Sunday, February 28, 2010


For Jacen... nephew, poised on the brink, within the week you, too, are about to enter The Fellowship of the Rings! Here is some advice, some words of wisdom, from the wellspring of 10 short years:

Marriage is not for the faint of heart. It is for the steadfast and loyal. It is hard work. It is so worth it.

Some of the most exquisite moments of your life, like the moment your eyes will meet hers after you have touched your first child for the first time, will only be known by you, your bride, and God. These moments are so much more precious because of their secret and intimate nature. May you have too many to count and may they begin with that first marital kiss!

Silly, auntie, you may think: you need no advice in how to weather the bliss. We seem born knowing how to handle it! It is those other times that need bolstering. Those dry times, those times when God seems distant and we are in the cold desert alone, those are the times that try us. There is a reason for winter, for ashes, for quiet and loneliness. These are the times that God is hidden from us and He is at work within us.

As a farmer, you know very well that there is a cycle to things: spring, summer, fall, and winter. You are entering into the springtime of your love. Hope and light and warmth are increasing. Your first honeymoon together is about to begin. After the fullness of this cycle of growth, seeds will be planted in the soil of your marriage, and the pruning frosts and a shedding season will begin.

Do not be afraid. Do not ever be afraid. Things are at work in the hushed season of winter. God is whispering in secret to the seeds the summer has sown. Those seeds will grow, but first God requires a dark and a lonely season. When the cold comes, let your vows sustain you. Your promise and your word is good enough to get you through this time without light. Trust that there will be a new springtime on the heels of this.

My only advice is this: trust each other always, even in those rare times when you don't seem to like each other. Her word is good and so is yours. You have promised to love, honor, and cherish. That promise will carry you whenever you forget how to carry each other.

For now, though, my advice is to forget this letter, forget this advice, and enjoy each other. Enjoy your day and the first of many beautiful days together!

Love and much love,

Ready for Spring?

Yeah, me, too. Chicken just isn't the same in the crock pot.

Friday, February 26, 2010

It's Friday, it's Lent, and you just aren't in the mood for fish? (Black Bean Soup Recipe)

Well, that's weird. Fish is so versatile. It's so good for you. It', fishy.

I guess I see your point.

Have you ever considered converting? No? I was almost Jewish once, but that's a different story, and then again, that wouldn't help. If I can't handle going without meat four days out of the year, can you imagine me during Passover? "Hand me the sackcloth and ashes, I'm eating crackers...again!"

At the very least my whining will take the form of recipes you actually may want to eat. I'm a firm believer in not eating food that isn't edible. Diet food? Psssht! Fat free with an ingredient list the length of a Sinclair Lewis novel? Really, no, I just couldn't.

Here's a tip for avoiding that socially awkward ordeal:

How nice that you found the fat free alternative, and by the way, I'm...fasting. It's too bad I can't try any of that right now. You can have it all, really, and did you know I can fast for an entire day? Wanna watch? It's good for me. Yes, even better than Olestra!

Black Bean Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, pressed
2 small bell peppers (use red ones if you want a pretty soup)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
pinch of red pepper flakes
4 cans chicken broth
4 cans drained black beans
salt and pepper to taste

In the soup pot, using medium heat, cook the onions, garlic and peppers until the onions are translucent, taking care not to let the garlic brown. Add the broth and spices* and bring to a boil. Add beans, bring to a boil again. Salt and pepper to taste.

If you have a blender, blend half the soup (in small batches!) and add back to the soup. If you don't like the mess or you prefer to chew your own soup, make a cornstarch roux to thicken it--mix until completely dissolved 3 tablespoons of cornstarch with 3/4 cup water, add to soup and continue boiling for 2 minutes.

To round out the meal, serve with cornbread and a green salad.

*Here's a flavor blaster tip: premix the spices and have them in a bowl set aside and ready to go. When the onions are just about ready, toss the spices into the pot and "fry" them for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. Then add your broth.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The New Feminism

This came on my radar screen through a great site Faith and Family Live: the Magazine for Catholic Living.

