Sunday, October 23, 2016

Texas: Land Of Storage Units and Donuts

We have lived in this small area of Texas (just north of Houston) for about four years now and I have made some very shrewd observations, if I do say so myself. 

We here in NorthOfHouston apparently eat donuts...lots of donuts. There are donut shops everywhere...lots of them drive-throughs. 

There is one, big, powerful, chain of donut shops called Shipleys. Though not my favorite donuts (locals are right now readying to burn me at the stake for that heresy), they are good and the shops are usually clean-ish and bright-ish and new-ish looking. 

Most of the donut shops are older and not very creatively named....many just have a big sign saying DONUTS. But what else does the sign on a donut shop need, really? 

There is apparently another type of pastry shop very common in Houston, but not so much out here in NorthOfHouston...Kolache shops. A Kolache is a pastry filled with various things such as sausage, bacon, jelly, custard, etc....though not usually together--I have never seen a bacon-custard Kolache. Then again, I have not had many Kolaches.  

Another astute observation I have made is that we here in NorthOfHouston have lots of stuff. 

This is made obvious (to me) by the fact that almost every new building in our area is a storage facility. 

Each time we think this new building will be something interesting...the sign goes up: 

Coming Soon! Another place to put all your stuff!

When we first moved here I got the distinct impression that the locals were accident prone. This is because, at that time, all new construction tended toward the Emergency Room type. We even have a pet Emergency Room down the street--not an ER that is our pet, but an ER for pets. 

When the storage units began cropping up I amended that impression of the locals. However, I may need to resurrect it. 

We recently noticed more than one auto body/collision shop going up in the area. 

Apparently, we here in NorthOfHouston are accident prone...while in our cars. 

On the other hand, perhaps all this building has little to do with the demand of the local population for storage space and easy access to the ER. 

Maybe, just maybe, there is some government regulation or tax shelter that allows land owners to write off their losses and so it is better, financially, to build a useless business and make no money, than to let the land stay the way it is until the right building project comes along. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

URGENT: Dogs in Strollers

So, I was thinking....(good reason to write, huh?)....and, at the risk of sounding like the neighborhood crank, I was thinking our world has gone a little nuts over animals.

We have a neighborhood website on which people can share relevant messages like things for sale, recommendations (or not) about local business, complaints about speedy drivers, know, important stuff. I get a daily email with a list of all the new messages and I occasionally get a single, really important, urgent message.

Every single time there is an "URGENT" message it is a lost dog. Every. Single. Time. I have yet to see an "URGENT" message that wasn't a lost dog, in four years of living here.

Now, I am sympathetic to the owner of the lost dog. I have vivid childhood memories of following my dog up the busiest street in our neighborhood, calling her name and crying for fear she might run into the traffic and be hit (for the record, she did eventually run into traffic and get hit, all without me chasing her....but that is another story). I get it. No one wants their pet in danger.

And I am not saying these people shouldn't search for their dogs, or ask for help.

It is just this overuse of "URGENT".

When I first moved here and got on this website I expected every "URGENT" message to be about flooded roads, or brush fires, or roving gangs of deer attacking residents.


But, you say, maybe your beef is just with the use of the word "URGENT" (I can't stop capitalizing it and putting it in quotes...forgive me).

No, it isn't just about the is the whole idea.

Because people push their dogs in strollers. IN STROLLERS, for goodness sake!

I know, I know...the dog is old, and needs fresh air. Whatever. (sorry, that was cranky of me)

No, it isn't just the stroller's the talking about dogs like they are kids. People will actually ARGUE with you that their dog is just like your kid.

I think I first started noticing this in England when we saw at the public parks that the children were fenced in...or on leashes....and the dogs ran free.

The pet thing is over the top and, I think, a sign that our culture wants to be pro-life, pro-child, pro-family, but doesn't know how and is scared to try. We practice on pets and sometimes never master skill at all.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

"He Borrowed Money From Us"

I have been very interested in the discussions and articles online that have inspired and been inspired by the movie Poverty, inc. They have really transformed the way I see charity and missionary work. Today I came across this article by a man named Nik Ripken. It is very eye opening and worth a discussion in itself, however, as I was reading, I began to think of something other than foreign missions. 
This long quote made me think of your typical parish catechesis: 
"Though our motives are not always suspect, we generally come and tell other people to “sit down and listen” while we stand and speak. We are aggressive, and we expect local people to remain passive. We bring the gospel, Bibles, and hymnbooks. We provide baptisms, discipleship, and places to meet. We choose the leaders. We care for orphans, build orphanages, rescue the broken, and care for the crippled. 
And those are all wonderful things. 
But here’s the challenge: What’s left for local people to do? What’s left for the Holy Spirit to provide? Where do we model how to trust God and his provision through the local body of believers? Where do local believers find their worth, their sanctified sense of signficance? What gifts and sacrifice can they bring to this enterprise of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth? 
Rarely did the apostle Paul create dependency upon himself. Often in his letters, Paul expressed how desperately he needed his brothers and sisters in Christ. He called those friends by name years later. He never forgot them. When possible, he returned to be with them. When he could not go, he sent them someone else. And he faithfully wrote to them, expressing his love, encouragement, and correction. In a word, he needed them."

