Friday, August 31, 2012

Overcoming the Storms in Life and Celebrating the Recovery

{photo courtesy of http://www.best-of-web.com/ }
When our nephew Aaron died  in October 2008, we were made aware of Celebrate Recovery which helped Mark's oldest brother and his family through this very tough storm in their lives.

This paticular storm encircled their family for years. It lashed, it bruised, it hurt, it quaked, it beat at them.

Today's sharing at Celebrate Recovery makes reference to our most recent hurricane and the effect storms have in our lives:

"Storms are a fact of life. And in Louisiana, as well as the rest of the Gulf Coast, we are prepared for them. We still don't like them. They take people and things that are precious to us away. We wonder how we will ever go on? And that's when I wonder, how do people make it without a faith in someone greater than themselves? Because one fact remains, as constant as the storms, the clean up will...begin and life must go on.

"Just like in our lives, there are people who are nowhere near the weather-related storms, but storms in their own personal lives are reeking just as much havoc. And that's where a faith in someone greater than themselves is the only way to survive with any quality of life.

"So whenever you have a moment to pause today, please remember the people in the path of Isaac. And also remember the people who have personal storms going on in their lives today as well in your prayers. Thank you, Jesus, for the strength to overcome the storms that come our way."

~ Mac Natl. Dir. West
 * * * * *
 
Aaron's death was, in a weird sort of way, God's hand vanquishing the gales and winds and pelting rain and calming the storm. In the storm's aftermath, the family looked around and it was not the outcome they had hoped for, it was not the healing they had desired, it was not the calming they had prayed for. They were left with the aftermath of death, the havoc of emotions, the messiness of loss, and the clean-up of the lives left behind. They didn't like it.

Some might even say the prayers of Aaron's family were not answered.

That's where faith comes in. Sometimes faith is the only thing left standing after a storm.

My father's experience in the Korean War makes him comment often, "You will never find an atheist inside a foxhole."

Let's expand that to include, "You will never find an atheist inside a storm."

We hate storms and the destruction they leave behind. No doubt about it. Without faith we never rebuild.

If we don't have faith in a God bigger, better, and stronger than ourselves then we are indeed flying without wings and flying without wings is a foolish way to fly.

Storms are a fact of life. We cannot outrun them. They visit all of us.

Do we prepare the house of our soul for them? Do we wrap ourselves in the safety net of Scripture? Do we anoint our wings with prayer and sacraments so they will be subtle and flexible enough to fly above life's storms?

It is in our best interest to do so. We must do our best to rise above the clouds so as to find the hidden message within.

If we cannot look beyond and above the storms of life, we will forever live inside of one.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Gumbo and Hurricane: A Perfect Blend


After a late morning of sleeping in and a breakfast of cinnamon rolls and coffee, my older children left the house and the younger ones went outside to visit a friend in the field and make a kite from plastic shopping bags, ribbons, and string as well as a duct-tape purse from a Cracker Barrell paper bag.

You know...things you make when there's a hurricane trying to blow down your house.

 

 
Only the wind didn't blow today. It didn't rain. It has been, indeed, very quiet outside. Puffs of wind every now and then. That is it.

We are found on the pie-shaped particle of land in SW Louisiana which is not gridlocked inside Isaac's path. I've been keeping up (via FB) on family and friends who live in the path of the hurricane. Many have lost roofs, have leaking ceiling, some have flooding in parts of their house. One friend said her patio was fixing to collapse. Many are without electricity.
 
It seemed like a good idea to all concerned...school officials and city officials and the town children alike...to close the schools down.  In our household that means college kids too. In Louisiana it's just a good excuse to shut-down schools and make a gumbo.
 
In the yawn of Wednesday morning it seemed ridiculous to be indoors preparing to hunker down for a hurricane. Where was the hurricane? That's when the girls ran outside. And I began to cook.
 
I feel mildly guilty that, in a feverish realization of the weather getting bad, I over-bought. But let me explain: the one thing a family does during a storm is eat, and eats a lot.
 
And so I bought. And just about everything I bought was related to comfort...comfort food...making everything as simple and easy as possible while making everyone as comfortable as possible even if we were in the mist of a storm with no electricity, no lights, no A/C, and no access to restaurant carryout.
 
I picked up some frozen pizza...that got eaten last night.
I picked up some watermelon slices to snack on.
I picked up salad fixings which my daughter-in-law and I made into a hearty meal at lunch today.
I bought bags of chips and lots of canned meats, canned stews and soups, and canned fruits. My daughter has a gas stove next door so we can at least warm up food if we loose electricity. Huge plus!
 
