Monday, December 24, 2012

Peace on Earth

Like most us, I am still under the spell of the tragedy in Newtown, still resonating with the remnants of communal grief. Like you the tones of it are quieter now and taking the shape of a tear or two still, but for me they are coming more in the form of sudden hugs as my five year old walks past my chair or a stunned realization and quick prayer when I fold a pint sized sock from the laundry.

I have waited to write about it. I waited until now, when most of the media has moved on, because I have only one insight to share. I waited until I am settled enough with my feelings and because anything I can say is less for those involved than it is for all of us who do or will grieve. It is simply this: give the grieving quiet. Be there, do everything you can, but don't feel you have to fill the silence with anything more than a hug, a touch, or even your shared tears. Having watched my parents grieve all my life for two gone ahead older brothers, I know that there is nothing that you or I could say or do in the face of such a tragedy or any tragedy. Those who are grieving do not grieve any less or any better by anything from us. It is more in the resonance of silence and the knowledge that our griefs are shared that comfort comes.

But sometimes not even then.

We must do what we can but do it with care. Those platitudes we speak at such times and especially online? They are nothing. They mean nothing. Sometimes they even hurt. Don't be afraid of the grieving, don't avoid doing all that you can, but don't be afraid to allow silence to sit with you when you sit with them. "I'm so sorry" or "I'll remember" is all you really ever need say because it is true. Let the half truths and false notes of our platitudes fall somewhere other than the ears of someone who can barely raise her head above her burdens.

Time does not heal such wounds. We simply need the time to gather our strength to bear the burden of life's heavier loads. Nothing like this heals.

God did not will for death. In the Garden it was not so. Our very bones know that death is not what was meant to be.

More faith and mere faith does not prevent our suffering. Mary, who knew more perfectly than you or I ever will who He is, suffered her own agony as she stood at His feet and watched that life slip away in torment and anguish, drop by precious drop. Surely no one has had more faith in the Son than His own mother?

Do not offend any such moments of ours with clumsy and heavy platitudes, be quiet instead.

If you are called to sit and grieve with those who grieve, your main task is to listen, to hold out a moment of peace in the maelstrom. We have all grieved something. We all know how it is. Grief differs only in the matter of degree. Let that be enough for you, let that be your gift, that dim understanding shining out across a dark ocean of tears. A rocky shore is near, treacherous and dark, but near enough for the drowning to seek it and come in from the wreckage if they will.

Be peace for someone in this year. Just a glimpse of peace.
That's all I really have to say here, my readers. Thank you for suffering this fool awhile. I hope this helps you because writing it has helped me some. I'll see you on the other side of Christmas. I will be spending some time with my loved ones and hope you are graced to do the same.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Martin Family Tradition

We make homemade Christmas candy to fill our stockings. We also send a few pounds of the goods East and a few pounds West to our family in other states. Last year I shared our gum drop recipe on the blog. This year I give you, as my Christmas present to you, Stained Glass Candy.

It is beautiful. It is easy. It is a family favorite. It ships very, very well.

Stained Glass Candy

                  2  15" x 10" x 1" pan
                  heavy saucepan
                  candy thermometer

                   3 3/4 cup sugar
                   1 1/2 cup corn syrup
                   1 cup water
                   2-3 drops food
                   1/4 tsp. flavoring
                   Cooking spray

Spray 2 15x10x1 inch pans and set aside. In saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup, water and food coloring. Cook, stirring constantly over a medium heat until boiling. Cook without stirring until candy thermometer reads 300 degrees (the hard-crack stage). Remove from heat and stir in flavoring. Immediately pour into prepared pans to cool. Break into pieces. Yields about 2 pounds of candy.

Tip: If you forget to treat the pans before pouring in the syrup, don't worry. The sheet of candy will release if you heat the bottom of the pan on the stove for a minute or two. Pry it up and then hold it up while it cools, then shatter it.

Be aware: This syrup will reach 300 degrees. Take all precautions to prevent spills.

Friday, December 21, 2012

7 Quick Panicky Takes


I am so nervous! We are having our final inspection to qualify our new house for foster care and adoption today at 2:30 p.m. Central. Today. My husband and I wanted to finish several more projects before the inspections needed to happen, but some funding got held up and we are simply out of time. I am waiting for the person to show up in mere minutes and would appreciate prayers from anyone reading this.


Completing all the paperwork and classes to keep up the certification for foster/adopt is akin to labor for the adoptive and foster parent. In truth, I slogged through that portion of the work with a relaxed attitude stemming from the fact that the house was not ready. There were no high stakes at any other step of the way. Until today. It is a bit silly of me because if it doesn't pass we can always begin the paperwork trail again. I am thinking of some child needing a soft, safe place to land at one of the worst times of the year to enter into foster care: Christmastime! My nervousness stems from worrying about letting that little person down because we didn't manage to pull our house together in time.


16 minutes and counting...


Please take a moment to pray for all those children who will be taken into foster care in the next several weeks. It's never good to have your family come apart at the seams, but it just seems to happen more often with the pressure everyone puts on themselves over the holidays.


If you have ever considered adoption or foster care, even though I am a bit nervous and flighty today, don't let that turn you away. In fact, I would invite you to consider the thought as an invitation. I tell everyone who considers adoption and foster care to treat it like a vocation. When you think you are being called to it, prayerfully assume that you have the calling and take all the steps necessary to bring it about. Let God make it clear whether or not this is in His plans for you. He will. Loud and clear. Trust me.


8 minutes, Lord have mercy!