In case you are not getting the connection yet, let me paraphrase Mr. Ripken's article a little: 

Though our motives are sincere, we generally tell parents "it is your job, but you aren't doing it, so hand over your kids". We expect that they will fail, so we plan for it. Here is a class for every age, a great textbook, a volunteer catechist ("Would you like to be one too?") and a couple of important meetings for you to attend. Here is a sacrament, and a certificate. 
Look how many kids we catechize each year!  
What is left for parents to do? Where do we model families passing on the faith? Where do parents find their vocation, the sacramental graces designed for passing on the Faith, their own relationship with God?  
And the clincher: 

Rarely did the Apostle Paul create dependency. 

And yet that is what we do! We have been creating dependent parents for at least three generations. Our wonderful parish programs are sometimes such an embarrassment of riches that the local economy (catechesis in the home) is rendered unnecessary and collapses. Or, at the very least, the local population (families) feel ineffectual and unable to meet their own needs. 

What is the solution? Certainly not replacing great programs with boring ones, or even stopping all parish catechesis of children. What then? 

Well I looked at Ripkin's article for what he found as a working solution for the world of foreign missions. The folks he spoke to in these persecuted communities all said that they didn't know what a good missionary should do, but they knew "who they loved", and all of them (in the particular area where he began this quest) named one man. When questioned further about why this particular missionary was so great, they reluctantly said "He borrows money from us."

In other words, he needs them as much as they need him. They felt he was a partner with them, not a giver, giving to the takers. 

So, the questions we should be asking about how to better catechize children in a parish setting are not the ones centered on books, crafts, activities, or even teacher training, but how do we allow parents to be TRUE partners in this venture. How do we, as catechists, become dependent on the parents in such a way that they feel empowered? 

I can't say that I know exactly how to do this, but I know at the core of it is relationship. If priests and catechists in a parish setting can be in relationship with each and every family that has children and needs help with catechizing their children, then we might have a chance if impacting that little family economy in a positive way. 

Crazy? Completely unrealistic? Try changing the world with a pack of 12 sinful, faulty, not extraordinary men. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Internet Introductions

I have a good friend I want you to meet...

I almost said "you both" because I am pretty sure I have two faithful readers....but I am also pretty sure my failure to write with anything resembling regularity has caused any other readers to assume I am gone for good. I am not gone. Just waiting for inspiration. And now, back to my original point....

...she is an old friend, though she isn't old (unless I am...and I refuse to accept that) and she is a funny friend (which is just one of many reasons why I want you to meet her), and she is a smart friend (yet another reason). And she is MY friend...what more do you need? 

Her blog is called Slow Going Life

If you have seen this very important movie, you will recognize something in title.

If you have ever asked yourself questions like "Why did my mother look more put together at 16 than I do at 40?" or "Why can't my kids get ready for bed in 5 minutes (typical commercial break)?" or "What the heck is "cheese food"? then you will definitely be interested in her blog. 

If you haven't asked those questions, then maybe you should. Read the blog. 

Now, remember, she is MY friend, so don't expect us to be those everyday bloggers, or even every week bloggers. But when we (meaning she) blogs, you can bet you will enjoy it. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Mother's Prayer Companion: A Review

I first heard about it on Facebook. 

An old Ann Arbor friend, Christa, recommended A Mother’s Prayer Companion, created by a friend of hers from Franciscan University of Steubenville. Right off the bat I could see it had to be a good recommendation. Christa (whose recommendations in the past had been so spot on*) and FUS (my alma mater). I checked out the link. 

After perusing the website, filling a basket, then backing away while I doubted myself (“Would I just use it for a few days and then forget about it? Would it end up a pretty binder and a good idea, but no follow through on my part?”), I finally bought it. 

I was very excited when I got it. I put together the binder and got a pen and pencil case to fit it and found the perfect place for it—on a little table, next to a comfy chair that I had just moved into my bedroom to be my little prayer corner. 

I think it took a few days to actually sit down and use it. 

At first, I read through the pages-- one for Jim, one for each of the kids and one for me. For each person there were spots to write down gifts that I am thankful for and intentions. I wondered if I should write it in pencil, in case I make a mistake (like I could make a mistake about what to pray for?!!). Or should I find colored pens to make it all pretty? (No, that was too much pressure). 

Instead I filled out the “other intentions” page…that was easy. Black pen felt bold and confident, but I did it anyway. 

There, I was ready to pray. I just read through each page, stopping to fill in the blanks in my head. The prayers were what my Catechetics professor would have called “Scripture speak”. Verses from the Bible, slightly altered so that they made sense as a prayer. The citations were there and I looked up a few. But mostly I just read through each one, inserting the correct name and intentions and gifts. 

