Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Update from Missouri

Just a reminder that I'm in Springfield helping my Dad move into assisted living. The plan is for my mother to join him there in a few weeks (tedious details that I will not bore everyone with.)

My brother has already spent two weeks doing the heavy lifting. I already appreciated it but after just a couple of days here to overlap I COMPLETELY appreciate it!

Here's the fantastic thing y'all. I am getting to see just how much God loves and cares for my parents in the particulars of so much in this whole situation. Without going into details, every set-back is actually a detour so God can give them something better than they wanted ... in fact, to give them just what they needed, with ample adjustment time built in.

But wait there's more!

I am used to being able to talk about seeing God's plan and providence unfold with Tom and the girls, with my close Christian friends. But to be able to have my brother say what I am thinking before I get a chance to say it, to point out how God is working things out on this whole move ... well, that's a whole new bond in our relationship. I already love and respect my brother so much. To have this experience with him as we see God using every means possible to work His plan is humbling and amazing. (For those who don't know, my parents are atheists and we grew up with no faith in our household.)

So it's tiring but a good kind of tiring.

The practical effect on y'all is that I was able to get the Ash Wednesday/Lent posts ready ahead of time but posting will be much less frequent for a few more days.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Clearing Out the Static ... a.k.a. What I'm Giving Up

I am giving up reading so many blogs.

That sounds so easy.

Until one goes into the RSS feed and has to chop (yes, that's how it felt ... CHOP) all but five blogs from the "Daily" folder and all but five from the folders I have for each day of the week.

Which I can check once a day.

For no longer than half an hour.

I already am seeing what a time sink has been getting between me and God. Oy.

My word this has been brutal. I am much too fond of so very many blogs ... it hurts and then is when I know that "detachment" is the thing wherein we will catch the conscience of Happy Catholic. (This also will be applying to podcasts ... but that will have to wait until I return home. In the meantime, I am on an enforced podcast fast ... just what I brung with me!)

It is not all about clearing away, of course. With that cleared away space, what does one do?

In my case, more practicing my vocation of taking care of home and hearth ... and of prayer, with an emphasis on listening. Still figuring this part out ... hey, I've got an hour or so!

P.S.
I realize this is very similar to the group that is giving up Facebook for Lent (complete with a Facebook group! ha!) But when I asked God what needed to be cleared from between us, this is all I got back.

I see that The Curt Jester is chiming in on this too, with predictably funny results. Yes, I laughed out loud. (And, no, I'm not giving up The Curt Jester ... he made the cut.)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Unexpectedly Called Away ...

... not for anything bad. In fact, this is good stuff, but some family things came up that I must help with in person. So I'll be in Springfield (Mo.).

I'll be out of town for about a week but Tom has fixed me up with a nifty thing on Rose's old laptop (hereafter to be known as MY laptop) so I can hook onto our phone system's account and blog.

However, as I will be in and out rather erratically, I thought I'd get the Lenten background up.

A little early, but that's ok, right?

More soon ... including book ideas for Lent.

Mailbag ...

Jean at Catholic Fire writes:
A Great Lenten Project

Are you married? Are you Catholic? Do you have a devotion to the saints? Have you and your spouse or a family member experienced hope and healing as a result of prayer to a saint or saint(s)?

This is your chance to evangelize and it makes for a wonderful Lenten project as well.

I am looking for dramatic conversion stories as well as stories of trials and tribulations (for example, financial difficulties, addictions, the birth of a child with a medical problem) overcome through the intercession of a saint or saints and the grace of God to publish in a new book meant to inspire and encourage married couples.

In order to be published:

Your story must name a saint or saints.

It must be at least 1800 words, but not more than 2000 words.

Email your submission to me no later than March 15, 2009.
Stefan from St. Michael's Abbey says,
After last week's successful album launch party for "Anthology: Chants and Polyphony from St. Michael's Abbey", we have created short video clips.
Here is one to get you started and then you can look down the YouTube sidebar for more.

Reviewing The School of Essential Ingredients

You can find it over at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Getting Ready for Lent

Now here's a good idea, an Online Women's Lenten Retreat ... from Loyola Press, for which I have a soft spot. They've provided me with so many, many excellent books!
Participate in our free online Lenten retreat, based on passages from Days of Deepening Friendship. Each weekly post will encourage further reflection and offer suggestions for spiritual renewal. Participants will also have the opportunity to communicate with each other, as well as with the author, Vinita Hampton Wright.
I have a copy of Ms. Wright's book although I haven't read it yet. I do not have a feeling of not having friendship with God so I start to take it off my reading stack for donation to our church's St. Jude Library. Then I flip through it and see that it has some interesting looking pages and put it back.

Here's your chance to get a good look during this free retreat. Check it out here.

"I don't want to miss a thing" ... Are These People Serious?

Did anyone else see the television ad marketing Essure, a permanent birth control procedure, at the average American mother? (Tom remembered the name.)

The scenario is the family at the park with two or three children, the father, and the mother all having a great time. In a moment alone, the mother furrows her brow and wonders, "What if I'm pregnant? Can we afford it?" and some other more generic worries. As she continues to think worriedly about the changes that a child would make to their lives, it was chilling to see adorable children come up to their mother. As she lovingly caressed them or bent over to speak to them, I kept thinking, "Right, who would want another adorable child like that one right in front of you?"

Speaking purely as an advertising professional, what were these people thinking? These are some of the feeblest, most selfish excuses I've ever heard for not having children. This family was clearly not suffering financially, the father was right there, the children were all those we would consider the American ideal ... and as the ad finishes, the woman turns around and smilingly calls to the camera, "Because I don't want to miss a thing!"

Except any more children. Because it's all about her of course.

Hope those children the advertisement mom already has don't get drift of it. Because clearly their worth is in enhancing this woman's life, as is her husband.

I know several mothers who have five or six children and their pregnancies didn't stop them from going to the park, school plays, or their book club (depending on what this woman is dreading missing, of course).

Probably the worst logic I've ever seen, however, it probably will appeal to anyone who is clutching at the slightest excuse to overcome any moral objections.

That is my advertising take.

The reason I don't remember more details is that we were both stunned at the subject matter showing up in an ad on the evening news and at the fatuousness of the approach. The only thing that one can hope is that those more serious-minded folks who are mulling over the issue will see the weakness of this logic.

If our society would stop looking at children as an item on our financial reports or that would make us stop focusing on ourselves we'd be so much better off in so many ways. There's a reason that Tom and I look at our friends who chose to remain childless with pity. They will never know the riches that they are passing by for the sake of comforts that are much less precious and ultimately will fail them in the end. This is just as true for those who are choosing family size. Who knows what unique joy could be theirs but that they will never know because it would be given by the very person that they refuse to bring into the world?

