Tuesday, December 20, 2016

'Tis the Season for "Making Memories"

Have you ever heard the story of St. Therese and her Christmas moment? She and her father and sisters had just returned from Midnight Mass and she was looking forward to checking out all the gifts left in her shoes by the hearth. As she went upstairs to put her hat away she overheard her father say, in an annoyed voice, "Well, fortunately, this will be the last year!" 

He was tired. He was weary of keeping up the little childish traditions.  

(Whenever I use an annoyed voice with my sweet kids I try to remember that Therese's father is a canonized saint!)

Needless to say, Therese was hurt, and felt tears come to her eyes. But she received a special grace that night that allowed her to put aside her own selfish feelings and turn them into joy and gratitude for her gifts. (The story, in her words is at the end of this post.)

What does that have to with Making Memories? 

First of all, it is interesting to note that the memory her father made about Christmas--one that stands out in her mind so much that it was written in the story of her life--is the night he complained about "making memories". 

I can so relate to this man sometimes. At this time of year it is so easy for me to get all caught up in the wonderful things other people do at Christmas time. It is on the blogs, and smeared all over Pinterest. It is in the commercials, the Christmas movies, even my own photos from previous years. 

And now that my kids are getting pretty big, I hear an idea for little kids and wish I had done that. There was a great one about revealing the truth about Santa Claus and I found myself wishing we had done Santa Claus so I could have had this great moment with my kids. I am sure they would be better people today if I had. Don't you think?

Suddenly, I am tired and cranky. And I begin to turn a little green, with yellowish eyes, and a weird hair thing going on on top. Like this......





Then he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming,

"I must find some way to keep Christmas from coming!


For, tomorrow, I know all the Who girls and boys
Will wake bright and early. They'll rush for their toys!



And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!
There's one thing I hate! All the NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!


Okay, maybe I am not that bad. I really love Christmas and would never wish it didn't come. And, for the most part, I enjoy every little thing that we do--our little family traditions. 

But sometimes I worry that I am Therese's father, speaking with annoyance, and making the wrong memory for my child. 

Yet, on closer examination...it wasn't his complaint that made the memory stick in Therese's mind, but the Grace of God that filled her heart. She remembers it as a moment of conversion. I am sure there were many Christmas's that her parents felt were beautifully done, picture perfect, and an amazing memory for her childhood. But this one makes it to the book.  

It was Almighty God, the perfect Father, who took her father's weakness and made into this great moment. Therese was prepared for the moment by the nurturing of her faith, bit by bit, through every day of her childhood. It was the things they always did that laid the groundwork. The everyday stuff. Prayer, Mass, striving for holiness, repentance and forgiveness, work, talking about God, reading about Him. 


Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store.

Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!


And what happened then? Well, in Whoville they say
That the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day!



Maybe, if I stop and think about the whole concept of "making memories", I can remind myself that when we live life in a way that orients us towards the Source of all happiness, and with an eye to the place in which memories do not need to be made, the place where all that is good will be present to us and nothing will be fleeting, no joy will escape our grasp into yesterday---in this way we let God make the memories.  

It seems to me that, after all, the memories that matter are not the ones that begin "Remember that time we....", but really those ones that begin "Remember when we always used to....". Those are formative. They make us who we are. 

My friend Susannah makes a good point in her post, sometimes all we need to do to "make memories" is to name the thing that we always do. Declare it the tradition. 
If you usually begin to decorate on Thanksgiving weekend, say that "It's Our Tradition to decorate on Thanksgiving weekend."  They will look forward to it and it will suddenly become even more wonderful.  If you typically have pancakes on Christmas morning, call them "The Christmas Pancakes" and voila!  Instant tradition. 
And then let those things we always do be the build up to the memory that God wants to create. Make it the soil into which he plants the seeds that beautify the soul, like little Therese. 