Oh, and water bottles.
 
My sweet tooth and my desire to make a lockdown a little bit sweeter for the whole family also got the best of me. Into the basket went preparations for: peach cobbler, apple pie, and banana bread.
The banana bread is already baked. The apple pie is baking.
 
There's vanilla ice cream in the freezer too...for the apple pie...but which can easily be eaten between all ten of us if necessity demands.
 
And did I mention the ingredients for the chicken and sausage gumbo and potato salad?
The gumbo is cooking on the stovetop right now. The potatoes and farm eggs are boiling happily.
And the apple pie is smokin' in the oven.
 
If the winds of Isaac knock on our pie-shaped plot in SW Louisiana, the damage (if any) will be done tonight.
 
But the gumbo is cooking, the pie is baking, coffee's brewing, the wind is now blowing, God's in His heaven, and all is well with the world. :-)
 
Hope all our Gulf Coast neighbors are faring equally well.  Just remember to...


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Beautiful and Vibrant @ 91

My father's older sister...my godmother...my aunt...turned 91 the other day. Isn't she beautiful?

 
Beautiful and vibrant.
 
She has traveled the world at large, gone to places most of us will only dream of. She raised 3 sons and loved 5 granddaughters well.
 
She was 10 years old when my father was born and she remembers sewing him little rompers to wear and having him tag along to her girl scout meetings.
 
I look at my 10 year old girlie. We sewed an apron together once...once. I don't think we ever finished it. Times were different back in 1931. They didn't have a Wal-Mart. America had entered a deep, dark Depression. Little girls wore aprons. Grandpa was a barber and Granny took odd jobs when she could. Older sisters sewed and took care of baby brothers.
 
It empowered them. It made them into vibrant young women.
 
Nanny Ruth still goes to the local gym to exercise and swim. She's very intune to Facebook. She is not afraid to keep learning and stay in touch. She is as open-minded to the changes of today as she is to the goodness of the past.
 
On her birthday she wrote:
 
"Today I am reading by computer some of my favorite 'old' poems such as
 'Old Ironsides' and 'The Highwayman' (very sad). I still remember them by heart (from my literature class in high school). Of course, I did forget a few words here and there."
 
I'm thinking what a treasure that is. Her mind is still alive and full.
 
What a gift it is to give our children prolific literature and poems during their younger years...thoughts and ideas and words that will stand by them in their winter of life when everything else is stripped away from them. Words that will keep their minds alive and clicking and vibrant well past the years of training.
 
I know there have been times my husband and children have groaned with the weight of my bookshelves. There were times I have almost buried them with my suggestions and recommendations of "Here's another book you must read!" "I want you to read this." "Have you read this yet?"
 
Reading my 91 year old godmother's words put my anxiety to rest. There are never enough words, ideas, thoughts to share with my children. Never! We must share!
 
Especially when I look and listen to today's world. The world is full of ugly, heartless, distastefulness.
 
More than likely it was in 1931 as well.
 
We must replace it with:
  • independent work of our hands
  • quality literature and poems
  • responsibility for and to others
  • vibrant expectations
I hope and pray that I'm as beautifully alive and vibrant when I'm 91.
For today, I'm reading "The Highwayman" with my 10 year old.
 
 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Home Learning for Us This Year

This year is a first. It's a totally different year from what we're used to.

Our oldest is married and beginning a new job position (one he went to college for), and living next door. His wife is a medical technician at the local Children's Clinic. They're doing extremely well.

We have two in college. Likely this is the only time that will ever happen.
Our oldest daughter will graduate as an RN this December. This summer she externed at a local hospital and loved it. I'm so glad. It's important to love the work of one's hands. Her fiance' is right behind her as a Computer Science major and we're equally proud of him. They have both worked while going to college. Hasn't been easy. They both know how to stretch a dollar and work for what they want.

Newly graduated son begins classes on Monday. Please keep him and his studies in prayer.
It's a new beginning in many ways.

The fourth is taking classes at the ninth grade campus nearby. She wanted to try this strange thing called red-mortar schoolhouse for a very long time. She can be very headstrong and is very persistent. Since fourth grade she has reminded me that homeschooling consist of experiencing things and being brave enough to try new things. She took the ACT in 8th grade scored what she needed for college TOPS. She took the LEAP test and scored at Mastery level which put her in Advanced classes at the ninth grade campus. I was ready to graduate her...only she's still young.

So this leaves us with...Annie Claire.
Just one little student at home.
And she's happy that way.
And I'm happy that way.

