minute and then crossed in front of it (trying to get out of the way)  It blew its horn at me!  Sheesh.

I started off my morning with Mass.  There is no better way.  This little church is not too far from my house, and I try to hit daily Mass there once a week...usually on Tuesdays, when my parish doesn't have Mass.  I like this picture that shows the light coming from within this gloomy morning.

After that, I passed by my school.  I had to drop off some lemons and check on paperwork that I had only half-way filled out.  Have I mentioned that we have lemons?

Lots and lots of lemons.  We have "squeezed and freezed" at least 30 cups of lemon juice.  Probably more.

After a brief visit at school (I am NOT never saw me...) I went to the nearby church.  It is open during the day and a wonderful spot for me to spend some time with Jesus.  This is my before-school stop and usually I just visit with Him in the tabernacle, but on Tuesdays they have Adoration.  I spent a good while there - probably close to an hour.  It was nice to be able to take my time and not rush.

I took the pictures "on the down-low", using my zoom and without a flash.  I didn't want to disturb the other "adorers".  It occurred to me that Jesus first had to endure the cross before he could be present to us under the appearance of bread in the monstrance.  One such an ugly reality, and the other so beautiful.  Our lives parallel that in some ways.  We hopes of that eternal beauty.

After this, I moved on to walk for 30 minutes on the treadmill.  Normally, I don't work out on Tuesdays, but I'd left my water bottle there yesterday, and figured that "something was better than nothing" in the world of work-outs.  I really don't enjoy working out all that much, but I do feel better when I do.  I come in, do my time and leave.

It was a dismal fall day.  Misty off-and-on rain.  Gray skies.  Cold.  Wind.

I went across town to deposit a check and to do a little shopping.  I bought 4 advent candles.  Yeah, I know I'm a little late, but I have not been able to find them this year.  I may be the only one in my family who has missed them.

For the first time, I have a house that is decorate-able, so I looked at Christmas decor.  Oh my!  It costs some $$ to look good.  I guess I'll have to work up to decorating very slowly.  Or just appreciate other people's decorating that much more!

All in all it was quite peaceful and enjoyable.

I picked up my younger after school to take him for his hair-cut.  For some reason, his brother rode the bus home.  While I was sitting at the hair place, my phone rang.  He was home, but had lost his key and it was cold.  I told him to jump the fence into the back yard and the dog would probably keep him from freezing to death.  His brother had a complicated solution that involved going through the attic and assumed that a door would be unlocked.

So being a problem solver and a critical thinker, he came up with this.  Step on the chair.  To the top of the government trash can (that just happened to be in the backyard, because they cleaned last weekend).  To the top of the kitty litter bucket (we had filled it with acorns).  A jump to grab hold of the railing.  Pull yourself up.  Step over the railing and into the unlocked balcony door.
He demonstrated. be young and strong again.  Upper body strength and all of that.  Oh well.  Sometimes I'd just settle for being able to walk and cough at the same time.  But I digress....

All in all, a pretty decent day.  I think it went much better than the observation I had yesterday.  I'll have to cover that in another post.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

it's a wrap

Last night, there were 4 teenage boys at my house.  All attend the same high school, and two had just watched their team win the semi-final game of the state play-offs.

I was in my room, and they were between the XBox upstairs and the television downstairs.  At about 11:30, I got up to check on them, turn off the lights, lock the doors, etc.  The TV was blaring, but there was not another sound in the house.  The absence of 4 teenage boys is a deafening sound.

I checked bedrooms, balcony, backyard, garage...not a trace.  Looked down the street...listened in the quiet neighborhood.  Nothing.  Called their cell phones.  Nothing.  So - not wanting to tell two other parents that I had lost their children - I got into my mom-mobile to search the streets.

A few blocks over, I saw toilet paper fluttering from the trees.  Hmmm......Not a very professional job, I must say.  And the mess...they left a roll in the street.  And bits and pieces like a bread crumb trail.

They saw me as I left, and so they arrived home before I did (and called me when they did).  They knew they were caught.  And truth be told, I was more upset that they had left without saying anything than the actual TP'ing.  Of course, if they would have said they were leaving, I would have surely told them, "no". 

So at nearly midnight, I was following them in my car while they picked up most of the mess that they had made....the scraps of paper and half used rolls in the street.  I think they were having the time of their lives.  I have been hearing rumblings of such a plan for quite a while, and last night, all the pieces fell into place for them to put it into action.  One of my offspring called it a "Celebration Wrap" in honor of their team winning a place in the State Championship game next weekend.

This is where the Mom Manual falls short.  On the one-hand, a fairly harmless rite of passage.   On the other hand, in this day and age of crazy people, not the best late night activity.  Am I a slacker mom if I don't get horribly upset about this?  Or are my children beginning a life of criminal activity with this (I have some mom friends who's children would n.e.v.e.r do such a thing!)

And then tonight, I snapped this picture of 3 of the 4.  My oldest has discovered his talents as a bar-b-q chef.  They thawed the steaks, seasoned them, and cooked them on the grill.  Medium rare.  And then sat down at the table like normal people to eat their one-course man meal.

Not sure what the attraction is with the white hat (that I used to wear in high school, I think).  But he can bar-b-q some mean steaks.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

lost in translation?

I confess, I am a liturgical geek.  So here are my musings, as such...

Thursday, at Thanksgiving Mass, I knew that would be the last time I would hear that particular translation of the Mass.  No big fanfare.

Friday morning, we replaced the missalettes at our parish, as we do every so often, usually coinciding with a change in liturgical seasons.  But this time was special.  This time, there were pew cards, too!  The Ladies' Altar Society was in charge of changing the missalettes (and I showed up, along with a Boy Scout and his family because none of the ladies can lift the full boxes once the old missalettes are packed up).  But our pastor had charged our sacristan with putting the pew cards in the pews.  He guarded that duty with great care!  After the ladies had all left, he and I chatted for a bit.  I offered to help him with the cards - he suffers with arthritis and various other ailments - but he declined.  I was stepping into my car, about to leave him to his task, when he reconsidered, "Would you mind helping me?"  Not at all. 

