Saturday, August 30, 2008

Little Known facts About Sarah Palin

I am dying laughing ... these are great ... here are a few to whet your appetite, then click through for many, many more.
Little known fact: Sarah Palin makes Andrew Sullivan regret some key life choices.

Little Known Fact: Sarah Palin is the only woman who can make Tony Romo WIN a playoff.

Little Known Fact: Sarah Palin knows how old the Chinese gymnasts are.

Little Known Fact: Sarah Palin wears glasses lest her uncontrollable optic blasts slaughter everyone.

Little Known Fact: Sarah Palin doesn’t need a gun to hunt. She has been known to throw a bullet through an adult bull elk.

Little known fact: Sarah Palin is on loan from the Justice League.

Little known fact: If placed into Schroedinger’s experiment, both Sarah Palins remain alive.
Much thanks to Scott Nehring for these ... I'm tellin' ya, that guy knows just what I like (which is somewhat of a mystery considering just how often we disagree about movies)!

Worth a Thousand Words

Sparrow by my favorite "heartland" photographer, Hey Jules!

Life Without the Kids Around

We really don't like that "empty nester" label so we are not going to use it here.

Do we miss them and love the kids? Of course! We enjoy each and every phone call or email. We still discuss them all the time.

We find that having the pets back home provides a needed transition of having someone to do something for. Which need is rapidly diminishing ... especially as the cat decided to express her displeasure with my timing adjustment of her early-morning routine by squatting on the carpet in front of us. She then discovered just how accurately Tom can throw his glasses (thank heavens the coffee cup wasn't the closest thing to him!). We later saw her peering around the corner from Rose's door and even her much-loved canned cat food isn't luring her out.

I also have discovered that when I clean off the hearth or table in the back room ... it stays cleaned off! It's like magic!

It is a funny thing to feel that one has so much more free time because the kids are largely self-sufficient when at home. They drive themselves places, do their own errands (for the most part), and such like.

I will say that, at least in these first few days, it's like a second honeymoon. Quite wonderful to have all this time with one's spouse ...

Off the Map: There's a Couple of Hours I'll Never Get Back

Why take one hour to say what you could say in two, especially when one has so many gorgeous shots of New Mexico to scatter around?

For that matter, why say much at all? Why not just generously scatter some very quirky characters around, being sure not to add much depth to them, and then get some very talented actors to portray them?

I am not sure where I read the review that led to me putting Off the Map on my movie list but they've got some 'splainin' to do.

At least Schultze Gets the Blues and .... oh, that terribly depressing movie about the nursing home ... were rented on the strength of their trailers.

Recommendation: if you want to go to Taos and be wooed by the scenery, rent this movie. Otherwise, avoid at all costs.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Happy Catholic

That is what flashed through my mind when reading Sister Julie's comment of our meeting earlier this week. (I'm talking about #3 in this post.) She cracks me up!

Worth a Thousand Words

PB&J No.12 by Duane Keiser

How does he do that? I mean, you could pick that sandwich up and take a big bite, couldn't you? For more fantastic paintings, click through the link above.

'Tis the Season for ... Bipartisan Truths

You Know You're a Republican If ...
Your father warned you about marrying a gold digging babe...unless she signs a prenuptial agreement.

You Know You're a Democrat If ...
Your mother warned you against marrying a man who is so focused on his career and making money he has no time for soul-searching conversations.

Sarah Palin ... Where Have I Heard That Name Before?

I see that John McCain has picked Alaska governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate.

Alaska governor ... Palin ... that rings a bell ... oh, right! The Palins earned my respect and admiration with their reaction to learning that their baby might have Down Syndrome when born.
Once her husband got the news, he told her: "We shouldn't be asking, 'Why us?' We should be saying, 'Well, why not us?'"

There was never any doubt the Palins would have the child, and on April 18 she gave birth to Trig Paxon Van Palin.
I see that the original AP story link isn't active any more so here is the link to what I featured at the time.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

A Penguin Bento* Box
from Cooking Cute, via SlashFood.


Who wouldn't love to open their lunch box and see this? (*Bento is a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal often used in Japan.)

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

And only 147 emails to read!

(Not counting the 292 in Junk Mail, of course.)

We got Rose moved into her posh new place in Chicago and it sure wasn't easy! As an institution that organizes move-ins, Columbia College is a dandy fine arts school. Sheez! However, it is done and Rose's apartment is much nicer than we could have expected. Floor to ceiling windows in the living room and bedroom, on the side that does not have the "El" running by every few minutes. In face, there is a lovely old clock tower to look at just down the street.

I was also happy to be strolling around the neighborhood with her and to get south of Roosevelt Street. The neighborhood begins to look a bit right before that but suddenly perks up again with redone condos, restaurants, and a full-size Jewel-Osco grocery store. We went in on Monday evening and the place was hopping with a truly diverse clientele which just reinforced the vibrant feel of the neighborhood.

As one might expect, Rose is a bit homesick but hopefully when classes begin she will be so busy that she won't have time to miss home. This is exacerbated some by the fact that her roommate, a very nice girl, has parents who still haven't left ... although their daughter was moved in two days ago. I understand wanting to get things just right but at some point one simply must let go. The roommate's time is being taken up with her parents when she could be exploring her new surroundings and getting to know her roommate (which would be Rose!) and her neighbors a bit better. Ah well ... at any rate. They leave today for their 20-hour trip to Colorado. (Perhaps they were just putting off the inevitable, dreaded drive back.)

A big highlight of the trip was our visit to Loyola Press. After corresponding with Michelle for a long time (and getting some great review books, natch) it was such a pleasure to meet her in person. She generously spent a lot of her busy day with us and, selfishly, I enjoyed every bit of it. We hit it off right away and I loved getting to talk face-to-face, which surely is a luxury these days!