My, how the years have flown since I went to the red-mortar schoolhouse in 1997, pregnant with #4, and un-enrolled a little boy from school and brought him home to begin this homeschool adventure.

And, while I do miss the early years, I am grateful beyond measure that I was gifted with them at all.
But there are no fun "little" posts this year. Those are the "fun" years, those early elementary years. While my youngest is still in elementary, it's getting more serious with junior high lurking around the corner. Still, with her being a lone student, my focus is on keeping our learning days fun and full.

This is the reason for the total change in what we've done in the past.
Here is just a scribble of what our school plans are this year.

Trust me, they are the most random we have ever been.
We even departed from our tried and true CHC and Seton materials.
Completely. Changed.

Briefly we are keeping it very unschoolish and Charlotte Mason.
We will include friends in any parts of our learning venture. Friends are welcome at any time. Planning our day this way opens various doors for little friends to enter at any time no matter when or what we are studying.

At the request of my little student, I've agreed to set-up some kind of St. Francis Nature Club where we will take some nature hikes, do nature study, and keep a nature notebook.

For everything else we will do what we have always done...make the environment our learning center.

Math? Socializing?
No worries.
We are still doing co-op classes every Monday morning, dance on Monday and Thursday evenings, CCD on Wednesday, Keepers second Tuesday of each month, 4-H first Tuesday of each month, and monthly EDGE group.


I took my lone student to the Teacher's Aid Shoppe recently and let her pick out any workbooks she found interesting.  (Saxon Math is just a given...dull as it is.)


These books are for her to do while I do my office work and writing. It's what I've always called "table time" which has been my meager way of teaching my children consistency, perserverance, accountability, and diligence. Staying on task is what the school system calls it. Lol We each have our space in the new office and we will both be productive with paper, words, ideas, and journals this year.


Many of the books she selected are 3-D, interactive maps. You read, research, color, cut, glue, and assemble the sheets. Very simple to do, even on her own. I see lapbooks and bright notebooks exploding around these books.

Some other loose unschooling ventures we'll play around with this year are:

Reading
Oh, yeah! my favorite activity of all. We shall read and read and read. She has begged to read Kisses for Katie since seeing her sisters read it so I handed her her sister's greatly worn, over-read copy of it. We will also continue with our Little House read-alongs on car trips.
Believe it or not, my 10 year old still enjoys picture books read on sofa and at nighttime.
It's something we both enjoy and I'm going to focus on using them with more purpose this year than just selecting random ones off the shelf at will.
Viewing
We plan to filter our Netflix queue with old classics...especially from classical books that have stood the test of time.
Any favorites? I'm all ears.
Art
Anything that creeps, crawls and cries ART!
Photography Shoots will be planned weekly!
Personal creative journal time especially for that nature notebook.
Science
No science class is being offered for my 10 year old at co-op this year so she requested we do nature study and a nature notebook like in the 'old days' at the local state park.
Translated, this always seems to be the option my children use to get out of doing science for the year and they know I never deny them this choice.
I see my last elementary student growing up. We are so going to do nature study this year.
Full blown! As mentioned above.
Studies?
Uh, yeah, I guess that is a big part of home"schooling". So...
That's where co-op comes in. Co-op guides us into our week. Co-op sets the pace for the other book learning.
Structured, tutored math class with Saxon.
History class (combined with reading at home) and interactive notebook.
Grammar/Vocab/Poetry Memory class.

I've also added plenty of editing workbooks to her curriculum. By year's end she will be well versed in editing.
Physical Activity
P.E. at co-op for group games.
Dance classes twice weekly.
Religion
CCD classes weekly.
EDGE Youth group.
Liturgical Year observed at home.
Mass every Sunday.
Prayer time daily.
Nature walks.
Maybe stations with a friend in the prayer garden on Fridays followed by a picnic?
Music
This year our co-op is offering a Music Theory class.
Not sure we're up for it but we're going to attempt it and get see how it goes.
To learn to read music is a lovely plus to our year.
The class is being offered; we're taking advantage of this blessing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Breaking Bread with Cardinal Dolan

Cardinal Dolan explains his invitation, in his own words, to handshake President Obama at the Al Smith Dinner.

And I applaud his willingness to eat with would-be sinners and saints alike. I've already read some dialogue of Christians who are offended, upset, and in disbelief  that he would do such a thing despite this letter of explanation.

To me it's as simple as being graciously Catholic, generous with our time, our faith, and our discussion. Simple good manners, if you will, and good, honest civility which the world is greatly in need of. The Cardinal is right! People are tired of negativity and name calling. As mature Christians, can we not meet one another halfway with "positive, upbeat, patriotic, enjoyable, civil discourse"?

