Friday, November 29, 2013 Small Success Thursday...Food Coma Edition.

I was busy cooking and  hosting yesterday, but if you'd like to stop and count your blessings today (much more fun than counting calories or even savings while shopping), come join me at for Small Success Thursday!  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Saturday Small Stones ...Poetry from the Week

This year, I tried writing poetry in a closed forum. It began as a way to fight writer's block, and to keep my brain from growing stale writing prose.  So 5-7 days a week, I write a poem.  Here are a few from that effort that people in the forum liked.   

Cinderella During the Day

I want something terrific.
Snow or wine 
or homemade pumpkin pie
red sweaters,
a party, a dance, 
a letter, a phone call
new shoes or a found earring,
just something other
than drippy fall rain
and a ton of clothes to fold.

November 6, 2013
We spent the morning
stomping at shadows
and flying up the driveway.

Later, in the interest of doing important things,
we rescued a pony and three hotwheels
from the vacuum cleaner.

Tonight, they repaid me
by screaming their loudest
frightening away the telephone solicitor.

The Reason
We write
and scratch
and hope
and love
and live
just for 
that moment
that never 
lasts long
or satisfies 
as our 

the moment
when we 
will capture
that thing
in words
that matters most.

Why I Think Any of Us Do Anything
At the heart 
of every artist,
ever person 
I think,
is someone 
hopefully hopeful
that they
will one day
be discovered
and remembered
as having
poured out every last drop of everything
in the hopes
of being something
like a star, like the sun,
to all the world around.

What Really Made Her Mad

was when her brother
took off her shoes
while she was sleeping,
he forgot
to remove the socks as well.


Whatever else you know, 
sharps and flats bleed blueness. 

They reveal the minor chords 
that fill all the cracks in our minds and hearts, 
where people and poems and dreams slipped out 

while we were overly busy 
with the redness 
and immediate readiness of life. 

Blue sounds like the echos
of loves lost and goals surrendered 
but which we still savor 

in those moments between sunset and night, 
before the stars and the moon distract us. 

To hear blue is to let yourself stop
and attune to the whisper 
that lets the world play like a flute, 

with all the punctured points where we wounded it, 
pressed just so to make all that injury 
pour out beauty.


Friday, November 22, 2013

7 Quick Takes

1. This morning, the wheels came off the bus, and not one of my children made it anywhere on time.  But the day and the mood was saved, by the premature advent (forgive the pun) of 24-7 Christmas carols on the radio,which soothed the psyches of 7 of the 8 people bothered by the passage of time.   "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year..."  They sang it and meant it and you know what, so did I.

2. There is something about two year olds that can only be explained thusly: she has a lollipop in each hand. Neither is unwrapped.  She is dancing on her tippy-toes. "They're mine. They're mine! They're Mine!" she sings.   All is right with the world.  

3. My kids know Saint Anthony and I have a connection. Part of what made us late this morning was the inability of one child to find her folder.  She was fast becoming unglued by this reality despite my reassurances the teacher would understand.  She said a prayer aloud asking my favorite go to saint for help. I added my own and I promise you the instant we finished, we found the folder.  We'd searched all the rooms more than once but here it was.  She gave a big smile and thank you to the Saint, and I sat there feeling like sometimes, these little trials are to teach the bigger people (like me) not to be such a snob with prayer, not to save it only for special occasions or big stuff.  This was big stuff to her, and thus to me, but the prayers were for little things.  

4.  30 Day Novel Writing

I'm in an online course learning all the mistakes I made as part of the writing process of The Book of Helen, hoping not to make them with The Book of Penelope.  Thus far, I've sold 35 books on Amazon that I know of, (installed the counter a week late).  I don't know how she did on Barnes and Noble or Apple or Museitup.  I do know, I'm applying to be a speaker at the Gaithersburg Book Festival and trying to hold onto that "You wrote a book" feeling, which so many authors talk about fading fast when the sales aren't reaffirming of the reality.  Writing a story isn't so much an ego trip as it is an ego offering, and it's hard to not feel it personally when a review reveals all the flaws, because human nature is we want the equivalent of an "A" in this experience.

5.  Day 9 No Laptop.

You have to worry when it takes Geek Squad more than a week to assess.  I miss my computer.