We got a tour of the building and I also got to meet a great many very kind people. I am terrible with names but have firmly in mind the many smiling faces and interesting conversation of all who we met. Two whose names I do remember because I can give you links are Tom McGrath, author of Raising Faith-Filled Kids and Sister Julie, the blogger behind A Nun's Life.

I simply love Chicago and we did not get to spend nearly enough time there. To those who we didn't get to meet, most notably Paul and Marty, this trip was all about Rose. (The Loyola visit had been rescheduled so many times that you don't want to know, believe me.) When we come to pick her up we'll get together for a group lunch, maybe? Or some such thing so that we can all meet up. I know there are a bunch of other Chicago bloggers out there, such as Therese Z. who proudly puts "Chicagoland" as her location.

At any rate, back to Rose ... here's something from the movie that I watch when I'm feeling down. Nothing like watching Ripley kick some alien butt to life one's spirits, I always say ...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Back on Thursday


We're off to Chicago to take Rose to Columbia College.

I'm looking forward to getting to Chicago again and meeting up with a few folks there. I'm not looking forward to saying goodbye to Rose but I know she's going to have a fantastic time ...

Any prayers for our safe traveling will be much appreciated and we'll talk again soon!

While I'm Gone ...
Here's some good reading. Click through the story links to go to the blog. Click the "read more" link to see additional stories I've marked for my own reading.

Happy Families and Kids Going to College

All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
That quote has more wisdom than one might think.

As part of a happy family, I instantly recognized this sentiment from Another Espresso Please when telling of dropping off their son for his second year at college.
Why is it that a nineteen year old is supposed to WANT to cut all contact with his family, to strike out in a solo free fall in independence? Why do people say aw, but nudge with a wink when they hear of a kid who has just well, left, for good. Why is it considered "weird" not to, or as parents are you considered "helicopter parents" if you cry when you say goodbye?

Are we freaks?

Maybe, I guess. I like to say we are nurturing parents who love our kids and see them for the amazing people they have grown up to be and, shhhh, LIKE them! And that the kid(s) are nice young people who are generous and kind enough to endure their parent's desire to be with them and actually enjoy it a little bit as well.

So the question comes again: Why is it that to be and stay connected to family is considered somehow suspect or freaky?
We actually enjoy spending car rides with each other, though I must say that we probably would prefer it if Chicago could manage to be a bit closer than 16 hours driving distance (and just think how lucky they would be to be that much closer to Texas!). We leave tomorrow to take Rose to college there.

Go read that article and just consider that we echo it with, of course, our own family's quirks in place of theirs. Lucky happy families that we are. God has blessed us.

Four Books I Began and Now Must Read ...

I don't have time to read these books now but I got them, read the first chapter of each, and then realized they are so good that I must put them on my "to read" stack. So many books, so little time ...

I list them here so that if your "to read" stack is not as tall as mine then you may find and begin them sooner. They look fantastic, I'm tellin' ya.

The Word Made Fresh: Communicating Church and Faith Today
by Meredith Gould
I'm a fan of Meredith's books. However, the title made this look like something I should pass along to our deacon so he can lend it out to the church's office staff. I should have known better. The first chapter alone had some good, solid spiritual commentary that made me realize, "The deacon can't have this book! I have to read it myself!" Also, practically speaking, any Catholic blogger is also in the business of communications for the Church. So there might be some good tips for us bloggers in here as well.

A Well-Built Faith: A Catholic's Guide to Knowing and Sharing What We Believe
by Joe Paprocki
I'm looking at the cover to this book and thinking, "Another book explaining Catholicism! We've got enough!" Well, no, we don't and it only took the first chapter for me to see that. Joe Paprocki uses plenty of real life examples and the four pillars of the Catechism to write in an engaging way about our faith ... and it got me interested and looking at a couple of things afresh. Good stuff there...

Life of Christ
by Fulton Sheen
This one needs no introduction to me. I have read it halfway through several times! A spiritual classic written by one of America's great communicators, Archbishop Fulton Sheen, this melds the four Gospels and looks at Christ's life as a whole. Brilliant. I am going to take this as a prompt to finally pick it up again and finish it. Highly recommended. (For samples of this book, look for this tag. I see that I have excerpted it extensively.)

Treasure in Clay: The Autobiography of Fulton Sheen
This one didn't need any selling to me (see Life of Christ commentary above). However, I dutifully read the first chapter and realized that if anyone was a patron saint for bloggers, it might well be Fulton Sheen (yes, I know he isn't a saint yet). His commentary in Life of Christ always seemed very humble and I am looking forward to reading this book which looks as if it is told more from an interior point of view than being events-based.

Baton Twirling, Ribbon Twirling, and Contortionists

You know, I can go to the circus and see that sort of thing. It is not really what I would call a "sport" and certainly not what I am looking for in the Olympics. (Which mirrors my disgust for ice dancing.)

I'm not necessarily opposed to new sports in the Olympics. The BMX racing last night definitely required athletics to just make it to the finish line, never mind in what order.

But this rhythmic gymnastics? No. I don't think so.

Next we'll be having dance recitals with gold medalists.

Happy Birthday, Dear Hannah!

Hannah's is at A&M today...we celebrated her birthday last week. She called last night and made this mother proud because she made herself a Chocolate Cheesecake. I know this because she called from the store last night with questions about chocolate cookie crumbs. I said, "But you don't have a springform pan." She replied, "I have one now!" (Yes, that's my daughter!)

I'm am repeating this birthday post from last year of the things she loves best ... nope, not cake ... simply lots and lots o' critters. I found them irresistibly cute so wanted to see them again. I am betting Hannah will like them too.

Happy birthday and we miss you, Hannah!
























Thursday, August 21, 2008

Christianity and Cheeseburgers

You can always count on Jen at Conversion Diary to have a real-life way to consider your faith.

There are just enough cheeseburgers for the family, her little neighborhood friends stop in, everyone is hungry ... what do you do ... what do you do?