I am going to leave this blank for now. I'll let you know if the house has passed and where we go from here momentarily!


We passed! We passed! We passed! I'm so excited to be looking forward to being a momma to a new little person!

I hope and pray that your next update will be to announce the gender and codename of our newest addition, long or short term, to our family!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I Can Not Touch The Tragedy

It is impossible. I can not express the depths of my reaction to this tragedy with something as inadequate as words. This little blog does not seem the place for such a thing at such a time. I will pray instead. Feel free to join me there.

Friday, December 14, 2012

7 Quick Takes


Brace yourself, lots of talk about budgeting is coming. It took me years (years, I tell you) to finally get to the point where we created one based on what we actually spend. I'm now a zealot, a financial convert. I have drunk the Kool-Aid. Nothing will make me happier than convincing all others, including our federal government, to do the same.


"Anything worth doing is worth doing badly." - G. K. Chesterton.

As part of the budget, I am cutting our hair most of the time. Yesterday was haircut day for the boys. Yes, I did it myself, and no, I have no shame. I've been cutting boy hair since I was in my young teens. My older brother started growing his curly hair out in his Freshman year of high school. He discovered early in the process that any beautician not properly trained on curly hair would make so many mistakes that precious inches would be lost in the unending quest to "even it out." Since curls do not grow in a straight line but grow around a curve, and since the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, it takes a whole lot longer to get a 1/4 inch of length back in curly hair than in straight hair. My brother didn't care about evenness so much as keeping that hard earned length. His younger sister, unlike a paid professional, would experiment a bit and then prudently say, "You'll need to use a ponytail for the next few weeks," when all hope was lost. He was good with that. I learned how to cut hair on some of the hardest to cut hair but with the most patient and tolerant of brothers (at least in this instance). Because of him, when it is time to tackle a few cowlicks in my boys' stick straight locks 20 years later, I have all the false confidence necessary to proceed.

I learned to cut hair by making all the mistakes possible on a challenge. When something finally went right, it was noted and repeated until something else miraculously righted itself. Eventually, mostly, the job was done passably enough. I now know enough to keep the damage to a minimum between the visits to a professional.


A Job Done Is a Done Job

 I learned how to ride a horse the same way I learned to cut hair: by doing it badly until I did it passably. The first horse I ever rode with regularity was a barn soured mare. The very first challenge I faced was to catch her and gear her up, and since most of my time with her was spent chasing her down, I tended to skip the gear entirely. I counted it a victory just to mount her and stay mounted with nothing more than her lead rope and halter.

Unknowingly, I had broken the job of riding and retaming her into small, obtainable goals. First job, catch her, mount her, hang on for dear life. That was enough for weeks. When that no longer sufficed, I added the idea of stopping at will (mine, not hers). When that was accomplished, I started to steer. After we had all that worked out, I started to saddle her regularly which involved a near return to ground zero and a whole lot more ground time for me. Me and the saddle, that is.

Eventually, over the course of a summer, I was able to safely ride her out of the corral and around fences, trees, and other people with little trouble and very little bloodshed. I knew I had accomplished a bit of mastery when someone started a weed whacker while I was riding her. She, who had a fear of bees, heard the machine as an angry swarm of them. She jumped up and bolted. Not only did I stay on through that first surge of fright but she trusted me enough to allow me to calm her down afterwards.

She never was much horse for anyone else, and she wound up being sold off when she bit a hunk of arm out of someone, but she taught me a lot. From her I learned I don't need an endless supply of persistence and will power. I just need a fraction of a second longer than any adversary. That's all it ever takes to win.


This persistence and willingness to do a job shoddily brings me back around to the budget. I don't have to follow it perfectly. I don't even have to have a perfectly running home. In fact, some things are going to be a little slip shod until the funds are available. The point is, with this budget, I am locked eye to eye with my income and expenditures. It's a battle of wills: mine against mine. I don't have to out stubborn the economy to win a money battle, I just have to make it home from the store this once without buying something I can't afford on this particular paycheck. Staying on budget is a lot like staying on a horse, I've fallen off enough to know it's better to just hang on. I just have to hang on a fraction of a second longer than any temptation to outspend ourselves. That I can do.


I'm not saying the whole budget process was easy. I'm not saying it wasn't done with a lot of prayer and sacrifice. In fact, I shocked my husband terribly by laying my head down and bawling my eyes out over the last few thousand. You see, I'd miscalculated and given us too much for the year. When the mistake was discovered at the very last, and when it was the exact amount it would cost to take a trip to California to see my family,  and when I had to cross it out and give that up, I had finally reached the end of my own strength. That was the exact point where I stopped relying on my willpower and began to rely on God. Those tears are when I took that leap of faith. I even prayed aloud, "I don't want another 10 years to go by without seeing them, Lord, but I will trust You when You show me that it won't be this year either." It wasn't the faith that shocked my husband, I give plenty of that when it is easy enough, it was that this particular act of faith took the surrender to tears before I could surrender my will. I'm not the crying kind, so it was an unexpected moment for him to find himself in the middle of a puddle of a wife. I still don't like it one bit and I'm still a bit  sullen, but there was no denying that the money couldn't come from anywhere else, so Thy will, not mine be done.

Luckily, God doesn't require something more than mere obedience. Even Jesus wept. I just have to do the job, liking it can come later.