UPDATE
This article by someone who works in women's health care shows that not only the advertising is weak.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Well Said

From my quote journal.
The turbulent have to be corrected, the faint-hearted cheered up, the weak supported; the Gospel's opponents need to be refuted, its insidious enemies guarded against; the unlearned need to be taught, the indolent stirred up, the argumentative checked; the proud must be put in their place, the desperate set on their feet, those engaged in quarrels reconciled; the needy have to be helped, the oppressed to be liberated, the good to be encouraged, the bad to be tolerated; all must be loved.
St. Augustine, describing his daily life

Friday, February 20, 2009

I LIke a TV Show That Isn't Afraid to Take a Stand About Faith

It was one of those where i thought I knew where it was going to go, and then it did, and then... well...
Me too. And it did go there ...

SPOILERS WARNING

This week's House, titled Unfaithful, was one that would have Christians and especially Catholics involved from the beginning. We've seen religious discussion on House done better I think, but this was still interesting and went a lot further than I've seen any prime time TV show do since I can remember. Certainly not by a show with edge. (I'm discounting things like Touched by an Angel.)

A disheveled young priest checks himself into the hospital for a "hallucination" after seeing a very vivid apparition of Jesus. Which we see also.

The priest, Daniel, has lost his faith. “It’s just a job now. The fairy tale ended a long time ago.” Every reason Daniel gives for this is rather worn out and any Catholic worth his (or her) salt knows the obvious answer. In fact, Kutner very knowledgeably brings up free will and is able to easily engage in dialogue on this level (interesting).

Unfaithfulness is examined on every subplot as well but the most interesting is that moment that we are urging Dr. House to realize. The light bulb goes on, as always, spurred by someone's seemingly random comment. "Even if an absolute truth exists we can’t know all of it ..." says Dr. Wilson to House. Who then realizes that the "hallucination" is not a symptom (which is as far as he's going to go in saying it might be real.

I especially liked the concept of House linking absolute truth with the "hallucination" and goes forward to diagnose the patient. While steadfastly not committing to anything but "coincidence." In case we don't get it, at another point Dr. Cuddy is marveling at the chain of coincidences that led to House saving yet another life when all he started out to do was manipulate his employees.

(Note: some of this is pieced together and some is from my, admittedly faulty, memory but it captures the gist well enough.)
Daniel: It was a coincidence?

House: Coincidences do happen.

Daniel: It was a coincidence that brought me to you.

House: You promised you wouldn’t go there.

Daniel: Einstein said "Coincidences are God’s way of remaining anonymous.’

House: A woman in Florida said, "Look, Jesus is on my cheese sandwich."

Daniel: I'm just thinking about how my life completely turned around in a single day.

House: Everything that happened can be rationally explained.

Daniel: I know. But that's a lot of coincidences.
Which I will add, for the record, I don't believe in. Coincidences, that is.

One of the most moving scenes was when the boy who accused Daniel of inappropriate contact learns that the priest might be dying. His coming forward for forgiveness of his lie was moving. It also was an interesting and brave move from the writers who provided that as the counterpoint to practically everyone's immediate acceptance of the priest as a pedophile as soon as they heard of the past accusations.

It was an episode I enjoyed. Although perhaps not the best writing they've ever done, it was definitely counter-cultural in admitting the possibility that faith and apparitions are true and that not every priest accused of "inappropriate behavior" is guilty.

Dear President Obama ... We Want to Dance!

... Like millions of other Americans of both parties, I watched your inauguration and its accompanying festivities with great interest. I must admit, however, that I was more than a little disappointed by your performance, as well as Michelle’s, during the round of inaugural balls you attended. What you displayed for us at those events was, admittedly, movement of some kind, but in my estimation, it hardly qualifies as dance. From a couple such as you and Michelle, celebrated as you are as the typifying of youth, class, and sophistication, I would have expected something as graceful and elegant as the foxtrot or waltz, as romantic as the bolero, as sensual as the Argentine tango, or perhaps as lively and invigorating as the cha-cha, quickstep, or jive. But surely we all deserved something better than the 20 seconds or so of lifeless, perfunctory sashaying that we saw repeated several times that night. ...

... you – and by extension, your wife – have a responsibility to set a good example for all of us, including with respect to the cultivation and development of good dance-floor skills. This brings up my second point, which is that in order to avoid a general breakdown in the social order and to revive our collective sense of self-confidence during this time of major crisis, I recommend that the recently-enacted economic stimulus package – which, quite frankly, sucks – be revamped, and that its new and improved version emphasize and promote the benefits of ballroom and Latin dancing, which all Americans would be encouraged to learn and pursue as a lifetime activity.

I believe that instead of the current $787-billion monstrosity, a more modest package of, say, $40 to $50 billion should be enacted immediately, and the funds thus appropriated divvied out to dance studios all over the country. ... The current economic upheavals we all face amount to a crisis of confidence as much as anything else, and I know from my own experience that ballroom dancing can do wonders for one’s sense of self-assurance. Imagine the effect of an entire nation indulging regularly in this difficult, challenging, but joyous activity! ...
A bit of my friend Garry's letter to President Obama, which is funny (as we know) because it's true! Go read it all.

Nature Red in Tooth and Claw

Hannah sent me the link to this nature video of lions hunting buffalo saying,
This is amazing. You have to watch it. Also, it's a lot better without sound because it's just dumb people saying, "Oh, the lions are crouching," and stuff like that. We watched it in our wildlife seminar yesterday.
It is amazing. I must say those baby buffalo are much hardier than one would give them credit for. The only thing missing is the Western "show down" music at the end.

Could I Resist This?


Of course not!

Via Jane who has the same sense of humor that I do.

More About Henry Poole is Here

First of all, let me say that it makes me very nervous when someone reads one of my reviews and then runs out to buy the movie based on that alone! Luckily it stood up under scrutiny! (Whew!)

Kate and Mark W. both make excellent points in the comments boxes. Mark's points are here where I point to Scott Nehring's excellent review. Kate's are at my original review here. Also follow my link there to Kate's good meditation upon a key point of the movie ... note, it contains a HUGE spoiler so don't read it if you want to catch the movie "fresh." Wait until afterward.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Movie poll of Catholics launched ahead of Oscars®

From Mark at Soul Food Cinema comes the following poll. I like it, I like it a lot ...
With just days to go until the 81st Annual Academy Awards, three UK-based Catholic media partners have launched a poll to find the Catholic community’s all-time top-100 favourite films.

The weekly newspaper The Catholic Herald, on-line movie review magazine Soul Food Cinema and Catholic media retailer St Anthony Communications, have joined forces to discover those films that Catholics value most highly; both in terms of their technical and artistic merits as well as their moral and spiritual merits.

Speaking about the upcoming awards ceremony, Soul Food Cinema Editor Mark Banks comments “Once again we have a morally-diverse group of films nominated for this year’s Oscars®. On the one hand there is The Visitor, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Slumdog Millionaire, WALL-E and Happy-Go-Lucky: all of which have been nominated for one or more of the most-prestigious Oscar® categories (Best Leading Actor, Best leading Actress, Best Directing, Best Picture and Best Screenplay), and all of which also feature on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Top-10 films list of 2008. And on the other hand there is Milk, The Reader, Revolutionary Road and Tropic of Thunder: all of which have also been nominated for one or more of the most-prestigious Oscars® categories, and all of which have either been deemed by the USCCB to contain ‘problematic content many adults would find troubling’ or simply as ‘morally offensive’”.