A Christmas Memory from St. Therese:
It was December 25, 1886, that I received the grace of leaving my childhood, in a word, the grace of my complete conversion. We had come back from Midnight Mass where I had the happiness of receiving the strong and powerful God. Upon arriving at Les Buissonnets, I used to love to take my shoes from the chimney corner and examine the presents in them; this old custom had given us so much joy in our youth that Céline wanted to continue treating me as a baby since I was the youngest in the family. Papa had always loved to see my happiness and listen to my cries of delight as I drew each surprise from the magic shoes, and my dear King’s gaiety increased my own happiness very much. However, Jesus desired to show me that I was to give up the defects of my childhood and so He withdrew its innocent pleasures. He permitted Papa, tired out after the Midnight Mass, to experience annoyance when seeing my shoes at the fireplace, and that he speak those words which pierced my heart: “Well, fortunately, this will be the last year!” I was going upstairs, at the time, to remove my hat, and Céline, knowing how sensitive I was and seeing the tears already glistening in my eyes, wanted to cry too, for she loved me very much and understood my grief. She said, “Oh, Thérèse, don’t go downstairs; it would cause you too much grief to look at your slippers right now!” But Thérèse was no longer the same; Jesus had changed her heart! Forcing back my tears, I descended the stairs rapidly; controlling the poundings of my heart, I took my slippers and placed them in front of Papa, and withdrew all the objects joyfully. I had the happy appearance of a Queen. Having regained his own cheerfulness, Papa was laughing; Céline believed it was all a dream! Fortunately, it was a sweet reality; Thérèse had discovered once again the strength of soul which she had lost at the age of four and a half, and she was to preserve it forever!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Stop Saying "This is What Christmas Is All About" ...unless it is

I've got a seasonal gripe. It might make me sound Grinchy, but I can't help it. 

I keep seeing Facebook posts with a dubious claim. Sometimes it is a touching story of generosity, sometimes a pretty song. Or maybe it is just a beautiful holiday scene. Whatever it is, it starts or ends with:

This is what Christmas is all about!

Sorry. No, it isn't.

It is all over TV this time of year. I watch way too many Hallmark movies, as I said before. And the main characters of these sappy holiday TV-movies are constantly coming to the brilliant realization that baking cookies with kids is what Christmas is all about. Or that old fashioned decorations is what its all about. Or having coffee with your estranged mother, brother, father, boyfriend. Sometimes it is working with the poor, or gathering with the community to save an historical building, or saving a dog from...whatever. 

Now, I am not personally against baking cookies (proof is in my freezer), nor am I against having coffee with anyone, estranged or not. And, of course, I am not against caring for the poor, or saving historical buildings. And I like dogs. Really, I do. Don't own one, but, you know, dogs are fine pets. I don't want anyone to think I am anti-dog.

However....none of these things are "what Christmas is all about". 

So now, forget all those other TV characters and listen to Linus. 



Actually, I think there is another TV star who said it even better. Venerable Fulton J Sheen tells us what Christmas is all about in his book Life of Christ

No worldly mind would ever have suspected 
THAT HE WHO COULD MAKE THE SUN WARM THE EARTH
would one day have need of an ox and an ass to warm Him with their breath; 
THAT HE WHO, IN THE LANGUAGE OF SCRIPTURES, COULD STOP THE TURNING ABOUT OF ARCTURUS 
would have His birthplace dictated by an imperial census; 
THAT HE, WHO CLOTHED THE FIELDS WITH GRASS,
would Himself be naked; 
THAT HE, FROM WHOSE HANDS CAME PLANETS AND WORLDS, 
would one day have tiny arms that were not long enough to touch the huge heads of the cattle;
THAT THE FEET WHICH TROD THE EVERLASTING HILLS
would one day be too weak to walk; 
THAT THE ETERNAL WORD WOULD BE DUMB; 
that Omnipotence would be wrapped in swaddling clothes; 
THAT SALVATION 
would lie in a manger; 
THAT THE BIRD WHICH BUILT THE NEST 
would be hatched therein—
no one would have ever suspected 
THAT GOD COMING TO THIS EARTH 
would ever be so helpless. 

And that is precisely why so many miss Him.
DIVINITY IS ALWAYS WHERE ONE LEAST EXPECTS TO FIND IT.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Happy Birthday Dad! Can I have the candy bar now?

Today would have been my father's 81st birthday (did I count that right Mom?) And so he is on my heart and memories are flowing. Here he is as a little boy in Milwaukee. Isn't he cute?


Here he is as a little boy in Milwaukee. Isn't he cute?

One memory that Ethel reminded me of  is a small incident of tough love from childhood that has served me well all my life.

My Dad, a full blooded Italian--though American born,  had a big heart, loved hugs and was occasionally prone to tears. But, when need be, he could be tough.

So, there I was standing near the check out at the local drug store staring at a large rack of candy bars. Dad had said we three kids could each pick out a candy bar. This was not a regular thing, though Dad had a soft spot for sweets. Candy was usually reserved for Halloween, Easter and Christmas. But, for whatever reason, he said we could pick one out. My brother and sister quickly grabbed their favorites, but I was stuck. The Hershey bar or the Nestle's Crunch? Or maybe a Snickers? Special Dark or Milk Chocolate? Wait...maybe M&M's.