Law Professor and Catholic mom talks about the New Feminism. Interestingly, she is very gentle in her brief treatment of the "old feminsim." That's one of the reasons I decided to share it. As you know, I felt a tremendous sense of being let down by feminism's view of my chosen roles. In this New Feminism I see woman valued for her unique contribution to the world. Have a listen.

Because the comments on the Youtube site show a woeful lack of study or even understanding of the terms involved, I have taken the liberty to include some of the documents referenced in the video.

Evangelium Vitae (English Translation)

Theology of the Body: This being a rather lengthy series of documents and lectures which will probably take centuries to unlock, another resource for study on this topic is Christopher West's works.

Deus Caritas Est (English Translation)

Related links (at least in my perspective) in this blog:
What Works?
Believe it or not, it's controversial
The Culture of Divorce

Monday, February 22, 2010

Because it's Monday and you need more coffee...

After a brief, shining moment, the week is back, and it wants revenge for all the fun you had without it over the weekend!

Distract it with this and maybe it will forgive you and play nice.

One more week and the longest month of the year is endured! I thought I'd give you one in color this week to perk you up for the final sprint.

(click on the cartoon to see the whole thing)

Police reported dozens of cheerful bystanders, yet no one claims to have seen who did it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

40 Dishes in 40 Days: I know I promised...

...not to update endlessly about the 40 Bags in 40 Days exercise, but I am so jazzed about it! I can't tell you how wonderful it has been to spend 20 minutes or so a day going through all those things I always mean to get to but never do. This challenge has given me the impetus to "get a move on" and "get around to it" finally.

Here's one group of items that have made it into the "Giveaway Pile" much to my relief: my wedding dishes! The dishes were perfectly nice and perfectly serviceable, but there's a story that I haven't shared with many people. The person who bought them gave them to me saying in a whisper, "You'll like these better than the ones you picked out."  As you can imagine, the smile froze on my face for a moment or so.

Did I respond to the implied insult to my taste in dishware? No. Did I return them for the ones I wanted? No. I was polite and contained my irritation. You see, it was a group gift from several friends and this woman had taken charge and purchased them. None of the other friends knew she'd gotten a set I hadn't wanted. I didn't want to hurt their feelings or bother explaining what had happened, so for 10 years I've used them and remembered that moment.

Now I won't have to.

A few years back my mom gave me a set of china with a similar story behind them. As an overenthusiastic newlywed she'd done something similar--purchased dishes that a bride had not picked out. My mother had saved and scrimped and purchased dishes she would have loved to have--much as I can hope my friend had done for me (minus the scrimping). I know that my mother meant well and I have come to want to believe the same of the friend who'd bought my dishes for me. That other bride gave the dishes quietly to her mother to store, and after 40 or so years the dishes meandered back to my mother. They're mine now.

I can use them and not doubt the intentions of the giver. I can, instead, remember my mother and her sometimes long-winded impulsiveness. I've been told that women remember everything forever. In my wedding dishes this has been true. I will enjoy my "new ones" and be a bit freer to remember better moments with that long ago friend of mine.

Now, these perfectly serviceable dishes (that were also not on my gift registry) will have two stories. One of my mother and one of me.

Friday, February 19, 2010

"Can't Be!" Gluten Free Salmon Patties

These are my dear husband's creation. They are incredibly good and worth making regardless of your dietary needs. The addition of canned tuna brings the cost of the dish down considerably. Of course, if you are serving guests and cost is not a concern, don't make the substitution and use 4 cans of salmon.

"Can't Be!" Gluten Free Salmon Patties

2 cans tuna drained
2 small cans deboned salmon drained
2 eggs
3/4 cup mayo
1/2 cup instant mashed potatoes
1 cup Old Fashioned Oatmeal
1 small chopped onion
4 celery sticks chopped
2 Tbs butter (or oil)
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp dill
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

Sautee the onions and celery in butter (use olive oil if milk allergies are a concern) over medium heat until translucent. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until moist and evenly distributed. Make balls about 3 inches in diameter and press flat onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once halfway through. Serves 8 to 10.

Suggestions: Serve with a slice of pepper jack cheese* melted on top, drizzled with a zingy cocktail sauce--I make mine with a dash of horseradish in ketchup. Rice pilaf is a great side dish. Be sure to double check the ingredients for allergens. A side of wilted greens and dried cranberries topped with a sweet vinagrette would round it out nicely.