Jen isn't telling until tomorrow but she's inviting everyone to tell what they would do in her comments box. I just left the solution that popped into my head ... go read the whole thing and then think about what you would do.

Worth a Thousand Words

Red Door
2008 D L Ennis, All rights reserved. Visual Thoughts
Used by permission. Click through on the link for more fabulous photography.

27 min., 21 sec. !

That's what happens when you have the Set Game in a set of bookmarks, toward the back, and finally work your way around to that tab.

On the plus side, the second time through my time was much better ... 1 min., 53 sec. ... still shamefully slow considering I'd done it once already that day!

Now and Forever by Ray Bradbury

In some ways the most interesting part of the two novellas that make up this book are Ray Bradbury’s introductions. He explains that both “Somewhere the Band is Playing” and “Leviathan ‘99″ have their origins in his long ago days as a Hollywood screenwriter. These explanations hang on in the listener’s mind and provide insights and color for the stories that follow. ...
My review of the audio book is up at SFFaudio. Highly recommended for Ray Bradbury aficionados!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

There Will Be Blood ... and Judgment

Blood and Judgment
by Lars Walker

After reading a great review for Wolf Time by Lars Walker I turned to the library to see what they might have by him. Turns out they had only one book ... Blood and Judgment.

A combination of Shakespeare, fantasy, time travel, and parallel universes, this is an action-filled book that manages to also examine relativism, political correctness, honesty in education, and many more issues of our time.

The story in a nutshell is that in the midst of putting on a local production of Hamlet, the entire cast is whisked off to the "universe" where Hamlet is real. It turns out that there really was a person upon who Hamlet's character was based. He and the actor playing Hamlet wake up having had their souls put in each others' bodies ... which are also in different dimensions from each other (so to speak).

If this sounds confusing, it accurately reflects my state of mind as I delved into the book. I really enjoyed the beginning when the author took enough time to introduce to some characters, allowed them to interact enough to examine ideas, and gave us background on motivations. However, once the dimensional "switch" took over, I felt as if just when I started enjoying a scene the author was grabbing me by the hand and telling me to "no more time for that; run over here and see this!" I am no expert but I believe that more time taken with the characters, as well as fewer characters and subplots would have been a plus. Or perhaps a much longer book in order to adequately allow Walker to discuss all the ideas therein. It did not need to be densely packed as Eifelheim but it simply was not fair to the author's concepts to handle them in a book this short. More importantly, this author has something to say about Christians and Christianity that needs more space and discussion so that it doesn't just "preach to the choir" but opens others' minds to the elemental concepts here.

I did enjoy this book. It just was not all that it could have been and the potential was clearly on display which became a frustration toward the end. I definitely will be on the lookout for others of Walker's books, hoping that they are not as rushed.

Worth a Thousand Words

Red-Backed Sandpiper, taken by Remo Savisaar.
Click through the link for more amazing photography.

Canadian Price Gouging


Quick background ... Schering-Plough is building a new factory that will open next year to provide that allergy-fighting wonder, Drixoral, to the yearning American masses. Many people besides us can testify that Drixoral works when most other products don't. In the meantime, Schering-Plough has shut down the only American plant that did manufacture Drixoral (the logic of this move escapes us), leaving us wandering blindly through pharmacy aisles buying whatever we can get our hands on that might work halfway well. Which is not much, let me tell you.

I turned to the internet and began buying Drixoral from Canadian providers because their Drixoral plant is working perfectly well and they are more than willing to exchange drugs for dollars (so to speak).

The average cost for a package of 20 Drixoral tablets - $11.99. Fairly comparable to the U.S. price of $9.99 that I was paying at Krogers.

Until last night.

Tom went cruising to make an order and found that those same 20 tablets are now $46.99.

Oy veh!

Assiduous searching can find a Canadian supplier here or there who is not making hay while the sun shines but they are few and far between. Far more are charging anywhere from $35 on up for 20 tablets.

Shameful.

How do you know when it's been too long since you've played the Set Game?

When it takes 5 minutes, 15 seconds to find all 6 sets.

Aargh!

I used to be in 2 minutes or less territory. Must play daily ... must play daily ...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Now This is Just What I've Been Looking For!

Introducing the new Bio-Optic Organized Knowledge device–trade-named: B.O.O.K.

BOOK is a revolutionary breakthrough in technology: no wires, no electric circuits, no batteries, nothing to be connected or switched on. It’s so easy to use, even a child can operate it.

Compact and portable, it can be used anywhere — even sitting in an armchair by the fire — yet it is powerful enough to hold as much information as a CD-ROM disc....
I. Love. This.

Read the rest at Coffee Klatch.

Worth a Thousand Words

57 Chevy Bel Air by James Neil Hollingsworth
Click through on the link above for more wonderful ar
t.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Amazed by monsters ...

[...] Some remain unexplained. Some are laughable. Some are both. But they don't bother me at all. It's not that I believe in them. Or don't. But their existence would fit quite nicely into my view of things.

I just love the documentaries of monsters and mysterious beasts you see on the History Channel or A&E. I really do. You have the 50 year old pot bellied hunter standing in the woods recounting his tale of how he narrowly escaped death at the hands of a (insert monster here) and even though his camera was around his/her neck they just didn't think of it in time. If only, huh?

But then they cut to the man or woman in glasses and a sweater who, sitting in their air conditioned office at some local college, explain how this sighting could easily be explained away as the work of imagination (meaning a case of beer), or just fabrication entirely (meaning that ol' son of a gun is lyin' through his teeth.) Then they talk about how little chance there is that something exists which we don't know about yet.

I know it says something about me. Perhaps I have a strong anti-authoritarian streak in me but I almost always find myself siding with the beer swiller in the woods mainly because we agree on one underlying principle: We don't know nuthin'. We agree fundamentally that there's more to this world than we think we know. The beer swilling hunter can still be amazed. [...]
Plus they've had the fun of drinking the beer. Which any Catholic can understand!