This indecision went on so long, and with so many threats to "Hurry up!" that my Dad finally said "That's it! No candy bar for you!" and he checked out without my candy choice.

I am sure I cried. Sweets were  are very important to me. But I can remember vowing to never let indecision paralyze me, especially when it came to inconsequential things, or those of medium consequence.

I have often thought about this memory when life's little decisions become difficult, everything from "Whats for dinner?" to "Do I make a doctor appointment about this?". I can't claim to be a great decision maker--after all, down deep I am still the same kid who couldn't choose a candy bar--but the little hard lesson early on reminds me that indecision comes with consequences. Real life consequences. Sometimes you just have to move forward no matter how unsure you are.

And it also gives me hope that those things that I nag my kids about, the ones that I think they will never get, may just sink in enough to serve them well someday when they are on their own.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Famous Cookie Dough Analogy

Picture from this recipe.
This is not an endorsement of said recipe. 


So I was trying to think of something to write and I searched my computer for the word "blog".  I know I have lots of documents in which I have quickly scrawled brilliant blog post ideas, most of which never made it to the blog. This is mostly because, on second thought, they weren't so brilliant. Although some of the time, as in today, it is because I went back to the note and had no idea what the heck I was thinking.

Today I ran across a document called "blog/cookie dough analogy".

Now that is enticing! What brilliance lays buried there?

Whatever it was, it is apparently still buried. Here is the only sentence written on that page:

You can’t fix the cookie dough once you put that tablespoon of salt in it. 

Wow! Profound...don't you think?

I can't, for the life of me, remember what I thought was so brilliant about this and what analogy was coming from it. It could be that I thought there should be some great lesson in the destruction of cookie dough...I mean beyond "NEVER DO THAT AGAIN!".

I do recall the story behind it. It is family legend.

We were making cookies with my mother and I believe there were some neighbor kids involved, in addition to my sister. Legend has it that I added multiple tablespoons of salt to the batter. In reality, it was probably just one. I am sure I misread teaspoon as tablespoon and it couldn't have been any more than one.

My mother thought she would save the day and multiply the recipe to accommodate the extra salt. Apparently it doesn't work that way. The giant triple sized recipe still tasted bad.

Lesson learned...when the mistake is salt, and it is huge, just start over.

So....writing prompt: apply this to life.

This is an analogy for......

I won't eve try to apply the lesson to the election in any way...trying to make any statement without offending anyone is like adding a half a cup of salt instead of a half teaspoon...ruin that cookie dough!

Well, how about this....some days, as a mom, you start with a huge dose of saltiness. And...and....those days need a do over, start again, go back to the beginning.....

That's it!! (here I can imagine Lucy yelling and Charlie Brown tumbling over)

I think this analogy applied just today.

You know when you somehow get on the wrong footing with a kid. You start down the path of grumpy, challenging interactions. And your thermostat keeps rising and the kid's attitude keeps getting, ummm... saltier, and you are headed straight to a disastrous and disappointing day batch of cookie dough. 

That is when you need to stop the escalation, don't triple down on that "What did you just say?" or that "What did I just tell you to do?".

Just start over. 

Go back to the beginning. (Why do I picture a drunken Portuguese swordsmen when I say that?)

Somedays that means a little dash of humor, a moment or two of easy direction following, and an offer to help with that writing prompt. Some days it means someone (read: me) needs to be sent to her room to cool off. Some days it means some other one (read: kid in question) needs to cool down in quiet.

But most of all, what is needed is a fresh start.

For some reason I have this incredible urge to bake cookies right now.

Maybe the kid sequestered in said room would like to help.




Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Important "Lessons" Learned from Hallmark Movies

True confession---I watch Hallmark movies. Yes, those silly romantic movies staring old TV stars and written for every holiday. Sometimes you just need to be able to watch TV without worrying about what you might see or hear--no autopsies, serial killers, or nudity. Just inane dialogue with a happy ending. 

However, they are not all fluff. I have learned important lessons from Hallmark movies. Here are just a few: 

1. All good people love dogs. If someone does not respond with the appropriate cooing and fussing to a dog, they are a bad guy. You especially should never consider marrying that person. 

2. All good people work for charities or companies that produce alternative fuels. No exceptions. Okay...they can own a bakery, but they have to do it "from the heart" and for the shear "love of making people smile". 

