Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Hello 2014!

Everyone says they don't make resolutions.  Well I do.  I don't always and in fact I don't often  live up to them, but I like making them and then trying and retrying and trying again.   So here goes.  

This year I resolve to:
1) read a book a month. 
2) pray the rosary if not every day, get through the cycle every week.
3) write daily something.
4) Get published in newspaper, magazine and online more. 
5) Finish Penelope
6) Exercise 6 days out of 7.
7) Call my friends.
8) Play games with my kids.
9) Get a haircut once every six weeks to keep myself looking polished.
10) lose 15 lbs by this time next year.
11) Take my family on a vacation to a beach for a week.
12) toilet train the youngest two.
13) Paint the upstairs.
14) learn to cook something new each month
15) stay on budget.
16) teach two daughters how to drive.
17) get re-certified as a teacher.
18) go to adoration once a week.
19) read to my children more.
20) get to bed on time (by 11:15).   

Yes I know, it's an ambitious list, but it does make the whole year sparkle with promise doesn't it?   Going to go summon all my children to play games, have dessert and welcome in the new year.  See you tomorrow when the real adventure begins.  

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas!

I will still post to Small Success Thursday but this is a week for being present, and that means I'll be creating memories rather than recording them.  Thus this blog will return January 1st, 2014.

Carols. Luminaries, cookies, letters, phone calls, beauty, the gift you didn't ask for but your heart wanted, everyone asleep, everyone waking, everyone knowing in that moment, this is Christmas, the ever further opening of our hearts. This is Christmas, the idea that we could be loved forever being not just possible but absolutely true breaking out over all the world.   Wishing all of you the very best Christmas, with many blessings and miracles, surprises and moments of joy that could only be imagined by an Infinitely loving God.  
Merry Christmas!  See you in 2014!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Make The Church Beautiful

This time of year, people understand that beauty helps us to celebrate.  They buy new dresses, they trim the house, they hang up festive lights and look for ways to dazzle the eyes.  We understand when we get a dozen roses, beauty brings with it, a joy.

If we are created in God's image, then we share in His Divine beauty, for we know via creation, our God loves beauty.  If every one of us is part of the Body of Christ, then we share something of His Divine luminous nature.  If this is so, then to the extent possible, we must radiate that loveliness, that light to others.  How? is the question.

It's easier to show than to tell, and telling doesn't work anyway.  Everyone knows we're called to feed the hungry, be the peacemaker, clothe the naked, hunger for justice, comfort the mourning, visit the imprisoned, care for the lonely, be merciful, turn the other cheek, offer our cloak, we know these words.  We know what they mean.   But then, we have the real world, where we have laundry and jobs, chores and homework, bills and meals and dishes and beds, cars and errands, computers and messages and appointments all which must be dealt with in the course of our day.  Where are we going to fit the beatitudes into that hot mess?

It is the how of living, that will bring about these opportunities.

When Jesus came to Capernaum, he drew a crowd. The people filled the house to hear his words.  They probably hoped for a miracle of some kind as well in a wouldn't it be cool kind of way.  Everyone wants to at some point, be in the right place at the right time to be a part of something important, something epic, something beyond the scope of everyday life.  Jesus did these things, he healed the sick, fed the five thousand, calmed the storms, cured blindness, leprosy, Simon's mother-in-law, you name it.   So they came.

But think about that town.  Probably, people knew Jesus was coming.  They walked by the paralyzed man all the time.  Someone probably said something like, "Jesus should come heal him." or "Why doesn't Jesus come heal him?"  and then went about their day, but they said it in earshot of the man's friends.  They decided to act.  They would bring their friend to Jesus.  So the first step, is to recognize that in every challenge, is the answer, how can we? If we are working, then we must listen to the souls about us, who might need to be carried, we must hear in the cries of discontent, what the Holy Spirit needs us to do. By acting, we will be cooperating with grace.  When we cooperate with grace, we lead others to grace, we make it easier for them to receive the gifts God has for them.  