Happy fasting!

*Use a goat milk cheese if dairy allergies are present or skip the cheese entirely.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

40 Bags in 40 Days Update

I won't update every day, but I wanted to let you know I've started on this project of mine. I wanted to get an A+ today, so I went for an extra bag each. Two bags of trash and two bags for charity today (and I put those straight into the car so they won't sit around).

Next goal of the day? To get out the door in time for errands!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

40 Bags in 40 Days

We Americans acquire stuff in droves like lollipops acquire lint in pockets. Lint doesn't make the lollipop any sweeter, and in fact, it's practically ruined until some clean-up takes place. My house is like that.

Already being under the discipline of one-income helps: we just can't afford to purchase new belongings at every whim. What we do, instead, is keep stuff. We keep everything. It's my fault mostly. I think we may "need it" someday. I've got piles of "need its" in my garage and closets. How often are you going to need pants that don't fit? Yeah.

Tomorrow we are in Lent. I can use this yearly discipline to tweak this. Lent is all about the exercise of three spiritual practices: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. In the past several years I've focused on the first two. This year will change that. I'm going to work on my alms!

The plan is to fill a shopping bag a day and donate it to charity. This may get hard. Some things may not fit in a bag. I may have to think outside the piles of boxes as the days move on towards Holy Week. I just know I'll be tempted to sell some of this stuff in a yard sale. I'll let you know how it goes.

You want to try?

Where I got the idea...

Monday, February 15, 2010

Because it's Monday and you need more coffee...

After a brief, shining moment, the week is back, and it wants revenge for all the fun you had without it over the weekend!

Distract it with this and maybe it will forgive you and play nice.

*psst! If you don't get it, read the caption underneath the comic.

You're welcome.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Busy enough for ya?

I forget how to add. Like 2 + 2 = 4 is obvious, so should be a more algebraic but equally basic equation like Valentine's Day + Sunday = Crowded Mall.

We decided after the Jell-O and candy at Nana's to celebrate the day with our sugar-sweetened children by going to the $2 discounted theatre at the mall. "We" being half the town.

In our wisdom to forget about people behaving just like us, it also never occurred to us to allow time for a line, so we were forced to take the only row that had 7 empty and consecutive seats--the front row.

Now would be a good time to explain some things about the experience of Autism: big, huge, loud, flashy and colorful experiences are better in smaller, more distant and constrained conditions like between two parents near the back with the entire comforting mass of family between the experience and the exit. Being able to get up and walk into the open space in front of the first row makes everything less tolerable. You have options. Options are not good.

On the other hand bailing on a movie, getting vouchers to return another day and indoor playgrounds on a blustery winter day are good. Getting to it in a crowded mall? Not so very good.

My kids are 6, 4, 4, 2, and 1. There are 1 more of them than there are available adult hands. They dawdle. They look at things. They have short legs. They exist when other people are existing. These things about children in large groups make some adults in small groups grumpy. Adults grumpy about children being children tickles my sense of the absurd and I laugh. I also connect seemingly unrelated dots, like certain unfortunate winter clothing choices and frozen bakery items. Dot connecting makes my husband laugh.

So, here we were, traipsing around with children and laughing because we were actually having a good time. Some other people were also having a good time. They exchanged pleasantries in that Mallish way of milling about and making eye contact and saying something nice just loud enough to be overheard. "Cute kids." "Look at that hair." "Aw!" We had our share of nice things to say about some little girls in very princessy looking dresses as well as a few wind and weather remarks made to allow for a bit of idle conversation among strangers.

Sadly, though, amongst the crowd of us there were people there not to have a good time at all. They exchanged grumpiness in that Mallish way of not making eye contact and brushing past in a way that screams, "I'm busy here!" in a flustered and important way.

I never realized road rage was possible without a road.

I've been that busy. I can't even stand myself when I'm that busy. I hate it. I'd especially hate being busy on a Sunday in February when me and everyone else decides to do the same thing at the same time and we're all kinda stuck with each other doing it. I'd much prefer having nothing much better to do than enjoy some time with my family--my small one and my very big one--all the whole lot of us.