3. There are only really three plots for romantic comedies: 

A: boy meets girl, falls in love, one of them moves away, comes back engaged to a dog hater, and then re-falls in love with original old flame. 

B: boy meets girl, they hate each other, then are thrown together in an uncomfortable situation in which they fall in love (usually happens over very short time....unless it is the next plot)

C: boy and girl of rival families who hate each other (rival business, family feuds, whatever) and fall in love but have to hide it from the family. Spoiler alert...in the rom-com version of this they don't commit suicide. They usually all become friends and the couple marries.  

4. If a father is sports-minded, his son will want to go to Art School. 

5. Similarly, if the son is NOT sports-minded he must want to go to Art School.

6. Deciding to get married is "taking a chance". If it is the right person, you will just know, and then live happily ever after. Unless you are unlucky and your spouse decides they really hate dogs. Then you are out of luck. Shouldn't have taken that chance, huh? 



Wednesday, October 26, 2016

How To Be Popular And Win Lots of Influential Friends

Do you ever wish you had MORE friends? Even if you are lucky enough to have an Ethel or two, you may find that those close friends live too far away for lots of interaction, even in the land of the internet.

Well, I have discovered a way to make LOTS of VERY INFLUENTIAL and IMPORTANT friends in HIGH PLACES!

Okay, I didn't actually DISCOVER it. It as been around for about 2000 years. BUT, you may not know about it.

I can selflessly share it with you only because there are so many of these friends to be had that I know we won't be stealing from each other or anything. And you can even acquire these friends if you don't live any where near a cemetery!!

Have I creeped you out yet? It IS almost Halloween!

Don't be creeped out, though. This is the perfect time of year to begin gaining influential friends and to become popular in heaven.

So, here is how it works for us. We have trained our kids to do most of the work.

Each Sunday, on our way to church (a 50 minute drive) we pass at least two cemeteries.  The first one is a very small and old country cemetery with no sign, just a beat up iron fence and scattered headstones about the field. The kids will stop whatever conversation is going on and say "The cemetery!!!" and then begin to pray:

Eternal rest grant unto them and let light perpetual shine upon them, may they and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. 

Then they add a few names of our family and friends and we go back to conversation or whatever we are listening to on the iPod. We will pass another one within the first 20 minutes of our drive. By the time we have reached our parish church we have established "a bond of unspeakable sweetness" with lots of people whose names we will someday know.

"Here is an easy means of surrounding ourselves in eternity with many grateful friends, whose gratitude will augment our glory in paradise: for we can make all the friends we wish in purgatory. What we shall have done for them on earth shall establish between us and them, in eternity, a bond of unspeakable sweetness. God will reveal to them the good we have done them and they will know us to eternity as their benefactors. We shall find them crowding around to intercede for us when we come before the judgment seat of God."
(from Purgatory and the Means to Avoid It by Father Martin Jugie as quoted in the November Magnificat) 
With All Soul's Day coming up on November 2 it is the perfect time to start your campaign for friends in High Places. Of course, with All Saint's Day is just the day before, you can do those friends even bigger favors by asking the intercession of the Big Shots in Heaven on their behalf.

So, when Joe Schmo walks through the pearly gates and meets St. Thomas Aquinas who says "I know all about you, my good friend (fill in your name) told me all about you!", Joe will be very thankful for his good friend in that lower place.

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, gossip....you 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.

Nope.

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 word...it 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 thing...it'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

{pretty}
The World Through the Eyes of Kennedy Kid #3

{happy}

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. 

{funny} 
"Look Mama! There is a deer in the back of that truck!"
 {real}

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.
Anyway.
Head on over to Like Mother, Like Daughter and see the other {phfr} posts and all the other great stuff!
”round

Thursday, January 7, 2016

{pfhr} Catching Up With Christmas Edition



 On one hand it seems like it was just yesterday. On the other hand.....well you know. For my {p,h,f,r} post today, here are some pictures from Christmas Eve in no particular order since I am not up for the frustration of loading them into my blog one at a time, or for moving them about the post. 

{pretty}

A hawk came to hang by the pool that day. He waltzed up and down one side, ever watchful, then he flew low to the other side. He looked like he was going to do another fly over, but he was scared away.


{happy}

Christmas Eve gifts...new warm pajamas for everyone. Too bad it was too warm to wear them!