Last year, instead of doing all the shopping ourselves, we took our Christmas money and gave the kids $5 for each person they wanted to buy for. Some of the gifts chosen, especially from the 3 year old, were unexpected or even outright funny. It was sweet though, to see each child make his or her decisions in the store and light up with the hope of Christmas at the thought of the recipient opening it. Each gift was a part of each child who chose to give it. So much so that Christmas morning was full of, "This is from YOU! Watch me open it!" and "That's from me! I wanted you to have it!" even over something as simple as a laminated book mark. My husband and I were struck with how much more everyone loved their Christmas, how much longer into the year we would hear such things as, "I got this from John for Christmas." By doing this instead of making all the purchases ourselves with the same amount of money, we accidentally discovered a way to make Christmas more about the giving than receiving. Sure, the kids enjoyed what the received, but they also managed to focus on what they gave, too. It helps that our kids are still pretty little and we've always made an effort to tone down the consumerism of Christmas, but every family can make an effort in the direction toward self donation and love of others. Any more of that in the world and we can count it as a win.


I want to reiterate Chesterton's quote above. Don't worry too much about the perfect Christmas, a perfect haircut, or a perfect plan. "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly," includes aligning your will to God's. You can go into most anything, knowing you are most likely going to make a mess of the job. Rest assured that as in most things, God will take a good faith effort on your part and bless it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wifey Wednesday: Budget

It's a short post. Today, instead of writing about my wifely duties, I was performing them. It is the end of the year and after much struggle and resistance (mine), we have our very first ever workable family budget. It's very tight and it's not pretty, but it is within our means. It took a lot of work, discussion, and cooperation, but we are ready to face the year financially.

Today, I plugged the budget into the family computer and got the kinks worked out. As it turns out I'd miscalculated our tax rate and wound up with an overage to the tune of $3,000. More belt tightening and vanity squashing had to happen than we would have ever thought possible.

I'm excited about trying to live on a budget based on what we actually have available versus living on what we think we have available. Everything is laid out in black and white. There's no more need of discussion about where the money should go; we've already decided. Everyone has been part of the process. Everyone knows where the money is coming from and where it is going to. Keeping track of the money has always been my job and it has caused me no end of stress. Now, keeping track of the money is every body's job.

It was a lot of work to get here, but I feel a sense of freedom now that I've done it. I don't have to worry about money for this upcoming year because we did all the worrying up front. The worry is over. Now, it is merely a matter of discipline and diligence. Pray for us, my friends.

Even if it is going to be tough going, with many fewer luxuries, we will achieve balance in the checkbook and black in the ledger at the end of the year. I highly recommend this whole process.

Friday, December 7, 2012

7 Quick Takes


My spiritual director gave me quite a penance yesterday. We got to the assigning of a penance portion of the Confession when he said with a twinkle in his eye, "How do you take your coffee?"

A cup of blech coffee...
He had watched me doctor up a cup mere moments before, so I said, "Oh, no! You're going to take my coffee!"

He laughed at me, "Answer the question."

I bowed to the inevitable and answered, "I mess with it a lot. Cream, sugar. The works, Father."

He nodded and bowed his head. "For two days, drink it black."

"Can I do without?"


"You know, I can do without it. I thought you were going to tell me to do without."

"You are to drink it and you are to drink it black."

"I can do that," thinking I'd drink one cup and call it penance.

"I want you to drink it and I want you to be sure that you are not drinking any less."

I wondered if he could read minds.

He had that twinkle in his eye again, "Think about the bitterness of sin with each sip."

I laughed, "That won't be hard."

"It could be," he said.

He knows me well enough to know me. I'd rather do without than put up with.

Lord, have mercy.


As I was reviewing the above, I realized something about myself--I am constantly bargaining. It's not just me in the Confessional, it's me everywhere (just ask my mom sometime). I don't think I accept authority very well. I also think I need to quit blaming my husband for our son who does the exact same thing to my authority.

Mea culpa!


Today I had the pleasure of going to Mass. It's First Friday. We Martins haven't managed to ever complete the First Friday Devotion, but we do go frequently. Any day with Mass in it is a good day.


I am also fasting today. The first coffee penance was served today, too, and yet today wasn't as bad as I imagined it would be. It did take me until 3:00 p.m. to choke down my usual dose of morning coffee. I thought of the bitterness of sin with every sip, too. I can not believe that this is all it takes to tame me. I am an incredible wimp.


The weather has been so cooperative that I decided to work outside. We are renovating an old farmhouse that we moved onto an acre of land we purchased a few years ago. Last year's massive drought took us down to bare dirt, though I had managed to section off and compost a large garden bed out front. This week I began transplanting bulbs and perennials. Today, my neighbor and I hit the town's free mulch yard. We loaded up a trailer full of mulch and dumped it on the new plantings. I'm watering it all in even as I type.

I'm also hoping for snow on Sunday. It's been the only promise of moisture for months. C'mon snow! Ice? Anything!!


My neighbor and I are going to share our resources for gardening in other ways, too. Next year I will be in charge of all the gourds here at my house. She will grow everything else. We began pooling our resources because I wanted to garden but didn't have the soil ready. Instead of struggling to produce a measly crop in poorly prepared soil, all last year I churned the dirt and added manure to my future garden and earned my summer produce by working in her garden and helping with the harvests and canning. Gardens around here take tremendous effort and much preparation. I'm only just to the point where enough compost has been added to enrich the soil in my main garden bed to consider being in charge of the gourds. We'll still pool our resources, we've just increased the pool for next year. I'm excited.

We're moving all the gourds to my new bed because the ongoing drought has created a surplus of squash bugs. We're hoping to get a better harvest than this year if we move next year's crop of pumpkins, butternuts, and squashes to my plot. You think maybe the bugs will simply get lost between here and there? I am happily working on the project now at any rate. Next year I will have some flowers and some greenery about the place.