As mature Christians, I believe we can. As mature Americans, I believe we must.

It's a challenge, yes. Are we up for the challenge?

If we aren't then we may find ourselves sitting at the table alone and reaching no one in the process.

"In the end, I’m encouraged by the example of Jesus, who was blistered by his critics for dining with those some considered sinners; and by the recognition that, if I only sat down with people who agreed with me, and I with them, or with those who were saints, I’d be taking all my meals alone." ~ Cardinal Dolan

I have always believed in the breaking-bread-together mentality. If we do not sit and dine with positive, upbeat, patrioic, enjoyable, civil discourse than our neighbor will likely find someone who will. And they will sit and discuss us and our waays without our input or our clarity. It is better they sit at our table and taste the sweetness of Christian manna than to discuss a recipe they have never tasted. It is always better to break bread together.

Even Jesus broke bread with Judas.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

When You Are Not a Good Nurse

I have a new column at CatholicMom.com...

It was written a few years ago when I was staying at the hospital with a family member. When the website it was published on was taken down, and my laptop was on the blink, I feared I had lost my thoughts forever. It's a scary feeling to think one's thoughts are lost forever.

My husband performed CPR on my laptop and part of my mind was revived. So I'm resharing it in hopes that it helps revive someone. Anyone.

I'm not a very good nurse, mind you, (have no idea how I produced a daughter who wears that hat). She takes after her daddy, I'm sure. I'm not even a very good nurse's aid, but I've done my share of serving when I could around my family's needs. I serve because I am called...not because I enjoy it, certainly not because I like it. In fact, I'm pretty pitiful at that job.

I'm such a bad nurse...let me tell you...that my husband is the one who usually held the babies when they were sick. They convalesced on his chest.

What am I, you ask? My job is more janitorial. I'm the one who strips beds and lysols tiolet bowls and mops vomit off floors. I don't deal well with emotions. I'm a "let's fix this quick and move on with things afterall, life's too short" type person.

I used to hate that about myself. I wanted to be the one who could dry the tears, comfort the distressed, still the soul.

My conversion was in learning that we need the janitors as well as the nurses.

But God comforts us, doesn't He. And He knows how. He sent me a husband who knows me well. Surprisingly, I am the calm one in times of emergency (for the most part, perhaps not always). My husband, as comforting as he is, does not care to sleep with sick children. Feverish bodies are delivered to me when every last little is cleansed away.

I have slept with them all, placed cool rags on hot foreheads, rubbed backs endlessly, administered medicine, dried tears, and bathed small bodies.

I don't enjoy it; I certainly don't enjoy it. I am such a bad nurse that I am well aware of the ugliness of suffering, sickness, and growing old. Life and the care of it is not always pretty.

The realist in me demands that I admit this. The human in me runs from this cross. But there are times we have to be Simon of Cyrene, even when we protest loudly and fretfully.

So...for all you Simon of Cyrenes out there tonight...walking the walk, carrying the cross, supporting the crucified body of Christ...we are...walking with you in prayer tonight....



The Paschal Mystery Renewed

"I stand alone at the hospital window looking down. Votive lamplights burn their nighttime vigil over a twilit parking lot void of white horses and golden chariots, no gladiators or princes to ward off the phantom who silently glides out the back door, no hope of happily ever after. It’s just me and the parking lot, a gaping carless receptacle where earlier I could not find a single space to park my car. It now stands like the catacombs of old, mournfully vacant.

"There is no life, no beckoning, no forward motion; only stillness and darkness that lingers. Oil spots anoint the spots of healers and ministers.

"A car passes on the road beyond, then three. A car turns into the vacant parking lot, then two. The car shifts, quivers, purrs, then is still. The headlights flicker, then go dim.

"Silent, reverent figures walk across the parking lot and enter beneath the moth-enshrouded lights. It is not a place one comes willingly. I know. These are not the family troubadours who have come to herald new babies into the family. Those will come later in the day. These visitors are the soldiers, the family warriors, who have come to cradle, cleanse, comfort, and console the body of Christ. They come to renew, refresh, and revive those who kept watch at Calvary."

:: read the rest here :: Paschal Mystery Renewed

God Knows the Outcome of the Race (and Souls)

Second thing I heard after the announcement of Paul Ryan as Romney's running mate was that he was a bad Catholic and I questioned it...on Facebook...because everyone is so so quick to say if we're a good or bad anything.

This drives me crazy.

The first response I received was from my aunt-godmother who has 91 years experience with this type stuff.