The three UK-based Catholic media partners that have organised the Top-100 poll hope it will help Catholics to identify and embrace those films, both past and present, which are in accordance with Catholic-Christian principles.

The poll can be accessed on-line here.

Voting closes on Friday March 6th.

More Praise for Henry Poole is Here

Scott at Good News Film Reviews also likes Henry Poole is Here. As Scott notes, he and I often disagree, though not for the reasons he says. His stubbornness in admitting my correct evaluations is something that he prefers to ignore, so we'll say no more about that!

At any rate, when we fully agree about a movie being good, then you know it is worth seeing. I especially like Scott's insight based on his own brush with death. Be sure to read his review (my review is here) and let's all say a prayer for his continued good health while we're at it ...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pittsburgh Pilgrimage ... a little more info

I'm still getting this together, but so far, here's what we've got

DATES
Beginning with dinner Wednesday, June 3, and leaving after Mass on Sunday, June 7.

HIGHLIGHT
Mike Aquilina and Chris Bailey Talk
Mike Aquilina and Chris Bailey (more about them can be found here) will give a talk for us on popular devotion that ranges from the Psalms to the Grail and refers to many of the sights and artworks we'll be seeing in Pittsburgh. Woohoo! Exciting, right?

Mike says,
"We can do it together, which is always more better for comedic effect, since alone we tend to be very earnest and homiletic."
See? He's already being funny!

I also will give a talk after our arrival dinner which will be less interesting to those who know me well (of which I have at least one travel commitment) than those who don't. However, I will try to have a little something for everyone in there.

HOTEL
We need to book 10 rooms in order to make this work (costs coming later but it's looking good to me). We'll be staying at the Wyndham Pittsburgh University Place. Right in the heart of Oakland and convenient to so many things we'll want to do!

WEEKEND EXTRA
The Three Rivers Art Festival is that weekend and will be easy to get to from where we're staying.

WHERE WE'LL SEE THE SIGHTS
I am filling in the blanks right now ... a tough job because there is so much I want to see and do. Here's the rough schedule. More to come, obviously!
  • Wednesday: Dinner and the view from Mount Washington by night.
  • Thursday: Downtown and North Side.
  • Friday: Oakland.
  • Saturday: The Strip in the morning, something else (I'm still thinking) in the afternoon.
  • Sunday: Mass, perhaps at an interesting ethnic church.
What is there to do in those places? Here is a sampling to get your imaginations going.

HOW WE'LL GET AROUND

This map which shows just how much fun you can have using rapid transport in Pittsburgh is courtesy of Father Pitt. If you visit him you can download this as a pdf to print out and study.




I want to see both Polish Hill and Immaculate Heart of Mary!

AND the Holy Stairs!

Oh, decisions, decisions ...

FDA Prepares Nation For Switch To Digital Food Format

WASHINGTON—Urging the estimated 60 million Americans who have not yet made the transition to the more advanced form of sustenance to do so as soon as possible, acting FDA commissioner Frank Torti announced Wednesday that the nationwide conversion to Digital Food (DF) will take place on Apr.17, 2009. "The only thing consumers who currently rely on analog foods will need is a digital converter box, which you can purchase at any grocery store," Torti said at a press conference, adding that every American household is eligible for a $40 coupon to digitize its current pantry. "DF offers higher texture quality and better taste, as well as multiple spice choices and interactive capabilities. I must stress, however, that after the deadline you will no longer be able to eat your current food." On the heels of the announcement, President Obama has begun pressuring the Senate to pass legislation that would require all food to be completely wireless by 2015.
Inspired insanity from The Onion. (Warning: explicit content may be found on the site.)

Review: Amazing Grace for Survivors


I absolutely loved this book. It is a series of personal stories from people in all situations and from all walks of life who have faced great pain and hardship. Their struggles have one thing in common. Each experienced Christ's grace on their journey and flourished despite the hardships.

There are so many different stories it is hard to give a good overview ... but I'll list a few of those that I found unforgettable:
  • The man who scoffed at Rome's homeless only to find himself in that very state within 24 hours.
  • The family who visited their niece at work only to find themselves determined to adopt an orphan who seems to old to be "adoptable."
  • Immaculee Ilibagiza's story of facing the man who killed her family and forgiving him.
  • The woman who was raped and decided to have the baby that resulted from that act of violence
As I said these are just a few. I could list every story, frankly. Each had something unique to offer. Also, not every story was of a dramatic problem. Sometimes they were of everyday, smaller issues that are struggles at the time but that each of us have suffered through. Such is Mark Shea's story of being an outsider in high school, that age when it is so vitally important to fit in. I liked that the editors included all sorts of problems like that. Everyone hasn't suffered through the sorts of terrible times that are chronicled in many of the stories here. However, we all can relate to those more mundane, if you will, of the struggles contained therein.

Highly recommended. (And bring a hankie. You'll need it.)

This review was written as part of The Catholic Company product reviewer program. Visit The Catholic Company to order or find more information about Amazing Grace for Survivors.

Other Catholic Company reviews may be found here.


It's All Downhill From Here

A little midweek humor, courtesy of Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine.

Monday, February 16, 2009

An Articulate and Logical Speech ...

... from a 12 year old. One that I would be proud to know.



Found via The Raving Theist.

Lent: The Mega Post

Oh no, not from me. Y'all know I am not one of those who wants to get ready before Lent before it gets here (which will be Ash Wesdnesday, Feb. 25, by the way).

However, Marcel at Mary's Aggies is on the ball and has tons of excellent info beginning with a Lent FAQ. Check it out.

Thank You for Your Prayers

The Beyond Cana retreat was sensational. 14 couples went away glowing like lit candles, with renewed love and their plans for improved marriages. As well, our retreat team ... well, it is hard to imagine how close we are. Anyone who has participated in giving retreats knows this, of course. However, having a team that continues forward and gives several retreats together grows in a way that can be hard to describe. Watching our friends' marriages grow and blossom is a real gift. And it keeps Tom and me grounded as well. The whole thing is a gift.

Many thanks to all who supported us in prayer. That support is essential and we appreciate it so much!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Gone Retreatin' ...

Tom and I are now officially out of here for this weekend's Beyond Cana marriage enrichment retreat which begins this morning. All email will be answered next week, likewise for any memes or announcements. I'll try to pop in every so often to the comments boxes.

Please keep the attending couples and those of us presenting the retreat in your prayers. May the Holy Spirit flow over all of us this weekend.

Later, y'all!

A Little Something from Etta James for Valentine's Day

One that I have known and loved for some time ... not the one song everyone always plays from Etta James. (Not that I don't love "At Last" ... I do.)