I was ready for Mass on Saturday evening a full hour ahead of time.  I wanted to be there for the unveiling of this new translation, for sure!  History in the making!  You could feel the excitement!

The "pew cards" contain a condensed version of the new translation of the Mass, so that you are not stuck flipping through the missalette.  This is the first real change in about 40 years.  "Translation Sunday", our cantor called it.  I thought he had the best line of the evening when he was reviewing some of the musical changes with us..."The words to the Great Amen have not's still 'amen.'"  Well, thank goodness for small favors, I suppose.

It was a little overwhelming with both new music and the new translation.  Even though Father reminded everyone before he began Mass that "and also with you" would now be "and with your spirit," 20 seconds later, when he said "Peace be with you," the replies were about 50/50  "and also with you/ and with your spirit."  It is just so automatic for most of us. By the end of the Mass, you were thinking about every word before you spoke it...."Amen is still amen?  The Our didn't change, did it?  Lord hear our prayer?...still good?"  This morning, at the end of Mass, Father said to "Go in Peace," and some people questioningly mumbled, "Thanks be to God." 

Our good monsignor, who has really down-played the whole new translation thing, said that he hadn't been this nervous for his first Mass.  But all, in all, it went pretty well for a first time, and it will get better each week.   I put a shout-out on my facebook page to all my Catholic friends and family "on leave" from the church.  Come back now, and you will be as lost as everyone else!  Really, a limited-time opportunity.

I like the new sound of the prayers.  Like a well seasoned dish, rather than a plain piece of bread.  They have made it even more beautiful!

Because I am a liturgical geek, I noticed a couple of months ago, that our pastor had tweaked ever so slightly the part of Mass where he said "This is the Lamb of God...."  He began to end it with the same ending as the new translation.  Last night, I realized why...the server clears the Missal from the altar during the Sign of Peace, so our priest says that part from memory.  All he needed to do last night was to add the beginning.

I noticed another something and that was as he prepared the altar for the Eucharistic Prayer.  From atop the chalice (?) he took a cloth (the corporal?) and unfolded it, spreading it on the altar before beginning his prayer.  Not sure if that was a universal change, or just an option he decided to exercise.

 And...last but not least our altar servers had new albs after a gazillion years of the old ones!! 

Happy New Year to my Catholic friends!  May your Advent find you waiting at the door of your heart...ready to open with the Lord knocks!

Friday, November 25, 2011


Oh, the variety we have for prayers.  Sometimes it is almost overwhelming.

The way I pray is something that I've been thinking about...perhaps praying my quiet times the past week or two.

Earlier this year, I think it was around Lent or Easter, I remember telling my confessor that prayer had become a lot less structured for me.  For several years I had prayed Morning Prayer and/or Evening Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours, but at this point, it had just become something to "get through", something to check off of the "to-do" list.  He had told me that it was fine for prayer to take on a less-structured form, but to "keep listening" because it might well be that I would find myself looking for more structured again in the future. 

And sure enough....I'm there.  There is just SO much - like 2000 years worth - of prayers to choose from.  There is the Rosary and Scripture.  The Divine Mercy Chaplet.  And the Liturgy of the Hours.  Prayers from various Saints that speak to the soul.  It's an endless all-you-can-pray buffet.

To add in to my thoughts, I ran across something a few weeks ago... The Seven Daily Habits of Holy Apostolic People.  Before I read it I thought to myself, "well, I ought to have at least 3 or 4 of these down."  Uh, not.  Briefly, they are:  the morning offering, 15 minutes of silent prayer, 15 minutes of spiritual reading, daily Mass, praying the Angelus at noon, the Rosary, and an examination of conscience every night.  I can claim about 2 of those - Mass and silent prayer - on a nearly daily basis.  Sometimes during my time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, I fit in some spiritual reading or part of the Rosary.  (Does anyone else seem to be able to only finish 3/5 of the Rosary?) And almost always before I leave, I say an Act of Contrition.

And so my quest continues for something with more structure.  I had kind of hoped to start it along with the beginning of Advent.  Tomorrow evening begins the new Liturgical year.  All of us American Catholics will be met with a different translation of the prayers we say at Mass and our parish will roll out beautiful new albs for our altar servers (the old ones had definitely seen better days).  It's a time for new things.

So, just kind of wondering, what does your prayer look like?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


The other morning, before school, I was doing some reflecting.  In his homily that morning, the good priest had mentioned that one of his favorite penances to give is for the penitent to spend time thinking of the ways that God shows His great love to them.  Ways that the Kingdom of God is present in our lives.  Surely I've gotten some variation of that a time or two, and it seemed like a good starting place for mediation that particular morning.

Eucharist literally means thanksgiving.  And since all that we are and have comes from and through is what came to mind that morning.... 

The ways God shows His great love to me:
(very creative title, right?)

In his forgiveness.
(I guess the mention of this being a favorite penance had forgiveness right there on the top of my head.)

In the Eucharist.

In the people he gives to me as family.

In the coolness of the morning.

In the beauty of my house.

In the quiet stillness of this church.

In the patience and kindness of the people whom I work with.

In the students that he sends me to teach.  All of them sent for a reason.

 In the trials He sends that lead me to Him.

In His dying and rising to save me.

In the small moments He sends when things go just about right.

In the wonderful priests He has sent to our parish.

In His word, when whatever question I had is beautifully answered.

In those who suffer with surrender.

We have much to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving.  I hope your day is wonderful!