So help me!


Well, I promised a special Advent Post and then I went and took all my notes and made a Podcast out of them. I was able to go so far afield and so much more in depth talking about Advent that I now have enough material to write a small book on the subject. Gracious sakes, I'm not up for that at the moment (though I will take this opportunity to announce that I have two children's books being penned as well as a sci-fi story bubbling around in my cauldron of Too Much To Do Stew), so I've decided to leave it as a Podcast for the moment and let you listen to the post I had fully intended to write for you.

Here it is...

Listen to internet radio with Deeper Truth on Blog Talk Radio

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Wifey Wednesday: Fasting and Praying

Sheila Wray Gregoire is tackling a painful subject in marriage today: porn. It is an epidemic. Statistics show that even in Christian marriage where we know better, it is just as prevalent as it is in the rest of the culture. I invite you to read her posts. Before you do, I want to arm you with the arsenal of God. If you are suffering under the effects of this scourge in your marriage, I want to offer you two weapons to combat it: prayer and fasting.

Yesterday I posted about fasting and prayer and today I am posting about it again. This post is more specific to the love of your life and your family.

First, let me be clear, the love of your life is not your husband (a shocking thought). The love of your life is Love, Himself. He is the center and epitome of all you are. From cleaning up a sticky spill from a dropped bottle to quelling your temper when interrupted for the 53rd time by a colicky baby, all that you do is in service to Him who has breathed life and love into your very bones. You are His in order that you may be the hands and feet who serve the people He has brought into your life. Do not let your outrage and pain of discovering porn use in your marriage stop you from serving your Lord through your kindness to His child, your husband.

Please note that I have purposely given examples of motherhood and not wifehood in the above paragraph because we can readily see how we serve God through our children. It is more difficult for us, as enculturated as we are, to see how we also serve God through our spouses. Modern men and women have been taught that spouses are to serve us and our feelings, when in fact, true happiness lies in a life of service to others. Take for your example your Savior who came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45). All that talk of marriage being a two way street means that you are very likely headed in opposite directions, each of you growing more selfish instead of growing towards each other and God. Christopher West (author, speaker and authority on Pope John Paul II's work on the Theology of the Body) in describing spousal love, says that the love between man and woman, fueled by the sexual urge, is designed by God to launch us to Heaven. That sexual attraction and energy of spousal love is like...

the fuel of a rocket that's meant to launch us towards eternal bliss with him. But what would happen if those rocket engines became inverted, no longer pointing us towards that stars, but only back upon ourselves? Set that rocket off and the only possible result is a massive blast of self-destruction. (link to Christopher West)

Porn is our self-indulgent and self-centered modern American life expressed sexually. It is all about the observer, without the slightest concern about the social and personal problems infesting the porn industry: the rate of disease and drug abuse in the industry, the sex slave trade fueling it, the continuation of childhood sexual abuse that many of the actors are acting out. In fact, the actors are merely the meat of the dish. Literally, they are just bodies for the camera to film. No one cares about their story lines. It's all about the satisfaction of the observer, without the complications of any other personality. Spiritually porn use is merely a step along the way to the utter self-centeredness and desolation of Hell. It is a symptom of the disease, not the disease itself.

We have gotten it so wrong that we can't even see that selfishness, the cult of me, myself and I, is the disease. We are all infected. So infected, in fact, that we can not even see the cure as a good anymore. Selflessness and service are so foreign to our way of thinking that even mentioning it brings on a barrage of criticism and ridicule.

I don't care. Call me oppressed. Call me an anti-feminist. Call me what you like. I am a Christian and I know this: the cross. It is my duty and my honor to serve and suffer there with my Lord. I am to pick it up for my fellow man, especially that fellow my Lord allowed me to particularly serve, so...

As the Lord has said that some things will not be cured except by prayer and fasting, I will tell you from personal experience that you can do something about a porn addiction: you can pray hard and you can fast often. Fast from part of a meal. Fast from one meal one day. Fast from eating one day, one time. Fast once a week. Even just once a month. Fasting is voluntarily putting yourself up on the cross for another. Do you not believe that Christ will bless that?

Remember that fasting is a process, an act in response to the faith you have received. It will not be any more perfect than any other thing you do. It is not a failure to fail at an all day fast. It is not a failure to be unable to sustain a fast for more than a few hours. It takes practice to get to the point where you can decide, "Today I will eat only one small meal." Not many people make it to that point. Instead, you can say, "I fast from those last five bites on my plate," or "I fast from any sugar or sweetener this week," or even, "I fast from saying any hurtful words during this fight."

Offer these moments of denial as a prayer that includes your very body to invite God to heal your husband's sins of the body. Stay prayerful and stay strong. In God's time, miracles happen.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

But this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting

Advent is sometimes called a mini-Lent. It is a time of fast and preparation. In that spirit, I invite you to join us this month to Fast for Life.

Originally Published on March 29, 2011
Fasting Once a Week 
for Life

We do not have an abortion facility here in Amarillo. What we have is a bus. This bus takes pregnant women down to Lubbock every Thursday and brings them back again after their abortions. It's a two hour trip down and an eternity back according to one woman who made that trip.

Her story inspired a small movement among those who cried with her through the retelling of her heartbreak. Two of us were there to hear her out and the two of us have resolved to fast and pray for women who suffer the choice of Abortion. Upwards of 64% of women who abort report being pressured into doing so. I invite you to imagine a world with better choices for women and their children. I invite you to join us in our fast.