I was hooked. I finally felt like I was DOING something about all the things that swirl in my head—Will this child ever get over that issue? Will that child ever find his/her place in life? How do I help that child develop that gift? How can I help Jim with work? 

After about a month I began to write down intentions (in pen), and soon I was writing the answers to some of those prayers on the blank page opposite! 

I also wrote down gifts to be thankful for, including those little characteristics that are trying now, but you know are really a future gift in the making (her intensity, his entrepreneurial spirt, her single mindedness). 

Although I can’t say I use it everyday, and I often forget to bring it to adoration, it is my place to go when I feel myself fretting, and it is my anchor when I don’t “feel” like praying, or I am so distracted I feel like I “don’t have time” to pray. It has become such an integral part of my prayer life that I began to wish my kids could hear me pray some of these words: 

I praise you Lord, for (fill in the name) is fearfully and wonderfully made. 

What kid wouldn’t love to hear their mother say that about them? So I took parts of the prayers and copied them onto another page and began to pray aloud over each of my kids at bedtime. It was already our routine for me to pray something, like the Memorize, over them as I said good night, so this was easy to substitute once in a while. Then it became a nightly thing. 

They loved it! I could see my youngest grin at me in the darkness as I said the words. My boy would cuddle down deep and lean into me while I prayed over him. 

After a few months of this, my boy asked if he could pray over me. To my surprise he had it memorized perfectly. He put in “Mama” wherever I usually said their names. Now I was the one grinning in the darkness and leaning in to cuddle a little. 

After all of this, it was a no-brainer this past Christmas to buy one for my sister, sisters-in-law, and my mother. 

If I could buy one for every Mama I know, I would. Instead I write this, so you might go check it out and get one for yourself (or any Mama you know).

*About 16 years ago I showed Christa the online profile of a man named Jim, and she confirmed that I should write to him, and the rest is history.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

{p,h,f,r} The Perfect Butter Dish

I am using this blog post that I wrote a few weeks ago as my {pretty, happy, funny, real} post today. Because both my butter dishes are {pretty}, they make me {happy}, I think it is {funny} that the best one was here all along, and this whole post is about getting {real}....and this is all about contentment today. 

A few years ago, when we first moved to Texas, I began looking for a new butter dish. Wait, I think the search began even before that, in California. 

At any rate, I think it was because we started using Kerrygold butter a lot and it comes in a big block…too big for most butter dishes. 

After an exhaustive search I finally settled on a “butter bell” and I found the perfect pattern. It was from a Polish pottery website and I couldn’t wait to get it. 

When it came I began using it right away. A block of butter fit into the top part perfectly, and then I filled the bottom with cold water. I changed the water daily and it worked quite well for awhile. But come spring, I began to notice the butter slipping out of the top section into the water. It was just too warm in the house to keep it solid enough. 

The Butter Bell went up on a shelf to look pretty and I began to use various bowls and dishes for my butter. In the winter I went back to the Butter Bell. It worked pretty well, but there are still some issues. The way you lift it up is by a round handle on top, which is fine when you have a knife or spreader in one hand and the butter dish in the other and you are just taking a bit of butter for toast or to put in a pan. But if you are buttering something larger or using it repeatedly you have to set the butter part down on the counter on its handle. Then it gets messy and is hard to pick up again. 

So this past winter, I didn’t take it out again. And I continued to shuffle the butter between various bowls, some with lids, some with wax paper on top to keep it fresh. We use it so fast freshness really isn’t much of an issue. A block is usually going to sit on the counter no more than a few days. 

One day, just before Christmas, I had to put a new block of butter out and I had no clean dishes of the right size. So I grabbed a Christmas coffee cup (of which we have many) and shoved the butter into it. It fit perfectly. A little piece of clear wrap or wax paper and we are on our way. 

Now I love this “butter dish”. It has a handle, so picking it up and holding it to spread butter is easy.  The butter knife can just be stuck in it when it has to be on the table or used repeatedly. And when we are done I cover it with a little piece of clear wrap and to looks quite pretty. I can even leave the little butter knife in it and wrap the clear wrap around the handle. And when the clear wrap gets messy (like butter dish lids ALWAYS do) I just replace it. Easy peasy, lemon squeezey. 

After all that, I had the perfect butter dish in cupboard all along!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

{pretty, happy, funny, real} Through the Eyes of a Kennedy Kid

The World Through the Eyes of Kennedy Kid #3


A! Where are you? "I've been over here inside the Nativity Scene"

At first I wondered why the Baby Jesus was not in his crib.
Well, a King is holding The King. 

"Look Mama! There is a deer in the back of that truck!"

Only in Texas? Maybe. There was another deer head in the passenger seat and an antelope in the back seat.
For some reason I can't get the little Like Mother, Like Daughter button to work. I used to get it to work, but no longer. There are lots of little bloggy things that don't work anymore. Not sure why.
Head on over to Like Mother, Like Daughter and see the other {phfr} posts and all the other great stuff!