Friday, December 17, 2010

One Week Left - Thoughts from Katie

One of my IRL friends (before we were both bloggers) "mentioned" me in a post this week that was an excellent reminder in this busy season (I'm "A friend"). Her quick reminder can help us be sure to stay on track or get back on track, keeping Christ as the center of Christmas!!! I have mentioned before this priest's advice. My moment of fame:

A friend was told by a priest once that she needed not an hour of adoration, but an hour and fifteen minutes of adoration every week. Why? This is the most interesting answer I’ve ever heard, and I think of it often when I am sitting in the Presence of our Lord, distracted as all get out.

It takes an hour to get the octopus of the world off your back.

Then you can have focused prayer for the next 15 minutes.

The octopus of the world.

Do you know it?

Read the rest.

She also posted this gem today that is perfect inspiration as we approach the last week of Advent. Thank goodness that I read it today! Since we have been sick for the past week and are still recovering, I am having to rewrite all of my "to-do" lists to be more realistic about what I can fit in before Christmas Day. She begins:

What are you doing next week to make Christmas holy? I always find a need to refocus on the point of the celebration, don’t you?

I want you to make a new list today.

I know, I know. You’re drowning in lists.
I promise, just one more.
Make a list titled “How to Have a Holy Christmas.”

Read the rest

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Gift for Inactive Catholics

What a wonderful letter from Bishop Tobin of Rhode Island to "inactive Catholics!" This is probably one of the best ways to start a conversation with a friend or family member who has drifted as an extra special Christmas gift. I have two family members in mind and am going to start praying for the courage to hand them a copy of this now!

UPDATE: I have received permission from the Diocese of Providence newspaper editor to post on Scribd an easy-to-print copy of this letter for you! It is nothing fancy, but it will print on one page front-back if you want to slip it into a Christmas card or gift! Download here.

Here is how the letter begins...

An Open Letter to Inactive Catholics



My dear Brother or Sister: In the spirit of the Advent and Christmas Season, and as the Diocese of Providence nears the end of its “Year of Evangelization,” I’m writing this letter to inactive Catholics of our Diocese – perhaps you’re in that category – to let you know that we miss you, we love you and we want you to come home to the Church.

The first dilemma I faced in writing this letter was how to describe you – an “inactive Catholic,” a “fallen-away Catholic” or a “former-Catholic.” I chose the first option.

I decided against “fallen-away Catholic” for it suggests someone falling off a fence or out of a tree. The image isn’t helpful.

And there’s really no such thing as a “former Catholic.” If you were baptized a Catholic, you’re a Catholic for life – even if you haven’t been to Mass for years, even if you’ve renounced the title and joined another Church. Your baptism infused your soul with Catholic DNA – it defines who and what you are.

Thus, I’ve chosen the title, “inactive Catholic,” because even though you haven’t been “active” in the Catholic community for awhile, especially by attending Sunday Mass, receiving the sacraments and otherwise participating in the life of the Church, you’re still a Catholic. Sorry . . . you’re stuck with us!

read more here

HT to Marcel (I am a proud Aggie Catholic!)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Mystery-Loving Bookworm List

As I have mentioned several times previously, my 8 year old Therese is quite the reader! She devours books, and it is a challenge for me to keep finding appropriate books for her to read that she also enjoys. Mostly, I have to remember that she is a young third grader, reading at about a seventh grade level, so the content of the books she is capable of reading is not always what I want her to read.

Therese's First Grade Pleasure Reading List

Therese's Second Grade Pleasure Reading List

Since I am now having to dig back into my files of book lists to find new reads for her, I thought I would post again about what she has been reading, with my approval. Remember, I do not buy books; we get everything from the library! One tip for authors you like or series you like: Go to Wikipedia and type in the author and/or series title, and you can see an entire listing of book titles. We print these out and keep them in a file, crossing out as she reads them, marking with an "R" those we have requested from our library, and noting those titles our library does not own.

Therese's Third Grade Pleasure Reading...