My dear friend Rozanne, will be praying and fasting every Wednesday in order to open the hearts of these mothers to the alternatives to abortion. I will be praying and fasting every Friday to help heal the women who got on that bus because they felt they had no other choice. Our fast is simple: bread and broth for the day with a big serving of compassionate prayer. Pick your day, give God your intention, and join us.

Rozanne and I feel called to do this because we listened and heard first hand the story of one woman who felt she had no other choice. We heard the echo of countless voices crying out that they, too, had no choice. Rozanne and I are also Texans. Roe v. Wade was a Texas case. America's first abortuary opened in Dallas. Our state's legislature and judiciary first unleashed this devastation on the women of our country and we Texans who voted such people into power have a responsibility for the wounds inflicted upon our sisters in the name of Choice. Texas is acting. Texas is the state that has begun 40 Days for Life and we can do more. Will you join with two Texans in fasting and praying once a week for life? There are seven days in the week, pick any one.

Again, the fast is simple: bread, broth and prayer. If you can't fast from food, fast from something else (coffee, radio, Facebook). Help us spread the word. Join us. We can one day end the need for abortion facilities by providing more than just one choice.

To contact me:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saturday Stuff

Today I got up early to clear out my living room and begin finishing the wood floor. It was in pretty good shape, so I decided to forgo the sanding. Really, I just wanted to seal it and protect it now that I've yanked the carpet off of it. I've cleaned the floor repeatedly and have the option of renting the sander and starting over again next year. I'll let you know how it goes.

In between coats of polyurethane (or whatever this stinky stuff I'm using is called), I'm playing with horses. Our youth group is working on horsemanship this month, so they are all visiting me at a neighbor's house and grooming their horses for them. We even got to ride around their arena! I'll try to get some of the pictures of the event up before too long.

Right now, I'm just a little busy...

Friday, November 30, 2012

7 Quick Takes

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 198)


Today is the last day of November, so today we are taking down the last of the month long All Soul's Celebration. I don't want to mislead you into thinking that we are so vigorously diligent about celebrating the Liturgical Year, we have simply made a point of picking and choosing those celebrations that our Domestic Church shall emphasize. Our family believes very strongly that attaining Heaven is a grand accomplishment, indeed the ultimate accomplishment, and so we give over some space in our home and our lives every November to give thanks and praise for such a wonder as a life well lived and a Savior such as ours.


To be honest, last year we did November better. We sang saint songs most nights, then read stories about their heroic lives. This year we had a special dinner with friends and family to kick off the celebration and tied saint cards to a tree branch mounted in a vase. We talked about each child's patron saint here and there, but we weren't as good about bringing the saints' good examples to mind daily. It was a little lackluster this year. That said, the best thing about family celebrations is that memories are made even of the mundane. The next best thing about family celebrations is that there is always next year.


On to Advent. Another very Catholic celebration is the month long fast and preparation for celebrating Christ's Incarnation. Christmas and Advent for Catholics is both a celebration of His coming into the world as a baby and His coming again at the Second Coming. Our readings this month will focus both on the Old Testament prophecies of Christ and the New Testament descriptions of the Day of Judgement. Like all things we Catholics do, there is layer upon layer of Truth to be discovered here. This season asks, "Are you ready?" How are you making ready to invite your Lord into your home, heart, and family in a more intense and personal manner over the next several weeks?


Unlike our All Souls celebration throughout November, our Advent is intense. Our children like the presents of Christmas, but the time of year they love the most is this. Part of our Advent celebration includes lighting our Advent candles each night, singing a hymn, sharing aloud acts of charity and kindness we have done throughout the day (more on that in a special Advent post), reflecting on Bible readings, and intense prayers for a renewal of our relationship with Christ. The other part of our Advent is focused on our stewardship. We begin with a month-long winnowing down of our material possessions, passing along any items that are not treasured, utilized, or necessary so that others may receive the blessing of the use of them (we got an early start on that this year actually). We also clean and polish our belongings and our home. When Christmas finally comes, we have made ready and made room both physically and spiritually. Christmas and all the prayers of thankfulness and praise and the cookies, candy, and caroling, actually begins on December 25. It does not end there as it does in the Protestant and secular calendars, but instead it carries us through the secular New Year and beyond.


Yeah, so...this is us.

Because we sound pretty awesome in theory, I'd like to share with you a photo from our family photo shoot. We call it "The Stomp" and my husband is still convinced we should send it out as our family photo this year. We settled on sharing it on Facebook instead.

The story behind it is this. My husband broke his foot on this summer's trip back East, so he had to attend his sister's funeral in a cast. While still in Virginia, there was even talk of surgery and pins which thankfully was not necessary. This photo shoot took place days after we returned home, so not only was he in physical pain and attempting to overcome it, he and the whole family was still in shock and sadness from the sudden loss of our sister, our auntie, my son's Godmother Catherine. We were all feeling strained.

But this? This painful moment was the one that reset the entire tone of the photo session. Once my husband got over the pain and saw that Hannah Lou had caught the exact moment of the stomp on film, he laughed so hard the whole family dissolved into seven little puddles of giggles. Eight if you count the photographer. It is one of my favorite family moments, forever.

This is us for real, imperfect, stepping on each other's toes, and coming together enough to make a picture or two out of hundreds look good. We Martins often don't make it pretty, we might not even get it done, but we're in it together at any rate. And by the way, between this picture and the last one taken that day, one of those heavy stools you see us using as props fell over onto my foot. Those sweet looking kids took both parents out!