6.    Favorite moment this week so far...there are three.

1) My two year old and 5 year old sitting on my lap for story time and announcing it as such.
2) My teen saying "I love you." through a closed door when I went upstairs to turn off lights.
3) My daughter coming to announce, she's finished her college application common ap.  

7) Twenty years into parenting, I finally have come to know, that the only thing that separates this vocation from being a thankless joyless job, is love.  Parenting, being in a family is much more a willful act than I ever knew.  Getting down on the floor to play instead of turning on the tv? A willful act.  Giving a bath rather than just trussing them up for bed? A willful act.  Preparing a meal rather than ordering pizza?  A willful act.  None of the opposites I listed are innately evil, but they can become a reflexive response rather than a treat that isn't an escape from the tasks we've been called by God to do, namely to love these people unconditionally, and teach them the means by which they can do the same to others, all while giving instruction on how to survive the needs and cares of this world and make it less sharp around the edges.   As such, I now wish all of you a good weekend, I have to go fix lunch.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Small Success Thursday! Pony Edition

Come join me over at!  Oh, and invite your friends.  We'd like to have as many people as possible make Thursday a day they stop to count their blessings and celebrate the little things done with great love that happened in the past week.  Thanks! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Coming of Age and Coming Clean

Recently, I watched Fr. Barron's series on Catholicism. It's quite good.  At one point, he takes us to tour the room where Saint Katharine Drexel worked and lived.  He shows relics, examples of her extreme poverty including stubbed pencils.  She gave away everything and wasted nothing.

I need more spiritual growth to reach her level.

This week, we ran out of grown up toothpaste and I'd not replaced it yet.  Alas, the Spiderman blue goo doesn't cut it for me.  Granted, I keep it in my bathroom so when the kids are done with their bath, brushing folds easily into the routine, but after two days, I wanted adult something. I looked around at my house.  Shampoo? Yellow Baby stuff.  Menu?  Simple plain kid friendly food.  Television?  The most adult we get is Dr. Who, and that's limited viewing.  The last movie I saw...Monster's University.   The last book I read ...okay, it was aloud at story time for them, but Lily's Big Day.  The part of me that recognizes she's been on this earth 47 years rebelled. The Spiderman goo represented the absence of an adult life, a relic of what I lacked.

If wine and coffee had been in the house yesterday, I would have blended them into a smoothie and drunk it as proof to the universe, yes, I'm of age, I'm an adult, and there ought to be foods and things in my house that don't scream wash and wear, sippy cup and crayon.  

Rather than create a toxic beverage sure to make me and anyone who thinks about it too long ill,  I grabbed my coupon for free bonus bucks at our local pharmacy, (yes, I'm living large), and bought myself a deluxe souped up tricked out tube of pearly whitening stuff.  I locked myself in the bathroom and allowed for two minutes of pure adult brushing teeth pleasure, interrupted only twice by the little people outside, beating on the door to gain access. One to join me (I said No) and offered the goo but he declined, and the other, to ask if she could watch.  I let her.  But I'd done it. I had something not hand me down, not childish. I had a tube of not rated G toothpaste.

That night, after I'd tucked in everyone, done the dishes, encouraged the teen still working, locked the doors and turned off the lights, I began my bedtime routine only to discover, my little tube of refuge gone!  The list of suspects in my head lay three deep, all three in opposite ends of the house, such that if I really wanted this, I'd have to go about the home when sleep beckoned.  That Spiderman goo started to look acceptable.  But "No!" I told myself, this was a matter of principle.

"No!" again I said, walking to the first bathroom, finding it bare of said item.
Again "No!" when I went downstairs to check the girls bathroom for the toothpaste.
Naturally, it lay upstairs, next to the sink in my son's lavatory.   He lay sleeping. Wake and lecture or take and run.  I opted for the later.

But I left him the Spiderman goo. He had the grace not to ask what happened to his tooth cleaning options the next morning, but I smiled an extra dazzling white at him when I asked, "Did you brush your teeth?"

I'll probably be stuck in Purgatory writing "I shall not spite my teenager about taking my toothpaste." using stubby pencils under the direction of Saint Katherine, or having to brush away my sins with Spiderman blue tooth goo.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Enjoy this retro post here....