Boxcar Children books by Gertrude Warner (every single one up to #83, plus 18 more our library has, and all 21 "Specials")

Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne (all 43)

A to Z Mysteries books by Ron Roy (all 26 plus the 4 super editions)

Geronimo Stilton books by Geronimo Stilton (all 40 our library owns)

American Girl History Mystery books by various (9, so far)

Disney Fairies Tales of Pixie Hollow books by various (5, so far)

Encyclopedia Brown books by  Donald Sobol (all 23 our library has)

Blast to the Past books by Stacia Deutsch & Rhody Cohon (3, and counting)

Beverly Cleary books (these are sort of a compromise for me, since I loved them growing up):
Henry Huggins 
Henry and Beezus
Henry and Ribsy

Henry and the Clubhouse
Ramona the Pest
Ramona and Her Father
Ramona Quimby, Age 8
Ramona Forever
Ramona's World

Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene (she is up to #20 and still reading, but not at bedtime!, and I won't let her read past #56, too scandalous!)

Andrew Lang's Fairy Books (all in public domain):
The Green Fairy Book
The Yellow Fairy Book
The Pink Fairy Book
The Violet Fairy Book
The Orange Fairy Book
The Grey Fairy Book

More Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls by Caryll Houselander

The Doll People by Ann Martin

The Doll Shop Downstairs by Yona Zeldis McDonough

Little Bo by Julie Andrews Edwards

The Trees Kneel at Christmas by  Maud Hart Lovelace

The Kitchen Madonna by Rumer Godden

As you can tell, we have been focusing on series, so far this year. It has been easiest for me with a new baby in the house to just request titles from these series than hunt for new ones. Like I said, though, the series are mostly exhausted, and it is time to get back to finding new authors to love! When we find them, I promise to share!

Hope, the O.R., & Buckeye Balls

December 1 - One Word.

Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?

Hope. There has been hope in new life for the first time in forever. After five long years of waiting, we welcomed our little Christopher in June! We had hoped to get out of Miami and return home to Texas, and that hope was realized in August. Now, we simply have hope to settle into this new reality and focus on love and life. I have hope we can become the kind of family we have always dreamed of being!

December 2 - Writing.

What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

I waste time. Often I wander around my Google Reader or email without really accomplishing anything when I could easily write a quick post (or sometimes even a longer one). I think I need to set goals for each time I sit down at the computer. Once or twice a day, respond to email. Once or twice a day, go through my reader. Once a day, work on the blog. I am certain this will involve a timer each time, but I have resisted that restriction no matter how many times I hear it helps another writer.
December 3 – Moment.

Pick one moment during which you felt most alive this year. Describe it in vivid detail (texture, smells, voices, noises, colors).

WARNING: A little graphic... the O.R. during my c-section.

I know it is crazy to choose this, but my experience was so drastically different from my first c-section that it was very vivid in a great way. The room was, of course, freezing cold, full of silver metal stuff, and brighter than anything ever could be! The only smell I remember was when they were making the incision, as my first one was not done with a cauterizing scalpel (is that even what they call it?). Yes, it smells like something is burning. Anyway, the voices were all positive and comforting.

My OB was very serious but loving, especially after while she was closing me when she told me I needed to do crunches daily after recovery due to my muscle atrophy! I was silent. She thought she offended me at first, but I was just trying to figure out how to respond. No, I have not been doing the crunches daily. The anesthesiologist, who probably thought someone already gave me some happy drugs, had a kind, almost playful voice and laughed at my silly jokes. My husband did not say much; he just held my hand, and I do remember that.

You do not see much during a c-section except the drape in front of you, which kept falling into my face. It was blue with dark spots on the opposite side (blood spatter). I remember my arms were cold, because they were stretched out with the IVs and other cords. Moving them to push the drape out of my face warmed them more than the warm blankets the anesthesiologist kept draping over them.

I was overjoyed when I saw my precious boy. He didn't look very good (a little blue from the cord being wrapped and quite bloody) but screamed loudly, proclaiming he was just fine. More than seeing him, though, was the moment they put him in my arms. I do not remember looking at him then. I know I looked at a camera, because we have a picture. But, I think, I closed my eyes. I just felt so very alive holding that newborn, screaming his head off, and full of such joy that God would bless me with this precious baby. My healthy body had carried yet another life to full term when before and during my pregnancies, there were so many doubts.