In other news, we have a kitten. His name is Jabberwocky Hawkeye Smith. Hawkeye is the cool name my son picked out from the movie The Avengers. Jabberwocky is the ironic name I picked out for his loud mouth. Our dear friends picked him especially for us because he was not a talkative kitty. Fact is, until he came to live with us, he just didn't have much to say.

P.S. The Smith is just to prove my point that he is a kitty, no relation.

P.P.S. Don't think we have anything against cats. The dog doesn't even rate a last name.

P.P.P.S. Please send all your kitty and/or dog defending hate mail to


Enjoy the rest of the pics!

The two who started all the Martin Mayhem...
"Plotting to take over the world."

"Charmed, I'm sure you are!"

"Do you have a favorite freckle?"
"Just wait until I hug you. You'll be in my power!"

"I have a joke for you!"
(They all end with "...on your head!")

All it took was 227,346,017 shots to get it in one take!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Pardon the Interruption

For those of you who enjoy the weekly Wifey Wednesday posts, please pardon me while I attend to some wifely duties today in lieu of blogging about them. Advent is right around the corner and I have to unpack a few more boxes and varnish the living room floor before Sunday (we moved last January, but we're renovating and therefore still half packed).

When I come back I'll have some (hopefully) interesting topics, such as "What do you practice?" and "So, he wants to talk about Bigfoot" after the regularly scheduled "7 Quick Takes" to take us into the weekend!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Best Writers

Good newsmen write well about the extraordinary
while great poets write about the ordinary extraordinarily well.

Friday, November 23, 2012

7 Quick Takes


So you made it to Black Friday. Are you Christmas shopping? After eating pie for breakfast, I'm off to visit a friend today, kids in tow. I don't fight in the stores for bargains. I'd rather just jump in on those last minute online bids like all the other introverts or maybe even do without.


I am considering renaming my son Mr. Smartypants. After teaching himself to read and not telling me about it until after we'd gone to war over it, now it's all a great big joke. We've modified his reading program to a speech program, and he's continually finding ways to outfox me. The last successful attempt was teaching him how to make the short a sound clearly. It went like this:

Momma points to the letter a, "Show me how you say this?"
"You know this sound."
"What's the sound it makes?"
"Not the name, the sound. What's the sound?"
"Uh!" *giggle*
"The sound of this letter, honey!"
*giggle* "Ah!" *giggle*
"Quit fooling around, please. Say the sound."
"Aayy!" *dies laughing*
"Not the na...oh!" I slap my head as it dawns on me that he's said all the sounds he knows an a can make except the short a sound. "You got me, Mr. Smartypants! You got me!"
His middle name might need to be Stinker. Smartypants Stinker Martin.

Saying goodbye...

He's not always a little stinker, though. I've been cleaning out my baby gear to give to an expecting friend. She'd had to jettison hers when she moved her big family into a tiny house. My Boppy Pillow, the one that makes breastfeeding easier, came out of storage and went through the wash to prepare it for her. Simon found it on top of the boxes of baby clothes waiting to be loaded into the van. He brought it to me, put it around my waist, laid his head on it and sighed. I rubbed his back saying, "I remember, too, buddy." It was a sweet way to say goodbye to that part of our family life.


On an entirely different note, in case you missed this little gem, Marc Barnes over at The Bad Catholic wrote on Nothing. It's definitely something! It's "Better Than Nothing."

"The Joker is cooler than Batman.
It’s a problem of poetry more than anything else."

"A killing spree may shock society, but it is a boredom to the universe, who ultimately kills everyone. To objectify a woman into a sex object might give men a thrill, but it is pathetic to the universe, who is busy rendering her into a corpse."
Editor's Note: Please be so kind as to remember that Marc ignores all death threats unless they are submitted in Iambic Pentameter.


The day after Thanksgiving is an excellent time to talk about the higher qualities of drudgery (especially if you've read that post from Number 4). I don't like doing dishes and yet I must. And by hand. I can't explain it beyond saying there is something redeemable in the very act of restoring temporary order to a busy kitchen. Suds therapy, I guess. My husband and I both find the quiet moments with warm water and suds mundane, soothing and restorative. "Let me wash the dishes!" and "I need to go do dishes!" are words heard often in our home during periods of high stress. Please take no offense if I take a dishrag and a bottle of Dawn in hand if we are drowning in a discussion of our messy lives. It is no criticism of your housekeeping. I am merely attempting to bring order to the Universe by restoring order somewhere I can actually reach.


I guess it is no mistake that I've taken to placing my prayer requests list within sight of my kitchen sink. Currently there are two divorces and one breakup on it to pray for. Order from chaos, indeed. Some things are beyond the restorative powers of warm water and bubbles, so I hand them over, sometimes several times daily.

My hero!

On a smaller note, my husband has figured out a way to fit our refrigerator into our kitchen. The spot in our farmhouse kitchen was too small for a modern fridge, but with a judicious use of a sawzall saw and the loss of a few inches of counter space, my work triangle will no longer include ducking into the laundry room! Whoot!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wifey Wednesday: Two Tips for a Smoother Thanksgiving

Today's post, like most everything going on today, is going to be rushed and crammed in somewhere between the last minute dashes to the grocery store and the pie baking. We can get very flustered by the added work of a special day. Among my friends we have a name for that harried, distracted, and near frantic pre-holiday mindset: Terrible Martha Syndrome. Yes, it's named for the Martha of the Gospels who has Jesus Himself for dinner, but gets distracted by the work of feeding His disciples and unthinkingly grouses to the Lord about all the trouble she's having to go through for Him (Luke 10:38-42). We do this all the time to our friends and family. Our troubled face and impatient manner communicates loud and clear, "Do you have any idea how much bother I have to go through for you people?"