Note: the video is not available but the audio is! Enjoy!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Recommended Valentine's Song: I'll come running (to tie your shoe)

Not new, but new to me and the sentiment of practical chivalry ... is one that speaks to me.
I'll find a place somewhere in the corner
I'm gonna waste the rest of my days
Just watching patiently from the window
Just waiting seasons change, some day
Oh, oh, my dreams will pull you through that garden gate.

I want to be the wandering sailor
We're silhouettes by the light of the moon
I sit playing solitaire by the window
Just waiting seasons change, ah, ah
You'll see, one day, these dreams will pull you through my door
And I'll come running to tie your shoe
And I'll come running to tie your shoe.
Heard on NPRs All Songs Considered's Lesser Known Love Songs episode (which also has some break-up songs).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mmmmm ... Crunchy Cornmeal Waffles ...

... at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen. Get 'em while they're hot!

It's All Downhill from Here

A little midweek humor from Dr. Boli's Celebrated Magazine.
Advertisement.

ARE YOU DEAD? You may be eligible to participate in a study being conducted by the Monongahela Valley Society for Psychical Research. Weekly seances are conducted at the Society’s offices on Eighth Avenue in Munhall above Ferd’s Pizza. Three raps on our round table will be considered an expression of interest. Please rap distinctly, so as to distinguish your communication from the ordinary commercial activities of Ferd. A small stipend will be paid to your estate on completion of the study. Monongahela Valley Society for Psychical Research, Munhall.

"We are conceived to conceive again in an endless and infinite way ..."

When does the fetus become human?

[...]

That such a question is raised with any seriousness is evidence of a profound denial — the denial required to end an unborn child’s life in the womb. ... we call it a “potential human”, as if at some magic point a switch is thrown to turn on its humanity — while never stopping to define what that humanity is, or why there is no humanity in the split second before our chosen transition time. We draw false and foolish analogies: the fetus is no different than a skin cell, or a “sacred sperm”, or a tumor — thus denying the extraordinary creation which occurs when the genetic map of two parents fuses into a new life, with an infinite capacity for uniqueness, change, experience, and creativity of its own. For we are created to create; we are engendered to engender; we are conceived to conceive again in an endless and infinite way: to conceive new ideas, new works, new accomplishments, new relationships, new failures and successes, and new life itself, in the generation which we ourselves engender.
Dr. Bob hits one out of the park in when considering the redefinition of humanity. I think what hit me between the eyes on this one is his consideration of creativity and conception in every facet of our lives from the very moment we ourselves are conceived. In which case, why would we consider that everything we do, including sexual intercourse, would not also lead to creation and conception?

Just a bit more because I can't resist. Then go read it all.
From the moment of its conception, that which we so dismissively call a “fetus” begins a journey extraordinary beyond imagination. Using the inscrutable road map of its unique DNA, the developing human undergoes constant change and growth — a process which ends not at birth but some 25 years later when its full physical maturity is reached. Organs form; primitive cells differentiate into complex systems dedicated to tasks both present and future. Before its mother knows of the pregnancy, at 6 weeks, the heart and circulatory system is formed, and the heart is beating; the primitive cells forming the brain and spinal cord are in place and developing; facial features, including eyes, ears, mouth and nose are evident. By 8 weeks, fingers, toes and fingernails are present, as is the digestive system. By 12 weeks, virtually every organ system is formed and differentiated; the rest of the pregnancy is almost entirely about growth and the maturing of these intact systems. The information map for this extraordinary yet orderly complexity — and for far more, including intellect, personality, gifts and skills, — and yes, liabilities — is contained in the fertilized egg in its entirety. We are what we will be, from the the instant of our conception.

This 'N' That

To be added to throughout the day as I get time ...
  • Extremely stressed right now. I don't know why I consistently forget that the week before a retreat is so busy, so active, so full of little things that have to be done. Perhaps for the same reason that we forget about childbirth pains after the baby is born. The actual retreat (or baby!) is so wonderful and such a gift that the hard work beforehand is not a factor in the overall equation.

  • When stressed ... watch Firefly. Always sure to take my mind off my to-do list. Not sure why. But when you consider that Aliens is my other "go to" in times of stress then I guess Firefly is positively light weight!

  • When watching Firefly it may take a while to notice that the tornado sirens are sounding. Of course, this also may stem from the fact that the Lakewood neighborhood tornado siren sounders are a bunch of wimps if you grew up in Kansas. Some rain and high winds do not a tornado make. They do not even an Official Tornado Warning make as I found out when I turned on the news. Although you know how you grab what matters most when it is an emergency? I would have been hiding from the tornado in a closet with ... wait for it ... my iPod and earbuds. I'd have been entertained to the end if nothing else!

  • AND I'd have had a light source, as I discovered when I was going around turning off computers and the lights went out. My handy, dandy, all-purpose Nano has one heckuva powerful light. You can use it to walk by, thereby avoiding the cat and dog, who are huddling around your feet to tell you that they do not like this bad weather and would you please turn it off!

  • Love this comment that Penni makes about what a difference blogging friends make in one's life:

    Blogging has had such an impact on my life these past 4 years that it is really a difficult task to describe how much these people (some of whom I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting in person) have meant to me during some very trying periods of my life. They reached out through cyberspace and helped to comfort me in my world and allowed me to enter into theirs. They have added an incredible life experience which is again, impossible to describe to those who don’t blog. But it is real and I would love to have an hour, at least, not simply five minutes.

    Absolutely. She has hit the nail on the head and she would be on my list without question.

  • It warms a mother's heart to read #7 from Hannah's "25 Things About Me" list ...

    I love being with my family. They’re awesome. And that is not just me. My friends can attest to the fact that they rock. ...


    Whew! So far, so good ...

  • It also warms my heart that my mother was annoyed that retreat prep kept us from going to Austin to join in with the bloggin' bunch hosted by Darwin Catholic. No matter how old you are it is wonderful to know that your mommy's still lookin' out for you. Even if it is simply in being annoyed.

  • I can forgive Laura for not loving Nutella when she tells the story as entertainingly as this ... here's a little, go read it ...
    So after a long trip to the grocery store (I have a really hard time asking for help... and I had a hard time finding the stuff...), I returned home with my jar of Nutella. I quickly derobed and got into my best Nutella-eating outfit. I couldn't wait to have my first Nutella experience.

    Removing the lid and peeling back the seal, I dove in. "Oh my goodness," I thought to myself. "I am SO excited. This is going to be great! Oh, Nutella, my love! We meet at last!"

  • The Kindle ... not having the space or travel situations which would make a Kindle attractive, I find the idea of spending $360 for a device that then requires $10 per book additionally ... to be more than a bit of a waste of money for me. I mean to say, I rarely even buy a book that costs as much as $10. And I don't have to recharge the battery on my regular books.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I love it that ...