That moment was me. alive.
And, I stayed alive even after Daddy took the little man to the nursery. They sewed me up, and I laughed with the doctors and nurses. I declined the happy drugs to help me relax (read: put me to sleep), because I wanted to treasure every moment and keep feeling alive. Waiting to see my baby again was agonizing, but I simply was too full of joy to complain. During suturing, the assistant cut the knot, so my OB had to start over. She apologized. I giggled. It just seemed funny that such a simple mistake was made with such a serious surgery.

The tech who put the tape on my bandage was brutal. I remember thinking she was putting duck tape on to hold me together, but I smiled and tried to talk with her. Even the doctor who took off my bandage (with me squirming/climbing the bed in pain) remarked how much tape was used (and the pain was not from the incision but from the tape pulling at my skin). I was scraping off adhesive for weeks (literally) afterwards.

I was on cloud nine a few hours later when big brother and big sister came by to meet brother. What amazing joy! But, my moment was lying on the table, holding my newborn son for the first time. Both of us were so alive!

December 4 – Wonder.

How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

Since Christopher has been born, I have been simply gazing at my children more often. All three of them. Just looking at their faces, their smiles, into their eyes. I listen to what they say with genuine interest and am in awe of each one of them. Christopher is just the smiley-est baby I have ever met (I often am tempted to tell strangers not to feel special, since he smiles at everyone!), and his innocent smiles from day one have just captivated my heart and begged me to pay attention. This has been such a gift from God to remind me to pay attention to Therese and John Bosco, as well. I see God's miraculous creations and am in awe.

December 5 – Let Go.

What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why?

I could go two ways with this, but I think it is somehow all one anyway. In the spring, there was a huge division within our Catholic homeschooling support group. Several families contemplated leaving the group due to some misunderstandings and differences of opinion with the leadership. In the midst of the conflict, before anything was resolved, my husband and I made the choice to leave the group. At the time, we did not know we were moving to Texas, but it seemed that there were too many in the group whose lives, beliefs, and goals were vastly different from our own. We cut off ties completely with the group, and merely kept in contact with our close friends, a handful of families. Of course, a few months later, to our dismay, we learned we would be leaving those friends, too.

I have no regrets with how this all played out for me. I made the apologies that needed to be made and prayed for those who never offered their own. Separating from the conflict completely allowed my family to focus on the joyful birth of our son and not get caught in further emotional distress. And, as a result, we became even closer to our true friends, making our move more difficult, but also preserving some beautiful memories in those few short months, allowing me to look back fondly on all of my time there.

December 6 – Make.

What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

Do Christmas candies count? I made buckeye balls for my children's co-op teachers on Wednesday, using my grandmother's recipe. My mother makes these every Christmas, and I have carried on the tradition. They are made to look like the buckeye nut, which grows in Ohio where she was born and raised. These decadent treats are peanut butter, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla formed into balls and dipped in melted chocolate. I used my ancient cheap hand mixer and did not break it (I have broken two making buckeyes in years past; the dough can get thick). I do need to make a few more batches and some St. Nicholas chocolates, but I am waiting until the stomach bug passes our family before making treats to give away! My father in law, in particular, cannot wait for these goodies each year. I am told they disappear within a day or two, even when hidden in the freezer under the meat!

December 7 – Community.

Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

Most obviously, I have found community here in our new home. We have joined three Catholic homeschooling groups since moving here, and each one has welcomed us and created community for us in different ways. I have chosen to join a women's study at one of our co-ops in order to more deeply connect with those women on a spiritual level. I also hope to continue my monthly mom's breakfasts in order to share the more practical connection we have as Catholic homeschooling mothers.

more to come...

Reverberations 2010

Somehow I discovered Gretchen Rubin's blog The Happiness Project before I heard about her book The Happiness Project. (I'm a little slow sometimes) And, I hope to post about her ideas once I have finished reading her book (next year).

For now, let me just say that I think she is on to something that the rest of the self-help world has mostly missed. Anyway, one of the projects to which she contributes is Reverb 10.

"Reverb 10 (#reverb10) is ... an open online initiative that encourages participants to reflect on this year and manifest what’s next. It’s an opportunity to retreat and consider the reverberations of your year past, and those that you’d like to create in the year ahead. We’re connected by the belief that sharing our stories has the power to change us." (from their website)

I do not tweet, because (I hope) my writing is more reflective and impossible to communicate in 188 characters. (I even had to look up how long a tweet is just now to write that!) And, there is no way I can promise to respond to a prompt every single day, so I did not sign up to officially participate in the project.