I'd like to help you with what helps me in those Terrible Martha moments. In and amongst all the cares of the day, try to remember two things: laughter is the best medicine and this particular day will never come again. Enjoy the craziness as much as you can. Everybody in the country is going crazy. It isn't just you.


Laughter is the best medicine. Tears and laughter are the only two things you can do to relieve stress. Yelling and giving vent to negative emotions actually increase the emotion. (Please pardon me for not citing the studies today--I'll plug them in when I'm less harried!) Big feasts and extra people in the house at breakfast are fodder for either pure comedy or pure tragedy. Usually both! In any given moment of high emotion you can either laugh, grouse, or cry. Grousing won't help, crying will wreck your mascara, but laughing will make it better. Put your arm around that aggravating kid and give vent to the giggles. My husband often reminds me that he can forgive me much because I can make him laugh. If you can't manage a giggle, try a loving smile instead of a frown this weekend just once and see if it doesn't make the moment better.


This day will never come again. This may seem like a claxon call to stress out about making the day perfect, but it isn't. I'm actually reminding you that you will never have a chance to have Thanksgiving with a five year old again, so go ahead and let her top the pie. That crooked pie can be one of the best memories of your feast! Don't shoot for perfection, shoot for keeping any particular moment from being a bad memory of when mommy blew her cool.

Christ never told Martha not to do the work. Instead he chides her for her attitude about the work. "Martha, Martha, thou art anxious and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful" (Luke 10:41-42). Do the work, my friends. Just remember that the work is not the point. The meal is not the point. Your relationship with Him and with each of these precious people is the point. Enjoy them this day. The meal is merely the setting for all the jewels of your family to shine particularly prettily for a little while. Treasure them and remember to treasure those mishaps that are bound to happen. They are what your family will laugh about in years to come.

"Remember the year that daddy dropped the turkey?" can be said in a hushed secretive whisper of remembered awe or it can be said with a ring of remembered laughter as a reminder of the ridiculous that lurks behind every great endeavor. Let the ridiculousness of the day be a source of laughter and not of shame and have a great holiday this year. Even if it comes off as mediocre, it's your unique version of mediocre and therefore a family treasure!

In moments like this you can laugh or cry.  Or both!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gluten Free Dessert? Easy!

Don't panic! You can come up with a dairy free, gluten free, soy free desert for your allergy sensitive guests this Holiday Season without making a special (expensive!!) trip to the health food store. Rice Crispy Treats are good, frostable, and malleable enough to make into any shape you like, including the traditional squares.

The recipe is simple:

Rice Crispy Treats

1/4 cup oil, margarine, butter, shortening, or lard
40 large marshmallows (4 cups of the minis)
5 cups rice crispies

On low heat over the stove, stirring constantly, melt the fat and the marshmallows. Do not allow mixture to boil. When the marshmallows are completely melted, turn off the heat and stir in the rice crispies. Coat them evenly with the marshmallow mixture. Using a canola or olive oil based cooking spray (read the ingredients first), spray the mold you want to press the treats into (cupcake tins, 9 x 12 bake pan for traditional squares, bundt cake pan, etc.). Let cool. Remove from mold, frost if desired.
Glaze frosting: 2 cups powdered sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 to 3 Tbs iced water. Mix well. Spread onto treats.

If you are trying to keep away from dairy, wheat or soy be careful of the cooking sprays and the fats you use. Cooking sprays can have everything from wheat to dairy, so read carefully, and don't be afraid to call the person in question and read the ingredients list aloud so they can okay it! Some shortenings use soy. Butter has dairy. Margarine can have dairy and soy. If you need to avoid all of the above you can use another oil (olive oil would not register well on the palate while almond oil or sunflower oil would enhance the flavor) or even plain old lard. When in doubt, check with the person who has the sensitivity. They'll let you know.

Some inspiration from around the net...

Cute gluten free variation from here.
This became a ghost or Squidward. See here.

Tuneful Tuesday

Sometimes a song just hits all the right notes for no particular reason. This is one of those. I like it for no other reason than I like it. When I was in high school and listening to "Classic Rock" stations, this would come on infrequently, but when it did I would have a great day. No matter what. Music is like that. It acts on you.

So, here. Have a great day.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Housework It, Baby!

Rolling in the deep cleaning
Nothing makes me feel quite like Cinderella than mopping and singing to Adele. I may not have birds and mice flitting around my head, but I do have some soul.

"Throw your toys through every open door!
Walk in my dust pile and find out what this broom's for!!"

Friday, November 16, 2012

7 Quick Takes


Who else is reading The Hobbit aloud to their families this month?  I can't be the only one! 

Coming to theaters December 14, 2012


Because I am neither a Conservative or a Liberal, but tend to desire aspects of both in order to avoid the evils of each, I have lost several on-line friends over the past few weeks. To those of you who are still around, thank you for not making complete agreement on everything a prerequisite to friendship. Some things are going to need discussion and discomfort to hash out. As all the election shouting dies down, I'll be trying to keep in mind that we live in the real world where nobody sees eye to eye on all things, even the important ones.


For a quick diversion, I want to share with you one of my favorite pieces of movie music. I'm too picky to enjoy this particular movie in its entirety--I would rent this simply to fast forward to these Kraken attack scenes. I love the panic driven horns!


Here's another much beloved music piece. I spent several days hunting this one down, thinking that the Italian was Spanish and thereby spelling it wrong in the search engine. I sing to life, too. Love it!