... Hannah told me that reading Rose's 25 random things about herself on Facebook just makes her love Rose more because it is so funny and so true and ... so Rose. (Finally something compelling enough to make me go read something on Facebook ...)

Hannah's right. About all of it.

I also love this photo of Rose ... from the Christmas break camping trip. You can clearly see she is in "Red Baron" mode.

I equally like Hannah's 25 things about herself. AHA! Finally an admission that her skirts are too short! Not that she wears them for rock climbing ...



Update
I don't know who started the 25 Things About Me list. Apparently no one does. However, I'm glad that Hannah and Rose did them. But, then, I'm their mom.

On Getting Married in a Nightgown

Times may be trying our bindings
Hard days may steal half our smile
This world goes by in a hurry
Kind words are farther and few

Sometimes the going gets rocky
Somewhere in memories we share
There's still a sweet place I never will forget
I made a promise to you ...
All My Love, Tish Hinojosa
I made my promise to Tom wearing a nightgown (which came up in our discussion of
our society's ceaseless, unrealistic quest for perfection).

No one knew.

Except for Tom and my friend Michelle.

Here's how it happened.

I was 27. Tom was 30. We were both in advertising and had planned events. Therefore we planned our wedding ourselves which Tom paid for
  • Checked out Lover's Lane Methodist Church and booked the chapel. (I was agnostic, Tom was a nonpracticing Catholic, and his devoutly Catholic mother didn't murmur a word ... which is how I figured out later that she liked me, after I became Catholic myself.)
  • Tried the tasting menu at Mariano's (back when it was in Old Town), pronounced it excellent, and booked the back room for late Saturday morning. Seafood nachos and fajitas for all! Back then fajitas were an up and coming trendy item.
  • Eschewed traditional wedding cake and ordered a delicious sponge cake from the Black Forest Bakery covered with whipped cream, featuring nuts on the sides and prettily arranged fruit on top. (Also got a birthday cake for my sis there, as she generously agreed to share her birthday by being my bridesmaid.)
  • Tom planned and booked a honeymoon at Banff and Lake Louise in Canada (don't do it in May, everything is frozen, but being in Texas we didn't know that ...).
  • Ordered flowers from the latest chic place that our marketing department used (I worked at The Dallas Market Center's advertising department at that time). As I didn't want a veil, they said they'd work out a nice headpiece ... and they did. I told them the colors, trusted them with the flower selection and they did a fantastic job.
  • Tom took care of tux ordering although I think we both went to see what was there.
  • My hair was permed by a friend who had been a hairdresser before her retirement.
  • An artist friend designed our invitations and a printer friend threw them on the tail end of a print job (I bought all the DMC's promotional printing back then which was close to a million dollar budget ... handy, eh?)
And then the dress...
Not knowing a thing, I went to the neighborhood wedding dress store a couple of months before the wedding. I was literally laughed out of the store. Literally. Laughed. Out. Of. The. Store.

Not knowing what to do but knowing that I HAD TO HAVE A DRESS I went to my good friend Michelle. She said, "I'm going to tell you the secret of the women in my family. Whenever there is an event we have to buy a special dress for we go to Neiman Marcus's lingerie store."

This didn't sound right but I had nowhere else to turn so off we went. After perusing the nightgowns I was feeling desperate but Michelle chased down a sales woman. Upon hearing the problem the woman said delightedly, "You won't believe this but just yesterday a salesman was showing us a line of nightgowns designed to be worn for evening wear as well."

Well, bring it on!

It was an absolutely ugly nightgown.

However, with the thick ivory colored fabric draping down to midcalf, the sleeves pushed up to bell around the elbows, and the neckline worn around the shoulders ... it was simple and beautiful. The sales woman ran to the shoe department and brought back ivory lace high heels and sheer hosiery, both of which matched the gown fabric exactly. I stopped by a fabric store later and picked up some satiny ribbon which matched and wore it around my waist as a belt which tied in the back. I think the nightgown was $250 which was outrageous for a nightgown but unbelievable for a lovely wedding gown.

A miracle, had I believed in them. Never was I so relieved. Another friend talked the jewelry store owner where we bought our wedding rings into letting me borrow a twisted rope of pearls to wear. Tom bought me the matching earrings as a wedding gift.

The entire thing, including rings and honeymoon, was $5,000. Which bought more then than it does now, naturally, but which was still a complete bargain. We got by with a little help from our friends

Michelle and I lost touch when she and her husband moved back to New York but I still think of her fondly. In fact, here they are in this photo where you can see more of the flowers in my hair and the earrings Tom gave me. My mother said that I looked as if I stepped off a Greek urn and I think she was right. No one ever knew about the nightgown ... thank you Michelle, where ever you are!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Weekend Joke

From Coffee Klatch.
So this guy was crossing a road one day when a frog called out to him and said, “If you kiss me, I’ll turn into a beautiful princess.”

He bent over and picked up the frog, and put it in his pocket.

The frog spoke up again and said, “If you kiss me, I will turn back into a beautiful princess and then I will tell everyone how smart and brave you are and how you are my hero.”

The man took the frog out of his pocket, smiled at it, and returned it to his pocket.

The frog piped up again and saying, “Hey, if you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful princess, I will be your loving companion for an entire week.”

The man took the frog out of his pocket, smiled at it, and returned it once again to his pocket.

The frog then cried out, “If you kiss me and turn me back into a princess, I’ll stay with you for a year and do ANYTHING you want.”

Again the man took the frog out, smiled at it, and put it back into his pocket.

Finally the frog asked, “What is the matter? I’ve told you I’m a beautiful princess, that I’ll stay with you for a year and do anything you want. Come on… Why won’t you kiss me?”

The man said, “Look, I work for a software company. I don’t really have time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog is way cool.”

"Christian" Movie Makers Could Take a Lesson From "Henry Poole is Here"

"Do you ever feel like things happen for no reason?
Like you're just along for the ride?"
So speaks Henry Poole who is without hope or faith and is trying to avoid any and all human contact.

Henry has moved into a neighborhood where he is unknown only to find that his neighbor, Esperanza, sees the "face of Christ" in the new stucco on his house. Insisting that it is a water stain, unable to remove it with bleach, and equally unable to keep Esperanza away, he agrees to let the local priest bring in experts for evaluation.

Meanwhile, we discover why Henry is hiding from the world and see him pulled into interaction despite himself with his neighbors. Henry provides the skeptical, reasonable voice of the world, wanting rational explanations and refusing to believe in ... "don't say that word!" ... miracles because those just don't happen. This provides not only many humorous situations but poignant moments as well. As the movie progresses we are aching to know if the "face of Christ" is genuine or only a water stain. Equally, we are aching for Henry.

In the most basic sense, the overall message of this movie could be that no man is an island, as Henry is unable to avoid people constantly reaching out to him in friendly interest. Those people spark a transformation that Henry can not possibly imagine as he continually attempts to bat them away. We do not see every situation resolved but the sense that resolution lies in the future is clearly present by the end of the film. The story overall is a human, interesting look at hopelessness and faith, isolation and love, memories and future.