Even in a Mall.

I got my Valentine's Day gift to you under the wire...

Brought to you by The Great Beyond Hallmark
at the corner of Styx and West Vallhalla.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Oprah and the Dominicans

Polite, respectful, interested... Those are not words you expect to associate with a daytime TV host and Catholicism. Oprah's interview with the Sisters of Mary this past week was a delightful interlude for those of us more used to being the butt of jokes. (Not that this is bad: humility is good for the soul and watching The View could be considered an act of penance)

Rare as it is, when the media gets us right, we should celebrate. We should encourage. Most of all, we should let them know. So, Oprah, if you are listening: way to go!

Segment 1

Segment 2

Segment 3

Segment 4

If this looks good to you, contact the Sisters here.

To contact Oprah and thank her for treating the Sisters respectfully!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Stuff I never knew I'd know

Extra virgin olive oil gets bitter when hit with a metal blade, such as in a blender. Never knew I'd ever know that.

And now you know.

Waging a war on debt...Dumping the mortgage

My husband and I have been waging this war for years. The credit card burden is nearly gone. The car payments are a thing of the past. Next?

The mortgage!

Now, some of you may feel that the tax credit of a mortgage is worth it. That may be true for some. For us? We've looked at the long-term payout and have decided it is just not worth it to pay double the house's purchase price in interest over 30 years.

According to a mortgage calculator, a $165,000 will accrue over $191,000 in interest alone in 30 years! That's paying out more in interest than the home was worth. Yes, I'm well aware that housing appreciates in value (the current housing bubble exempted), but expecting a more than 100% return on your money is a bit over the top. For some, the utility of the home is worth it. For others like my husband and I, we never really looked at the numbers that closely, and when we did, we decided to change our thinking.

The house is our biggest investment. We pay a lot to own it, and we pay to repair it, heat it, cool it, run it. We decided that investing in someone else co-owning the house we live in (the bank) is not something we were interested in doing.

So we've cooked up a plan. We sell our current home, buy another lesser valued home to live in and pay that off in 6 years. The particulars of our plan are these--we will be living outside of town so we won't be paying the "in town" housing premium; we will have less space initially; we will save and build our own home. We've done a lot of research and have found the place that will do all of this for us, two places actually so there is a back up.

It'll be ugly. It'll be humbling. But we believe it'll be worth it in the long run.

Right now, the bank is looking at our loan application, so we are in Stage One still: the praying stage. We'd appreciate your prayers, too.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Trouble with Tribbles? Finding a new gig after Star Trek...

It's hard to find a Hollywood gig. These aging Baby Boomer Tribbles have gone into the sidelines of showbusiness by working as sound engineers. Yeah, you just gotta take what you can get.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Is the USCCB the next Catholic Scandal?

When you have a Bishop telling his flock the Catholic position is a Pro-Life position, can he be silent when his own association is giving this group money? I guess the answer is yes to that. Can I hear an "Amen" from the Pro-Choice Lobby?

Is it possible to fix this? I'm pretty ignorant of the political aspects of the church, and I'm wondering if this scandal has even run its course.

Lent for little ones

I've got a house full of little ones. Lent is a challenge. How do you convince a four year old that giving up a good thing is a good thing? Well, in all honesty, that's hard to do. We simply use the "In our family" explanation. It goes like this, "In our family, we don't eat candy or sweets during Lent." Then we go from there. We explain why we offer it up and all the other useful stuff that will serve to explain matters when they are a little older, but in the meantime, they accept this line in the sand difference between our family and others.

Being Catholic, we like to involve all the senses in our daily walk with God. We've talked with the kids all year about how our sins hurt each other and especially how they hurt God. To make this point concrete we have a Crown of Thorns during Lent. It sits on our dining room table next to a tin of toothpicks. When we hurt other family members through carelessness, spitefulness, or harsh words, we apologize and then put a thorn in the crown. We leave the toothpicks in our crown until daddy and mommy make it to Confession, when we get home, we all cheer and clap as we remove all the toothpicks and start afresh. The kids tell each other to be good and it becomes a challenge to keep the crown free of thorns for as long as possible.