Today we are having homemade Egg Drop Soup for dinner. I'm not sharing the recipe yet for two reason: we aren't done tweaking it and it requires canned chicken foot broth which most of you will not have on hand. It's not a pretty sight, that ingredient. In fact, having the jars out on the counter cooling after being in the pressure canner may qualify as leaving up the Halloween decorations (if we'd ever decorated for it).

 Raise your hand for chicken feet!
Me! Me! Me!


So now that you know we eat weird, maybe you are up for another weird fact about the Martins. We don't respect privacy. I thought you should know this just in case you ever come over and try to use our bathroom. Right now there are seven of us and one of them, so my son has dubbed us The Barging Martins. We have no manners. Fair warning.
"Honey? Are you busy? I want to show you this new dance step I learned!"


It's finally safe to say that I made it all the way through the week on the blogroll over at Standing on my Head. No one came over here and demanded my removal. Next to the likes of Jennifer Fulwiler and Simcha Fischer I'm feeling my inner Guy Fleegman, I'm jazzed to be on the show, but...

"I'm just Crewman #6! I'm expendable. I'm the guy in the blogroll
who dies to prove how serious the New Evangelization is. "

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wifey Wednesday: 3 Ways to Protect Your Relationship

Protecting Your Relationship

When the married couples you know get it right, the world is a better place. I simply have to share a moment of awesomeness from a young couple I know.

The husband of the couple is the Godfather of our oldest daughter. We chose him when he was still single. I mean, think about it, a 20ish man in the military as the spiritual backup for our daughter? If that doesn't tell you that he's a cut above, let me just tell you: he's a cut above. His wife is of the same stuff.

It shows in their relationship, too. Neither one of them worry much about what other people think of them. They are not full of the modern psychobabble that causes them to second guess the priorities they give to their relationship. They have made each other and their child the center of their lives and make no excuses to anyone about it. I think it helps that they were both faithful to one another from the beginning: meaning they lived chaste lives before and after they met. It has kept the complications from creeping in. Can you imagine? A marriage without baggage! It changes the whole ballgame.

The simplicity of their relationship shows up in the subtlest ways. Take for example this phone call from the other day. The wife of the couple called me to arrange for a Godfather and Goddaughter snow cone get-together. When it came time to talk details of timing and meeting places she said very casually and cheerfully, "Let me let you talk to my husband. Just a moment!" and handed the phone over.

That may not sound like much, but let me clue you in on some of the subtle ways this phone call indicates that they both habitually and naturally protect their marriage. In this particular instance their marriage was reaffirmed as precious in three subtle moments. In each of these, a clear boundary was established between the two of them and everyone else in the world, including me. The three relationship preserving techniques they used were: "Marital Force Field Activated!", "It's Us!", and "No exceptions!" Let's look at each of these more closely...

-- 1 --
"Marital Force Field Activated!"
When she initiated the call instead of him, she activated a subtle boundary like a marital force field of protection around them both. Her making the call established that she and I are the primary contact of the couple. I have the same habit. With all my married friends, unless I have to discuss specific business with him (like a birthday or Christmas gift for her) I make all my calls to her when I have to talk to them. It puts a social boundary between maried members of the opposite sex. Naturally!

But think about it, for a moment. We are taught in our modern days that we aren't supposed to do such a thing. It's clingy, possessive, old fashioned, or cited as evidence that the husband is too lazy to make telephone calls. Actually, it is just plain old fashioned common sense. Remember that the Catholic penitent promises to God at the end of every Confession to "avoid the near occasions of sin." That means we are bound by that promise to make a prudent attempt to keep ourselves out of temptation's way. Habitually chatting on the phone or getting together to hang out with members of the opposite sex is one of those near occasions and should be curtailed when possible.

In this modern era when the divorce rate is skyrocketing, it's just smart to avoid such situations. This young wife's telephone manners of initiating this call made the entire conversation more comfortable for me and for him in this regard. She stepped in and claimed their social status as a couple. "We are one!" this little act stated, right off the bat. Force fields up!
    Go ahead, be old fashioned:
    Marriages lasted back then

-- 2 --
"It's Us!"

When she said, "Let me let you talk to my husband!" before handing the phone over, this couple declared in a subtle and nonconfrontational way that there was a very clear boundary around the two of them. He was right there next to her, she right next to him, the entire time. The call was a call from them, not just him. It was a mannerly reminder that they belong together and all interaction with others is filtered through the relationship they share. "We are one!" they declared again, quite naturally. So naturally, in fact, that I doubt either was even aware of making that statement.  

-- 3 --
"No exceptions!"
It doesn't matter that she and I are friends, that he is the Godfather to my daughter. Many a woman and many a man has allowed for someone outside the marriage to come in between the two who are married because the exception seemed so logical. "She's my best friend." "He was friends with her before she met me." "He's my brother." Couples need to understand that the only person who can squeeze into the marital bond without damaging or destroying it is a Person with a capital p: Christ. Any other person, other than the children the relationship engenders, belongs clearly on the other side of the line that defines the difference between Us and Them.

The phone call was a success in more ways than one. The couple made me proud to know them, gave me some blog fodder, and established that my husband and I were smart in our choice of Godfather for our girl. Oh yes, and I am very happy to state that the Goddaughter was treated to a snow cone and bragged for days about having the bestest Godfather of all. I have chatted several times on the phone with his lovely wife about it and other things, among them that I was going to brag about her here. It is nice to know that, young as they are, my husband and I have friends like these. Friends who strengthen our marriage by the good example of their own.