Creative Minority Report uses Bigfoot et al as a springboard into the nature of faith. Nice. Check it out.

Worth a Thousand Words

Saturday, August 16, 2008

We finally caught up on Lost

So it turns out that Hannah is taking one of our cars to college (we have managed to inherit a couple from Tom's mom as she gave up driving) and all her stuff fit into the car! And she drove herself so we effectively have an extra day at home. Woohoo!

Also, our email is down. Which is a pain to Tom who is dealing with our server, but nice for me as I am cut loose from a couple of obligations I need to send out to people.

SO, Lost ... only three months after the finale. Ha!

  1. Long ago I thought the guy in the coffin had to be Locke. Then they faked me out enough so that I figured it had to be someone else from the slender group of possibilities. Dang! I was right the first time.

  2. Ben. So why does he give a rip about The Island? He can't go back. Why does he care at all? Rose says it is about vengeance for Alex. Huh. His heart doesn't have those layers. There is something else going on.

  3. It was nice to see Desmond and Penny get to have a happy ending. Though I will be very sad not to see Desmond anymore.

  4. When they moved The Island they didn't mess around, did they? I don't know what I expected but for sure I didn't expect it to essentially sink below the surface of the water. Now, that was an interesting concept ...

  5. I guess the fact that Locke had been visiting people was the reason Kate was telling Aaron that she was sorry while sobbing prettily. Because she must be planning on going back.

  6. I liked Hurley and Mr. Eko playing chess. Even if I had to imagine Mr. Eko. And Sayid ... his "safe place" surely must be The Island, right? Because he's working for Ben now?

Friday, August 15, 2008

All Hail Your Cyborg Queen ...

... or so The Anchoress would have us believe as she chants vespers for us during the retreat.

Myself, perhaps I have been assimilated and am so cyborg-ish that I couldn't hear it. I think she sounds lovely and I love that she cared enough to do this for us.

And, yes, Anchoress, we can now put you in our iPods and carry you with us wherever we go.

Do go listen. It was a real treat for me.

Thank you, Anchoress.

Jeffrey Overstreet's Insight into Woody Allen's Newest Movie

As he broadens his geographical interests beyond Manhattan, Allen's understanding of love seems to be narrowing. His work should be taking him deeper into complex and revealing stories about the heart. Instead, he's becoming more and more preoccupied with the lurid and the lewd. In the end, like Cristina, he comes away knowing only what he doesn't want, never managing even a glimpse of what he, his characters, or his audience, really need."
Jeffrey Overstreet reviews Vicky Cristina Barcelona at Christianity Today. He does a great job, as always, in a comprehensive review.

However, the excerpt above really struck me as this is something I have been noticing as well. It is sad, really, as one would have hoped that Allen's horizons would have broadened over the years. Of course, Allen has always been bewitched by sex, oftentimes to the exclusion of broader visions. And there is that old saying ... there's no fool like an old fool.

The Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary: Holy Day of Obligation

I haven't had a chance to cruise the blogosphere and see anything about today's Holy Day of Obligation (that is your reminder!), The Assumption of Mary.

However, looking through my archives, I came across this post and checking out the links saw that there was some cracker jack info there that is well worth revisiting. The Anchoress and Et Tu Jen (oops, Conversion Diary ... it is going to take me a while to get used to that new name) have both been reposting archived posts and I have been enjoying those ... in that same vein, let us proceed with celebrating this solemnity!


Shamelessly stolen from Summa Mamas, because I love Asian art.

So many all around St. Blog's parish are doing a wonderful job of talking about the Assumption that I will direct you to some of them:
  • Way of the Fathers leads us to this celebration's deepest roots in Christianity and Jewish foreshadowing. Very cool.

  • The Grail Code looks at this feast day and uses it as a launching pad to finding the real sacred feminine.
    What Dan Brown is telling people, and I think he believes it himself, is that there was a beautiful old pagan paradise where the Feminine was sacred, but it was stomped flat by jackbooted Christian storm troopers who demoted women to property. What was actually true, of course, is absolutely the reverse: women were property--often more liability than property--to pagans, but to the Christians they were people, each one uniquely valuable as a person with a soul, not as property. If a pagan left an infant girl out by the road to die, a Christian was likely to pick her up and raise her. It's no wonder that the Christians seemed to have all the women long before the time of Constantine.
    This is a follow up to a very good and recommended post where he examines how history is arbitrarily changed in order to show what we now feel to be true of the past. (For anyone who is a Josephine Tey fan, let's all say it together ... Tonypandy!)

  • Insight Scoop has some good books and articles about the Blessed Mother.

  • My Domestic Church has very practical advice about how to celebrate these special feast days.

  • The Paragraph Farmer gives us a bundle of really good links as well as some cogent thoughts of his own in what she said.
My own contribution is also to point out how to celebrate this glorious day.

Celebration

If you followed the tradition of abstaining from fruit since the beginning of August it is easy to see where this celebration begins ... fruit salads; fruit juices; fruit cobblers, shortcakes, and pies.

The Catholic Home mentions another good celebration.
Express your constitutional right to religious freedom by skipping work to hit the beach after mass on August 15. If anyone asks, explain that you're simply observing "Our Lady's Health Bathing," a venerable custom among Catholics in Ireland, England, and parts of Europe. on this feast day, Mary's blessing extends to natural bodies of water, so taking a dunk in the ocean or a lake, stream, or river is also beleived to have salutary benefits.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Are We Remembering to Retreat?

The Anchoress is working her fingers to the bone, or so it would seem to me, to give us five or six daily helpings of good material for contemplation.

I would start you off with a favorite but I honestly have gotten something great from each of them. So go do a little leisurely wandering through the great writing over there.

Well, I do have a favorite but it is a personal thing ... The Anchoress used Rose's presentation intended as a starting point for prayer in this post. Scroll to the bottom for the link. I watch it every few months and always find it a good reminder about Jeremiah and the fire inside.