Bikes for Christmas!! I remember my own "bike Christmas"...a purple, one-speed bike with flowered banana seat and tassels on the very high handle bars. Incidentally, one of my favorites Christmas moments as a parent is this last moment Christmas Eve in front of the tree with the gifts all around, and all the little Baby Jesus statues in place.
Silent night, holy night.


{real}

And I bravely include a picture of myself. We are decorating the "upstairs tree".  We do all Christmas decorating on Christmas Eve, though the trees themselves have been up (with lights) since the first Sunday of Advent.


{pretty}

One of the last things to do before bed is move the Holy Family statue (which has been wandering around our backyard all Advent) to the "stable" under the trees.


{happy}

M. on her cool new bike with a big basket in the back. Now, if we only lived close to a grocery store I could send her for last minute stuff.


{funny}

A. thinks she is going to climb the tree. Silly girl!

{pretty}

This picture goes up above the one with the kids placing the Holy Family in the "stable". You can't see them but they are moving it into place.


{happy}

Happiness is our Advent reading tradition...the Jotham's Journey series with our Cradle to the Cross Wreath.


{pretty}
The same picture as above without the flash. You can see our Fontanini nativity scene in the background. 

{funny, real, happy and pretty}
They love to hold the Baby Jesus statue, but it isn't really a good thing if they fight over it right?
Good thing they don't have to fight over the Real Jesus!!

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 was the year...

  • We let total strangers walk through our house multiple times. (no we are not crazy or unusually social…our house is on the market in the hopes of selling it and moving closer to Jim’s work) 
  • We read aloud as a family…a lot!
  • We dipped our toes in the Liturgy of the Hours, using online resources
  • We sailed in Newport Harbor with Captain Uncle M. (March trip to So. Cal)
  • We met the newest nephew/cousin, W. (March trip to So. Cal) 
  • We played in the waves of Manhattan and Redondo Beaches in March—at least the kids did (March trip to So. Cal)
  • We spent a warm day hanging out with Grandma at a swanky outdoor mall near the famous Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles. (March trip to So. Cal)
  • We spent lots of great time at Grandma’s house, including visits from Aunts, Uncles, and cousins. (March trip to So. Cal)
  • Carol and Annabelle had a chance to visit with a relative from Switzerland whose one day at Uncle L. and Aunt D.'s happened to be the day we arrived in California! (March trip to So. Cal)
  • We swam laps and kept track of how many
  • We watched hours and hours of Premier League Soccer
  • We walked the golf course at night
  • We studied the Theory of Constraints
  • We studied Economics at Hillsdale College (via Youtube)
  • We became virtual parishioners at our Lady of Good Counsel in Michigan and fans of Father Riccardo
  • We discovered an Anglican-Use Catholic Parish nearby and started enjoying their liturgy
  • M. had a Jane Austen themed 13th birthday.
  • A. had a Swallows And Amazon’s themed 9th birthday
  • D. had a Geography/Maps themed 11th birthday
  • Carol had a Starbucks themed ## Birthday
  • Jim had a birthday
  • We enjoyed two…count em TWO!… visits from Carol’s God-daughter, our niece/cousin M.! 
  • We visited the No.Cal. contingent of Carol's family (November trip to No.Cal)
  • The kids helped Uncle R. play his electric guitar (November trip to No.Cal)
  • The kids panned for gold in Coloma (November trip to No.Cal)
  • We did a drive-by of our old house in CA. (November trip to No.Cal)
  • We re-visited the spot where we got engaged -see picture (November trip to No.Cal)
  • We visited with an old friend, Father Cavalli, who was the priest that concelebrated our wedding and baptized all of our kids. (November trip to No.Cal) (see update below)
  • We walked along Fisherman’s Wharf, saw the sea-lions, bought a Sourdough baguette and ate it while we walked to Ghirardelli square where we tasted the chocolate. (November trip to No.Cal)
  • We wandered all around Union Square looking for the place we “always” go to lunch, the place that we went to multiple times with Grandma and Grandpa…but it was gone. (November trip to No.Cal)
  • We entered the world of orthodontics when M. got braces
  • We began a weekly Bible study using the Sunday readings...just us and the kids
  • We began listening to lots of Scottish and Irish folk music
Finally, this year, as in years past, we have missed all of our friends and family that are so far away.  You are always in our thoughts and prayers. 
The Kennedy Family

Jim, Carol, M., D., and A.
(updated to add our meeting with Father Cavalli, which was omitted from the original post. Also to add that he passed away on February 5, 2016. We had a feeling it was our final goodbye when we saw him in November, 2015)