When we pray for others, others engaged in sin, others trapped by sin, even those we really really really don't like or disagree with on a visceral level, we are one of those four men carrying the paralyzed person to the house.  They saw this man, they knew something needed to be done, and they acted.  It was not easy, it was not simple, but they persist.  They even break into the house roof.  This is nutty and at the same time, awesome, they aren't going to let anything get in the way of placing the man before Jesus.  Not reality, not crowds, not buildings, not distance, not logistics, nothing.  They will bring this soul as far as they can carry.  This is what we are all called to do, we are to be carrying people to lay before Christ.  That's the job of a friend.  That's the job of all of us.  Making the Church beautiful means not forgetting a single soul, bringing each person that is part of the whole of this Body to the feet of Jesus.

The healing, will be what is needed, and not necessarily the one we expected or visible. So today, when you feel vexed by life or the errands or the bills or time, remember we are called to make this Domestic Church beautiful, then act, persist, and lay whatever you have at the feet of Jesus.  One of the joys of Heaven, will be learning the stories which all end happily, of how a soul was moved from where they were, to where they are.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Bragging about My Cousin

My cousin Will Clark Green had his song chosen as the best of Texas Country songs in 2013.   Give a listen.

Friday, December 13, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday

1.  Today, I'm going to a Christmas play.  I've spent the morning in the car.  No really.  Here was my morning:    7:30 a.m.  Get kids into car.
                 7:45 a.m.  Go back in to get kid not yet in car.  Leave driveway.
                 7:47 a.m.  At the light, child discovers he is missing a paper that is due first period.  Return home                  to get paper.
                 7:55  Leave home again.
                 8:05  Drop off five at school five minutes late, feel momentarily victorious.
                 8:20  Get back home to discover bus waiting.  Get sixth child on bus.
                 8:22  Get text that child at high school needs papers by 9:30 or the world is doomed.  Recognize second child needs papers at the same place or no eligibility for scholarships is possible.  
                 9:00  Get to high school, unpack remaining very tolerant toddler and drop off paper.
                 9:10  Get phone call that child I dropped off at the bus is at the nurse's office and would I please come pick up.  
                 9:25 The post office is en route so I decide to do that errand first (with one toddler, not two).  Errand is a bust as the post office needs my oldest son's signature to deliver.
                 Drive to school irritated.  Pick up son who looks surprisingly spry and happy and healthy.  Arrival time?  10:05.  Get phone call from first school.  An older child there is also not feeling well and wants to come home.      
                 Drive to school with two toddlers.  She comes out and gets in the car.
                 It is 11:00.  
                 Get home and feed people lunch.   Sit down, answer emails.  Purchase two presents on Amazon.          
My six year old is an angel in the Christmas play today at 1:30.  Last night her father picked up new shoes for her so she would look finished for the big event.  She has a red Christmas dress and black shoes.  She looks like a Christmas princess.  She feels it.  I've earned that smile, so at 1:00, I'm reloading the car with the toddlers to go see the play.  

This is my Christmas for the day.

2.  Two of my children are running in the 5 mile Baltimore Celtic Solstice tomorrow.  So I'll be taking them to Baltimore at 5:30 so they can run with their Aunt and Uncle.  I'll get to see one of my nephew's and some of my nieces, babysit while they run, and two or three others may tag along for the fun of it.   It should be neat.

3.  Today, I will get back my laptop.  It has been a long hiatus, exactly one month.  When I called Wednesday night, they said they've been calling me, but I'm a stay-at-home mom.  I'm the one who answers the phone when it rings.  I've heard nothing until I called them.  

4.  Promotion of a book is difficult.  So I'm trying to be proactive, to talk about it when the subject comes up, and to ask others to invite people to read it.  I've also learned how to sign a kindle book or any e-book really, and I put a button up on my blog right next to the cover shot of the book so if you click it, it will tell me you want a signature.  I've signed my first e-book and that felt like a little victory.   I'm also appealing for reviews to one place that reviews a week, and researching what if any publicity I want to do and how.  

5.  Every year, the college my son attends offers a care package for exams.  This is the first year I've done it, mostly because before now I always thought, we only live an hour away, I can bring stuff to him.  But I recognized, if I don't do it right then, it won't happen, so this year, I made it happen by being proactive.  He called, very pleased to get the care package he didn't expect because it had never happened before.  