Now as you can imagine, by the end of Lent mommy and daddy are being reminded very frequently to go to Confession. Also, the kids have gotten the hang of rebuking the mote in each other's eyes while tripping over the logs in their own. Naturally, with this exercise comes the accompanying exercise in charity and self-examination (that's what's known as the "flip side" by those old enough to remember 45s at sleepovers).

Monday, February 8, 2010

Because it's Monday and you need more coffee...

After a brief, shining moment, the week is back, and it wants revenge for all the fun you had without it over the weekend!

Distract it with this and maybe it will forgive you and play nice.

(click on the cartoon to see the whole thing)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Conversion Diary: "I sought but I didn't find. Now what?" - The diary of a former atheist

Conversion Diary: "I sought but I didn't find. Now what?" - The diary of a former atheist

For those who seek and do not find...

God is. I got that message loud and clear one day when I least expected it. Faith wasn't something I merited or even asked for. It came as a complete surprise. No doubts here.

For those who have no surety but only doubts and longing you could take my word for it, but I can't imagine that would be satisfying.

I could also show off my faith to you. "I'm so certain!" I could tease. "No doubts here!" I could brag. Not only would that be wrong, it would be all wrong.

Instead, I'll tell you something I also know for sure: your faith is greater than mine. I'll offer you this in explanation. God gives us what we need to seek Him. Once I knew the truth, I would continue to seek the truth. I am like a dog with a bone, I will gnaw away at it until I get to the marrow. I'm not about to let it go. But, to seek God, I needed Him first. I had to have proof. Any amount of doubt would have lost me. I am that petty.

What I'm saying is this, faith is a gift from God. The less mature of us, the ones like me, are given more. We can't handle the subtelties of faith.

You seek. You long. You suffer for God. That is the truer faith. You are made of a harder wood than I. Do not be afraid.

Imagine that we are children learning to walk to our Father. You have stood and taken your tottering steps on your own. You stumble and fall like the rest of us, but our Father knows you. You may pout a bit, even cry, but you are going to stand up and keep going.

Me and my ilk? We give up too easily. We're distracted by the toys lying about us. For us, we need a constant guiding hand or we will sit and idle away our time staring at the dust motes dancing in the light.

You, though, you who seek and do not find? You are made of stronger stuff. You are the older brother or sister. I'll cheer you from behind.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Food for Thought Thursday--Is this wrong?

The problem? The kids have cabin fever and I have a dirty floor.

My solution? Let the kids play!

I vacuumed my floor, handed each child a rag and a spray bottle with water, and let them have at it. The floor is damp, the rags are flying. They are having a blast, and I am on the computer.

Should I feel guilty or lazy?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

In Loving Memory

My grandfather passed away last night. He was 96 years old.

I learned a lot from him.
One of the best things was how to listen.
When I was little and shy among the crowds of relatives,
I'd save up all my words until I got him alone,
him on his chair in the den,
me beside him, holding his hand.
He would tilt his head,
look at the floor and give me all of his attention.
 One of his favorite things to say to this chatterbox was, "Well!"
Whenever he'd near the end of endurance,
he'd offer me a Coffee Nip candy.
The unwrapping and the eating would occupy my attention
and give him an escape route.
I love coffee to this day.

He also taught me practical things like
how to drive a truck, shoot a shotgun, and take a long walk.

All of my kids loved to go and see their Paw-paw and Maw-maw.
As he got more frail
this past year, our visits got shorter.
They all took a turn on his lap, and my oldest
always bent his ear to tell him something important.

Some of those times, I'd hear his quiet laugh,
then that familar

He was so excited when on my birthday this year
my youngest daughter got very close,
and he was able to see her face for the first time.
"I'll remember this for the rest of my life," he said.
He'd been blind for years, you see.
Her face was one of those precious gifts God gives us.

Like He gave me a grandfather who was patient,
loving, and strong,
who lived long enough to love my babies
as much as he ever loved me.

Maybe even a little more.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Because it's Monday and you need more coffee...

After a brief, shining moment, the week is back, and it wants revenge for all the fun you had without it over the weekend!

Distract it with this and maybe it will forgive you and play nice.

Click to see the whole cartoon. Use the Magnifying Glass to enlarge.