It's Tuesday and I'm supposed to post today, but there's a lot of stuff going on here, so I pulled this out from the Wayback machine because we have homework and basketball to deal with this evening, I've got to finish a piece for and Penelope is owed at least 1000 words.  

So this link is to a piece I wrote January 20th, 2008.

I'll be back to regular blogging soon, be good everyone. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

How to Be Reverent at Church according to Those Under the Age of 3

10) Even if you are a baby, you know it is important to sing at mass. But knowing when to sing can be difficult because the adults are sometimes shy about singing.  A simple solution is to sing perpetually. The grown ups will join in if the timing is right.

9) Likewise, because adults are very distractable, the best way to make them long to focus on the liturgy is to squirm and grab the noses of any human within range and then go stiff and and alternatively drape sideways and boneless. Constant motion will make them long to give the homily their full attention.

8) Now we small ones cannot always fast through the mass.  But our eating does remind everyone else, that as adults, they are supposed to sublimate their appetites.

7) Ditto for needing to be changed or potty trained during the liturgy, all service of others is a form of prayer.  We're just here to help.

6) The sunglasses on the floor, the credit card from your purse and the prayer cards we find wedged in the kneeler, these are details.  We notice every detail.  A good reminder to you about how God does too.

5) Kiss us often.  We'll kiss back.  We don't need to wait until the sign of peace to show our love.

4) If we're fighting, you get to be the peacemaker. Practicing a Beattitudes is always a good thing.  (But remember, I was in the right, not him).

3) Kneelers remain one of the most misunderstood pieces of equipment in the church.  Up, down, stand, sit, kneel, no one ever seems to want to make the first move.  However, through extensive research, we can state that if you bring the kneeler down, someone will kneel.  Assuming the posture of prayer is an important form of reverence, so we do this often, to promote and encourage greater devotion in the mass.

2) Missalettes:  Like kneelers, these books are supposed to be used at every mass but grown ups often forget to open them up, so to be helpful to these folks, we take them out of the slot and flip through the pages, ask them to read it, ask where we are.  Ask what song is next.  These little helpful questions can cue the adults to focus on the mass and the responses.  It also usually means all the capable readers in the pew snatch up the remaining books to follow along and prevent further opening of said books by toddlers, so even more participation is generated by just a little mischief on our part.  All part of the service we provide.

1)  Take us to mass every time.  Sure we're squirmy, noisy, sometimes hungry, sometimes quarrelsome, sometimes need a change, but we're also witness that the church will continue to go on.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Forever Singing

A weekly task in this household involves a trip to the dry cleaner.  Because this chore falls to me and has for over a decade, I've come to know the people who work at the store if not on a first time basis, enough to be able to joke around.  One woman however, began sharing with me the story of her life.  She asked me to pray when her brother died.  Later, again as her father passed on and she wasn't able to attend, given that there was a whole ocean and islands between her and her family, she begged me to pray.

We know each has a lively faith though we've never talked specifics.  She always gives me a big smile.  I'm always a bit sad when my friend isn't there.  It is a touch of lightness in the midst of doing the dutiful and mundane.  She knows my name. I regret, I've yet to really wrap my brain around hers, though I've asked and sought to remember.  

Recently, she stopped me to ask if a tracheostomy hurts.  Long forgotten scars on my neck from early childhood sometimes bring up these sorts of conversations.  It turned out her mother had fallen down stairs and had one.  Given the woman's age and the extent of her injuries, the doctors urged my friend to "let her mother go."  Her eyes grew fiery recalling the words.  "But I cannot let my mother go.  I believe in God and I am praying for a miracle."  I asked for her mom's name and said I would too.  Leaving, I went about my day, folding her mom and her family into the daily rosary but not overly focusing any more than usual.  I have long known the reality, if you cannot be unreasonable with God, who can you be unreasonable with? She asked for the unreasonable.

Yesterday, I went to pick up suits for my husband.  She called me over. "Do you want to see?" she asked.  "Do you want to see my mom?" and she told me, she's sitting up some, she tries to talk even though we can't quite understand it.  She is coming home from the hospital soon, and my friend will quit her job to care for her.  "But we get together every week to eat and to pray." She put out her white i-phone.  "My mom loves to sing prayers.  This was taken two days before her fall."  She presses the button on the phone and a video of her mother plays.   Her mother has perfect makeup, she is in a white clean kitchen and she is singing.  Her face reveals a smile that parallels her daughter's, it is wide and bright, the word luminous floats through my head.  This is a heaven's choir member here on earth practicing, warming up.  "She wouldn't stop singing." my friend explained. "We'd all stopped but she just wanted to keep on singing."