Worth a Thousand Words

Wang Meng, The Simple Retreat
Click through on the link to read more about the artist at Lines and Colors.

God's Labyrinthine Ways Or Finding Joy in Unexpected Places

One of the things that I possibly have mentioned but not really dwelt upon is that one of God's great gifts to Tom and me have been friends. Many, many friends. Not that we were unlikable or anything but in today's increasingly busy and isolated world it was difficult to find friendships beyond the superficial ones of fellow "school parents."

What makes this extremely obvious in my mind is that one year we held Sunday Soup Suppers for several months. It was an open invitation, which I sent several times to a large group of people. We would have open house from 5:00-8:00 with a kettle of soup and accompanying breads and cheeses for any families who felt like dropping in. We weren't looking to become best friends with people but merely to deepen the acquaintances we already had. It was surprising how very few people took advantage of the offer. Those who did seemed to enjoy themselves, as did we, but it was clear that this was a concept that just didn't fit into the lifestyle of the people we knew. We chalked it up to experience and moved on, wondering how anyone can find a community these days.

However, once I participated in the Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP) retreat all that began to change. Not only did I have my fellow "team" members of about 20 women who I got to know very well, but the people from the teams before and after mine were now among those "nodding acquaintances." Naturally, I became very close with a few of these people but went past the mere acquaintance stage with many others. The truly delightful part of this is that I likely never would have encountered most of these women outside the CRHP experience at that time. Many of them were young and single. Even the older ones (yes, around my age) were those I'd never even seen, which is not really surprising in a big parish like ours. Tom found the same thing when he went through CRHP in the session after mine, and then again, when he participated in the "road team" that helped the Ennis church begin the retreat in their parish. We didn't go into it for the "community," for the friends, but it was an unexpected side benefit that has enriched our lives immeasurably. God is so efficient in that way. What a multi-tasker!

It was friends from CRHP who asked if we had any interest in helping to bring the Beyond Cana marriage enrichment retreat to our parish. We jumped at that chance for our own reasons (What marriage is so good it doesn't need enrichment? Answer: none). However, we soon were reaping the unexpected benefits of "community" and new friends once again in meeting couples that we likely never would met otherwise. As well, again we also were making scores of new acquaintances.

Whew!

Still with me? Because that's all background ... not even the main story (yes, it's one of those posts!).

Last night I had one of the most delightful encounters ever and was thinking back this morning to trace just how it came about. If I hadn't stopped to do that, the title of this would be something about how giving of yourself brings greater rewards than you can imagine. Also very true, but not the whole story as we shall see.

The Beyond Cana retreat ends on Sunday with everyone attending the 11:00 Mass together. On the way there, for a variety of reasons, primary among them that I was reading in the car (I know better than that but did it stop me? No!) I suddenly felt so terrible that I had Tom drop me off at the house. Both girls ministered very lovingly to me and after one dashed to the Central Market for pomegranate soda and quesadilla supplies, I began to mend. I recovered by afternoon and then faced the dreadful fact that I was going to have to attend the 7:30 Mass. There's nothing wrong with that Mass at all. It was my sheer laziness at not wanting to leave the house in the evening. However, Hannah was already going and I had no excuse not to, so there we were. Outside, she ran into my friend, Grace, who later emailed me about their conversation ... and took that opportunity to ask Tom and me to be the "married couple" for a panel discussion with some Boy Scouts for their Piux XII medal which is about vocations.

Well, who better suited to answer those questions on the fly than a couple who has helped to put on five marriage enrichment retreats? We agreed, not dreading it but not looking forward to it either. It was a way to help out these boys so that was fine, one more thing to put on our schedule and dutifully take care of.

We showed up for the panel and it was an agreeable way to spend the evening. The boys were intelligent and had some good questions (for which our Beyond Cana training was quite helpful in articulating the vocation of marriage). The other panel members clearly also were intelligent and well spoken. They had considered their vocations in terms of how they were living their lives and their faith. Especially interesting for me was when Brother Anthony, who will take his first vows in a couple of weeks as a Cistercian monk, responded about the difficulties and blessings about his vocation. He was not necessarily saying anything I hadn't heard anywhere else, but he had an inner passion and clarity that was riveting. Equally interesting, although much more meandering, was the friar who is a hospital chaplain and was much older. He had many good things to say about vocation as well, we just took a more scenic path getting there. And scenic is just fine. It makes life interesting.

The person I was most interested in hearing about, though, was Susan whose description was "transitional single." What the heck was a transitional single? Turns out that in this case, it is someone who focussed on career to the exclusion of considering marriage in the past, but now is open to the married life (if I have this right). She impressed me with her concise, well thought out, and complete answers.

Something that one of the panel moderators, my friend Grace, pointed out to the boys in concluding is that a common thread of everyone's conversation had been "community." That struck me as I had just been forcibly struck at Mass last Sunday by how many people I knew in the pews all around us. They were Beyond Cana couples, CRHP friends, and, yes, those "regulars" who always sit near us and who we now chat with occasionally due to long familiarity. How connected we were to community and how important it was in our lives. How good God is to bring us all together in worship to remind us that community, family, is a necessary joy.

After the panel was done and the cookies were being passed around, Susan approached Tom because she recognized his name as the person who prints out our parish newsletter, The Spirit. She mentioned that she is the new editor. I was instantly thrilled. For several years, that newsletter has devolved to the point of being a depository for out of date Girl Scout photos and the like. No one I knew read it at all. Then the June/July issue came out and I saw with delight that it had substantive articles, well written, and with depth that made me print it out to read. This was that person! Woohoo! (Go take a look at that issue in the sidebar for the link above ... we'll wait ... this woman is a brilliant writer who engaged me with St. Paul's life in the main article.)