Nevertheless, I love their prompts! I found them on December 7 and signed up to receive them in my inbox. Every one begs me to write! In the spirit of self reflection, I am going to respond to their prompts, but in batches here and there. I truly think it is vital for us as Christians, wives, and mothers to pause periodically and ask the Lord what it is he needs from us. If we do not do so, we run the risk of never reaching our potential and regretting what could have been.

Look for my first reverberations soon!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Circle of Silence

My year to consider silence has neared its end and has come full circle. I do not feel I have had any grand epiphanies regarding the role of silence in my life but rather many small yet profound realizations. More on that soon.

A Woman Wrapped in Silence: [Poem]

My Advent companion has been this gem - A Woman Wrapped in Silence by John Lynch. It is an epic poem, published in 1968, and while I have never yet finished it, I keep coming back to it every few years and beginning again. Here's why:

This was a little child who knew not man,
Nor life, nor all the needed frauds of life,
Nor any compromise, and when she turned
To raise the earthen jar, and faced the airs
Of Spring, she smiled for young security,
And she was glad. These were her own, these lanes
Of Nazareth. She'd known the slope and feel
Of them for all her years, and they had known
Of her, and she was walking now and was
Familiar, and the well she sought not far
Beyond the clustered houses was so old
It had become a part of permanence.
The sky around it was so clear, serene
With blue, and framed with hills that had been hers
For always, and which lifted up a silence
She had loved. These thresholds were her friends,
These white walls leaning, and the narrow doors,
And she could watch the shadows and the slant
Of sun, and turn a corner so, and hear
The farther crowing of a cock, and guess
That in the marketplace were dusty sheep
She could not hear; and passing on, she marked
With deeper care that from an opened window
Rose the sound of psalms. She was at home.
These few streets and the ruts in them were home,
And she was sure, and young, and now the others
At the well had called to her, and said
Among them it was Mary who had come.

You can read more (but not all) at Google Book here: A Woman Wrapped in Silence.

I generally try to reflect on Mary's role in the season of Advent. Last year, that was easy. I was in my first trimester and praising God for feeling so lousy, waiting joyfully for this little one! This year, I was drawn to pull this classic book off my shelf.

[One disclaimer - as I said I have yet to read it cover to cover, and it does not have an imprimatur; it was published by Paulist Press, and I have seen a few goofy things from them. So, read intelligently, my dear readers.]

The first few pages (quoted above) provide me with days of food for meditation. I have always been one of those women who have a hard time turning to Mary. As a mother, I am told, it makes sense to turn to her, because she knows what we endure. But, I know she can't know all of it. She was Created without sin. I wasn't. Boy howdy, I was not! And my children? Well, they are most certainly not God! I mostly feel like Kate's nana.

Yet, with these poetic words, Our Mother is finally accessible to me. I can picture her as a real person, with a personality (whether Lynch's description of hers is accurate or not is inconsequential to me). I can close my eyes and know she really lived on this earth and is not merely some foggy figure I imagine in prayer.

Once upon a time, in deep prayer (I was on a retreat), I was begging Jesus to bring me closer to Him. He seemed far away, as if down a distant, dark hallway. There was always space between us, even though I was moving forward and He was standing still. It was then I realized that I need help. I cannot get to Jesus all by myself. Out of the corner of my mind's eye, I saw Mary (okay, it was really a fuzzy light, but I knew what my imagination was trying to see) approaching me. As I recalled her role in leading us to Christ, I imagined her taking me by the elbow, much like someone would lead a blind person, and guiding me towards Jesus.

Since then, this is how I see Mary. She is loving, as Kate says, the Cause of Our Joy! Her generous heart leads us to her Son always, no matter our failings and weaknesses. She is always there waiting, kindly, lovingly, to help us grow in holiness. Lynch's words of peace and joy that Mary lived are how she hopes to nourish this mother's heart and yours, as well.

This Advent, if you have not done so already, take some time to be with Mary, in the reading of this poem or some other way. Get to know her better. She will lead you to her Son this Christmas.