6.   Brilliant Christmas Idea for the day.  Someone should sell LED luminaries.  I'd buy them.  I love the tradition, but keeping the flames lit can be difficult.  I admit, I prefer real fire with it's warmer glow and naturally compelling light, but I also want to not babysit the beauty.  

7.  I've been going to adoration, this week, I've had the opportunity to attend.  The experience is more than I can explain in a blurb on a blog post, except to say I understood, "Make the church beautiful." and knew it didn't mean painting the walls (although I'd love them to be a warmer cream than the white) and gold or red or gold and red (I love gold and red), rather than the grey surrounding the windows, and stain glass pictures of Saint Martin and the saints, rather than pastel diagonal panes, but the domestic church, my part of the body of Christ where I'm responsible and have been commissioned.   So last night I asked to finish the details on the shoes and this afternoon, one of my sons needs a haircut.  I know this is a fixing of the internal and external, but we'll work on both as we go.   It's how Saint Francis did it, so I figure, it's not wrong.  

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Quick Resolutions to Siblings Milking a Joke

Twenty years of parenting, one would presume I've seen almost everything, except these new people keep coming up with ways to surprise me. Like the two year old fighting with her non verbal five year old brother, where he "wins" by humming and holding a small plastic elephant which he points in her direction. Suffering an emotional mortal wound from the blast, she wails and clenches my arms, explaining, "Paul's being mean to me." Sure enough, for a guy with only 25 words, he knows how to milk the ones he has. "Heh heh heh." he says, and once again begins pointing with the traumatizing pachyderm. She screams and sobs. 

How do I break up this fight? It's not like I can appeal to reason, nor can I really discern motivation other than, she feels it, he's feeding off it, we need a distraction. 

Fortunately, the two super allies against the axis of older children normally collaborate their tastes. The younger one knows where the chocolate syrup is, the older one can carry the milk and syrup to me. The result is, both get chocolate milk. This method of persuasion works through erosion of will. With me or one of their siblings making multiple trips back to put the necessary ingredients away until someone either desiring the same snack themselves, or unaware of the chain of "No's," thus forged, gives in and voila, persistence beats resistance every time. 

So I opt to provide them with their favorite snack. "Guys! Look! I'm getting out the milk and syrup and the spoon!" There is a brief lull as the two of them scramble to the table. Alas, I only have one last straw, but a quick scissors snip makes two and I'm thinking, all is right with the world as I serve up cold chocolately liquid goodness. 

Except I neglected to disarm the older brother of his means of torment. Now I have to wonder, do I talk about the elephant in the room or hope a few sips of the drink of peace brings about its desired effect. He pounds the plastic beastie on the table, (more in a Thor like gesture of celebration than aggression), but peace and the drinks spill out of my grasp and onto the floor as the caterwauling of my daughter returns. "He spilled my drink! He hurt my straw." and my son, upon seeing her dismay and putting two and two together, comes to the joke late but with decisive "Heh heh heh." 

Cleaning it up, I declare a universal disarmament, salvage what I can of the snack, explain I've repaired and recovered the straws and there is rapture at the return of joy at the table. Five minutes later, all the fight forgotten, she comes to him, takes his wrist and says, "Let's go play." and they turn horses and hotwheels into a train. We have trains, but just as an elephant is a phaser or taser or teaser in my opinion, so these creatures with horsepower can become an iron horse. Such is the power of the two of them in tandem. Until I here him wailing. It was a bait and switch as she's running with the horses, and I hear as she runs, "Heh heh heh Paul." 

All's fair weather in sibling love and war, but before I break this one up, I'm fixing own myself a glass of chocolate milk.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Lighting a Candle

Today is a snow day.  Today the power went out for a time.

It was an awesome way to slow down the huge rush to run through the season. You can't fly through life when you can't get on line. You can't drown out the whisper of God when there is no sound to distract, no lights, no buzz, no clatter.  Cereal for breakfast.  Sandwiches for lunch.  Blankets and books.  I took a nap. The power came back on, but the result? Four kids are watching the old Sound of Music, three are making cookies, two are outside sledding.

Advent requires deliberate action, deliberate wakefulness to the heavenly song as versus the jingle the world cranks out every year this time.  Here's a great article discussing it with ideas on how to deliberately rebel.  Read it, and then read the link it links to as well.