Is Paul Ryan a good Catholic or a bad Catholic?

Her response? "He knows."

She's right, of course. He knows. He know all. He knows who is a good Catholic and who isn't, who is a good Christian and who isn't, who is in name only and who isn't. He knows who is Christian on the inside as well as on the outside. I appreciate my aunt-godmother's reality check.

One Facebook response was that Ryan's budget plan would immediately draw criticism upon him. Of course it will. Those critics will find some way to fault him as a Catholic and as a prospective VP.

God knows. It is not for us to scrutinize and tear apart.

Another reality check came from my friend Larry: "There is no perfect candidate."

True that. There is no perfect candidate, no perfect Catholic, no perfect Christian. No perfect any of us.

I never discussed politics until I got on Facebook. Probably because I didn't know enough or didn't care enough.

Now I realize that I was smarter before I had Facebook and the Internet at my fingertips.
Why? Because I did not concern myself with matters that were not mine to concern myself with. Seems the advent of Facebook and Internet have made us all experts on the state of everyone's soul.

Ridiculous!

I'm going back to pleading ignorance.

Are we talking affairs of state or soul? Some would argue they are one and the same. Personally...and this is after much bantering many conversations with a deacon of our church...I believe state and church should be separate. Not in the ideal world, of course. For that I am all supportive of church and state. But in the murky reality of this world, I am totally against it.

 Again...I'm going back to pleading ignorance.
My concern is here in my home and, as God has called me, within the ministry of my church parish. It is not statewide and abroad.

It is here on Lewis Street and within a 5-minute drive to my church.

God knows the candidates' hearts. God knows the reality. We rest in that and continue to battle our own fights and struggles and home budgets.

I am not saying we should stick our heads in the sand but I find it appealing that women should go back to focusing on the home and children and matters of church. Let God and honorable men concern themselves with affairs of state.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My Common Kitchen & Enchilada Recipe

I didn't go to Chick-fil-A today and it isn't that I don't support them.
We support them all year long.
Our friends operate the local joint and they are also a Catholic homeschooling family who believe and support the Christian values and ethics that has distinquished Chick-fil-A long before this past week.

I was proud to see so many Christians twitting and facing and going out in full support today to show their unity for Christian values and freedom of speech.

I knew had the girls and I gone we would have bumped into more than a few friends and enjoyed the comradary. We would have welcomed a loooong line in order to visit loooonger with friends and fellow Christians.
There were three things that kept me away this dayspring.
1) I knew the lines and crowds would be crazy and looooong.
2) The radical movie theatre shooting would not quiet itself in my mind. I am neither superstitious nor can I predict future events but I just didn't want to go there. Yeah, strange-O, I know. I just didn't want to go there. That's all.
3) I can (and will) continue to support Chick-fil-A. One day does not a make or break a business.

So this evening I stayed in my hazy kitchen and decided to make chicken and spinach enchiladas using a recipe my friend Lorena shared with me.
I only had a list of ingredients and flew with it. That properly qualifies me for grandma-status. :-)

My girls love this recipe so I thought I'd share it with friends.

I also thought I would share a picture of my hazy kitchen and how it looks when I'm working over a hot stove. ;-)

I am not the neatest cook but I do clean up as soon as my pans are popped into the oven.
My kitchen process strews pans and packages and plate across my limited countertop.
But I focus on the process instead of the mess.
People who are bothered by the mess don't do justice to a kitchen. I'm sure their kitchens don't see half the amount of cooking and baking that mine does.
So I welcome the mess.
In fact, I intentionally set-out to make sure my kitchen has productive, creative messes every week.

Lorena's Cheese and Spinach Enchilada's
Season approximately four chicken breasts.
Cook well and shred.
Put in bowl and mix with package of fiesta cheese (or cheddar---I use fiesta Mexican blend because I find it gives it more flavor), package of defrosted spinach, package of corn, and sliced mild chiles.


May use either corn or flour tortillas. I used both because of the picky eaters in my house.
Stuff tortillas, roll, and place in pan.

Whip small carton of heavy whipping cream slightly.
Add tiny bit of salt and small can of green chiles (I skipped the chiles today because we do not like spicy).
Pour over rolled tortillas.

Top with more feista (or cheddar) cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.


As soon as these came out of the oven, I snuck in two trays of fresh yeast rolls.
And there is a bowl of green seedless grapes on the counter as well.

August is officially here and it's only going to get hotter.
Makes me think of salads again.

My middle daughter made a wonderful brown sugar/citrus chicken salad the other day which I plan to share as soon as I locate the picture. ;-) 

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