There are some script flaws. There could have been more plot lines and a bit less telegraphing of some of the story. The flashbacks are awkwardly jumps in time and some story points move unrealistically quickly. However, it does not make claims to be something it is not. This is a little, refreshing, quirky movie with heart. I have watched many simple movies such as The Castle and Eagle vs. Shark with exactly those same qualities that have stuck with me for a very long time. This movie is no less.

Here is a no-doubt-about-it faith message that was delivered interestingly, and with realistic characters, using subtle methods to enhance the story. Predictable in some ways, it made us think along the way, didn't spoon feed us everything, and was far superior to Fireproof in technique and delivery. It speaks about faith and prayer in the way that normal people do, without stopping to deliver speeches about "accepting the Lord." As Tom says, "You can lead a horse to water, but you probably can't beat it to water."

An indie-style movie with a simple but well delivered story, it is a lesson in how to deliver messages when you're not already preaching to the choir, as "Christian" movies are wont to do. Excellent acting enhanced the movie greatly. For example, I have never seen George Lopez in anything but broad comic roles, which were painful, to tell the truth. Here he does a subtle, low key delivery as the very real seeming neighborhood priest who is called in to give judgment on the "appearance."

We appreciated the acknowledgment that it is possible to have a woman look beautiful and modest while dressing like a normal person. (No stereotypical "sensible" pumps, no frumpy blouse and skirt sets that your mother might wear, and no ugly hair styles ... yes, "Fireproof," I'm lookin' at you all the way here.) Equally, there is no immodest behavior although everyone's behavior is entirely normal. I particularly enjoyed the device of using the tape recorder to both engage Henry with another person and remind him and the audience of key points. As well, we both appreciated the sequence informing of us Henry's past while he is at the river. Artfully and subtly done, especially in a movie with this overall message.

The symbolism likewise was there for us if we wanted it but didn't intrude on our viewing. Take note of characters' names, keeping in mind Esperanza is Spanish for "hope." Equally, remember that a cross never shows up in a movie, even as a shadow, without the filmmaker deliberately placing it there (kudos to Tom who caught this one in the movie). As a larger example: Henry's house is empty, barren, dark, and bleak. A neighbor's backyard, likewise, is in stages of raw disorder, although their house is warm and inviting. We were shocked every time Henry left his home and we saw the neighborhood full of lush, flourishing yards and homes. The contrast between Henry and other people is shown to us thus to make an overall impression that sinks in at a level we did not have to have a spoken declaration to understand. This is not all but we will let it unfold for you.

Well done and definitely recommended for those interested in what they would do if the "face of Christ" showed up on the wall of their house.

Friday, February 6, 2009

I suppose bilocation to gratify my own interests probably will not be granted

Jen at Conversion Diary tells us her fun weekend plans meeting up with some of my favorite bloggers.
This weekend I'm excited to be going to a blogger get-together that includes the Darwins, Melanie and Dom Bettinelli, Betty Beguiles and Literacy-Chic. I've met quite a few bloggers in person, and I never cease to be amazed at how much people's true personalities really do come across in their blog. So far I've never had a bad experience meeting someone whose blog I enjoy. I'm looking forward to getting together with everyone tomorrow.

Anyone else have any fun weekend plans?
AND Rick Lugari is going to be there.

Doesn't that sound fun?

You know, we coulda been there. We were invited.

*... just a sec while I muffle a tiny sob ... ok, I think I can go on now ...*

Except that the Beyond Cana retreat is over Valentine's Day weekend and this weekend is our walk through and other preparations. So we had to turn it down. I don't mind (much). I'm getting pretty excited about the Beyond Cana retreat which is always a huge buzz. So much so that I usually have a terrible time turning off my brain and sleeping during the two nights we are at the hotel.

It's just that ... well ... I wanna go to the blogger party too!

So, here's the deal. Everybody (and I 'm especially lookin' at you Rick Lugari) had better be at the Catholic New Media Celebration in San Antonio.

Because it's all about me.

But we knew that already didn't we? (ha!)

There was a considerable amount of conversation this morning ...

.... over this article from the Wall Street Journal. Ostensibly it is about lip syncing or quartet syncing. However, at the foundation it is about our age's need for perfection. Here's a bit and then do go read it all.
But far worse, the emphasis on technologically assisted perfection is at odds with a human conception of artistic beauty. "In all things that live there are certain irregularities and deficiencies which are not only signs of life, but sources of beauty," wrote the 19th-century British critic John Ruskin. "To banish imperfection is to destroy expression, to check exertion, to paralyze vitality."

Which is exactly what happened at the Capitol grandstand: An opportunity for glorious exertion and vitality was missed. Imagine the sight of some of the world's greatest musicians struggling against the arctic elements -- coaxing and cajoling sound out of their reluctant instruments, willing their numb fingers to be nimble. I suspect it all would have come together quite well, if a bit out of tune here and there.

But what if it hadn't? What if Mr. Ma had suffered one of the catastrophes of which he warned -- a broken string? Picture the heroic struggle as he switched his fingering on the fly to find the necessary notes on another string. Mr. Ma is among the rarefied artists who could have pulled something like that off (and probably pulled it off with none but his fellow musicians even noticing). How fantastic it would have been to see him do it. Instead we got play-acting.
Tom maintained that it was completely unrealistic to ask musicians with delicate instruments to be outside in that weather and that under those circumstances the syncing was allowable. My take was that if the musicians didn't fake it then it would be obvious that their performance should be held elsewhere. Or we would have had the heroic performance posited above.

At any rate, this made me think back to a chance encounter at my bank with a young man who, upon a previous visit, had told me all about his wedding plans. When I asked him a couple of weeks ago how he liked wedded bliss, he explained that they were putting off the wedding because in today's economy both sets of parents needed their children's help financially. They couldn't afford the sort of wedding he felt his fiancee deserved. I couldn't help thinking back to the stories of Depression Era weddings and then the later hippie weddings that now seem to be forgotten. Some of the strongest marriages I know were begun on a shoestring under daunting circumstances. Venturing to give an opinion, I brought up the fact that it is the love in the marriage that matters rather than the trappings. For example, even with a potluck reception, the guests could all bring the recipes they used and the couple could have a cookbook that would bring back many memories. In better economic times they could celebrate anniversaries on a more lavish basis. He listened attentively and when I apologized for butting in, he earnestly said, "No, no. I never thought of those ideas. I don't have anyone to tell me. My fiancee says she doesn't care but I don't want her to be disappointed. You don't think that she'd look back and think I let her down?"

This is not necessarily the same thing as the above standards of perfection, but it seems to me that we have learned too well that idea of "not settling" for anything less than the best. Certainly we must strive for excellence, but we also factor in circumstances and limitations while setting priorities. Sometimes compromise surprises us by showing us something better than we would have imagined.