Then, seek out the softer part of Christmas.  Write cards.  Light candles. Bake cookies.  Sing.  Cultivate deliberate loveliness in a cold dark world.  Drink deep the joy of the day when it is offered, for it may not come again.  (My son just invited me outside to sled  and while I hate cold, I just wrote those words so...I'll be finding my socks and warm coat).

 In the meantime, enjoy this piece of Christmas awesomeness:

and consider, the goal of our lives is to be like Fred in the Christmas carol to all other wounded souls.

There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say, Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round - apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that - as a good time: a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time: the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it! 

Then, I'm going to go eat some gingerbread and hot cocoa with the kids.  Blessed Advent.  

Friday, December 6, 2013

7 Quick Takes

1.  Happy Saint Nicholas Day!
So...you better watch out...I suddenly find new amusement in that song.

2. Planning to make my great grandmother's cookies but with a Christmas twist, dipping them in melted white chocolate for frosting and dusting with peppermint chips.  They're chocolate cookies so this will be a lovely combination.
This image looks pretty much like what they look like when they haven't been frosted. 

Here's the recipe.  Why? Because these sorts of cookies aren't made anymore, they're becoming lost as we get used to slice and bake and forget there were all these sort of old fashioned tastes that had seasonal qualities and harkened to how baking itself, is both a joy and a gift.  The goal isn't just the sweet but the giving/sharing of the sweet.

1/4 cup solid shortening (Crisco)
1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cup sifted all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 squares Baker's unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans work great)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Combine the first four ingredients. Add the dry ingredients together separately.  Combine all the ingredients and stir until the mixture is well blended.  Drop the cookies with a teaspoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.  After the cookies cool, frost with a light chocolate frosting.  It can be one cup of confectioner's sugar, 1 tablespoon of milk, and 1 melted square of Baker's semi-sweet, mixed and then used to dip.

Or you can use ready made if you're like me and somehow those glazes never turn out quite right.    

3.  Doing a little Christmas each day is working (so far, but then it's only been 5 days).   We set up the Nativity set one day, another day, we wrote a few Christmas cards.  The day before that, we put up some lights indoors, and the day before that, lights outdoors. (Just a few).  We're just adding a bit by bit each day.  Theme of Advent: Blessed Waiting, Deliberate Willful Beauty.

4.  How are book sales doing?

Well, believe it or not, people don't know I' wrote a book, or that it is published. I got asked today.
Having spent six years writing The Book of Helen, I  know it has moments which will stay with you, and that the story itself has some real beauty to offer.

Here's a link.   If you have bought The Book of Helen and enjoyed it, please consider leaving a review over at Amazon, it helps with ranking, it helps with promotion.

5.  How is The Book of Penelope Coming?

Still reading, still writing, still taking the 30 day novel writing workshop.  I'm starting to see patterns and threads of thought so to speak.  I also miss my laptop.  It has been in the shop since November 13th.  It is very frustrating. But, I have the story, I have an outline (shocker).  I have the ending.  I have the template for what I want to have happen, and I have 15K on it without having the actual work I did before, so I'm very pleased.

6.  I want more variety in my Christmas songs.  Honestly, if you're going to tout yourself as the Christmas station, have enough guts to play something other than The Little Drummer Boy,White Christmas, and I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.   So in a fit of wanting more, I provide you with the following, it's old, but it doesn't matter. It's still good.  

7.  What am I doing this year spiritually?  Well, I'm trying to get beyond the surface of my prayer life, to navigate the interior life that I spend so much time avoiding by keeping very busy.  In an attempt to jump start myself into this deeper form of prayer, I'm hoping to schedule a weekly visit to adoration, to demand I quiet my mind and heart before the Lord, something I'm notoriously bad at doing.   In the meantime, I also found this site, worthy of note for those like me who can't get to adoration as often as they should.   It's a substitute, but a substantive substitute.  Here is the link to view live adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

They Don't Hear the Beauty

These past few days, driving to school I've seen them. People waiting for buses. People sitting on their cars. People standing at stoplights.  They do not smile. They are not talking.  They look defeated by the very air they breathe.   Going to Kinkos, I smiled at the three people who came out. Holding the hand of a two year old who practically skips everywhere she goes I thought would be a lock in for garnering the smiles, but they too held the faces of people haunted by the dullness of winter even before it officially starts. (And the weather was nice yesterday too).  