She looked pleased and, as we began talking, I brought up a project I was working on that we could coordinate with each other. I gave her my card. Y'all will find this funny but my card has my phone number, email, the blogs, and my podcast. (Tom was tired of me constantly scribbling on the backs of old envelopes when I met people.) I was explaining away all the extraneous info and she asked about the podcast.

Then ... it happened.

I mentioned reading aloud China Court by Rumer Godden.

This was a hope beyond hope because no one I ever meet in person has ever heard of Rumer Godden. (It's a lonely world out there with just The Anchoress and me shoving Rumer Godden ... and Georgette Heyer ... in everyone's face all the time.) However, I am nothing if not loyal and stubborn so I still bring them up in conversation with people.

Her eyes widened, she smiled wider, and said, "Rumer Godden. She's so wonderful."

We sank into chairs and began talking books as fast as we possibly could.

We walked to our cars and still couldn't stop talking. One thing flowed into another, more connections were made, more similarities found. We finally tore ourselves away later into the evening. The one thing that we both made sure to do on the way out was to thank Grace for inviting us to be on the panel. In doing our duties by these Boy Scouts, and it must be noted, for our community, we had been given an extra gift that we would have otherwise missed. We don't even go to the same Mass. I barely recognized her as a lector from the few times we have gone to her regular Saturday Vigil Mass time.

It is such a wonderful thing when you "click" with a person in just a few minutes. Undeniably it is one of life's great pleasures. Something that leaves a smile on your face and your spirits high for long afterward. In a very real way, it is like falling in love ... that communion of souls that fills a gap we didn't know we had until then. What a surprise. What a joy.

And what a long route of coincidences it took to get me there. From CRHP ... to Beyond Cana retreats ... to feeling sick and attending a late mass ... to Hannah and Grace talking ... to Grace's need for married panel members. A long and winding road to be sure, in which this budding friendship is not the main point but surely one of the wonderful benefits along the way. Let me say it again ... God is so very efficient, such a multi-tasker. All for our good and, quite often, if we are open to it, for our joy.

These are the things that God has in store for us ... things that so often are beyond our imaginings ... things in which God knows we will delight and which He delights in giving. He is good. And I am grateful.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Days with My Father

Beautiful. Touching. Inspirational.

Real.

Take some time to admire the beautiful layout and photography, and most of all, the beautiful story of a father being told by his loving son.

Via Saint Superman.

Update: I also just saw the above blog being called perhaps the saddest blog I've ever read. Perhaps because I've lived with the idea of Alzheimer's for so long (my great-grandmother had it, my grandmother had it) that I've come to terms with the idea that it afflicts people the way it does? I looked at it as tribute from a son to his father, almost a celebration of the qualities he loves about his father, not the sadness of the father who often isn't (literally) himself.

In the News

A delegation of Episcopal priests from Fort Worth paid a visit to Catholic Bishop Kevin Vann earlier this summer, asking for guidance on how their highly conservative diocese might come into “full communion” with the Catholic Church.

Whether that portends a serious move to turn Fort Worth Episcopalians and their churches into Catholics and Catholic churches is a matter of dispute. The Rev. William Crary, senior rector of the Fort Worth diocese, confirmed that on June 16 he and three other priests met with Bishop Vann, leader of the Fort Worth Catholic diocese, and presented him a document that is highly critical of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

The document states that the overwhelming majority of Episcopal clergy in the Fort Worth diocese favor pursuing an “active plan” to bring the diocese into full communion with the Catholic Church. ...
I was pretty surprised to read the above story in The Dallas Morning News. For those of us who are interested, Get Religion tracks down the whole thing. Very interesting indeed!

Worth a Thousand Words

Georgia Girl by Karin Jurick
Click through the link to see more engaging art from a HC favorite.

If Ancient Rome Had the Internet ...

... lifted from Miss Cellania.
The destruction of Pompeii in 79 AD is the most viewed video at YouTube. The first comment is..."OMG so cool! Volcanos ROCK!"

Attila the Hun has his own MySpace page. Nobody ever rejects his "invite a friend" emails.

The domain "gladiator.rome" sells for the record sum of 1,000,000 denarii.

"Naked Cleopatra" is the top search term on Google.

Unfortunately, the Queen of Egypt dies an early death after misunderstanding IT's call to embrace an ASP solution.

Websites like "handsome-literate-male-british-slave.com" pollute the search listings thanks to generous commissions at the "slaves.co.rome" affiliate program.

Roman programmers moan about projects outsourced to cheap coders in Mesopotamia.

The Colosseum is renamed the eBay Colosseum, with free wireless hot spots outside the lions cage restaurant.

Nobody invents a spam filter good enough for the House of the Vestals.

Monday, August 11, 2008

An Inspirational Story of Love and a Prayer Request

There was no resentment whatsoever. While I know what they have experienced hasn’t been easy on them, you would never know it. Even Sam’s attitude, mind you he is only four years-old, was unique in and of itself.

After having spent a wonderful afternoon getting to know an amazing family, I drove off speechless. I have never in all my life met a family like them. I wonder if I ever will again either.

Tisha is the one who is going under the knife, not me, but as Jonathan told me their story, and as I looked into his eyes, I saw gratitude therein. Amazing gratitude. I shall never forget what I saw.
Little Sam Gappa has been fighting cancer most of his life. He is four. One would think that the burden that places upon a family and the child himself to be almost insupportable. However, that is not the case. The above excerpt was written by the husband of the woman who is donating a kidney to Sam. He is a witness to the Gappa's faith.

The Gappas are part of our parish and, although I have never met them, my dear friend Stevie keeps me updated on their progress. Here is a place where you can get her perspective on what it has been like to care for Sam throughout the ordeal.