A prayer in another language, recorded before it would not be heard anymore here on this Earth, so that her daughter could show what she said next.  "God is real. God is good.  God loves us. I know that.  I know that." she pointed at the phone of her mother still singing.  Five minutes of video of pure praise, pure song.

Reduced to tears and in absolute awe, I looked at my friend, she'd lost her brother and father this year and now, her mother lay in a hospital bed requiring she surrender her job and here she was, rejoicing, Job like.  I left the dry cleaner's trying to comprehend the enormity of mercy and the miraculous, of faith and faithfulness revealed all while merely going about the ordinary.  This was a faith the size of a mountain, alive and active.

We often ask why when our lives are struck by tragedy or problems, even just inconvenience, and it is always an opportunity to fold ourselves into the cross, to reveal to the world the luminous nature of our faith, the miraculous somehow beyond this Earth joy of knowing and loving a God who suffers with us, a God who loves us despite our white hot messes, despite our foolishness, despite knowing every single sin.  To fold into the cross is to let God love us, to stop trying to hold onto everything ourselves, to stop thinking that it depends upon us, to let go and let God pour into all the broken cracked empty spaces.  All required of us, is to ask to be folded in, to participate. My friend had done this, with her brother, with her father, and now her mom.  Filled, she could not help smiling, just as her mother, could not stop singing.    

P.S. Today I'm going to drop off stuff at the cleaners, and memorize her name.

Friday, November 1, 2013

7 Quick Takes

1. First, Happy All Saints Day.  Today, I went to the all school mass and either earned time in Purgatory or burned some of it off via penance.  Paul and Anna squirmed, flopped, talked, cried, tried to leave, opened doors, climbed all over me and two of my children from school who were mercifully sent to assist, and by the end, let's just say, I felt fatigued.  

2. Happy Halloween!  Here's some pictures:

Rita and Regina as Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash
It's a blast to go trick-or-treating with Regina, she has a little dark side.  We were admiring the decorations at a neighbor's house after getting candy. Everyone else said "Happy Halloween." She said, "Muwhahahaaaaaa."  Evil laughs from a 6 year old.  It impressed the neighbors.

3. Not everyone got to dress up for Halloween. Bonnie and Marta both have shows to do this weekend, so both had play practice, one until 7, the other until 10:30!  No treats for them.   Meanwhile, my 14 year old son discovered pumpkin carving and he loves it.    

He got his braces off this week too.   

4.  Anna didn't go trick-or-treating last year.  At 2 and 3/4, her siblings have trained her in the art of it, but truthfully, after the first door, she knew what to do and bolted to the front every time.  The hardest thing was getting her to leave.  After all, those folks still had a ton of candy in their dishes which they could put in her bucket if they wanted.   Paul figured out if he put his hand out, they gave him something. He'd drop it in his bag and put his hand back out. If I wasn't quick, 9 times out of 10, this warranted a chuckle and a second helping.  I'm just grateful Anna didn't figure out his technique.   
 Paul as a dinosaur (natch) and Anna as a fairy.  Faith is Annabeth Chase from the Percy Jackson series.

5. John went as the 11th doctor.  He worried people wouldn't know who he was, but stood 10 feet tall when a group of teenage girls saw him from across the street and began screaming, "I love you Doctor! Look, it's the Doctor!"  He flashed his sonic screwdriver and I think he's considering dressing like this all the time because he told me, "bow ties are cool."
Who are they? Two doctors.  
6.  This weekend, Bonnie flies out to Southbend on Sunday to check out the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary's College.  
She's staying on campus with a friend and I'm hoping the weather holds so she gets to experience something special.  Her trip to the University of Maryland was wet, cold, dark and messy.  She did like the "Physics is Phun" lecture and hanging out with her brother. 

7.  File under hope I'm that cool if I get famous.  Bettany Hughes wrote one of my favorite books for research, Helen of Troy.  I wrote her an email thanking her for her work. She wrote me back.  

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!