For example, I got married in a nightgown. But that is a story for another day. For one thing, I have to scan in the photo ...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

More Ways to Help Amy and the Children

In the wake of Michael Dubruiel's tragic death, come more ways to contribute to helping out his family. I liked the way that Deacon Greg put it. They are family. Maybe remote family. Maybe family we write to but don't see often if ever. But family. That is why we are all so shocked.

As most of us don't live close enough to provide that physical support of bringing a casserole and sitting to grieve together, we do what we can through our blogs.

Here are some ways that have emerged:
  • Danielle Bean is collecting donations for Amy and the family. Here is the link (I can't get it to open right at this moment, but that might be my browser). You can also go here.
  • Ambrose-a-rama points out that "OSV, publisher of several of Michael's books, is doubling what would be his normal proceeds on all of his OSV-published books. You can order them here." Good on 'em!

    I'd like to mention that I enjoyed Questions and Answers by Pope Benedict which was edited by Michael. I can also recommend Praying the Rosary, which Michael and Amy wrote together. It resides on our "rosary table" ready to be picked up for meditative inspiration whenever needed. And finally, I really liked How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist which Michael wrote. I never formally reviewed it but, as I am wont to do, posted copious excerpts which will give you a good feel for the book if you read them. You can find them by scrolling through the posts here.

  • Father Z is collecting prayers and messages as a spiritual bouquet.

  • Amy has requested that those who would like to help should buy Michael's books because the proceeds go directly to their kids college fund. Lisa Hendey at Catholic Mom is helping with that request in her February book club.
Amy has posted Michael's last column. The message is one that we can all take to heart. The post also contains details about the funeral arrangements for those that are close enough to attend.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Get Religion ... Lookin' Out for Media Reporters Everywhere

And we're glad they do. If you care about bad reporting or a lack of reporting about religion, you should be reading Get Religion. We can be thankful that whether a large issue or a small story detail, nothing gets by the bloggers and their readers. For example, in a story about the Chicago cathedral burning ...

But there’s a whopper of a problem with one line in the story:

One of the church officials said the blessed sacrament or Eucharist, which symbolizes the body of Christ, was removed.

It is wonderful to see a reported detail on the sacrament but Catholics do not believe that the Eucharist symbolizes the body of Christ. They believe that the bread and wine becomeare — the body and blood of Christ. This isn’t really an unknown teaching of the church, having been featured in popular culture, literature and general discourse for hundreds of years.

As the reader who sent it in noted:

Perhaps most readers wouldn’t have noticed this, but I think this is something that an editor, at the very least, should have picked up and changed.

Yes, it’s a rookie mistake in an otherwise solid story.

Michael Dubruiel - Rest In Peace

Terrible and shocking news comes from Amy Welborn.
November 16, 1958-February 3, 2009

Michael collapsed this morning at the gym and was not able to be revived despite the efforts of EMTs and hospital personnel.

We are devastated and beg your prayers.

Many thanks for all of the prayers and notes. It is overwhelming. Many have asked what they can do. All I can say is to simply buy his books. Not from me, because I am in no position to fill orders, but from anywhere. He long ago promised God that he would give all the royalties of The How To Book of the Mass to the children’s college funds, which he did faithfully. Buy them, read them, and give them away to others. Spread the Word. That is what he was all about.
I am stunned and my heart goes out to Amy and their children at this terrible time. Please pray for them all.

Update
Danielle Bean is collecting donations for Amy and the family. Here is the link (I can't get it to open right at this moment, but that might be my browser). You can also go here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

My Stimulus Package

I realize this isn't original and you didn't hear it here first (you might have heard it here first) but I actually did think it up anyway (is anyone else flashing on Michael Keaton in Night Shift talking about bumper stickers?).

Just give us each our own share of the stimulus money. No middle men.

With several billions or trillions or however much it is up to by now, I bet we can get the economy rolling just fine. If spending money is what you want to do, that is.

I'm not really a New Deal kind of gal so I tend to look at the stimulus as a bad idea in general. (Unless you're determined to do it and then ... uh huh ... give it to us.)

If you also aren't into the stimulus package, you can go here to register your discontent.

Call for Pope to step down? What are these people, crazy?

Heaven help me. A couple of my brothers-in-law, not to mention my father, are going to have a field day with this one. I do not look forward to the next family get-together.

Ok, I tried to rise above by largely ignoring this whole broohaha over the Pope, the SSPX and Bishop Williamson's ignorant views. However, I have been stirred to action by The Deeps of Time who points out that Catholics should be stepping up to Pope Benedict's defense.

Good point.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, I am going to take his excellent defense and reproduce it here. I urge you to go to his blog for several pertinent links within the article ... and also because that blog is just generally excellent anyway.
It's Not a Sin to Be Stupid

I don’t like to take this blog off-topic often, but when one sees the Pope being unjustly attacked in the press, as he is now, I think all Catholics ought to step up to his defense. The issue, of course, is the recent lifting of the excommunication of the bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X, and the outcry over Bishop Williamson’s doubts about the historicity of the Holocaust.

(To begin with a disclaimer, I find Bishop Williamson’s historical position to be ignorant, and the position of the Society of Pius X to be hypocritical, prideful, and disobedient. This post’s defense of the Pope’s decision to lift the excommunication should not be construed as a defense of the Bishop’s opinions.)

What the media and the Pope’s critics can’t seem to understand is that the two issues are entirely unrelated. Bishop Williamson’s comments are surely stupid, but it’s not a sin to be stupid. Catholics are not excommunicated for holding questionable historical views on issues unrelated to doctrine — and therefore excommunications are not maintained simply because such questionable views continue to be held.

Here’s an analogy: imagine that you were accused of a crime, and as a punishment had your driver’s license revoked. When you have completed your sentence, you go back to the DMV to get your license back, and are told that’s not possible. When you ask if that’s part of the sentence, you’re told no, you were just overheard voicing some batty historical theories, so you can’t get your license back. Bad P.R., you see. Obviously, your rights as a citizen have been violated. The issue of your historical opinion is unrelated to your standing with respect to your civic rights.

Likewise with Bishop Williamson — his views on the Holocaust, however offensive, have no bearing whatsoever on his canonical standing as a Catholic. The Pope has determined that the conditions for lifting the excommunication have been met. (Look for Ed Peters’ analysis of the issue when he gets it posted.) The media criticism betrays a complete lack of understanding as to what an excommunication is. It is a canonical penalty for very specific sins, not a censure of stupid opinions. This campaign against the Pope is nothing more than an attempt to smear and undermine his image in the public mind, which Catholics should stoutly resist.

High School and Hooking Up

Will at The View from the Foothills brings up some worries that also bothered me before my own children got to high school and then beyond that to college.

If there were one thing that I could tell people with younger children, it is not to worry about high school so much. Having been there, I can tell you that it is fruitless to worry. Your family sets the groundwork for them so much more than you realize.

I would say more but I urge you to check Will's comments box if this subject interests or worries you. I said more than enough there!