Tomorrow, Sam gets his kidney transplant. The donor is a young mother of three young children. Go to Stevie's place, Wheelbarrow Manor, to read more about this inspirational story. I will borrow a bit of what she excerpted because I am so struck by the sheer love and generosity that makes Sam's transplant possible.
What kind of person would offer up a kidney to someone she doesn’t know? The kind of person who, too, has a four year-old son. The kind of person to whom God has been very good. The kind of person who believes in Galatians 6:10. The kind of person who believes in Romans 8:28. The kind of person who would hate to experience what Sam’s parents have experienced. The kind of person who has a respect for life.
The kind of person who is following her Master.

Please pray for all involved tomorrow as this kidney transplant finally happens.

Worth a Thousand Words

Monarch
by photographer extraordinaire, Hey Jules
(click through on the link for a larger look)

Ready to Go On Retreat?

The Anchoress is going on retreat for August and taking us with her.

So far The Anchoress has been sharing with us some of her best ... I will dare to call it classic ... writing which I remember but only dimly. It is good to see these pieces, whether for the first time or as a reminder of what is important.

Check it out!

The Faithful Traveler and the Miraculous Medal Shrine


Two of my favorite books are Catholic Shrines of Western Europe and Catholic Shrines of Central and Eastern Europe, both of which are subtitled "A Pilgrim's Travel Guide. I have often wished for as comprehensive a guide to the United States. Lo and behold, here comes The Faithful Traveler to fill that need, beginning in Philadelphia.

I am not much for watching travel DVDs, unless they are those that Michael Palin has done with clever commentary and an interesting theme (such as traveling around the world in 80 days). However, Diana von Glahn sent me a review copy of this DVD so I dutifully sat down to watch it, expecting to sample a bit and skip around before quitting. Unexpectedly I liked it so much that I watched the entire thing, including extras, and then told Tom he will have to watch. (He is much less resistant to this sort of thing than I am.)

First of all, Diana's screen presence is charming. She is serious about the subject yet there is always the hint of an underlying merriment that is most inviting.

Secondly, I didn't expect this to be a partial Catholic history class with plenty of fascinating information about the origin of the Miraculous Medal as well as about the Philadelphia shrine. Additionally, in order to make sure that viewers understand the concepts well, there is are brief explanations of Catholic concepts along the way (such as why Catholics venerate Mary or that the medal is not superstitiously viewed "as a good luck charm"). This means that the DVDs can also be passed on to nonCatholics who might have questions or be interested in the shrine. A nice touch.

The music is contemporary Christian but is not some of the sappy, overly sentimental stuff that I shrink from hearing. It is either upbeat or heartfelt, but good.

My only critiques would be that the information on the extras page is not large enough to read easily and that the word "amazing" gets a bit overused. However, as a podcast who has found that her favorite "make a noise while thinking of what to say next" word is "and" I can understand this tendency.

The Faithful Traveler website is loaded with information, including a blog that has many pertinent facts that would be helpful when visiting a location. You can see samples of the dvd or order it here.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Friday, August 8, 2008

How to Make Your Child a Gay Activist

Let's say you, like many Christian parents, have a child with strong and lasting homosexual longings.

Someone--maybe not Jesus, but Someone--definitely enjoys it when people who are trying hard to love one another and act well toward one another end up deeply hurting themselves and each other instead. Someone loves it when Christians trying to bear witness instead cause confusion, disappointment, and pain to those they love; when Christians, trying to support family values, destroy their own families. Someone enjoys it when Christians, seeking to love and support their children, hurt those children deeply.

How do you help that "Someone"? How do you make it as hard as possible for your child to accept Christian chastity and humility, rather than seeking solace in gay pride?

Let's begin at the beginning....
Brilliant. From Eve Tushnet ... I'm not sure I got the link right but scroll around toward the top if I didn't.

Watch Out Beijing ...

... Engrish.com has their eye on Olympic signage. Can't wait to see what turns up.

Worth a Thousand Words

La Sainte Chappelle, Paris
Shown here with permission from Ian McKillip.

Click through on the link above to see more of his splendid art.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Gospel of Matthew: Parables

I never thought about parables being in the Bible in other places than the Gospels. However, it does make sense. Everyone immediately understands the concept of a parable when Jesus begins that teaching method, which argues that parables were part of the culture.
BACKGROUND: PARABLES

Jesus did not invent the idea of conveying a message by means of a parable (see 2 Sam 12:1-7 for an Old Testament example). The Greek word for parable means "setting beside, placing two things side by side for comparison." The Hebrew word for parable has a broader range of meanings, including "proverb," "riddle," "metaphor," "story," "fable," and "allegory." Jesus' parables range from pithy sayings ("No one pours new wine into old wineskins"--Mark 2:22) to miniature stories (the parable of the prodigal son--Luke 15:11-32). Jesus' parables often use example from everyday life as comparisons that throw light on what God is doing through him or how one should respond to what God is doing. Jesus' parables are vivid but sometimes enigmatic. They are meant to be thought provoking, to stimulate the listener's reflection. Sometimes they confront the listener with a decision Make up your mind--where do you stand? Some scholars have claimed that each parable makes only one point, but that is an artificial restriction. Some parables are like diamonds, revealing new facets of meaning when examined from different angles.
My review is here of Bringing the Gospel of Matthew to Life by George Martin.

A Little Useless Information

It is a very sad thing that nowadays there is so little useless information. -- Oscar Wilde
KEITH • Originally, someone named Keith was from a specific place, a town in Scotland on the Isla River. First used as a surname, it became popular as a first name in the 1800s.
The Word Origin Calendar

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Proud Mom Moment

Hi Rose-

Congratulations! You have been admitted to the Pilot Program for this year. Your essays were impressive and communicated a strong passion for learning and filmmaking. ...
Nice to see that Rose's college recognizes how brilliant my child is!

This pilot program is one that admits only 24 students. They will work together on core film classes. The film school is trying to see if this will be a better way to guide freshmen through what now takes quite a few different classes.

Should be interesting!