I started thinking about why this is.  Why do I see so many tired faces?  The roads are festooned with electric garlands.  The radio plays the same 35 Christmas songs over and over again.  There is a constant demand on the television, "Be happy! Feast! Shop! Celebrate!" It is a command rather than an invitation.  I see the collective weight of the commercial season, crushing the spirits of those this Holy Day and season was supposed to lift.  

So how do we counter the shrill flashing tenor of the BIG STORE BIG SALE BIG FOOD BIG EVERYTHING?

By deliberately being smaller, quieter, more like a candle than a light bulb.
So today, instead of Christmas songs, carols.
Here's a lovely bit by a woman from Small Success Thursday, sung in her car no less!!!!  Ave Maria

Fast instead of buying.  Put away the anxious need to fill the emptiness with something that will not satisfy.  If you can, go to see the Blessed Sacrament, let yourself be filled.  If not, the daily scriptures are here.  Or if you need to do petitions because there are burdens which need to be laid down, Come Pray the Rosary allows you to either pray privately or with all those currently saying the day's mysteries.

Light the Advent candle.

Do not demand of yourself more than you can give.
Be a friend.
Or reach out to friends if you need them.  
Wear bright colors or your favorite jewelry.
Cultivate deliberate beauty.
Use the good china or the crystal or something special today.
Deliberately smile and meet people's eyes.

The world needs to hear the real music of this Advent, to see the true beauty undimmed by the tinsel and clatter.  That is the joy and privilege of a disciple, to go out and share these precious gifts with the world and trust that what we give, is endless and open to all.  
It's Thursday so it's time to join me over at Catholicmom.com!
Happy Birthday Mom! (Actually it's not the right date but I found this picture, love it and wanted to share). 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Adventures in Advent

Advent started this past Sunday.  I have been to three  places searching for the prerequisite purple and pink candles.   Alas, I have come up empty.   The church I attend, plus the two local parishes that serve as emergency back up in the event we can't make it to the mass at our home parish, sell ornaments and grocery certificates, items from the Holy land and donuts after mass.  There are Christmas ornaments and Christmas cards, Christmas trees and coffee, Cd's, books and sometimes hot dogs.  

There are no Advent candles.  

CVS, Giant, Safeway, the floral shops and specialty boutiques have ornaments and lights, tinsel and Christmas music, gifts, inflatable Santas and jingle bell singing fish, figgy pudding in a can for crying out loud, but no Advent candles.  

But since Advent is about lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness, my Advent wreath this year shall still be lit.  So I bought beeswax candles.  They don't fit in the wreath.  I went back to get different candles. There has been a run on tapered candles, there are lots of stubby things and tea lights, candles in glass and candles that are supposed to light internally but not burn the outside (they never work).  Scrounging in what felt like the underbelly of the store, I managed to find four unbroken.  

It took some work for the cashier to discern their prices.  

So we will have Advent.  We will light the wreath.

It's just the candles shall be chartreuse,  2 burgundy and ocher.  I could argue, the green is evergreen, the burgundy like the blood of Christ, red, and technically in the family of purple, and ocher, well, let's just say it's gold reminding us of Christ's Kingship and the gifts of the Magi.  

"Mom. You're just justifying the colors you have."
"You bet."
"Can you do it again?"
"Give me a challenge.  Give me the colors."

She considered the spectrum of options.  "Fuchsia, yellow and brown."
"Easy.  Fuchsia for the joy (it's a pink), yellow for the star and brown for the stable."
"Not bad." my daughter mused.  "Could you justify black, blue and orange?"

"Let's see, black for the world prior to the Incarnation, blue for Mary, the Virgin Mother, and orange for orange you glad I didn't have to do this?"

She decided it was time to get back to homework, with Mom making stupid puns.

My mom is sending me some correct candles, I'm thinking of ordering next year's on the Feast of the Epiphany so as to store them with the wreath when I put it away. Otherwise, I'll have to discern the spiritual significance of gray, tan and lilac.  

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!