Win Professional Cutlery

It looks like a great deal ... find out about it at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

I Knew It Was Something Satan Said ...

Got this from LOL Saints ... and it's not just another funny place. Be sure to click through and read more. The serious stuff is in the writing.

In My Mind's Eye ... Again

I got a wonderful email from a friend this morning in which she said that I had been in her thoughts and prayers lately. Perfect timing ... the Holy Spirit's looking out for us all the time and sometimes a wonderful friend reminds us of it.

She liked my response and asked if I was blogging it. So I will ... it is a little more detailed than y'all usually get but there is a nice kicker if you stick it out to the end, which was what she liked.
I so appreciate your thoughts and prayers because Tom has a kidney stone which is now becoming complicated with various other things like side effects to pain meds, etc. So I come to work, get what I can done, go home and push water on him, cook so as to not further impede an upset digestion, answer questions and make arrangements for the upcoming Beyond Cana retreat (thank heavens it is not THIS weekend). And pray. Surprisingly I do not worry too much because every time I start then I remember that no matter what earthly details we are going through God is there. In fact this morning on my prayer walk thinking about my father (whose increasingly failing health was described by his doctor as "on the edge") and his orneriness in ignoring God ... I suddenly had this "mind's eye" of Jesus putting his forehead against mine, looking into my eyes and saying softly, "I've got him Jules ... you just pray. He's mine." At the same time it was as if my guardian angel had his head down and wings out in a sort of walking prostration. (Hey, my imagination is nothing if not practical and YES Jesus was walking backwards with his sandals on over athletic socks ... it was COLD!). Comfort and laughter ... God's got it all ya know. :-)

I am not really overwhelmed although I know it sounds like it....
And I am not overwhelmed in large part because God has given us so much, beginning with Himself. (Not that I might not get kinda snippy sometimes, but that's a whole other issue. And anyway Lent is coming to help me focus on that sort of thing a bit more intensively...)

A Modern Day Parable

From my friend Maryann. As with all good stories there is more here than meets the eye if we think about it.
Louise, a poorly dressed lady with a look of defeat on her face, walked into a grocery store.

She approached the owner of the store in a most humble manner and asked if he would let her charge a few groceries. She softly explained that her husband was very ill and unable to work, they had seven children and they needed food.

John Longhouse, the grocer, scoffed at her and requested that she leave his store at once.

Visualizing the family needs, she said: "Please, sir! I will bring you the money just as soon as I can."

John told her he could not give her credit, since she did not have a charge account at his store. Standing beside the counter was a customer who overheard the conversation between the two. The customer walked forward and told the grocer that he would stand good for whatever she needed for her family.

The grocer said in a very reluctant voice, "Do you have a grocery list?"

Louise replied, "Yes sir."

"O.K.," he said, "put your grocery list on the scales and whatever your grocery list weighs, I will give you that amount in groceries."

Louise hesitated a moment with a bowed head, then she reached into her purse and took out a piece of paper and scribbled something on it. She then laid the piece of paper on the scale carefully with her head still bowed.

The eyes of the grocer and the customer showed amazement when the scales went down and stayed down.

The grocer, staring at the scales, turned slowly to the customer and said grudgingly, "I can't believe it."

The customer smiled and the grocer started putting the groceries on the other side of the scales. The scale did not balance so he continued to put more and more groceries on them until the scales would hold no more.

The grocer stood there in utter disgust. Finally, he grabbed the piece of paper from the scales and looked at it with greater amazement.

It was not a grocery list, it was a prayer, which said:

Dear Lord, you know my needs and I am leaving this in your hands.

The grocer gave her the groceries that he had gathered and stood in stunned silence.

Louise thanked him and left the store. The other customer handed a fifty-dollar bill to the grocer and said; "It was worth every penny of it. Only God Knows how much a prayer weighs."

Monday, February 2, 2009

Top 10 Reasons to Celebrate Groundhog's Day

From Coffee Klatch.

... Besides watching the movie with Bill Murray.

  • 10. It’s on nearly every calendar.
  • 09. Helps relieve cabin fever.
  • 08. Spring or not, it’s six weeks till St. Urho’s Day.
  • 07. Forecast is no less reliable than the National Weather Service.
  • 06. At least one of them critters is bound to see things your way.
  • 05. Valentine’s Day is too depressing for nerds.
  • 04. Unlike the Easter bunny, he keeps his dirty paws outside.
  • 03. As they used to say on radio: “The Shadow knows“.
  • 02. It’s fun to say “Punxsutawney”.
  • 01. If a rodent can bring us an early spring, more power to him.

This Just In ... And Going On My To-Read Stack

With God on All Sides: Leadership in a Devout and Diverse America ... a book about how American leadership should handle the extremely diverse religious society we have become. The book concept puts me strongly in mind of The Right to Be Wrong which I found enlightening in the extreme.

First I will have to finish For Better, for Worse, for God: Exploring the Holy Mystery of Matrimony by Mary Jo Pederson. Get used to the name because this is one I'll be excerpting for a while ... it is a really fantastic book about marriage. It is like a "checklist" for marriage enrichment. In fact, I will say that it is the book I will be giving to any couples getting married. And that included Hannah and Rose when that time comes. I have not found anything that better reflects what we have learned and built upon from the Beyond Cana retreat.

Don't know much about polyphony ...

... but I do dearly love chant. It takes my spirit to an adoration chapel that my friends and I know well where there is always chant playing in the background. And it takes me to Good Friday at our church where for the last two years the Gospel has been chanted.

Thanks to the Norbertine Fathers from St. Michael's Abbey I venture to say that we were probably one of the very few ... if not the only household in the DFW Metroplex on Friday night to have these glorious sounds swirling through our house. The CD came in the mail and when we got home from Tom's excursion to the emergency room I popped it into the CD player to for an initial listen.
The eclectic selection on this album is a cross-section of music sung at the abbey that includes chants from the liturgy as well as motets and music from the Renaissance era. These latter are sung on more solemn occasions like Easter, Pentecost, Christmas, and other great feasts of the liturgical year. "Anthology: Chants and Polyphony from St. Michael's Abbey" is a testimony of the vigor and subtle beauty of Gregorian chant as sung today in the USA.
Simply beautiful ... and inspirational ... and peaceful. Also, I appreciate the Latin because I can't pick out words and it leaves my mind free for prayer while helping pull back that veil that separates me from God.

I now know that polyphony could be described as some of the most glorious harmony ever. I also can see why the retired abbot requested the initial Exultet recording that prompted them to begin recording in the first place. This is going to be the perfect music for my drive to work also, when I am finishing up the rosary begun on my morning prayer walk.

Highly recommended. In fact, so much so, that I am going to put Christmas at St. Michael's Abbey on my wish list.

Note: The release date is February 10 and Amazon has it on sale now. Do yourself a favor and order this if you want some inspirational music, especially with Lent beginning in a little less than a month.