Quick Book Review: No One Sees God

No One Sees God: The Dark Night of Atheists and Believers by Michael Novak goes on sale today. I cannot comment too much since I got my copy of the book last week ... and, as everyone around here knows we've been putting on a retreat lately.

However, I did take the time to read the introduction and first chapter, which are my test of whether I will keep the book around at all. (That's a defense mechanism designed to leave me any time at all to read book of my own choosing.) I was hooked by Novak's honest, respectful approach to how to discuss faith with atheists. It went to the top of my nonfiction stack and will be picked up very soon, after which I will do a proper review.

In the meantime, please read Steven Riddle's review. I trust him completely and this review simply whets my appetite to dive into Novak's book. Steven begins thus:
In a word--superb. A quick review of this book shows that it is the same tightly reasoned, compassionate, engaging call to conversation and, it is to be hoped, conversion from one believer to other believers and non-believers. Mr. Novak's theme in the book might well be summed up in this excerpt:
from No One Sees God
Michael Novak


In my own life, I have tried to keep the conversation up between the two sides of my own intellect. The line of belief and unbelief is not drawn between one person and another, normally, but rather down the inner souls of all of us. That is why the very question stirs so much passion. I have known people who declaim so passionately and argumentatively that they do not believe in God that I am drive to wonderment: Why are they so agitated, if, as they insist, God does not exist? Why then do they pay so much attention? Some of the greatest converts, in either direction, are those who wrestled strenuously for many year to maintain the other side
Now go read the rest of the review and then pick up the book.

Informative: The Vatican and Harry Potter

Mark Banks writes to let us know:
You may remember some months ago the Vatican’s official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano published an article on Harry Potter that received a lot of coverage both in the Catholic and Secular press. Well, with the generous help of an Italian friend I’ve managed to translate the original articles from Italian into English. The two essays that constitute the article make for interesting reading and I thought you might like to mention them and/or provide a commentary on them on HC and CMR. Clearly there’s a lot of interest in Harry Potter throughout all ages, but these essays might be of particular interest to parents still unsure how suitable the books (and films) are for their children.
Find the article here.

I am eagerly looking forward to printing this out and reading it. Much thanks to Mark for taking the initiative to make this translation available.

I would like to add that Soul Food Cinema is not only an attractive site, it is a venue for Catholics to air their opinions in essays about movies. Take a look at just how many good ideas Mark has posted that can serve as a springboard into a thoughtful essay. If you are at all interested in films and faith but don't want to have your own blog, I encourage you to take a look around and think about contributing.

Inspirational: "God gave me the opportunity to just talk, and I passed. It wasn't convenient to me at the time..."

I should say at this point that the lady was obviously homeless. She wore a sweater inside-out on a warm day and looked a bit dirty. About this time I noticed that some of her teeth were blackened.

"No, I'm not." I thought she meant to ask again whether or not I was a minister of some kind. "I'm just here on business for a couple of days. I'm from Dallas..."

"But how can I stay in touch with you?"

"I'm from Dallas. You can't really stay in touch with me." I admit I was getting a bit edgy at this point. We were approaching my hotel. The last thing I needed was a homeless woman, with what appeared to be some mental health issues, hanging around my hotel each evening waiting for a chat.
Mark's honesty touches a nerve in me ... and, I suspect, in some of you too. Go read it all.

Worth a Thousand Words

Hallelujah by Karin Jurick
Used with permission ... click through on the link to see more delightful art.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Signs and Mysteries


Mike Aquilina's newest book and I can tell you it is simply fantastic. How do I know this? I didn't work on the cover but I did lay out the inside of the book. Gorgeous illustrations from Lea Marie Ravotti and, as always, Mike Aquilina writes simply but brilliantly. I couldn't keep from reading part of it as I worked and can't wait to have my own copy to read all the way through. Here's part of the description.
Imagine the dangerous life of a First Century Christian. You've embraced your newfound faith in Christ but fear the risk of persecution or death at the hands of the pagans living around you. Then a trusted friend tells you about some of Jesus followers who secretly meet. He whispers into your ear, Look for a fish carved into the entranceway to the burial chambers beside the Via Tiburtina. You smile in gratitude.

Comparatively, modern society is awash in those same Christian symbols that kept early Christians safely connected: they appear on churches, bumper stickers, mugs even mints and stuffed animals. Yet, we are often ignorant of the origins of these symbols having lost the urgency of our spiritual ancestors hostile environment.

Noted author Mike Aquilina conducts an intriguing tour of symbols that guided the first four centuries of the Church's existence. He explains how Christians borrowed pagan and Jewish symbols, giving them new, distinctly Christian meanings. Recover the voice and urgency of our spiritual ancestors symbolic language and discover the impact the symbols still have.

Black and white illustrations by Lea Ravotti of artifacts uncovered throughout the Middle East beautifully complement the text, showing the variety of contexts in which they were found and the range of skills displayed in their execution.
I'm thinking this is going to be a great book for my Catholic women's book club.

Now go to Mike's place to see the first review which has him very pleased indeed.

One Little Glitch in the System and Blogs Become Spam

Much thanks to The Anchoress for my prayer request for our marriage enrichment retreat when Happy Catholic was marked as a spam blog on Friday. The retreat was a fantastic success and ten more couples have re-energized their marriages and have the tools to continue enriching their lives together. Thank you for the prayers!

I've seen a few conspiracy theories out there (thought of a few myself, to be truthful) and am happy to see that Blogger reports their recent rash of "spam blog" notices as a software glitch.

You Are Not Spam

You knew that already, and now we do too. We have now restored all accounts that were mistakenly marked as spam yesterday. (See: Spam Fridays)

We want to offer our sincerest apologies to affected bloggers and their readers. We’ve tracked down the problem to a bug in our data processing code that locked blogs even when our algorithms concluded they were not spam. We are adding additional monitoring and process checks to ensure that bugs of this magnitude are caught before they can affect your data. ...